Blog Archives

We’re All Evil Stepchildren

Cinderella has never been one of my favorite fairy tales. Maybe that’s because its familiarity through the years has turned it a bit drab for me. Maybe it’s because the danger isn’t fierce enough or the stakes aren’t high enough.

Or maybe . . . maybe it’s because I can’t relate to a girl who is nothing more than a victim. A girl with a princess-like beauty whom never does anything wrong except in the eyes of her “evil” step-mother and stepsisters. A girl whose beauty and mere lack of evil are all it take for her to win not only a prince, but a kingdom.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely do things wrong. A lot. I say the wrong things, I’m clumsy, I’m impatient, I’m unkind, I’m none-too-beautiful. Basically, I’m human. How could I possibly write a story about a girl like Cinderella? I’m not qualified. I can’t understand her. I’ve never even been able to care much about her, try as I might.

So when considering retelling this story, I decided I wouldn’t write about Cinderella at all. Simple as that.

freedigitalphotos.net

freedigitalphotos.net

Instead, I wrote through the eyes of somebody I could understand: the stepsister (in my story, there’s just one). As a teen who went through some rough times, I often felt like the freak, the ugly, awkward girl, the misunderstood girl, the girl who used sarcasm like a shield, the girl people were uncomfortable having around because of her random bursts of emotion and sometimes rather brutal honesty. The girl . . . well, you get the picture.

Evil. Many times that’s how I felt. That’s what I believed people thought of me. That’s how they seemed to look at me. Therefore that’s what I began to believe I was in truth. Evil. Warped.

Then God stepped in. He had had enough.

“You’re not evil,” He whispered to me. “Your heart is beautiful and kind and loving. It is desirable to Me.”

The things I had never been able to see before because of my own blindness and self-loathing became apparent when God showed them to me through His eyes, through His grace. But then, that’s natural, isn’t it? That’s how it’s supposed to happen, the rescuing of our souls. My heart is beautiful because it’s God’s. My kindness and love are really only an extension of God’s own kindness and love.

When I began to think back on my own love story with God, I knew I must make it a part of this story I was writing. I have never been a Cinderella, ready from birth for Heaven. I needed redemption. I need redemption on a daily basis. But not from an evil stepmother or stepsisters. Not from any outside source of oppression. No, I needed saving from myself, and from the person Satan has plans for me to become. Because I am the evil stepsister. Or at least I was . . .

Those are the times God patiently reminds me that I am now His true daughter – a stepchild no longer.

When He took me in I became a princess in truth, and I share in a Kingdom more beautiful than any prince could have offered Cinderella. Right now I can’t always see that Kingdom, though it’s both in me and all around me. Sometimes I catch glimpses of it clearly, sometimes I only feel its nearness. But someday I plan on living there and claiming my happy-ever-after once and for all.

Tell me, what fairy tale could be better than that?

____________

You’ve got four more days to enter your name for this FAIRY TALE PACKAGE GIVEAWAY!

20150822_154840

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

An Allegorical God

God in allegory. Even though I’m an allegorical writer myself, I often have issues with this one. Well, maybe not issues. Let’s just say I approach it carefully.

God is sovereign. God is almighty and all-knowing. His ways are not our ways. How, then, can any writer really do wood thrushHim justice in an allegory? We seek to know Him, but we’ll never know Him completely. Not on this side of death, anyway. If we did, He wouldn’t be God, right? But if we don’t understand Him, how can we write about Him in a way that will satisfy readers who want to see Him in all His wonderful, awe-inspiring glory?

I don’t have a cut and dried answer for this, really. I only know what I prefer when I read allegory, and the rules I personally follow when I write God into an allegorical story of my own.

MYSTERY

An allegorical representation of God should be as mysterious as the true God. So we don’t understand all the facets of this God-character we write about. So our readers don’t. That’s ok. Use the mystery to good effect. Let the unknown deepen the reader’s experience of this God whose ways are not ours, and thus deepen their awe of Him.

EXTREME

Large or tiny. Roaring or whispering. God is anything but a lukewarm, mediocre Being. C.S. Lewis uses a great lion to represent God in his Chronicles of Narnia. In one scene of my book I represented God as a field mouse, whispering encouraging directions in the ear of the protagonist before a battle. Anne Elisabeth Stengl represents the holy spirit with a wood thrush, which I absolutely love. Whether it be intriguing, awe-inspiring, or even quirky, the character a writer chooses to represent God has to be worthy of the reader’s attention and respect.

aslan roar

FEARED

God is to be feared. We fear His wrath, His judgment, His anger when we have chosen to disregard His Word. But take away that fear and you’re left with little love and no respect at all. That’s not a the type of ruler I’d want to follow. Whatever creature or person a writer chooses to use as her representation of God within her story, it should be one whose actions and power inspire a healthy fear. God has the power over life and death and time and all the earth. Fiction shouldn’t show Him as anything less.

