Apparently, I'm on Fire

'Tis true. See?

I was given this award by a lovely lady named Cherie. And I feel so very privilege to have received it, especially since I am so new to the whole blogging world. But, back to Cherie. She was one of my first blogger friends and is still always among the first to comment on my posts. And, for those of you who already know Cherie, I think you'll agree that she is never less than kind and generous :) She always has something interesting or amusing (or both) to share and, let me tell you, this chick can write. So, go check out her blog at Ready.Write.Go

And now I'm going to pass this award on. It goes to several people who have made me feel welcomed and important, though I'm just one little link among thousands in the blogsphere (aside from Cherie, of course). Here they are:


Here's the writers and all we do to connect with each other and our readers. Cheers!


The X Factor

I miss doing Algebra.

No, really, I do.

I miss solving page-long quadratic equations. I miss the neat rows of equal signs running down the page until there was only an "X = " left of the equation. I miss knowing that there's only one way to correctly solve the problem and that I am capable of finding that solution.

After earning 84 credits towards my bachelor's degree in a little less than a year, I'm really starting to miss the finality of algebra. There aren't a myriad of perspectives to understand and/or decide between like there is whenever history or politics are concerned. You don't have to worry about identifying the ideologies, philosophies, or worldviews of different people, or trying to figure out how those ideas shaped their lives. All you have to do is solve for X.

Don't misunderstand me - I love history. I love studying historical figures and happenings. There's so much to learn from and discover about those who have lived before us. I've taken courses in Humanities, Western Civilization, U.S.History, The Soviet Union, Literature and all of them are fascinating. All of them are also almost never-ending subjects of study. One could literally spend a lifetime researching just one aspect or time period of any of the above topics.

That kind of in-depth, immersion research is part of why I write historical fiction (or, at least, that's what I'm starting with). I can combine my writing with further study and give my readers a time and/or place they haven't seen/been before. I can pick any culture from any time, study it, and then bring the past into the light of the present.

But knowing how much I don't know, knowing how much I could still study the things I've already covered in a general sense, is an exhausting idea. I think that's why I've had this hankering for Algebra. It's a finite subject. You learn it and then you're done. Sure, there's other math forms to go onto if you like (I'm still bummed that I graduated before I got to take Trigonometry) but Algebra is complete. You can put it on the shelf and know that you know all there is to know about Algebra.

I like that sense of finality, of completion.

I like being able to solve for X.


Wednesday's Word

Adarce, n. (Gr.) A saltish concretion on reeds and grass in marshy grounds in Galatia. It is lax and porous, like bastard spunge, and used to clear the skin in leprosy, tetters, &c.

My trusty Google failed me on this one. Oh, it gave me about a thousand dictionary sites with variants of the definition but then it veered off and started giving me links for dating sites, golf resort hotels, and translations of words in Spanish and Portuguese. It even asked me if I meant aparece instead - the nerve! ;)

I'm really rather disappointed. I really wanted to know more about this saltish concretion: its origin, the history of its use, whether it was effective or not, what replaced it as a treatment and why, and so on and so forth. But, alas, it appears that I will never know. So, without the further ado of interesting or related information (because it doesn't exist, or if it does, I don't know where its hidden), I give you the storyline this lax and porus substance inspired.

"No one knew where she had come from. All they knew is that one day she was there, standing at the door.

She was a little thing, wild and deserted in appearance, with large, pleading eyes. Her skin bore the distinctive marks of leprosy and so she was welcomed into the place. It was a home for lepers, set far away from other human beings, near a marshland in Galatia. Five years passed. She began to take the shape of a woman and her tongue, once silent, now ran with kindness. She spent her days caring for the other lepers, spreading adarce on their limbs with a gentle touch that did more to heal than the spunge.

Still, no one knew where she had come from. In all those past years, she never spoke of a father or mother or any other relation or friend. She did not speak of how she had come to the leper house, or how she had lived before. All they knew is that she was there. And that was all that mattered."


