Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Research Smesearch

Good grief, where has the time gone? I have a thousand posts half-written in my head, but I can never seem to find the time (and gumption) to write them out. Mainly because I've taken off on one of my, what I call, "writing binges". Unfortunately for my summer reading resolution, this means that I have little to no interest in reading, but can sit for hours typing away at one or two of my many novels at a time.
And, of course, this means it's time for that necessary evil. Research.


I have a rather unaccountable fear of research. I'm always afraid I'm going to find something that will completely destroy my fragile, idealistic plots or force me to do a ton of reworking to make something fit. Usually, this is overly-cynical, since I've found that most things can be squashed in without too much trouble, but there's a first time for everything and I'm always convinced THIS will be that time.

Not only am I afraid of that, but I also detest the hours of wrangling for information, ogling maps, typing in destinations and starting points, hoping beyond hope that someone will have some information on the most obscure topics you can think of...For instance, I spent almost the entire day in the depths of southwestern Montana (I just found out that the abbreviation for that state is MT -- after months of wondering. Amazing!) trying to find a decent place to set up a cow-calf ranch. You would not believe the difficulties I came across. And I couldn't find a decent map anywhere that said "here is a piece of ground that fits your exact specifications". Outrage! In fact, it took me forever just to find out where the East Fork of the Bitterroot River began. Multiply that by about seven or eight towns to choose from, 100 miles of valley land, two mountain ranges (wonderful things that they are), innumerable creeks, annoying little roads that cut right through where you want to land your ranch, distances that are either too great or too small for your purposes, government preserves, little bed and breakfasts, and ect.Then divide it by a 7000 acre ranch that needs to be situated just right with water and mountain ranges and a town that is just a bit too far away for convenience and viola! you have a pile of crumpled paper and a bad case of frustrated brain-cramps (not to mention that you're dead tired too).

Sometimes I ask myself why I keep on doing it. I mean, for pete's sake, is anyone really going to care if I accidentally set my ranch right smack on top of a campground, or a tourists hotel or a fly-fishing lodge? The only people who are going to know would be the people that live in the area and considering the small population of the Bitterroot Valley, I don't think it's very possible that I will get in trouble for it.
The only problem with that line of reason is that I care. If even one person read that novel (should it ever get published) and told me that my location was a virtual impossibility, I would be humiliated to the grave. (Ok, that's a bit dramatic, but I would be very embarrassed.) Besides that, I want my novels to sound like I really know what I'm talking about. That's why I am currently working my way through a book I never thought I would be reading.

The Modern Cowboy by John R. Erickson (which, I should make haste to inform you, is a virtual fount of information. It's a researcher's dream. It's straightforward, concise, tells you EVERYTHING and, as a side bonus, is really fun to read.)

The only problem I have with reading the book for research is that I stink at summarizing and thus practically write down the entire book while I do my research. To be sure, as it's from the library and can only be renewed two (or is it three?) times, such a fund of hand-written information is extremely convenient, but I have a rather difficult time selling that theory to my impatient self when I'm in the midst of writing it up. (This is getting way too long, as all my post seem to tend to do, but I'm going to finish my thought and if you don't want to read on, well, you'll probably find that quitting it now is a display of good sense.)

As for the material I find, I think I tend to be overzealous with it. My mindset is that if I've done all this research, well then, the reader might as well get the benefit of it! Of course, only my wonderful friend who reads all my stuff hot off the press (a terrific job, I tell you. It's astonishing that she and I are still friends after what I've treated her to) and my wonderful editor (who also happens to be a dear friend - especially when she edits things) could tell you whether I pile on the information or not. I am, admittedly, rather partial to my work. But really, there are so many interesting details that can be found while researching. I confess that I usually don't bother to find them until I'm on the second draft of the novel (and then I cram them in like a madman). I actually wrote almost an entire novel without researching much of anything. Not a good idea... Everyone mended fences because that was basically the only chore I could conjure up and going in the first time, I wouldn't have known the difference between a filly, colt, foal, gelding, stallion, heifer or steer if they had hit me in the face. (I do know now, by the way.)

