Saturday, December 29, 2012

Annabeth's War

My brother came in with the mail and handed me something, "There's a package here for you." I took one look at it and bolted upstairs, closing my door firmly behind me so that my sister couldn't peek in (one of the copies was her Christmas present, you see.)   I pulled the package open but kept myself from ripping the pages open and starting to read like I so desperately wanted to.  Instead, I carefully unwrapped the beautiful wrapping paper and allowed myself a couple inward squeals.  The front cover is gorgeous when you see a picture of it, but to see the front and back for myself, to hold it in my hands, was more than I had imagined.  I opened it and squealed some more when I saw the acknowledgments.  Then I began to read.


Annabeth, the swordmaster's daughter, had been trained by her father as the son he had wished he had.  Now Lord Raburn has seized power and she is left, the only one in the kingdom, with secrets which just might preserve the lives of her father and her prince. 

If she can stay alive.

What can I say?  Opening the pages was going back into the medieval stories I've loved and used to almost live in.  I don't know where to begin.  Annabeth.  Let's start with the girl who has center stage.

Coming to Annabeth's War, I unconsciously expected a bit of a feministic outlook.  I mean, have you ever found a book about a sword-wielding medieval girl  that wasn't feministic?  Well, meet Annabeth.  Jessica's deft portrayal blew me away.  Here is a girl, strong, but still tender, sweet, complex, miles away from the cliche rebellious girls with swords.  I was VERY impressed.  And then there's Ransom the bounty hunter, charged to earn Annabeth's trust and bring her to safety.  Can I just say that I love him?  Because I do.  His character is like Annabeth's; it unfolds slowly, beautifully, just enough to tantalize you and make you read on.  And the exchanges between him and Annabeth are delightful and incredibly sweet. 

So I LOVE Ransom and Annabeth, but under them, my real favorite was a captain of the guard named Eliot.  He came onto the scene sadly late in the story (sadly for me who wanted more of him, fortunately for Annabeth - but I musn't give you spoilers) and it didn't take long before I was convinced that he was looked, acted, and sounded like Richard Armitage.  Awesomeness, peoples.  And did I mention that these characters come alive?  They do. 

And then there's the rest of them: Lord Raburn ("villain" is written all over him!), Prince Alfred (another great guy) Song  Lark, Christina, and Annabeth's father (though his page-time was sadly short. *sniff*)  And what these characters do is not to be described.  Joy, pathos, humor, romance, villainy, swords...

But if I had to find one word to summarize Annabeth's War I would chose 'beautiful.'  Partly because Jessica's writing always has that indefinable quality to it, and partly because beauty is woven all through the story.  The beauty God gives to every single story; how he makes everything beautiful in its time; that's what Annabeth's War is about. 

But why am I telling you all this?  You want to read it for yourself, of course. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

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Yesterday I looked at my sister and asked, "Are you sure it's Christmas Eve?"  "I think so," she said.  However hard I find it to believe, today actually is Christmas day.  I hope all of you have a very merry Christmas and a new year filled with love, joy, and peace.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
 
Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
 
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
 
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Author interview with Jessica Greyson

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of beta-reading Annabeth's War, and, while I have not yet held the finished book in my hands, I can tell you right away that it's every bit as wonderful as you could wish.  As part of the publishing festivities, Jessica agreed to an interview here at Miss Georgiana Darcy and I'm delighted to present to you the result.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, the celebrated authoress Jessica Greyson and her newly-published novel, Annabeth's War!
 
*loud applause* 
 
Just for starters, can you tell us a teeny, weeny, bit about yourself?
I am middle child of three kids, homeschooled from kindergarten to high school. I love the color blue, travel and peanut butter and chocolate and ice-cream (I have a horrible sweet tooth). Books and writing are my favorite passion and pastime, thought I don't get quite as much time to do either nowadays. Late night conversations with my friends and family are my favorite because they can go forever with no interruptions.
 
Oooh... I seem to recollect a scene where Annabeth mentioned that her favorite color was blue.  It's one of mine, too. :)For those of us who don't know, what exactly is Annabeth's War? (other than being a book you wrote, of course)
It is the story of a girl defending her country against the wishes and power of one man.
 
How, where, and, when did you get the original idea of writing it?
The story slowly emerged over time, picking up pieces here and there along the way until it became what it is today. An old story idea, a few medieval movies, the desire to write a story of a strong yet feminine heroine. The personal lesson of God works everything together for good. It all melded into Annabeth's War.
 
Strong yet feminine heroine... oh yes.  That's exactly what most books don't have and exactly what Annabeth is.  Because I'm curious: where did you get their names? Annabeth and Ransom are especially distinctive and still somehow perfect for their characters.
I had used the name Rance in a story ages and ages ago and always wanted to use the name Ransom, but to be honest I don't remember really making a conscious decision to call him Ransom, it just sort of happened.
Annabeth was a bit harder. I was going between the names Anne or Anna and Elizabeth. Neither seemed to fit quite right yet both seemed perfect, Ransom said he wanted to call her Beth, and the idea struck to use both names creating Annabeth.
 
From what I've seen, you use a lot of epic subject matter, with lots of adventure (and swords :D) What exactly makes you write about that?
Weapons have always been one of my fascinations, old fashioned weapons. You might blame it on a version of The Three Musketeers, I saw when I was little. I've never been a fan of the genre of romance - I like a little here and there but not a lot, and in my teens most of the books that seemed offered to girls my age were of that nature so I veered off in a different direction. I chose boy books and delved myself into the land of sword fights and adventure, brushes with death and historic excitement. G. A. Henty books were my obsession (as my poor friends around that age will tell you, they didn't get a reprieve from him until I found Lois Walfrid Johnson). But as a general rule, the bigger the stakes, the more fun it is to write.
 
