Journey Home, Part I

I recently moved to Texas, and I've been unpacking boxes that have been in storage for years. In one box I found a storybook that I wrote and illustrated at the age of...I don't know, maybe seven?  I hope I wasn't much older than that because the spelling is atrocious. Here it is, for your entertainment:

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Journey Home by Paige Carpenter, age seven (?) bound in cardboard and contact paper. Illustrated in pencil and Crayola marker.

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Overleaf: "ACHEINT GARDEN" Statues standing in folds of ivy, Flowers blooming ever more, Trees that sway without noise, (continued in pencil) The ruins of a castle, orcherds overgron Woods of Enchantment A view of mountains, Rivers and Brooks Water lilys in the ponds. Romantic acrting briges over brook strea rivers

First Page: In a little house in the Wood lived a lady and a little girl named April. April had a colt named Silver Sapphire. (Was just a colt?)

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Second Page: One day APril was playing in the attic She found a doll and a Book. She took them downstairs to ask Miss Lydia if She could keep them.

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Third Page: When she did She Said yes. April was very happy! She had never Had a doll before.

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Fourth Page: She Sat down and began to read. It Was a story about how she had taken from her parents when she was baby.

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Fifth Page: She made up her mind to go home that night. When it was dark She began to make ready. She took food and clothing her doll and her book and her horse. So She Set off.

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Sixth Page: She would take a path Which led to the west. She set off.

(To be continued...In the next part, April and her colt Silver Sapphire enter the Candy Forest.)

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Bridge)

For your edification, a few pages of Thor from August 1968. Thor_TETU1

That beastie is called the Mangog. The Mangog is very kind and friendly. It wants hugs.

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The ads on the left page are truly special:

Scientific Wonder XRAY GLASSES. It can't be true, but look for yourself. Girls will never trust you with these, but let them look for themselves and apparently see legs right thru your pants. Amaze and embarrass everyone! Only .95.

CHAMELEON. Watch it change color! Wear it on your lapel! Alive! LIVE DELIVERY GUARANTEED. $1.95.

FAMOUS GERMAN MEDALS. Large, full size. Beautiful detail, authentic replica. Luftwaffe Nazi Pilot-Paratrooper $2.50. Nazi SS Swastika $2.50 Iron Cross $2.50.

MAMMOTH 9 FOOT HOT AIR BALLOON. AND 9-FOOT FLYING SAUCER. Ideal for July 4th celebrations, science clubs, or just real fun.

I can only imagine what the parents said when their son got a nine foot flying saucer in the mail.

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Left page is a comic about Pete Duncan the Highschool Dropout and the importance of getting a GED. Great stuff!

Right page: Thor visits a hospital to heal Sif with his hammer's "strange rays." Apparently Mjolnir can create trans-dimensional vortexes, because Thor zaps himself and Sif to the Rainbow Bridge. Sif is no longer in her hospital gown, but wearing the latest in miniskirt armor.

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Meanwhile, Loki has staged his weekly takeover of Asgard.

Left page: Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg are smashing things because they're bored. Right page: Loki shows up and asks (very reasonably) that they stop vandalizing the palace. Or, as the writer puts it:

But suddenly, the shrill, piercing, raucous voice of Loki rents the air like a banshee's wail--!

"DESIST! THY LIEGE COMMANDS."

Mythology 101: Loki is known to the Norse as the Silvertongue.  His words can charm the birds out of the trees and soothe a savage Thor.   It's probably a safe bet that he was never imagined as having a shrill voice.

Anyway, Loki sends Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg off to fight the Mangog.

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Thor and Sif arrive at the palace.   He and Loki turn on Yon Mystic Visi-Crystal (THAT'S REALLY WHAT IT'S CALLED) and watch the Mangog stomping his way towards Asgard in search of hugs.

And that's it.  There are a few more pages, but the issue ends before Thor ever reaches the Mangog.  So I have no idea how that fight ended.  It's a safe bet that Thor won.

Funky Norse Hats

The bad news: my hard drive died this past weekend.  I'm thinking about holding a funeral.  I had lots of documents and image files that were not backed up, so my best hope is that the data recovery autopsy people can somehow get them back. So take warning from my mistake: ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR WORK.

The good news: a friend loaned me some old Thor comics.  They are utterly hilarious.  I don't think they were intended to be hilarious, but...

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This issue is from July 1971.

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The ads seem targeted towards skinny adolescent boys who want to look Thor-ly.

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Now Odin gets blasphemous.  Also, Odin's hat.  ODIN'S HAT.  I can't call it a helmet.   And why does the One-Eyed god have two eyes?

