12.12.11 | By: Megan Langham

Morning Muse

“You’ve got nerve,” I said flatly.

He quirked his mouth at me, tossing aside the bit of paper he had been fiddling with. “And if I do, it’s only to balance your lack of it! Come now, really. You don’t expect me to believe that you never told that man the truth because you’d rather he heard the lie.”

“As a matter of fact I did,” I retorted, trying not to let myself laugh at the ludicrous memory. “Besides, it doesn’t make any difference. I don’t like him.”

“You don’t?” His eyes grew wide with mock surprise. “I’d have thought the two of you were lovers at the least. He does make you laugh, though, whenever you’re together—that ought to earn him some measure of your favour.”

“Do I laugh so little, then?”

“Oh, no. You laugh often—rather more often than happy people do.”

I bit my lip. His words had pierced a tender place, but they were true, perhaps truer than he knew—how like his facetious wisdom—and there was the sudden stirring tenderness in his storm-blue eyes to be accounted for. He was standing over me now, though I had not seen him move from his chair, and his hand was on my arm.

Cariad,” he said, in a very different voice than before. “Cariad, I am an idiot. Please forgive me.”

“Yes, you are an idiot,” I said, smiling in spite of myself; in that jarring moment I knew I had never loved him more fully. “But it’s only idiots who dare to tell the truth. Thank you.”

His hand slid up to my shoulder and grasped it firmly. I could feel the ridges of his veins against the soft small of my neck. “Do you want to talk about it?”

With a sigh I laid my book down. “Perhaps not about that, not yet. But I’d like to know, if by any chance you care to tell me, why you think I’m not happy. Besides the laughter, of course; that’s no true test.”

He looked down at me for a long moment, his light eyebrows drawn together. Then he nodded decidedly and walked over to the bookshelf. “Just a moment. I’ve seen the answer; I’ll find it.”

“Careful, those are organised!” I tried to make my voice strict, but I couldn’t be strict with him. He knew it, too; his only answer was a roguish grin. After a minute or two of scuffling (during which several of my carefully placed books became dislodged) he made a noise of triumph and drew out his object: a cream-coloured paperback of modest mien.

“Here we are,” he said, flipping through the pages as he walked back towards me. “I was reading it just last night, when you were practising that piano piece—the one with all the arpeggios. Ah, this is it.” Still standing in front of me, he read in clear tones from the open book.

“I had not yet fallen in love, but I was in love with the idea of it, and this feeling that something was missing around me made me despise myself for not being more anxious to satisfy the need. I began to look around for some object for my love, since I badly wanted to love something. I had no liking for the safe path without pitfalls, for although my real need was for you, my God, who are the food of the soul, I was not aware of this hunger.”

He closed the book and smiled at me—not his customary mischievous smile, but with a yearning compassion, rich and rare, in his steadfast gaze.

“Saint Augustine always understands,” I said, painfully conscious that my answering smile trembled.

“True, that is! It was you I thought of when I read his words last night, while you were playing your soul out through your fingers. You reveal far more of yourself than you think, especially to those who already know and love you. Which means—” he laughed, playful again— “you’d do well to keep a watch on who’s listening when you’re at the piano!”

I laughed too, a little shakily…but I was glad. Glad to be free of the unspoken thoughts I’d kept to myself; glad that another had stepped in to share the burden.

“What do you suggest I do with myself, then, in the meantime? Has Augustine got anything more to say on that subject?”

“If he has, I’ve not yet come across it. Not everybody devours books as madly as you do, woman.” He paused, savouring my attempt at an indignant expression, and then went on more seriously: “For what it’s worth, my advice is that you should let yourself be loved. You didn’t build your ship, and you don’t know how to steer it: you don’t know how to see. You struggle to see Heaven, but it is all around you. It peeps through the cracks in the world, sings to you in the sound of the stream, beckons to you in the smile of a stranger. Oh, cariad, stop trying to deserve love. You can’t deserve it. I can’t deserve it. Love is not enfolding us now because it is deserved, but because it is deserving. Lay your head down. Let it enrapture you.”

He drew a deep breath and smiled again at me. “I care for you,” he said, “and you care for me, and if we each thought we had to deserve that affection then we would both be miserable at best. As it is, we’re only miserable when you haven’t had your tea.”

I tossed a pillow at him and missed. Laughing, he sat down next to me on the sofa.

“It’s a good job you’re such a poor aim—and that you’ve only got an unwieldy pillow to attack me with.”

I rested my chin on my knees, glancing at him sidewise. “I could threaten you with far more dangerous weapons. Are you going to repair the ruin you made of my bookshelf, or shall I be forced to tidy up after you again?”

“I’ll do it, of course. But it was a ruin I made helping you.”

Though his words were light, I could see the aching pain of memory in his eyes; and though his very existence was of my own making, gratitude for his goodness surged over me. But I could not let him see how much I felt, not yet, not now…

“You’ve got nerve,” I said again.
4.12.11 | By: Megan Langham

Welsh Discoveries

So I was going to write a post about the wrap-up of NaNoWriMo and what it taught me about my pressing need for closure and my emotional involvement with my own stories, but before I could begin it I was tagged by Jenny (and afterwards Keaghan). This tag involves answering questions about a work-in-progress so that one's friends/readers/mildly interested acquaintances might have their curiosity satisfied. It looked to be an exceptionally well-done tag, and I was eager to fill it out—only I couldn't decide which novel to use. This blog has been drenched with Days of Entwining ever since October, and while I have several other side projects in the works, I've come to the conclusion that, for now, the world of Volunteer Mission is my home world. Days of Entwining has been a wonderful experience, and I do plan to finish it in time, but it's Evan's story that must take precedence. (And no, he isn't standing over me with a knife to my throat forcing me to say that. Really. He isn't.)

