Monday, November 3, 2014


They spoke to me of stage fright--
that mouth-drying paralytic, that bane
of the would-be thespian.
"Don't drop lines. And if you forget,
just remember we all forget sometimes.
Just keep moving."

But it's not stage fright in my belly.
That windstorm of butterflies is composed of
other emotions entirely: impatience predominant,
the minutes until the manager calls "places!" ticking
the minutes until the lights come up and I launch into
the speeches I've learned for two months, until
we move in the dance of theater, bringing another world,
another era,
to life for our living audience, who is taking far too long to sit.
And other emotions: eagerness, a tinge of fear--
I've never done this before. I don't think I'll mess up, but
what if?
Jitters, caused partly by my terrified analysis of my own state:
tell me I won't freeze up when the lights come up.

And then the magic word: "Places!"
Pitch dark, save for the glow-in-the-dark X taped to my first mark.
I step to it, listening to my fellow actors rustle to their own places,
still waiting, running through the opening lines in my head now.
And then

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Unseen Ripples

We never really know what God is planning. We can always look back later and say, "Oh, that's what He was up to!" But usually, at the time, we stumble along in confusion, clinging to our Bibles and His promises, somewhere between hope and faith that He really does know what He's doing.

That is not to say I don't trust God. But there are days--admit it!--when I say, "I just don't see how this is to Your glory."

And then there are other days when you think you see His purpose, and your prayers are, "Lord, this is what You want, yes? Let me obey Your will, let me do what will please You...but I'm pretty sure this is it!"

I did a play recently, to help out a friend. Of the six other people in the theater for the play, one was a Christian. The director and one of the actors is Jewish, the other three seem to be mostly and cheerfully Heathen. And they all cursed like sailors, except for us two Christians. Nice people, pleasant to work with, not uptight, and capable of reining in the swearing (which they did when my little sister dropped by the theater). But they really don't believe in God.

I met the director, Jackie, last March when I did my first play. I ran into her again when I assisted with "Fiddler on the Roof" and she came in to advise the cast on some Jewish traditions. The second night she was at the theater, she and I and four others hung out for a few hours and discussed religious differences. At the end of the evening, I asked if she believed Christ was the Messiah. No, she said. The Messiah is prophesied to bring peace, and there've been an awful lot of wars since Jesus's time!

Either that night or after I joined the cast of the other play, I asked how literally she took Genesis, and then we debated evolution versus creationism. She emailed me, I emailed back, and we've been at it off and on for about a month now. (It's only half a dozen emails because I'm a lazy butt.) So far, our debates remain very friendly and inconclusive. We're both articulate people, both convinced of what we believe, and both willing to say, "We differ, but you're still a nice person."

Here's where the ripple comes in. Last night, the lead of our play asked how the debate was going. And it hit me that they're watching. I knew before--he's asked before and it's something of a joke among the cast. But last night, it occurred to me that our discussion might very well be repeated to others. It occurred to me how much this debate could matter. And I think it's about time to move from squabbling over scientific facts, which can be interpreted myriad ways, to spiritual topics.

I disagree with evolution because it reduces man to a clever animal, whereas creationism sets him as regent over creation, created in the image of God, and a soul destined for eternity. I doubt, too, that evolution adequately addresses the problems of evil and sin. But mostly, I believe that I have found truth, that the Bible is to be taken literally, that God tells no lies and has told us what we need to know about the state of the world, our souls, and our eternal destination.

I hope I can convey that to her.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I want a fandom house.

I want to be the crazy aunt with a slide from the second story to the first. The aunt whose front door is round and painted green and has a gold doorknob in the exact middle. Whose wardrobe has a secret panel leading to the playroom, whose blue door opens into a hallway, whose walls are painted with the maps of fantasy worlds. I want to be that crazy lady with tiny statues hidden in the garden, glass unicorns in the windows, fairy houses in the yard. I want a room under the staircase, with the first chapter of Harry Potter written on the wall. I want a room with armor and weapons covering one wall, a closet filled with fancy dress, a second wall covered with LEGO so they can build off it, a third wall that is nothing but window, and a fourth wall with trees painted on it.

