Beautiful People — Eva Hughes

22 July 2013

pinterest: rifles in the south field
She was sensible and clever, but eager in everything. Her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was every thing but prudent.
jane austen, sense and sensibility

When I answered the first set of Actually Finishing Something July questions two weeks ago and officially introduced Eva Hughes, Joy in particular expressed interest in her. As a minor character, she doesn't get to enjoy much time in the limelight — although the little she does receive goes straight to her head, so perhaps it's just as well — and I thought it would be interesting to give her a post of her own for once. I haven't filled out a Beautiful People questionaire since March, so this should be fun!

eva hughes

1. What does she look like? What are her hair and eye color?

Eva is quite like the young woman pictured to the right (although more accurately attired in the Georgian fashion). Like her brother, she has dark hair that waves naturally, and her eyes are a clear hazel. With her classic Grecian beauty and bewitching laugh, she draws the young gentlemen like flies to honey. (A problem not wholly unpleasant in her mind.)

2. How old is she?

Eva is only sixteen, but with her height and bearing, she could pass for several years older.

3. Where does she live?

She lives with her mother and elder brother in a comfortably sized home in Bradford on Avon.

3. What does her average day look like?

Eva rises late, at about eight o' clock in the morning, and often has just enough time to dress and have her hair fixed by the chambermaid before the breakfast bell is rung. Her mornings are passed in many occupations, none of them seriously pursued. Some days she sketches absently for a time; other days she practices her French aloud, to the great amusement of Kenneth, since her vocabulary doesn't extend much further than asking after the weather and the other person's health. After the commencement of the midday meal, she spends her afternoon making calls or else taking long walks outside the more populated part of Bradford. Her favorite way to spend the evening is bent over the family's only instrument, a treasured harpsichord, with a few of her dark curls falling loosely around her face (a product of her earlier artistic attempts, since Eva cannot draw without nervously tugging on a curl). When she feels she's practiced long enough (and when her elder brother's loud sighs have grown sufficiently interruptive), she normally retires to her bedchamber for the night.

5. Is she musically inclined?

Eva's slender fingers are suited to both the pianoforte and harpsichord. The Hughes have a harpsichord of their own, but she can only play the pianoforte when they dine with friends in the evening. She plays beautifully, but puts on a bit too much show in the process, and can be hard pressed to leave the bench when other young ladies desire the opportunity to exhibit.

6. What is her favorite kind of weather?

She loves the point right before a storm arrives, when the clouds with their shadowy underbellies are growing and expanding, and the wind blows eerily, stirring up a few dry leaves in its wake. She thrills at the exciting tension of something soon to come, and the thunder and lightning that follow appeal to her love for drama. Dull, sloshing, soaking rain, however, is another matter. It keeps her from paying her usual afternoon calls, and one cannot pass all of one's hours at an instrument. 

7. Does she have a sweetheart?

Eva does not have one sweetheart — she has beaux, in the plural sense. She likes to keep them constantly guessing as to which she prefers, but at present, none of her suitors are the sort she'd eventually marry. She'd much rather flirt and have fun than tie herself to one man.

8. Does she prefer the city or the country?

Definitely the city. Though the country would suit her for a day or more, it wouldn't take long for her to grow weary of it. The city is always bustling, always full of noise and gossip and excitement, which are the very things on which Eva thrives.

9. What does she love more than anything?

Trivial though it may sound (and perhaps that's only because it's been used too many times to count until it's fallen into oblivion), Eva loves life. The music she can coax from the keys, the sound of raindrops on the roof, the soft scratching of a pencil, and the lively chatter of the city streets all make up a world too dear to her to ignore. She's quite Kenneth's opposite in that she does not trundle through the world, dreading its many expectations, but flourishes under its constant attention. Perhaps that's because life has never shown her a side that would cause her to distrust it, and the sun rarely condescends to rain on her bright existence.

10. What does she fear more than anything?

Eva is too merry and lighthearted a person to dwell on such matters. If she does fear anything, she certainly wouldn't admit to it openly.

P.S. Don't forget to enter the Dragonwitch giveaway — it ends tomorrow!

An Elusive Glory

20 July 2013

week three questions
click here to enter katie's actually finishing something [in] july!

Were you able to meet (or exceed!) your goal this week?

