Monday, August 31, 2009

Don't like Dickens?

If you don't like Charles Dickens' writing, might I ask which of his books you've read?

I have a theory that most people's encounter with Dickens consists entirely of A Tale of Two Cities and/or Great Expectations. I expect these two are read mainly because they're assigned in school, and because they're short(er). But having become a recent Dickens fan, I think it's a shame that these are read most often, especially Great Expectations.

I love happy endings, and these don't end quite as splendidly as I wish. Nor do they have entirely sympathetic main characters, in my opinion. Interesting, yes, but not heroes you root for and want to emulate. Pip is rather unlikable for quite a while, though he gets a little better. Lucy and Darnay are likeable and noble, but a bit flat, and Carton is the scoundrel turned noble, but then he's gone suddenly just when he's turning around.

Oliver Twist I haven't read yet, having gathered from the film and play that it's depressing.

But there was a whole list of novels Dickens wrote, which I had never even heard of. Alas! Glorious books, how have I missed you all my four-and-twenty years?

I hadn't even heard of Bleak House or Little Dorrit two years ago, but now they're firm favorites. I think they're much more interesting and satisfying stories than the better known tales, though they are a bit longer. Ah, but so much more room for Dickensian characters and huge plot developments! :-) Now I'm itching to find and read all the other Dickens novels I've never heard of, since I like them the best so far. I would encourage you to do so also, and then let me know what you think of my theory. :-)

I've been told that Dombey and Son is an excellent picture of how a woman can build up or tear down. And apparently Andrew Davies is planning to write that one next as a miniseries, hurrah! So I might tackle that one next, and see what I think of his version after reading the book this time.

But it might be a while. After finishing Little Dorrit, I re-read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, by Andrew Peterson, and am about to dive into the just-out sequel, North! Or Be Eaten, from which pages not even Dickens will be able to distract me. Watch for reviews and thoughts!

Friday, August 14, 2009

"short" post turned long and rambly

pretending to be a farmer's wife

I've been feeding our friend's animals (cats, dog, chickens, guinea, and lamb) and watering their plants again this week. The Attack Rooster has thus far kept his distance. Perhaps because I now enter the coop armed with a sturdy stick. Perhaps he's only waiting until the last day, when I'm least on guard. Perhaps he's sharpening the spurs on his legs so as to be quite prepared to make a deep puncture, and collecting plenty of little bacteria and evil dirty things with which to infect the said wound.

I've told him I forgive him for last time, though, and for being a roosterly rooster. We'll see if he believes me.

Other than the threat of infection, tending to "the farm" has been fairly pleasant, as always. I love how dirty I usually get, how wild my hair and how mud-streaked my feet, just from watering a few plants and feeding a few animals! It's quite humorous. But of course, where there is dirt, I must get some on myself. Not that the animals mind.

one last adventure of the summer

The very day I finish my animal-feeding job, I will be departing my fair little town in the midst of Nowhere to go to the Renewing the Family Camp! Our good friends the Grubens invited me to go with them, and I am quite honored and excited. Not only to spend time with my dear old friends, but to meet and fellowship with other God-loving families of similar convictions. And I believe two young ladies who inspire me greatly through their writing and documentary will be there...

Who else might be there? I have this nagging feeling that one or more lovely people whose blogs I read might show up, and that I will not make the connection until the camp is over. Meeting folks in real life can be so different from the online world, though... perhaps it would be better if you keep an illusion of my grace, elegance, and eloquence ...;-)

After the family camp, I'll probably stay with the Grubens for a week or so until we contrive a way to get me back home. They have just moved, so I hope I can help with organizing, cleaning, or another of the millions of tasks that go along with moves. And I'm sure we'll find time for a bit of coffee, craziness, and cloak-wearing as well.

dreaming and dilligence

In other news, I've been taking too many naps, watching too many movies with Whit and the Mother, eating too much bread (loaf, biscotti, scones, cookies), reading Little Dorrit, and writing for my job. I need to be more diligent, though, because I'm a bit behind on the last one. Ideally I would write an even two hours a day, but lately I end up doing it all near the end of the week. Starting next month I'm going up to 20 hours a week, which means I can't do that anymore. Not sure what needs to go, besides constantly checking Facebook. Getting up early consistently would help. So would not having a temporary job of watering zuchini and feeding a lamb who insists he's constantly starving.

But isn't it funny how sometimes the busier you are, the more you end up getting accomplished? I was lately encouraged by this post by the Botkin sisters. My head is often off in the blue building castles in the clouds and not getting anywhere useful, so it was challenging to hear them encourage young ladies at home to work on marketable skills. I'd like to think I could have a thriving, easy home business making bread, but really this writing job which the elders at church have given me is much more productive and useful. I pray I can go after it will all the excitement and diligence I can, so I'll have more time to give my family and friends and to do the things I really want to (like reading good books, making bread, and writing my own stories)

So much for my "quick" update post! I don't even have pictures in this one. Ah well. Back to work now. And I hear some fresh homemade fig bars came out of the oven too! So farewell!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The day our King comes o'er the water

I may sit in my wee old house
at the spinning wheel to toil so dreary

I may think on a day that is gone,
and sigh and sob till I grow weary

I ne'er could brook, I ne'er could brook
a foreign king to own or flatter

And I will sing a ranting song the day
our King comes o'er the water

I heard this lovely Scottish song the other day and was struck to the heart. The entire song, here, speaks of a Scottish lady's longing for the return of Stewart rule in her land. Being of Scottish ancestry myself, I felt a kinship with Lady Keith, and even now thrill thinking about "the day of pride and chieftain's glory":

I have seen the good old day,
the day of pride and chieftain's glory

When royal Stuart held the sway
and none heard tell of Whig or Tory

Though silver be my hair one day,
and age has struck me down, what matter

I'll dance and sing that happy day,
the day our King comes o'er the water

This song reminded me of Arthur Pendragon, who I have been thinking of quite a bit lately already.

