A Familiar Melody and other stories

When I get tired of the chill and rain, I can be grateful for the flowers. And that Bellingham has not had tornadoes or floods or tsunamis or earthquakes, or even the blizzard MissPhotographerB said Bozeman got last night.

Still... I'm ready for shorts and sandals and a blanket out on the lawn and gin-and-tonics and barbecue. Warm, peaceful, summery things.

May peace and good weather come to us all, especially to those affected by the recent disasters.

* * *

Maia, having gotten herself made into the bed:

* * *

A few days ago, Lou put Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade into the CD player. The familiar melody sent me deep into my Documents folder—it's always been on the playlist for my half-finished old novel. This week, I'm back in a world of mist-blanketed waters and animals with strange abilities and a mysterious woman with long black hair.

I'm loving it.

* * *

While I'm not much into celebrity—I don't even watch the world for J.K. Rowling news—I will admit to hunting up pictures of the royal wedding this morning. Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge is just so pretty.

* * *

Writers' link of the week: Kiersten White gives us an artistic representation of the writing life. I love every last frame.

But since I'm getting backed up on awesome writing links again, here's a second: Colson Whitehead on why you can't blame the internet for your procrastination. He's right. And a couple of times, he's actually inspired me to hold off on websurfing.

* * *

Music and funny together again: For some reason, I never saw the Muppets perform Bohemian Rhapsody until today. If you're like me, here's your way out of the cave. You're welcome.

* * *

Theoretically, we should have a quiet weekend. According to various weather sites, the sun is also supposed to come out. Oh, how I hope it does. I want to see the sun. And the stars.

Wait—I see a tiny patch of blue...

Happy weekend, everybody!


Currently Reading: The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, Book 5)

The Fires of Heaven (Wheel of Time, #5)Mat, Egwene, even Moiraine sometimes looked at him with eyes that saw the Dragon Reborn, or at least the danger of a man who could channel. The clan chiefs and the Wise Ones saw He Who Comes With the Dawn, the man prophesied to break the Aiel like dried twigs; if they did not fear him, they still sometimes treated him like a red adder they had to live with. Whatever Aviendha saw, it never stopped her being scathing whenever she chose, which was most of the time.

An odd sort of comfort, but compared to the rest, it was a comfort nonetheless.

Author: Robert Jordan

Synopsis: Rand leads the Aiel against Couladin and his followers, who have murdered and destroyed their way from the Aiel Waste to Cairhien. His work is complicated by Darkhounds and Draghkar, plotting from Lanfear and Sammael, Asmodean—from whom Rand is trying to learn safe use of the One Power—and Rand's own touchy relationships with Moiraine’s guidance and the honor of the Maidens of the Spear.

As he works, one of the Forsaken tries to take over the throne of Andor. Mat tries, once again, to escape destiny. And Nynaeve and Elayne join a traveling circus to escape Elayne’s half-brother Galad, the Whitecloaks, and another member of the Forsaken, who wants vengeance against Nynaeve.

Notes: When you’ve spent 3500 five-hundred-word pages with an author, repetitive phrases get more than a little noticeable. I’ll confess to getting a bit bored with Nynaeve’s braid-pulling, the Rand/Perrin/Mat unspoken assumption that each of the others relates better to women, and the number of cultures that dress more risqué than the Women’s Circle in the Two Rivers would ever stand for.

On the other hand, I’m constantly amazed at Jordan’s worldbuilding. He doesn’t miss a note—the characters think in terms of their world and culture, whether it be Rand’s farm and forest idioms or Thom's Game of Houses experience or Aviendha’s ji’e’toh (honor and obligation). I’ve never seen anyone do a better job of this.

The perspective shifts were more comfortable in this book than in the last, but I must say that I hate being in bad characters’ minds. Hate it. Padan Fain, in particular, makes my skin crawl. There are arguments for the value of showing that perspective, but I have a strong visceral reaction to sharing the mind of anyone who celebrates evil.

As for the good characters, I’m chalking up Egwene’s concern over Rand’s arrogance to unreliable narration. I just didn’t see him as arrogant. Maybe I’m biased because I get to share his mind, but he seems to me to be doing the best he can given his circumstances.

Nynaeve was a lot of fun in this book. I got a kick out of her circus experiences, and found her troubles with Birgitte sympathetic and fascinating.

I’m also interested to see where Gareth Bryne and Siuan Sanche go from here.

I haven’t made my mind up whether I like Aviendha yet. She’s shocking, stubborn, and the show-your-love-by-bluster thing has never really been my way. She also refused to let Rand make the amends his conscience demanded for what happened between them. But she feels she must return him safely to Elayne, so we'll see where all that goes.

Without getting into spoilers—near the end, a character I've really liked meets her death. It’s something I’ve suspected was coming for awhile, but it hit me pretty hard anyway. The nobility of the sacrifice and Rand’s grief over it made for one of the most touching scenes in the book.

The tale closed, as usual, with battle and victory and a couple of unresolved threads to make the reader want book six. Which, of course, I immediately had to reserve at the library.

Recommendation: If you’ve made it this far, there’s no turning back. At least, not here.


Top Ten Tuesday: Mean Girls

Today's Top Ten topic calls for a list of the girls you'd most like to... well, I try to keep profanity off my blog most days, but the phrase is "b*tch slap."
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...
It's a tough topic for me; it really is. I like most people. But men and women have distinctive ways of making themselves unlikable (maybe we should do a top ten list for cads?), and here are a few fictional girls that have made an effort to fill this category.

Out of a great admiration for decency, I tried to include a mix of girls who have some and girls who don't.

Mean through and through:

1. Caroline Bingley (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen). I’d say she’s one of the most annoying characters in fiction, except that she shares a book with Mr. Collins.

2. Mierin/Lanfear (The Wheel of Time books, Robert Jordan). Ripping Kadere’s skin off and then nearly killing both Egwene and Aviendha was just the tip of the evil iceberg.

3. Dolores Umbridge (The Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling). Can you help hating a woman who wears pink bows and cardigans, has a soft little bubble-gum voice, and takes delight in forcible injustice? She gives me the shivers.

4. President Coin (Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins). Here, let me help you defeat this murderous regime. Oh, and then let's be just as horrible to them as they've been to us. 

5. Miss Minchin (The Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett). Of all the evil spinsters in all the tales of orphan children, I'm not sure there's a worse. She starved Sara and Becky and worked them cruelly, and shamed Ermengarde. Horrible woman.