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So eventually Thor and Company return to Asgard, only to find that Loki's taken over by seizing the all-powerful Odin-Ring, which Odin just happened to leave lying around before he went off to rescue Thor.  (Honestly.  Odin just leaves stuff lying around, like the Blue Cube of Doom.)  I think Loki takes over Asgard on a weekly basis.  He doesn't seem to do any lasting harm.  He just cackles and stalks around and banishes people.

Odin's not the only one with a funky hat.  It looks like Loki stole one of the Queen's hats and stuck some horns on it.   And it's pink.  Loki, no one will take you seriously as an evil tyrant if you're wearing a pink hat.

Summer Reading

I've decided to join the schoolkids and make a summer reading list.  Yes, it's August.  So I'm a bit late:  

Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V -  Shakespeare.  This September PBS is broadcasting The Hollow Crown, a BBC production of these three plays starring Tom Hiddleston and lots of other great British actors.  I want to read the plays before I watch the films.

The Epic of Gilgamesh.   Because it's epic.   I waded through this ancient saga a few years ago, but I think I'll appreciate it more a second time around.

Beowulf - Seamus Heaney's translation.  Another epic.  I've read this before.  I need to read it again.

The Poetic Edda - Lee Hollander's translation.  Because I can't write a novel about Norse bros' wild adventures without reading the source material, can I?

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - J.R.R. Tolkien's translation.  Another one I've read before and need to re-read carefully.   I think I missed the point the first time.

 

I would never pick up any of these when I need a book to cuddle (that's what Harry Potter is for).  To read these, I have to go armed and ready for battle.   Mind alert.   Eyes open.   Sword sharp.

Otherworld

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Pauline Baynes, 1950.

I am haunted by doors.

I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child and since then I have never entirely given up hope (even as a grown-up person) that  someday I will open a door and find another world on the other side.

Oddly enough, the first time I read that book, I felt the strangest sense of recognition, like I already knew the story.  I'm not saying I could predict the plot-- all those twists and turns were new to me.  I mean that I came upon the book and recognized it as an old friend that I happened to be meeting for the first time.

I did not read the Harry Potter series until after I graduated university.  I knew almost nothing about the books while I was growing up-- other than that they were wildly popular, and involved magic.

So when I opened Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, with the idea that I would finally see what all the fuss was about, and have a few days of entertaining reading.

Within the first few pages, the same sense of recognition come crashing down on me.  I knew this book.  I had always known this book.  It was my old friend, my friend that I had never met before.

All my life I’ve wanted to be the kid who gets to cross over into the magical kingdom. I devoured those books by C.S. Lewis and William Dunthorn, Ellen Wentworth, Susan Cooper, and Alan Garner. When I could get them from the library, I read them out of order as I found them, and then in order, and then reread them all again, many times over. Because even when I was a child I knew it wasn’t simply escape that lay on the far side of the borders of fairyland...There was a knowledge―an understanding hidden in the marrow of my bones that only I can access―telling me that by crossing over, I’d be coming home. That’s the reason I’ve yearned so desperately to experience the wonder, the mystery, the beauty of that world beyond the World As It Is. It’s because I know that somewhere across the border there’s a place for me. A place of safety and strength and learning, where I can become who I’m supposed to be. I’ve tried forever to be that person here, but whatever I manage to accomplish in the World As It Is only seems to be an echo of what I could be in that other place that lies hidden somewhere beyond the borders.
-Charles de Lint
Perhaps this is the reason why I write.  I must go on building doors for others, until my own door opens.

Illustration by Pauline Baynes from the 1978 HarperCollins edition of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lews.

Quote by Charles de Lint from chocolateinthelibrary.tumblr.com.

Books

I always rummage through the "Make an Offer" boxes at the library book sale. These boxes are full of books that are too ratty or too odd to sell in the Collector's Corner (where the nice old books go). I feel sorry for these books. They're beautiful. Fascinating. They deserve to go home instead of getting pitched in the rubbish heap-- or bought by art students who are going to chop them up for collages.

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This lovely little book still has its dust jacket. But what caught my attention it is that stamp on the jacket: "Nelson Libraries: Every post office receives books for free transmission to trench, camp, and hospital." Inside, someone wrote: "Rw. T. Barnes. Christmas, 1918. Hilderstone (?) V."

Hilderstone is a village in Staffordshire. No idea what "V" stands for. The book sold for 7d. (Sevenpence.) I have no idea how a book, given one Christmas nearly a century ago in a Staffordshire village, ended up in a bargain box in Florida.

