Monday, December 28, 2015

Snippets of The Prince's Pendant

As an attempted cure for writer's block (or writer's laziness, more accurately), and because I think it sounds fun, here are ten snippets of my recently finished first draft of The Prince's Pendant. Enjoy!
She cocked her head again and called out: "Any special requests from my listeners?"
"I already asked you to kindly be quiet."
"Oh, no you didn't! You told me to shut up - which, by the way, is very rude. No gentleman would ever speak to a lady that way."
The Festerlonian gave Eldon a sly look. "How do I know you'll come back?"
Eldon drew himself up. "I give my word of honor, sir."
"An Erdanian's word of honor means little."
Eldon's temper rose, but he strove not to show it. "Not all Erdanians are like my brother."
Before Eldon could properly process what this meant, a panel slid into place over the opening - and the wall looked an ordinary wall again.
A secret passageway.
Dar put his hands on his hips and looked down into the dark hole. "If only we had a rope," he muttered. "A rope. A rope! Dash it all, why didn't I bring a rope? A good thief always has a rope!"
"Well, maybe I would rather die!" This impetuous cry from Jude was accompanied by the clattering of a chair, as though the unwilling conspirator had jumped up. "You can't control me like this forever, Strike. You can't tell me what to do. I tell you I don't want to be responsible for the Prince's death, and I don't want to be a traitor, and -"
But he stopped abruptly. Eldon imagined a brandishing of the knife in Strike's hand had been enough to cool his brother's fervor.
"Who's Dow?" asked Timandra.
"Oh, he's the leader of the Deadly Desperadoes. My uncle. And quite a formidable person, I assure you.
Timandra laughed. "I doubt he scares you much," she said, picking up her volume of Shakespeare again and flipping back to where she had left off. "After all, if death doesn't scare an outlaw like you, what will?"
Raphael stared at the floor. He didn't want to disappoint the Admiral, but he wasn't even sure he could hold his head high a little longer. He almost wanted to say that, far from keeping everything under control, he was going to be the first to start a mutiny.
Jude evidently was not very good with introductions. "Oh - uh, yes. Well. This is Captain Novarex - Raphael Novarex, that is - he's, um, from Perlacia - and these are the kids. I mean - that's my sister Timandra, and my brother Eldon, and their friend Ada Albers." He paused as though finished; then, suddenly reddening, added as an afterthought, "And Christina."
"Admiral Kanty," declared Raphael, "could transform the most flawed human being there ever was into a perfect military angel. But this child, your majesty, is not just a flawed human. He verges on the supernatural."
"Why, Justinian! How very good it is to see you!" Alphonse laid a hand on his friend's shoulder and looked into his face with glad earnestness. "It does seem you stay longer every time you go away. Why, the palace hasn't been the same without you! Was your trip enjoyable? Did you have any luck? Good gracious, what has happened to your hand?"

Sunday, December 27, 2015

In Defense of Fairy Tales

Fairy tales seem to get a bad rap very often these days. "They're so cliche. Every single one has a beautiful princess and a handsome prince and a happily-ever-after ending." "They're positively ridiculous. Like anyone would believe a pumpkin could become a coach!" "I'm tired of princesses looking so perfect. Modern girls are so insecure about their looks already." "Everyone knows 'happily ever after' doesn't happen in real life, and it's dangerous to give kids the idea that it does." These statements might be true enough; but to my mind each is a very simplistic way to view the time-honored fairy tale. Let's take a closer look at this set of stories and see if we can find anything in them today's world might be missing.
First of all, fairy tales are not meant to be taken literally. This point is crucially important if we want to get at the heart of what fairy tales really mean. No one really believes that a fairy godmother is going to pop up out of nowhere and fix all a girl's problems just because she's been so good. No one expects the prince to fall in love with the first virtuous peasant girl he meets. And if anyone's hair ever grew so long it could be used as an elevator to pull people up into a high tower, I'm pretty sure she'd be all over the news. Fairy tales aren't meant to be believable in the way most modern fiction is. Often, this throws modern readers for a loop. After all, even our fantasy and science fiction novels are brim full of reasons explaining the rationality behind the heroes' marvelous adventures. When fairy tales don't do the same - when the stepmother's jealousy seems unfounded or the presence of Seven Dwarves in a wood remains unexplained - we feel cheated and think the author of the story must have been inept. This is all because we forget that fairy tales are an entirely different genre from what our world soaks up so eagerly today. The glory of the fairy tales lies in this difference - rather like a scullery maid whose genuine beauty is overlooked because she does not dress in fluttering silk and flashing jewels.

Fairy tales are not meant to be taken literally. Oh, it is true that they are amusing and beautiful stories in themselves, in a certain simple sense, but their true wonder and genius lies in the hidden meanings of the story, meaning which, though they make themselves subtly felt, are not blatantly obvious to the undiscerning eye. Fairy tales speak to us of another world, of a spiritual realm more glorious than fairyland, and more perilous - and ten thousand times more real.
In fairy tales we see reflections of the yearnings that are placed within every human heart, shadows of the fulfilment of each person's dreams. The images in fairy tales speak right to our inmost being, because they are somehow familiar to us. In the mistreated little scullery maid we see a hardworking and long-suffering soul, a soul which so often groans beneath the truth that "this world isn't fair." In the ugliness of the witch we recognize the ugliness of sin, and in the beauty of the heroine we realize the beauty of virtue even when it is masked by a coat of grime. In the deep sleep of the precious princess, we see the ruin of a soul in sin, lovely as ever but trapped in a total unawareness of everything that matters.
Enter Prince Charming. Oh, how often has he been criticized and misunderstood! Yet this is perfect, for he represents one who truly was criticized and misunderstood unjustly. He is the hero who comes to save his beloved, the perfect man who alone can fulfil the heroine's deepest longing: her longing for love and purpose.