LOVING

Yet beyond the fear, a writer must be sure to show the deep and unconditional love God has for His creation. Fear alone can perhaps turn our heads and keep in our minds what will happen if we stray. But it’s love that binds us to Him, heart and soul. It’s God’s mercy and forgiveness and sacrifice that give us the passion to follow Him to the ends of the earth. So why should an allegorical God be any different?

Do you have any preferences when reading Christian allegory? What are the things you like to see in a symbolic fictional God figure?

Last Words

Characters die.

Sometimes they’re characters we don’t like. But sometimes they’re characters who mean so much to us that we mourn their deaths almost as a friend would do.

I’ve never liked killing off my own characters – even the truly evil ones. Yet sometimes an author must.

Recently I had to work on writing the death scene of a beloved character … a heartbreaking process, to say the least. To aid me (emotionally more than anything else), I refreshed myself on some famous last words, or “death speeches,” in literature.

As I read them, I had to wonder: What was going through each of the authors’ minds as they wrote their characters’ last words? Did their hearts break, even a little, as they composed the scenes that would mean the end of someone so close to them?

More so: What do last lines say about the characters themselves and their stories?

HONOR

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” (Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)

BETRAYAL

“Et tu, Brute?” (Caesar, Julius Caesar by Shakespeare)

IRONY

“Bad form.” (Captain Hook, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie)

PASSION

“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither romeo and julietcan be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!” (Captain Ahab, Moby Dick by Herman Melville)

“Precious, precious, precious! My Precious! O my Precious!” (Gollum, The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien)

“Yea noise? then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust and let me die.” (Juliet, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

REMORSE

“Lord, forgive me everything.” (Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy)

“Farewell, Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed.” (Boromir, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien)

“The ultimate sacrifice for love: I kiss’d thee ere I kill’d thee: no way but this; Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.” (Othello, Othello by William Shakespeare)

FRIENDSHIP

“Cher ami …” (Hercule Poirot, Curtain by Agatha Christie)

“Harry … Potter …” (Dobby, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling)

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’sthorin a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” (Charlotte, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White)

“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!” (Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Is there a character whose death broke your heart? Who was it? What were their last words?

Affection and Concern for a Marshwiggle

It’s always with a bit of trembling that I hear of another Narnia movie being produced. Part of my nervousness comes from excitement, part from fear.

The creatures and characters of Narnia mean a great deal to me, and I want to know they are in capable, loving hands … hands that appreciate them for what Lewis created them to be, not what the director feels will look best or be most impressive on the big screen.

Rumors of the movie, The Silver Chair, have been around the past few months, and I find myself fearing the outcome. Why? Well, mostly because it’s in The Silver Chair that my favorite Narnian character makes his first appearance …..

Puddleglum.

What will the writers and director do with my wonderfully quirky, endearingly cynical, terribly brave Marshwiggle??! Will they givePuddleglum2 him the respect and care he deserves? Will they see and portray him as the creature of depth and faith that he truly is? And – on a more superficial note – who will they cast to play him, and what will he look like?

Ah, the worries of a Narnian.

My sister and I grew up watching the original Narnia movies, although we didn’t see them until they had been out several years. They have more than a whiff of 90’s influence and corniness in them, not to mention they were probably quite low budget as well. But they are still beloved, all the same (though as an adult I have to giggle quite a bit at rather inappropriate places). The Puddleglum of my own imagination is a bit different than the one portrayed in the 1990 film, but I still think Tom Baker did a great job:

How do you picture Puddleglum, whether you’ve seen the old movies or only read the books? Any ideas on who would be a good actor to cast for him in the upcoming version of The Silver Chair?

 

The Author of the Story

I found it amusing, at first, to know that I was writing a story within a story while penning The Word Changers. Now and then I would smile ironically to myself and shake my head. It was just too much fun. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, The Word Changers is about a girl who falls into the pages of a book. She spends almost the entire remainder of the story within that book (a fairy tale, in fact). Yes, with my dry sense of humor I found it incredibly droll to think about that.

But then I reached the part about the Author.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I had it all planned out. I knew the theme I was aiming for. I knew the meaning I wanted to hide within the Hand writing using quill penpages of my story, the meaning that the Author would be a part of. I knew what I was in for. Or so I thought.

Writing about the Author made me start asking my own author-self some questions. And as I wrote the dialogue between the Author and some of his characters within my book, I began to see something happening that I hadn’t planned on at all.

Not, as you might imagine, a change within my story. But a change within myself.