I did not write 7,000 words, as was my original goal, but I did settle into a habit of writing a little every day. I've been doing a lot of organizing in Rifles this week — filling plot holes, tying events together, rearranging chapters so they make more sense. Much of my time has been spent in Kenneth's head, which can be both intriguing and moody by turns. In some respects, I'd rather move on ahead to the scenes that have yet to be written, but I'm hoping early organization will make for a smoother editing process. (Hoping being the operative word here.)

Where did you get the bulk of your writing accomplished? In the quiet of your room, outside on the patio, on the bus?

Mostly in my room, which has a nice little desk at which I can type away on the laptop — that is, when either Bree or I bother to remove the stacks of books and writing notebooks that seem to eternally occupy it. 

Share a couple of your favorite snippets!

How can a body accomplish a single task when you are forever banging away at those keys? It’s enough to drive any sane person mad.”
“No one’s ever accused you of being sane, so I’d hazard you’re safe.”
Rifles in the South Field

Kenneth pretended to be distracted by the broken twigs he was dropping casually into the rushing water below. In truth, he didn’t know how to answer. Would he enlist? Would he cast his lot with the rest of his countrymen for an elusive glory that affected him little? Would he spill his own blood on a foreign battlefield, making an offering of it on the altar of king and country?
Would he die for a cause in which he put no faith?
Rifles in the South Field

Staring into the sun only managed to give him a wretched headache, nothing more, so he eventually gave up. It was pointless trying to wage battle against one who had lived eons and had not been displaced from his radiant throne once in all that time. He was nothing to it. His presence could threaten it no more than the stone he was kicking around in the dust at his feet could threaten the chalk-white cliffs of Dover. None of them meant anything. They were all links in the same perpetual chain, serving a master who neither knew them nor cared for them.
Rifles in the South Field

Have you introduced a new character into your story? Tell us about his/her personality.

No new characters, per say, but Eva (formerly Jemima) Hughes has received a new name and a much more dimensional personality. Since I plan to go into more depth about her in a post next week, I'll leave it at that for now.

List the favorite foods of your main characters.

Susannah is partial to Aunt Nelly's baked apple pudding, a mouthwatering dessert famous throughout the county. Kenneth, though he rarely wastes a thought on food outside of the dining room, doesn't often refuse the steaming plates of duck, mutton, and turkey that the Hughes' cook serves up.

Introduce us to the antagonist in your story. Does he/she prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?

My antagonist is staying under wraps for the moment (it's more fun that way, right?), but I will go so far as to state that he hasn't tasted peanut butter in his life and probably wouldn't care for it if he had.

Ring Out the Bells Upon This Day of Days

16 July 2013

Today I have the honor of featuring Anne Elisabeth Stengl, author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood! She's celebrating the release of the fifth book in her series, Dragonwitch, and I was quite pleased to be included in her three-day blog tour in honor of this exciting occasion. 

Besides being interviewed, Anne Elisabeth has also graciously agreed to give away a copy of Dragonwitch to one lucky reader. If you're interested in entering the giveaway, just leave your email address in a comment. The giveaway will end next Tuesday, July 23rd.

the interview

1. Welcome to Literary Lane! To start us off, would you be so kind as to share a little bit about yourself?

Hi! I am a fairy-tale-loving crazy-cat-lady, which is a pretty good picture of me right there. I have been writing since I was nine years old, and started my professional career at twenty-two. I am married to the sweetest, handsomest man in the world, whom I met at fencing class while researching for a novel, and I now enjoy his superior cooking skills and humbly forego my childhood ideal of being reigning mistress of my own kitchen (some dreams are never meant to be). I boast a grand total of five cats—Minerva Louise the Evil One, Lord Marmaduke Chuffnel, Mr. Fluffy Monster Boots, Mama Magrat Fat-Cat, and Makoose the Moose (or the Goose, depending on his mood). But my most faithful companion is my long-suffering doggy, Milly, who looks like a miniature Newfoundland and is abominably put upon by all the cats, but bears it all with the patience of a fluffy saint (just so long as no one touches her Squeaky Rabbit).

2. At what age did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

I wrote my first “novel” when I was nine years old. And it was about a cat, of course. A few years later, I wrote my first fantasy—also about a cat. (Is it any wonder that the fan-favorite character of my current series is a cat?)

3. Sir Isaac Newton supposedly said, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." What literary giants have most influenced your own writing?

