29.3.12 | By: Megan Langham

A Game of Tags

So! There is a new questionnaire floating about in Blog Land. Having been tagged three times with it (by Megan, Joy, and Keaghan), I've settled down to complete it myself. Well, I say "complete" with some caveats: rather than filling out thirty-three questions plus eleven extra facts, I've chosen five questions from each blog and dispensed entirely with the facts. If you were looking forward to them, I am surprised and sorry. Perhaps I'll make another facts-post later.

Or maybe I won't. These look to be great fun, but rather difficult all the same because I'll be talking about myself, not my writing -- and yes, there is quite a difference between the two. I think it is the same for every writer.

megan’s questions

1. Do you have any pets? Our family has a tabby cat (Tabitha), a tortoiseshell cat (Angel), and a border collie (Briar). Angel is most especially mine: she is the gentlest cat in the world and the most affectionate. Tabitha is quirky and rather antisocial, but if you're kind to her she'll warm to you in time. Briar is a beautiful dog with soft black-and-white fur, lustrous brown eyes, and a temperament of rare unselfishness.
2. Do you have any unfulfilled dreams? Heaps, darling! Exempli gratia: I haven't travelled Europe yet, I've never seen Mumford & Sons live, and my little bookshop in the Cotswolds is still a castle in the air.
3. What is one of your pet peeves? It drives me absolute batty when people say "Well, it's all Hubert's affair. I could care less." Nobody seems to understand that if you can care less, it means that there is still the possibility that you might perhaps find a sliver of sympathy for Hubert in your cold hard heart. If you wish to appear indifferent, do so wholeheartedly. You couldn't care less about the other fellow's concerns. What you're trying to say is that it just isn't possible. You couldn't care less.
4. What is your favourite season and why? Autumn is my favourite season because it feels somehow akin to me, as if it were the time of year I ought to have been born. My inspiration is strongest then, when the air is bracing and the trees are all golden lights and fire-flames.
5. What time of day do you normally blog? Whenever the mood strikes me, which is generally late at night. Occasionally I have been known to write in the morning, but that is a rare phenomenon and not to be accepted as precedent.

joy’s questions

1.Which character in John Bunyan’s immortal classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, do you identify with the most in their/your spiritual journey? I don't think I can identify completely with any of the heroes in this story. If I were to choose one of the three it would perhaps be Christian -- he stumbles the most, after all, and he is the slowest to believe in the beginning. But he reaches the Celestial City in the end, even if it is by a long and tricksy route.
2. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, we see that Sam’s and Frodo’s responses to Gollum/Smeagol are different. If you were in their place during the times they had the opportunity of killing Gollum, would you kill him and be rid of his trickery and wickedness, or would you feel pity him having carried the burden (the Ring) yourself, knowing its temptation, and show him mercy? I have stared at this question, taken it apart, hung it out to dry... and I am still not entirely sure of the answer. At the beginning I thought (and I still do tend to think this) that I would have pity on Gollum -- not because I am a good person, but because I possess an inconveniently enormous amount of empathy. I can't hold grudges, much as I might try to. I can't hate people, because no matter how angry they might have made me I can always see their side of the story. So there's that. But I am also extremely loyal to the people I love -- so there's that, too. I think that if I were in the situation described, Tolkien could gleefully have used up a good six chapters just in detailing the struggle between my loyalty and my empathy. It would most likely make for dull reading. But that would be his affair.
3. Which two books of the Bible do you tend to read from the most? From the Old Testament, Isaiah; from the New Testament, John. Lately I've been trying to read some of the more difficult books, and I've also been studying James. (I include him among the more difficult.)
4. Is there a figure in history (outside the Bible) that you love the most? And why? I have many historical heroes, but if I can only choose one then St. Augustine and Llywelyn ap Gruffydd shall have to battle for the position. I adore St. Augustine because his words are like familiar poetry to me, like the soothing balm of understanding that someone else has battled my foes before me and emerged all the stronger for the struggle. As for Llywelyn, Welsh prince -- he had me by the heart since first I heard his story. I could go on about his virtues for days (or perhaps in an entirely separate blog post).
5. What do you love most about the place where you live? Odd as it sounds, I think I love the weather the most. It's damp and grey and foggy and half the time it's deluging, but over time I've learned to embrace all that. These days I'm practically allergic to sun. Besides the weather, I am especially enamoured of the culture here. In the Northwest (particularly Portland) everyone is chic and unique and alternative. We shop at Powell's in slippers and cloches, for goodness' sake, with a vanilla latte in one hand and a murder mystery in the other. (But we seldom carry umbrellas. That's tourist's stuff.)