In conclusion, I read a depressing chapter in Thomas Monteleone's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel where he instructed a budding writer to "immerse" themselves in the era, customs, settings, ect. of their time period. Immerse? I was barely standing on the edge and dipping my toe in. But, as with most advice from people who know their stuff, "immersion" was a good idea. The writing flows so much better, reads so much more realistically, and sounds 100 times more authentic (go figure).

Despite all that, I still can't stand it. Even though I sometimes happen upon a freak coincidence (I tend to think they're more than coincidence) where I find something that fits so perfectly that it completely opens a new door for my plot, I would still ditch it all to a research assistant if I could afford one. (Actually being published would probably also be an aid in that area as well. Someday, perhaps.) Anyway, methinks this is a book I should be reading soon.

'Till next time,
-- Jamie

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Oliver Twist

My first classic of the summer!
Well, technically, I started this before the resolution, but good grief, it's long. I needed the extra time.
Review: I loved it!
Ok, I'll go into a bit more depth than that... :)

I never really intended to read this book, but picked it up only because I saw the musical which two of my friends were acting in and I wanted to see what they left out. The musical peaked my interest enough to actually spur me into action. Murder, evil stepbrothers, mothers dying in childbirth, cruel, power-hungry people chasing after and grappling over a young, innocent boy. Yup, that's just the kind of story that fits my kinks. In fact, as I read, I was strongly reminded of one of my own stories. A novel I just finished the first draft of. (Just a little excited there!) :)
For a classic, the book read very easily; it didn't drag. And it was so funny! That was the best part. I love reading books by authors who can twist every normal sentence into something of great humor. I have a feeling that Dickens will be more regular fare in my literary diet from now on (now that I've realized there's nothing to dread...)
My favorite characters? The doctor/Mr. Losberne and Mr. Grimwig. I was quite surprised that though this book was named after Oliver, he really played a rather small part in the narrative, in the manner of appearance and voice. Obviously, the plot revolved around him.

To end, here are some (a very terrible few) of my favorite bits: (Sorry, I can't resist.)
"Dear, dear!" ejaculated Mrs. Sowerberry, piously raising her eyes to the kitchen ceiling; "this comes of being liberal!"
The liberality of Mrs. Sowerberry to Oliver had consisted in a profuse bestowal upon him of all the dirty odds and ends which nobody else would eat, so there was a great deal of meekness and self-devotion in her voluntarily remaining under Mr. Bumble's heavy accusation. Of which, to do her justice, she was wholly innocent in thought, word, or deed.

Mr. Fagin looked so very much in earnest, that Charley Bates, who deemed it prudent in all cases to be on the safe side, and who conceived it by no means improbable that it might be his turn to be throttled second, dropped to his knees, and raised a loud, well-sustained, and continuous roar -- something between a mad bull and a speaking trumpet.

"You ought to be dead, positively dead with the fright," said the fat gentleman. "Why didn't you send? Bless me, my man should have come in a minute, and so would I; and my assistant would have been delighted, or anybody, I'm sure, under such circumstances. Dear, dear! So unexpected! In the silence of the night too!"
The doctor seemed especially troubled by the fact of the robbery having been unexpected, and attempted in the night-time; as of it were the established custom of gentlemen in the house-breaking way to transact business at noon, and to make an appointment, by post, a day or two previous. 

"A legal action is a coming on, about a settlement, and the board has appointed me -- me, Mrs. Mann -- to depose to the matter before the quarter-sessions at Clerkinwell. And I very much question," added Mr. Bumble, drawing himself up, "whether the Clerkinwell Sessions will not find themselves in the wrong box before they have done with me."
"Oh! you mustn't be too hard upon them, sir," said Mrs. Mann, coaxingly. 
"The Clerkinwell Sessions have brought it upon themselves, ma'am," replied Mr. Bumble; "and if the Clerkinwell Sessions find that they come off rather worse than they expected, the Clerkinwell Sessions have only themselves to thank."