Oddly enough, a number of poets, though I am myself quite an indifferent poet. But if you want to explore the realm of Faerie, your best gateway will always be via Shakespeare and, later on, the Romantic poets such as Browning, Shelley, Rossetti, Tennyson, and Coleridge. I’m also a huge fan of George MacDonald’s short fairy tales, such as “The History of Photogen and Nycteris,” and “The Light Princess.” Wonderful stories, told in a wonderful style, with a dash of both humor and tragedy. Brilliance!

More contemporary giants who have influenced my style and approach to storytelling would be the wonderful Sir Terry Pratchett and the inimitable Diana Wynne Jones, both masters of the fantastic upon whom I gaze with great awe.

4. For those who are unaware, what is Dragonwitch about?

Oh, dear. Dragonwitch is by far my most involved and complicated novel in the series so far, and it is about many things. But at its heart, it is the story of the Dragonwitch—Hri Sora—herself, the dreadful Flame at Night. She is a character who has been glimpsed in references and short appearances in the first three novels, and who played an important role in book 4, Starflower. But in this novel, we finally get to see her full story from her perspective . . . and it might not be exactly what we expected.

5. The Tales of Goldstone Wood are known for their beautiful allegory and symbolism. What is your method for portraying the vivid truth of the Gospel in your books without cheapening its value?

I hate to say it, but I have absolutely no method at all. I simply write the story, and I pray while writing it. I never intend to communicate a message or to include any particular allegory or symbolism. But I find the writing of each book quite the burden to carry, so I pray for strength and support as I go. God always provides what I need, and in so doing, He also provides whatever message the story is meant to contain. But it is all His doing, not my own.

6. What is your approach to the writing process? Does it change from book to book?

In retrospect, the process is fairly similar with each book, but while in the midst of drafting, I always feel as though I have to relearn my craft entirely from scratch! But each book probably looks something like this:

The Idea: This gets penned down in maybe a line or two, tucked away in a notebook and rarely/never looked at again. Then it sits in my brain and percolates, sometimes for months, sometimes for years.

Jam Writing: When the time is finally right to begin a certain story, I’ll open either a Word document or a notebook and simply jam write all of the various ideas I’ve had about it. Often these are quite disconnected, completely out of sequential order. But I write them all down and have a hard look at them in written form.

Organization and Outline: I start arranging the ideas in an order that makes some sense, filling in gaps and discarding things that absolutely refuse to fit. A lot of the most fun creativity occurs when I’m trying to fit together two unrelated storylines. By the time I’m done with this process, I usually have a solid outline of all the major character arcs and plot-twists, building to exciting climax and resolution.

Chapter-by-Chapter: I make certain I know what will happen in each chapter in order to best communicate the outline I have in mind. I don’t worry about how at this stage, because that’s where the spontaneity of creativity comes into play for me.

Drafting: I will then draft the book from Chapter 1 through to the end. I rarely skip ahead to write a scene out of sequential order. If I do, I tend to write it only in dialogue (absolutely no narrative, not even speech tags), and I keep that dialogue in the outline until I come to that chapter. Writing in sequential order is a great method for insuring that each chapter is intriguing and forward-moving.

Redrafting: These days, my first drafts are usually in good order, and only need one slight redrafting, possibly two, before I let my editors and beta readers see it.

The entire process takes me anywhere from two to six months to complete a 130,000 word manuscript (though the two months it took me to write Veiled Rose were absolutely and utterly beyond all reason insane, and I don’t recommend it!)

7. Which character in Dragonwitch was the most difficult to write?

My heroine, Leta, was probably the most difficult for me to get a handle on. She went through several incarnations, and I always found her so insipid and frustrating . . . until I realized that this truly was her personality: insipid and frustrated. And I realized that she and I could find common ground in that dichotomy. Then suddenly, she took on all sorts of life and became my favorite character in the story!

8. Your choice of using the omniscient perspective is a unique one. What is it about this point of view that best suits your books?

Omniscient narrative is my favorite narrative voice to read. All of my favorite novelists—both classic and modern—employ this narrative, so it makes perfect sense to me that I would write in it as well. It also suits the “fairy tale” style I’m trying to achieve with the Tales of Goldstone Wood. All the classic fairy tales, from Grimm to MacDonald, are told in omniscient narrative. I want my stories to remind people of that style of storytelling.

