I wonder what lies past the hilltops,
I wonder what lies past the stream.
Perhaps we'll find dragons and fairies and trolls,
Or a cottage where we'll stop for tea.
I wonder what lies in the forest,
I wonder what lies in the trees.
Perhaps we'll find treasures of silver and gold,
Or flowers and inchworms and bees.
I wonder what lies past the sunset,
I wonder what lies past the seas.
Perhaps we'll find kingdoms and heroes of old,
Or warm hearths with laughter and ease.
(I've been re-reading The Hobbit, and Tolkien's poetry is quite enjoyable. I hope to write my own High Fantasy novel someday, and I realized that I'll need some walking-songs. What do you think I should put in my High Fantasy novel? Comment your thoughts!)
As a college student, and particularly as an English major, I have become proficient at taking threads of evidence and constructing from them a somewhat solid-sounding argument--even if the threads of evidence seem to not have much to do with each other. In fact, half the time, I don't believe in my own argument. I just throw together a bunch of high-sounding nonsense and pray to God that I get an A.
This practice is quite common among college students. The technical term for it, I believe, is BSing.
Believe it or not, even writers who aren't college students are guilty of this. You'll see this quite a bit in literary criticism, especially when they say that X is clearly a metaphor for Y and that the author uses a teddy bear to symbolize sexism, racism, colonialism, and/or a heteronormative patriarchy. You know. Crap like that. (I'm not saying that the critics are always wrong. But I'm certainly saying that they're not always right.)
More unbelievably, I'm guilty of BSing my way through things that aren't school projects. Where I Stand is, as far as I'm concerned, a decent novel that makes decent sense. But (spoiler alert) did you know that Alva originally tried to poison Rowan instead of Drostan? My sixteen-year-old self decided that it would make for a better story, and I went to great lengths to justify my decision. Saying that Alva's one and only true love had been killed by an Irish blacksmith fifty years ago, and now she was out for revenge.
And you know what's worse? Lukas's name wasn't always Lukas. In fact, his name was something quite different until I sent out the final draft of Where the Clouds Catch Fire to beta readers. It was quite a stupid name, too--just a translation of a Gaelic word. I was thirteen when I came up with it, so I'm trying not to beat myself up too much over it. (And to be fair, Alynn is just a corruption of the Gaelic word alainn, which means "beautiful," because my 9th-grade self thought that beauty was the main mark of a female protagonist.)
Anyway, I changed Lukas's name to Lukas because none of my beta readers could pronounce his old name. I'm exceedingly glad that I changed it, too.
Luckily, I'm able to go through several drafts of my works and get lots of feedback just to make sure that all my BSing makes sense. And now, if you'll excuse me, my parents are watching America's Funniest Home Videos downstairs and it sounds hilarious. I'll see you next week!
Yesterday was Monday
And I had a cold
But it was still a good day.
I had to do schoolwork
And I couldn't focus
But it was still a good day.
I misread a knitting pattern
And unraveled half a dishrag
But it was still a good day.
It was a good day because Mom made lunch.
It reminded me of days long ago
Back when I was in elementary school
Studying at the kitchen table.
I'd study hard from eight to ten
Then run in the backyard for recess
Then study hard from ten-thirty to noon
And then Mom would make me lunch.
Sometimes it was peanut butter and jelly on crackers
Or peas and corn with butter and salt
Or tortilla chips with cheese and refried beans
But it was always delicious when Mom made it.
I might have been having a hard time with fractions
Or itching a mosquito bite
But it was still a good day.
Hello, everyone, and happy Maundy Thursday! I'm sorry for not posting on Monday. I got asked last-minute to play piano on worship team on Easter Sunday, and I had some piano-ing to do.
I was looking through the Covid data last night for some reason, and it honestly freaked me out. The death toll is nearing three million. My own area has been relatively safe, with 11,000 cases and only 337 deaths. But that's still a lot for a smallish Texas county.
Personally, I'm not afraid of getting Covid. God's blessed me with a strong immune system, and I know I'd be over it in a few days. But my parents and grandparents are different stories--my grandparents especially--and I really don't want to get them sick.