Which scene or character did you must love writing about?
That is difficult to say. I have so many favorite parts for different reasons. Some of the exchanges between Annabeth and Ransom were really fun to write.
 
 
Are there any scenes or characters that you positively hated writing?
My least favorite character to write about was probably my villain, I just wanted to recoil from my keyboard when I wrote about him.
 
 
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? What was the first thing you ever wrote?
Around age twelve, many of my influences were talking about life purposes and mission in life. After some thought I God to give me a calling, the answer came shortly in a sermon that my pastor gave that talked about Paul and King David being ready writers. I felt that still small voice ask me Will you be my ready writer? My answer, was yes! I really didn't think about how little I liked writing. But it's been a slow development over time, creating the writer.
 
The first thing I ever wrote aye? Thinks back a long time…
My first non-fiction work was the story of how we got our dog Petey.
My first fiction work The Skunk Story.
My first attempt at a novel, Story of a Saxon Lass.
My first complete novel, I am Louisa.
 
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Don't give up, follow your calling and you dreams. Pursue writing with all of your heart, God will open the doors of impossibility.
 
 
Describe what Annabeth's War is to you in five words.
Loyalty, faith, dedication, friends, enemies,
 
Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Jessica! 
 
To my lovely readers: do you want to know more about Jessica?  Visit her superly-duper blog (the festivities for Annabeth's War are still going on, I think!) and buy Annabeth's War from amazon.com or get signed copies (how awesome is that?) from etsy.
 
Off to see if my copy of Annabeth's War had arrived...
~Maria

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12

Today... the date is 12/12/12.  It hasn't been that in a hundred years and won't be that for another hundred.  The last repeating digit date in our lifetimes...

Today... there are giveaways of the beautiful new book Annabeth's War at Safirewriter and Seek Him First.  Technically this has been happening all week, but you can enter today if you haven't already.

Today... I was so delighted at having finally gotten a snowflake-shaped cookie cutter that I made shortbread cookies.  I was planning to frost (pun not intended :P) them with light blue icing, but we ate them instead.

Today... er, tomorrow, I will be watching The Hobbit. I suppose all you fans know that it comes out on the 14th?  Well, the theatre nearest us will be showing it at 10 PM on the 13th.  No joke.  We have our preordered tickets to show for it. We're thinking that the come-out-on-the-14th doesn't apply to Canada. I can't say that I object, though. :D

Today... I'm sleepy.  I've been sleepy most of the day.  And I have nothing more to say.  (Sink me, I'm a bit of a poet!)  So a very good day, evening, morning, or whatever it is, to all of you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Tolkien Tag

Being naturally very excited for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I was delighted to be surprised by the announcement that Nessima is hosting an unexpected, Tolkien-themed, blog party.  Yay!  Something Middle Earth-ish to do while I'm waiting for the day that I'll be able to see The Hobbit!

An Unexpected Blog Party

1. How did you first hear about LOTR & The Hobbit? I can't exactly say when.  My earliest memories of it is a very fat dark blue book with gold letters and something about rings.  I thought the rings were sort of like the rings around Saturn. :P

2. How many times have you read LOTR/The Hobbit? Or have you yet to read it at all? Both twice.

3. Would you name your child after a character from it?  I'm a name nut, so I have considered it.  But, say I named a boy Aragorn Legolas (WHAT a combination!  Don't worry, I wouldn't.)  He'd get teased like crazy.  He'd want people to call him by an 'ordinary name' (I had an unusual nickname when I was young and I didn't like it one bit.)  He wouldn't actually be introduced to LOTR until after years of us calling him Aragorn Legolas and it might prejudice him against it.  So, no.  I'd give my kids not too weird names that could be adapted to suit them.  Still, I'd consider Aragorn as a second name.

Okay, away with this nonsense about Aragorn Legolas.  Truth is, I've been very close to having Eowyn on my list of must-use-as-first-names.  But for the same reasons as above, I probably won't.  But I love so many of the other names: Galadriel, Thorin, Arwen, Faramir, Eomer...

Second name material, peoples.

4. What are your thoughts on Tom Bombadil? Do you think he should have been in the movie?  The movie was, after all, only a movie.  It couldn't get everything, and while Tom Bombadil is an important figure if you really want to understand LOTR, it doesn't contribute much to the plot.  The real fans will read the book anyways and the movie, I think, is better without it.

5. Do you have a favourite piece of poetry from any of Tolkien's books?  I have a feeling some of the poems in LOTR would have been my favorites, but the last two times I read it I was more interested in getting on in the story than reading the poems.  I know, shocking, especially for one who professes to love poetry.

6. Have you read any of Tolkien's work besides LOTR and/or The Hobbit? A couple of the Unfinished Tales and right now I'm starting The Silmarillion.  Even better then I hoped, it is, precious.  Oh, and long before I cared about Tolkien I read Mr. Bliss.


7. Can you write in the Tengwar?  Unfortunately not.  However, I have found several different (free!) Tengwar fonts to put onto my laptop. 
Let's all look at the beautiful inscription on the One Ring for a while...

8. Were you at all disappointed that Prince Imrahil wasn't in the movie?  I would have loved to see more footage in The Return of the King and that would have probably included him, but I don't care for him other than as a minor figure who has a little to do with Eowyn, Faramir, Aragorn, and nice Gondor-ish things 

9. What would happen if you and Denethor were put face to face? Frightened smile, curtsy.  That is, if we met in an ordinary situation. If there was Something happening, or we got into a conversation, I would thoroughly berate him about his unfair treatment of Faramir and give him quite a tongue-lashing on how he's not even fit to be Aragorn's stablehand.

via
10. Would you rather reside in Edoras or Minas Tirith?  Minas Tirith is tempting, but no.  If you're going to give me one of them, give me Edoras.  All that beautiful, Old English sort of culture.  And Eomer.  Queen of Rohan sounds quite nice, don't you think?