At the same time, I want it to be fresh and appropriate for contemporary readers. That is why I find such novelists as Diana Wynne Jones and Sir Terry Pratchett so inspiring! Both of them write in the omniscient narrative, and yet neither of them is out of touch with their time or audience. They know how to take the best of this classic-style voice and make it new. I admire their abilities tremendously and hope to mimic them in my own small way.

9. Which three characters (one wouldn't exactly be fair) in the Goldstone Wood series are your favorite? Why?

Well, Eanrin of course. He is a cat! And he is awfully charming, arrogant poet though he may be . . . .

I also really adore Beana/the Lady of Aiven. She hasn’t yet had a chance to shine in her own story, but that will come in time. And I enjoyed her so much in her role as Rose Red’s guardian in Veiled Rose and Moonblood.

I suppose Prince Lionheart is my other favorite. I was so in love with him when I first drafted Heartless that I almost didn’t finish writing that book, so badly did I want him to come through and not fail the way he does! When that story was complete, I was curious to explore his side of the story, and thus Veiled Rose and Moonblood were born. His story continues in Shadow Hand, and he remains an interesting, complex character.

10. Last month you released the cover and synopsis for Shadow Hand, the next book due to release in the series. Can you tell us about some of your other upcoming projects?

Well, I am currently drafting book 7, which boasts the working title Golden Daughter. It takes place soon after the events of Shadow Hand and fulfills several different storylines begun in previous books. Most importantly, it tells the story of the original Night of Moonblood (which was heavily referenced in book 3, Moonblood). We will also learn the origin of the Gold Stone for which Goldstone Wood is named. I really shouldn’t say more than that at the moment, however!

I am also excited to introduce my upcoming Super-Secret project: my first novella in the Goldstone Wood series. It is called Goddess Tithe, and it will be releasing later this year, between Dragonwitch and Shadow Hand. It marks the first of (I hope) a series of shorter stories set in the world of Goldstone Wood. Cover reveal coming soon!

11. And finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I always tell aspiring novelists that the best thing they can do to improve their craft is to read. Read as much as possible, in as many different styles and narrative voices as possible. Find the authors that inspire you the most, and read everything you can by them, studying what it is in their work that speaks to you. Read poetry, nonfiction, fiction in genres you never thought you’d try. Read the classics . . . read as many of the classics as you possibly can, and even if you think they’re dry as bone, figure out what it is that makes them classics. And read things that you just simply enjoy, no matter how fluffy or silly and trite, because reading is supposed to be a pleasure as well as edifying!

Thank you for dropping by, Anne Elisabeth! To all my dear readers, make sure to follow the link to Onto Her Bookshelf, the next stop on the tour. Also, don't forget to leave your email address in a comment if you're interested in winning a copy of Dragonwitch. The Rafflecopter below is for the giveaway Anne Elisabeth is hosting for a grand prize of the first five (5) Tales of Goldstone Wood novels — feel free to enter that as well!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series, adventure fantasies told in the classic Fairy Tale style. She makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University.

Sunday Blessings

14 July 2013

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

— "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" by Helen H. Lemmel

Have a blessed Sabbath day, dear ones!
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. —Hebrews 12:1-2

The Weeks Wear By

13 July 2013

The first week of Actually Finishing Something [in] July, to my surprise, went remarkably well. It's fun to be getting back into Rifles again and to plot new ideas for scenes. I was so busy before that I didn't realize I'd missed it until I came back. It's like reuniting with old friends — but I would warn against reading the early pages of your manuscript. If I spend too much time there, I get into an editing fit and want to rewrite it all right then and there. ...But I covered all of that in this post. So, without further ado, let us get on to the second week's questionnaire!

week two questions

1) How time flies! Did you reach your weekly goal?

Yes, I did! My goal this week was to organize all the chapters that have yet to be written and fit Kenneth's scenes around Susannah's in a way that flows smoothly. I finished the last of that two nights ago and now feel like I can once more venture forth into this book with a clear battle plan in mind.

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

Definitely. The prospect of keeping accountable to you all each week is challenging me to push myself and accomplish more than I thought possible.

3) Did you accomplish most of your writing in the morning, afternoon, evening, or at random intervals during your busy day (i.e. waiting for your neighbors to go inside so you can jump on the trampoline without disturbing them)?