I want a gigantic house with many, many secret passages and a huge pool with a waterfall and hanging seats and ten acres covered with trees and with a private brook that has no less than three bridges. It needs a log bridge, stepping stones, and a classic arched bridge.

I don't think this is a particularly realistic wish list. But it needs to be written out. Because that house? That house would be the most magical place to visit. To live in. To hold tea parties and duels and stay up late watching Disney and reading books.

Realistically, I'll wind up in a tiny apartment, with beige walls and decent dish ware. Realistically, any project like a fandom house would require my (presumed future) husband's agreement.

But unrealistically...among the mental stars and galaxies of my imagination...I have a giant house.

Realistically, practically, right now, I can create minor fandom pockets. I am going to paint the Tree of Gondor on my bedroom wall. I will collect all fantasy books that steal my heart. I will teach my niece and nephews to recognize a TARDIS by sight, and I will read to them the Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. And I will dream of a giant house.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Overhauls and Inspirations

Once in a while, I'll read author interviews on blogs, in magazines, on random websites. And I've noticed that often the interviewer asks who or what influences the author. The most common response is to rattle off the names of a few books and close family or friends. Nothing wrong with that, for sure.

But aren't we influenced by a lot more than that?

I love dashing, snarky heroes with a bittersweet streak. For books that shape those preferences, I can point to the Scarlet Pimpernel (always dashing, wry, brilliant!); The Prisoner of Zenda (Rudolf Rassendyll. I was IN LOVE.); Captain Blood and Scaramouche.

But how about movies? Iron Man, Indiana Jones, Han Solo, James T. Kirk, just discovered Jack Reacher. (Cheesy, but hilarious.) TV shows? Where would I be without Sherlock? Detective Kennex of "Almost Human" is becoming a favorite; the Doctor, Captain Hook from Once Upon A Time.
   Childhood movies! I loved Disney! Basil of Baker Street, Prince Philip, Bernard from The Rescuers...

All of this feeds into my dearly beloved Bard. I wrote those stories...what, five years ago? Since writing them, my style and my knowledge of writing have matured. (Plus I joined a fantastic critique group!) Five years down the road, I still like the characters, the basic story line is still fun. But it could be so much better.

Here's the thing: been there, done that. Yes, the brilliant, lazy, foppish Bard is my favorite hero. Yes, the princess is snappy, cute, and feminine all at once. (Yes, I lack any modesty whatever.) But I've already written that story, and it's hard to find a spark of interest for something that's been done. Besides which, I've been afraid that if I rewrote it, it would either be too cutesy and lack any soul, or it would be too dramatic and lose the quirky fun of the first draft.

Until, that is, I watched Frozen.

For a little while now, I've joked that I could write a Disney movie. That thought came back while I watched Frozen. I want to write a Disney movie! They're magical, they're musical, they're fun, kids love them, they're lovely to look at....what's not to like?
  What do Disney movies have that the Bard stories don't? We both have a spunky heroine, a cool hero, a dastardly villain, a love story...Magic. I don't have magic. There are three faeries, but they don't do anything magical.

So that sent me down a rabbit trail, thinking of magical things, and I came up with a Shiny New Idea. What if the Bard's storytelling conjures illusions? images of what he speaks of? And the more emotionally invested he becomes in his story, the more realistic it becomes, until he can actually talk something into existence. (That's definitely influenced by Cornelia Funke's "Inkheart", but I think the stories are distinct enough for it to work.) And if he's struggling with his love for the princess--his social superior--that adds an interesting emotional side.

I also think I could add depth by examining the question "What is true love? How is it practically demonstrated?"