One Day, One Author

I've been thinking about author meetings lately. I'm not entirely sure why, since I'm years away from having to think about book tours (seeing those things generally involve this little thing called a book deal...), but I've had book signings, meet-and-greets, and school visits on my mind. And I have all these great ideas for contests and ways to interact with readers at functions instead of just talking or reading to them. They're all highly, highly pre-emptive, I know, but it's fun to think about sometimes. Not productive really (except that it makes the ironing go by faster), but fun. Anyway, somewhere along in the brainstorming/dreaming, I ended up flipping the idea and thinking about what I would want my favorite authors to offer as contest prizes or special events.

I would want there to be a way to win a day with that author.

Obviously, in real life, that can only apply to living writers. But here in the blogosphere, we can apply the idea to all writers of all time and we don't even have to compete for it :) So, if you had an entire day to spend with the author of your choice, who would it be? Why? And what non-writing-related activity would you do with him/her?

I finally decided on J.R.R. Tolkien. C.S.Lewis and G.A.Henty were close contenders in the past-authors category since Narnia is just wonderful and I grew up on Henty. Maggie Stievfater and Brandon Sanderson were the top picks for current authors, because Maggie is both hilarious and talented at all things creative, and Sanderson is, well, brilliant at storytelling. But, Tolkien surpassed them all. The Lord of the Rings is spectacular. And to spend a day with the man who created the world and history and characters of Middle Earth would be an incredible experience. His story is so full. Wouldn't it be amazing to be able to ask him in person how he developed it? How he created such characters? Why he bothered to develop a written language for the Elves and Dwarves? etc, etc, etc.

And if it was actually possible to spend a day with him, I would take him to New Zealand - the one place on Earth that looks like the world he created. And maybe, just maybe, he'd tell me what happens in the Fourth Age of Middle Earth.


Death is Swallowed Up in Victory

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" 1 Corinthians 15:55

"Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? he is not here, but is risen." Luke 24:1-6


Love Bears All Things

"...who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree..." 1 Peter 2:24

"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us." 1 John 3:16


I Would Rather Run a Marathon

Back in mid-March, I joined a string ensemble group. There are seven of us: four violins, two violas, and one cello. We had our first performance together last Sunday. We were live background music for a reception at one of the churches downtown. We had to play for about an hour and, all in all, I thought we sounded pretty good. Except for my instructor, none of us are professional musicians so our performance was hardly perfect. But, it was good enough to add "a touch of class" to the reception - or so we were told.

Yesterday, we met at our normal time and were getting ready to start learning some new music. As we're all getting our sheet music in order, the lady who I play second violin with says, "I would rather run a marathon than do that reception again." After talking about it, she decided it hadn't been that bad but I think it had more to do with how long it would take to run 26.2 miles than the difficulty of performing.

Anyway, her comment got me thinking, and I thought it would be fun to do a get-to-know-you/fill-in-the-blank here on my blog. So, here's the prompt: "I would rather run a marathon than..."

I'll go first: I would rather run a marathon than sky-dive, bungee-jump, or do any other activity that involves launching oneself off a stable object from a ridiculous height.

Your turn :)


A Word for Wednesday

Absinthiated - a, Impregnated with wormwood.

Lovely, no? Yes, well, fortunately for us, the word isn't used in reference to humans (which is good, because being impregnated with wormwood sounds like some sort of medieval torture). It's used to describe a particular type of wine, as in absinthiated wine. The history of absinthe (courtesy of Wikipedia, Absinthe Fever, and AbsintheOnline) is pretty interesting. 

Historically described as a distilled, highly alcoholic beverage, absinthe is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from herbs, including the flowers and leaves of the herb Artemisia absinthium, commonly referred to as "grande wormwood", together with green anise and sweet fennel. Traditionally, it has a natural green colour, but it can also be colourless. It is commonly referred to in historical literature as "la fée verte" (the "green fairy" in French).