But recently, I've been reading the Gospel of Mark. I haven't read a Gospel for a while, and I'd forgotten how often Jesus healed people. He just walks around touching people, and bam! They're healed. Leprosy? Healed. Issue of bleeding? Healed. Demons? Gone. Dead? No problem. Your daughter's walking around now, Jairus. Send the mourners home and get her something to eat.
But Jesus had limitations. There was only one of Him, and He could only be in one place at a time. His voice could only carry so far. I wonder how a crowd of seven thousand could even hear Him in a time before microphones were invented. (Maybe they did the penguin thing and took turns standing close to Jesus.) Anyway, Jesus had a surprising solution to this problem of limitation: He died.
When He died, the temple veil--the thing that separated God and humanity--was ripped in two. And shortly after Jesus' resurrection, the Holy Spirit came and rested upon Jesus' followers. Meaning that we mere mortals now have the power of God Himself on the inside of us, and we can work the same miracles that Jesus did.
Jesus took care of people, and now it's our job to go about our Father's business. Loving and healing people. And when we're finished, we get to go home to Him.
All because of the cross of Christ.
If you don't have a home church, I invite you to hop over to www.vl.church and join our live stream. I think our service times are 9:00 and 11:00, and we might even have a 2:00 service exclusively for the online community. If you do have a home church, don't take that privilege for granted. Show up early. Smile at people. See how you can serve your brothers and sisters in Christ.
And above all, happy Easter.
What a week! I did four day's worth of school in a day and a half, helped twenty kindergarteners learn how to write in cursive, and took part in a Zoom meeting about the sexually explicit works of Chaucer while watching a room full of preschoolers nap. (I wore earbuds. No need to pollute the young ones.)
Anyway, you might notice that I haven't been blogging about writing very much. Thanks to my schedule, I haven't been able to do much writing recently. But I think I have an idea.
I'm going to change something in the book I'm working on. It's both significant and insignificant; it's both difficult and easy to change. In fact, I'm not entirely sure I'm going to go through with it. But at the same time, looking back, I'm wondering why I've never thought of this before.
If you haven't read Where I Stand, I'm going to spoil it for you: Alynn and Drostan get married. In Book 3, they have a daughter. I have fretted so much about this baby girl that I've just about lost what little sanity I have left. First it was her name. Originally, I called her Adelaide. It's a nice name, and it suits her, but it's not Scottish, Norse, or Irish and I therefore can't use it. So back to the baby naming websites I went. Then she was Elspeth, nicknamed Elsie.
Elsie came with its own problems.
There's actually something historians call "The Tiffany Problem." Back in the Middle Ages, a popular name was Theophany--and a popular nickname for Theophany was Tiffany. But no author is going to name their fourteenth-century peasant girl Tiffany. I ran into the same problems with Elsie. I actually don't know for sure if Elsie was a commonly used name back in the tenth century, but even if it was, it sounds way too 2015.
So at the moment, Alynn's daughter is named Elspeth, which is the Scottish version of Elizabeth. Every once in a while, she gets called Elspie. This name may not be permanent, so don't get attached.
Now, I think I'm changing her age.
Originally, Elspeth was one month old at the start of the book. It was rough, not only because I have no experience with newborns, but also because Alynn was still recovering from giving birth. Right now, I'm thinking I'll make her a few months older--just old enough to get her first tooth, which was a big thing in Norse culture. But again. Just like with Elspeth's name, her age is not set in stone.
Clearly I have no idea what I'm doing. I'll have to completely rewrite the second half of the first chapter. I'll have to give this child a personality. I'll have to do a crap ton of research. For all the time I've spent working in the church nursery, I have no idea what a four-month-old is supposed to be able to do. Will she be babbling? Laughing? I know she can't sit up unsupported yet, much less crawl, but can she roll or scoot or anything? How many hours a day does she sleep?
How am I even authorized to write books? Why didn't I just decide to become a teacher, like everyone assumes when I tell them I'm an English major? It would have been easier. And it would probably pay better, at least in the short run.
If you have any advice about baby development or baby names, please let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
This is what I'm paying for--
Good medieval literature.
I open Canterbury Tales
Without knowing what the book entails.
First, I meet the Wife of Bath,
Who worries about society's wrath
For husbands five she has endured
But she justifies herself with God's Word.
"A noble Wife!" I think for now,
"And with intelligence well-endowed."
