29.5.11 | By: Megan Langham

Labyrinthine ... and a Fellow Blogger's Contest

One week ago, for my birthday, I got lost in a bookstore. Not just any bookstore, and not just any lost -- but a really massive bookstore, and a really splendid kind of lost. I made it out of the labyrinth with a basketful of wonderful books all my very own, which I'd like to unwrap before your eager gaze if you've got a moment or two.

Oh, and I also managed to avoid the minotaur. According to the art on the back of the map (yes, the place required a map) there was a Dalek lurking among the shelves as well -- lucky I missed that one.

Anyhow, these are the treasures I emerged with. At least, I think they are all treasures; most of them I was quite sure about, but I haven't gotten to know the other ones yet.

1. The Complete Stories by Dorothy Sayers. I am a great admirer of Dorothy Sayers, and I am particularly fond of her fair-haired monocle-wearing detective Lord Peter Wimsey. Though Lord Peter was the main reason I bought this collection, I admit that I also enjoyed the stories in which he did not feature. Word to the wise: don't read the very last story ("The Cyprian Cat") at 1 am, as I did. Ms. Sayers isn't a chilling writer -- generally.

2. The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber. One of my favorite remembered stories from an old literature textbook is one of Thurber's: "The Night The Bed Fell". Few literary pieces still make me laugh so much -- here's hoping that the rest of his work will be of a similar hilarious quality!

3. Everyday Life in Roman and Anglo-Saxon Times by Marjorie and C. H. B. Quennell. If you know me at all, you can imagine my expression when I came across this delightful little gem. From what I've seen it looks to be accurate, thorough, and an all-around worthy acquisition.

4. The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. I've heard excellent things about this author and this book in particular, but I had trouble finding it at my usually trusty local library, so I went ahead and bought it. All I can say is, I like the look of it, and I'll see soon whether I like it for itself.

5. Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander. All right, I went off track a little here. I know this is technically a children's book; my excuse is that I want to read it to my little sisters. Anyhow, who's to say children's books can't be valuable during all stages of life? I love the time-traveling aspect of this one, and I especially love the fact that the times they travel us to are delightfully obscure.

6. The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall. This is another children's book -- or so says the label. Label or no label, I'm not ashamed to adore it. Goodness, I could write a whole series of posts on this one book alone; but I won't do that now. I'll just say that I'm so happy I finally have a copy of it on my shelf. Now I can visit Muggles and Gummy and Walter the Earl any time I wish to.

7. Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie. I don't generally buy murder mysteries after I've read them -- not unless they're Chesterton or Sayers, anyway. But I had to make an exception for this particular Christie. The characters are brilliant, the plot twists are fascinating, Poirot is in fine form, as always -- but everything pales in the presence of the ending. Oh, that ending. I've read it three times over and I still can't get my head around it. So I bought the book in order that I may reread it until it doesn't shock me anymore.

8. The Tain by Thomas Kinsella (trans). Jenny mentioned this Irish epic a good while ago. I can't remember if she recommended it or not, but what hey! It's an Irish epic, and that's enough for me. And if the "Cuchulainn" whose name keeps cropping up is the Cuchulainn I know of old, the book's going to be well worth the read for that reason alone.

9. Sagas and Myths of the Northmen by Jesse Byock (trans). I'm a sucker for Norse mythology. Greek and Roman and Persian legends are all very well, but there's something special about the Nordic god-stories. Something inside me goes all warm and squiggly at the mere mention of Baldur or Freya or Loki. If I remember rightly, this was the first book I picked up at the labyrinthine bookstore; and it all went downward (upward?) from there.

10. The Mabinogion by Jeffrey Gantz (trans). Right, whatever, I'll admit it. I spent an awfully long time in the mythology section. But that's explainable. Since so far I'm the only member of my family to go doolally over ancient religions (particularly Norse/Celtic, as explained above) I have to do my own bookbuying in that area if I want more than the bare minimum. Also, the Mabinogion! How could I bypass the Mabinogion? It is Welsh, my good man! Of Wales! (By the way, my copy is nicer than shown, being hardback, but I couldn't find a good picture of it.)

I can't wait for finals to be over so I can do nothing but read all day.


