15 July 2014

"I never could resist an adventure."

via inspiration: anath's song
...And just like that, July is half over. To where exactly does time fly? I'd pay a pretty penny to the person who could give me the answer.

week two questions
actually finishing something [in] july

1) Were you able to reach your weekly goal?  

My goal by now was 10,000 words, and I'm not quite there yet. Thursday and Friday were busy days with work and entertaining guests, and I caught a nasty summer cold over the weekend that had me going to bed early and rising late for a day or two. By the grace of God and under the influence of Vitamin C, ibuprofen, almost a dozen bottles of water, and a box of tissues, I'm feeling better now and ready to attack the writing week. "I shall conquer this!—I shall!"

2) Is this challenge encouraging you to write more often?

Oh my, yes. As with each July (and November, if I'm participating in NaNoWriMo), there's the added push of accountability that keeps you flying, moving, and yes, sometimes scraping along through your project. Some days have been flooded with inspiration; others not so much. But I'm progressing.

3) At what time of the day did you accomplish most of your writing? 

My writing schedule juggles around depending on the time of the year. When I'm in classes during the winter and spring, I do most of my writing at night. Now that it's summer time, I'm home at odd hours of the day depending on my week's work schedule. This past week I accomplished the majority of my writing during the afternoon and evening.

4) Which musical tracks do you listen to most while writing? 

With Anath's Song, I listen to a lot of Loreena McKennitt (who supplies the proper sound) and Coldplay (who supplies the proper lyrics) for the story. If I get into a rut with those two, I'll change it up a bit and throw "Colors of the Wind" in for good measure.

5) Share a descriptive snippet or two of your writing.

Two swarthy eunuchs appeared in a second’s time, both armed, and they snatched for the foolish man. The Veiled One rose from her throne, as still and dreadful as Medusa herself with her veils whipping around her face like the fabled snakes. Her figure shook so terribly that the chains at her ankles clinked together in piercing echo. Her voice, when it came at last, was a weak gasp, as if he’d taken the very air from her lungs, but more real than anything she’d uttered before.
[anath's song]

A bit of the mockery fled Lysandros’ face, and it was like someone had briefly sent a cold finger down Anath’s spine. Still, he maintained his composure; it was only a woman, after all. Womenfolk had been known to cause enough trouble of their own accord without piling on unnecessary heavenly wrath. Lysandros had been spending too much time near Eleni’s lips.
[anath's song]

6) Share three dialogue-based snippets from your week one writing.

Free this man, my lady. His neck may be weak, but it does not belong to you.”
[anath's song]

If she be foul,” he conceded to his friend’s momentary satisfaction, “she has shown no aggression to this point, and I doubt she will in future. If she is savage as you say, maybe she’s a milder brute: the sort that is content with knocking furniture about every once in a while and refrains from bloody ritual and slaughter. I still say she is worth approaching.”
[anath's song]

I never could resist an adventure, especially on a night like this.”
[anath's song]

7) How are you going to move forward in this challenge? Are you changing your word-count goal or other plans? 

My word-count goal remains, but I'll probably have to increase the number of words I write in a day. We'll see how this next week progresses and take it from there.

07 July 2014

Long As the Day in the Summer-Time

there like a bird I'd fly
high through the air
reaching for the sun's full rays
only to find you there

and in the night when our dreams are still
or when the wind calls free
i'll keep your heart with mine
till you come to me
"penelope's song," loreena mckennitt

Two events, great on some scales, small on others, came to pass this week. I officially titled my novella for Five Enchanted Roses and I began the writing process itself. That is to say, I now have a document on my computer titled Anath's Song that grows at a slow, steady pace. It's been so long since I've begun a new project, and it felt a little rough and unnatural at first, but as new projects run, this one has started with few bumps. I'm diving into Katie's Actually Finishing Something [in] July with this baby of a story, and I would have answered the questions last week, but I felt the novella needed to get off the ground before I could start talking about it.

week one questions

1) What is your writing goal?

I want to finish Anath's Song before July 31st — more truthfully, by July 23rd, because I'll be going out of town on the 24th and won't be back until August 3rd. That's 17,000 additional words to the 3,000 I already have in a little over three weeks.

2) Give us a short synopsis of your project. 

“This life is but a slow death. I have learned well to bear its purgatory.”
Cassandra never dreamed of marriage until her father’s slip of the tongue bound her in chains. Now she spends her days hidden behind heavy veils as men compete for her hand, eternally aware of the ticking clock and her own impending death. With freedom her greatest desire and the wilting roses dropping petals by the hour, her desperation for a bridegroom will take a more drastic turn . . .

