Friday, February 26, 2016

Character Bio - Ellen

Character interviews are back!

Okay, so. Today I am giving you the bio of my newest protagonist, from my new fantasy book which does not have a title as of yet.

This story is so much fun to write. I've always sort of thought of myself as a medieval fantasy writer, but guess what? I've never actually written a medieval fantasy. Not one that got very far, at any rate. But this one is going to change all that if I have anything to do with it.

So far it's rather promising. It has a definite main character (not the smashing together of many possible MCs that I tend to get carried away with), a definite setting (I drew a map! It's so pretty!), and fantastic creatures (meaning griffins! and dragons! and winged horses! and a phoenix!!!). And it even has a CONFLICT. I am proud of myself.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to my dear little daughter.

Age: 16 (or 17?)
 (It may be 17. But I don't know. I don't think she knows either. So it's okay.)
This must be Ellen! Her hair's a little lighter, but it captures her character perfectly.:
I snagged this from my Pinterest board.
Because I was too lazy to draw a picture and this is a pretty good representation of Ellen.
Her hair's lighter in color, but that's definitely her.
Ellen has spent all her life in the lonely Castle of Norsia, under the shadow of the Borderland Mountains and the glare of her grasping guardian, Lord Stonedon. Her parents are dead; all she knows of them is that they were serfs in the service of Stonedon. Why the cold nobleman ever adopted her and her brother, she cannot say; but she would rather have spent her girlhood as a serf surrounded by a loving family than as a young lady trapped by the walls of a castle where no one really cares about her.
Ellen's greatest comfort in life is her older brother, Able. Always cheerful and honorable, Able never questions Stonedon's intentions but tries to make Ellen understand how lucky they really are to have been raised as nobles.

Ellen loves nothing more than to go on long rides with Able on his griffin, Pierce.
With Able to keep her spirits high, as well as the company of a tame wolf named Thane, Ellen manages to get through each day - but then comes a catastrophe. Stonedon suddenly decides that Able is old enough to join the army, and sends him off to the borderlands, where the twenty-year-long war with the invading barbarians is raging. The day after Able leaves, Stonedon announces that Ellen is to be wed to his own son, the pig-like Johun. Things only get worse when Ellen realizes that Stonedon sent Able out to battle in hopes that he would be killed. Faced with a forced betrothal and the possibility of her brother's death, Ellen sees only one reasonable option: escape. That very day she mounts Pierce and flies away, in hopes of finding her brother and bringing him back from the peril of battle - before it's too late.
Yet another picture stolen from Pinterest. That's Ellen's wolf, Thane.
Only Thane has a white star on his forehead.
There's Ellen's background. If you can think of any questions you'd like to ask her, do please post them in the comments! The more the merrier. :) I shall then use these questions in an exclusive interview. (Exclusive? Yes, I'm trying to sound fancy...I'm not really 100% sure what's meant by an "exclusive interview"...) Anywho. Once the questions are in, I'll try to get the interview up in a week or two. (No way am I giving myself an exact date, because I'm me, and that means I'm a procrastinator...)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lovely Books - Villains

Another Lovely Books linkup, hosted by Tracey Dyck! This has been incredibly fun so far and I really should find time to do the covers-and-titles edition before the month is up. :)
On to villains! Ooh, villains are so fun. Writing this post made me realize I don't know that many of them, though. There will of necessity be a few who come from ancient/medieval literature class. I'm convinced I have been stricken with some strange malady which only allows me to enjoy really really old books (you know, the literature class ones) while shunning most newer things. *heavy sigh* That will have to change someday.
Without further ado! Let's get started exploring the world of dastardly mischief-makers.

Achren (from Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain)

Apparently I'm addicted to all things Prydain. But Achren really was delightfully villainous! She's so smooth and confidant and desperate all at once - well, desperate in the later books, at least. And yet there's a glimmer of good in her that keeps peeking through - or at least, what seems to be a glimmer of good. Even after finishing the series I'm not 100% sure what to think of her.