If the damsel in distress represents, not merely a model young lady, but each struggling human soul, then the Prince represents He who alone can save and make happy that suffering heart within each of us - not merely "the perfect match" everyone knows too good to be true, but the loving Savior whom many disregard.

And the happily ever after? We all know this world has none to offer; but, in our heart of hearts, we also hope that we can find one elsewhere. It is a human yearning, illustrated through ages of mythology and religion, to have some perfect world where the good are rewarded - and also where the evil are punished. It is this hope of the afterlife which the happily ever after represents, that faith in final justice which is spoken of so blithely at the conclusion of every fairy tale.
That, my dear friends, is my take on fairy tales, and why I love them so. They are not merely stories - they are lessons, truths packaged in gauzy silk and given to children as their earliest playthings. Wise children, by playing with these toys and turning them over in their bright little brains, will eventually grope beyond the packaging and find the jewels beneath, the treasures which will be of use to them evermore on their journey of life.
Perhaps you disagree with me. That's alright. But as long as there is a deeper, truer, and more beautiful explanation to fairyland than the one the world accepts, it is the one I shall accept.
It may be that there is more to fairy tales than meets the eye.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Virgin Martyrs

It's St. Lucy's feast day today! This is especially exciting for me because she's my Confirmation saint. (Also, there's a fun tradition in our house where I get to make scones and Irish soda bread on St. Lucy's day. So that's a plus.)

I get the feeling I've done a post on St. Lucy before. *sheepish smile* So instead of rambling on about her in particular, I'll ramble on about virgin martyrs in general, particularly the Roman ones.

Aren't they so cool? Ever since I was a little girl, I've been absolutely fascinated by these young ladies. First, they decide to give themselves entirely and completely to God. And then, they're so brave they stand up to these big scary Roman soldiers and prefects and say, "I don't care what you do to me. I belong to Christ, and I will until I die." And they do die. That is the epitome of courage!

And then there's the fact that they're usually portrayed as being perfectly lovely and very well-to-do and yet too selfless to let that go to their heads or affect their holiness, which makes them little less than fairy tale princesses. :)

Actually, they're a lot better than fairy tale princesses. They're real princesses, real heroines, real saints. They knew what the most important thing in life is, and they devoted themselves entirely to God. They didn't let anything stand in their way.

Now, despite the fact that we usually think of these virgin martyrs (and all martyrs, really) as perfectly fearless, we've got to remember that they were human - and, as such, they were probably afraid. They were probably dreadfully afraid at times. I'm sure it wasn't exactly pleasant to be on the rack. There was joy, certainly; but it was spiritual joy, the joy of knowing that Heaven awaited them. Whether or not they suffered with a heavenly glow about them, as all the saints do in the novel Fabiola, I don't know. I always think of them that way. But once in awhile I have to pull myself up and remember, these aren't fairy tales. These are real live events. There really was a persecution in Rome, there really was a Coliseum, there really were fires, and lions, and arrows. And these martyrs were real people. They sinned, like we all do. They felt sorrow and anger and fear, like we all do. They weren't supermen.

And that, of all things, is what makes them so amazing. They were fallen human beings, and they did the impossible - endured incredible pain and suffering with joy, because they knew there were more important things than worldly riches and comfort.

On their own, they never could have done it.

But nothing is impossible with God.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Saintly Societies

Saints come in groups.

Did you ever think about that?

Perhaps it can't really be used as a universal statement - but as a general rule, if you find a saint, chances are there's another one somewhere nearby.

Take the early Church, for example. It was a community practically built up of saints, and many if not all of these saints knew each other. Mary. The Apostles. Mary Magdalene. Joseph of Arimathea. Lazarus. Martha. Stephen. Paul. Barnabus. Titus. Timothy. And the list goes on. And on. And on.

That was very natural, of course. Christians were a small group back then, seen as an eccentric sect, and you kind of had to stick with like-minded people if you wanted any friends. When Christians left their saintly communities to travel into pagan ground, they made the pagans into Christians, and the Christians then became saints. Simple, right? Exactly what you'd expect to happen.

And it kept happening. Not only in the beginning but all throughout history, saints tend to come in packages rather than alone.

During the Roman Persecutions....

Martyrs naturally strengthened their fellow Christians to remain true to Christ to the death...and, quite often, ended up taking their family and friends with them to Heaven. Before her martyrdom, St. Cecilia managed to convert both her husband Valerian and his brother Tiburtius (I love those names, don't you?) to the Catholic faith. They paid the price for their religion in blood. St. Perpetua and St. Felicity were martyred together. St. Sebastian converted a large number of pagans before his death. St. Agnes had a foster-sister who was later martyred, St. Emerentiana. (For more on St. Sebastian and St. Agnes, I highly recommend the novel Fabiola, by Cardinal Wiseman. Not sure how fictionalized it is, but it makes for a top-rate book.)

