Long complaint here follows

I will be very glad when the semester’s done. I say that not only because final projects are piling up and everywhere I turn I seem to find more and can’t get rid of any.

Earlier this week I had a conversation with a very nice woman, who happened to give “I believe God created women to be fully evolved” as a reason for her idea that women can and should be priests and pastors. I’m not sure she’d thought much about what she was saying. That was aggravating.

Later the same day, in the nonfiction workshop, several people complimented one of my pieces on being a prose poem. I don’t believe such a thing exists.

 Tuesday, something happened in that writing workshop I’ve complained about for so long. We’re on to fiction now in it, and a guy wrote a story in which four girls bully a girl, and another girl stands up for her and tries to be her friend. It ends with the bullied girl taking revenge on the bullies — by killing them. She gets away with it. The teacher said the story was fine as it stood, but it would be better if the bullied girl killed, instead, the girl who’d tried to be her friend. He offered as reason that the friendly girl was doing more harm than good, possibly “holding her back”, whatever that means, by treating her as a precious thing that needs to be protected.
   So, revenge is good. That’s an old problem that seems to follow me around everywhere. That’s nothing new. But think of the other implications, assuming fiction has any bearing on the real world (which this teacher, who writes crime noir for a living, doesn’t seem to think). Kids who now stand up for those being bullied will learn that that’s the wrong thing to do. Kids who are bullied will learn that it’s okay to kill their bullies. Not to mention that we’re lowering the value of life, and all kinds of other minor things. Why shouldn’t we treat people like beings of value who need protection? Being home-schooled must really be an inadequate education if it doesn’t prepare me to stand by without doing anything while other people are injured or killed.
   At the time, as I sat there listening to him talk, my mind jumping around the implications, I was too stunned to know where to start. I’m going to write him, though, and see if maybe he’ll think about it. He’s not philosophical at all, so I don’t expect it will change him. . . but he does need someone to ask the right questions, and no one else is going to.

   Yesterday I got back full responses to my piece that got called a prose poem. One of them goes, in part, like this: “You always talk about the modern world with such disgust and hatred, and though I understand the feeling of being different then [sic] the average person, you don’t express any interest in either learning anything about it, or improving it. You constantly go on about a romanticized version of the past, and talk about how the modern world is so coloroless [sic] and horrible, as if killing people with swords is somehow better than killing people with guns. . . . Try to branch out more, and see the world through your own eyes, as opposed to the eyes of people long dead.”

I’m still laughing at being advised not to see the world through dead peoples’ eyes. I just so happen to write historical fiction, and “seeing the world through the eyes of people long dead” is a good way of describing that when people ask. Except I’m sure he wasn’t intending for me to use his words that way.

   (By the way, to allay your fear, I said nothing about swords being better than guns as far as morality goes. I compared wit to a rapier, which has been done before; I mentioned Aquinas and Francis of Assisi and only two or three people knew who they were; I said the Celts were inclined to fighting; but that was about it. I think killing people with swords is more poetic than with guns in most cases, and allows for more chivalry, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s morally right. Murder is still murder no matter how it’s done.)

    The classmate who wrote this response is also the guy who accuses Christians of being hateful bigots, and then goes and says nasty things about us, and the one who told me in class, “This is an outdated idea, and you say you’re a historian”, so we don’t get along perfectly. But still. The piece was mainly about where I come from — my ancestry, pretty much. It’s hard to be entirely present with a topic like that, as the very definition of terms has so much to do with people who have been dead for a while, like Aeneas. (And context also for that repetition of Eyetalian.) I’m not sure where he got the idea that I always talk about the modern world with hatred and disgust, but I don’t think I’m obligated to defend that.

It does make me wonder why I’m even bothering with this. If I’m here to learn how to write, and I’m being taught how to do things all wrong (based, of course, on messed-up presuppositions), wouldn’t it make sense to do something else?

There are occasionally, bright moments in all this. In Aesthetics on Tuesday, the teacher asked how many people thought art a subjective thing, as in, if it makes you feel a certain way, it’s art. When most of them did, he asked questions like, “So is your art as good as Da Vinci’s?” (to which they, being humble, had to say no), and “So there’s no such thing as good or bad art?” and so on. And then the big question: “Do you believe there’s good and bad in morality?” (Uncomfortable silence.) I could have said yes, but he already knows what I think, having had me in Ethics. Also, I’m not a representative sample of the class. Finally someone slowly said yes. “Then why not in art as well?” the teacher said. (Long uncomfortable silence.)
   I’m so very glad there’s someone there who not only believes but teaches absolutes.
Posted in Writing | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

More-or-less random things

First off: Surrexit!