11. What think you of Éomer's armour?
'Tis a little strange at first, but very Rohan-ish when you get used to it.  I likes it.


12. What do you think of Boromir? Poor guy.  He was more susceptible to the power of the Ring, and his dad had told him to get it, and he had had firsthand experience fighting against Mordor.  He knew it wouldn't be as easy as Frodo imagined.  "One does not simply walk into Mordor!"

What it really says in Google Maps!  Amusing, isn't it?
The bits of his relationship with Faramir in the extended edition is sweet, although I could be ready to knock him in the head when he first meets Aragorn.  But then you see bits of him playing with the hobbits and getting into an almost sort of friendship with Aragorn.  And then he dies.  That was a sad, sad, scene.  And his last words in the movie...  I like those kind of sad scenes.

13. Which is your favourite LOTR couple: Sam & Rosie, Aragorn & Arwen, or Faramir & Éowyn?
Aragorn and Eowyn.  Not allowed?  Oh, all right, Faramir and Eowyn.  In the book, though.  Even the extended edition has only a measly little bit of them together.  Did you know that they filmed a whole Faramir/Eowyn wedding scene, but never released it?  I would SO love to see that. 

14. Did you shed any tears when Thorin died? It ruined The Hobbit for me the first time over, but I don't recall actually crying.  It takes a looong, drawn-out scene to do that to me.  Like the Grey Havens in the Extended Edition.  *sniffle*
 
15. Which is most terrifying of the following: orcs nabbing you in your sleep, giant spiders crawling out of dark tunnels and forests, Nazgul standing right over where you're hiding, or a ghost army that doesn't like you very much? Nazgul.  Or maybe the orcs, because they've caught you already, but you still have a chance of not being caught by the Nazgul.

16. How well would you enjoy life as a hobbit? Would it be preferable to being something like, say, an elf? Or a Ranger?  Life as a hobbit would be tolerably-tolerable, but I'd have to be one of the Tooks (not Pippin's sister, though.  He would be a brother not to be borne.)  Rangers have a certain charm, because, of course, that's what Aragorn was.  But that would be a little too dangerous for me.  Elves... now, that's perfect.  If I could be anything in Middle Earth, I'd be one of the Lothlorien elves.  With frequent visits to Rivendell, of course.  That would be preferable even to being Queen of Rohan.  Unless I could be both.  Of course, I'd have to give up my Elvenness like Arwen did if I married Eomer, but I wonder if I even could...  Were any of the elves of Lothlorien were descended from Beren and Luthien?  Let me look up Half-Elves.  Let me see, Galadriel's daughter's husband (Elrond) was their great-grandson.  I guess some Half-Elf blood got into Lothlorien. 

Sooooo, if I was in Middle Earth, if I was a Half-Elf, and if I wanted to marry Eomer, I'd have to give up my Elvenness to do so.  Not nice at all. 

But wait.  Tuor, one of the few men who married Elvish women, was given, as a 'unique exception' the chance to become an elf himself.  If Tuor could get a unique exception, why not Eomer?

Teehee.  Please tell me I'm not the only one who finds finding obscure bits of Middle Earth history delightful.

Have you watched LOTR or read any of Tolkien's works?  What did you think of it? Don't forget to go to Arda Nessimava to see the rest of the Unexpected Blog Party!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Magic and The Lord of the Rings

**Note: this is a long post, but be warned that if you stop reading half-way through you are liable to not understand any of it and at most have gotten at most only half of what I meant to say.**

Many people whom I know and respect have different views concerning J.R.R. Tolkein’s classic The Lord of the Rings.  Essentially, magic is at the heart of the matter.  “How can Christians approve and love a book that, basically, portrays magic and wizards as good?”

Hearing this question from some people I admire, and having many other people I trust consider LOTR the best thing since sliced bread, (although I find bread quite good unsliced,) I set my little mind, and the writings of some very clever authors I’ve stumbled across, to work out this conundrum.  And what I found made perfect sense, although it surprised me at first.  Let’s look at it logically, shall we?
But first let's look at an appropriate and well-done wallpaper, just for fun.
First of all, the bit about Christians loving a book that portrays magic as good.  We’ll look at it from the best place: the Bible.
Let no one be found among you…who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.  Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD…  (Deuteronomy 18:14)

There are a lot of verses like this in the Old Testament, but this one basically covers it.  And, just to round it out, one from the New Testament too.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft…I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Pretty clear, isn’t it?   But sometimes, as a defence for LOTR (or other popular books containing wizards) someone will say, “Okay, I know the Bible says magic is bad and all that, but the magic in LOTR isn’t bad.  It’s against the bad magic.  White magic, y’know.” 

I understand what those people are trying to get at, but I have a Bible verse for that too.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil. (Isaiah 5:20)
Okay, now it looks like it’s tied up neatly and nicely.  The Lord of the Rings portrays magic as good, we shouldn’t support things that portray magic as good, so we shouldn’t support The Lord of the Rings.  All clear and logical.
Wait.... we missed one thing.  Does The Lord of the Rings portray magic as good?  This is when many anti-LOTR arguments fall apart.  You see, those who are against reading LOTR don’t read LOTR.  Profound, no?  But before I ever knew that such a controversy existed, I had read LOTR.  Many times. 
Let’s go looking through the magic in The Lord of the Rings, starting with magic and ‘the good guys.’  That can be divided into two sections: Gandalf, who was spoken of as a wizard, and the elves, particularly Galadriel.  Let’s start with the elves.
 