Likable in the long run:

6. Emma Woodhouse (Emma, Jane Austen). She manipulates Harriet Smith and company, carries on some shameful gossip with Frank Churchill about Jane Fairfax, cuts down Miss Bates in public, and winds up so repentant at the end that I love her as much as any other Austen heroine.

7. Edith Carr (A Girl of the Limberlost, Gene Stratton Porter). The scene where she confronts Elnora Comstock always makes me happy, simply because Elnora holds her own so gracefully. Edith is mostly a spoiled drama queen, but she finds a redeemable side of herself in the end. Annoying as she is, I can't help liking her.

8. Grushenka and Katarina (The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky). It would help if I remembered more about this book, but with the assistance of a Wikipedia summary: both of them were strong-willed, proud, and cruel at times, yet both showed signs of having better natures underneath and some hope of improvement.

9. Katar Jinsdaughter (Princess Academy, Shannon Hale). She spends a fair portion of Princess Academy hissing and spitting at everyone, especially Miri. But she, like Edith Carr, gets a moment of redemption, and I love what Miri does for her at the end. Which in turn makes me love Katar.

10. Iras the Egyptian (Ben-Hur, Lew Wallace). I love Esther, and Iras walks all over her. Plus, Iras plays Ben-Hur in order to spy on him for Messala. Twerp. I wouldn't call her story redemptive, exactly, but she does make something of an apology at the end.


Bellatrix LeStrange (Harry Potter, Rowling. I'm not sure I'd slap her--Mrs. Weasley had the right idea there)
Narcissa Malfoy (Harry Potter, Rowling)
Mary Crawford (Mansfield Park, Austen)
Mrs. Norris (Mansfield Park, Austen)
Mrs. Clay (Persuasion, Austen)
Elizabeth Elliot (Persuasion, Austen)
Fraulein Rottenmeier (Heidi, Spyri)
Nellie Olson (Little House on the Prairie, Wilder)
Mrs. Brewster (The Long Winter, Wilder)
Josie Pye (Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery)
Aunt Reed (Jane Eyre, Brontë)
Berelain sur Paendrag (The Wheel of Time, Jordan)
Katerina (The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare)

Credit where credit is due: Kathy at Books Kids Like reminded me of a few of these. I totally wish I'd have thought of Katerina myself. :)

Who am I forgetting?


Art, Beauty, and Easter

Apologies for the long paragraphs in this post and its sort of journal-entry feel. It's getting late on Monday, I'm sleepy, and Easter is so powerful for me that I have a hard time describing it in short sentences. To you brave souls who choose to read on, I hope at least this is evocative and enjoyable.

The Easter Vigil Mass is the high point of my year, and I always go through it with emotions burning every which way. For one thing, weeks of Lenten discipline, minor-keyed music and thoughts of penance and death can really psych you up for the bells and trumpets, the Glorias and Alleluias of the Resurrection. For another, I had my confirmation at Easter Vigil. Anyone who has made the shift from Protestant to Catholic knows the joy of union and the pain of separation involved in that moment. I remember standing at the altar with chrism oil wet and strong-scented on my forehead, staring at the white lilies, wondering how such opposite feelings could originate from the same event. The memories return every year.

I had distractions as well as memories this Saturday night, some due to my being part of the music (which I was more than thrilled about, don't get me wrong) and some due to my own weaknesses. Amid fiddling with flashlights in the darkened church so I could keep tabs on the order of service, swallowing stage fright, watching for the next cue, and concentrating on ringing a bell and hitting a high A without blasting out the hot studio microphone four feet from my face, I found myself battling my personal Apollyon, the Questioner. This is beautiful, but is it true? Does it matter? Does it actually mean everything it's supposed to, or are we deluding ourselves?

That latter struggle actually made me angry. With all the times agnosticism comes a-haunting—and it does so often—surely it could spare me during the sweetest, most wonderfully symbolic point of the Church's experience? I thought of Lewis and Harry Potter, set my will against the doubts, and went on with the service.

And while the distraction of doubt pestered me during the Mass itself, it’s the vivid beauty of the night that I remember clearly now. Men in suits and women in white and gold and bright colors—one lady in the sort of tremendous white hat I'd expect from a Pentecostal in the South. The stars in the darkening sky as we stood around the bonfire, Saturn bright in Virgo. The almost-warm spring air. Lou smiling beside me in the crowd—Easter Vigil is the high point of his year, too. Our new deacon singing the Exsultet as hand-held candles lit the faces of choir and congregation. Eight of us chanting Psalm 16 in the darkness. The euphoria of Tom Conry's Roll Away the Stone—my fellow sopranos winging through the high descant, drums and brass and piano and organ thundering together, the director’s face intense with concentration as his right hand kept a crisp four-count and his left cued our starts and rests, the basses ascending on the last line of the chorus. Kneeling at consecration. The rush of affection for everyone around me. Our pastor lowering the red candle-holder, flame burning bright, into the sanctuary lamp. The fortissimo joy of Jesus Christ is Risen Today.

If the Resurrection is true, humans have nothing in all of history more worth celebrating—more worthy of commemoration in the best art we can create. And the rituals and loveliness surrounding its celebration are part of the substance of things hoped for, the promise of things unseen.

Liturgy itself is art, and there are good reasons the Church has always put so much of its resources into architecture and sculpture, painting and stained glass, music and processions and word choices and the like. Beauty, wonder, and mystery comfort the soul against the troubles of life, and are therefore the natural companions of faith.

This might not seem to have much to do with writing, which is what I usually post about on Mondays. To me, though, the writing of novels is not unlike helping with the art of liturgy. It searches for the same beauty, and—in its own smaller way—it celebrates the same mysteries.

For thoughts on beauty and order, check out this great little piece by my friend and fellow writer Annie O'Connor. "Order is the alchemist," she says. I think that's wondrously true.


The Songs of Holy Week and other stories

As it's Good Friday, I'll keep this short. But unrelated to the date and its commemoration, I've been asked to post more pictures of our cat, Maia:

Isn't she cute? Now, if only I'd managed to get pictures of her leaping out from under the bed to attack my ankle and then dash back under... or flinging herself in the air after a thrown sock... or stealing the basket out of the bathroom sink drain... or burrowing into the laundry... or trying to get herself made into the bed with the sheets.... Maybe someday.