Secondly, I will be posting the story from Coronation here eventually. Last week I happened to lose a day’s work, and my sister still has pictures to edit. I’ll split it up into several posts, though, having learned my lesson with SUN’s not to have a 14,000-word post and expect people to be able to read the thing. I’m still curtseying to people if I run into them without warning. The odd thing is, a couple of them have bowed back.

Thirdly, we have sickness in our house (and half our church for that matter), just a cold, but one that tends to knock people out for a day or two, and hang on for a week after that, making them sound bad with coughing and sneezing and blowing their noses. This could be a problem, as my father is scheduled to go into the Cities to defend his dissertation on the 28th, and there’s probably not time to reschedule if he’s sick. I have a lot of final projects to do starting about today: a paper contra theistic evolution to finish, due Friday; stuff from the writing workshop to revise and turn in again; a very large piece from the Creative Nonfiction workshop to extensively revise and turn in again; and two exams actually during finals week. So there’s that.

Fourthly, on Saturday while we were winding yarn, my sister and I made the acquaintance of a very interesting gentleman, who wants a home. I don’t know that I have a story for him yet (it’d have to be fantasy, of a kind a bit different from the ones I’ve got going already), and he doesn’t want a story all about him, just one he can be at home in. I’ve also been thinking about the Rooglewood contest (announcement in June, I think) and hoping I can do a good one for it. Perhaps it’s because it’s spring, and spring says Adventure and Magic of the light fairy-tale and fantasy kind.

By the way, reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. I was busy writing last week, and figured that as it was Holy Week people had other things to do anyway.

But, fifthly, I got a lot of comments on Wind Age last week, despite not having sent out a chapter either. The slow pacing is finally starting to be a real problem, and I have to explain in a hundred words or less the answer to the question whether Catholicism is a thing in the seventh century yet, and work on adding to the front and back matter: a glossary, a list of characters, a dictionary, an Introduction containing everything anyone could possibly need to know about the sacred and secular history of the world and specifically Britain in the seventh century, and a note on baptism. I don’t think I’ll get to those until summer at the earliest.

Sixthly, this summer I’m taking an online class, much as I hate to violate my summer’s sanctity to non-school-related things. We’re also, hopefully, having a moot with people of various denominations, for the purpose of eating pizza and tearing each others’ worldviews apart, but that’s not determined yet. And I’m hoping to be able to write a good story for Rooglewood’s last-contest-for-the-foreseeable-future. Being a winner would be nice too.

Seventhly, my writing classes are starting to really annoy me, and I’m looking forward to their end, which is sad. But when the teacher of one says things like “Fiction is ultimately a what-if game” and “We read fiction to see other people’s troubles”, well, I have bones to pick with his presuppositions. And when a classmate in the other one says something to the effect of, “The idea that your bloodline shapes something of who you are is an outdated idea, and you call yourself a historian”, that bothers me and makes me want to give him a taste of my combined Italian and Irish temper. (Not that I did. And he kept on saying Eyetalian, which proves he isn’t.)

“And lastly,” said Peregrine, running out of fingers, “they are all excessively proper and extremely dull.” Hopefully this week I’ll be back to normal on posting and sending out chapters and that kind of thing.

Posted in Ordinary life, SCA, Wind Age, Writing | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Another snippets post

Tracey at Adventure Awaits tagged me for this a few weeks ago and I’m finally getting to it.

the-snippet-tag

The rules are as follows:

-Include the graphic somewhere in your post (or make your own, just so long as you include a link back to Madeline’s blog).
-Answer all the questions, however you want to. Creative interpretation is key here! You can use the book you’re currently working on to answer the questions, or other books you’ve started or have written.
-Tag 2-5 other bloggers.

I tag Hope Ann at Writing in the Light, even though I know this isn’t the kind of post she usually does, but I’m curious to see what she comes up with (you’re not obligated to do it, though); and Suzannah of Vintage Novels, because once in a great while she drops a line on her blog about the Crusader novel she’s working on, and I really want to know more.