Come to think of it, I can’t remember a particular spot where Tolkein or someone who ought to know calls the power and wisdom of the elves magic.  It is spoken of as magic though, by those who don’t really understand it, like Sam and Faramir.  The elves themselves?  The best illustration of that will be a quote from Galadriel.
“And you?” she said, turning to Sam.  “For this is what your folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same word of the deceits of the enemy.” (The Fellowship of the Ring)

It is clear, though, that the elves do have extraordinary wisdom and power.  Could you call that magic?  Would that correspond to the Biblical definition?  I don’t have a definition to hand, but I’ll think one up. 
Magic: gaining power from the forces of evil that perverts the natural order of things
How will that do?  If you disagree with it, tell me a better, but for now that will have to do.
Do the elves have power?  Yes.  Does it pervert the natural order of things? No.  Do they consort with the forces of evil?  Absolutely not. 
But it is clear that the elves could do things that the ordinary peoples of Middle Earth could not.  When the elves were created (I don’t have time to go into the Middle Earth creation story now, although it is fascinating) they were gifted by the creator with extraordinary wisdom.  That wisdom they used in searching out knowledge, studying nature, embroidering, carving stone, inventing scripts (different forms of writing,) making gems, and learning what Sauron was up to so that they could defeat him.  Some elves could communicate directly without using words and all elves did not die natural deaths. 
One thing we have to remember is that just because we on this earth can’t do something doesn’t mean it’s magic.  The elves’ ability to communicate specially and their immortality was a gift for them from their creator.  The knowledge of nature and how to work with it came from their desire for knowledge as they studied, just as physicists’ knowledge of nature, the laws of physics, and how to work with them, came from their desire for knowledge as they study nature.


Now that we’re finished with the elves, let’s go to our next problem: Gandalf.  The wizard.   For the life of me (and I did spend a long time looking,) I can’t remember any passage in LOTR where what Gandalf does is actually called magic.   (And what’s more, nothing that he does fits the definition of magic I gave above.)
But, you might say, “Gandalf is a wizard!  When anybody says wizard, they mean a magician, right?”
But Gandalf is not that kind of wizard.  Really, I can’t see why Tolkien used that word at all, although the reason is probably that it first appeared in The Hobbit, a children’s story where he didn’t have space to go into detail about what Gandalf actually was.  So what was he? 
He was actually one of the Istari.  As a matter of fact, if you look up “wizards” in The Complete Guide to Middle Earth, all that they say is “The Istari” and send you to go look that up.  (Before we go any farther, you should note that long before Tolkien wrote LOTR, he made up an incredibly complex world with a creation story, myths, languages, and history.  He set LOTR in this world, but you have to go to his other works to see Middle Earth and the peoples in it fully explained.)  I don’t have a quotation ready to hand from one of his writings that’ll prove everything I want to say, but to show I’m not making this stuff up, here’s what Robert Foster has to say about the Istari in The Complete Guide to Middle-earth.
ISTARI: Five (or more) beings sent to Middle-earth by the Valar about TA 1000 to unite and counsel the Free Peoples in their struggles against Sauron.  They were forbidden to dominate the peoples of Middle-earth or to match Sauron’s power with power.  When Saruman, the greatest of the Wizards, disobeyed this injunction, he was cast from the order and banished from Valinor… Called Wizards in Westron.

(Just so you know, Westron was the “Common speech” of most of the peoples in Middle-earth, as distinct from, say Valinorean, which was the language of the Valar.  And if you want to know what the Valar were, they were created beings sent into the world by the creator, as guardians or whatnot.  The “wizards” themselves were lesser Valar of a sort.  I suppose the closest real thing I could compare them to would be angels.)
“That’s all fine,” you might think, “but Maria got off track when she started talking about Istari and the Valar.  Gandalf does have magic powers.  He can make spells to open doors.”
Aha!  Gandalf can open doors?  Yes, and close them too. :D  I won’t go back to my whole definition of magic or explain his ability to make doors open by saying that his abilities were given to him by the creator.  Instead I’ll go to something I mentioned when I was talking about the Elves. 
Gandalf was in Middle-earth for many (hundreds? Thousands?) of years.  During these years, what did he do?  LOTR in several places speaks about him having ‘studied’ a lot.  It’s telling that when Gandalf wants to know if Bilbo’s ring is the One Ring, he goes off and looks up things.  He looks for things.  He studies history.  He thinks.  He finds Gollum and gets the story from him.  He does not go, “Abracadabra, show me where the One Ring is and what it’s like.”
But back to Gandalf who's able to open doors.  To go through the door to the Mines of Moria, the password had to be spoken. Then the door would open.  Gandalf thinks up a whole bunch of possible passwords and shouts them at the door in the hopes that it would open.  Was this magic?  I don’t think so.  Gandalf says he once knew all the spells in the tongues of Elves or Men or Orcs that was ever used for opening a door.  He learned this through is long study of the peoples of Middle-earth and his friendship with the Elves.  But I don’t think that door-opened-by-a-password-spell was magic.  Tolkien’s mythical world is not our world.  It worked differently.  They could have had different laws of physics.  Opening that kind of door could be done by anyone, not just someone who knew magic or had special abilities.  This ‘magical door’ was natural, made by the ‘scientists’ of Middle-earth who had studied the laws of physics.  And really, if you get past the fact that it seems like magic, that door isn’t that extraordinary after all.  Here in this earth we have a lot of improbable inventions: computers, remote controls, yes, even doors that open with a password.  That door that Gandalf opened in the mines of Moria was no different.  I might even go so far as to say that perhaps the vibrations made when the word “Mellon” (the actual password) was said, triggered some kind of mechanism inside the door that caused it to open.  Perhaps it did something to the electrons in the door and they all went crazy, pulling themselves away from their ordinary position and getting as close as possible to the person that said “Mellon” thus opening the door.  But I know little enough of the laws of physics in our own world and nothing of them in Middle Earth, so I am rapidly becoming nonsensical.
“Okay, okay,” you might think.  “Maria’s excusing Gandalf, but what about Saruman?  He puts a spell on King Theoden.” 