Chauvelin (from Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel)
(And it seems I'm addicted to The Scarlet Pimpernel, too.)
Chauvelin remains one of my favorite villains of all time. A devoted Revolutionist, his duty is to track down and capture the Scarlet Pimpernel, the elusive and heroic Englishman responsible for the escape of many a condemned aristocrat. The first time I read (or rather, was read) The Scarlet Pimpernel, he struck me as the most dripping-with-evil villain ever, a wicked man motivated by sheer malice. On rereading it, however, I found he has a sympathetic and even noble side to his character - he is dedicated, heart and soul, to the cause he believes to be worthy. And he will do anything to forward the "Glorious Revolution." An-y-thing. *shivers*

Morgan le Fay (from Bryan Davis' Dragons in Our Midst)
(Yes, I shamelessly stole this from Tracey's post.)
Morgan is so evil. She just is. The way she enjoys getting people into agonizing situations - she's as good at "either - or" threats as Chauvelin, and better. How, Morgan, how, can you be so calmly cruel? Gracefully wicked, even?
For all her frustrating-ness, it's greatly satisfying to see Morgan treated as an evil person after seeing her wicked side totally ignored in the Magic Treehouse books. If only Jack and Annie knew who they were hugging at the end of Civil War on Sunday....*shudders* 

The Lady of the Green Kirtle (from C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair)
I didn't want to copy Tracey too much, so I couldn't do the White Witch, right? And the Lady of the Green Kirtle was a wonderful villainess. The way she keeps poor Prince Rillian a captive by pretending to be the good guy - by telling him he's insane when he's sane and sane when he's not - ooh, she is so effectively evil! And turning herself into a snake - what's more thrilling than that? I really have to read The Silver Chair again; I was forgetting what a delightful fairy tale it really is.
Roger Chillingworth (from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter)
This fellow is an absolute creep. That's all there is to it. He's motivated by a burning desire to wreak vengeance on the life of - oh, I suppose that would be a spoiler. Well, let's just say that poor Mr. Chillingworth did have a reason, and a very good reason, for being bitter and malicious towards a certain person. However, he took that sense of justice to the extreme. By the end of the book, he's basically a demon in human form. The glee he takes in his victim's suffering! Oh, it's just disgusting.

Long John Silver (from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island)
Here's a slippery fellow. Flattering, amiable, jocund - I would've fallen for his tricks as easily as Jimmy Hawkins did. Yet there really was some good in him, wasn't there? Or at least some good qualities. He did stick up for Jimmy a time or two. (Or am I forgetting? It's been a few months...)
Dragon (from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIM)

I must be getting rather desperate for villains if I'm putting a cat on the list. But if you're a mouse (and Mrs. Jonathan Frisby happens to be a mouse), cats are exceptionally frightening. I think this book made me look at our pet cats in a new way...
(By the by, if you haven't read this book, you should. It's very cute and engaging and exciting and sad, and worth the read although the ending left me terribly disappointed.)
Ganelon (from The Song of Roland)

(I told you there'd be some really ancient villains in here.)
This poor fellow. He had some serious jealousy problems. I mean, you have to be really envious if you're going to plot for the death of a likable guy like Roland. (Surprisingly, I'm not in love with Roland like I am with most of my fictional heroes. I'm just extremely amused by him.) And to murder your own stepson - well. *shakes head while clicking tongue*
Yet for all this corruption, Ganelon could've been a very heroic man. He had the courage and the prowess of a great warrior. It was his pride mixed with a dash of irascible temper and a whole lot of envy that got him in trouble.

Cassius (from William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar)
Okay, maybe he can't be considered a villain, because practically every character in Julius Caesar is bad. But if it weren't for him Brutus never would've been sucked into that conspiracy which ruined his name for ever after. And I liked Brutus. Therefore, I am mad at Cassius.
But I also like Cassius. There's something about him. He's eaten up by jealousy and envy to the point of being pitiful, and that pitifulness only increases as he realizes that Brutus is really the top dog.