* * *

The news this week: I keep messing with my story, I've sung myself hoarse and only barely gotten my voice back in time for the Triduum liturgies, my computer has taken to crashing on startup every third day or so, and for the entire week I have not touched Twitter or Google Reader (despite checking a few of my friends' blogs) and have been on Facebook only once. It's amazing how much stress lifts off without the constant pressure to stay caught up on social media. I feel guilty saying it, but it's true.

I'll return to it all refreshed and cheerful on Monday, of course. :)

Also, I've put my final post up on Silhouette for this season: a write-up on our visit to Assisi from our Italy trip. Assisi was my favorite town, and the place I'd most like to go back and stay, so I loved writing this piece.

* * *

The best thing I can think of to offer you for Holy Week is some good music. I simply couldn't find a decent recording of the Gregorian Crux Fidelis/Pange Lingua, traditionally sung on Good Friday, but here's a lovely choral arrangement of part of the text:

And for Sunday, you can listen to the beautiful Easter sequence, with translation below.

May you have a blessed rest of Holy Week, and a Happy Easter!


Currently Reading: Ella Minnow Pea

Ella Minnow PeaNo longer may we speak of the topaz sea which laps our breeze-kissed shores. Nor ever again describe azure-tinted horizons sheered by the violent blazes of our brilliant island sunrises.

Hundreds of words await ostracism from our functional vocabularies: waltz and fizz and squeeze and booze and frozen pizza pie, frizzy and fuzzy and dizzy and duzzy, the visualization of emphyzeema-zapped Tarzans, wheezing and sneezing, holding glazed and anodized bazookas, seized by all the bizarrities of this zany zone we call home. Dazed or zombified citizens who recognize hazardous organizations of zealots in their hazy midst, too late--too late to size down. Immobilized we iz. Minimalized. Paralyzed. Zip. Zap. ZZZZZZZZZ.

Author: Mark Dunn

Synopsis: On the independent island of Nollop, named for the (fictionalized) writer of the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, the people discover letters falling from the famed sentence’s display under writer Nevin Nollop’s statue. Believing that the great Nollop has decided those letters should not be used, the island’s council removes them from the inhabitants’ vocabulary, with serious penalties for those who slip up. Brave resident Ella Minnow Pea and friends campaign to free Nollopians to use all the letters of the alphabet, by attempting to write a shorter pangram* than Nollop’s.

[*Pangram, as described in the front of the book: “n. a phrase, sentence or verse composed of all the letters of the alphabet: A quirky novel with pages of zany, jumbled lexicon.”]

Notes: Looking at the front cover, I’d guess this was a kid’s book. But I wonder at what age most children would choose to read it. The first pages are written with such over-the-top formality as to be excessively challenging to get into.

It isn't written that way without reason, however. This novel is told in epistolary form—all in letters exchanged between the characters—and Nollopians take everything to the wildest extreme. From the formal forms of address to the flights of vocabularic fancy, to the Council’s setting up Nevin Nollop as a demanding god, the islanders don’t bother much with practicality or simplicity. It’s humorous, once you get past the buzzing in your head from all the crazy word choices.

What I loved most about this book was the concept itself and the structure. I got fascinated watching the characters attempt to write without first Z, then Q, then J, then more commonly used letters. And as a writer myself, I kept thinking of the various challenges of creating such a book, including running searches on each section for the forbidden letters. It must have been a lot of fun—and perhaps a very large headache at times—to write.

It’s a bit of a headache to read a few of pages near the end, as so much of the alphabet has gone that sound-alikes “hear-twins” are used. Ella’s brief manifesto of determination reads like this: “...I no tat Nollop isn’t trewlee going awae. Tee reason: I am not going awae. I will learn to tawg in noomerals. I will learn sign langwage—anee-ting to stae in Nollop.” It’s impressive, kind of hilarious, and fortunately under a page and a half in length. At that point, of course, there’s no stopping for any reason. The reader must read to the end, to find out what happens.

Almost anything linguistics-related interests me, so of course I delighted in the various attempts to write a shorter pangram. The challenge made for a fun plot twist, too.

The use of the worn-out treatment of religion as totalitarian wore on me a little, but the concept wouldn’t have worked without it, and at least it’s original and obviously cultic. It’s portrayed as something impossibly silly, but then, in a kids’ book, silly has every permission to exist.

Which brings me back to the sort of age-defiance of the story itself. Is it for children, or adults? Considering the things I was reading between eight and twelve, I don’t think I’d have hesitated to pick it up. But as Myla Goldberg comments on the back cover, the book seems written more as “a love letter to alphabetarians and logomaniacs everywhere.”

Recommendation: Read it for brain food and humor, especially if you’re a kid who needs higher-level reading material, or if you’re a word geek.


Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Made Me Cry

...or, Why I Don't Read More Tragedies.

For today's Top Ten Tuesday, we all got to go back and pick a Top Ten list we hadn't gotten to participate in before. And while there were quite a number that I'd have loved to do, most of them would have given answers I use a lot. This might mix things up a little.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

Now, granted, I've never been the crying sort. (Weird fact: The first movie I ever cried over was Gladiator, although I did tear up at the end of the admittedly absurd and tasteless Baby's Day Out.) But things get to me more than they used to, sometimes because they're so beautiful and happy, sometimes because they're so tragic and awful, sometimes because they're sad even while they're good. This list contains examples of all three. Also, spoilers. You may want to skip a title if you don't want to know the ending.

Bambi, Felix Salten. It's a beautiful story, but mercy—it is not a cheerful book. No, I'm not talking about the cutesy little Disney version. Try the real Salten work for some beautiful prose and an interesting story of love, trust, and humanity.

A Walk to Remember, Nicholas Sparks. The only novel of his I've read, but I love it from cover to cover, probably because I sympathize so strongly with Jamie Sullivan. The last line gets me every time.

Animal Farm, George Orwell. I loved the old horse, and it hurt me all over when he got betrayed to his death. Though the final line of the book was brilliance incarnate, I cried angry tears for awhile after putting it down.

Kristin Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset. Lavrans reminded me so much of my own father, and though Kristin often made me angry, the father-daughter relationship both melted and broke my heart at times. This book (really a trilogy, bound into one) goes through Kristin's entire life, so there are lots of opportunities for both.

Little White Horse, Elizabeth Goudge. The hauntingly beautiful ending rarely fails to move me to tears.

Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins. I read Catching Fire and Mockingjay all in one day, trying to get a review of the latter up at The Hog's Head. At the end of the day, I went into the bathroom, put my face into a towel so I wouldn't worry Lou, and sobbed my heart out. Though the ending of Mockingjay is beautiful, I'm afraid to read the book again.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling. Between Dobby's brave death and Lily's line in the forest, did anyone not cry reading that book?

Star of Light, Patricia M. St. John. There's a scene between the missionary nurse and the little street-boy Hamid, who has risked everything to save his little sister's life. The nurse says something to Hamid about loving Jesus. Hamid's response, followed by St. John's quote from the end of the Song of Solomon, has me tearing up just thinking about it.

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott. Another book everyone cries over. The simple portrayal of Beth's death is one of the most poignant, hopeful, painful, lovely little moments in literature as far as I'm concerned. It's not my favorite scene in the book, but it may be the most meaningful.

Wait, why did I pick this topic again? I didn't need to start myself crying in the middle of a busy day, but Star of Light and Little Women got me going. Okay. Sniff. Time to post this, and go work on other things.

If you're willing to share, what books make you cry?


Prayer, Religion and the Writer

Church yesterday included palm fronds waving everywhere, and with Palm Sunday came Holy Week. I'm going to keep this post simple, because one of my goals for Holy Week is to take at least a small step back from most of my social media to leave myself more time for prayer and quiet.

Most writers I've read who hold to any religious belief seem to value prayer time and the practice of faith as having a good influence on the writing process. Though I agree, perhaps I should note that I don't think prayer and religion necessarily make a better writer, nor do they guarantee divine inspiration over the work. I feel quite strongly about both of those things. Almost anyone can develop the skill of writing, and my work is subject to every failure and fallibility my mind can produce.

But prayer calms me—when I've not burdened my thoughts to the point where I can't concentrate; the mysteries of the faith take me into the wonder that inspires art; ritual comforts me and builds up what the effort of study and creation tends to break down. When all is said and done, I don't go to church for art or the ability to create. I go for my soul. But what helps the soul helps the art that comes from it—especially if I've got my Plato right, and the soul is what creates.

But talking about the intimate beliefs and practices of the faith makes me shy. I could never do it quickly. So I'll leave you with Tolkien, who put something of the Eucharistic joy into words:
''Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament.....There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires.'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no. 43*)
*quoting from the Internet, so hopefully that reference is correct; it seems to be corroborated, at least, by various sources.


Giving and Receiving and other stories

Tonight, it's raining.

This week, I've stared out the window at snow on the ground, sung myself hoarse in pre-Easter practices, sent my first query, read my novel initsentiretyinhardcopyandoutloud, read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and received my first-ever blog award.

First-ever Blog Award! I got totally excited.
The nomination came from new friend Kiernan, whom you may have met in the comment box. It comes with two simple rules: 1) post seven interesting things about myself, and 2) pass the award on to fifteen other blogs. So. Here goes.

* * *

The challenge: finding seven interesting things about myself that I haven't already told you here, here, or here.

1. After years of writing songs about God, boys, unrequited love, Lou, and Harry Potter, a couple of weeks ago I found myself writing a song about Nynaeve al'Meara and al'Lan Mandragoran. I finished it, too—just haven't recorded it yet.

2. Fantasy fiction is the only thing keeping me from cutting my hair to shoulder-length.

3. I would certainly have a pet bird if the sight of one in a cage didn't make me a little bit sad. And if I didn't have a cat.

4. From age twelve onward, I've wished I were graceful in a pair of skates on ice. And that I could jump a single axel, even on dry ground. I've tried, a lot of times, but it's harder than it looks.

5. It's possible that if I'd read Sarah Dessen before J.K. Rowling, I would have taken to writing contemporary fiction instead of SFF. It probably would have been the wrong choice for me. And Shannon Hale probably would have made me change my mind.

6. When I feel like reading randomly in the Bible (as opposed to going straight through a book), I almost always land in the Psalms.

7. I live in fear of the day when I'll look in the mirror and know that sparkly eye shadow and Old Navy T-shirts with butterflies on them are no longer a decent option.

* * *

Time to pass on the Versatile Blogger Award! So: What makes a versatile blogger? Courtesy of Dictionary.com:

Versatile: adj. 1. capable of or adapted for turning easily from one to another of various tasks, fields of endeavor, etc.: a versatile writer.

We'll stick with definition one, not being zoologists or botanists or likely to award someone merely for having changeable moods. Pretty much all this means is that I've ruled out subject-blogs that never break from their theme. I've also ruled out group blogs and anyone with hundreds of followers, because I doubt they care. And I've ruled out anyone who never posts. So there.

Family and personal bloggers, special note for you: I've kept you off the list because your blogs seemed to me to be meant for the eyes of people who know you. But I'm sometimes wrong. Lindsey, Sarah, Lizzie Marie, if you want nomination, you have it.

This should take care of your links of the week. And yes, I am going to nominate a whole list of my friends. I like my friends.

A note to recipients: No pressure. Fulfill the rules on your own blog if you care to, or just bask in the glow.

I can't really nominate Kiernan, since she already has the award, but anyone who likes reading should check out her blog, Fire In Mine Ears. She also talks about music, Orthodoxy (as in, the Eastern Orthodox church), and whatever else comes to mind. Hey, Kiernan, thanks again for the award!

Leaf by Jana. Art, writing, life, and faith. Beauty in every corner.

Annie K. O'Connor. Mostly various philosophical questions, and every time I read one of her posts, I have to think much harder than the Internet usually requires.

The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond, mostly about fairy tales and writing, but also discussing George MacDonald and the occasional Over the Hedge piece. He's got a giveaway going on this weekend.

The Knight Shift, run by one of my first Internet-based friends, Chris Knight. He discusses life with bipolar disorder, politics and religion, and what I most like to read him for—Star Wars and other nerd stuff.

Cyganeria, by Masha. I don't know what the name means, but she writes beautiful poetic prose, mostly about daily life, sometimes about reading and belief.

City Wife, Country Life, although the Farmer's City Wife has gotten this award before. Her blog contains chickens, cooking, house-buying, and a suspenseful love story that she really needs to finish (HINT).

Books Kids Like. This is a stretch, because Kathy almost never posts anything not about books—but there's just so much to say about books. She also keeps up with various memes that give insight into bookish thought.

Eric Pazdziora. Music, various humor, evangelical thought, etc. Did I mention music? As in, sets George MacDonald poems to?