 
Yes, he does, and no, I don’t want to excuse him.  True, he was one of the Istari, but, as Gandalf (or Elrond, I can’t remember which) said of him “he studied too long and too deeply the arts of the Enemy” until he began to use them himself.  He allied himself with Sauron (who is basically evil) and began to use unlawful power instead of the wisdom the Istari were meant to use.  For that, as you can see in the quote way above, he was thrown out of the order of the Istari.  How’s that for irony?  A “Wizard” thrown out of his order because he learns and uses magic!
“But what about the One Ring?  That certainly looks like magic and you can’t try to say it’s not evil.”
Yep.  It is evil.  LOTR is a good vs. evil story.  And I won’t say it’s not magic.  Let’s look at our definition.
Magic: gaining power from the forces of evil that perverts the natural order of things. 
Gaining power?  Oh yes.  From the forces of evil?  Sauron’s power was bound up in the Ring and if he’s not a force of evil, I don’t know what is.  Pervert the natural order of things?  Why don’t you read LOTR?  And the story of Middle-earth’s creation.  That should convince you.
So The Lord of the Rings does have magic: in the One Ring.  It is clearly portrayed as evil, but should we really be liking a book that has so much evil in it?  I present to you another quote, this time from Douglas Wilson.  And if you’ve been scrolling and not really paying attention to this very long post, this is the time to listen up.
Magic is trying to wrest power from the created order in order to exercise that power over others.  This is to be distinguished from exercising dominion, which works with the created order in order to serve God and others… The Lord of the Rings is not a book promoting magic, with a little “good guy magic” or “white magic” thrown in to make it palatable for Christians.  The Lord of the Rings is actually one of the most profoundly anti-magic books available.  Why is this? 
…Through an odd circumstance, they [the good guys] came to possess the Ring of Power, and this Ring (wielded by someone like Gandalf, or Elrond) would overthrow Sauron and all their enemies completely.  Then they would be able to wield power decisively.  But when they had overthrown Sauron, they would discover that they had done so by becoming Sauron.
This is why they decide to destroy the Ring.  When Frodo, at the fateful moment, says, “I will take the Ring,” he is saying not just that he will undertake a very dangerous mission.  It is indeed dangerous, but fundamentally, it is a mission of repudiation. The good guys have the ultimate weapon, the ultimate power, and they refuse to use it.  Think for a moment how strange this is as a story line.  Most wartime adventure stories are about trying to acquire a great weapon, or destroy one in the enemy’s possession.  This story is about trying to destroy the enemy’s great weapon that is in your possession the entire time.

Put yourself in Middle Earth for a moment.  Evil is sweeping across the world; you have the great weapon that the bad guy is sure to get, if you don’t use it first.  If you do use it, you can destroy the bad guy forever.  And since the Ring is evil in itself, after you’ve used it to destroy Sauron, you can hop over to the Mount of Doom, throw it in, and be done with evil forever.  That’s what I would have thought.  Sure, the Ring is evil, sure, it’s magic.  But to have one person use that evil once could destroy evil forever.  Wouldn’t that be worth it?  I might think so.  But the three most powerful good guys, Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel, are all offered the Ring, and they all refuse it.  Gandalf speaks of it like this.
“With that power I should have power too great and terrible.  And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly.” 
They realize that the Ring is evil.  If they used it to destroy Sauron, they would destroy him by becoming him, as Douglas Wilson said.  “They have the ultimate weapon, the ultimate power, and they refuse to use it.”
 
Kudos to you if you’ve read this far!  I didn’t actually mean for this post to be so long, but it piled up.  There are just three things more that I want to say.

I’ve demonstrated that LOTR is not bad.  But it’s more than not bad.  I could talk for ages about the epic storyline, how much it’s inspired my own writing, the beauty of it, the important themes, the Christian worldview… but that would take a couple more posts at least this long.

The LOTR movies are, for the most part, faithful to the story, and for that I heartily applaud them.  However, the makers of the movies did not share the worldview of J.R.R. Tolkien, so some of the themes don’t shine quite as clear in the movies, and also, the movies’ treatment of magic is, in my opinion, subtly different from Tolkien’s.   So they’re fine to watch, but be discerning in what you get out of them.

I’ve mention Tolkien’s Christian worldview and that it shows through in LOTR (and especially his other works.)  I haven’t mentioned yet that Tolkien was a Catholic.  I believe that certain parts of the Catholic faith, such as purgatory, transubstantiation, and the veneration of saints, are unbiblical.  I can’t imagine how whatever conclusions Tolkien got from the ideas of purgatory and transubstantiation could have found their way into his writings (although some traces of veneration of saints does seem to have slipped in,) but a person’s worldview does influence his thinking, so, again, discernment is a very useful thing to have.  The Lord of the Rings (and Tolkien’s other works) are great books, but they are not perfect any more than Tolkien (or me, for that matter,) is perfect.

And that, my friends, is all I have to say.  For now.   Do you agree with me?  Disagree?  Is there something I missed?  Remember, the comment box is always available and comments are more than welcome. :D

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Thanksgiving

It had never entered my mind that I would do a Thanksgiving post today.  After all, 'my' (Canada's) Thanksgiving was more than a month ago.  But today, without thinking of Thanksgiving at all, I found myself being joyfully, gloriously, thankful.  I'm not going to make a list of what I'm thankful for, because that list could reach on into infinity.  Anything that I have, anything that I am, any beauty, any joy, it is all from Him.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To him be the glory forever.  Amen.
Romans 11:36

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mock Execution

WARNING: Looooong, two part post ahead.  Anyone who tries to ignore either half of this post will be faced with the wrath of Shuffle. (And if you read to the end you'll find out who shuffle is!)

The first thing I have to show you is this, Jessica’s superly-duper novel.
Safirewriter

She is publishing it
and
We are having a blog party to celebrate. 

I’ve never celebrated this kind of party before, so I can’t tell you from experience what will be happening, but I’ll hazard a guess and say that we’ll talk about how much we like Annabeth’s War.  At least, that’s what I’ll be doing.  

