Great exchange from a good book.

I just finished reading The Light of Eidon, one of the books I got this weekend from the library.

It is an intriguing addition to the world of allegorical fantasy, and pretty well carried off.

In an attempt to share my favorite segment from the book, I have to share the framework of the story, so if you think you wouldn’t guess the spiritual end of the protagonist (Abramm) consider this your spoiler warning.

~ ~ ~

Abramm, known as “The Pretender” for the two years he was a gladiator, is newly converted to the faith of “the dying god,” and faces a 200-year-old warrior king in mortal combat.

With only 1-percent of his opponent’s experience, Abramm knows there is no natural reason he should even survive, much less triumph.

He advances, praying this act of his infant faith really is Eidon’s will.  If it is, Abramm trusts that somehow his God will fight for him.

The king, Beltha’adi, is preternaturally sustained in his prime by the malevolent power that he worships, and obviously considers himself immortal.

The fight is not over swiftly, and surprisingly it is Abramm that lets the first blood.

…only a tiny cut, but Beltha’adi lurched back with a curse. It wasn’t from the pain, but from the indignity of of being the first one blooded– him who had expected not to be blooded at all.

They circled again.

“You’re good Pretender,” Beltha’adi grated, “but you’re only flesh. And flesh isn’t good enough to stand against a god.”

Abramm kept his gaze fixed on Beltha’adi’s.

“No,” he agreed. “It’s not.”

Best line in the whole book (not to diminish the book).

Loved it.

The Difference Between Fantasy and Sci-Fi

I loved this distiction/definition from The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature by Brian Attebery.

Any narrative which includes as a significant part of its make-up some violation of that which the author clearly believes is natural law– that is fantasy….

And fantasy treats these impossibilities without hesitation, without doubt, without any attempt to reconcile them with our intellectual understanding of the workings of the world or to make us believe that such things could under any circumstances come true.

I like this definition very much, and even more so when Attebery places it in contrast to science fiction (so frequently lumped with fantasy as a matter of course):

Science fiction spends much of its time convincing the reader that its seeming impossibilities are in fact explainable if we extrapolate from the world and science that we know.

This distinction is very good for the way my mind works. By giving myself “permision” to accept that the fantastic needs no explanation, I free up all sorts of brain cells to focus on what I’m actually interested in.

I’ve been writing stories for a long time…

Here are a few tags I thought might sound interesting. I’ve been cruising through old files tonight (yes, avoiding my current novel– telling myself I’m too distracted/tired to work on it just now…)

Oh, help! Marika thought desperately. Will no one rescue me?

She huddled absurdly under her bed in the darkness, she, nearly 13, and almost too big to fit. She’d played at this game before. The memory seemed obscene now.

She’d played at losing her parents and being alone in the house when robbers came– just for the safely contained thrill of fear.

And now it was coming true. She stuffed the fabric of her skirt into her mouth to muffle the choking sobs. She was not a coward, but this was too much for her.

The snuffling sounds of dogs came into the large bedchamber, and Marika wished she could faint, certain she’d be quieter if unconscious.

~ ~ ~

Then this, like my current work, is from a fairytale:

Two young men, born on the same day into very different families and circumstances, both expect to marry the same young woman.

It just so happens the girl they both want is under a curse from a slighted fairy (aren’t all the good ones?), and because of that something bad will happen if she ever is touched by the light of day. She just doesn’t know what.

Only because she doesn’t have the advantage of having read the title of the story, of course. It’s from The Orange Fairy Book, if I remember correctly, and is called The White Doe.

~ ~ ~ Continue reading »

from The Sherwood Ring

This was just delicious. I love Pope’s imagery (someday I’ll make a post of my faves from Perilous Gard).

Outside the sun was shining and the birds were singing and the open windows were clustered round with yellow roses…but I was in no mood to do anything but sit on the floor with my back to the garden and think bitterly about my wrongs and grievances.

There were a great many of them; and I was getting a certain miserable satisfaction from laying them all out and rummaging through them over and over again.

Changing Habits

From Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, originally published 1934.

Old habits are strong and jealous. They will not be displaced easily if they get any warning that such plans are afoot; they will fight for their existence with subtlety and persuasiveness.

If they are too radically attacked they will revenge themselves; you will find, after a day or two of extraordinarily virtuous effort, all sorts of reasons why the new method is not good for you, why you should alter it in line with this or that old habit, or actually abandon it entirely.

In the end you will have had no good from the new advice; but you will almost certainly feel you have given it a fair trial and it has failed.

Your mistake will have been that you tired yourself out and exhausted your good intentions before you had a chance to see whether or not the program was the right one for you.