Because, as an author myself, I do care about my characters. I do want what’s best for them. But many times, in order for them to have what’s best, I have to watch them go through some heartache and pain. If I take control of them and force them into roles, put them in just the situations I want them to be in, like chess pieces in a game, what would that say about me? My poor characters would never learn a thing. And they would end their stories just as they began them. Selfish, heart-sore, bitter and broken. Would my love for my characters be truly shown if I allowed that to happen?

This led me, of course, to look at the way God handles us, his “characters.” He allows us to see heartache and pain. We wonder why He doesn’t lift a finger to help us. But His help is often different than the help we demand of Him. It comes in a form that is subtle, sometimes invisible … many times unexpected.

*Spoiler Alert*

In The Word Changers, Posy is imprisoned. While in her cell, she cries out angrily to the Author. He is the one who wrote the story she’s stuck within, isn’t he? Why can’t he change her story, release her from prison? It would be so simple … he would only need to change a few of the story’s words, wouldn’t he? Posy wants the prison doors to be opened for her. She wants to walk straight out of her cell.

Instead, the Author shines down on her in the form of the moon. Gently, silently. And that single ray of moonlight shining into her prison cell is his answer. At first Posy doesn’t see it. Then she realizes she has to work with what she’s given. Her door isn’t thrown open, as she wished. But the shaft of moonlight shows her the way to escape. It’s a painful and difficult escape, but an escape just open bookthe same.

*Spoiler Alert End*

So writing The Word Changers helped me understand God a little better. It made me focus on His eternal intent for me, as opposed to my own petty every-day goals and desires. It made me understand that sometimes the difficult way can be the best way – the way that helps me to grow and learn and become more closely the person God wants me to be. Writing about the Author in my story forced me, for just a small minute, to enter into God’s way of looking at things. And what a different and infinitely superior way of looking at things that is!

That’s just a small part of what God has done for me through the act and process of writing for His glory. I can only hope that you, my readers, will get half the blessing out of reading my book as I did in writing it.

Introducing the Cast of Characters

Today I’d like to introduce you to some of the characters from The Word Changers. All of these people, save one, are unique in that they portray Characters within characters.

Confused? Yeah, probably!

Let me explain.

Within The Word Changers is another book – a strange, dark fairy tale that Posy, our heroine, finds in her poky hometown library. It’s The Book: the one she falls into and spends the rest of the story within, the one she ends up traveling through and ultimately changing the words to … And within that fairy tale lies the rest of the cast of characters.

So without further ado, here is the lineup of each Character, including a bit about him or her, and even a few pictures to portray what some of them look like (in my head, at least!).

____________

Posy (Emma Watson)

Emma Watson makes a wonderful Posy. She has the perfect combination of vulnerability, innocence, strength and softness.

Posy: Uncertain of her worth, unsure of her path, she stumbles into something that seems like a dream, but ends up being more like a nightmare. A runaway princess, a forgotten Author … Posy has many things to find. But none as important as finding herself.

Kyran (Ben Barnes)

Dark hair, dark eyes, dark mood … Ben Barnes fits Kyran so well!

Prince Kyran: Haughty and condescending, the prince of the Kingdom is bored with his role in it, and fed up with his parents’ cruelty and manipulation. When he agrees to accompany Posy on her quest beyond the Borders of the Plot, he little realizes the life-changing journey that awaits him.

Falak:  Chief advisor to the king. Head of the council of owls. Oh, and he happens to be an owl himself. He is sharp, intelligent, and not quite all he seems …

Melanthius (John Rhys Davies)4

John Rhys-Davies. Imposing, heavy-browed, striking … in short, King Melathius.

King Melanthius:  Ruler of the Kingdom, Keeper of the Plot. But Melanthius has gone a step too far – he not only keeps the Plot, he now fully controls it along with all its characters. He has usurped the job that only the Author of the story has a right to.

Queen Valanor:  Cold, clever and beautiful. Her husband the king may rule the Kingdom, but she rules him. …At least, she thinks she does.

Evanthe1

Delicate but determined. Give this young model lavender eyes and she’s Princess Evanthe.

Princess Evanthe: She saw the truth of the wrong that was happening in the Kingdom and did the one thing she thought would remedy it … she ran away. She went into hiding far beyond the Borders of the Plot, where her brother Kyran and his companion Posy go to seek her.

The Mist:  A voice … a feeling … a whisper. The Mist is kept under tight control by King Melanthius, and its voice can’t be heard by many these days, at least for any purpose but petty information. Yet it has a power all its own, and a role much bigger than anyone dreams of.

Alvar:  A “common” character, with no large part in the Plot. All the same, he has a strong belief in every character’s importance, and he opposes the king openly – something that’s never been done. He even has plans for forming an army of his own to fight for freedom.