3) How long have you been working on this project?

I've been plotting and story-boarding since early June; I began the story itself just two days ago.

4)  How often do you intend to write in order to reach your goal by August 1st? 

Roughly 1,000 words or thereabouts per day. Anath's Song may surprise me and end before 20,000 words, but that is the contest limit and subsequently my own.

5) Introduce us to three of your favorite characters in this project.

You've met Cassandra already. Lysandros is a merry chap, a bit feather-headed, but generally fun to write. He's of medium build with the typical dark hair and eyes of his homeland, and if you want him, he can be found most often hanging around Eleni and her pomegranate stall. Whether its the girl or the fruit that interests him will remain to be seen.

I think I'll save Anath himself for this month's Beautiful People.

6)  Go to page 16 (or 6, 26, or 66) of your writing project. Share your favorite line or snippet on the page.

The two were silent for a while, allowing the cries of fishmongers and various peddlers to fill the gap in their conversation. Small brown children ran between the colorful stalls, clothed in rags and wide grins. A wealthy woman sneered at them from her shrouded litter, but a burly man followed behind them and scooped the boys out of her way. The sky was clouding over and the patch of shade grew larger: a welcome respite after the midday heat. Jingling in the breeze was the occasional clink of jewelry and coin passing from one hand to another; it pierced with the squawking chickens and bleating goats. Lysandros shifted closer, his brow serious. It was pleasant, Anath reflected, to sit beside a friend and know one’s life was in good hands. Perhaps there was something to be said for this island life after all.
[anath's song, page 6] 

7) Tea or coffee? 

Mint tea would be my more traditional choice, but there's something to be said for a tall glass of iced coffee with bits of undissolved raw sugar at the bottom. I have iced tea right now: a happy medium.

want some incentive to actually finish something this july? click here to join.

30 June 2014

Mint Tea, Old Navy Sales, and British Lit Nerd Moments

Because it's Monday, because Actually Finishing Something [in] July starts tomorrow (can you tell I'm excited?), and because I'm releasing my inner Ree Drummond in this introduction (but mostly because Emily tagged me with the Sunflower Blogger Award), I'm going to go with a more frivolous blogging topic and answer the tag questions. After spending the weekend in Georgia at my cousin's wedding and going to bed after midnight both yesterday and the day before, my brain is not up to the challenge of much more. So bear with me and enjoy the miscellany and madness to follow.

rules:

State eleven random facts about yourself, answer the eleven questions, and give eleven other people eleven new questions. (Also known as how many times one can use the word "eleven" in a sentence.)

eleven random facts concerning yours truly:

1. In case you haven't heard, I'm thrilled to be taking British Literature next semester. I've also probably told every person within the vicinity. That is all.

2. I quote Studio C, Blimey Cow, Broken Lens Productions, and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on a regular basis. ("You had ninety-six episodes to think of a costume for me, and you came up with pigtails and a book?")

3. We are not above throwing spontaneous One Direction dance parties in the kitchen.

4. Iced mint tea (in Mason jars with fresh mint on top) is the lifeblood of our summer. Emily, you would know.

5. Loreena McKennitt's An Ancient Muse captures the sound of my Five Enchanted Roses novella (which still needs a title, by the by).

6. In less than a month, Bree and I will be leaving for a two week summer travel course on the roots of American liberty. We'll be hearing lectures and stopping in several of the East's most historical cities to taste their richness for ourselves. I'm nervous, but mostly excited about the experience and the opportunity to travel more.

7. I'm currently loving a mint tank top I picked up at Old Navy yesterday for only two dollars. (Nothing beats the sale rack!) You may now condemn me for triviality.

8. I never know when to stop starting new books. I'm currently reading a biography on John Quincy Adams, Redcoats and Rebels (research), The Mind of the Maker (which I should have finished by now), Flannery O'Connor's prayer journal (small and powerful), David Copperfield (British Lit summer reading), The Lamb of God (devotional / Bible study), Plenilune (!), and this afternoon I began the first Cinderella retelling in Five Glass Slippers. I never realize how long the list is until I add them up on Goodreads. It's a problem.