Madame Defarge (from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities)

Perhaps I should've put her up nearer Chauvelin? The both have the welfare of the Glorious Revolution at heart, after all...
She's another sympathetic-though-creepy person. I mean, I would be a bit bitter too if I'd lived through years of starvation and injustice and seeing little children run over by carriages. And she does have some stick-with-it-ness, some real toughness, that is actually admirable. But the use she puts it to! She was one of those "hags" they mention in The Scarlet Pimpernel, the ones who sit at the foot of the guillotine and knit as the heads roll down....
(Hey! Maybe she actually was in The Scarlet Pimpernel! Maybe she was sitting there at the beginning of the book when the aristos were smuggled out in the cart! Haha. Do you ever draw connections between books like that?)

The Goblin King and Queen (from George McDonald's The Princess and the Goblin)

It's been too long since I read this book and I don't remember too much about them. Except that they threw Curdie in a subterranean chamber, they were amusing and creepy at the same time, and they had a particular aversion to toes. But I felt I had to include them because the Princess Irene books were so cute.  

So there's a spattering of sinister scoundrels. Are you familiar with any of these bad 'ns? Who are some of your most detested villains?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Man's Soul Poured Out in Song

Today I was listening to an assignment for my music history and appreciation class - the Gregorian chant "Deum Verum."

As I was listening to it, I was struck by the thought that these lovely, mournful voices hardly sounded human, and I marveled at the fact that mere men could make such heavenly music.

But as I thought it over and listened, it struck me that this song, lovely as it is, cannot possibly be truly heavenly. It is far too mournful, far too lonely. It sounds, not like angels, but like men, pouring out their souls in longing for God.

It is mysterious. It is spiritual. It is deep. But it is also earthy. It is solid. It is gritty. It sounds almost as though you could pick it up and let it crumble through your fingers, like rich, rich soil in an old, old garden.

This music portrays very clearly the essence of mankind - spiritual yet touchable, bodily yet invisible. It shouts our very nature at us - we are not wholly of this world. We are body, but we are also soul. We love this world of mountains and flowers and fresh flowing streams, but this world has been broken. We long for something greater - something deeper and more beautiful - something perfect that has been lost to us. We long for Heaven. We long for God.

If this music, then, reflects the very deepest fathoms of our nature, why does it seem so supernatural? Why, if it is in a sense the very essence of man, do I hear it and think, "This cannot be of men?"

Is it because I have been influenced by an atheistic and materialistic world - a world that says I am but an animal evolved by chance into a thinking thing? A world that whispers, "you have no soul" - a world that has forgotten man has a spirit?

If only we could remember the truth that is sung to us in Gregorian chant! If only we could remember that we are not only bone and earth and flesh, but heart and spirit and imagination! If only we could grasp again that realization that was so prominent in the Middle Ages when this lovely music was written. Perhaps, perhaps, it would mean a new era in art, in literature, in fashion, in philosophy - a new epoch in the history of the world.

We are not wholly of this world. We are body, but we are also soul. We love this world of mountains and flowers and fresh flowing streams, but this world has been broken. We long for something greater - something deeper and more beautiful - something perfect that has been lost to us. We long for Heaven. We long for God.

This icon is a beautiful portrayal of the Christian life. Ever climbing up, up, up,
the ladder towards Christ, always with the danger of falling. There is something
mournful and yet glorious in it which strikes my very soul.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Lovely Books - Couples

Two linkups in a row - is that witness to my topsy-turvy blogging techniques or what? :)

This should be fun, and perfect for St. Valentine's Day - the Lovely Books linkup with Tracey Dyck.

Percy and Marguerite Blakeney (from The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy)

I've ranted about how lovely they are in a previous blog post. The romance between them isn't just a romance: it's an allegory of Christ's love for His Church and for sinners!

 Percy. Is. So. Awesome. His humility, his courage, his daring, his bravery, his humility, his good looks, his sense of humor - and did I mention his humility?