Faxon

Reader Hannah Williams sketched this fabulous picture of Faxon after reading The Word Changers

Faxon: Protector of the Glade. He is the leader of the exiled council of centaurs who were in power before the council of owls. He now lives in the Wild Land beyond the Plot as leader of a rogue centaur army. He helps Posy and Kyran in their search for the dark place they believe Princess Evanthe to be hiding.

Falak2

Falak usually has a particular glint in those uncanny orange eyes

Seraphine, Limnoreia, and Adamaris:  A trio of exquisite mermaid sisters who have been wronged by the King Melanthius and banished from the Plot. They live in an underwater palace full of secrets and darkness. They have a choice – seek revenge for their own sakes, or join Kyran and Posy to fight in the name of justice.

The Wild Folk:  These are the folk native to the Wild Land. They are truly natural creatures who have always lived beyond the Borders of the Plot, and whom have never been a part of the book at all. They are so bonded with the Wild Land forest that they even look like a part of it. They are peaceful and quiet by nature, yet when the King threatens their land with invasion, many of them decide action must be taken.

The Author:  He wrote the story, yes, but his characters haven’t heard from him in centuries. They have even begun to believe he never existed at all, and is only a myth kept alive in tales. But some still believe he lurks somewhere beyond the Borders of the Plot, waiting to lay claim to his story once again.

____________

Like getting inside information on characters and upcoming books? Sign up for my newsletter to get more exclusive details.

newsletter button

Dogs in Literature and a New Family Pet

After years of half-hearted contemplation, months of a-bit-more-serious contemplation, and hours of rather-serious contemplation … I finally, in my usual fashion, threw all contemplation to the wind and said, “Let’s just go for it!” Two hours later my husband came home with this little bundle:

IMG_0655

And our lives were turned up-side-down.

Okay, okay – so it was only yesterday that we got the puppy, and there hasn’t been much of a chance for up-side-down types of things to ensue … but let’s just say I can foresee that our lives will be turned up-side-down. Especially after a night of two-hour snatches of sleep due to the whining and scratching and occasional sad howl coming from the other side of the baby gate … and the little surprises he left in the corner for me today … and the fact that no toy can tempt him if a pile of clean laundry or a Kleenex box is nearby …

Being who I am, when it came time to name the puppy, I went straight to my favorite books – characters, pets, places, it didn’t matter. I wanted a pet name that would remind me of a world that means a lot to me. So without further ado, here are some of the names we considered, and their literary origins.

Firstly there’s Argos. That’s the name my husband wanted for our little squirmer (notice I say wanted … my son used his right of veto for this one). Supposedly one of the first dogs to be named in Western literature, Argos belonged to Odysseus. His name is synonymous with faithfulness and fidelity. That’s because he waited 20 years for his master to return, and when Odysseus finally did turn up, Argos was the one who recognized him first.

I’ll admit it – I love the direwolves from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. They’re not dogs (exactly), but I say they count. Who wouldn’t want to have a wolf for a pet? No? Is that just me, then? Ghost, Grey Wind, Summer … I seriously considered some of these names for our new pup. But while we love him dearly already, I’m just not sure he’d do the name of direwolf justice 🙂

AM.0070-24     vs.    IMG_0652

Next: Sirius Black. Overused? Probably. Do I love it anyway? Yep. And our puppy is black (well, mostly)! Too bad my son vetoed it, too (did I mention he had unlimited vetoes?!).

Emily Bronte (the author of Wuthering Heights) had a dog named Keeper. I read about that in her biography years ago, and have kept the name in mind since. I love the Bronte sisters, plus the name was catchy – so why not? Then when I married my husband, who is a soccer player, and I learned that a goalie is also called the “keeper” – I thought it was absolutely meant to be! When I mentioned Keeper as a possible name for our new puppy, my husband himself shot it down. So much for that.

Barring the name of Emily Bronte’s real-life dog, I ventured to suggest the name of her sister Charlotte’s fictional dog, who happens to be in one of my favorite books, Jane Eyre. Pilot is the dog’s name – Mr. Rochester’s large, faithful companion. In the novel, Jane describes Pilot as being black and white (perfect!). She first sees him against the backdrop of the wild and windswept moor where she also meets Mr. Rochester for the first time. How’s that for a name that conjures up whimsical literary images? I loved it.

Guess what? So did my son!

And since it’s probably fairly obvious to you that his vote was really the only one that counted all along …. may I introduce to you our new family member:  Pilot.

IMG_0665

Pilot joins a family of two hamsters named Happy and Sleepy (named for Snow White’s dwarves, of course!), a rather prissy cat named Princess Peach (you guessed it … Nintendo), and two hermit crabs named Hermie and Crabby (those guys were named on a day when creativity was on a bit of a hiatus …).

Did you have fun finding creative names for your pets? I’d love to know what they are!