9. You wouldn't believe how long it's taking me to come up with these facts.

10. I work at a fitness center, which means I get to make protein shakes and smoothies (and wraps, and sandwiches, but those aren't nearly as fun) for a living. I like when the regulars come in and you know exactly what they're going to order because each one is a creature of habit. Ten ounces of water with no ice. Chocolate protein powder, peanut butter, and half a banana. A vanilla Powercrunch bar. ("Have a good day, sir.") I love my job.

11. My go-to Pandora station for housecleaning is Disney.

emily's questions

1. Favorite classic Disney song?

"Belle" from Beauty and the Beast. We love doing all the overlapping voices.

2. Mermaids or elves?

Elves. Mainly because of Legolas. (I can feel all my respectability leaving me in this post.)

3. Who is your favorite dead author?

I'll resist the urge to retort that all my favorite authors are dead because there are several still living whose work I admire and love. (Jenny, Katie, Rachel: I'm looking at you.) But if I am to pick a favorite dead author, I'll skip over Lewis this time (he's implied) and say Flannery O'Connor, because I only recently discovered the wisdom and truth in her fiction, and she's a gem.

4. Which country do you most want to visit?

The United Kingdom, specifically England-an'-Scotland. Perhaps that's cheating, but I can't choose just one.

5. Which state do you most want to visit? (I'm talking U.S., of course.)

I have a pet dream to live for a time in a small cottage on the salty shores of Maine.

6. Dream job?

Author. 

7. Any future names in store for your future children?

I have a full alphabetized document of names, if that answers your question. Some current favorites of mine are Cora, Eira, Rowan, Kenneth (you saw that one coming), and Henry. Since I do not have children of my own in need of names, I content myself by attaching them to various characters as the opportunities present themselves. I recently was able to use Cassandra for a character, which was exciting, as I've been keeping that name on hold for several years. 

8. Captain America or Bucky Barnes?

I haven't seen either of the Captain America movies . . . yet.

9. Which is your preferred choice of weapon?

For me or my characters? I'd take a gun. A sword sounds far more dashing on the page, but if it came down to it, I don't think my stomach could take physically stabbing something (or someone, if it was a matter of defending myself).

10. Which non-published book are you most looking forward to reading?

Right now it's a toss-up between Golden Daughter by A. E. Stengl and Anon, Sir, Anon by our own Rachel Heffington. I'm also excited about the upcoming Five Enchanted Roses collection, whether or not my story makes the final cut.

11. If you were forced to dye your hair a different color, what color would you choose?

I wouldn't have to be forced to dye my hair a dark auburn. I've always loved red hair, and I do have some strong higlights, but I might not be brave enough to go full Anne Shirley at first.

my questions for you:

1. What music inspires your writing?
2. How do you keep from reading too many books at once?
3. What movie could you watch over and over and still love?
4. Do you outline your novels?
5. Favorite book genre.
6. Why is a raven like a writing desk?
7. Would you rather attend a masquerade or spend the evening at home in a library like this?
8. You have an empty Saturday afternoon with reasonable funds, sufficient transportation, and your hometown at your disposal. How would you spend the day?
9. Share some of your own particular quirks, literary or otherwise.
10. Describe your writing style.
11. Are you for or against flowers in church? ("There. We have found something we disagree on.")

...and I tag anyone who wants to join in the fun!

[p.s. sanity to return tomorrow. we hope.]

23 June 2014

"Do You Remember How It Felt Just Like We Died and Rose Again?"

The road is long that leads me home tonight.
"don't give up on me" by andrew peterson [who i will continue to quote without regret]

I write this in a dim dining room. The blinds are open and the streetlights lend enough company so I feel comfortably solitary and not lonely. I feel the need to write words, honest words, so I'm typing with the faint hope that my brain will not lag too far behind my fingers. It's been happening too often lately.

Can I say something?

I'm not polished.

No, I mean it. Not in a I'm-raw-and-gritty-and-natural way. Not in a I'm-quirky-and-lovable-and-too-unique-to-be-mainstream way. I have so many rough edges that have yet to be sanded and rubbed smooth by the Carpenter that sometimes I can't write an honest post. And I don't want to write a dishonest post. So I don't write at all, and my shelves gather dust, and the pages of my Bible go unturned because I am too small and lowly to face the holiness of God.

Which is ironic, considering He knows my sins better than I ever will or could (an abundant grace, that) and tasted their bitterness on the cross.

But I forget. I am Mona Melendy, so very confident in my own "abilities" and various "talents" (air quotes are not a plea for compliments but an honest depiction of my own dusty state) that I miss the dip in the road that throws me to my knees. I scrape, I bleed, and I wonder what could have brought me low. 