Carrie Pazdziora. Life, thoughts, and oh yes—music. This is not my first recommendation of hers, but check out this video of photography set to her song about living on the streets.

Chris Russo, who sometimes comments here. He gets this for two reasons: 1) this poem about cooking and reading, and 2) his classic defense of what happened to Susan Pevensie at the end of Narnia.

Zeitete Sophia. A true versatile, who posts about anything that comes to mind—from Greek text to wine facts.

* * *

Shoot... that's not fifteen. I tried, honestly, but I'm out of energy. Hope I didn't forget anyone... Happy weekend, everybody!


Currently Reading: Daughter of the Flames

Daughter of the Flames
As I went to work knotting the ends of the rough bandage, he spoke to me for the first time. “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such a rescue, but you have my thanks.”

The distinctive flattened vowels of the Sedorne accent jolted me. My fingers stilled for a second. When I forced them back into action, they were shaking. Was I insane? This man was Sedorne, and here I was patching him up as if he were a friend or...a Rua. What would Deo say?

Author: Zoe Marriott

Synopsis: When the Sedorne rulers destroy the Rua royal family, child-princess Zahira is taken to the temple and adopted by the head of the priests and priestesses. Raised as a warrior priestess, Zahira discovers her identity when her second home and family are overthrown and destroyed. Taking charge of the remnant of her people, she finds an ally in a young Sedorne lord and challenges the reigning tyrant for her rightful throne.

Notes: After discovering by way of Ms. Marriott’s blog that she writes high fantasy for girls, I had to look up some of her work. As it turns out, Marriott writes well, and the tale satisfies.

First-person perspective and high fantasy make for an unusual mix, but it worked. The voice holds to its other-time, other-place feel, avoiding the rookie mistakes of slipping into modern thought processes.

Zahira is a tough-girl protagonist, but her fighting spirit doesn’t suppress her femininity. I appreciated that, and wound up enjoying her as a character. It’s pretty clear right away where her relationship with the Sedorne lord will go, but Marriott put it through a couple of twists in the process. Zahira’s friendship with Deo and Mira was also interesting and well done, and I particularly liked the way the Rashna thread wove.

Having a character named Deo was a little challenging—it kept making me think of deodorant and old Bon Marche commercials—but an effort to pronounce it as Latin (e.g., Gloria in excelsis Deo) helped. My guess would be that Ms. Marriott chose it for the Latin meaning ("God"), which worked well considering Deo's career as a namoa (one of the warrior priests, a sort of non-celibate monastic position).

The religion, composed of a goddess (referred to simply as God) and a consecrated religious temple staff that had both martial and healing aspects, provided a quiet and strongly visual setting. Zahira connects with the goddess closely and at one point directly, and though she never has much of a crisis of faith, her relationship with the goddess forms a consistent thread throughout the book.

The king had a unique story, both interesting and revolting. I expected the move Zahira made against him, but the way it finally ended came totally as a surprise.

It's impossible not to like the young Sedorne lord, as well as the way he and Zahira care for each other. Both of them have physical imperfections, and both of them manage admirably to look beyond that.

The ending gave redemption, which always makes me happy, and made me feel as if the book was worth my time.

Recommendation: Read it when you want to disappear into another world.


Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Should be Made into Movies

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun....

Considering the number of books that have become movies that just couldn't live up, this week's subject makes me a little nervous. I take comfort from this comment of Jamie's (today's host), however:
"This Top Ten Tuesday is set in a perfect world...in which movies don't butcher the books I love."
We're safe, then. The next problem is that nearly all of my favorite books have already been made into movies. Harry Potter, check. To Kill A Mockingbird, check—though I haven't seen it. Wait, why haven't I seen that? Jane Eyre, check check check TV series check. Pride and Prejudice... well, we won't even get started on that one.

So, off the top of my head:

1. The Testament, John Grisham. I've seen at least a couple of likable Grisham movies, but as far as I know, this one has never been carried to the screen. But it's a powerful story, and my favorite of all lawyer-type fiction I've ever read.

2. The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis. A lot of the Narnia books have been made a couple of times, but the one that has the best story arc for a movie never gets a break. Hey, movie-making people, even if all the rest of the Narnia movies were terrible, I'd go see this one. Hint, hint. Oh, but you definitely can't mess with Aslan's lines. I love The Silver Chair, too, but that one's been done before.

3. The Goose Girl and maybe 4. Princess Academy, Shannon Hale. I think Ms. Hale has never really gotten excited about seeing her books made into movies, and considering how much usually has to change from page to screen, I understand why. Still—Princess Academy could make a beautiful film, and I think The Goose Girl might even work better.

5. If You Love Me, Patricia M. St. John. A young Lebanese Christian girl learns the price of redemption and forgiveness after a close friend betrays her brother to his death. Some of the subtleties might have to be made more obvious—the romance, for instance—but this is such a beautiful and poignant story.

6. Rilla of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery. The strange third Anne of Green Gables movie, starring a much-aged Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie, an angry Diana, and a plot that bore no resemblance to any of the books except for being based around a World War, should be buried. However, Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie are just about the right age to play Rilla's parents.

7. Little White Horse, Elizabeth Goudge. I know this was recently attempted, but if they made Robin one of the men from the woods, they did not use the same story I love. I'm afraid to watch it. Try again, dears.

8. A TV series out of Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. Maybe Rupert Everett would care to dye his hair blond and star?

All right... The problem with 9 and 10 is that I'd really like to say Ender's Game and C.S. Lewis' space trilogy, but it's hard to imagine those working as movies. While Ender's Game has all the great sci-fi elements that make for cool technology, and I can almost picture the next Haley Joel Osment pulling off some of the psychological stuff... I just don't dare ask for that one. The subtle beauty of Ender's heart and the redemption in the story need to be more important than technology and psychology. Hollywood rarely does that well. And as for Lewis' trilogy, I can't even envision how it could be written for the screen.

What books do you think would make good movies?


Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing: Why I'm Trying Traditional

In response to Rachelle Gardner, Tell Me the Truth Now

In her post, Ms. Gardner disagrees with the popular ideas that a) traditional publishing is dying, and b) you have to be an idiot not to pursue self-publishing. She follows those points with this question:
Q4U: Why are you pursuing traditional publishing?

Let's be honest here. Don't think about anyone else's reasons. Don't argue for traditional publishing as a concept and don't try to convince anyone else of your way of thinking. This isn't about an agenda. It's about you.