In the 4th Century...

Where would St. Augustine have been without St. Monica, the mother who prayed him into holiness? Or without St. Ambrose, the kindly bishop who helped enlighten him on the truths of the faith and later baptized him? And while these three are a group in themselves, they weren't alone. Flipping through a dictionary of saints one day, I realized that lots of characters from St. Augustine's Confessions are actually honored as saints - St. Alypyus, for example, was one of Augustine's closest friends, and St. Adeodatus was Augustine's illegitimate son.

In the Middle Ages...

St. Francis and St. Clare worked together to found the religious order which helped rejuvenate the Church. St. Clare's younger sister Agnes followed her into sainthood. St. Thomas Aquinas was friends with both St. Albert the Great and St. Bonaventure.

In the 1800s, in France...

We all know and love St. Therese the Little Flower; she's one of the most beloved saints of all time. Who started her on the road to holiness? Her parents. Louis and Zelie Martin were just canonized this year.

In the 1900s, in Portugal...

Few stories are more touching and inspiring than that of the three shepherd children of Portugal who were visited by Our Lady in 1917. The history of the apparitions is well-known; but what is less talked of is the life of the three children after the famous Miracle of the Sun. Bl. Jacinta and Bl. Francisco died very young and suffered very much in their last days; but the three saints were always very close to one another and encouraged one another to offer up their sufferings for poor sinners.


My point? If one person is a saint - if one person is holy - then chances are they're going to help other people to become saints, too. And if we want to be saints, we should choose friends who are going to help us become saints. It works both ways, and it's almost like a chain reaction.

I don't think I'm the only one who thinks it'd be absolutely awesome to have a saintly society - a community of dedicated Christians willing to spill their blood for the faith, as enthusiastic and contagious as the Church of the first century. It's possible. But it's not going to happen all at once. It has to happen bit by by group....trio by trio....person by person.

Which means it starts with one true friend, one person who is willing to seek out the straight and narrow path and drag their loved ones along with them.

It starts with me.

It starts with you.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Gareth Interview

Time for Gareth's interview! (What's that? It's about time? Nonsense, it hasn't been a long time at's still the same month I posted the bio, anyway....haha, yeah, it's been a long time.) Here goes. I talk in black. Gareth talks in green.

Hey, Gareth. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

Uh-uh. I'm just on my way out to feed the chickens, so I don't mind.

Why do you want to be a knight so much?

Well, who wouldn't want to be a knight? They're brave and noble and strong and heroic, and they get to do so many great and valorous things! It's much better than sitting at home doing chores or milking a cow. *grimaces*

How old are you?

Fifteen. I think that's old enough to be a knight, don't you? Gawain was already a squire in King Arthur's service at my age. So was Mordred.

What kind of adventures do you hope to have?

Why, great and glorious ones, of course. Like the ones Gawain talks about. I want to fight ogres and slay dragons and outsmart giants - though I guess that's not saying much - and go on quests for enchanted treasure and protect all that is right and good and rescue fair maidens from certain death.

What are you best at?

Uh - I'm pretty good at swordplay. At least, Gawain says I am. And he wouldn't lie. I'm good with horses, too.

Why won't your mother let you become a knight?

*shrugs* I've been asking that same question for the last three years. I guess it's because she'd miss me if I was gone. I'm the last son she has at home, you know. She doesn't have anyone else to keep her company or do the chores or help take care of Father. I guess I can't blame her. But...gee, she could find some way to get along without me! Maybe I should just stop doing chores and then she won't mind having me gone...

How long have you wanted to be a knight?

Ever since I can remember. I've been surrounded by knights and knighthood for all my life. There's Gawain - Gawain's one of the greatest knights of the Round Table, almost as good as Lancelot himself. And Mordred - Mordred's not much to speak of, but at least he's a knight. Even Father was a knight, a long time ago. And - well, King Arthur's my uncle. Practically every man in my family has been a knight. *under his breath* Sometimes I think Mother's using me as the daughter she's never had.

What's your least favorite chore?

*grimaces* Dishes. All the other ones are pretty bad, too, but dishes are the worst.

Alright, Gareth, that'll be all. You can go do your chores now.

Now that you've met Gareth, I've got big news: I have started work on my next book in that silly space series of mine, the sequel to The Prince's Pendant. And I am very excited about it. :) For the next interview, I am going to temporarily change the government of this blog and make it into a dictatorship rather than a democracy. In other words - I'm deciding who the next interview subject will be. :) And...I think I will keep that little bit of information a secret until I post the next bio. :)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Strains of Patriotism - You're a Grand Old Flag

Saturday! Time for another patriotic post!

This week's song is an extremely fun one - short and sweet, with a fast tempo, which means it's really tempting to just sing over...and over...and over again. Listen to it on Youtube and sing it and sing it and sing it!