Before I skip out, I want to call attention to a fabulous contest that fellow-writer Miriam is holding over at her blog. It's a truly lovely blog, as one might expect from its name. After you enter the contest, do spend some time checking out the archives!
23.5.11 | By: Megan Langham

Attack of the Novel Questions!

...I just can't resist a questionnaire.

So here I am, answering these novelizing questions. If I make it through, I'll be so glad I applied the all-encompassing tag to myself.

Right. Here goes.

1. What’s your word count? 64,574. Unimpressive, I know.

2. How long until you finish? That's the question, see. I have four chapters and an epilogue left to write, and those shouldn't take me too long -- only now that I've jinxed myself in such an ignorant fashion, they will. I shall be done by the end of summer, though. I shall.

3. If you have finished, how long did it take you? Haven't finished. Hmph.

4. Do you have an outline? Yes; and 30+ pages of working notes.

5. Do you have a plot? Bwahaha! Always! (...a novel plot, you say? Oh, I've got one of those too.)

6. How many words do you typically write a day? That depends on the day. During November I wrote 2K, more or less ... these days it can be anything from 2K to zilch.

7. What was your greatest word count in one day? Somewhere around 4,500.

8. What was your least impressive word count in one day? Somewhere below 10.

9. What inspired you to write? I've got a whole blog post on that: Inspiration Times Ten.

10. Does your novel/story have a theme song? The closest thing it has to one is probably "Hymn for the Missing" by Red, but even that doesn't nearly cover everything. Perhaps I shall just have to write my own theme song -- or have a musically talented person do it for me.

11. Assign each of your major characters a theme song. How now, brown cow! Likewise I have made a post for this tricksy task.

12. Which character is most like you? This is hard to say. Margery's personality is the closest to mine, and I gave her my eyes, but she's nothing like a self-insert. (Which is good, as she annoys me on occasion.)

13. Which character would you most likely be friends with? Rhys, for sure. I could see myself eventually being friends with all of them (or nearly all) but he and I would hit it off the quickest, I think.

14. Do you have a Gary-Stu or Mary Sue character? All the tests I took told me otherwise.

15. Who is your favorite character in your novel? Eeesh. This is difficult. I'm a little bit in love with Selwin, I would be lost without Rhys, I feel strong kinship with Evan, and I kind of adore Glynnis.

16. Have your characters ever done something completely unexpected? I remember the day they started; it was a Wednesday, and it was fairly early on, so it must have been the 10th of November. But I liked it, because it was Rhys being unexpectedly awesome.

17. Have you based any of your novel directly on personal experiences? After my recent experience with acute and piercing pain, my first rational(ish) thought was, "At least I know now how [character] is going to feel when he's lying at the point of death from his stab wounds. If I ask my sister to bring me writing implements, will she refuse in the morbid belief that my pain has driven me mad?"

18. Do you believe in plot bunnies? It's hard not to believe in creatures that literally climb up one's shoulder. Call me crazy, Ishmael. I speak the truth, and lie not.

19. Is there magic in your novel/story? No; it's historical fiction.

20. Are any holidays celebrated in your novel/story? Palm Sunday is celebrated by a bloody battle. That's ... all, I think.

21. Does anyone die? It might perhaps be better to ask if anyone doesn't ...

22. How many cups of coffee/tea have you consumed during your writing experience? Sorry, I don't have enough fingers and toes to say. (Neither does the nearest baseball team.)

23. What is the latest you have stayed up writing? All night. I think that's about as late as it's possible to go.

24. What is the best line? I'm inexplicably fond of this line myself: Evan did not cry out or even flinch; but his eyes had taken on the look of a man staring into galaxies, blind and deaf and numb to everything but the madness. But I don't think it's the best: it's too close to pretentiousness for that.

25. What is the worst line? “Lord Iorweth is very handsome.” Oh, Rhoyna.

26. Have you dreamed about your novel/story or its characters? Twice. I'm glad it was only twice.

27. Does your novel rely heavily on allegory? Not heavily, but there is a good deal of allegory intertwined among the foundation posts.

28. Summarize your novel/story in under fifteen words. Evan must deal with his friend's sacrifice -- and the sins that made it necessary.

29. Do you love all your characters? I do. I used to hate my antagonist until I found out why exactly he became the antagonist in the first place, and now I feel burning pity for him, which ought to count.

