Carry the Light

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Dorothy, Betsy, Trot, Ozma

Lucy, Aravis, Jill

Vesper, Eilonwy, Joy-in-the-Dance, Mickle

Eowyn, Arwen, Galadriel

Leia, Mirax, Mara, Iella, Tyria

Janeway, Torres, Seven, Kes

Zoe

Ista, Iselle, Betriz

Cordelia, Elena, Ekaterin, Tej

Rey

Jyn

In order of when I met them, the ladies of speculative fiction who were formative and transformative to my life, from childhood on to now. They were (and are) friends and companions along the road.

Carrie Fisher brought one of the best of them to life. I’m so sorry she’s gone, and so thankful for what she did in creating Leia. She was much more than Leia, of course–her courage, her steadfastness, her honesty, her humor, her fight, her humanness are all what made her a shining light to all people, whether they loved Star Wars or not. Yet much of that very same personality leaked into Leia, and even as other authors and voice actors and the like developed the character further, Carrie Fisher provided the template.

And she is truly immortal for it. When we look at Leia, we see not only a space princess, but a woman who suffered deeply and loved hugely and kept the faith through it all. We see Carrie. And we pick up the torch and carry it for her. We keep it going.

We create characters of our own to honor her legacy. We speak out against injustice. We make good art. We don’t give way to the darkness. We stand with those who are oppressed. We keep loving even when the entire galaxy tells us to quit. We get angry when we need to. We scorn evil. We bear the light.

That’s what all those ladies at the top of this post taught me, in one way or another. And that’s what Carrie Fisher, very much not a fictional person, did as well.

Thank you, Carrie. We won’t let you down. We’ll all carry a piece of Leia in our hearts, and we’ll teach future generations to do the same.

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No, You Move

By now, everyone has heard about the mess Marvel is trying to make of Captain America, right? They’re not exactly being secretive about it. A cynical person might even suspect this is a move driven not by artistic standards but by an attempt to whip up interest and sell more comics.

I haven’t read the comic in question, but in case you haven’t seen the reports all over the internet, [SPOILERS], they have written it as canon that Cap is and has been secretly working for Hydra all along.

I’m just going to come right out and say it: This is not true.

Oh, it may be real. They may be really turning Steve Rogers, Captain America, Cap, into a despicable, worthless excuse for a human being, undoing all the good he’s ever done and ever stood for.

But it’s not true.

You can make up all the lies you want about Steve Rogers and call them canon and sell them and make millions of dollars off of them and even make it so nobody else can legally tell any other story about him—but you can’t make it true.

I don’t care if Steve Rogers is a fictional character. He’s true. Madeleine L’Engle said in her book Walking on Water: “Hamlet is. When the play has been read, when the curtain goes down on the performance, Hamlet still is. He is, in all his ambivalence, as real as Byron; or as the man who cried out, Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief! or as Ivan Karamazov.” There are certain characters, certain stories, that transcend their creator and become true by the virtue of the truth they represent. Steve Rogers is one of them.

I have long held that superheroes are America’s mythology. Great Britain has King Arthur, Robin Hood, St George—we have Captain America, Ironman, Wonder Woman, Superman. They are part of our mythos, they are the stories we tell as we try to shape and make sense of our culture. They both represent who we are and give us something greater to hold on to. Nobody embodies this more than Captain America. Heck, it’s even in his name. (Subtlety: not exactly our strong point, as a culture.)

The difference is, of course, that no matter how many different versions of the King Arthur story people tell, no matter how they change it, no matter how many people portray Arthur as a bad guy, the heart of the legend remains the same. It belongs to the culture, free to be interpreted however people need to interpret it at any given time. King Arthur, whether he was a historical character or not, is true. The idea of a post-Roman, Celtic Arthur fighting for the light in a time of widespread darkness is one that has resonated with me ever since reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. Don’t ever try to tell me he isn’t true. Was he real? Irrelevant.