Sin. A desperate need for an almighty God.

I feel closest to You in tempests, Lord. They toss me on the Rock of Ages until Your glory is all I see, all I hear, all I taste. I cannot forget You then. Yes, even a valley can be as glorious as a mountaintop.

But what about the midlands, Lord? What about the rows and rows of golden corn — more than a planting, not yet a harvest — and the thickening weeds that must be yanked out by the roots every hour of every day? I balk at the little ones until they are big ones, and then I balk all the more. Is there a holiness, a sacred redemption in that stage as well? Can we be saved through our long summer weeding as we are fulfilled in the spring planting and the autumn harvest? Is there beauty to be found even as our days are stamped by waiting, toil, failure, and hopeful expectation?

I jump from valley to highland and then back to valley again. I'm youthful zeal and calloused sin and tearful repentance and zeal again. Never moderate, never reasonable, never faithful: all hope and words with no action.

But Your mercies are new every morning and one of Your greatest mercies is a new morning. I'm still living and breathing. Forget the ugliness of yesterday — cast those chains aside, they will ensnare you no longer — and take a look at that horizon.

I am not great. I am not great. But mercy is great and You are greater. Pound that into my head, Lord, because it's unbearably thick.

"Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth's shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing."
flannery o'connor

[a journal entry]

17 June 2014

Beautiful People — Cassandra

for you i'd bleed myself dry.
coldplay, "yellow"

Let the cheering commence, because Beautiful People is back! After a two year hiatus, Sky and new host Cait are reintroducing this fun meme for writers with a whole new slew of questions in store. And since this month's questionnaire is best suited to a new character, I'm going to use it as a means of introducing you to my planned novella for Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Five Enchanted Roses contest (for more about that, click here). It's no more than a few lines in a Word document at present, but in the meantime, I thought you'd like to meet

cassandra the unseen

1. What is their full name and is there a story behind why they got it?

She was christened Cassandra — no more, no less — at birth, a name that had long been a favorite of her father's, but none have used that title since. Her slaves address her as their revered mistress, and outside the boundaries of her father's home she is known as the Veiled One or the Fourth Gorgon, depending on who you ask.

2. How old are they, and when were they born?

Cassandra is rapidly nearing her twenty-first birthday, a fact that haunts her every waking hour. She knows only that she was born almost twenty one years before the present time, as the actual date was purposely concealed from her.

3. Describe their physical appearance. (Bonus questions: 1. What is their race/nationality/ethnicity? 2. Do you have a picture of them? If so, include it!)

Cassandra is a Cretan by birth. Her frame is slender, but she's quite tall, nearer to six feet than five. This fact makes her self-conscious and she often walks hunched over, even though her slaves and occasionally her father are the only people who see her now. Her hair is long and heavy in its length, curling on the ends and around her face, but otherwise straight. She possesses a relatively dark complexion, and she once claimed several dozen freckles sprinkled over her nose and cheeks, but they faded long ago under the shadow of the indoors. Her Grecian nose gives her great pride; her small hands and long limbs do not.

4. Describe your character's personality first in one word, and then elaborate with a few sentences. 

Desperate.

Her life depends on another human being's choice. She has little control over her own existence, and with each ticking minute that passes, she claws at every chance to live free of time's chains.

5. What theme song(s) fit their personality and story arc? 

A lot of Coldplay songs, believe it or not.

Oh what good is it to live
With nothing left to give
Forget but not forgive
Not loving all you see

Oh the streets you're walking on
A thousand houses long
Well that's where I belong
And you belong with me
Not swallowed in the sea
"swallowed in the sea"

Hold my head inside your hands,
I need someone who understands.
I need someone, someone who hears,
For you, I've waited all these years.

For you, I'd wait 'til kingdom come.
Until my day, my day is done.
And say you'll come, and set me free,
Just say you'll wait, you'll wait for me.
"til kingdom come"

6. Which one of the seven deadly sins describes your character?

Hubris brings Cassandra low on a daily basis. She fights it and goes through occasional bouts of humility only to be snagged by vainglory again. Her pride and arrogance were the qualities that originally bound her to the chains she drags.

7. If they were an element (fire, water, earth, air), which one would they be? 

Fire, by all means. Cassandra bears every earmark: impulsiveness, quick temper, passion, magnetism, and ambition. She hopes her charm will be enough to wear away her sharper edges, but in the quiet confines of her mind, she's not so sure.