 And Marguerite's pretty good too. Actually she's more than pretty good. She's dazzling.

Plus all the poetic romantic-ness!!

Brandon Vaughn and Joanie Collins (from Arms of Love, by Carmen Marcoux)

These dear characters are from the first (and only, really...) modern romance I ever read. While the book itself isn't the most well-written thing on earth, the story was very, very sweet.

Joanie is such a dear. The oldest in a homeschooled, Catholic family - I can relate to her, yes?

Plus Brandon - agh! Brandon. Characters in need of conversion are the best. And Brandon was soooo in need of conversion. It was delightful to see him turn around under Joanie's gentle influence.

Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot (from Persuasion, by Jane Austen)

This must be my favorite Jane Austen novel, because Wentworth and Anne are my favorite Jane Austen pair. Something about Captain Wentworth - his quiet chivalry and his unfailing respect to all about him, plus the fact that he's a military man (do I sound like Lydia and Kitty, or don't I?) - I don't know, I was more in love with him than I ever was with Darcy, as awesome as Darcy is. And Anne! Anne is the sweetest, dearest girl. (Fanny Price is darling too.) I just loved everything about each of them.

Gareth and Lynette (from Idylls of the King, by Alfred Lord Tennyson)...

They were so cute! Gareth was such a great character - respectful to his mother even when he disagreed with her, humble in the face of belittlement, meek to all his lady's jibes. And Lynette - well, she was just one of those spicy, spunky heroines who steals your heart and your sympathy.

...and Enid and Geraint (also from Idylls of the King)
Alright, so, Geraint was an idiot not to realize what a perfect gem of a wife he had in Enid. His unfounded jealousy was enough to make my blood boil. But, as a knight, he's really cool, and I can see why Enid fell in love with him.

As for Enid. Enid! That dear, poor, persecuted lady has to be my favorite wife in fiction. Her faithfulness to Geraint even when he thinks she's unfaithful to him....oh, oh, this was such a great romance founded on a heartbreaking misunderstanding. AND THE CLIMAX. The climax was the most glorious, wonderful, fantastic thing ever! My parents can't understand why I think it's so awesome that somebody gets his head lopped off. But - but - oh, just go read it. Read it right now. If you don't give a huge fist pump when that head goes rolling across the floor, either there's something wrong with you or there's something wrong with me. :)

Taran and Eilonwy (from The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander)

Another really cute couple. Taran's wonderful as he progresses from a rash little boy to a heroic young man, and Eilonwy's wonderful as she progresses from an amusing little chatterbox to a clever young lady, without losing any of her spunk. The romance between them developed as naturally and sweetly as their own individual characters did. That scene at the climax of The Castle of Llyr - oh, it was so perfect. Taran's protectiveness towards Eilonwy even when he's annoyed with her is darling. And the way Eilonwy is always giving Taran a talking-to and telling him "you can do better than this" is a great reflection of how women are supposed to hold men to a high standard.

Faramir and Eowyn (from The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien)
Can it really be that hard to find non-movie pictures
of the characters? Well, there's no Faramir,
but here's Eowyn's moment of glory.

Faramir is my favorite LOTR character ever, not counting the members of the company. He's just so noble and honorable and chivalrous. The way his men look up to him and weep over him when he's wounded is a testimony to his true greatness. And his father's horrid spitefulness towards him is just so - oh, poor Faramir! Denethor, don't you realize what a great son you have?! Faramir's better than Boromir anyway!

And Eowyn is cool, no matter what my little siblings say. So I'm very happy that the two of them were paired. I love the way Eowyn left her dreams of glory in warfare for Faramir's sake. What is it she says? "I will no longer be a shield-maiden..."? It was a great quote, whatever it was. And she's happy after she marries him! Eowyn's greatest character flaw was that she was always sad, and Faramir fixed it for her. Another reason he's my hero. :)

Oh! And while we're on The Lord of the Rings, we must mention Sam and Rosie. Because they are darling. Even though there's only about five mentions of Rosie in the book, every mention of her is golden. :)

Hector and Andromache (from The Iliad, by Homer)

Mostly because of that sweet little scene where Hector says goodbye to his wife and Astyanax. Oh, I loved Hector so much. Why did Achilles have to kill him?? More to the point, why did Hector's dumb little brother have to go start a war???