The medical use of wormwood dates back to ancient Egypt and is mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, c. 1550 BC. Wormwood extracts and wine-soaked wormwood leaves were used as remedies by the ancient Greeks. Moreover, there is evidence of the existence of a wormwood-flavoured wine, absinthites oinos, in ancient Greece. The first clear evidence of absinthe in the modern sense of a distilled spirit, however, dates to the 18th century. According to popular legend, absinthe began as an all-purpose patent remedy created by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor living in Couvet, Sweitzerland, around 1792.

Absinthe's popularity grew steadily through the 1840s, when it was given to French troops as a malaria treatment. When the troops returned home, they brought their taste for absinthe with them. It became so popular in bars, bistros, cafes, and cabarets that, by the 1860s, the hour of 5 p.m. was called l'heure verte ("the green hour"). By the late 19th- and early 20th-century, it had achieved great popularity among Parisian artists and writers. Vincent Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde were among the known drinkers.

Absinthe has been portrayed as being a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug and so, by 1915, it had been banned in the United States and in most European countries including France. Although absinthe was vilified, it has not been shown that it is any more dangerous than ordinary spirits. Apparently, its psychoactive properties have been greatly exaggerated. In the 1990, an absinthe revival began when countries in the European Union started to reauthorize its manufacture and sale. As of February 2008, nearly 200 brands of absinthe were being produced in a dozen countries, most notably in France.

So there you have it - a brief, borrowed history of absinthiated wine. And now for the story line. Actually, it's more like a scene description, because I'm sort of drawing a blank. I mean, I know the guy is a soldier who has just come home from a campaign in Northern Africa (where absinthe was used for malaria), but I have no idea what his problem is or where he goes from here. So, I'm afraid this is all I have to give you:

"The year is 1850. The place a dimly lit cabaret in Paris, France. Or, rather, a corner table in a dimly lit cabaret in Paris, France. A man is sitting there, his legs propped up on the table, the drips from his grimy boots now dried onto the rough wood. His eyes are covered with a mat of dark, unkempt hair that matches the rest of his dark, unkempt dress. The bare skin of his cheeks and jaw seem ghostly white in comparison. He could be a painting, so still he was, except for the long finger of his left hand. It kept going round and round the rim of his cup. It had only one sip of absinthe left it in. Then, with the quickest flick of his finger, he toppled it. The clatter was unheard beneath the sound of rain on the roof. He watched the green liquid trickle across the table and onto the floor. Then he stood, pulled a hat over his head, turned up the collars of his coat, and ducked out of the cabaret into the dark streets of Paris."


A Day in Someone Else's Shoes

This week's Friday Five from Paper Hangover is just too good to pass up. So, even though I've already posted today, I'm still going to participate.

Which five (book) characters would you trade places with for a day?

1. Vin, from the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. From street rat to one of the most powerful allomancers? Yes, please. And if that's not enough, there's the crazy cool stunt-like abilities of the Mistborn. Oh, and saving the world.

2. Lucy, from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Need I say more?

3. Nat, from Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham. This book is probably one of the most inspiring stories I have ever read. I read it again at least once a year. If spending one day in his shoes gave me even a fraction of his determination and diligence, it would be a day well spent. I'd love to learn how to "sail by ash breeze."

4. Beric, from Beric the Briton by G.A. Henty. He is one of the most incredible characters I've ever met between the pages of a book. He fights a lion with nothing but his cloak and wins (yes, he is that impressive). So many things happen to him and his response is never less than honorable. Actually, I think I'd rather be the girl he marries, but I don't remember her name. So, Beric it is ;)

5. Tally, from the Ugly Series by Scott Westerfeld. Here's a girl who is tireless in fighting for what's right, even when it seems impossible both internally and externally. Also, she's awesome on a hoverboard.

What about you?

From a 6-year-old Boy

I was giving my three youngest siblings a bath last night, in preparation for a weekend at the Center for Courageous Kids. The oldest of them, James (who is perfectly capable of taking a shower, but prefers the bath because it means playing in water for a half an hour) kept passing gas while they were in the tub. All three of them thought that was the funniest thing on the planet. So I'm sitting there, shaking my head a little and half-laughing, thinking Oh my word, when the perceptive and randomly hilarious James says:

"You're a girl. Girls don't like farting."