You're A Grand Old Flag
By George M. Cohan

You're a grand old flag,
You're a high-flying flag,
And forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of the land I love,
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev'ry heart beats true
'Neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag.
But should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.
Image result for american flag

Friday, October 9, 2015

Gareth Bio


Now on the threshold of manhood, all Gareth wants is to be a knight. He's pretty sure he knows exactly what knighthood means, too. After all, there has never been a time in his life when he was not surrounded by tales of heroic deeds and examples of chivalrous behavior. His father was a knight, his brothers are knights, and his uncle Arthur is not only a knight but the best of all knights, King Arthur himself. The way Gareth sees it, he ought to be a knight, too.
However, there is one problem: Gareth's mother. Now, please do not misunderstand. Gareth loves his mother dearly and admires her for her unswerving devotion to her family. After all, she has spent her entire life caring for an invalid husband and bringing up three wild boys all on her own - not to mention all the housework. But he does get aggravated with her at times, for she will not hear of him leaving the farm to join his brothers at Camelot. And if he can't ever go to will he ever be a knight of the Round Table?
Have any questions for Gareth? Go ahead and post them in the comments, and I'll get an interview up before long!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Curios for Writers - Tools for Spinning

It's an established fact: writers are curious people. Curious, meaning each one is a curiosity, but also curious, meaning they want to know things.

Now that I'm starting to dabble in historical fiction, I've realized that the more serious I am with my stories, the more trivial knowledge I'm going to have to store up. Hardly a page into my Arthurian legend retelling, I mentioned a spinning wheel...and in another paragraph, found myself asking just exactly what a spinning wheel was. As I progress in my writing journey, I thought it'd be cool to keep track of what I learn, not just in my head where it will surely get lost, but filed away somewhere. And what better place to document such things than in a blog?

So here it is: my list of writer's curios, which I intend to add onto in the days and months ahead. Enjoy!

Curio #1: The Spinning Wheel

What is it?
It's a tool used for making fleece into yarn. (Not into cloth, as I had some vague idea of its doing before looking it up...) Historically, it didn't come into the European picture until the 1200s sometime. (Which means it probably won't work for my early Middle Ages Arthurian legend...darn.)

What does it look like?
Like this:

     Image result for spinning wheel

What does it sound like?
It doesn't sound very pleasant, actually. I had formulated some idea (I think due to the wonderful old book The Princess and Curdie) about a gentle hum....but actually the spinning wheel makes a dull, heavy grating noise. Think a big kitchen chair getting dragged across the floor. It isn't continuous, either - it grinds for a few seconds, pauses for a few seconds, and then grinds again. Grurrrr....grurrrr....grurrrr. I know because I looked it up on Youtube. :)

Curio #2:The Spindle and Distaff

What is it?
Well, if you can't use a spinning wheel, you naturally have to have something to make yarn with. :) This is a pair of hand-held tools rather than that big old wheel. It's a much older invention than the spinning wheel is....which means I can use it in my story! Yay! (But it also doesn't make a sound, the way the spinning wheel does.....darn again.)

What does it look like?
Like this:

How does it work?

Well, the distaff holds a clump of fleece - sort of a cloud of fluff that doesn't have any use yet. :) The spindle is this nifty little thingy-ma-bob that's basically a stick to wind the thread onto. You pull a bit of fleece from the distaff and use the spindle to twist it into thread; then, you wind the length of new thread onto the spindle and keep on going.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

St. Francis of Assisi

Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi! Hooray!
This holy man is quite possibly one of the most popular saints ever. Usually, when we think of him, we might imagine him surrounded by animals or talking to the birds. This is because St. Francis had a great love for God's creation and is a beautiful and fitting way to think of him.
However, St. Francis was more than just a man who loved nature. He was devoted, first and foremost, to God, and it is out of this love that all his other loves sprang.
Including his love for Lady Poverty.

Who was Lady Poverty? Lady Poverty was St. Francis' way of seeing the virtue of detachment from worldly goods - dependence on God, and not on earthly riches. When he was a young man and still rather attached to the things of earth, like riches and parties and raucous young friends, he had a vision of this beautiful lady and fell desperately in love with her. As a result of this vision, he gave up everything he owned and followed Christ without reserve for the rest of his life.
Dante describes this very well in his Divine Comedy:
And unto her he pledged his wedded faith
In spiritual court and
coram patre too,
And loved her more each day that he drew breath
(Sayers, Paradiso, Canto XI, lines 61-63).
St. Francis was not the first lover of Lady Poverty, however. Christ Himself loved her long before anyone else could see any beauty in her. Dante says of Poverty's love for Christ,
Naught it availed that she so constant was,
And so courageous, that when Mary stayed
Below, she leapt with Christ upon the cross
(Sayers, Paradiso, Canto XI, lines 70-72).
Christ had a great love for Poverty - he stayed close to her all through his life, having no place to lay his head at night. (See Matthew 8:20.) At the beginning of His life, He was laid in a manger full of straw for a bed; at the end of His life, He was stretched out on a rough wooden cross, as poor as the day He came into the world. St. Francis followed Christ's radical example by giving up absolutely everything.
What about us? Are we willing to give up all we have for God? We might not be called to walk the earth clad in naught but a pair of sandals and a rough brown robe, but would we be willing to if God asked it of us? Are we willing to share the things we have with those in need? More importantly, are we willing to share our love with those in need? They might not look like the lepers St. Francis helped - chances are they'll show up as a familiar face, maybe a pesky little brother or an annoying next-door neighbor. Are we channels of Christ's love and peace to them, as St. Francis would have been?
How much do we love Lady Poverty?
Dear St. Francis, pray for us to be like you!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Strains of Patriotism - The Star-Spangled Banner

I love this country. Granted, it's got some problems. Make that a lot of problems. But every time the Fourth of July comes around, every time I see Old Glory waving in all her majestic splendor on high, and every time I hear a strain of patriotic music, I'm seized with a fit of patriotism that makes me want to wear red, white, and blue every day.