I tend to do the majority of my writing in the afternoon and evening — yesterday I wrote at both — but there will always be random intervals when I glimpse a lightning bolt of inspiration and must lock myself away to scribble it down. I wish I could write early in the morning, but I always have to go back and extensively edit any scenes that are written in the day's wee hours.

4) Any particular musical tracks inspiring your prose?

I've been listening to a deal of Loreena McKennitt, whose haunting melodies are just the sort to inspire one's pen. One of my particular favorites is "The Mummer's Dance" and her rendition of "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes is enough to send cold shivers down one's spine.

5) Share a snippet (or two) of your writing!

The room was a formal one normally reserved for the best of company, full of starched cushions so stiff they refused to bend under even the most expansive of forms and framed portraits of distant relatives that few remembered and even less cared for. Being lately out of use, the mantle over the fireplace had collected a good deal of dust, and the least disturbance loosed the particles into the air, to the great discomfort of anyone nearby attempting to make use of his lungs. It was, for all intents and purposes, a rather foreboding chamber.
Rifles in the South Field

6) Share your three favorite bits of dialogue.

I’m not afraid of being called a coward, Mother.”
“Perhaps you should be, son.”
Rifles in the South Field

There are some lessons only muskets and bullets can teach.”
Rifles in the South Field

“No,” the older woman agreed, her eyes flitting around the room until they fixed upon a large and ancient portrait. “He would not tell you.”
Rifles in the South Field

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

I'm going along steadily as before, writing scenes and fitting them into the framework of the story. My goal for this next week is to write roughly a thousand words a day, which should help to make significant forward progress in Rifles. My trouble is spending too much time mulling over the early scenes I wrote, rather than moving on to the next chapters and leaving the wrinkles to amuse themselves until the editing process.

P.S. Don't forget to stop by Literary Lane on Tuesday, July 16th! I have a special guest who's due to arrive and I would love to have her meet you all!

Book Review: Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

09 July 2013

This post comes a bit behind schedule, since I finished reading Veiled Rose last month, Moonblood a week or so ago, and am now looking forward to diving into Starflower. As fate would have it, I was out of town the first week after I finished and have had posts lined up and ready to publish every week since. It's a pity, really, because I do like to publish reviews less than a week after I finish the book, when all the thoughts and emotions are still fresh in my memory. But what can you do?

Veiled Rose
By Anne Elisabeth Stengl
*Summary taken from the book's back cover

A Monster Prowls the Mountains of Southlands

Rose Red trusts no one with her secret. She hides in the forest, her face veiled in rages, shunning the company of all save her old father and her nanny goat. Her life is bleak and lonely.

Until she meets a privileged young man sent to spend his summer in the mountains. Headstrong young Leo startles everyone by befriending Rose Red, and together they begin searching for the monster rumored to be stalking these lands.

But the hunt, which began as a game, holds greater risk than either imagines. Soon both are forced to test their trust in each other as a far more terrifying scourge puts their entire land at risk.

My Thoughts: One factor that heightened Veiled Rose in my mind was the marked improvement in its author's writing, an improvement only experience can give. Though I liked Heartless very much, this second Goldstone Wood installment was a bit deeper, a bit more intense, and it ventured further into the realm of Faerie of which we've only heard careful whispers thus far. The stakes were also significantly higher in this book, which is another one of the reason I preferred the plot of Veiled Rose to that of Heartless. I'd always had a passing fondness for Leonard the jester of Heartless infamy, and in Veiled Rose we get to read about him from childhood through youth and on into a period of adulthood (which has less to do with Leo's maturity and more to do with his age). Like any young lad, Leo cherishes a secret dream of venturing forth and slaying the rumored monster that haunts the woods outside his summer home, Hill House. He desires to win honor and glory for himself . . . but he ends up discovering something much more precious, though he does not recognize its value until much later.

One cannot help but love Leo. He's so foolhardy and impatient in the beginning of the book, and then so bitter and lost towards the end that you cannot help wanting to direct him in the right course of action. He passes the whole book trying to earn glory for his name, as if to prove that he is worth something more after all. But no matter how many times he attempts to claw after human success, he never quite reaches it. Those who have read Heartless already know the terrible choice Leo makes in the face of danger. It even gives the reader a taste of the guilt and regret he bears afterward. Veiled Rose, however, explains why such a choice was justified (in Leo's eyes, at least). With a sense of both his childhood past and the adulthood set before him, we catch a much deeper glimpse of his heart. The former book made him out to be a coward (which he is, in many respects), and though we wish he could change his decision, we berate him for being so weak as to make it in the first place. This second book, though not apologizing for his behavior, showed us why he acted the way he did, which makes his anguish at both books' end all the harder to bear.