And I'm adding Hamlet to my list.

'Till next time,
-- Jamie

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Summer of Classics

I, nobly and resolutely, have decided that instead of "wasting" my summer reading time reading the books I normally read, I will instead nurture my mind with classics. Dickens, Austen, Collins, Shakespeare, Doyle, and the like. I shall immerse myself in the overload of description, the hallowed run-on sentences, the drama, the mystery, the suspense, the humor. Oh yes, the humor.
Seriously, though. I'm going to do it -- this time. Of course, I probably won't subsist wholly on them (I mean, one must have a light, quick read once in a while, mustn't one?) but I intend to make it as far through my list as possible and come out of the next three and a half months a better and more educated person (and a person able to proudly say, "Yes, I have read that book, and you?"). Anyway, this is my list thus far: 
- Our Mutual Friend
- Oliver Twist 
- Pride and Prejudice (don't choke on your tea, ladies. I have read this one before.)
- The Moonstone
- Emma or Persuasion (I haven't decided yet between the two, so I am willing to take votes of advocacy)
- The Hound of the Baskervilles
- Hamlet

It doesn't look like much, but keep in mind that this is a girl who usually avoids classics like the seven plagues (whatever they are) and these are all rather long books in and of themselves. Also, I might be keeping last summer's resolution of reading the Lord of the Rings series, and I have made a tentative promise to myself that I will finish writing and revising one of my novels this summer, so we'll see how much of this actually gets done.

'Till next time, 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Springtime Ramble

This post is going to be dedicated to nothingness. Spring has finally come to my neck of the woods (though I'm still waiting for the temperature to show the same trend) and I recently dug out my camera and decided to snap some of the foliage in our backyard. This is the result: A few pictures from my latest photo shoot and a few shots of our rabbits, which we don't have anymore, but which still fit in the spring category nonetheless:

                                                                       Pear Blossom

I have no idea what this flower is



                                                                        Baby Rabbits


                                                                   Snickers and Gracie


'Till next time,
-- Jamie

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  -- Ecclesiastes 3:11 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Don't Hesitate!

I want to share a story about something that I saw in church this morning that challenged me more than the sermon, hymns, creeds and prayers all put together. But first, a bit of background...
I attend a small church with a predominantly elderly congregation. There is no one there who is my express age, but there are a few who are older and younger than I am. There is one girl (the subject of this little story) who is in her early twenties. She's been attending the church for much longer than I have, but only recently we've struck up one of those awkward friendships where we talk every once in a while and we don't really know what to talk about, but we're rather content to just stand there and smile at each other.
Anyway, she is also one of the ushers who takes the offerings, gets everyone up for communion, gets the attendance tally and ect (I'm not an usher, so I'm not sure what-all they do besides that). I've always respected her because she has a quality that I have always coveted. She has a gentle and quiet spirit and she is absolutely unselfish. Ok, so that's two qualities (or is it three?), but stick with me here; I've never been good with numbers.
This is what she did today that made me sit back and take a good look at myself:
I was sitting in my pew, singing one of the communion hymns, (without looking, mind you. That's important to the story. I knew the words, though, so I wasn't neglecting my duty to the congregation.) when I saw her helping a very elderly lady up to the communion rail. I'm not sure why this affected me so much, but it did. When they got to the front, I expected her to hand the lady off to the usher at the rail, but she didn't. Instead, she very calmly helped the lady to the rail and knelt beside her and took communion. After they finished, she came back down and helped the lady to her seat. This may not sound very life-changing, but it sure brought me up short.
I am a very... self-conscious person. I'm constantly wondering (one of my worst faults, by the way) what people will think of me when I do something. If I had been in that girl's place, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have done what she did. I would have hung back and wondered if the woman might need help, made a few tentative advances and then sigh with relief when someone else did what I was thinking of doing. It seems like I always do that. When I feel that I should go over and talk to someone, welcome them to the church, or some such like that, I always hesitate and argue with myself for so long that the opportunity is lost. I always tell God "next time". But I know, deep down, that when "next time" comes, I'll find some reason to avoid it too. That's why I was so challenged by what she did.
She didn't hesitate to do what she knew she should. She didn't care what people might think. She didn't try to get rid of the responsibility as soon as an opportunity came up. She didn't look around and think how awkward her situation was. She didn't hesitate to do it at all. That was what amazed me.
Very rarely do I come across a person who doesn't hesitate to do something they know they ought to do, and they do it with such selfless uncaring as to what people might think that I am completely humbled. I've always longed to be like that. To do things without weighing consequences and other people's opinions against the action. I've prayed, many times, to have the courage and selflessness to go up to people and talk to them or help them without wondering what my siblings, friends, or even the people around me (who I don't even and probably will never know) are thinking of me. But those prayers are rather empty and vain if I don't exercise the courage and unselfish love for others that God has already given me (2 Timothy 1:7 & 2 Corinthians 9:8) -- which I, to my chagrin, rarely make use of -- and take a step out of my self-conscious rut and see what He will do through me when I actually give Him an opportunity. After all, I can hardly blame God for not giving me that extra surge of courage which will physically push me into such a situation (when I have the audacity and lack of faith to ask for such a thing...), after I have made it quite clear that I am unwilling to use the less dramatic courage He has already given me, face my fears, and do what He asks. I know that when I finally push myself to use what God has already given me to overcome my fear, I'll open up the door for Him to do immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), and to do them through me, His very timid and hesitant princess. And that is something worth pushing for.