1. Share your most gripping, fascinating, and hooking first line of a story.

  The black sky overhead tingled with stars and reflected the red light of a thousand fires. Æschild leaned back, resting her weight on her arms out behind her, and sighed. On the last night of Pennsic War, what better place to be than at the edge of a bardic circle? (Of the North)

The whole story needs rewriting, but I still like the beginning, which is saying something. I’ve read it too many times for it not to have lost some of the sparkle.

I also like the start of a story I began a while ago, dropped, and then picked up again for school:

She was one of those American tourists, the young fair kind that come over now and then with a serious expression and a camera. Only she didn’t have the camera. (untitled)

2. Share a snippet that crushes your heart into a million feelsy little pieces.

  Æschild plunged into the deep place and came up gasping and shivering, half in delight at the freedom of moving through nothing but water. She raised her hands to her face and pushed her hair back, opening her eyes to the starry sky far above. The thought crossed her mind, briefly, to wonder what might be in the water, but she brushed it off. This is an adventure — enjoy it, appreciate it, don’t waste time worrying. This is rarer than once in a lifetime. (Of the North)

3. Share a snippet that makes you want to shout to the world that you’re So. HAPPY.

  “She seems to have made you awfully happy, considering that your proposal is merely conditional on your victory,” John noted.

  “Will you guys just stop? I want to be able to concentrate on what’s coming.” In spite of himself Algernon was grinning too.

  “If that’s the case, I’m sorry to break it to you, Cap’n, but she’s coming to watch.” It was Polycarp, carefully carrying a jug across the lawn. As he emerged from the shadow of the side of the hill, he squinted up at the sun and said, “It’s about time, anyway.”

  “You never said a truer word,” John said, purposely misinterpreting Polycarp. “If Cupid ever took longer to aim and release one of those arrows of his ––”

  Algernon glared at him, and took the jug from Polycarp. He squinted into it and asked, “What’s this?”

  “Refreshment for when you get tired,” the boy said.

  “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum-flavoured –– hello, Rose.” Lest she’d heard his previous remark, he added, “Coffee.” (Rose-Tinted Arrows, of course)

4. Share a snippet that gives a bit of insight into one of your most favourite characters ever.

You shouldn’t ask for this sort of thing, because it makes all the characters jealous, and when you make one happy by choosing that one, all the others get that much angrier. Lily could claim the place, by virtue of having been with me the longest, but I am rather fond of Algernon (not that he’s been shortchanged in the snippets here), and Alfhild and I are rather close, and. . . well, pretty much every main character I write, and lots of the supporting ones, could be my most favourite depending on exactly when you ask. If someday I do end up finding one of those perfect snippets, I’ll share it.

5. Share a snippet that melts you into a puddle of adorable, squishy, OTP mush.

Here I have a difficulty, because of the seven or so couples I have, only two went and fell in love with each other before getting married, and of those couples, one’s love story hasn’t been written yet. So I don’t have a lot of properly gooey scenes. But Rose and Algernon are happy to do their best.

Rose caught a movement at the door and looked up over Owen’s shoulder. She saw what the boy, whose back was to the door, could not: dark hair and a high, broad forehead peeking sideways around the doorframe. A moment more and a pair of narrow eyes, by whose expression Rose could tell that the unseen mouth was smiling, came into view. Then Rose could contain her mirth no longer. Her laughter bubbled out, prompting Owen to turn and look. The apparition startled him; he leapt to his feet with a rag and a pan in his hands, and screamed.

  “For goodness’ sake settle down,” Rose ordered. “Though I will say for him that you do look pretty creepy coming in like that, Algernon.”

   “I admit it isn’t a very good position for spying in,” Algernon admitted, letting the rest of himself cross the threshold upright.

   “And you do a lot of that?” Owen asked.

   “Oh yes. More than you know,” Algernon said with a wink.

   “What a thing for a man who pretends to be a gentleman to do!” Rose said.

   “I don’t pretend to be a ‘gentleman’. I daresay you know a few of those.”

   “You’re not much like them,” Rose allowed.

   “Of course not. If I were, you’d have married one of them instead of me.”

   “Perhaps. I haven’t married you yet.”

  “What!” cried Owen aghast.