30. Have you done something sadistic or cruel to your characters specifically to increase your word count? Sadistic? Cruel? Me? I take offense to that insinuation!

31. What was the last thing your main character ate? Eeep. Evan hasn't eaten in a while. He's going to get frightfully thin. I ought to feed him before the next chapter....

32. Describe your main character in three words. Stubborn. Moody. Brilliant.

33. What would your antagonist dress up as for Halloween? I don't know ... Edmond Dantes, perhaps?

34. Does anyone in your story go to a place of worship? They do.

35. How many romantic relationships take place in your novel/story? One, pretty much. Well, two, but one of them is not so much a romance as a nasty intrigue that (thankfully) doesn't get a large time slot.

36. Are there any explosions in your novel/story? No, more's the pity!

37. Is there an apocalypse in your novel/story? Likewise and likewise.

38. Does your novel take place in a post-apocalyptic world? Pre-apocalyptic, by anyone's standards.

39. Are there zombies, vampires or werewolves in your novel/story? Naturally not -- it's historical fiction.

40. Are there witches, wizards or mythological creatures/figures in your novel/story? Er-hmm. It's historical fiction.

41. Is anyone reincarnated? To the best of my knowledge, never ever.

42. Is anyone physically ailed? Not unless wound-fever counts.

43. Is anyone mentally ill? Hm. Not as such, though I'm beginning to wonder about a few of them.

44. Does anyone have swine flu? Back then it was the rat plague.

45. Who has pets in your novel and what are they? Are horses pets?

46. Are there angels, demons, or any religious references/figures in your novel/story? There are religious references, yes.

47. How about political figures? My friends, meet Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, meet my friends. ...and also meet his little brother. Naughty Dafydd.

48. Is there incessant drinking? Well, they're medieval soldiers.

49. Are there board games? If so, which ones? Not unless we include, metaphorically speaking, the Great Chess Game of Medieval Europe.

50. Are there any dream sequences? Yes. Yes, there are.

51. Is there humor? Readers have giggled -- over some of Selwin's witticisms, I think.

52. Is there tragedy? Readers have wept. Characters have wept. I have wept.

53. Does anyone have a temper tantrum? Two characters have one minor one each.

54. How many characters end up single at the end of your novel/story? One. (See, I'm nice! I hardly ever kill married persons.)

55. Is anyone in your novel/story adopted? No, though a few of them have stepfathers.

56. Does anyone in your novel/story wear glasses? It's 1282. Not possible.

57. Has your novel/story provided insight about your life? It has, a bit.

58. Your personality? No, except it inspired me to discover my own Jungian personality type as well as that of my characters.

59. Has your novel/story inspired anyone? I don't know, but it is a consummation most devoutly to be wish'd.

60. How many people have asked to read your novel/story? Somewhere around twenty, all told. They're awfully sweet people, they are.

61. Have you drawn any of your characters? I would if I could draw worth a shaker of salt ...

62. Has anyone drawn your characters for you? No, but I would be eternally delighted if anyone did.

63. Does anyone vomit in your novel/story? At least once.

64. Does anyone bleed in your novel/story? Quite a bit. There's a war on.

65. Do any of your characters watch TV? They shoot arrows through one another instead.

66. What size shoe does your main character wear? Whatever fits. (Which, by the modern US sizing system, would be about a size 10. I think.)

67. Do any of the characters in your novel/story use a computer? Quill pens.

68. How would you react if your novel/story was erased entirely? From existence? I might... die. And then I would try to recreate it from the notes I have scattered all over my own existence.

69. Did you cry at killing off any of your characters? I went even further than crying for one of them; I don't like to confess that, though.

70. Did you cheer when killing off one of your characters? Of course not!

71. What advice would you give to a fellow writer? Don't edit until there's something there to be edited. Read like Fahrenheit 451 is coming true tomorrow. Let your characters into the deepest places of your heart, no matter how much it hurts.

72. Describe your ending in three words. Bittersweet. Cathartic. Evening.

73. Are there any love triangles, squares, hexagons, etc.? There is a triangle of sorts, but it's rather spoiled by being (essentially) resolved within the first two chapters.

74. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the least stressful, 10 being the most) how does your stress rank? It bounces. Generally I stay at a nice steady seven. (My mother wanted to know why I can't write cheerful unemotional stories. I ... had nothing to say.)

75. Was it worth it? I'm not finished yet, so I can't give a definite answer, but so far -- YES.

There. That was a delightful ordeal. And now I suppose I ought to tag someone...

I shall tag Katie, Jenny, and Abigail, specifically. But I'd love to see anyone fill this out -- and not just because I'm sadistic. These questions were a blast to answer, and I wouldn't take that hour back again. ^.^

21.5.11 | By: Megan Langham

Beautiful People - Vale of Darkness (Second Installment)

It's that time again -- time for me to post ten undiscovered aspects of a character from "Vale of Darkness". Here's the link to Sky and Georgianna Penn's original questionnaire. If you're a writer, I encourage you to join in on the fun! I greatly enjoyed questioning Merry last month, and I'm excited to do the same with Kathy (or Kathleen Elisabeth Lewis, to call her by full name).

1. What type of laugh does he/she have? Kathy's laugh is pleasant, if a little too high, and fairly frequent. She laughs with her eyes as much as with her voice, and she tends to go off into giggles when nervous.

2. Who is his/her best friend? Anna (her sister) and Devin (her cousin) share that position. They are both sweet and gentle people who love Kathy dearly and play along with her demands; Devin, however, has lately shown signs of developing a stronger personality and growing away from Kathy.

3. What is his/her family like? Kathy's mother is too much like her for the two to get on well together without effort; Kathy's father, however, means the world to her, and he more than deserves her love. Kathy is the second-born of four children. Her older sister (Anna) is bright, sweet, and rather weak; one of her younger brothers has a similar personality to Anna, while his twin is even more strong-willed and personable than Kathy.

4. Is he/she a Christian, or will he/she eventually find Jesus? When Kathy first falls in with Merry (no pun intended) she is not a Christian, though she would probably claim to be one if asked. Though she is not easily duped, her spirit is teachable and receptive to tangible proof.

5. Does he/she believe in fairies? A month ago she would have said that fairies only lived between the pages of books, and more's the pity for that! But her former beliefs have been so challenged in a short time that soon she, like Merry, will admit that as she's never seen a fairy, she can't say for sure whether or not they exist.

6. Does he/she like hedgehogs? She goes into raptures over their cuteness -- though I don't think she'd care to get too close to one.

7. Favorite kind of weather? Rain, fog, and general dampness. Gloomy weather is to her as pleasant weather is to most people: she's particularly fond of thunderstorms.

8. Does he/she have a good sense of humor? If so, what kind? Kathy can laugh at nearly everything. Her own humor is so sarcastic as to be cruelly cutting if she didn't soften it with smiles. She is particularly good at seeing the funny side of even the darkest situations; when on occasion she slips into brooding she can snap herself out of it with little trouble.

9. How did he/she do in school? In school she was an average-to-better student, excelling in the topics she loved (geography, literature, social studies) and not even attempting to do well in those she didn't (geometry, psychology, economics).

10. Any strange hobbies? She collects old comic books to cut up for collages (so far she can't bring herself to actually take a pair of scissors to them, but it's a nice idea all the same). When she has particularly enjoyed a movie she'll watch it in another language (with or without English subtitles). Once she took up counted cross-stitch, but she abandoned it shortly afterwards because it took too long; now she draws cross-stitch patterns on graph paper.

Next installment we'll be back with Merry. I may continue to alternate between the two of them every time -- we shall see what happens!

13.5.11 | By: Megan Langham

Soundtrack to Minor Endeavours

Just the other day a brilliant friend of mine mentioned a writing exercise she'd come across. A challenging writing exercise. A fun challenging writing exercise. Basically one must do these things to succeed:

1. Take a Technological Purveyor of Music (such as an iPod) and set it to shuffle. Or you can be adventurous, like I was, and do a QuickMix on Pandora (which is as good as a guarantee that you've never heard some of the songs you're going to use).

2. As soon as the first song starts playing, start writing. I think this exercise was originally meant to involve fanfiction, but who says you can't use your own works as well? Don't put too much thought into the process, and don't bother trying to force the writing to the song -- just let the music carry your pen along.