And then there's Rose Red. When others fail, she's there to support them. When some back down, she takes their place. Though humble and small, she plays a large part as both a protector and guider in the book named after her. The dark journey she makes in the book's second half was an undertaking both risky and courageous. With little thought for herself, she repeatedly puts her own life on the line. None is more faithful than she. Her only fault is that she refuses to ask for help in any of these cases. Rosie won't put her faith in what she can't see, and eventually that begins to work to her detriment . . .

Pros: The character development in Veiled Rose was excellent. With the advent of each new character, my original impression was forced to shift several times before it could settle into a comfortable idea of his or her personality and motives. Lady Daylily of Middlecrescent, betrothed of Prince Lionheart, was arguably the most difficult character to peg. Her persuasions and feelings, which seem immediately obvious the first time we meet her, show themselves  in their true colors eventually and resemble nothing which you would rightly expect.

Cons: The theology was my only qualm, which sometimes presented the Christ-like character as being dependent on the consent of his children in order to save them. This rubbed me the wrong way a bit, but did not significantly alter my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 13+

A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
"Lionheart is suspended in blackness, enormous blackness without floor, ceiling, or walls. Perhaps he is falling; he cannot say. The weight of the choice pressures him from all sides while simultaneously tearing him in two. He knows the moment of decision has come. But he hates it. As though he must kill a piece of himself, sacrifice one man that the other might live. In the end, there is only one choice he can make." — Veiled Rose

We Hold Our Hearts Before Us

04 July 2013

To my great excitement, Katie is hosting Actually Finishing Something [in] July again this year! As the event that witnessed the genesis of Rifles in the South Field last summer, it is quite fitting that it should be the medium for this project's climax. Midsummer has passed us by; the zenith came and went. The sensation of time slipping through my fingers as we drop closer to school's beginning in mid August kindles in me a desire to waste not one second. This July crusade could not have arrived at a more fitting hour.

week one questions

1) What is your writing goal?

My general goal is to get into a schedule of writing at a more regular pace every day as I progress towards the end of Rifles in the South Field. 

2) Give us a short synopsis of your project. What makes it unique?

Susannah Dixon is no stranger to trial. Like her ancestors of old, she's witnessed both birth and death in her short lifetime and hasn't broken under the weight yet. All her security is placed in her father and their expansive Georgian plantation home, and even the whispers of revolt against the British Crown that begin trickling down from the North can't put cracks in her firm foundation.

But when those whispers develop into a full-fledged gale and Mr. Dixon is compelled to join the Continental Army in the ongoing fight for freedom, Susannah senses the world's threads slipping from her control. As both her home and her country unravel, she clings desperately to the pieces of her life that remain in her control, vowing that above all else, she will preserve the plantation. That's all that matters now.

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

Over a year. I began plotting for Rifles in June 2012, but it wasn't until a month later that I started putting the words on paper.

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

Ideally speaking, an hour or two every day. I have a hard time keeping to a regular writing schedule — I tend to fly up on the wings of inspiration, and then go stagnant when writer's block bares its ugly face — and I want to change that this month.

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

Last summer I introduced Susannah Dixon, her father, and Aunt Nelly, the beloved plantation cook. That was before I knew much of Kenneth Hughes and his family's part in the story. It seems only fair that they should get their time in the limelight this round.

Kenneth Hughes is twenty two years of age, but he seems at least a decade older. Bitter and disenchanted with the glory of war, the only reason he became a British soldier in the first place was to please his mother. Though he was raised on stories of his own father's exploits in the Seven Years War, he vows he will be a very different sort of soldier than the late Major General Hughes.

Mrs. Hughes is a firm, capable woman, entirely lacking in motherly affection. Acquaintances claim she was a cheery sort before her husband's early death on the battlefield, but since that horrible day, none have seen so much as a smile cross her lips. She wants her son to follow in his father's footsteps and despises his nonchalance, seeing it as a sign of cowardice. Not a soul would guess that each night she raises a fervent prayer to Heaven that the Lord will spare his life.