'Till next time,
-- Jamie    

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Little Something to Contemplate

This is an entry from Joni Eareckson Tada's book Diamonds in the Dust. It's a daily devotional type thing (chock full of good stuff, I might add) and this was the topic and discussion on May 8 that really got me thinking.

Shattered Glass
"Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." - John 12:36
My art studio is a mess of half-chewed pastel pencils, old tubes of paint, and piles of illustrations overflowing my file drawers. Recently while cleaning up, I discovered some broken glass on the counter by the window. I also discovered that when the sunlight struck the shattered glass, brilliant, colorful rays scattered everywhere. 
Shattered glass is full of a thousand different angles, each one picking up a ray of light and shooting it off in a thousand directions. That doesn't happen with plain glass, such as a jar. The glass must be broken into many pieces. 
What's true of shattered glass is true of a broken life. Shattered dreams. A heart full of fissures. Hopes that are splintered. A life in pieces that appears to be ruined. But given time and prayer, such a person's life can shine more brightly than if the brokenness had never happened. When the light of the Lord Jesus falls upon a shattered life, that believer's hopes can be brightened. 
It's the nature of things that catch the light: The color and dazzle of light sparkles best through things that are shattered. 
Only our great God can reach down into what otherwise would be brokenness and produce something beautiful. With Him, nothing is wasted. Every broken dream and heart that hurts can be redeemed by His loving, warm touch. Your life may be shattered by sorrow, pain, or sin, but God has in mind a kaleidoscope through which His light can shine more brilliantly. 

(This is not my work; I don't claim it to be. Everything was written by Mrs. Tada. I couldn't even have written it if I wanted to, since I don't have an art studio and I can't draw)

'Till next time
-- Jamie

Monday, May 9, 2011

May I Have Your Attention, Please...