Is there anything wrong with this? Of course not! Just because our country is sick does not mean we should abandon her. Indeed, this is the time when we should most steadfastly stand by her - not by her flaws and imperfections, but by America herself, the true America which our founding fathers envisioned, the land of the free and the home of the brave. For it is only through the fire of virtuous patriotism that we can ever hope to burn away the many ugly blots which stain our country's flag and make it into the nation we owe our allegiance to.

With that said, I've decided to encourage this little flame of enthusiasm to grow and spread by posting a patriotic song or poem once a week. (Just watch: next Saturday I'll completely forget I ever made such a resolution....)

Here we go!

First up: the National Anthem! Oh, this is such a spectacular song, and it's so much more than just the first verse. My favorite part is the second stanza - so powerful and exultant! Beautiful!

The Star-Spangled Banner

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight'
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen, thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner: oh, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Oh, thus be it ever when free men shall stand,
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that has made and preserved us as a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust";
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Christina's Interview

Here is my interview of my character Christina Tenth. (News flash: on September 30, I finished my beloved scatterbrained concoction of a book, The Prince's Pendant! It's over 250 pages long, illustrated with pictures from some dear younger siblings, and very, very messy. I'm ecstatic.) Enjoy!

*setting: a dingy little shop, illuminated by one weak light bulb, and smelling of polished metal and oily rags. I stand in one corner, looking about awkwardly. Enter Christina, her hands on her hips, her face smeared with black, and wisps of her red hair, having escaped from her pony tail, hanging loosely about her face. I walk forward to greet her.*

Me: Christina! Thank you for taking the time to see me. I -

Christina: I don't have much time. What do you want?

Me: *smiles uncomfortably* The interview?

Christina: Oh. Yeah. Well, go ahead and hurry up, the shop's busy as anything today.

Me: Alright, I'll try. How many people are in your family?

Christina: Seven. My mom, my dad, my four older brothers, and me.

Me: Okay....what's your dream?

Christina: *crosses arms and raises one eyebrow* My dream?

Me: Yeah, you know....what you want to do with your life.

Christina: This is even more ridiculous than I thought.

Me: Can you just answer the question?

Christina: Don't have one. Dreams are for people with time on their hands. I don't dream, I work.

Me: What's your greatest fear?

Christina: *sighs, rolls eyes* That Dad'll come in and catch me slacking work to talk to some strange girl asking impractical questions. Can we get on with it?

Me: Uh...who do you admire most?

Christina: Anyone who can look at a flier, tell you what's wrong with it, and fix it in nothin' flat.

Me: *under my breath* Boy, have we got fliers on the brain....

Christina: It's easy to have them on the brain when that's all you see day after day. What's the next question?

Me: Do you have a secret talent?

Christina: *tosses head proudly, then glances around. Leans forward and says in a low voice:* I can sing.

Me: Really? *Christina nods, with something like a smile* Interesting...ah, how perfect. The next question is: do you like music?

Christina: *shrugs* I don't have anything against it. 'Course, the boys don't like it while they're working, so I don't hear much of it.

Me: Do you like animals?

Christina: I guess. Don't see too many of them in the city.

Me: What's your life goal?

Christina: *shrugs* Work in the shop and be useful.

Me: When did you first start helping in the family business?

Christina: I've been helping out in the shop as long as I can remember. I think I knew the parts of an engine before I knew my ABCs.

Me: Did you ever want to do anything else for a career?

Christina: No.

Me: You sure about that?

Christina: *brow wrinkles in either annoyance or confusion* Look, why do you want to know all this?

Me:'s kinda...hard to explain.....

Voice (from the other room of the shop): Christina!

Christina: That's Dad. I've gotta go. *strides out of the room*

Okay, so there's Christina! I hope you've enjoyed meeting her. :)

Since I've finished writing this book and am going to take a break from these characters for a while, I think I'll give you a new choice of people to vote for. Hmm....this is going to be a little tricky, since I'm stealing these characters from Arthurian legend!

For the next bio, you may vote for:
Gareth (protagonist)
 Bellicent (his mother)
Gawain (his brother)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Honoring Mary

While praying the rosary today, I was thinking about how we Catholics honor Mary. And I had one of those doubts - as I assume most Catholics once in a while do - that asked if we didn't give Mary too much honor.