The difference, of course, is that King Arthur belongs to all of us. Mostly to the Brits, of course, but they are gracious enough to share him with the world. Steve Rogers technically belongs to Marvel. Which means they are free to interpret his character however they want, and even destroy him, and the rest of us are helpless.

Oh, but we aren’t. Because I don’t care who owns the copyright on Steve Rogers, he belongs to us all just as much as Arthur does. Captain America—who can own someone like that? Who can own an ideal? Who can own a myth? Legally, sure. But Cap’s got nothing to do with copyrights and legalities. He transcends that.

So go ahead, Marvel, and say what you want to about Captain America. But you’re wrong, and the story you are telling is wrong, no matter how you may try to spin it later. HydraCap? Never. That’s a cheap move for shock value, and it’s a vile lie. Steve Rogers stands outside your grubby little hands, and is above whatever canon you create for him. Cap belongs to us, to all of us, and we aren’t going to let you try to tear him down. He’ll still be representing the ideals we hold so dear long after you are gone and forgotten. Because he’s true.

Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world—No, you move. (Steve Rogers, Amazing Spider-Man #537)

CHECKMATE!

My good friend A. M. Offenwanger published her third book yesterday! I got to beta read it, and loved it even in its “raw” form; I have a bit of a cold today so I spent all morning curled up on the couch under a blanket reading the published version, and I loved it even more. If you enjoy light fantasy, with close-knit families and warm friendships, where the villains don’t have glowing red eyes and black cloaks and are all the more nasty for their everyday qualities, where a hero doesn’t need a magical sword, just a big heart and courage to do the right thing no matter how big or small … if you enjoy all of that, check out Checkmate and the rest of the Septimus Series!

amo vitam

Aaaaaand – HERE IT IS!! Please welcome:

CHECKMATE!!

Toddle on over to the page, where you can choose from a profusion of links from which to get your very own e- or p-(paper)copy of the newest instalment of the Septimus Series.

Here’s what you’ll find under the snazzy cover:

Rhitha’s life is miserable – but then she meets Bina.

Rhitha’s sister has been bullying her all her life, for no reason that Rhitha can see. But when they move to Ruph, there is a new friend in Rhitha’s life: with the help of Bina and her unique powers Rhitha begins to see that there might be more going on in her family than meets the eye. There is a secret nobody suspected…
Things come to a head between Rhitha and her sister in a clash that draws in everyone around them. Are the peculiar forces at play in…

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Greetings and Salutations

Hello! I am here! Did you think I had dropped off the face of the earth? Or the blogging-earth, anyway? (Is that even a thing? Is that like Middle-earth? … sorry, I just finished re-reading the LOTR trilogy, so my mind is a little full of elves, dwarves, Rangers, hobbits, orcs, and Ents.)

I learned something about myself this past year, which is that I am really not a great blog-writer. Non-fiction tends to not be my niche anyway, and blogging, where you have to combine wit and wisdom in a short, snappy post which both enlightens and entertains … I can work at it, or I can accept that it’s not really my preferred area of writing, and spend more time on fiction, which IS.

But I don’t want to never blog, either – much as I enjoy interacting with people on FB and Twitter, blogging is its own unique community which I don’t want to entirely lose – so my hope is to still pop into this ol’ blog once in a while and touch base with you all.

So, once again, hello! How are all of you? We have started the third of Carl’s spring semesters here at grad school (we find ourselves measuring all our time by his school right now), which means it is our second-to-last, and wow. I realized yesterday that this summer will be our last full summer on the North Shore, which is an even bigger WOW. We are keeping busy with homeschool (love our Classical Conversations homeschool co-op we joined this past fall!), ballet and gymnastics (for the kids), trying to stay healthy (Carl and me), being friend- and community-minded (all of us), and for me, of course, writing.

Honestly, I haven’t done much writing since publishing From the Shadows in December. This is not so much of a slump as it just happened – I published the book, we jumped right into Christmas happenings, then we traveled to visit family, then we came back just in time to get back into CC, ballet, and gymnastics, and then Carl’s semester started. It’s been BUSY. But I’m starting to ease back into things, and am working on Magic Most Deadly’s sequel right now. I recently read a poorly-constructed detective novel with a friend, and breaking down the faults in that made me realize I was committing many of those in this book, so that was good (to realize this before I presented it to the world), and has created a lot more work for me. Which is fine! There’s no point in even starting a book if you aren’t willing to work with everything you’ve got to make it as good as you can.