This resonated with me– as few “motivational” essays or calls for “visualization” have:

This is not a plea to abandon the will. There will be times and occasions when only the whole weight of the will brought to bear on the matter in hand will prove effective.

But the imagination plays a far greater role in our lives than we customarily acknowledge, though any teacher can tell you how great an advocate the imagination is when a child is to be led into a changed course.

What I’ve Learned in a Year of Blogging (pt. 2)

Some highlights (October 2006 to January 2007):

Beginning Orthodoxy

Currently Reading
By G. K. Chesterton

Ahhh… Back to my reading list.

I’ve barely got through the introduction and I’m already wishing to quote large chunks of this fellow. He makes me laugh, and I like his analogies.

He reads rather like a blogger, which should be no surprise since he was a journalist and a debater for pleasure. He seems almost (again, like a blogger) to have unrestricted printing access. This makes him very free with word-count and self-amusing asides.

This book, Chesterton says, grew out of a challenge that the last book he wrote was incomplete in its scope.

It was perhaps an incautious suggestion to make to a person only too ready to write books upon the feeblest provocation.

Two things so far have caught my mind.

First, the (every) writer’s reality of rediscovering what (really) is already known,

I am the man who with the utmost daring discovered what had been discovered before…. [This book] recounts my elephantine adventures in pursuit of the obvious.

And second, the question for both philosophers and writers:

How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? Continue reading »

Revision, Stage-one: Re-reading

I’m feeling a direct parallel of interest re-reading as I did in writing this. I remember this section as one of the times I wanted to quit writing, and as a reader I am totally not sticking with it. I’m only on page 35, and I’m not picking it up during my reading times anymore.

When I was writing this was the signal to jump to a new section, so I’m almost to a total shift (and I know it will pick up quite a bit since I got a great word-count the next few nights). Knowing I only have a few pages left here is a good thing, but frustrating too, in a way, since I don’t feel justified in skipping to a more interesting part.

Bringing the axe to the first draft is not going to be emotional at all– well, maybe cathartic ;-). There’s some good stuff I need to be careful to trim around, but (in this section at least) it’s buried pretty deep in the gristle.

A brief excerpt (as I’m trying to toughen my skin): Continue reading »


This was written by Frederica Mathewes-Green in her forward to The Sign of the Cross by Andreas Andreopoulos, Paraclete Press, 2007.

The discription was so tender, while being so funny, I wanted to share it.

At my Orthodox church every Sunday I see families arrive at church and go up to the iconostasis, to greet the icon of the Lord. The parents stand before his searching gaze and make the sign of the cross fluidly: the right thumb and first two fingers together to recall the Trinity, and the last two fingers together and pressed down to the palm, to recall Christ’s two natures and his descent to the earth. They touch forehead, abdomen, right shoulder, left shoulder, then sweep the right hand to the floor with a deep bow. After making two of these “metanias,” they kiss Christ’s hand, then make one more sign of the Cross and a last bow.

With practice, what sounds like a very complicated ballet becomes second nature. Behind the parents come their children, who execute the same moves but have a shorter trip to reach the floor. And then there are the toddlers. If you’re seated to the side, you can see a look of stern concentration come over the chubby face. Then there’s a blur, as a tiny fist flies from ear to elbow to knee to nose, or just makes quick wobbly circles over the tummy. If these gestures were literally analyzed as to their symbolic meanings, they might be signaling heresies not yet imagined. But all this commotion is concluded by the little one stretching up on tiptoe to kiss the hand of the all-compassionate man in the painting. That hand is giving a blessing; it is making the sign of the Cross.

These children are doing what we all do to some extent: we take part in mysteries we can only partly comprehend. We do it within the safety of our Father’s home, following in the footsteps of our elders.

LOTR on faithfulness (Co-habitation vs. Marriage)

I have the Recorded Books Inc. unabridged production of Lord of the Rings, and frequently listen to it (now on my iPod, so I don’t have to change disks) while I do housework and make meals.

This exchange, begun by Elrond as the fellowship of the ring is about to set out from Rivendell, has frequently come to mind when I hear the “optional-ness” of marriage discussed:

“The further you go, the less easy it will be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid upon you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road.”

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,” said Gimli.

“Maybe,” said Elrond, “but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.”

“Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart,” said Gimli.

“Or break it,” said Elrond. “Look not too far ahead.”


As may be expected I definitely fall hard on the side of Gimli’s reasoning. Especially when looking at the adventure of a lifelong partnership.
To Elrond’s rebuttal (were he truly arguing about marriage) I’d respond that as my heart is going to be broken either way, I’ll go with that most likely to shore it up– rather than break it down. That is, every ending is painful. Why not take what care we can to strengthen what we’ve begun?