Just tell us, straight from your heart, why you hope to be traditionally published.

I thought this question more than worthy of a full blog-post, especially because I've seriously considered self-publishing, and done so for non-standard reasons. Here's the deal: in a lot of ways, self-publishing is very, very attractive to me. Before I answer Ms. Gardner's question, let me play devil's advocate and go through my own temptations to go straight to print-on-demand and Kindle.

1. I tend to favor a broad interpretation of fair use laws.

Self-publishing, the development of creative commons licenses, and various other changes of the digital age have allowed artists and their fan base a new era of open and trusting relationships. Taking a musical example: I have worlds of respect for DFTBA Records, founded by Hank Green and Alan Lastufka, whose artists release their music under creative commons licenses and encourage fans to do things like using songs in YouTube videos. The win/win for the artist, who receives free promotion, and the fan, who receives freedom to create a derivative work, is huge.

Granted, books and music have different challenges in the copyright world. But I'm all in favor of allowing and encouraging things like fan fiction, unofficial encyclopedias, reproduction of cover images on blogs, and quotes without strict adherence to word counts, as long as we avoid actual piracy and plagiarism. Though some of that freedom exists now, I love the indie spirit toward these things.

2. I can create a good product.

With a family full of artists and photographers, and having some design and marketing-copy writing experience myself, the making of a book's front and back covers shouldn't be out of reach. Likewise, I'm a decent self-editor, and I have copy editors and grammar sticklers among my critique partners. I don't doubt that I could produce a book, if not professionally typo-free and grammatically readable, then very near it. I might even improve on the copy editing in Twilight. :)

3. The literary world, like academia, generally disapproves of social conservatives.

This comes up just about every week in the book-related blogging world, and it honestly terrifies me. I'm a quiet, devout Christian girl who is pretty comfortable with living and letting live, but I will not be bullied into getting into the outrage culture and the antagonism of sexual politics. My beliefs in favor of chastity, and against abortion and euthanasia, are deeply held after much thinking through and questioning, and they're important to me. This world will ask for approval and promotion that I can't give.

The successful LDS authors I mentioned recently give me some hope of making it as a Christian in mainstream publishing. That's one more reason why Orson Scott Card is my hero. :)

Those are my main reasons for considering self-publishing. You'll notice I haven't mentioned creative control and author's monetary percentages, probably the two most commonly cited reasons for self-publishing (discounting "I couldn't find an agent"). Creative control shouldn't become a serious issue unless it comes to major dealbreakers like conflicts with point three above. As for the financial question, I honestly don't mind paying an agent to help me market to publishers, and the publishers who pay their staff and buy shelf space in bookstores. They earn that money. And that leads me to my answer to Ms. Gardner's question:

I'm attempting traditional publishing because I don't think I can do it all myself.

Create a good product? Sure, I can do that. Make the book the best it can possibly be? For that, I think the experience of professionals is worth having.

Ask book bloggers for reviews and set up a reading at Village Books? I can do that, too. But I can't work my way onto Barnes & Noble's shelves, or into Kirkus Reviews, or make those important connections that give a book a fighting chance at getting nationally read.

As shown above, I'm not so averse to self-publishing that I couldn't see myself doing it if, for instance, my current novel doesn't prove commercial enough to make it in this tight market. But I do want to give this little tale a chance to grow beyond what I can make of it alone.


Looking for Planets and other stories

After a year and a half of writing and rewriting, I'm down to Anne Mini's prescribed pre-query final test: reading the manuscript in its entirety, in hard copy, and out loud.

While I expected to catch a few repeated words that way, the read-through has thus far proven even more helpful than I thought. It's giving me the perspective to find things that hid during months of jaded staring at a computer screen. Things like: is it really clear who's speaking in this dialogue? Is that line actually necessary, or is it slowing down the scene?

Ms. Mini's prescription has my full recommendation. And I'm devoting as much time as possible to that read-through this weekend, because... I'd like to start querying next week.

* * *

Once I'm in the query process, I plan to go dark on this novel until I have something real to report. Also in my plans: putting it and its sequels aside, and working on my other story. Maybe pretending this is November and speeding through a first draft.

Much as I love my little story, I'm so excited to work on something unrelated right now. So. Excited. And those twelve short chapters of a middle-grade urban fantasy, begun nearly three years ago, long for completion.

* * *

Late winter and early spring in western Washington State frustrate amateur stargazers to no end. Lou and I haven't been able to take the telescope out in a couple of months, and I've not managed to learn the constellations rising after Perseus.

But the sky cleared last night, and at nine-thirty we set it up on the darkest side of the house (we turn all our lights off, but the neighbors... not so much.) Saturn has risen above the rooftops, and with the 10mm lens in, we could see the rings. It looked kind of like this:

Kind of. This is my attempt to recreate it by means of Paint.net.
Also, some of the constellations made themselves distinctly tough to trace last year. All of a sudden, Leo and Virgo look down at me like "You know, we're really not that hard to find."

* * *

Writers' link of the week: Austin Kleon's How to Steal Like an Artist (and 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me). It's a superb illustrated piece on some of the most important lessons any creator can learn. Granted, I still think my work is better when I type rather than write by hand. I do. But in nearly every other case, I wholeheartedly agree with him.

* * *

Music of the week: Jimmy Wong combines the stories of Orpheus, Eurydice, and Lot for a great original song:

* * *

Funny of the week: Harry Potter tries to get Hermione Granger to read his manuscript. By Tahereh Mafi.

* * *

To-do list:
  • Print and read chapters 4-13 of novel out loud
  • Clean house
  • Make quiche
  • Write up reviews for Ella Minnow Pea and Wheel of Time book 5 before I forget too much
  • Get some exercise (it's sunny! I can go for a walk!)
  • Spend a little time on music practice
  • Blog

Happy weekend!


Currently Reading: The Shadow Rising (The Wheel of Time, Book 4)

The Shadow Rising (Wheel of Time, #4)She opened herself to saidar--and her stomach sank. Saidar was there--she could feel its warmth and light--but between her and the True Source stood something, nothing, an absence that shut her away from the Source like a stone wall. She felt hollow inside, until panic welled up to fill her. A man was channeling, and she was caught in it. He was Rand, of course, but dangling there like a basket, helpless, all she could think of was a man channeling, and the taint on saidin. She tried to shout at him, but all that came out was a croak.