   “Well, for that matter, if I were like one of them, I probably wouldn’t have been outlawed in the first place,” Algernon admitted. (Rose-Tinted Arrows)

6. Share a snippet that gets you beaming with pride and you’re just like yep, I wrote that beauty.

Some dust was hanging over the field now, but most of it was gone, carried by the breeze that was still drying her throat and arms. Tall tunnels lay between the grain in places where some quick workers had outpaced/outpassed the others. A couple of birds settled on one of the stacks of grain, and a child ran forward, skipping and jumping over dirt clods, to chase them off.

  “Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise,” AEschild quoted softly, “Around; up above, what wind-walks!” Hopkins had struck her, when she first discovered him in college, as a poet somewhat after the Anglo-Saxon style, with his love of alliteration, but she’d never thought to be quoting him thus in the midst of an English harvest. Indeed the rows of sheaves had a wild sort of beauty. (Of the North)

7. Share a snippet of genius, deliciously witty dialogue between your characters.

Rose-Tinted Arrows is probably half jokes (practical or verbal). One of the things that makes it hard to put in a genre is that though it has most of the other characteristics of fantasy, people make many and obvious references to movies and things (and though I’m not planning to publish it at this point, I did put in a note at the beginning that allusions to works of film and literature are probably intentional). So most of the funny lines have something to do with quotations.

  “May I ask you a question?” Rose said, a little hesitantly.

  “An honest question in return for an honest question; and I’ll give you as honest an answer as an outlaw can,” Algernon replied.

  “Why don’t you ever take your mask off? Or perhaps I should say, why do you wear a mask all the time in the first place?”

  “Oh, I find them terribly comfortable.” The Captain’s eyes twinkled as he looked sideways at Rose. “I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.”

8. Share a snippet that makes you feel like an evil genius for thinking up such a malevolent villain (Mwa-ha-ha!)

My villains are lacking in human characteristics, apparently; usually they’re circumstances or laws or forces of nature. I have one very good villain, but said person’s part is major spoilers for Wind Age.

This is from the unfinished half of Rose-Tinted Arrows, in which the king comes and visits the outlaws in order to better decide which, if any, of them to pardon. The atmosphere is a bit awkward to start with, of course, but there’s a certain person with an agenda who’s trying to spoil things.

   [The Duke] happened to be looking straight at [Rose] when she saw him. Their eyes met, and for a second Rose went cold inside. His glare plainly told her that, though she had certainly scored one victory, he was perfectly willing to carry his part of the battle into her own territory. Her hands clenched the arms of her chair when he sat down near the king.

   The first course passed with only small talk about the size of the Robbers’ Castle, the amazing craftmanship displayed in the chapel and its furnishings, and such matters. But when Algernon had risen to carve the meat, and passed out plates of venison and boar, the subject changed.

“I must say, even my own palace cook cannot prepare venison to such a turn as this,” Charming said upon tasting his slice. “However do you do it?”

“Family secrets, I’m afraid, sire,” said the Cook as he brought plates to a couple of the men at the next table.

“Oh, one of those recipes. I see.”

“Perhaps you could hire him as your cook,” one of the King’s men suggested, “and then he could always make your venison without ever having to give up the secret.”

“Hire an outlaw for a cook?” The Duke of Mountagne pursed his lips. “He’ll be wanting a loyal cupbearer.”

“That’s not very complimentary to my cook, who has been of excellent service in the kitchen and out of it,” Algernon chided. “His skill is not limited to preparing venison.”

“I daresay it wants one who’s good at poaching to be able to, as you might say, know his meat inside and out,” the Duke said with a smile that almost appeared friendly.

“Now, my good Godefroy, we are guests under these men’s roof,” the King rebuked him. “Our business is not pretty, but there’s no call to aggravate things.”

“Certainly,” said the Duke, showing his teeth. Rose began to be irritated. If the King was not exactly on their side, he was at least being a true gentleman about it. There certainly was no call for Mountagne to be trying to make things harder.

“But perhaps it is just as well that we should get down to business,” His Majesty said, turning to Algernon. “I had thought we might hear each of your men’s stories from themselves, but now that I have seen their number, it might take too long. What do you suggest?”

[. . .]

“Who’s next?” Algernon asked. 

“I suppose I could be,” said Will Scarlet, standing up. He had been sitting next to Robin, who was next to Rose. He turned to face the King and made an elaborate bow. “Your Majesty.”

