24.3.11 | By: Megan Langham

Inspiration Times Ten

Third time’s the charm, I suppose. This is the last in my unprojected trilogy of Volunteer Mission posts, inspired by something Jenny and Abigail got to first. Ten things … ten … that inspired me during my not-quite-finished writing of the aforementioned Volunteer Mission. As a matter of fact, I was working on something else (Vale of Darkness character sheets, I think) when I found the beginnings of this post scribbled on a nondescript sheet of paper.

I know a hint when I see it. So now I’ve touched up the things I had and added five more—and, whether you wanted it or not, here it is: inspiration times ten.

1. Hornblower: Retribution. A certain devastating plot twist in this film provided the impetus for the very short story that became Volunteer Mission. The story turned out rather differently than I’d expected, but it did help to ease the pain. (Of course, we won’t mention the new pain that it brought all on its own—but hey, that’s the life of a writer. Deep emotional involvement is all part of the job description, or at any rate it ought to be.)

2. Heroes of History. This book by Rosemary Sutcliff was my first real introduction to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd; after one glimpse of his intriguing story and passionate personality I knew he must make it into a book of mine someday. As it happens, he’s now become more of an invoked name than a personal presence in Volunteer Mission, but that’s due to my changing the dates after I’d already done the planning. If Mission’s prequel ever happens, the last native-born Prince of Wales will be much more prominent.

3. The Middle Ages. I’ve always been inexplicably intrigued by this era, particularly in Britain. Though it’s hard for me to write about, I keep finding myself planning stories with that setting. It must be a matter of the subconscious. Or something.

4. The Price of Honor. My first NaNoWriMo attempt. It’s been languishing ever since December ‘09, never having gotten beyond a first draft, but it piqued my interest in Wales and the Welsh people. Also, its idea of driving revenge helped me iron out a major plot point in Mission.

5. David Garrett. Oh, David Garrett. I must have listened to his rendition of “November Rain” fifty times over during NaNoWriMo: his energetic strings-heavy style lent itself readily to almost every mood I needed to create. Passionate, playful, gentle, despairing…I found something of his to suit them all.

6. Tazo Berryblossom White Tea. It may not be my favorite tea ever, but the pleasant push of it does wonderful things to my muse. Not to mention that it being white tea, I can drink it with safety for a few hours before bed—but it’s still caffeinated enough to give me my “fix”.

7. The Welsh Marches. Stunning. One glimpse of this incredible natural beauty is enough to inspire me for hours—this picture in particular had something to do with my decision to (figuratively) spend November in Wales.

8. The Book of Taliesin. During my September/October researches I came across this collection of early Welsh poetry: so beautiful even in translation that I want to learn to read it in the original Welsh. It makes several moderately important appearances throughout the course of the story.

9. Jon Foreman. His EPs, particularly the songs “Behind Your Eyes”, “Broken From The Start”, and “The Cure For Pain” have become intensely meaningful in this context. Besides, the gentle intensity of his music is inspiring in itself, and is very easy to listen to over and over.

10. “God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” —C. S. Lewis. That sums up a good deal of what I have learned during this process: what has made it at the same time painful and exhilarating beyond anything else I’ve ever written. Lewis ... well, he knows how to put things.

9.3.11 | By: Megan Langham

Significant Symphony

First I should like to say that this isn’t really a proper post. It’s a continuation of the last one, I suppose, wherein I introduced you to my Volunteer Mission characters over tea and biscuits. It was a simple thing, though it certainly took me long enough—name, face, pitifully small chunk of description. That was it. But now, on a dare, I’m taking this to another level.


Each of these persons now has a song that in some way encapsulates the core aspects of their being. Some characters were more easily captured than others, but even the slippery ones have at least one verse that made me gasp at the rightness of it.


Evan se Dynge, by virtue of being the main character (actually, by virtue of my indecision) has two songs to his name. The first is “Paperthin Hymn” by Anberlin; after it, chronologically, comes “The Dark Night of the Soul” by Loreena McKennitt.

“I just want one more chance to put my arms in fragile hands… I thought you said forever, over and over—this sleepless night becomes bitter oblivion”

Poor Evan.

“O night that was my guide, O night more loving than the rising sun, O night that joined the lover to the beloved one”

What I adore about this song is that it is both dripping with pain and drenched in hope. It is a heart-wrenched cry to the creator from the created thing, a lyric that does not dismiss the dark but gazes, steadily, at the light. It is the only right response to mind-numbing grief; the only response that will do us any good in the end.


Selwin ap Tuder is a difficult man to fit to a song. I had almost given up—and then I stumbled across “Broken From The Start” by Jon Foreman.

“Choice is the only thing worth giving; for one to live another dies… tonight I’m going to break your heart; mine was broken from the start”

The entirety of this song could almost have been written by Selwin. I shan’t expound on each individual line, as that would hardly be interesting to you, and it would keep me up all night. I shall only say that in my head now these are always Selwin’s words to Evan. (…also, that there is a sort of brokenness which is to be ardently desired—and, if necessary, to be fought for.)


For Glynnis verch Ithel I found Andrew Peterson’s “Love Is A Good Thing”; or rather, I realized after repeated listening how smoothly it fit her.

“It blew my mind and bled me dry and hit me like a long goodbye… nobody here knows better than I that love is a good thing”

Love hurts—Glynnis as much as anyone else, and yet it is the strength in her that can proclaim this agony a good thing; to see the sword that pierces her heart as a shaft of light from heaven.


Following the precedent set by his brother, Rhys ap Tuder likewise proved difficult to find a fitting song for. (Which is only logical, as he’s not by any means my simplest character.) After a grueling hunt, I finally settled on Coldplay’s “Talk”.

“Nothing’s really making any sense at all, let’s talk; tell me how you feel, let’s talk”

That line is oddly funny, as for a good part of the story it seems that Rhys’s main role is Evan’s agony absorber. Though he does do more than listen and talk, that “more” doesn’t come until later. Also, I don’t know if anyone else will see this, but the first verse also fits in an entirely different and thoroughly painful way. Even comforters need to be comforted.


Rhoyna verch Griffri, for once, gave me no trouble. “Angels” by Within Temptation is, heartbreakingly, her song.

“You took my heart, deceived me from the start… I still remember the smile when you tore me apart”

Out of a sensitivity regarding (some) spoilers, I won’t reveal the entire story behind this connection. I shall say simply that when youthful thoughtlessness meets experienced ruthlessness, anguish ensues.


Though Lord Iorweth se Pengrek is not my protagonist, he also was given two songs. This is because together they represent two radically different yet still compatible sides of his character, one side embodied in “Hero” by Heather Dale and the other expressed in “Tyrant” by OneRepublic.

“They’ll say that I was fighting for the spirit of the law; what will they say about you when I’m gone?”

I actually like this song for the entirety of the Welsh rebel army. Listen to all of it; it’s starkly courageous and appropriately intense. Lord Iorweth, for all his status as villain, is a brave leader and a hero in a way.

“I’m stained with apathy, I’m blind but I can see, tyrant to the bone”

He is also a tyrant. Not in the perfect sense, as he isn’t exactly a monarch, but the cold cruelty is there and the controlling command. Evan may be less than empathetic; Iorweth is apathetic towards everything but his one consuming obsession.


It is truly amazing what music can tell one person about another. I am still discovering things.

(Oh, and a mite of caution: the song links take you to YouTube. Just so you know. I tried to choose links without glaringly shocking comments, but...well, I'm sure anyone reading this is old enough to go out by himself! Just so you can't say I didn't warn you.)