8. What is their favorite word? 

Beloved.

9. Who’s one person they really miss? (It could be someone who’s passed away, or someone they’re not close to anymore, or someone who’s moved away.)

Cassandra misses the father she knew before he traded his soul for his life. The father in whose home she still lives is but a walking shadow of his former self; though she despises the shadow, there was a time when she loved the man.

10. What sights, sounds, and smells remind them of that person?

Blood-red pomegranate stains, salt-crusted beards, the smell of a wood fire, the darkest wine, whistling of any kind, and the sound of rocks skimming the surface of the sea.

03 June 2014

The Best Kind of Childhood is One Surrounded By Books

Summer's upon us, friends, and that means the resurrection of pleasure reading. Somehow I managed to go the whole month of May without a single line (that was an ironic somehow; I know exactly how it came about). All my words were bled and spent on that last heavy push of the school-year before we were released for three joyous months of freedom, but now the ideas are coming back in twos and threes like songbirds in spring. And reading rich, living stories is the best method for prodding inspiration along and keeping writer's block at bay.

I mentioned in a letter to Jenny last week that summer can be either full of reading or completely devoid of it. During the long winter months, I dream of sitting poolside with a good book, but to be honest, that doesn't always work out. In the past I've shared ambitious reading lists; this summer I've been yoinked down from cloud nine and know my own limits. Summer can be used to accomplish all that research you pushed off during the school-year (yes, Redcoats and Rebels, I'm looking at you), but it's also a good time to indulge your fancies, whether they lean more towards Milne or Heyer. Good, solid tomes mixed with some light pleasure reading. These are the titles I've compiled for my summer; though I will not read them all, this is the list from which I'll choose.

summer 2014 reading list

Starflower by A. E. Stengl (already working on this one)

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (British Lit summer reading, but I'm excited about diving in!)

The Ballad of the White Horse by G. K. Chesterton

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (per Abigail's wholehearted recommendation)

Five Glass Slippers (edited by A. E. Stengl)

At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald

Mystery and Manners and A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Bath Tangle, Friday's Child, or something else by the inimitable Georgette Heyer

American Austen (a collection of essays by Agnes Repplier)

Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, and several others by C. S. Lewis to be chosen when the time arrives

The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers (halfway through; I want to finish it)

... And a whole stack of research books for Rifles, which will either be read through, combed through, or picked through by summer's end.

what are you reading this summer?

01 June 2014

Tale As Old As Time

“there is the great lesson of 'Beauty and the Beast,' that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”
g.k. chesterton

Last year Rooglewood Press hosted a highly successful creative writing contest that centered on the classic fairytale "Cinderella." Writers of all ages were invited to create their own novella-length spin on the beloved tale, and the winning stories are due to be released in the Five Glass Slippers collection on June 14th. Now Anne Elisabeth Stengl is introducing Rooglewood's second creative writing contest, and it proves to be even more intriguing!

the cover


the contest

Rooglewood Press is delighted to introduce their second fairy tale novella contest—

Five Enchanted Roses
a collection of “Beauty and the Beast” stories

The challenge is to write a retelling of the beloved fairy tale in any genre or setting you like. Make certain your story is recognizably “Beauty and the Beast,” but have fun with it as well. Make it yours!

Rooglewood Press will be selecting five winners to be published in the Five Enchanted Roses collection, which will be packaged up with the gorgeous cover you see displayed here. Perhaps your name will be one of the five displayed on this cover?

All the contest rules and information (how to enter, story details, deadline etc.) may be found on the Rooglewood Press website. Just click HERE and you will go right to the page.

Rooglewood Press’s first collection, Five Glass Slippers, is available for pre-order now and will be released on June 14. Do grab yourself a copy and see what these talented writers have done with the timeless “Cinderella” tale!

. . .

"Beauty and the Beast" has long been my favorite fairy tale (and yes, for reasons that extend beyond its heroine's bookishness, though I certainly wouldn't refuse several hours in that library). We grew up on the Disney movie and the songs that have become familiarity itself, but I also have a tender spot for the more antiquated story that inspired the film. Its classic facets and motifs make it fertile soil for many time periods and genres, which is why it suits a contest of this nature well. But perhaps — perhaps Chesterton's words, quite unsuprisingly, are what pluck my heart-strings and call me back time and again, those simple words that stake "Beauty and the Beast" on the notion that a thing must be loved before it is loveable.

And that thought is enough to keep me writing for years.
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