   Charming looked a little startled that an outlaw could be so polished. “And your name, sir?”

“Will the Scarlet, sire.”

“Well, Will, please to give us your story.”

“I was a rash youth in my younger days,” and Will sighed as if he were more than his thirty years. “It was stealing I was taken up for; I had a lot of younger siblings, and Father was a good-for-nothing, and Mother had just been delivered of her, what, it must have been her ninth. It was food and a little wine to help her that I stole, and was arrested for it at the tender age of eighteen. I escaped, Lord knows how I managed to carry that off, and ran away. Found my way here and became a respectable gentleman outlaw. I was baptized, the Captain baptized me, that same year.”

“Thank you, Will.” The King smiled a little as Will bowed again before sitting down.

   The Duke must have thought Charming was being too favourably impressed. He clapped politely and observed, “I never saw an outlaw who was so good at taking people in.”

“You’ve probably not seen many outlaws, have you?” Will retorted, leaning across the table. “It’s easier to do the condemning from a distance. You never have to risk your heart getting the better of you.”

“Gently, Will; he is our guest, even if a somewhat antagonistic one,” Algernon said.

“And the next man?” the King said.

   This lasted for nearly two hours as man after man came up to the table and gave his name and his testimony. Murderers who had converted; thieves who had fled to a place of refuge that turned out to be more than a mere safe place to live; men of black pasts and uneasy futures who had accepted Christ. The King was overwhelmed at the end.

“You have done a good work here, Captain,” he said when all the men had had their turn. 

“I have worked hard here,” Algernon said modestly. “Yet it was not I, but the grace of God in me.”

“Well spoken, sir,” the Duke observed. “Doubtless, as Pastor as well as Captain of these men, sermons come easily to hand. But what of your,” and he hesitated, “wife? What is her story? For what crimes did she flee justice?”

   Algernon grinned at Rose. “For the mortal sin of marrying me,” he said lightly.

“I have heard Rose’s story,” the King said, looking at the list of names he had written down as each man came forward, and comparing it with the list he had brought with him. (Again, Rose-Tinted Arrows

9. Share a snippet that leaves you breathless, in a cold sweat with action-induced intensity.

My stories have been called slice-of-life, sometimes meant as a good thing, and sometimes as a polite cover for “boring”, but there is one piece of Wind Age that I happen to be fond of, and though it’s not a battle or chase or argument scene, at least it’s one you can point to and say something happenedIt could technically be spoilers, but I’ll post it and see what guesses my beta-readers come up with.

  The day had been fair, but now the sun was retreating behind a cloud-wall that was rising in the west, and with the fading of the light the wind sprang up, threatening rain, and the clouds no longer sun-gilded arched over the clearing like hawks about to swoop on their prey. When the sun’s edge disappeared, leaving a muted glow behind, all of us looked up, and Ealdmodor made the sign against evil as the wind rose, for though we welcomed the prospect of rain at last after so long, its appearance boded a tempest that could destroy.

  The noise of the wind increased, and Ealdmodor broke off in the middle of a sentence. The wind could not be making that crashing sound in the forest, not when it was still less than a gale in the clearing. Still it sounded as if a storm had been loosed on the forest.

  “It is the Wild Hunt!” cried Ealdmodor, throwing herself down on the grass. Mother, less paralyzed, darted inside the house.

   Then out of the shadow of the wood came a ride of horses richly decked, a full score of them coming swiftly up the road. All were bay or black save the one their leader rode, which was pure milk white except where dust clung to its legs. The rider, coming straight through the open gate, reined in, and all his followers halted. He was a kingly man, broad-shouldered and long in the leg, bright locks flowing free. Horse and rider, dirty but of noble bearing, matched each other. In the clearing, tree-bounded and with the coming storm overhanging it, they were the only things still bright.

* * * * *

That was a long post. I apologize in advance for any surviving typos, inconsistencies, or formatting errors still left. It’s been a crazy weeks and I still have a paper to polish off and turn in, besides the usual class-craziness, in preparation for not having a weekend, or a lot of time next week, to do school, because Northshield’s Spring Coronation is on Saturday.

For the dedicated few who read the entire thing, which was your favourite piece? From the glimpses you’ve caught of them so far, who is your favourite of these characters?