I'm in the middle of a writing project, so this isn't anything anytime soon. And even if I get it written, the likelihood of a story actually winding up anywhere past the blogosphere is fraught with what-ifs and bet-nots. But it's a fun dream, and I think it's sparked a fun project. would these powers influence reality?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Idealism, Realism, and Relationships

I read a post today titled "67 Things I wish I had known at 18." It's 67 short, pithy sayings, ranging from "take your makeup off before bed" to "laugh till you cry, cry till you laugh." Most of it's fairly trite, decent advice of the "inspirational life" vein, but two snippets stood out to me.

The first was "You are destined to be more than just someone’s wife. Act like it."

The second was "There is a man out there who will not make you cry. Wait for him." 

On the one hand, I agree that women are more than accessories for their men. I agree that giving your heart to a man who is unworthy and will only break is a bad idea. But--and maybe I'm over-thinking this--there's nothing wrong with being "just" a wife, and being brought to tears is not always bad.

I think with the first statement, I'm reacting as much to hyper-feminism as to the actual statement, to the women who fight against the idea of keeping house, mothering, and being a wife as an end in itself. To those women who want to balance career and family, more power to you! That's a very difficult balance, and I applaud your work. 
    However there's nothing wrong with being content as "just a wife". My mother is very very proud to be Mrs. Roy. She has a degree in business, she has visions and ideas that far transcend the domestic uses she puts them to. But she's content to use her architectural ideas to design beautiful additions to her home, to use her business skills to manage the money my father earns, to use her teaching abilities to school her children at home. She uses her wisdom outside the home as a counselor, she offers her talents to anyone who asks advice, but her career is her home and her family. From a worldly perspective, she's "just a wife". 

From mine, she is the woman of Proverbs 31, looking to the ways of her household, considering and buying fields, delighting her husband. She is the woman whose husband and children praise her in the gates.(And that, by the way, means praising her publicly. For the Israelites, the city gates was where people met to discuss important decisions and politics.)

For the second statement, this is where my innate idealism meets my hard-learned realism. I love the idea of a relationship that never makes me cry. When my former boyfriend and I were dating, his dad advised me that in any relationship, there comes a point at which one or both parties question whether they want this relationship. Sometimes the question grows so strong, the questioner walks away from the relationship. At that point, either they split up, or the other person pursues them and they grow back together stronger than before.

I fought that idea so desperately for several weeks. If you're perfect for each other, if you're happy together, why would you question it?? At the time, I was pretty twitter-pated, and he pursued me with flattering diligence. Why would we question the relationship to the point of one of us walking away?

After much soul-searching, many conversations with friends and family, and many frustrated prayers, I realized something: saying we'll never question the relationship is prideful. Not to mention naive. We are sinful human beings; we are going to upset each other. We are going to wonder "Can I possibly spend fifty odd years with this person, raising children together and growing old together?" To believe otherwise is to deny the reality of our sin nature and to set ourselves up for heartbreak. Even the best and kindest man on earth will not be able to make me perfectly happy all of the time. Only God is perfect, and only God can promise me eternal joy.

And on another note, are tears always bad? I think not. I have cried over my sins. I have cried over my siblings' misdoings. I have wept when forced to confront difficult truths. (I've also cried when I was tired, hungry, grumpy, or when I stubbed my toe, but that's a different story.) The question is not "will my future spouse never make me cry?" but "will my future spouse dry my tears with Biblical truth and Biblical love?"

Anyway. Here's the links to the articles that have sparked all this:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On Voice

I read part of a post by another author about how she struggled to find her voice. She referred to it as "knowing which character to listen to", which strikes me as a pretty good description. 

Voice is interesting to define. I guess you can call it your signature way of writing, your MO that sets your story apart from others'. Isaac Asimov, sci-fi writer, wrote a lot of stories that hinged on logic, ran short on description, usually sci-fi stories and usually with a hint of mystery and a neat twist. Diana Wynne Jones writes character-driven fantasy that almost seems to have no particular plot until everything comes together at the end. Terry Pratchett writes hilarious parodic fantasy that frequently throws a philosophical question into the heart of the story. 