But if you don’t read Annabeth’s War, you won’t be able to talk about how much you like it.  And if that happens, what is meant to be a Fun Party will turn out to be a Pity Party.  Not fun.  So go out and order your copy – wait!  Not quite yet, it’s still being published! – well, go out and decide that you will order your copy.  When it does come out. 

The point of this little advertisement (which isn’t one, because I’m not being paid to do it and I’m not doing it from any personal motives except for the desire to get a nice cosy benefactorly feeling when you find out you love the book I recommended to you…)  Well, the point of it is to introduce Annabeth’s War to those who don’t know about it (yes, thank you, Mary) and to explain in a long-winded fashion the reason for the nonsense that is soon to appear on this page. 

Safirewriter
 

Being naturally excited about Annabeth’s War (and also Jessica’s next to be published book, which is spectacular) I was poking around her blog (here, peoples) and came across some posts I fondly remembered from the days I first found Safirewriter.  One of them in particular dreadfully amused me.  The Music Tag.  Jessica did tag everyone.  I don’t think she expected to have someone finally do it two years later, but if you offer out an amusing tag, you must abide by the consequences.

1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle. (My Windows Media player doesn’t have all that much because I lost a lot of my music when my old laptop broke and the downloader thing on the computer isn’t working, so I haven’t gotten much new music either.  But what there is will be shuffled.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS.
4. Tag 20 friends.
5. Everyone tagged has to do the same thing.

Behold the questions.

If someone says "Are you okay?" you say...
Forest of Vincennes from The Scottish Chiefs audiobook.  Makes sense?  Nah?  Well, the most crying over characters I’ve done was while reading that book.  If anyone had come upon me during one of those outbursts, “Are you okay?” would be exactly what they ask.

What would best describe your personality?
Sixteen Going on Seventeen from The Sound of Music.  Wrrrrong.  I ain’t sixteen.  And I take any resemblance to that Rolf-crazy girl as a personal insult. :P

How would you describe yourself?
If I Can Help Somebody by the Irish Tenors.  Well, if you say my outstanding characteristic is helping people I won’t object.

What do you like in a guy/girl?
Chapter 12 of Nicholas Nickleby audiobook.  Whereby the reader will be enabled to trace the further course of Miss Fanny Squears’ love and ascertain whether it ran smooth or otherwise. Oooooookay.   *nervous giggle* Does this mean that I like in a guy whether my love runs smooth or otherwise?

How do you feel today?
Allegro Molto Appasionato by Felix Mendelssohn.  Allegro means fast, lively, or light, molto means very much and I’m taking a guess here and saying that Appasionato has something to do with being passionate.  So I feel fast, lively, light, and very much passionate today.   Not too bad, but if Mendelssohn was composing about how I feel today, he forgot the pneumonia.

What is your life's purpose?
On the Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady.  Oh yay!  I get to spend my life singing on streets where people live?  Maybe not.

What's Your Motto?
Return of Bingley from Pride and Prejudice.  Ouch.  That makes me feel like Mrs. Bennet.  Now I am insulted.

What do your friends think of you?
The Ring Goes South from The Fellowship of the Ring.  Yes (gollum, gollum,) it means I’m their preciousss!

What do your parents think of you?
Hope and Memory from The Two Towers.  Oh, NOW I know what they’re actually thinking when they look at me funny!  But I do think that a parent’s life should include a lot of hope and a lot of memory. 

What do you think about very often?
Halcyon Days by Eric Coates.  Halcyon: calm, peaceful, happy.  Dramatic me thinking about that?  Try again.

What is 2 + 2?
Be Thou My Vision by the Irish Tenors.  Um, are you trying to make me go around in circles of logic to make that make sense?  Very well, I accept your challenge.  My Vision as the song is speaking of is God.  God is the source of all of creation, including math (and the reason I don’t like it is because it was corrupted by the fall… but anyways) He is the great Designer and also the great Mathematician.  Everything around us should point us to God, even math, therefore 2+2 = Be Thou My Vision.  No sense?  I did try…


What do you think of your best friend?
A Knife in the Dark from The Fellowship of the Ring.  Okay, Sjanie, either you are a homicidial maniac or I am.  Take your pick.  I’ll have to acquaint you with this fact tomorrow when we watch the Fellowship together. :P

What do you think of the person you like?
There is Nothing Lost from Sense and Sensibility.  There is nothing lost if I like him?  Or if I don’t?  Or is there nothing lost if I like someone else?  Shuffle, you make no sense.

What is your life story?
My Love by the Irish Tenors.  Love with a capital L.  Amen.  You are getting better, Shuffle.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
The Black Gate is Closed from The Two Towers  You mean I want my life closed against evil when I grow up?  Won’t argue with that…

What do you think when you see the person you like?
Cynthia’s Promise from Wives and Daughters.  Okay.  Just as you like, Shuffle.

What will you do at your wedding?
My Father’s Favorite from Sense and Sensibility.  I will be going up the aisle on his arm, at least.  :D

What will they play at your funeral?
Think of Me from The Phantom of the Opera.  Don’t look at me like that!  I didn’t choose it! 

What is your hobby/interest?
Morning from Peer Gynt Suite.  I am disappointed in you, Shuffle.  Even you are in on the plot to make me admit I’m a morning person. 

What is your biggest fear?
Marguerite a Traitor from The Scarlet Pimpernel.  Pretty scary if your name’s Percy.

What is your biggest secret?
Miss Potter from Miss Potter (obviously).  Wait!  Now you guys know my secret identity!

What do you want right now?
Breath of Life from The Two Towers.  “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10.

What do you think of your friends?
Grant Me An Interview from Sense and Sensibility.  Speaks for itself.  We like to talk.