Just a quick non-post. :)
I'd like to draw your attention to and make you aware of the newest feature of the blog. Drumroll, please. The 2011 Shelf of Read Books! (Since changed to Books I've Read in 2011 - less drama there...) Thanks are at the end if you make it all the way through. :)
All undeserved hype aside, this is just a concise and ordered list of all the books I've read in the year, along with authors and personal ratings. I have done my best to provide informative links to each book which will take you to a site where you can read a synopsis, look inside the book, and find reviews. (Most of them are linked to which has the best features for reading first pages, reviews, ect.) Some of the books, however, are out-of-print or unavailable, so these features are also unavailable. If you want to see my personal reviews, I compile them at this site (click here). My username for a review there is JocelynRose. If you can't find mine (or don't have the time to find my review in the list) the site is full of amazing reviewers who write better ones than I do. As a side note, I don't review every book I read.
I follow the Goodreads criteria for reviewing which means 5 stars is "it was amazing", 4 stars is "really liked it", 3 stars is "liked it", 2 stars is "it was ok" and 1 star is "didn't like it" (which can be an understatement sometimes...).
I'll be adding more books to the shelf as I go along, so please take a look every once in a while. :)
One last thing: If I come across a book whose praises must be trumpeted in a place more auspicious than the list, I will do so on my blog. I don't want to bore everyone with itty-bitty reviews on every book I read. (This is sort of just an excuse to avoid writing reviews for every book I read and have read in the past, but there are probably a million reviews already for the books I really love. My comments would most likely be very redundant and unoriginal.)
Thanks for reading!
-- Jamie

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Trust Me, My Child...

This is one of my favorite quotes. I love it because I often forget that this is who God is. Even though I'm not a big fan of Amy Carmichael (I read Elisabeth Elliot's book A Chance to Die and became rather disenchanted) her writing is beautiful and this quote is full of God's voice. I wrote in on a notecard a few years ago and taped it on the wall by my bed; I've practically memorized it from reading it so many times.

"Trust Me, my child," He says. "Trust Me with a fuller abandon than you ever have before. Trust Me, as minute succeeds minute, every day of your life, for as long as you live. And if you become conscious of anything hindering our relationship, do not hurt Me by turning away from Me. Draw all the closer to Me, come, run to Me. Allow Me to hide you, to protect you, even from from yourself. Tell Me your deepest cares, your every trouble. Trust Me to keep My hand upon you. I will never leave you. I will shape you, mold you, and perfect you. Do not fear, O child of My love, do not fear. I love you." 

-- Amy Carmichael

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Not-So-Concise History of Brannon McCrae