keaghan’s questions

1. If you belong to a so-called “fandom”, what is it? Actually, I belong to several fandoms. I am, in no particular order, a Whovian, a Sherlockian, a Merlinite, a Downtonian, a Lostie, and a Horatian. I also follow Once Upon a Time, but I don't think their fandom has a name yet.
2. If you have siblings, how many? Are you the eldest? Youngest? I am the eldest of seven siblings:  two brothers and then four sisters.
3. What’s a phrase or word you use often? "Brilliant!", "Oh, you're joking!", and "Thank God, the tea's done!" I live a very ironic and tea-filled lifestyle.
4. Would you rather be barefoot or wear shoes? Barefoot, without a doubt. My feet do not like shoes at all; I am convinced I was meant to be a hobbit.
5. If you could have one item of clothing from any book, television show, or movie, what would it be and what show/book/movie does it come from? This outfit from Charlotte Gray. All the adorations. Also, in a slightly less practical vein, I would like Eowyn's entire wardrobe.

my questions for you

1. What is the last full sentence you read?
2. What is your Myers-Briggs type? Do you think it is accurate/relevant?
3. Which of the seven dwarves from Snow White do you most identify with?
4. How would you (poetically) describe your eye colour?
5. What accent do you find the most attractive?
6. Which world cultures intrigue you the most?
7. What is your voice range?
8. Are you an emotional reader/viewer, or do books and television leave you generally unaffected?
9. How do you unwind at the end of the day?
10. Do you remember your dreams?
11. What is your favourite punctuation mark?

I am going to be that annoying person and tag any and all of my readers who wish to be tagged. Go forth ye and Make Posts!
21.3.12 | By: Megan Langham

With Words They Hewed My Heart

During these past several months I have been doing a good deal of reading. This, in itself, is not at all remarkable. What is remarkable is that within a very short space of time I met three new, popular, widely-spoken-of books and fell deeply in love with each one. I am not a book snob. I don't despise modern literature just to appear dusty and learned. But it's true that the books which capture my attention and retain my affection were most often written by authors who are dead now. So that is why I was so surprised and pleased when each closing sentence left me with the unmistakable feeling of shivering ecstasy imparted only by a book that has become a boon.

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

This is the book responsible for harrowing my heart with horrors, freezing my blood to ice, and then settling me down beside a cosy homelike hearth-fire to melt into a puddle of conflicting emotion. I felt a strong kinship with Margaret Lea and her quiet bookshop life; even when she was plunged whole-hearted into another life of  deception and secrets and sorrow I understood her. But the enigmatic Vida Winter always felt alien to me, and a strange sort of alien at that. She was a Helen and a Bertha and a Mr. Rochester all rolled into one, and her gothic house of fear and familiarity was like a place I might meet in a dream.

"A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth."
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke

This is the book responsible for taking my hand, pulling me through a mirror into the mist, and refusing to let me return to the world until I had come face to face with a Faerie I never knew. It is a delightful book, a deadly book. Imagine the eccentrities of Dickens, the wit of Austen, the emotion of Keats, and the magic of Tolkien all wrapped up in a dark dream of fantasy wound about with historical detail -- and you will have as apt a description of this unusual tale as you can hope to find in this world or the other.

"I came to them out of mists and rain;
I came to them in dreams at midnight."
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

This is the book responsible for ripping out my heart, dancing on top of it, and then slipping it back into my chest with a kiss and a prayer.   Markus Zusak wields words like weapons: stabbing stolidity with his sentences, piercing through veils with his prose. I dare you to finish the final page unmoved.

But in spite of the pain and Death's constant presence, this is not a morbid story. It is a tale of life contrasted with death, love with cruel apathy, laughter with choking tears ... and in the end, life and love and laughter shine all the brighter against their dark backdrop. Beauty lurks in every line, true and tantalising.  Even Death is splendid.

"A last note from your narrator: I am haunted by humans."
9.3.12 | By: Megan Langham

March's Snippets of Story

Eclectic. That's the word to best describe this last month for me—in terms of writing, at least. I did not accomplish quite as much as I'd hoped to, but all the same I'm rather content with what I did accomplish. Which is a good state of mind to be in, or so I have heard.