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This book I nearly passed over.  Its title, Ça Ira, comes from a song from the French Revolution.    As a pro-Royalist (yes, I have loyalties about that revolution), I took offense, and then I read the author's introduction:

I dedicate this book to the WORKINGMEN, and to the memory of all who have ever suffered in their Cause, hoping that the energies of the living, and the inspiration of the dead, may unite to peacefully accomplish that Great Revolution to which all Humanitarians must look with the greatest concern, The Emancipation of Labor.

Great.  Not only is the author a Sans-Culotte, he's a bloody Marxist.  But when I looked again at the front leaf, I realized I was holding an autographed copy:

"To Reese Crawford with the compliments of The Author.  Waverly Hall, Nov. 20th 1876."

Now that's cool.

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Also, Reese Crawford seems to have scribbled his arithmetic homework in here. Or maybe he was calculating the expense of starting another Great Revolution.  On the pages after that, he wrote mysterious lists of authors, historical personages, and books:

"Les Misérables Victor Hugo, The Vicar of Wakefield, Memoirs of Madame de Rémusat, Tom Sawyer, Napoleon III, R E Lee."

And the list goes on.  No idea if this was his assigned reading or if these were books he thought might inspire the Emancipation of Labor.

I doubt I'll ever read either of these books, but I've rescued them from the bargain boxes, and they'll have a safe home on my bookshelves.

Writer's Conference 2013

When I have to get up early for an important event, I need a good night's sleep so I won't be a zombie in the morning.   (I have all the symptoms: grunting, lurching around, feeding off of the nearest warm object.) But no matter how early I go to bed the night before, I never get enough sleep.  I wake up over and over again to stare at my alarm clock, thinking:  "I have three hours left to sleep...I have two hours left to sleep...I have one hour left to sleep..."  And when I finally nod off, I dream that I'm still awake and can't fall asleep.

Nothing is less restful than dreaming for hours that you're an insomniac.

I had one of those nights this past Thursday, when I woke up at the crack of dawn to drive down to the Florida Christian Writer's Conference.

On Lake Yale

The conference was held on Lake Yale.  (Obviously, this is not a view of the lake.)  My father and I only got lost twice trying to navigate through the back woods of Florida, which is pretty good for us.

It's an interesting experience trying to coherently pitch a book to agents and editors on four hours of sleep.  I had several appointments in a row, and between each appointment I found a quiet corner where I could shut my eyes and let my brain fizzle.

But the conference was worth the lack of sleep.  I made good connections with several agents.  Most of them wanted me to submit my book proposal to them-- after I trimmed the manuscript.  My WWII book is currently 181,000 words long.   Most publishers don't want anything over 100,00o words.

(I like reading massive books like Les Misérables, Gone With the Wind, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoneix, etc.  So I wrote a massive book.)

Fortunately, the WWII brick is already divided into two parts, which are more or less two complete books.  Nevertheless, I'm eying my manuscript with a giant pair of pruning shears, wondering if I should start chopping or go ahead and submit book one as it is.

AGENTS.  SUBMISSIONS.  FUN.

(And I still believe the Order of the Phoenix should have been longer.)

Tattered and Torn

There are a few books I have literally read to pieces.  These books have been everywhere with me: in the car, at school, in the bathtub, at the dinner table. They have torn covers, water wrinkles, and food stains.  And I love them.

One of my grandmothers sent me spending money every Christmas, and one year I blew all of it on books. I bought over a dozen of these old Puffin Classics, and I remember gloating over my books the way Ebenezer Scrooge gloated over his coins.  I love Jane Eyre.  I have rarely found a hero to match Rochester's brooding darkness and sarcastic humor, or a heroine to equal Jane's poetic, hard-headed goodness.  Best Gothic romance ever.

When I was growing up, my family had a wall of books in our basement. I spent a lot of time in that basement, reading my way through old Louis L'Amour westerns, Reader's Digest editions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Great Expectations, and a host of other books. (I have never understood the recommended reading ages listed on the back of children's books. If a book looked interesting, I picked it up and read it, whether it was Dr. Seuss or Dickens. If it got boring, I put it down again.)

Gone With the Wind was one of those books I discovered in the basement.  I tried to read it several times, but couldn't get past the first paragraph.  Then I watched the movie on television.  All four hours of it. I was addicted.  I picked up the book again and read it.  Then I read it again.  And again.  (My childhood was spent in New England, so that was the first time I'd ever read the South's version of the Civil War.)  I read it until the back cover came off.  (I think I lost that cover in a doctor's office.)

Gone With the Wind started my love affair with Really Thick Books.  Now, I believe a proper book should be at least a thousand pages and weigh several pounds.