Me: "Yeah, well, why do you like farting?"

James: "'Cause they're STINK BOMBS!"


A Word for Wednesday

Ablaqueation - (L. ablaqueatio, from ab and laquear, a roof or covering) a laying bare the roots of trees to expose them to the air and water - a practice among gardeners

Oh, yes, how's that for a word? ;) It was the first A word I came across that I had no familiarity with, so here we are. I had two thoughts after reading the definition. The first was, Huh, that's interesting. The second was, Why on earth would anyone do that?
So I did some quick research on it. Apparently, its a rather old, now-discontinued gardening technique. Thanks to Google, I was able to find a few passages out of some obscure books that describe the process:

"Ablaqueation, the removing of the earth, and laying bare the roots of fruit trees in winter, that they may be the more readily exposed to the influence of rains, snow, and air, &c., an operation formerly thought necessary for their future welfare; but experience has shown it to be a dangerous practice, especially where the trees are much exposed to the winds, particularly the southwest, which are generally the most violent. The practice of ablaqueation is therefore with very good reason laid aside in the present practice." The Complete Farmer: Or a General Dictionary of Husbandry, in all its Branches; Containing the Various Methods of Cultivating and Improving every Species of Land...(the title literally continues for an entire page and I wasn't about to type the whole thing out. But it is rather amusing to read this gigantic, highly-detailed title if you want to look it up), by A Society of Gentlemen, Members of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturing, and Commerce, London, 1777

"Ablaqueation, a name used by the ancient writers of agriculture, for an operation in gardening, whereby earth is dug from about a vine, or other fruit-tree, and its roots laid bare, to expose them the more to the sun, rain, and air, in order to promote its fecundity." Cyclopædia, or, An universal dictionary of arts and sciences : containing the definitions of the terms, and accounts of the things signify'd thereby, in the several arts, both liberal and mechanical, and the several sciences, human and divine : the figures, kinds, properties, productions, preparations, and uses, of things natural and artificial : the rise, progress, and state of things ecclesiastical, civil, military, and commercial : with the several systems, sects, opinions, &c : among philosophers, divines, mathematicians, physicians, antiquaries, criticks, &c : the whole intended as a course of ancient and modern learning, by Ephraim Chambers, 1728

(Can you imagine submitting a manuscript to a publisher with a title that long? Or picking it up in a bookstore? My goodness. And that used to be normal!)

So if you ever see someone digging out the roots of their trees, now you'll know what they're doing. Of course, the likelihood of such an event happening is almost non-existent, but you never know. Or, you could do it yourself just because and when people stop to ask you what you're doing, you can confidently say, "I am ablaqueating!"

And now for the storyline (and as a note on this and all future storylines - I'm making them up on the fly so the accuracy of setting/time-period/etc is based on my educated or not-so-educated guesses):

"In sixteenth century England, a young boy is apprenticed to the master gardener of a country lord's estate. As he works to cultivate both the gardens and knowledge under the careful eye of his master, he grows stronger in body, mind, and character. One day, left to ablaqueate the orchard on his own, the ground gives way beneath the blows of his shovel. He tumbles down and down, finally spilling out into an enormous subterranean cavern supported by columns that seem to be made of spiraling sands that froze mid-swirl. Abandoning his duties for the moment, he dares to move further into the cavern, where he discovers that he is not alone."

The end. Or maybe the beginning ;)

What story does ablaqueation put in your mind?


Dandelion Dreams

One of my favorite things about spring are dandelions. Not when they're yellow and full of that sticky, smelly substance that oozes out of the stem if you pick them, but when they're white puff balls scattered over the lawn. My little brother kept picking them for me today and asking me to blow them (he doesn't believe that he is just as capable of doing so yet). I happily obliged him.