Good grief, HOW can it be May already? Yee-ikes. The date of my college class sign-up looms ever closer. Right now a nice big fish would have my express permission to swallow me whole, though I'd need a sojourn longer than Jonah's to avoid this ordeal. Just so long as he spat me out before Christmas... That would have to be a principal measure in the bargain. Unfortunately, since I don't live near a body of water that would be big enough to house such a creature, that plan is mostly rot (don't you just love those jolly, English phrases?). 'Tis unfortunate. I guess I'll just have to go through with the sprint into higher education after all. As Maria says to Liesl in The Sound of Music, "You can't use school to avoid your problems. You have to face them!" Only that's a bit mixed up. Oh well.
I'm going to take a plunge today that I will hopefully not regret later. Today is the first day I'm going to air a segment of my writing to the general public. I know the minute I hit the "publish post" button, I'm going to have three hundred misgivings, but if I don't start somewhere I might as well kick my dream of getting published to kingdom come. Who ever heard of an aspiring writer who was afraid to put her writing out into the world? Such a thing is lame, and I refuse to be lame in this instance. Even the justification for such avoidance that I usually give myself (that someone might see this post and steal my idea) is not going to hold up (it never should have). Anyway, I'm going to ramble a bit before I get out my notebook and copy it off, so if you want to get on with your life and just read the excerpt, run on down to the end if you can get the sidebar mover-thing to slide down. (What on earth is that called anyway? I'm sure I could find out on Google if I typed it in, but I'm feeling rather lazy at the moment.)
The best news I have to share today is that my writer's block is finally dissipating. I actually was able to pound out a chapter of semi-good writing yesterday. I am very enthused. This is about the time where I begin racking up sky-high goals of finishing another novel this summer. I should be able to go through with it this time, though, because I've already written three-quarters of it and am now only in the process it. *sigh* I think I left my point somewhere at the top of this paragraph, so I'll go up and retrieve it. 
What I was going to do, before I derailed, was introduce my scenes notebook. (This is an integral part of my writing process, so it's pretty important to my writing style. Someday I'm going to devote a post to the subject of writing style, but now is not the time, so go ahead and let out that sigh of relief. The boredom has been pushed off to a later date. I should warn you, though, that it is inevitable as death, taxes and badly written books making the top of the New York Times Bestseller List.) 
My scenes notebook is something I started a while back out of sheer desperation. I have a very strict rule about starting a novel at the beginning and only working from there to the end, so it became a necessary piece of equipment before long. I was beginning to forget those wonderful scenes I thought up and couldn't integrate into the storyline because I hadn't gotten to their place yet, so I began jotting them down in my notebook.
The notebook itself is just a regular college-lined, spiral bound pad of paper (probably a cheap make because the spiral is beginning to unravel so that it catches on everything). I did cover it with shiny silver wrapping paper and stuck the letters J-O-U-R-N-A-L on the front that I had colored with rainbow Sharpies, but other than that, it's quite ordinary. I thought, for a moment, of taking a picture of it, but it occurred to me that taking pictures of notebooks and posting them on a blog would be quite tacky. Though I must admit that decorating plain notebooks IS something of a hobby for me. I'm a little desperate for some creative stimulation that doesn't include a computer sometimes. Desperate is probably a good word, come to think of it. And in more ways than one. Ok, I lost myself again. Hold on while I find the beginning. Again.
Ok...So, the point is that what's inside is what's important. During my recent fall into writer's block I, in dreadful need of an activity that involved words, Microsoft Office, and my characters (who failed me cruelly in offering interest), I decided to turn to the oft-ignored task of typing up my scenes into a document (so, in case of fire or loss I would still have a copy of everything I wrote in my scenes notebook). It was an interesting trip down memory lane. I remember distinctly where I was when I wrote every one of them and couldn't help but wonder what was wrong with my head at times. Such melodrama! The scenes are dramatic, funny, serious, short and very long by turns. They are also a jumbled mess. 
I went through a stage where I only wrote on the right-hand side, but when that stage ended, the economical side of me reacted with horror. Thus the scenes from one novel are wildly interspersed with scenes from another and there are numbered segments everywhere that lead to another segment on another page which you can only find by matching the corresponding numbers. I have packing lists in there too, though I'm not sure how they got in. 
These scenes run the gamut of emotions. I have a cemetery scene directly above a heated argument. Turn the page and there's a girl in love surrounded by gossips. There are random notes on location and building dates of certain places where a novel was set, plot/date summaries, and scenes on Indian captives. Suicides, flashbacks, wry humor, prayers, and more arguments (I love writing arguments) abound within the pages, along with post-its scribbled with inspirations I got in the middle of the night. All in all, it's enough to give you a headache. Which is why I put off typing it up for so long. Not only that, but I was a bit afraid to delve into the stuff I wrote when I was younger. The love of violent scenarios was strong within me when I started writing and it was not suppressed in my earliest plots. Thankfully, I have since shredded my first story. Oh the gore and violence I packed into that one! And the poor boy who had to live through it all...I never did extend the mercy of killing him off and thus letting him rest in peace after his misfortunate existence. To be sure, I had too much more planned to allow him off so easily! I'm derailing again... Drat. I'll just cut to the chase.
Here's one scene from my venerable notebook, which I have not yet shared with anyone and has nothing to do with any of my novels in progress (only because I don't know where it's headed yet) and which I am not yet embarrassed to have admitted that I wrote.    
(I feel like some kind of header should be inserted here, but I don't have a title for this story yet, nor any idea what that title would be if I had one, so you'll just have to use your imagination. Keep in mind, though, that it's somewhere in the late beginning of a novel, so introductions will not be made to either the characters or the plot. Also, this is my original work and copying of any kind is prohibited.)