You are most likely acquainted with each of the stories from which these snippets originate (except for "Moonlight Hill", and I am afraid you never will be acquainted with that one). As to the reason for posting them, I direct you to this post and heartily encourage you to get in on the fun.

this and that

Angharad nodded, catching her lip between her teeth as if she could let her feelings show that long, and no longer. The thought passed through Moridic’s mind that Evan was very like his mother; even their eyes were the same, and the way they moved impatiently when they were feeling a deep emotion that they did not wish to share. But Evan was easier to love, for all that. Perhaps that was because he was not a woman, and one expected women to be gentler, more sensitive, readier to weep or laugh. Strange, that was, when so many women were not like that at all, and when many men found it easier to lay bare their souls.
—Volunteer Mission

Pain stabbed through Rhys’s senses—the disordered pain of a forsaken memory. It was true, and he knew it to be true, and he wished beyond measure that he had not been reminded.
—Volunteer Mission

The brilliant leaves made a pleasant crunching sound beneath her feet, the pleasanter the harder she stepped. Perhaps if she were faster…she caught up the skirt of her dress with her free hand, tightly gripped her basket with the other, and began to run.
—Volunteer Mission

She was hiding bewilderment and pain behind a clumsy mask of careless callousness, that Rhys knew. He hurt for her, but he would not let her confusion sway him.
—Volunteer Mission

I had not wanted to burden him with my heartwrung cares, painfully unsuited to his merry youth, and so I had laughed, and brushed my tears away with my fingers, and reassured him that I was quite all right, long day, hard thoughts, no need for him to trouble himself on my account.
—Moonlight Hill

She was so pale as she stood there, pale but bright as if she had been star-touched. I wondered at the strange transcendent beauty in her face.
—Moonlight Hill

Light and warmth greeted them, mingled with the sounds of loud and earnest conversation. In every place there were little knots of men: some speaking in low voices over a table in the darkest corner, some laughing uproariously at the benches near the fire, some making merry with the serving girls. Two of them were attempting a duet, but one man's voice had gone hoarse and the other man had forgotten most of the words.
—Days of Entwining

“We love a man if even for one moment we see God shining from his eyes, and if it is God we see in all of his words and looks and deeds, then it is that we pronounce that man a saint.”
—Days of Entwining

“Look at him. He's been through hell."
“No, he's been through heaven—a much more harrowing experience, at this stage of his journey."
—Vale of Darkness

“All those nights," she whispered, eyes dark, “all those dreams, and still you are more of a mystery than love itself. And still, strangest of all, I do not love you."
—Vale of Darkness

Pale sunlight glanced off the cobblestones, glistening like marble with the residue of rain at nightfall. Beyond the lush-blossomed trees ahead the light intensified into a golden brightness, still subdued but with a feeling of irrepressible energy lurking among the leaves. Everywhere was the scent of lilacs, fair and faint yet somehow also smotheringly sensual. 
—Vale of Darkness

5.3.12 | By: Megan Langham

The Comfort of These Thoughts

“There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything 
the essence of holiness, a sign that God is implicit in all of creation.”

Anne Lamont

I'm coming in rather late to the party with my collection of "little, blessed things" (as Katie calls them). I did do something rather similar several months ago: similar, but quite different. This idea is more specific, more individual. Rather than vague impressions of beauty, these blessings are like pearls on strings, shining pure and perfect in the moonlight. The choosing and stringing of them has refreshed my soul, because turning towards joy is always a blessed change and a sweet gift to oneself.

my moonlit pearls

rain at the window-panes // irish breakfast in my teacup // kerchiefs over curls // angel, sweetest and softest of cats // the tree that flames vibrant red in the front garden each autumn // that springing thrill when each plot thread is tied up // "greensleeves" playing in the kitchen // the welsh marches // hours spent searching through crammed dusty bookshops // smoked salmon // bonds of friendship that distance can't sunder // selwin ap tuder // john chapter seventeen // tolkien's stirring song, streaked with sorrow // fresh lipstick // long walks by the river // sobbing over a book in the wee hours of the morning // swooning over literary heroes with my sister // my brown-bound notebook // puritan prayers // celtic blessings // faerie // evenings home alone with a book and a fire // obscure historical eras that take hours to research // foods that my characters would have eaten // wind whipping my hair about my face // holding hands in the middle of the ocean // sage green // the books I have read into raggedness (enemy brothers, the lantern bearers, that hideous strength, watership down, the little prince) // earrings dangling near my neck // the thought of a blue box // my celtic knot ring // starshine at midnight // my faith that did not begin with me // the knowledge that each of these is an individual grace borne of love, strong and sure...

"I bless and adore thee, the eternal God,
for the comfort of these thoughts,
the joy of these hopes."

The Valley of Vision