There's something very enchanting about watching the seeds get caught up and whisked off by the wind. I think dreams are like that. They seem so fleeting and fragile sometimes, like the smallest breeze will snatch them away.
But all those dandelion seeds land somewhere. Maybe a block down the street, maybe miles away. Who knows? Not all of them will take root and bloom. Many of them will though.

I think dreams are like that too. When we let them out, the winds of life may very well take them to some inhospitable place where they languish and die. But some dreams, some dreams, take root in our hearts. Roots 
deep enough that when the wind sweeps them up, they take us as well.

Those kind of dreams are the kind that take us places we never thought we'd end up - places full of hope and beauty and joy and wonder. Those dreams never die. They may change form, like a dandelion that changes from seedling to flower, but the dream itself remains the same.

There's something very enchanting about dreams, about discovering them, pursuing them, and watching them bear fruit. There's a certain wonder that goes with them. Like wondering where a dandelion seed will land, we wonder at where our own dreams might take us, even as we watch and wonder at the dreams of others. The question is always the same: will they come true? Will they bear fruit and what kind of fruit will it be?

That's the part of dreams that really get to us, I think - the possibility. Maybe they won't happen. Maybe they will. Either way, though, it's possible. And, somehow, that's enough.

At least, it is for me.


Badar Basim

"It's like that name...the name with two D's or two B's. When you forget a name like that you don't really forget it, because when you hear it again you know it instantly." - Shahrazad
 (as portrayed in Shadow Spinner, by Susan Fletcher)

Some stories are like that too.

The Iron Peacock, by Mary Stetson Clarke, is one of them.

I first read it years ago when I lived in this tiny little town that quite literally had more cows than people. A little town with lots of cows, friendly down-to-earth farming folks, and a quaint old library. And in this library was this book. I read it. I loved it. And then I forgot about it.

For years, I never thought of it, not even in passing when talking about favorite books. At some point, and I don't remember what prompted it, my sister and I both remembered this great book we had read when we lived in Lisbon. About a girl...and a guy...and an iron thing for a fireplace. That's all we could remember - not the title, not the author, not the characters' names. Nothing.

It was the tiniest smidgen of a memory, the kind that normally fade from mind as quickly as they arrive, but it stayed with me. It kept popping up every time I was looking at my Wish-To-Read and Wish-To-Buy list. What was that story? I don't know how but I finally recalled the title one day. I immediately typed it into Amazon, really hoping that I had remembered rightly, and there it was. There were only two left in stock. I bought both. They arrived, I ripped open the box, picked one up, and just held it thinking, Oh, no.

I didn't recognize the cover. I didn't recognize the blurb on the back. Absolutely nothing about it seemed familiar. So I start leafing through it thinking, Please, please be the right story. There was one scene I remembered vaguely - it involved dancing and a red petticoat. I couldn't find it. I started skimming over the dialogue, trying to find the main male character somewhere so I could find his name. It wasn't working. So I flipped to the last page (even though I never do that), hoping for something, anything familiar. And that's where I found these lines:

"'Tis the way I first saw ye, as pretty as a peacock in your velvet cloak, with your head held high. I thought then ye were as proud as one, but I've learned different since. 'Tis not pride, but courage ye have, lass. Ye've the strength of iron."

Oh, yes. Yes, this is it. Ross, that was his name! The moment I knew I had the right story, I flipped back to page one and started reading. And with every page turn, I remembered more and more - what happened next, the supporting characters, the way it all worked out. I was so happy. This was the story, the characters, I had loved and forgotten. 

Re-reading it, and seeing it now on my bookshelf, it's like having a childhood friend back. A friend you liked so well that you can't imagine how you ever managed to forget them. A friend who you know instantly when you see them again. 
Because, sometimes, it's like the name with two D's or two B's. You never really forget it. It just gets covered with the dust of days gone by.


Five Things on a Friday

I found these guys from Christine (I guess that's why they call all this blogging and twittering and anything-elsering social networking, with the key word being "network") and thought I'd join the fun, especially since they captured a writer's life quite well. Check it out.