It's kind of easy to think that. I mean, if you look at all the beautiful paintings and sculptures and architecture dedicated to Mary - if you think of all the reams and reams of paper dedicated to honoring her - if you reflect on all the lovely songs and hymns and poetry written her honor - it's simply dazzling. Through the ages, Mary has been given so much attention that it's easy to wonder - wouldn't that glory have been better if it had been given directly to God?
Of course, the Catholic answer to that is, this glory is given to God.
That might sound a little weak until we realize that Mary is God's masterpiece.
She is the most perfect and beautiful thing He has ever created. And that's saying a lot. Now, when human artists - Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and people like that - how do we honor them? By making a big to-do about their work!
Let's say the Greek sculptor Polykleitos walked into this room. (Art class is paying off! Polykleitos is the guy who made this sculpture.)
Now, if Polykleitos walked into this room right now, and I wanted to compliment him on his artwork, I would have at least two options of how I wanted to praise him.
Option #1: Praise him directly.
"Oh, Polykleitos! You are one of the most amazing artists ever. You're perfectly stupendous and fabulous and absolutely fantastic. I think you're great."
Option #2: Praise his work.
"Polykleitos, I love your sculptures. They are so extremely beautiful! I'm really impressed by the way their hair is so curly and detailed, and how lifelike their poses are, and how perfectly their noses are shaped."
Now, if I were Polykleitos, I would be pretty happy to be told any of that. But my guess is Option #2, being a little more specific, is also a little more flattering - no, not a little more flattering, a little more sincere. I've actually told Polykleitos what I like about his sculptures and why I think he's great, not just that he's magnificent.
Is this analogy perfect? Certainly not. God is so utterly high above Polykleitos that it seems a little shallow to mention the two of them in the same sentence like that. And God is different from an artist in that He Himself is the essence of goodness. He definitely deserves direct praise, and we definitely can and should glorify Him without making any reference to His works.
However, God is also an artist, and it is good for us to praise and honor the work He has done.
The honor we give the Pieta does not in any way take away from Michelangelo's glory; it increases it.
The honor we give the Mona Lisa does not in any way take away from Leonard da Vinci's glory; it increases it.
And the honor we give Mary does not in any way take away from God's glory. I wouldn't say it increases it, because God is already so glorious He can't be added to; but I would say that honoring Mary helps us realize more clearly God's genius and goodness and beauty.
So that, my friends, is my spur-of-the-moment defense of the Church's teaching on honoring Mary. :)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Christina's Bio

The youngest in a family of brothers, twenty-two-year-old Christina Tenth has never been treated as a lady, nor does she much care to be. She spends most of her time in her father's garage crawling in and out of broken engines, helping to keep up the family business. Since the streets where she lives are in a rather rough part of town, the matter-of-fact redhead has learned to take care of herself, if the need should arise. Her crisp, business-like manner, coupled with the occasional smart or sarcastic remark, warn strangers she is not to be trifled with...and succeeds in annoying and puzzling Jude.

Post any questions you have for Christina, and I'll have her answer them in an interview.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Character Quirks

So, what makes a great character?
It's an extremely interesting question, and books upon books could be written on the subject. Of course, I'm not going to try to answer it completely in one little blog post. But, I am going to discuss one of the many things which I think can make a character interesting.
The thing is character quirks. I say "quirks" for lack of a better word; by it, I mean any little thing which makes a character stick out from anyone else in literature, or at least in their book. Maybe it's something they carry around with them at all times. Maybe it's a certain interest. Maybe it's a distinctive flaw. Or maybe it's how they dress, or a phrase they use continually, or part of their appearance that sticks out like a sore thumb.
Here are some examples of popular book characters and a list of quirks that makes them memorable.

Anne Shirley, Lucy Maude Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables

1. She hates her red hair (as well as her freckled nose, her green eyes, and her skinny figure).
2. She gets into "scrapes."
3. She is hopelessly romantic.
4. She insists her name is spelled "with an e."
5. She has a temper.
6. She talks non-stop, for paragraphs at a time.
7. She demands "scope for the imagination."
8. She loves puffed sleeves.
9. She uses big words.
10. She is on a continual quest for "kindred spirits."
11. She names (or renames) everything she meets.
12. She wishes her name was Cordelia.

Sam Gamgee, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

1. He loves stories of the old heroes.
2. He wants to see the elves.
3. He can read, recite, and compose poetry (unusual for a poor hobbit).
4. He addresses Frodo as "Mr. Frodo."
5. He has a knack with rope.
6. Like most hobbits, he has a fear of water (in the Shire this wouldn't be considered a quirk, but in the Company he's really the only normal hobbit of the group).
7. His devotion to Frodo is unwavering.
8. He loves gardening (understandably).
9. He is suspicious and distrustful of foreigners (i.e. Faramir) and bitterly dislikes Sméagol (not to mention Ted Sandyman).
10. He is emotional (no other character in the book bursts into tears as many times as Sam).
11. He has a soft spot for "Bill," the pony.
12. He has a becoming affection for "his old Gaffer," the Shire, and all simple beautiful things.

Jo March, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women

1. She writes.
2. She has a temper.
3. She has but one beauty - her long thick hair.
4. She whistles, runs, talks slang, and is a general tomboy.
5. She acts - playing "male parts to her heart's content", usually in a certain pair of hand-me-down boots.
6. She loves to read...especially in a garret, in the company of rats and apples.
7. She despises her work at Aunt March's.
8. She can't cook.
9. She's clumsy, always ruining gloves, dresses, coral bracelets, and the like.
10. Although she loves all her family, she has an especially close bond with gentle Beth.
11. She feuds constantly with her little sister Amy.
12. She scowls at any young man who gives a hint of making Meg fall in love with him.

