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.