In other exciting news – well, exciting for me – I’ll be making my first “author appearance” in one month. On March 2nd, at 7:00 pm, I’ll be giving a talk at the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library in Hamilton, MA, on the importance of stories and speculative fiction, and doing a reading from From the Shadows, followed by a Q&A session. It should be fun! I’m looking forward to it (and am also wicked nervous). If you happen to be in the area that evening, you should come check it out!

Meanwhile, it is February 1 and feels like May 1 outside, so I think I shall wrap up this update and make sure all our windows are open. Happy February, friends!

From the Shadows … Here!

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Whisked from her troubled, solitary life to a spaceship centuries in the future, widowed folk musician Riss Waldon must first figure out how she got there, and then if it’s possible to get home. Before long, she is visiting strange and deadly planets and meeting new alien races, and forming friendships with the crew. Even as they strive to discover a way for her to return, she wonders if it possible to step out of the shadows of her past life and stay here. But when the well-being of the entire crew rests on her shoulders, she isn’t sure she’s up to the task. What if she fails them? All she can do is try …

It is book release day! My second novel, and in some ways this is even more exciting than the first one. Certainly less nerve-wracking.

From the Shadows started as a fun “what-if” … what if an ordinary person from this world got swept up onto a spaceship centuries in the future? What is it wasn’t a matter of being a Chosen One or Super Special, but this person just had to adapt and find a place? How would that play out? What would it look like? How would she (this character was “she” by this point) have even gotten there, if there wasn’t some Master Plan Behind It?

From such seeds is a story grown.

First it was a novella, with a surprisingly poignant turn, as Riss, my main character, struggled with her sense of self-worth. It wasn’t all angst, all the time, but the poignancy surprised me (wait, when did this become the theme? When did this story develop a theme anyway?). I was pleased with how it turned out, and sent it to my beta readers and contacted Amanda at Fly Casual for a cover, thinking it would be a quick, easy publish and then I could go back to working on my “real” books, Rivers Wide and Magic in Disguise.

Heh. Not all, but enough of the beta readers sent it back saying “This needs to be a novel! What you have here is a good start, but you need to flesh it out more, you can’t just leave Riss half developed like this, as well as all the other characters.”

Nah, said I, this was just for fun! I have real books that need my attention, I can’t turn this into a novel. It will be fine as a novella.

A couple weeks later, I found myself sitting down and working at making it a novel. About a year after that, I finally sent the finished product – a short novel at about 65,000 words – to my editor. And now here it is, published and ready for the world.

I hope you enjoy it. I really, really loved creating it. The characters, the world, the relationships, everything. It’s a story very dear to my heart, and I am delighted to be able to offer it to you, my friends and readers.

From the Shadows is available in paperback and Kindle edition on Amazon, and in ebook form through Smashwords and Barnes & Noble. Kobo and iBooks will follow shortly – I’ll update this post with links as they go live.

Happy reading, my friends!

No NaNoWriMo For Me

I had thought about doing NaNoWriMo this year – even after swearing I wouldn’t. I liked the idea of joining with other writers, of pushing myself to get a set amount of words written/edited. In the end, though, I didn’t commit – this month, we have Joy’s 8th birthday (yesterday); Carl’s mother’s birthday (in deference to her, I won’t mention which one); Carl traveling for a scholarly conference, leaving me the sole responsible adult for several days; Thanksgiving; and of course, any handmade Christmas gifts have to get started now.

November is never a great writing month for me.

I am trying to not let myself be lured away from the edits I am properly doing right now, and the short stories I would like to finish before the end of the year, to start a full-length sequel to From the Shadows. I have the faintest glimmer of an idea for it, which properly should be left to sit and develop before any writing ever happens (even if I didn’t have other projects to finish, WHICH I DO), but of course I get excited and want to start writing RIGHT NOW.