They stood in a cluster a good stone's throw from the ancient hut. Their torches flickered in the dark night, casting an eerie glow on the door. 
"Brinn Korwan!" Duncan McCrae called out. "Bring out the girl and no harm will be done to ya!"
For a moment nothing moved, but then the door creaked open and Brinn's slender form appeared. Her hair was long, dark and silken, her skin smooth and beautiful, but her eyes glittered in the torchlight.
"Ye'll no see your lass again, Duncan McCrae," she cried out to them, "unless ye surrender me Brannon. Give me the boy and ye can have yer bairn back." 
Everyone's eyes turned to Brannon, who turned to look at his father. Duncan caught his breath and brandished his torch towards the cottage. 
"Ye'll get neither, Brinn Korwan," he shouted. "Give me my daughter and keep yer evil eye off o' my son."   
"Yer son!"  Brinn repeated the word and laughed. "Ye speak a heavy word for a man who nivver had a son o' his own blood." 
"Quiet, woman," Duncan commanded. "I know where yer loyalties lie. Give me back the girl." 
Brinn reached behind her and pulled the girl out to stand beside her. Her long fingers dug into Fiona's shoulder possessively, holding her back from running to her father. Fiona cried out at the pain and every man stepped a little closer.
"Give me Brannon," Brinn repeated. 
Duncan looked as if he was about to run his pitchfork through the woman, but Brannon made his choice and stepped forward first. 
"Will she meet me halfway?" he called up to the house. 
Brinn turned her dark gaze from Duncan and fastened it on him. "Come up and get her," she called back.     
"I dinna trust ya," Brannon replied. 
"No doubt," Brinn said. "No doubt yer afraid of me too." 
"No," Brannon said. 
"Then come up here," she invited. 
"Brannon!" Fiona called, reaching out for him. Her round face was white with fear. 
"She's callin' him to the devil, that girl is," Ian McAdam muttered behind Brannon. 
Go up and take her. The voice was so near that Brannon looked for its owner. Don't be afraid, the voice continued. For I have sent my angels to guard you. It was clearer this time, insistent. A voice that was not to be ignored. Brannon looked over his shoulder at his father and nodded. Whatever happened, it would be all right. Then, he turned and walked boldly up to the door of Brinn's mouldering hut.
Brinn beckoned him closer and caught his arm, holding him close to her. Brannon felt as if someone had thrown an invisible chain around him, because suddenly he couldn't move. 
Duncan watched him go with a look of defeat on his face. Even when Brinn released Fiona at Brannon's insistence and his daughter ran to him and flung her arms around him, he didn't feel his spirits lift. Sixteen years he had protected the lad and now he had lost him. Brannon would be fighting his fate alone now. Duncan ran his hand over Fiona's bright hair and sighed. 
"I hope ye nivver know what Brannon sacrificed fer ya," he whispered above her head. "Aye and he's given up more that ye could ever know." He sighed again, more heavily this time. "He was the last hope we had." 
Duncan stared a moment more at the door that separated him from his son before turning away and disappearing into the heavy forest with the rest of the men. A heavy gloom settled over the hut again, sealing off Brinn's domain from the rest of the wood.

And there it is, in all its shabby glory. The accents might have to go, I think.  
'Till next time,   
-- Jamie