Evangeline (Eva) Hughes is young, rather spoiled, and a bit too concerned with beaux. She can't understand why her father would go off to fight, nor why her mother always seems so hardpressed that Kenneth should do the same. Gossip, dancing, and playing the pianoforte with great enthusiasm fill her days, and she has no time to concern herself with such dull matters as war.

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

This is from page 26:

She was always in a wide field, and the dry grass around her was painted red with blood. No matter where she looked, men were crying out for water, screaming in pain, or lying soundless, almost as if they welcomed death. The air tasted of smoke and flame, and it clouded her lungs until she felt suffocated. She wanted to run, to leave this horrid place, but her legs felt as heavy as lead.
Rifles in the South Field

7) Tea or coffee? 

"You can't buy happiness, but you can buy tea, and that's kind of the same thing."

Books to the Ceiling, Books to the Sky

01 July 2013

Books to the ceiling, books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.
Arnold Lobel

"Are you ever not reading?"

My friend's question was not delivered rudely, but even so, I didn't immediately know how to reply. The true answer is yes-and-no. I always have a book I want to be reading, always a dozen boxes to be checked off on my to-read list, but that doesn't necessarily mean I consistently read as much as I want. (School and housework make certain of that.) Now that it's summer and my schedule is a little lighter, my mind has been free to roam the pages a bit more frequently, and it would be dishonest to say I don't love these warmer months for that very reason. With more free time comes the weight of additional small jobs not so easily managed during the schoolyear, though, so life is still much the same.

Nonetheless, several people continue to be shocked at the amount of literature I read each year. (I don't understand it, as I tend to be a particularly slow reader who has a problem finishing what she's started.) Perhaps it's because I feel stranded if I leave the house without a book. Perhaps it's because I can't seem to stop talking about the books I've read and am reading. Perhaps it's more simple than all that: I'm a bookworm. Whatever the reason, if I assess my day's schedule, a lot of it is spent reading. Reading as a means of researching for Rifles. Reading for school. Reading books on theology, history, poetry. Reading for no other reason than pure enjoyment.

I greatly appreciated Katie's post a few days ago about using one's reading time wisely. Aptly titled "Shakespeare in the Purse," she listed her own tried and true tricks for fitting good literature into an already bustling schedule. So often I hear the complaint, "I want to read such-and-such, but I just don't have the time!" Stuff and nonsense, Katie says, and I agree. She's covered most of the bases already, but her post so inspired me that I thought I'd add a few additional tips to the mix.

Audiobooks. I know, I know. It sounds heinous. But it truly works, if you can get past the fact that the narrator will never be able to replicate the voice you imagine the hero or heroine to possess. Nothing improves such menial tasks as folding towels or washing dishes like a good book for company. Since we cannot simultaneously read and scrub (well, maybe you can, but I can't), this is the second best thing.

Schedules. Set aside a certain time of day for reading a particular book. This is one suggestion that depends on the person — I know some people would rather not be so rigid. It works excellently for me, though. If I write down a schedule for myself and mark the hour from 3 to 4 P.M. as my slot for finishing my daily quota of Dumas, it makes me more purposeful about how I spend my time, and more often than not, I'm able to fit it in. (Sometimes I'm just stubborn.)

"One chapter to be taken at bedtime." Katie mentioned this already, but I wanted to reinforce it. The best way for me to unwind at the end of a busy day is to crawl in bed with a good book. I generally save my easier reading for the night; if I try swallowing The Count of Monte Cristo at a late hour, it doesn't work as well as, say, Moonblood, for instance. The idea is not to cram in a truckload of information, but to relax and read for the fun of it.

Read in the car. Even if we're only going to be in the car for fifteen minutes, I bring along a book. During the school year, the books I read while we're rolling about in our van are normally school-related. It's the plain truth. If I can finish my required reading in the car, I have more time to devote to the reading I'd rather be doing when I'm home. No matter the season, drives that seem long are rendered too short when you have a book to help pass the time.

Unless you get carsick reading in a moving vehicle. In which case this wouldn't work out so well.

Don't read one book at a time. If I only read one book at a time, I would never be able to fit in personal reading during the school year. Certainly school assignments always have to come first, but there is a way of managing your schedule to fit in a few more titles besides. Vary up your literary intake a little. I dwell primarily in the classics, but I also love to read history, theology, and some fantasy. It all depends on the day. With a well-rounded literary diet, you'll find yourself reading more and getting more out of what you're reading!

How do books figure in your schedule? Do tell!
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