What's the worst thing that could happen?
Double Wedding  from Pride and Prejudice.  Eeeeep!  I won’t get to plan the wedding all by myself!

What is the one thing you regret?
Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again from The Phantom of the Opera.  I should never wish that.  It makes me cry…

What makes you laugh?
Song Without Words by Mendelssohn.  So that I don’t get to sing them?  No laughing matter.

What makes you cry?
Without You from My Fair Lady.  Okay, but not the song, just the idea…

Will you ever get married?
Stirling from The Scottish Chiefs audiobook.  That book’s about William Wallace.  Does it mean I’ll get married if Wallace comes around?  Can’t say I’ll mind if he does. :D

What scares you the most?
The Bridge of Khazad Dum from The Fellowship of the Ring.  Can you blame me?

Does anyone like you?
Jeeves and the Hard-Boiled Egg by P.G. Wodehouse.  Ummmm, who likes me?   Jeeves or the Hard-Boiled Egg?

If you could go back in time, what would you change?
Edelweiss from The Sound of Music.  Let me think about that one…

What hurts right now?
The Gardiners from Pride and Prejudice.  NOOOOOO.  Mrs. Gardiner, how could you?

What would you want to say to the person who tagged you?
Danger Ahead
from The Scarlet Pimpernel.  This is Shuffle’s message to you, not me.

What will you name this post?
Mock Execution from the same.

*falls down dead* the execution not being as mock as it pretended to be.  Perhaps Danger Ahead was a message to me after all. ;)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Blunt the knives and crack the plates...

But that's what Bilbo Baggins hates.
So carefully, carefully with the plates!

Or, the new sneak-bits of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey soundtrack!  On youtube.  Right now.  I am delighted.

This stuff is NEW, peoples.  Just came out today.  Less than 100 views on some of them.  This gets more exciting by the minute.  Search 'ElyathProductions' (somehow they're doing it) and 'The Hobbit' on youtube and voila, you'll get it!

Sometime this month I'm going to be posting something about LOTR, magic, and wizards that's been simmering in my head for a while.  Sometime.  After I've gotten over this horrid cold.  *cough, cough, wheeze, cough*  And after I've caught up on Nano.   And after I've done more chemistry.  And after I've planned my LOTR themed birthday party.  Then.

p.s. if you want to listen to the blunt the knives and crack the plates song, it's sung by the dwarves and #4 of the soundtrack, and called (obviously) "Blunt the Knives."  You can listen to nearly half of it on youtube. :D

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Today I am...

{Writing}
Nothing at the moment, but I am all ready for NaNoWriMo tomorrow.  I've decided to go with a topic a bit lighter than all my previous novels, so this year's book is a fun, terribly improbable, sequel called After the Holiday.  When I first heard about the vintage movie Roman Holiday from darling Rachel I had no idea that it would end the way it does.  But since it does, what better thing to do than write a sequel?  (If you want to see more about my story, go to my NaNoWriMo page or my writing blog.)

{Reading}

With a heavy literature program this year, instead of a lot of free reading, I'm plugging away at The Iliad (surprisingly interesting) and recently finished Death on the Nile.  I also just started listening to My Man, Jeeves on audiobook which I'm hoping will lend a little more lightness to my writing style.  I do know that after my usual diet of Dickens audiobooks my writing gets to be a little... ponderous.
I'm also in the middle of a book of C.S. Lewis essays (astonishingly good) that I read on Sundays when I have more free time than usual. 

{Listening}
Right now I'm actually listening to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, because my brother wanted me to turn some music on and that's all I could find.  But I've been compiling a playlist for After the Holiday with whatever music I could find that bore some similarity to the characters, feel, or plot.  And it's actually quite conducive to inspiration.  I go through my list, "Could this song go in?" "No, it has nothing to do with Roman Holiday."  "But what if I put something like it in the sequel?"  And on comes a splendid idea.

That cravat!  I ask you!
{(Re)watching}
The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934.)  It does get better every time.  Leslie Howard, while not up to the level of the brilliantly and heroically foppish portrayal of Anthony Andrews, is so funny it's... funny.  Merle Oberon does an admirable portrayal of Marguerite, she is a bit of a childish wimp here.  The dresses are swoon-worthy - and Percy's cravats are gag-worthy.  And there's Sir Andrew (who looks to be the one person who knows how a cravat SHOULD be worn) and Chauvelin, who is ugly.  And while it's pretty close to the book, they added a lot of the memorable quotes and touches that we love in TSP1982.  And there are no skip-worthy scenes in it.  Now if only it wasn't in black and white and Percy's cravats were at least tolerable...
 
{Learning}
That God is really so amazing.  I'm praying for something important, barely realizing what I actually want, He brings it in a way I would have never expected or imagined and so soon that I'm left wondering "Did this really happen?  Here?  To me?"

Other more, boring things I'm learning is that chemistry is complicated and that Achilles was a contemporary of the prophet Samuel.
 
{Looking}
At the computer screen. :P
 
{Feeling}
A little tired.  A great deal like I have a cold, which is not surprising.  Also a little disappointed that we didn't have more of Hurricane Sandy.  I have a penchant for storms as long as they don't wreck anything, but all we got was a bit of disappointing wind Monday night.  I know, though, that a lot of you on the east coast got a great deal more storm and damage than you probably want.



what I'll be saying to myself tomorrow...
{Anticipating}
The start of NaNoWriMo tomorrow... ONE DAY MORE!  And a writing workshop I'm also attending tomorrow and a Pride and Prejudice study group on Friday (LOTS of fun.  This thing has definitely re-awakened my love for P&P.) And a friend's surprise sleepover party from Friday to Saturday.  She thinks she's planning her own birthday party for later and that mine is going to be this Friday.  She won't know what's happened. :D

{Wishing}
...you were somehow here again... wishing you were somehow near... 
Never mind.  I sing too much.
1: That I had more time.  2: That I could sing properly when I have a cold.  3: That I could find some good 50s style songs to put on my After the Holiday playlist.  Any suggestions?