3. When the song stops playing, stop writing. Don't edit anything. (I mean, I suppose you can edit if you feel the need; but that wouldn't be fair, because I didn't edit.) Now revel in the unrestrained freedom and flow of your words. Skip the next track, which happens to be the soundtrack of the latest Indiana Jones movie. Write another drabble, which happens to be gentler and stronger than the one before. Hopefully they will not all be as depressing as mine. (For that I blame my tendency to listen to depressing music.)


Here, now, are some of my attempts. Note the word "some", and be warned! If you decide to follow through with this, life will get away from you. 

Scarborough Fair - Sarah Brightman (Horatio Hornblower)

The small dark woman gazed out of the window, watching as the rain streaked the glass like heaven's tears. You knew what you were doing, she reminded herself, pressing her lips together tightly as she always did when her heart was hard-pressed. It's the life of a sailor's woman, the life of every sailor's woman... don't sulk, Maria, as if your fate was yours alone.

Oh, but how hard it was not to wish for what could never be! If only she could know for sure that he loved her, that his farewell kiss had been cold and his apology brusque only because he was late already, and his mind was elsewhere, and his ship was waiting... 

"I should have been born a ship," she said suddenly, fiercely; and then she laughed. Tears from her eyes slid onto her tongue, tasting salty and pungent like the ocean that separated her from her heart.

The Magic Hour - Andrew Peterson (The Horse and His Boy, or thereabouts)

Stars twinkled above them, stars distant enough to be harmless and pretty. The grass beneath the young queen's slippers was damp and thick, like a lush carpet anointed with dew. She glanced at her husband; he had thrown his head back, his fair hair almost white against the background of dark forest, and his eyes were shining with the reflection of the stars. 

"You were a fool to bring me out here at this hour," she whispered, sliding her hand into his. 

"I know I was," he said. "Hush -- can you hear that?"

The woman shook her dark head. "No, there's nothing. What did you think you heard?"

"'Tis strange," said the man; he blinked away his bewilderment and turned back to his wife with a smile. "Nothing, as you say. I just ... I just thought I heard a voice. It was a clear voice when I thought I heard it, deep and clear, but ... this hill can do strange things to a man at midnight. Never mind."

Mystery of You - Red (Daniel Deronda)

After hours of weeping, of gasping, of beating her fists against the wood of her bedstead, Gwendolen gave in to the truth. 

You, Gwendolen Harleth -- you are the wrong, not the wronged. He was right to leave you, because you would have drained his life like a vampire, like a bloodsucking leech. 

It was true. It was true, and she hated that it was true ... if it had been said by another woman, jealous of her beauty, she would have brushed it away with a laugh and a toss of her golden head. But she could not laugh at a voice from heaven who spoke in her thoughts.

I love him. I love him like the last rose of summer loves the light, and I would have killed him. I am and I will always be a murdereress. Oh, Daniel whom I loved, I am sorry ... oh, my husband whom I hated, I am sorry. I am sorry always.

Memories - Within Temptation (The Lantern Bearers)

If it had only been her death, he could have borne it. If he could have known beyond doubting that she was at peace with God, he could have lived in the faint shadow of that peace. 

But she was not dead. She was very much alive -- oh, dear God, so alive! -- and she had chosen another. Could an unwanted child replace love, then? Had the rough golden giant captured her heart as well as her body, kept her mystery for his own (his fingers so thick and clumsy, he could never draw the magic from her hair), stolen her childhood love from her brother?

Oh, why? He was left alone now, surrounded by ghosts. Ghosts of her ringing laughter, ghosts of the glint in her eyes, ghosts of the sparks flying from her thick dark hair.

The Hardest Part - Coldplay (Volunteer Mission, loosely)

This is something he has to do himself. 

But I am his friend -- I am his brother! Doesn't that count for anything? 

You are his friend. You are his brother. And because you love him, you will let him go.

I can't let him go! I will do anything -- anything -- but not that. Please, not that.

You can be there. You can wait beside him. You can hold out your hands, ready to catch him when he falls after his baby steps, but -- and this is the very important thing -- he must take those steps alone. I know you are the stronger of the two. Would you keep him weaker than yourself forever? My son, that is not love. That is the heart of devouring.

At least let me give up something for him. At least let me help him in that way. 

I have already told you what you may give up, my son. Give up your wish to give.