"You want me to do something?" Rand growled. A pair of small tables flexed their legs awkwardly, the wood creaking, and began to stumble about in a stiff parody of dance, gilt flaking off and falling. "Do you like this?" Fire flared up in the fireplace, filling the hearth from side to side, burning on stone bare of ashes. "Or this?" The tall stag and wolves above the fireplace began to soften and slump. Thin streams of gold and silver flowed out from the mass, fining down to shining threads, snaking, weaving themselves into a narrow sheet of metallic cloth; the length of glittering fabric hung in the air as it grew, its far end still linked to the slowly melting statuette on the stone mantel. "Do something," Rand said. "Do something! Do you have any idea what it is like to touch saidin, to hold it? Do you? I can feel the madness waiting. Seeping into me!"

Author: Robert Jordan

Synopsis: Between keeping tabs on the disgruntled lords of Tear, studying up on the Prophecies of the Dragon, amicably breaking up with Egwene, and beginning a romance with Elayne, Rand has his time full. But when he and Perrin and Mat are all attacked by an unseen foe, the relative calm subsides. Mat, after trying unsuccessfully to leave Rand, follows him into the Aiel Waste. Perrin, Faile, and Loial travel back to the Two Rivers, which is under oppression from the Children of the Light on one side and Trolloc attacks and a strange man called Slayer on the other. Rand, pressured by Moiraine to make his next move, goes with the Aiel to Rhuidean, where he will begin to prove himself the rightful head of his people, or die trying.

Notes: As with the previous book, I'm glad I read spoilers. Otherwise, the shift in emotions with which the book gets moving would have come off as abrupt, and I might not have believed it at first. That said, considering the way Jordan has developed the Wheel and its pattern, it only makes sense that the Two Rivers ta'veren, their feelings, and the feelings of everyone around them, should change by predestination without the aid of will or reason.

I've only one complaint about the book: every time the suspense got ratcheted up, the tale went on a head hop. If Rand wound up in extreme danger, we turned the page to end up with Perrin. Once Perrin got to a live-or-die moment, we went to Elayne. Elayne would get into trouble, and we'd be off with Egwene. And in case all of them were desperate, we could always go to Min. Well played, Mr. Jordan. I couldn't put it down. But it always made me want to yell in frustration.

On the other hand, I loved all of those characters. And I've thoroughly enjoyed the fierce, determined Faile thus far.

Siuan's spirit in her crux moment honestly encouraged me, and I've thought many times of her exhortation to Leane. Her words gave me a lot to consider.

Moving beyond characters: the variation among the created cultures is one of the best-done things about the series, and this book contains intricate portrayals. The wholesome Emond's Fielders, used to farm community and a quiet way of life, find themselves among the Cairhienen with their Game of Houses, the seafaring Atha'an Miere with unique ideas of honor, the fishmongering Tairen, the shockingly unchaste First of Mayene, the controlling barbarian Seanchan, and, most intriguing of all: the desert-bred, spear-dancing Aiel.

It's been obvious from the first book that Rand was born Aiel, but in this book, we actually get to know that people. There are so many details: clans and chiefs, Wise Ones, the culture of the Maidens of the Spear, the idioms arising from desert life. Deeply held, strictly-lived ideas of honor. The concept of family which includes degrees of sisterhood, sister-wives (it's clear where that's going for Rand, anyway), and the way the Maidens pass on their children... The details are endlessly fascinating.

Recommendation: I'm on a mission to make it through the Wheel of Time books! Are you with me?


Top Ten Tuesday: Bad Book Covers (Link)

I’ve not got a lot of time today, and definitely none for searching the internet for book covers I dislike (most of the books on my shelf are at least tolerably decorated), so I’ll default to Capillya over at The Broke and the Bookish. She did a great job of finding some prime examples of awful covers, and she hit most of my main dislikes.

Of course, if that's not enough, fifty-nine other people have currently added theirs to the blog carnival. Party on. :) 

Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday!


Here there be Mormons

Christian author Mike Duran posted a piece on the sudden proliferation of Mormon novelists, asking what Protestant and Catholic authors can learn from the Mormons' success. This topic has fascinated me for some time, and since I discovered Mr. Duran's intriguing piece too late to get in on real discussion in the comments—and I actually have a fair bit to say—I'm responding here.

First, a list: Orson Scott Card, Shannon Hale, Stephenie Meyer, Aprilynne Pike, Ally Condie, Kiersten White, Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull. Eight published members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, off the top of my head. I'm impressed. They're doing something right, and I'm all for it.

Second, almost all of my favorite authors are religious. Mormons Card and Hale are joined by the Catholic G.K. Chesterton and J.R.R. Tolkien, the Anglicans C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen and Robert Jordan, and the Scottish Episcopalian J.K. Rowling. If you go down my list of Fifty Favorite Books, you'll find more. There are multiple reasons for this, some of which I may get into below—but that's not the point of the day.

Mr. Duran asks three excellent questions that got me thinking:
  1. Does the unity of the Mormon church provide a better support system for aspiring young writers?
  2. Is the Mormon faith of mainstream authors recognized and celebrated where traditionally Christian authors' faith goes unnoticed if they (like the Baptist John Grisham and the Catholic Nicholas Sparks, for instance) write for the mainstream?
  3. What can Christians learn from the Mormons' success?
Disclaimer: I'm not a Mormon, and what little I know about the LDS I've learned out of interest in and appreciation for Card, Hale and Meyer. (I haven't yet read most of the others.) While I disagree with aspects of LDS theology, I respect the church, its people, and its values. If I say anything offensive, it will certainly happen unintentionally.

Now, onto Mike Duran's points:

Does the unity of the Mormon church provide a better support system for aspiring young writers?

This question arises from the fact that Brigham Young University offers classes and workshops specifically to aid and encourage aspiring writers. Props to them for that. Mr. Duran notes this and follows it with the comment that "As a Christian author, I wonder if our community is far too fractured and divided to have such a concentrated influence on aspiring authors."

Where the key fracture lies, in my opinion, is outside the lines that mark denominations. Catholic union and division is a complex question, but we've had great writers: Tolkien, Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Graham Greene, Flannery O'Connor. They wrote honestly, depicting life as they saw it, and that was good enough. You can still do that and be Catholic, but with the fracture between people who think the church needs to get with the twenty-first century and the people who think the twenty-first century needs to leave well enough alone, there's not a lot of unity for building up new artists. We look to the secular schools or the evangelicals.