{Loving}
When I catch a glimpse of a visitor from the other side of the church and decide (rather illogically) that a girl who does her hair like that has to be nice.  After the service I go over, start a conversation, and soon realize that nice is an understatement.  Then we get to talking about books.  "So what are your favorite authors?"  I vainly grope around for a few names I can through out.  "Do you like writers like Jane Austen and J.R.R. Tolkein?"
Yes.  As a matter of fact, I do.  Couldn't have said it better myself.

Source: google.com via Michaela on Pinterest
Coffee.  It was Michaela who convinced me to give coffee another change and I'm glad she did.  I still can't abide it black, but the flavor, in whatever kind of cappuccino, cookies, baking, big mugs with lots of sugar... love.  :)
(and i made chocolate dipped espresso shortbread cookies this afternoon.  doesn't that sound good?)

Daily Feats.  In other words, the website where you'll get gift cards for free.  If any of my aspiring author friends publish books anytime soon, their books will be bought with an Amazon gift card that I earned by saying that I make my bed, have a complete breakfast, and read daily. :D

How are you today?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: It's (Not That) Complicated



The subtitle of Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin's newest book is: How to relate to guys in a healthy, sane, and biblical way

Since when have girls been able to relate to guys in a way that's healthy, sane, AND biblical?  Healthy?  Whether we flirt with guys or ignore them, most of our relations with them wouldn't exactly be qualified as healthy.  Sane?  The word 'boy-crazy' is there for a reason.  Biblical?  Everyone seems to disagree about what the Bible says about guy/girl interaction.  Does it even say anything about it?

Well, yes.  Using principles solidly rooted in the Bible, as well as common sense and candid comment from various young men, the Botkin sisters demonstrate that relating to guys can be done in a healthy, sane, and biblical way.  And then it's really not that complicated.

This isn't a blanket endorsement of everything Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin say or write.  Partly because... this is all I've read by them.  But It's (Not That) Complicated is the best book on guy/girl relationships I've seen.  The reason is that Anna Sofia and Elizabeth are so Scripture-focused.  One place where this particularly jumped out at me is the part where they talk about crushes.  Instead of adopting one of the two conflicting viewpoints, either the if-I-like-a-guy-then-I've-lost-my-emotional-purity,-given-away-part-of-my-heart-and-won't-have-any-left-for-my-future-husband position or the crushes-are-natural-and-not-a-problem-so-you-can-like-any-guy-as-much-as-you-want idea.  They say:
We ask the wrong question when we ask, "Is having a crush a sin?"  The Bible doesn't actually say and the reason is because emotional purity is a made-up moral category.  And it's giving a lot of us feelings of (unbiblical) guilt for committing some dreadful nebulous crime that there is no definition for, when the answer would actually be very clear if we phrased the question using biblical terms.  There are plenty of real moral categories for real sins - like lust, covetousness, idolatry, fear of man, vain imaginations, and presumptuous sins.  How much clearer would things be if we would just go ahead and say, "I've made an idol out of a young man; is that wrong?" or, "I'm having lustful thoughts for this guy - is that a sin?
The Bible gives plenty of clear commands, both positive and negative: Guard your heart.  Love the brethren from a pure heart.  Think on what is pure and what is true.  Don't covet.  Don't lust.  Have self-control.  Take every thought captive.  Going against any of these clear commands is a sin.  This should answer our questions.
See?  Now it's not that complicated again.
 You see what I mean?

 Before I can go more into what this book says, I'll have to tell you what it doesn't say:  It doesn't say how to get married.  Anna Sofia and Elizabeth sensibly point out that since they're not married themselves, they aren't qualified to write about that.  But with five brothers and many guy friends, they are qualified to write about general guy/girl relationships.  This is very handy for us single girls who probably won't get married in the near future.  Sure, I Kissed Dating Goodbye might have good advice for when you are getting into a serious relationship, but it doesn't really apply to our lives now.  It's (Not That) Complicated does. 

Anna Sofia and Elizabeth discuss such important topics as
  • Why we're interested in boys (and why that is a good thing),
  • How to see men as God sees them
  • How to be a sister to our real brothers
  • Reforming our philosophy of relationships
  • How to draw strength, wisdom and protection from our parents, 
  • Why we aren't actually the sweet innocent girls that we think we are
  • Why we're not supposed to meddle in other people's relationships
  • How to say no to the wrong kinds of relationships
  • How to become a girl a man would want as a wife as well as a friend
  • And a VERY insightful chapter on contentment. 
On top of this, they offer practical tips on interaction and conversation, relevant comments from real young men, appendices to parents written by their parents, and the comforting conviction that when you look at it through the Biblical lens, it's really not all that complicated.  Although this is a book on guy/girl relationships, the Botkin sisters make it quite clear that it isn't all about guys.  It isn't all about marriage, either.  It's about serving God, and that includes how we relate to the guys around us. 

So what do I say about this book?  I say that it's the best book on relating to guys I've ever read.  If you only ever get one book about guy/girl relationships, get this one.

P.S. In all my praise of this book, I might have forgotten to say one important thing: that it's actually a lot of fun to read.  On top of the interesting quotes from a wide range of people in a wide range of circumstances they include, the Botkin sisters' delightful sense of humor pops up regularly and I had a lot of fun following and laughing at their direct or indirect references to common books, phrases, poems, or people.  Hey!  They just quoted Rudyard Kipling!  And paraphrased Elizabeth Barret Browning!  And took a couple lines from some of my favorite musicals!  And talked about Mr. Darcy!... again. :P

Now that I've basically told you to buy this book immediately, it's only fair to tell you where you can get it. It's available from Western Conservatory, from Vision Forum, and from Amazon. ( And no, I'm not getting paid to tell you this.)