I like to contrast Andromache's relationship with Hector to Aude's relationship with Roland in The Song of Roland (which I liked much better than the Iliad, by the by). Aude is a Christian and has the hope of the resurrection of the body to sustain her when she hears that her fiancé, Roland, was killed in battle - yet what does she do? She falls down and dies of grief. Andromache, on the other hand, is a pagan who has no hope in an afterlife better than a shadowy sort of underworld; yet when she hears that Hector, her husband and her sole source of safety and sustenance, was killed, she only swoons. Who has a more mature relationship, I ask? :)

And while we're on Homer's compositions, Penelope and Odysseus are pretty good. Odysseus, like all the Greek husbands, didn't exactly have that Christian idea of fidelity down, but even so, he does spend ten years trying to get back to her. Penelope, on the other hand, was a staunchly faithful wife, and I admire her for it. :)

Petruchio and Kate (from The Taming of the Shrew, by William Shakespeare)

Best for last. (Okay, maybe they can't compete with Marguerite and Percy...) While the boisterous hero and shrewish heroine of Shakespeare's topsy-turvy comedy might not come off as "sweet" at first glance, there's something incredibly tender in Petruchio's treatment of Kate by the end of the play.

Petruchio's loud and coarse and vulgar - or is he just making himself seem that way in order to win Kate? And Kate is a rebellious, wild girl who has no manners and no sense of decency - or is she just a bitter victim of favoritism waiting for someone to call her beautiful?

There aren't any balcony scenes or romantic soliloquies in this one, but Petruchio and Kate end up as a much happier couple than Romeo and Juliet. :)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Beautiful People - February

Time for another Beautiful People post! Hooray!

So, this month the questions have a St. Valentine's Day theme. Even though I don't write romances, I couldn't resist the temptation of having a romantic subplot....or three or my Prince of Erdania trilogy. That said, it was rather hard to choose a couple. But I've finally settled on my dear Raphael Novarex, the soldier-turned-Prince-of-Erdania, and his bride, Florence Tillery.

How did they first meet?

There's never been a time they didn't know each other, really. They both grew up in the same little Erdanian town, a very tiny, quiet village centered around a little church with a steeple. (I adore that town with all a writer's enthusiasm, but it still needs a name.) Raphael's best childhood friend was Dante Tillery, Florence's older brother. She would often tag along with them on their various escapades.

What were their first impressions of each other?

Well, in the early days, they were just ordinary children to one another. Florence always liked to tag along with Dante and Raphael; she enjoyed their company and loved to be allowed to roam the woods with them on the exploration and hunting trips. She saw Raphael as practically a cousin. Raphael always thought Florence was a fine girl, as far as girls go. The only annoying thing about her was how insistent she was. If she wanted to come along, then she would come along, and not the most reasonable argument could stop her. She was never disrespectful or whiny or bossy or anything like that, she was just stubborn. Which got old sometimes.
How long have they been a couple?

Their friendship developed into a romance so naturally it's hard to say, but formally, they've been courting since Raphael asked Florence's father's permission on Florence's eighteenth birthday. He consented, and the courtship went beautifully for about a year before being interrupted by Raf's enlistment in the Erdanian army. At the beginning of the first book, Raf's been on military duty for about two years, and at the end of the book (is this a spoiler, perhaps?) he comes back home and proposes to Florence. Who, of course, says yes.
How committed/loyal are they to each other? Would they break up over a secret or a disagreement? Could stress drive them apart? Would they die for each other?