Legends say that one day he will return to England in its time of greatest need. Stories continue to be written portraying this event, and I have no doubt there are many more to come. Sometimes they're lame. They're all a little disappointing. But they will keep coming. Because despite our modern, democratic, individualistic ideals, a longing lurks deep inside us all for a king who will come and make everything right again, with a sword of justice in hand, and compassion and glory shining in his eyes.

Gondor waited for their king for nearly a thousand years. Even the Hobbits had a saying "When the king comes back," though they used it "of some good that could not be achieved, or of some evil that could not be amended."

I also think of another King whose coming has been anticipated long. His arrival shall be no anticlimax. No, it will be more wonderful and terrible than I can begin to even imagine or want (at first - think of Puzzle the donkey, shrinking away in Aslan's presence!). Though I will always be His child no matter my poor choices (thanks to His unfathomable grace!), yet I do not always walked by faith as He asks. Too many of my works will likely b
e burned up as the worthless straw they are, because I was trying to do things my way, not God's way.

Do I grow too comfortable here, submitting to the rule of the "foreign king" and evil ruler of this world?

Oh may I live as a faithful servant for my King who I cannot yet see! May my smallest actions be based on trusting Him. And may I eagerly await with my life the day when"our King comes o'er the water"!

If I live to see the day that I
have begged and begged from heaven

I'll fling my rock and reel away,
and dance and sing from morn till evening

For there is One I will not name
who comes the beingin bike to scatter

And I'll put on my bridal gown
the day our King comes o'er the water

Sunday, August 02, 2009

If I did it, so can you!

I tend to be a broken record. I get one idea in my head, and can't seem to lose it. The idea, that is. My mind I tend to misplace quite often... ;-)

But for those of you who want to know more about my NaNoWriMo experience and thoughts, here you go.

I tried NaNoWriMo two years ago, but only reached about 12,000 words, I think, and then go so far behind that I decided to give up. But I had a glorious taste of its joys that first time.

This last year, I tried again and actually won! The feeling of accomplishment and exhilaration at the end was simply indescribable. Of course my story was corny and often very predictable, but when you're writing furiously, when your inner editor is banished for the month (on pain of purposely mispelling every word to torture it untill it leaves), things start to happen that you could never have planned. Weird characters come out of nowhere. Dull characters start to say and do the funniest things. Long and twisty slides just happen to appear as perfectly handy escape routes.

Yes, that actually happened in mine.

The whole thing was definitely worth while, even if my wild tale never ends up going anywhere beyond my own editing. Some NaNoWriMo novels have been published, so it is possible. But it's not the main goal.

If you can get your hands on a No Plot? No Problem! book (the "official" NaNoWriMo guide), it's a great encourager. It does have a bit of crude language, so beware. But even if you just flipped through it at a library or bookstore, it's highly motivating and quite hilarious. And it mentions ninja monkeys.

Last year I posted my story on a private blog and sent invites to family and friends who I thought might be amused and/or interested. That was actually quite motivating for me. They were constantly commenting and wanting more, urging me to not leave my characters in dire situations, and I had more fun torturing readers (and myself) with horrible cliff-hanging chapter endings and corny mysterious lines left dangling.

Another thing that helped was having a good friend of mine in another state do it with me. She and I sent each other chapters as we finished them, and even though we didn't always have time to read them, it was a extra nudge to write my own story when I saw she'd just written a new bit. This technique might only work with one other person, and the best thing would be if it was someone you knew wouldn't mind typos or corniness or plot holes, because of course they will abound. Taking time to edit in the middle will kill your creative impulse. Find someone else craz- er, creative, and do it together!

As to times, try to figure out a good time to write. Away from sight of beds or comfy couches, if possible! If your days are very flexible (mine were last year, since I stay at home a lot and help my family and do all sorts of random and odd tasks every week), then it might actually be harder than, say, writing mainly in mornings or at night. But make yourself do it.

When you're in your novel, in "the zone", watching the story unfold before your very mind's eye, time is no more. You become a pioneer, going where no man or woman or kid or squirrel has ever dared to stick a toe before. And I think you get a wee, tinsy tiny glimps of the joys of creating which God had when He spoke the world into being.

I might be saying more about NaNoWriMo in future blog posts... The bug to write has really bitten me early this year, and I want other people to share in the joys of NaNo! ;-) If you decide to do it, please let me know, and I would love to encourage and urge you on! If you live nearby (you know who you are), we might even organize some writing days to meet at a bookstore and type together furiously for a few hours of literary silence. With coffee. Lots and lots of tea, chocolate, and coffee. :-)