Maybe those weren't all exactly quirks, and some of them were repetitive; but hopefully I got the idea across. Now that I've gone through three of my favorite characters in literature this way, I'll try it on one of my own....oh dear. Let's go with Timandra. I feel like she's rather thoroughly developed. We'll see if she is or not....

Timandra Clemmons, Lucy Agnes' The Prince's Pendant

1. She spouts Shakespeare left and right.
2. She wears her long black hair loose around her face.
3. She carries around a purse. (At least, she did at one point. I don't know if I've made a point of that in later drafts.)
4. She makes as many biting remarks to Dar as she possibly can.
5. She always has time to listen to Ada.
6. She addresses family members as "brother mine"/"mother mine" quite frequently.
7. Her facial expression can change from one extreme to the other with a rapidity akin to magic.
8. She talks almost as much as Anne of Green Gables, only she's never really serious. As she puts it, "My tongue has been my best friend and constant source of amusement ever since I can remember."
9. She can tease without being flippant.
10. She sometimes bursts into song without an obvious reason.
11. It takes quite a bit to dampen her spirits, and even more for her to show discouragement.
12. Her most firmly-held conviction is that everyone is called to be a hero.

Huh, I was really getting desperate at the end there. But it works for my purposes. :)

How about you? Have you noticed any quirks in your favorite characters? Can you list a few unique traits any of your characters have?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lament for the Lost Innocents of Abortion

Innocence! Innocence!
No cause for you to die;
You are not to blame for all
The evils men devise.
You alone are innocent
Among this culture's breed;
Why should you, then, pay the price
For all our wicked deeds?
I shouted this in anguish
To the millions we have lost;
And at once I was reminded
Of a Man upon a Cross.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Alphonse's Interview

Here's Alphonse's interview. I talk in blue. Alphonse talks in red. It's taken me an incredibly long time to post this one, but I've come up with a brilliant excuse: the prince is a very busy person, and you wouldn't believe how hard it is to schedule an appointment with him.

Thanks for letting me interview you, your highness. Although, I suppose you're used to such things by now, aren't you?

*laughs* I suppose. What is it you wanted to ask me?

Well, first of all - Pippin asks what your talent is.

Heavens, I don't know if I ever thought about that extensively. *thinks for a moment* There are many things I take pleasure in, but of course, each hobby is not necessarily a talent. I enjoy fencing, hunting, horsemanship, archery, swimming, hiking, exploring, and the like.  *pauses, then shrugs* I suppose I'm most skilled in horsemanship.

What is your favorite color?

How is one to choose? *sighs* Each hue of the rainbow has its own place in creation. The smooth blue sky stretching over the landscape, cluttered with pillows of white cloud...the deep living green of the forest, tempered with somber browns and blacks...the cheerful reds and yellows of flowers dancing in the breeze. No, I couldn't possibly have one favorite color.

*smiles* That's the most poetic answer to that question I've ever heard. What's your greatest fear?

Greatest fear....*falls silent, biting lip* I suppose...well, I'm afraid that the Festerlonians might attempt something dreadful. They never used to worry me; but as I grow older and they grow stronger, I can see more and more that Father is troubled. You can read it in the lines of his face and in the far-off expression of his eyes at times. It would be a terrible thing if they ever set about conquering the world in earnest. I don't see how they really could, while we are so strong...but they have surely not been idle in the years since their last defeat. Stranger things have happened than a rising of an empire from its ashes. We must hope and pray that they remain quiet.

Jordan H wants to know if you ever wish for brothers and sisters.

*a soft smile* I don't know. I suppose I'm happy enough. If I had needed siblings, God certainly would have given me some. There are times, though, when Mother looks at me with that wistful expression in her eyes, and makes me feel almost guilty for being away so much. Then I do wish that I had a sister, to keep her company whenever I'm out on an adventure in the mountains or on a trip with Father.

Do you like animals?

*grins* Oh, do I! Most certainly. Especially horses. There's little I prize more than my stallion, Deneb. There are times that creature seems as intelligent as a man, strange as it may sound.

What's your favorite time of the day?

Very early morning, just as dawn is waking the world from its slumber. How perfectly lovely are those last moments of the night, when all, though dark and cold, is touched by a certain hope of morning. The birds are the first to feel it, and their songs bless the silent world into wakefulness. There is wakefulness in the forest if there isn't in the palace. All the trees seem to be standing straighter in an expectant hush. That gray, still glow steals over the world. Brighter it grows, and brighter - the birds' songs grow to an ever-present twittering - and then, the sun appears! that globe of brilliant light peering over the trees, climbing over the world - oh, and then everything is light, and cool, and fresh, and utterly, utterly new. There is no more glorious time than that of early morning!

Wow. Maybe I should climb up into the mountains one day before dawn....if I could make myself wake up. John G says, "Do you like being prince?"

Do I like it? *smiles* I've never known different. Yes, I suppose I do like it. I would be a pig to complain; my life is so easy I almost feel guilty. So many others are less fortunate than I. Of course, that's one of the nice things about being the prince - you get to help people. Last summer, I took in a little orphan boy from the streets, to let him live in the palace for awhile. I wanted him to stay forever, but...*deep sigh* It didn't work out the way I wanted.