They're very committed to each other, seeing as how they've always had marriage in mind. It would take more than a secret or a disagreement to make them stop courting; it would have to be a very serious difference on moral grounds, or a strong conviction that they aren't meant for each other.  Stress only brings them closer together. Would they die for each other? Definitely. Raphael actually gets a chance to prove this in Book 2. The hardest thing for him isn't dying for her, but not dying for her because he has other responsibilities.
List 5 “food quirks” they know about each other. (Ex: how they take their coffee, if they’re allergic to something, etc….and feel free to mention other non-food quirks!)

I've never ever thought about that before. Which makes it a very good question, right? :)
Well, Florence has an almost unreasonable aversion to spicy foods. She doesn't even use pepper. And Raphael doesn't like Brussels sprouts. Florence tried to break him of it for awhile but now she just insists that he eat broccoli. Florence takes her tea with several scoops of sugar in it. Raphael's more of a coffee person, but he'll drink tea since Florence likes it so much.

Non-food wise, Florence is the only one who refuses to call Raphael by his nick-name, "Raf." She likes his full name far too well to shorten it. And Raphael has this thing against cats. Dogs, horses, chickens, he's fine with, but cats get on his nerves.
Does anyone disapprove of their relationship?

Nope. Everyone agrees they're a match made in heaven, except for Raphael, who knows Florence is far too good for him. ("But as nobody minds having what is too good for them, he was very steadily earnest in the pursuit of the blessing.") Actually, that was an excuse to use a Jane Austen quote - Raphael rather does mind having what is too good for him, and at one point in the first book he actually considered giving her up because she was so good and he was such a wretched soul. (He's too humble sometimes, that Raf.) Of course, he learns the solution to that isn't to give her up, but to try to make himself better.

Even the evil leaders of the Festerlonian empire approve of their marriage. Because Florence comes in very handy as a vulnerability point...
What would be an ideal date?

A quiet walk arm-in-arm outside, around sunset. The hills around the royal palace (where they end up living) are pretty scenic, but for old time's sake Raf prefers the wood-surrounded village of their childhood.
What are their personality dynamics? Similar? Contrasting? Do they fight a lot or mesh perfectly?

I suppose you could say their relationship is too perfect, but I'm okay with that. In this world where the idea of marriage has gotten so sadly and totally warped, we need an example of what marriage is supposed to be, and how the natural, beautiful differences between man and woman make for a glorious combination. So Raphael is the strong supporter of the family, willing to lay his life on the line and do whatever he must to protect his bride, while Florence is Raphael's supporting pillar, both gentle and strong, without whom he would be lost.

Both of them are quiet, mature, and level-headed...most of the time. Raphael does have a rash streak, and can get pretty moody under the right wrong circumstances. That's where Florence's continual sweetness balances him out. Although Florence is really gentle and meek, she's also very strong (remember that stubborn streak from when they were kids?).

I've never seen them fight. I can't imagine them fighting, although I can imagine them disagreeing, and Raphael getting upset about something and Florence having to calm him down. (Ooh! Ever seen the movie Amazing Grace? I just unconsciously copied the relationship between Wilberforce and Barbara. That makes me happy.)
What have been their best and worst moments together as a couple?

Um. Let's see...

- Raf's return from military service (although that was bittersweet for several reasons)
- the marriage proposal
- the wedding
- Oh! And that sweet little scene where Raphael comes home at the end of Book 2 after so much horrendousness and finds that the baby has been born.

- Raf's enlistment, cuz it was so sad, and the ensuing years of separation
- that horrible portion of Book 1 where Raf's spiritual life is slipping and he feels totally unworthy of Florence
- Raf's return from military service (not really a bad moment, but bittersweet because of how much things had changed...Raf becoming the Prince of Erdania kinda changed their plans)
- that horrible portion of Book 2 where they're separated yet again and Raphael, captured by the Festerlonians, must choose between his kingdom and his bride
Where do they see themselves and their relationship in the next few years?

Now that they've reached their goal of marriage, they envision the next twenty or thirty years as being spent raising a family and ruling a kingdom together.