Monday, May 2, 2011

Watching You

So I'm in the library, I'm supposed to be researching cattle ranching, but instead I'm writing a blog - which is infinitely more interesting. You can only read about roundups and cowponies and cowboys for just so long when they populate a non-fiction setting. Though I personally don't really care for cowboy/wild west novels, which  brings up the question: Why are you writing one? Believe me, I don't know. I'm still working on the question: Why did you start a blog? I don't know that either. I'm beginning to wonder if anyone is reading this besides myself, but, doggedly, I'll still type it up for my own amusement.
I actually have a semblance of a topic today (I feel like I should toss some confetti, but it's only my third post, so I suppose a topic-less beginning is all right). I like to ramble, so whole blogs, dedicated to one real topic, will most likely be few and far between. I only have one today because of the sermon at church yesterday.
I'm Watching You 
That sounds creepy and stalker-ish, but it's not. It starts out like this. We had a supply yesterday (because our pastor goes on vacation a lot) and he showed this video before he started his sermon. (I must admit that I felt like crying when I watched it, which is rare. I don't cry much, but pair meaningful words with soft music, and I'll start blinking a lot.) 
Anyway, if you watched the video, you'll understand what my topic is. I'm nobody's dad, but I am quite a few somebodies' sister. I need to be reminded a lot that there are many eyes looking up to me for guidance and direction. Beside that video (and the sermon that followed it), I've been reading a book called "Joyfully at Home" by Jasmine Bauchman, which has been driving the point home lately, that as an older sister, I need to make sure my influence to my younger siblings is something worth their respect. More often than not, I am ashamed to admit, I blow my opportunities to be something special in their lives without a backward glance. My youngest brother especially. He's at that stage where the hobbies haven't really kicked in, he's constantly doing something he shouldn't (like terrorizing his sister with a sleeping bag), and he's constantly asking ME to do something with HIM! This was (and still is, at times) a great annoyance to me. If I told him once, I told him a thousand times that no, I do not want to play Candyland, no, I don't play Stratego (EVER. I abhor that game because my flag always seems to be one of the first pieces that's challeneged), no, I don't want to play Guess Who, I don't want to trade stickers (we did it only yesterday, so how could you have any new ones anyway?), I don't want to get out a gerbil for you and will you please leave your sister alone? I'm trying to get something accomplished here, for pete's sake! He would always get that disappointed look on his face and I would roll my eyes and turn back to my book or writing or whatever it was that I happened to be doing at the time, knowing that my refusal wouldn't stay on his mind for long. He would be back for more, and I would say "no" again. (He's usually the only one who asks me to do something with him, by the way. The rest of my siblings are a little more self-sufficient.)
But lately I've been realizing what it is I'm doing when I say no. When I exercise my "right" to do what I want, I am not only being a shabby example to my siblings, who then say "Well, SHE told him no, so why shouldn't I?" I am also portraying to my brother that I have no desire to be a part of his life and that I would rather read a book then spend time with him. 
That is not how I want to be viewed. 
So, I decided to change things. Through prayer, teaching from God and others, and a load of patience, I've tentatively become more attuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in that area. I've learned that if you let the Holy Spirit speak, he'll SPEAK, and it's not always something you want to hear. Once I resolved to spend more time with my siblings (but that brother especially), God, with his sense of humor, sent along many opportunities to make good on that resolution. I still refuse to play Stratego, but I've found a sort of fiendish charm in Candyland and Guess Who.  Sometimes, it's not even playing a game that God asks you to do. Sometimes He just wants you to talk to your sibling, or praise their achievements or just take a little time to delve into their interests. 
Even though I fail to see the merit in putting together a LEGO firetruck (which I've already made twice and know will get broken again), it means an astonishing something to my little brother. And even though I am a very cynical person, I've found that finding something to praise in my sibling's work and actually voicing that praise will raises me up in their eyes much faster than a few "helpful" remarks or experienced "hints" ever did. I'll never forget the crushed look in one of my sister's eyes when I unfeelingly squelched an idea that she had thought up by callously pointing out all the loopholes and "what ifs". Every jot of her excitement drained away and she got bitter and defensive. I felt terrible, but did little to patch it up. Now, I regret that and wonder how on earth I could have been so cruel. 
It's difficult to understand sometimes how much these little ones look up to you as their older sibling. They really do crave your interest and approval (and, if you can, your participation makes everything more fun for them). They're watching you to see how you react to them and to others and they'll copy you, because you're older, and what you do is what they consider mature and acceptable. I know I've been copied, and I'm afraid it's not always been something I"m proud to have passed on. Being an example to look up to is a very difficult thing to be at times (I probably don't have to tell you that), but it is so worth it in the end when you can look at your brothers and sisters and know that you have done your best to show them how to walk in a way that is pleasing to God. 
'Till next time,
-- Jamie