Amy D asks if you like the fall.

*grins* Oh, 'tis glorious! There are few things more beautiful than the mountains around the palace in the fall.  It's one of my favorite times to go hiking. The vibrant trees all aflame with color, the crisp fresh breezes, the exhilarating bite in the air - oh! It makes me want to go up there right now, and never come down.

Gi wants to know if you're afraid of heights - although, in light of all your praise of the mountains, I rather think I can guess the answer.

*laughs* I should think so! No, I'm not afraid of heights. I love to be up high. The nearer the stars, the better.

Well, that will be all, your highness. Thank you very much for the honor of an interview.

So, there's Alphonse. Our next candidates are:
Eldon Clemmons
Jude Clemmons
Christina Tenth 




Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Lost Sense of Wonder: What Modern Science is Missing

Long ago, man looked at the world and wondered. He gazed up at the stars and found them beautiful. He watched the change of the seasons and marveled. He heard the chirping of the birds and was held spellbound.
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Where had all this splendor come from? Man pondered this question for long days and nights. He had no telescope to observe the stars at closer range, no microscope to explore the basic components of living things; but he did have a brain which was more complex than the most wondrous of modern computers. So, he thought; and he arrived at the conclusion that, somehow, there was a Higher Being in charge of it all. Somehow, there was a Creator responsible for all this creation.
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This belief of Man's took a different shape in different times and places, but it is very interesting to consider that it was always there. The Greeks considered this Higher Being to take the form of many gods and goddesses who dwelt in glory on Mount Olympus, Zeus and Hera and hundreds of other characters who still capture the world's imagination today. The Norse believed in the sky-god Oden and a myriad of deities - Loki and Freya and the thunder-god Thor. The Sumerians had the fiercely beautiful Ishtar, and the Egyptians worshipped Amon and Osiris. And in a little stretch of fertile land called Canaan, an odd group of people called the Hebrews claimed to have the true belief - a belief in One All-Powerful God, a God with a Name so sacred it was not to be spoken by the light tongues of men.
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Flash forward several thousand years, to the present day. Man has made great strides in science and technology, achievements so remarkable his earliest fathers would not have believes such things possible. Now, man looks at the world and discovers. He peers at the stars through a telescope and finds that they are massive orbs of burning gas, suspended in a limitless universe and visible from distances so great it makes one dizzy to think on them. He studies the change of the seasons and learns that they are caused by the tilting of Earth on its axis as it spins its yearly course around the sun. He scrutinizes the intricate anatomy of every living thing and realizes each is composed of thousands of living cells, each one a little unit of activity in itself - and, furthermore, that every element is formed at its most basic level of tiny atoms, that within these atoms are even tinier particles called protons and neatrons and electrons - that all of this is so miniscule and yet so detailed that it is nearly as mind-boggling as the size of the universe.
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Can you imagine what primitive man would have thought if he had known this world was so vast, so intricate, so surprising? What reaction do you think would have been his? Would it not have been a resounding "wow"? Would it not have been a breathless confusion of wonder? We could hardly expect anything else! Man's sense of wonder at the world all around him, already admirably awakened, would have grown a thousandfold if he had learned, in a moment, all these truths which modern man has uncovered over the centuries.

And yet...what does modern man think? He certainly doesn't have the same reaction the ancient man would have had.

Modern, atheistic science draws conclusion that would shock any self-respecting wonderer of the ancient world.

"There is no God."

"This universe is the product of chance."

"Humankind was not designed, but came about due to random evolution."

Where has man's sense of wonder gone? It has disappeared, flown away like the epic mythology of that distant ancient world. Only snatches of it remain, and these are scorned. We think ourselves so very smart, don't we? We know we have learned much since those days of the old philosophers, and so we scorn their wisdom. It is true that we have made great progress in the last several thousand years. But does this mean we can scorn the little wisdom and great thoughts which were the basis for all our learning?

We have lost that supreme, that essential, that glorious sense of wonder! And with it, we have lost our belief in Someone greater.

It is ridiculous, what we men have done. It is as though a peasant had a clock, and always knew it had been crafted by someone - and then, upon breaking the clock's face and seeing the intricate clockwork inside, decided the clock made itself. Or as though a group of children, having lived all their lives in a house and assuming its builder had been a capable workman, suddenly came out of the house and realized it had merely been a dollhouse in a room more magnificent and massive than anything they had ever seen - and concluded that there was no builder at all.

As our knowledge has grown, our wonder has shrunk. It doesn't make much sense to me. Does it make much sense to you?

Maybe the ancients had something there when they said there was a higher power. Maybe we should look into that God of the Hebrews. Because, no matter how informed the modern and atheistic mind is, it cannot be denied that there is something missing - a sense of awe and wonder at the world around us.

It would be a shame if we accepted the new marvels of modern science at the expense of the old. I'm not saying we should go back to believing in Zeus. I'm saying we should move forward to believing in God. We should be able to look at this world with that same sense of wonder as the ancients, to stand there and look up at the stars and simply lose ourselves in meditating that those dots of life - those huge orbs of flame light-years out in space - were created by a God, a God who also made us, who cares about us, who loves us.

It'd be a shame if we lost that sense of wonder - because that sense of wonder is what makes life worthwhile.