I've never worried a whole lot about voice. For one thing, I didn't know it existed for quite some time, and ignorance was busy bliss. For another, I was busy figuring out plots and making the main character more interesting than the sidekick, and keeping him alive, and borrowing from whatever author I was currently reading.

Nowadays, I know about voice. I know it does, in fact, matter. I know it impacts plots and main characters and influences and all that jazz. So what would I consider my signature style?

I've been thinking about some of the stories I wrote when I was younger. I had two kinds, mostly: the comedy story that veered into drama, and the drama that veered into comedy. My heroes are all snarky, quick-talking, ironic, and typically have bad things happen to them. Hubris is usually involved. Bad guys tend to be very bad. Love interests are fair, feminine, and pretty decently capable. (You can't have a character who stands around wringing her hands...or his, for that matter. You just can't. Unless they die quickly and amusingly.)

Here's the thing: voice needs to transcend character types and story preferences. One of these days, I will write a story (two stories!) about a quiet guy who's bad at comebacks. A girl who's a tomboy. I'm already working on a quasi-sympathetic villain. 

But in the meantime? I can have a snarky, ironic, languid hero, who's terribly posh and can't be bothered to take fencing lessons. I can have a snarky, ironic, active hero, who kind of hates the world and himself and doesn't want to admit he's lonely. I can have a busy, feisty, plain heroine, who will SLAP you for wringing your hands uselessly, and a feisty, somewhat silly, girly heroine who also likes sword-fighting. 

And villainous villains. Those guys are still interesting.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


One of the very best things in my life right now is my writing group. And I almost didn't join it.

When Janice Hardy first floated the idea of creating a group for writers to form critique groups, I dithered about joining. I worried about the time commitment, about sharing my story with total strangers, about agreeing to read stories written by people who might not be bothered by things that bothered me. (At the time, I was thinking language and adult content, not grammar. These days, I've discovered grammar is more of a problem...which probably means I'm a grammar nazi in a bad way.) My writing buddy said she was joining, so my dithering tipped into sending Janice an email.

I'm so glad I did. I love the group. I've learned many fantastic things from them, and, like most things involving humans, not just writing. Vanessa has become my personal hero. That poor girl has had her story straight-up trashed. Several times. We've shredded her openings into Garfield's curtains. And every single month, she brings a new opening. A better opening. Her latest had some lines that left me breathless. Poetic, epic fantasy, with a bleak feel to it...and her indomitable spirit shines through.

I actually hadn't meant to bring that up, but Vanessa deserves recognition, so it got mentioned. Anyway.

The mixed blessing of a writing group is that you get multiple people's opinions on your work. And since I like everybody to say, "This is good" before I'll accept it's good, this can get...interesting. I've got one line that three people liked and two people didn't. I like it, and the majority likes it, so I'll probably keep it. But then there's the line that only one person commented on, and he didn't like it. So now what? Do I follow the maxim "murder your darlings"? (The unfortunately phrased maxim?) Delete it because it doesn't seem to be working as designed? Or do I shrug off the criticism and keep on truckin'?

Arrogance versus humility. My own vision versus teachability. How do these balance?

I can't be a pushover and change everything objected to, ever. I am the one writing the story. I am the one who knows what I mean to say.

I can't be a stiff-necked fool and ignore advice I don't like. (Well, I can, but it's a bad idea.)

I've been challenged to come up with solutions for lazy writing, like knocking out a guard with a blackjack. Apparently, that would kill him in real life, which means either he's dead in fake life or I knock him out differently. After quite a long time and talking to people who know how to incapacitate people, I knocked him out differently. This, because of my excellent writing group, who refused to suspend disbelief and let me off with laziness.

And I've been challenged to consider my work with detachment, to weigh the criticism against my inner vision and determine whether my "clever" line is worth keeping.

I still don't know. I dunno, I guess I'll hang onto it for now and see if it passes muster on further edits. For now, I will balance my inner editor and my outer editors on a tightrope over the Niger.

There may be crocodiles below.