This book is not a thousand pages long, but it should have been. Dorothy Sayers is the most brilliant mystery writer ever, and a Very Smart Lady. (Sorry, Agatha.) Not only does she write maddeningly cunning mysteries, but her characters-- detectives, villains, witnesses-- are people, not just cogs in the machine of murder.  Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are one of the best romantic pairings ever, in my opinion, right up there with Jane and Rochester.

I love every wrinkle on these ratty old paperbacks.  And yes, they are Real.

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

-The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams

Published!

Half-Past Summer is now available on Amazon!

THE NIGHTMARE’S NEST Keys of all Shapes and Sizes Inquire Within

On the door there was a battered cardboard “Open” sign, so Barnabas took a few deep breaths and stepped inside.

The shop was dusty and almost totally dark. One flickering gas lamp hung from a long chain and swayed as if he was on board a ship. The shop was full of strange lumps and bumps that were buried deep in dust.

“Hello?” Barnabas called, and broke off coughing. He stepped towards what might have been a counter. “Hello!”

-"The Halfway Clock"

The cool thing is that even if you don't have a Kindle-- (I don't have a Kindle)-- Amazon has lots of free apps that function just like Kindles (you can download, read, bookmark to your computer, iPhone, Blackberry, etc).  The apps come with free copies of Pride & Prejudice, Treasure Island, and Aesop's Fables.

What I learned during this experience:

-Ebook formatting is not easy or straightforward. -Assume everything will take three times as long as you originally assumed. -The internet is vast and unpredictable. Like, your cover image will suddenly appear in invert colors just when you're ready to hit "publish."

Half-Past Summer: Cover

The cover for Half-Past Summer. (More silhouettes!)

Here's the working "blurb" for the ebook:

George dreams the sound of green. Min revives a treacherous magic in a withered tree. Barnabas boards the wrong bus and discovers a place where nightmares walk and time stands still.

These three tales unlock the mystery of summer nights and soothe the heat of summer days.

Half-Past Summer will be available for Kindle within the next week.

Summer Ink

This is an illustration for Half-Past Summer, a trio of fantasy short-stories for children (and child-like grownups).  I haven't done much with ink before, but I really like it.  One of the things Dan Dos Santos hammered into my head during the IMC was the importance of value studies.  Working with ink and silhouettes forces me to think in nothing BUT values.

Half-Past Summer will be available on Kindle at the beginning of August.

Writing Smoke and Moods

When a story takes place during an era when nearly everyone smoked, the writer can use cigarettes, pipes, and cigars to say a lot about a character's personality-- what they're feeling, what they're thinking. A lot of my characters in The Manuscript smoke.

A cigarette can give away a lot about your character.  Instead of saying, "Rick was a sneaky man," as a writer, you can use Rick's cigarette to imply this.  For example, "Rick smirked through the smoke from his cigarette. "

Smoking can also be seductive.  Instead of, "Slim decided it was time to seduce Steve," the writer could say, "Slim didn't look at him, but brushed her lips against the end of her cigarette like a kiss."

Smoking can be innocent and playful.  For example, "Marilyn giggled until she nearly dropped her cigarette, scattering ashes all across her blouse.   She didn't care.  She was having too much fun."

While researching the post-WW II era, I dug up some advertisements for popular cigarettes.  Advertisements can tell a writer a lot about how people wanted to see themselves and what they bought.   Ads were meant to sell something.  Which means as quaint and naive as the ads may appear today, at the time they were created, those ads had to work.  (If they didn't, nobody was getting paid.)

My favorite cigarette ad:

Please note: I am not encouraging anyone to take up smoking.

Meet the Manuscript

You are looking at the product of 7+ years worth of work. I first conceived the idea back in high school. It pursued me through college, but only in the past few years have I begun seriously working on it.

"It" is a novel. A 181,611 word novel. Saints and angels, I NEVER thought I'd finish!

I've got some beta readers who will be plunging into this epic story of post-World War II Berlin-- with all its nightmares, beet jams, bureaucrats, and coffee substitutes.

These are a few of the photographs I collected for reference. (Most of these have been in my computer so long I no longer remember the source.)

Luna Lovegood Dancing

"She lingered in that charming little garden to say hello to the gnomes, such a glorious infestation!  How few wizards realize just how much we can learn from the wise little gnomes - or, to give them their correct name, the Gernumbli gardensi."

-Xenophilius Lovegood, from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Luna Lovegood, dancing with the gnomes just before Bill and Fleur's wedding in The Deathly Hallows.  Lovely Luna!