Protestants have done differently, with evangelicals leading the way in making a very specific choice to have their own publishing industry. Christian music and the Christian Booksellers' Association rarely cross over into the mainstream precisely because they target an audience that has rejected the mainstream. That's the key point, right there. And young Protestants are often discouraged from getting involved in the mainstream rather than the Christian categories. Secular romantic music and secular novels—with certain genres, notably fantasy, held in high suspicion—are treated as spiritually inferior and possibly dangerous to the young person's faith.

Now, I'm not at all against the CBA or the Christian music stations. More power to them for what they do. I wish I could go to my favorite bookshelves in the library and know that when I pick up a book, it won't mock and stereotype my core values. The CBA gives people that chance. But it is, for that reason, innately—and I suspect, permanently—separate. I grew up evangelical, and I don't even fit. Why? I'm a Catholic Harry Potter fan. Though standards have eased, I think, both those items can turn off a significant section of the CBA audience.

One thing this separation from the mainstream does, though, is open up the opportunity for Mormons and anyone else who wants to go mainstream and still write books containing respect for sexual morality and other family-centered values (respect for parents, anyone?) Christian readers want books like this, and the CBA doesn't have a strong genre selection. Sci-fi and fantasy fans are definitely out of luck once they've finished all Lewis' books, unless they like demon-fighting mysteries. But turn the corner in Borders, and hello, hot chaste vampire boy.

Is the Mormon faith of mainstream authors recognized and celebrated where traditionally Christian mainstream authors' faith goes unnoticed?

Maybe. Here's how it happened for me: Whoa, Stephenie Meyer is Mormon. Interesting. Shannon Hale is, I knew that. WaitOrson Scott Card is, too? That guy's my hero. Never would've guessed it from Ender's Game. It snowballed from there. But Card, Hale and Sanderson have been around for awhile, and I really don't think their LDS membership was widely considered a big deal until Meyer came on the scene with her post-Harry Potter blockbuster YA series.

Meyer was open about her faith, at least at first, but her books were not. She didn't hesitate to write about an irreligious, mouthy teenage girl who wanted nothing more than to jump between the covers with her sexy vampire boyfriend, who gently and persistently kept his body off limits. There is Mormon imagery, but it's organic and subtle—subtle to the point of Bella making her big Fall while drinking Cokes. (Thanks for the explanation, John Granger.)

But there was enough Mormon correlation there to talk about, so when Condie and White and Pike came on the scene, it got talked about. And Pike's first book came with a front-cover endorsement by Stephenie Meyer. Mormonism was different enough to come out of nowhere and be interesting. For most Americans, evangelicalism and Catholicism are reasonably familiar. Misunderstood and wrongfully despised, but too recognizable to easily spark discussion.

That's my theory, anyway. It may be wrong. But I don't see anything about Mormon doctrine or tradition or iconography that provides any kind of literary superiority or interest over Catholic or Protestant traditions.

What can Christians learn from the Mormons' success?

Getting personal: here's what I take from it.

As noted, Orson Scott Card is my hero. The man observes human nature to perfection, and his work is intellectual and fascinating. He writes believably human heroes, sidekicks, anti-heroes, and villains. From the Ender and Bean books I've read, he doesn't fear to let his characters disagree with his ideals, or to treat them honestly and fairly when they do. He can carry the reader through tragedy and offer them a resurrection of hope. Religion isn't avoided or pushed, it's simply part of the story. Did I mention that he writes beautiful prose?

Ender's Game is great. Speaker for the Dead isn't just some of the best science fiction on the planet, it's one of the best novels I've ever read. I rank him with Lewis and Austen, without hesitation. Reading him teaches me how to write a good book.

That is what I learn from one Mormon, at least. If there's a secret, though, it doesn't belong exclusively to the LDS; not unless I've made a stupendous mistake in understanding religious truth. But I do think that Christianity, when properly practiced, directs the believer's focus to charity—to true, pure, tough, compassionate, unyielding, infinitely tender love. That charity toward humanity and creation can actually help an artist, because it inspires things like respect and wonder that make for good art.

And if the Mormons show signs of it, God bless them.


Working after Midnight and other stories

When you have the flu, and four months' buildup of dislike at your blog design, and three in-progress versions of your query letter, there's only one thing you can do: stay up all night and get the dadburn things sorted.

So. I spent last night sorting. The over-dark and somewhat plain blog has made way for starlight. At the moment, I'm quite happy with it, especially by comparison; feel free to share your thoughts, and to tell me if anything seems awkward or illegible or out of place. While I tested Firefox, IE 8 and Chrome, things may not work as well with everyone's browsers or monitor settings.

Also, my query letter and I have come to something resembling agreement. Not that I won't be tempted to rip it to shreds the next time I dare look at it.

A good night's work, if I do say so myself, and this despite my having to get up several times to chase Maia off the stove. She kept banging things. Loudly. Crazy little nocturnal beast.

* * *

The lack of sleep has made me loopy. And perhaps gullible, not that my naive and trusting nature needs an excuse.

Twitter warned me this morning that today is April 1, and I was all prepared to be grateful. Then I clicked on a video link saying the band ALL CAPS is preparing its next full length album. It's going to be entirely about My Little Ponies and monster trucks! So exciting! I have to blog about this! And it's not even an April Fool's Day joke! WAIT A MINUTE.

Joke's on me. It takes really being out of it to think that even ALL CAPS would do a song titled "Brushing My Pony's Mane with a Magic Comb".

* * *

From Alan Lastufka, who just redesigned his website as well, here's a comforting piece on the impermanence of the internet.

Most of the time, you hear that The Internet Is Forever. And yeah, sites cache and there's never a good reason to speak carelessly, but when I started blogging, I made a point of not altering old posts. Now... spelling and grammar mistakes happen, even to this stickler. My opinions change, and the way I would word them changes often. It's totally freeing to edit and delete. No promises that I'll ever catch everything, but...

* * *

The links for writing (well, grammar anyway), music and funny are all wrapped up in one this week. Take it away, Strong Bad:

Every time I watch that, it gets funnier. Last time, I was practically crying. Don't you think that night and day are different?

* * *

Despite the all-nighter, the flu has eased up on me. I'm feeling much better. Now, it's time to go clean things up around here. And possibly sleep. Maybe. If my brain slows down enough.

Happy weekend, everyone!