There you are, then. My most urgent goals are to finish Volunteer Mission (I'm so close—so close) and while I'm editing it, plan out either the sequel or the prequel or both. I'm not quite sure which I'll write first; the deciding inspiration will come to me when it's needed, I suppose!

volunteer mission (evan's story)

1. Who are the main characters?

Evan is the Mainest, followed closely by Selwin. Rhys, Glynnis, and Margery all have their own POV scenes, and I'd say they fall at about that level of relative importance; each of them will have prominent places in the sequel. Lord Iorweth and Rhoyna, while not exactly major characters, each have a more than major effect on the story; Lord Iorweth in particular pervades each chapter with his mysterious presence. Without him there would be no plot and little pain.

2. How did you get the idea for this story? 

I made a blog post on this quite a while back. It wasn't just one idea but rather a whole pack of them, converging on me all at once and practically forcing the story from my pencil. And then when I thought I'd finished it up all nice and tidily I found there was more—enough for a book—and then when I gave in to that realisation I found I'd sold my soul to it. Yes, this is a horror story of sorts. Or a love story, if you like: there's a fine line between the two.

3. What genre is this story? 

Historical fiction. There is a hint of the fantastical throughout it, though: faint, but still visible.

4. Describe your book in three thoughts: 

Old sins cast long shadows. Death dogs love’s footsteps. Whether or not you’re spilling blood, Evan, you’ll always be at war.

5. The bit that describes an obscure piece of real life best:

Oddly drawn by the candle’s eerie flicker, Evan moved closer. Inside the tent there was nothing but silence, and silence of such a dark and heavy quality that it seemed to take on a personality of its own: as if the tent were not deserted, as if the walls were guarded by ghosts… 

6. The funniest line said by a side-character thus far: 

“I would come with you,” said Generys, “but I’m afraid to leave the children too long alone with Llygad. He gets so absorbed in his whittling here that he’d take no notice if one of them tumbled into the fireplace, screaming all the way.”

7. Your favourite piece of description:

They were standing on the outskirts of the village, underneath a grove of birch trees that lifted proud and flaming heads against the pale early-morning sky. The breeze caressed Selwin’s hair with pensive gentleness; the dew on the ground sparkled and reflected the green tips of a thousand grass-stems.

8. Your biggest fear in the writing of this story: 

My biggest fear is that it will never be finished. No, not really; I know I'll finish it. I suppose my real dread is that the emotion I'm trying to convey will come across as melodramatic and obscure the message. I don't want to get in the way of my own story.

9. Last full sentence you wrote: 

He had been hurt so often by Evan’s callous bitterness that he had wanted to give up—indeed, several times he had given up, but after each time he had come pitifully back, drawn by Evan’s obvious need.

10. Favourite character thus far: 

The obvious answer to this is Selwin, and among all my characters he's the dearest to me, but the more I think about this the more I realise that I can't choose one favourite character from this story. I even love the prattish ones. (Well, not love, but you know.) Glynnis and Rhys are special to me because they are so good: the quiet, gentle sort of people who work in the background and keep their own sorrow hidden. Margery and Rhoyna are unlikely tragic characters, in their own ways, and of all that rag-tag bunch they are probably the easiest to understand. Then there's Lord Iorweth, whose presence is the most powerful; Huw, who trails him like a pale shadow; Philip, who's always ready with a witty word and a steady hand at the right moment; Elena, who is mysterious and capable; a good many other characters whose details I'll spare you; and of course Evan. It is his story after all. And I love him in spite of the fact that he's got a knife to my throat.

11. What books have been written or have you read that are similar in style and flavour to your novel?

Edith Pargeter's The Brothers of Gwynedd quartet is set during the same time period and her writing style is similar to mine, though she tends much more towards the descriptive and poetical. Mary Stewart's writing, particularly in her Arthurian trilogy, shares a certain quality with my own: our characters are drawn a bit alike, and we convey emotion in a similar way. As it happens, I hadn't read either of these authors until Volunteer Mission was nearly finished; but there is one other book that I believe has influenced me in this area, and that is C. S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces. The plots aren't the same, and neither is the style, not really... but there's something that seems to have bled over from Lewis' story to mine, somehow. I don't know that I can explain it clearly.

12. If it was destined to become a book on tape, who would you wish to read it?

Tom Hiddleston, because his voice is enchanting and his sense of drama is perfect. (This question hadn't crossed my mind before, but now that I've considered it I'm going to hear every sentence I write in Hiddles' voice. Bother That.)

“It was a death song,” said Rhys, thoughtfully. 
“And this, that touched you, it is a bloody song of battle.
 But still it is good poetry, and more than good poetry. 
It is piercing pain and purest pleasure, as all true poetry ought to be. 
I think that in the midst of battle there is nothing but blood and terror and wishing to be sick—
at least for me, there is nothing more—
but afterwards the poets can take that agony and frame it in words 
and make from it something beautiful and great and glorious. 
That, I believe, will last forever.”

(P. S. I'm not tagging anybody with this post because everybody I was considering tagging has already been tagged. That's what happens when you're late to the party, I suppose! I've heartily enjoyed reading everyone else's posts, though. You're all so talented.)