And now for the actual content of this post...

1: That there is far more to being a writer than writing. Yes, the actual writing is the primary and most important part of being a writer. You can't be a writer without, well, writing. But, after you've written your manuscript, there's so much to do that has nothing to do with characters or plot line or setting or prose but has everything to do with becoming a writer (in the published-author sense of the word). There's market research and query letters and platform building and networking; there's submissions and rejections and more submissions and more rejections. And then, after all of that, guess what? You get to wait ;) And wait, and wait, and wait, and really start to loathe the phrase "Patience is a virtue."

2: That writing a synopsis would become the bane of my writerly existence. No, really. I can write a three hundred word pitch just fine. I can handle a brief summary for query letters. I can even manage a single-sentence description. But a two to five page synopsis? That is beyond me for some reason. Oh, I can plunk out two to five pages of something that looks like a summary of my novel, but it is absolutely not pleasant to read.

3: That my fondness of sticky notes would grow exponentially. I buy them in bulk. And for birthday gifts? I ask for the fancy designer kind (I don't use those, except for very special occasions. I still have a pad of a purple paisley design from two years ago in my drawer). During the multiple revisions of my novel, the stack of paper that was my manuscript turned into a sticky-note hedgehog. My idea-file? Full of sticky notes covered in tiny, cramped writing. To-do lists? On sticky notes - because when I'm finished with a task, I can crumple up the cheerfully colored square of paper and throw it out (which is much more satisfying than simply crossing something off a list).

4: That sometimes it's best to just walk away. This is especially true during the revision phase of writing. You get too close, too tied into your story and characters that the problems are either invisible or seemingly insurmountable. Put it away and don't look at it for a few weeks (maybe even a few months). When you come back, things are so much better. So much better.

5: That revising takes up a lot of floor space. Well, it did for me. Between my second and third drafts, I did a major overhaul of most of the storyline. This meant that something needed to be changed in every single chapter. I prefer to do my revising by hand as opposed to on my computer, so I printed the whole thing off, clipped the chapters together, and made a circle of them. I sat in the middle with my scissors and tape and went to work. No one was allowed to walk through my room for days.

So there it is. The five things I wish I had known beforehand :)


Because Deadlines and Challenges are Good Things


I've decided to embark upon a personal blogging challenge for the rest of the year: A Word for Wednesday. I wanted to start today (I even found a word I'd never heard of) but "A Word for Thursday" doesn't sound nearly as good. And it would just be wrong to start a Wednesday series on a Thursday. Anyway...

Every week on Wednesday I will post about a particular word. Each word will (a) start with the letter of the month and (b) be somewhat if not entirely obscure. There are so many great words out there that we are either completely ignorant of or simply choose not to use in normal conversation. So, this is my effort to discover new words - because words are a writer's primary instrument and, well, the more instruments you access to the more beautiful and effective you can make your work.

That will be the easy part. The challenge is this: in addition to writing about the definition/history/interesting-things-regarding the word, create a storyline involving the word. It can be anywhere from a single sentence to a paragraph in length.

If I am successful in this endeavor then, by the end of the year, I should know 37 stupendous new words and have at least a kernel of 37 new stories.

I like the sound of that :)


A Classic Boy v. Girl Moment

I was running errands yesterday with my youngest brother (Rilian) and sister (Coral). The library was our last stop. After reading a stack of books aloud to Rilian while Coral played with puzzles and a stuffed green frog, it was time to go. I don't know when it had started but, by the time we reached the door, it was pouring rain out. So I opened the door, we grabbed hands, and ran out on the count of three.

There were enormous puddles scattered all over the parking lot.

I was just trying to get to the car as quickly as possible because it was cold and wet and dark and there was a tornado warning out.

Rilian was jumping and splashing through every single puddle he could reach, giggling his adorable little head off.

Coral goes, "Ahhh!! It's getting in my shoes!"