Discipline and self-control, right?

Sigh. Being responsible – even being responsible to the story itself by not rushing it, not to mention being responsible to the other stories I have begun and must not leave half done – is hard.

And don’t even get me started on how hard it is to be a responsible homeschool mom when I want to spend school hours writing instead …

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me Cry

I’ve never done a Top Ten Tuesday post before, but I saw the topic for this week and couldn’t resist. Because who can pass on a chance to share the books that have moved them deeply over the years?

I’m not really much of a crier, so some of these are more along the lines of “stirred deep emotion that would have showed itself in tears were that my preferred method for expressing emotion.” Just so you know.

1. Ultraviolet, RJ Anderson. I knew I loved the characters and the story a short way into this book. I didn’t expect the moment of breathless poignancy and beauty (and no, I’m not going to spoil it for you by describing it) near the end. Suffice to say it took this book from a great read to a WOW read.

2. Till We Have Faces, CS Lewis. I love Narnia with all my heart. But it’s Till We Have Faces that stirred my soul, even when I read it the first time and didn’t have a clue what Lewis was trying to convey. I knew it was important, and powerful, and meaningful, at least.

3. A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L’Engle. This one really did have me in genuine tears. I was in the grip of depression, struggling to break free, with a toddler and a baby dependent on me for everything, a husband with his own struggles and not able to help, no family or friends around to give me a hand up, and a God who was silent toward me for the first time in my life. I read this book and sobbed. It hurt. But it was a hurt laced through with hope, and it wasn’t long after reading it that my husband and I began our arduous journey, together, toward healing and love.

4. The Blue Castle, LM Montgomery. I read this one for the first time in the first few months of marriage – a time that, though I didn’t know it then, was planting the seeds of the depression I mentioned above. Lonely, confused about what a healthy marriage was, a husband working long, hard hours, getting no sleep due to horrible neighbors … The Blue Castle showed me a woman escaping from an intolerable life, and it was both inspiring and painful.

5. Emily of Deep Valley, Maud Hart Lovelace. I’ve spoken before about what Emily means to me. I don’t think I can really top that post in one short paragraph here.

6. Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein. Oh, this book gutted me. I can’t talk about it without spoiling the entire thing, but if you’ve read it, even if it didn’t touch you the way it did me, you’ll understand why.

7. Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein. CNV hit me because of the characters. RUF left me shaken because I knew that the very worst parts of the story were not fiction, but truth, and not even the darkest parts of that truth. WWII was such a dark time in humanity’s history – and yet even in that dark period, hope, love, and faith shone through, and Wein portrayed both the horror and the hope beautifully. A tremendously important read for anyone, I think, even if the ending did fall flat for me personally.

8. The Summer of the Grandmother, Madeleine L’Engle. My grandmother died after twelve years of diagnosed Alzheimer’s less than a year before I tried to read this book. I couldn’t get through it. I burst into tears somewhere in the first chapter, and decided I needed to wait until a bit more time had passed before I gave it another try. My own emotions were still too raw.

9. The Rogue Crew, Brian Jacques. OK, this one is almost cheating, because it’s been sitting on my shelf since it was published and I still haven’t read it. But I want to cry every time I look at it, all right? I don’t know if I’ll ever fully recover from Jacques’ death, and if I read his final book it will be like saying goodbye to Redwall forever, and I can’t do that.

10. The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, Lloyd Alexander. Another author whose death devastated me. This book I have read, though only once, and I sniffled through the entire thing. There’s something incredibly poignant about a book which the author knows is his/her final work, and while Carlo Chuchio isn’t Lloyd’s best, it still has all the factors that made his work great, and oh my gosh, I miss him.

So there you have it, my first entry into Top Ten Tuesdays. And now that I’ve stripped my soul bare for you all, I’m going to go make myself a nice soothing cup of tea and read something very, very light and comforting. A nice murder mystery by Agatha Christie, perhaps …?