Posted in Of the North, Rose-Tinted Arrows, snippet, Wind Age, work in progress | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Baptism in Wind Age

In the chapter I sent out last week, a character gets baptized. Now since this was at a time in the conversion of England when most people were first-generation believers, infant baptism hadn’t really come up yet and wasn’t an issue. But I haven’t found yet any reason to believe the Irish church practiced baptism by immersion. Believers’ baptism, yes, but by sprinkling.

I am a Baptist, and I believe baptism by immersion makes sense. If the point of it is to be a public confession of faith, something that gets you wet from head to toe when everyone else (except your pastor) is perfectly dry seems to be a good way to do it, on the most superficial level. More importantly, there’s the overt symbolism of death, burial, and resurrection present when somebody is submerged and then brought up again (while still alive, of course, we don’t carry realism that far).

But when I was doing research for this baptism scene, it was borne in upon me that that is not the way it was done that day. So what was I to do?

I could have done it the way I believe to be correct, and put in an Historical Note saying that in reality she’d have been sprinkled. But so few people read the historical notes — it’s like the subtitle of The Man Who Was Thursday, which explains a great deal, only no one ever notices it. And a subtitle is a lot easier to see than a little note at the back of the book. So that didn’t seem likely. Besides, people who read historical fiction tend to go away believing that things in such a time were the way the authour said they were. In other words, most readers trust the authour to be giving an accurate portrayal. If one of these lovely readers happened to miss the note and goes away believing that one of the differences between the Irish and Roman churches was that the former practiced baptism by immersion and the latter did not, well, I’ve misled him.

Also, and this is my biggest objection, that’s simply not how it happened. To write it any other way would be to rewrite history, and I don’t want to do that. I have a responsibility to wield my sword well and to give people dreams of reality. People have done things I disagree with. I’ve still got to represent them accurately and fairly.

The other option would be to leave the scene as it is, with baptism-by-sprinkling all intact. I could put in an Authour’s Note saying “Note to Chapter XI: look, I don’t agree with this way myself, but that’s how they did it”, in slightly more formal language, of course, but that would be enough. I could also say nothing, but if any Baptists ever read the book and then find out that I’m a Baptist, they’ll probably get after me for espousing heresy or something.

The sanctuary of St Paul’s Cathedral in the Cities has statues of the Evangelists. Their names are written on the pedestals, but each also has his creature with him. If you couldn’t read, as long as you knew John’s creature is an eagle, you would recognize the man with the eagle as being John. Realistically, I don’t think the Apostle always had an eagle with him wherever he went. It might have been a little awkward for St Luke to have an ox tramping with him into people’s houses. Perhaps Mark wrote in such a hurry because he had a lion breathing down his neck all the time. My job isn’t quite the same thing. After all, I am by definition writing for a literate audience. I’m telling a different kind of story. In the genre of historical fiction, accuracy is one of the most important things, whereas for a painter whose job is to tell the Gospel, he has something that makes most details of historical accuracy shrink — though by no means all. Getting names and dates and places and such facts right is important to telling the Gospel.

The difference is what we are trying to do. The sculptors and painters and illuminators who depicted the Evangelists with their creatures were trying to bring fundamentals of the faith to a mostly illiterate audience. My duty is to bring the past to life, even a very obscure part, which makes my job all the harder and the more important that I’m not furthering misconceptions about the era. I have to try to get the history right. In the artists’ cases, a lot of it was ignorance, both on their parts and on those who would be seeing their work. Even if they consciously thought they were making things different, they were doing so to make it easier to understand who people are. Changing the baptismal customs of the Irish church would not accomplish that.

Is this as big as the Easter controversy or the filioque? No. Should I explain why I’m doing what I’m doing, as a Baptist who likes a lot of old traditions? Of course; why else would I have written this post?

Does this make sense to those of you who might happen to be interested? Objections? Criticism? Does the illustration even make sense?

Posted in Historical fiction, History, Wind Age | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

March wrap-up post

This is not an April Fools (or international atheists’ day) post, just to be clear. I couldn’t think of a good one in time.

Reading:

Textbooks and classmates’ work. I did read The Ball and the Cross (by Chesterton, of course) when we went into the Cities, which was a refreshing change from modern stuff. I had forgotten how good it was until it came up in conversation, and then I had to go read it again, and it does not disappoint. One of the (many) drawbacks of reading mainly modern writing, and not very good writing at that (you’d be surprised how many college students don’t know how), is that you start to forget how good writing works. I tend to think in the style of whatever I’ve been most reading lately, which is annoying when that’s bad writing. For a Literature paper I’ve been reading some Hopkins poetry, and now I’m thinking in alliteration more than usual.

“Oh — Nominalism,” said MacIan wearily. “We had all that out in the twelfth century.” (The Ball and the Cross)

Writing:

Things for school. The final assignments for the Writing Workshop are to be fiction — finally!— but modern and realistic. (One of the parts of one assignments was a prompt: eggs.) Well, if he wants modern and realistic he’ll get modern and realistic, but he’ll have to put up with stories involving home-schooled kids and large families with classical educations, because those just so happen to be the mostly modern and more-or-less realistic stories I’ve got going on.

Also a paper on theistic evolution, the final project for the Philosophy of Religion class. It may get long.

SCA:

We’re hoping to go to Spring Coronation next week. If so, I won’t make the mistake of posting the entire story all at once. I’ll do it in segments. So far Olivia has not decided to make a new bliaut at the last minute. . .

Life:

Last Sunday I brought my sister to a music competition, where she got second place. On Wednesday was a concert I brought her to. On Saturday we all went to St Paul’s Cathedral in the Cities for another concert she was in. Now I’d like a month or two that doesn’t involve crowds of strangers.

Other than the usual unpredictable March weather, the month was quiet overall, except last week. Since Easter comes this month, I doubt this one will be all that quiet. Which reminds me, Olivia and I should really practice our neglected choir pieces. Easter is three weeks away and the choir as a whole has practiced all of twice, I believe.

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Wind Age snippets

For the last post of mine in March, have a taste of the actual story that I’ve been going on about. I don’t seem to have a lot of dialogue that isn’t in spoiler territory, so the story isn’t as skimpy on it as here appears.

***

  At first it was fun, running in one of the pale wheel-ruts in the grassy path, and seeing the house disappear when I reached the first bend. The horizon was new, exciting to a small child, even if it was only trees and more trees. But that was my undoing in the end, for with so many trees all around me, and the path twisting so much, I soon found that I did not know which way was home. The patches of sky so far above me were too small to guide me. I remember leaving the path and wandering through the untame wood.

***

  Once I dropped through Brother Andreas’ window and found him, not working as usual, but sitting with his tools spread out, rubbing his wrist, and staring out the other window into the valley.

  “What’s hurt?” I asked.

  “Oh, there you are, Fiona,” he said, not even turning to look at me. “I’ve worked too long at a stretch and now my hands are paying for it.” He stood up and began clearing a place for me.

  “How’d you know it was me?”

  “No one else ever comes in that window.”

  “What if someday a wolf did?”

 “It might eat me,” he said, moving a stack of blank parchments to the eastern windowsill.

  “Wouldn’t that be a bad thing?”

  “Not necessarily.”

  “Why not?”

  “Because there are worse things than taking the death God sends.”

  “But a wolf?”

  “It’s quick. Quicker than some, anyhow.”

  “How do you know?”

  “Brother Declan knows a lot about different ways to die. Ask him for one, and he’ll compare it to six others by the time he’s done.”

  “I’m sure.”

***

Deormod was grown into a man, but still he made no attempt to leave me behind in his child’s days. In fact he chose me to dance with him, and we swung in and out of the bonfires together, warm, laughing. The firelight pricked out his face, a man’s face now, and I realized for the first time that he was handsome. The touch of his hand on mine made me tingle all through my body. There was something about him that fit the black night with the flames leaping in it, something wild and dangerous and thrilling with adventure, something that fascinated me.

***

  The cheaping lay at the bottom of the hill we lived on, past the road that led to the caenobia. So many generations had traded there that the whole level plain was dry and dusty all year round, except at the very beginning of summer, when a green fuzz sprang up, to be trampled as soon as the market opened, which was today. Usually my father came too, but as the whole family was busy today, Mother had had to send me alone. It was all right; we knew many of the traders there and many of those who would be buying, and I was good at bargaining, if my eye for wrought metal was not as critical as Father’s or as practiced.

  Today, as I entered the field of tents and heard once again the summer noises, the cattle bellowing, sheep bleating, voices crying their wares, it was not that I was alone that made me nervous. It was that today, even by so simple a thing as my veil, I was proclaiming myself Christian.

  I made my way through the cattle-market to the end where we usually found the metal-workers and those trading in imported metal. A booth selling glass beads caught my eye, and I lingered to admire some that were greenish-blue.

***

  The bells had finished ringing by the time I was done, and I could hear music of singing coming from the oratory. I picked up the veil, still folded, and stepped outside. My bare feet touched dewy grass, and then dry earth when I reached the path worn into the ground from constant travel to the oratory. A thin layer of brown dirt clung to the soles of my feet by the time I stepped over the kirk’s threshold.

***

  It had rained in the night and frozen toward morning, leaving ice enameling the paths. Icicles dangled from twigs like ear-rings, but the beauty had a match in its danger. I walked more carefully when I came to the place where the path curved down the side of the hill beside the stream. I didn’t want the ice, coupled with my unfamiliarity with my new shoes, to result in me slipping and ruining my good clothes.

  The oratory was warm inside with the breath of all the people gathered there. Candles were shining from the altar, the windowsills (somehow not burning out even though the shutters were flung open), and some of the large ones were even standing on the floor.

  My people welcomed me, and I fit into the midst of the crowd easily. They smiled at their newest sister, and I was glad, for I was at home here.

***

   It was evening, and I was standing outside spinning. I had spent much of the day at the caenobia, bent over a book I was helping the scribes copy, which, as exciting as it was, had left me tired of sitting. Mother was seated on the steps, also spinning, but she managed a shorter thread because she was closer to the ground. Ealdmodor sat on the steps also, telling us the gossip she had heard from another old woman many years ago about somebody I didn’t know when he was young.

***

Favourite snippet? These are almost all from the first part, and most of them will be familiar to my beta-readers. The parts I like best are all spoilers, so I’ll have to wait to share them.

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In a vein similar to “Why I am an English major”

First off, you may not be hearing much from me for another week. This weekend is crazy with concerts and trips to the Cities and that sort of thing, and my grandfather coming to visit.

Someone may be wondering, or will read Wind Age someday and then wonder, why I chose early seventh-century England. Next to nobody writes anything set there. The Conversion Era of Britain gets a paragraph, if you’re really lucky, in a history book.

People writing things set in, say, Tudor England have people’s wills, diaries, christening/wedding/funeral records, sometimes tombs or statues, to go on. We have lots of art that realistically depicts what people were wearing. We have lots of poetry reflecting social ideas of the day. There’s no end of things to go on as far as research. Seventh-century England? We have very little art, very few remains in graves, not a whole lot written down. Chronicles (written by those monks, again, I told you they were handy), which, although they are good at telling us who reigned where for how long over whom, aren’t very good at giving us details like what they ate for dinner, which can be important for getting across a realistic feel in a story. We call them the Dark Ages because we don’t know a whole lot about them. Knowing your time and place practically inside-out is essential for a writer trying to do anything with historical fiction. So how can you reconcile these two? Is your book doomed from the start?

Well, I hope not. I have done a bit of research, looking at re-enactors’ groups and blogs and such — re-enactors tend to have high standards for historical accuracy, and if they’re nice enough to share their work, you can learn a lot from them. I’ve also drawn on Norse mythology, which is similar to the Germanic lore the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes brought to Britain from the Continent. Occasionally Norse fashions influence the clothes (the Vikings had not yet started raiding, but at this point were explorers and traders). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (translated) is probably one of the best primary sources. We’re not entirely in the dark.

As for why I chose this period — well, I didn’t. In the car one evening on the way home from school, when I saw the Wild Hunt in the clouds (I have told you how I got the idea for Wind Age, haven’t I?), I knew that it was in England during the time it was — slowly — converting. At the time I didn’t even know what century that was, but made a wild guess that it was 9th century. I’ve learned a lot in the last year. The story would lose its essence if it were put in any other period or any other place.

Writers, has it ever happened to you that you didn’t choose a character, or setting, or era, but it just was that way even though you knew diddly-squat about it beforehand and certainly wouldn’t have chosen it had you been able to do the choosing? I’m curious.

Posted in Historical fiction, Research, Wind Age | Tagged , | 5 Comments