But then the Wife begins to say
Of how she always got her way--
Of how she tricked the first three men
Into giving her riches time and again.
With constant nagging they were vexed,
And she rather explicitly mentions sex.
"My husbands," she said, "they told me
That I had a very nice v--"
Nope. I didn't ask. Don't want to see.
Someone, go punch Chaucer for me.
Spring Break is upon us, and I rejoice! Well, mostly--I don't have too much going on in life, and I've spent an unfortunate amount of time moping around and scrolling through Instagram. But I have been able to get some writing and crocheting done, so that's good.
Another good thing is that my Saturdays have been booked with important events. This coming Saturday is a book signing at Kaboodles in Denison, Texas, if you feel like dropping by any time between ten-ish and four-ish (it's a very relaxed affair). Last Saturday, I went to a wedding. My best friend's sister got married to a Godly man, and I'm quite happy for her.
I, at the moment, am hopelessly single. Most of the men my age at church are either taken or crazy, and all of my college classes are online. That said, I do wear a purity ring that my father gave me about four years ago. It's the only piece of jewelry that I regularly wear, and I rarely take it off for more than a few minutes.
On with the story. My mother insisted that I get my nails done for the wedding--fingers and toes. Now, my feet are extremely ticklish. What do I mean by extremely, you ask? I can tickle my own feet, which is theoretically impossible. The last time Mom touched my feet, I kicked her involuntarily and bruised her ribs. Thankfully, I was able to talk Mom out of the pedicure, but she still wanted me to get my fingernails done.
Fine. I'll capitulate.
I show up at the nail salon and take off my purity ring. By the time I get home, it's one o'clock and I haven't eaten lunch yet. And I notice that my ring is missing. It's fallen out of my pocket. So back to the nail salon I go. The Asian couple who works there are very helpful in scouring the store with me, but no luck. I check the parking lot. No luck there, either. I get back home. It's two o'clock now, and I'm hangry as well as mad at myself.
I go to the wedding, I eat pizza, I dance, and I have fun. Then, the next day, I went to the gym after church. Mom called me when I had just gotten out of the shower, telling me that she'd found my ring on the street where I usually park my car. My ring must have fallen out of my pocket as I was heading inside.
God must have been smiling on me, because I was convinced that ring was gone for good. I'm glad I've got it back. I felt weird without it.
What's something you lost and thought you'd never find again, but did find? And do you think I should go back to the salon and tell the Asian couple who works there that I did in fact find my ring? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to drop by Kaboodles this Saturday!
"Is that an animal?"
"Yes, Grammy. That's a raven."
"I love the pond. It's extra blue."
(The "pond" is just a swimming pool.)
But she smiles at it and says again,
"It's pretty when the wind blows."
"Is that an animal?"
"Yes, Grammy. It's still a raven."
"Oo-ooh! That breeze is cool!"
(It's seventy-two by the swimming pool.)
"But the sun's out today, at least.
It makes the water really sparkle."
I glance up from my crochet
And I see Grammy glance my way
She's right--the pool looks nice,
And it really is a lovely day.
"Is that an animal?"
"Yes, Grammy. It's the same raven."
(Listen, y'all. I'm busy as heck this week, so please enjoy a couple of paragraphs from my essay about Grendel from the Old English epic poem Beowulf.)
According to Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, all the monsters of ancient literature exist to represent some moral or cultural turmoil: “the monstrum is etymologically ‘that which reveals,’ ‘that which warns’…the monster signifies something other than itself.” (4). What, then, does Grendel represent? Unlike the other monsters within Beowulf, Grendel’s origins are described and emphasized: he is a child of Cain, and therefore likely represents the sins of his ancestor. These sins and Cain’s consequences for them are described as such in the text:
killed with his blade his only brother,
his father’s kin; he fled bloodstained,
marked for murder, left the joys of men,
dwelled in the wasteland…(1261-1265).
Therefore, it can be inferred that Grendel symbolizes hatred, bloodshed, death, and discord, as well as their natural consequences. These things would have been well-known in the medieval world, and their effects would have been powerful.
Interestingly, this hypothesis can be further confirmed by looking at Grendel himself, as well as the attitude taken towards Grendel by the humans who interact with him. The fact that Grendel is described as both an incorporeal demon and a physical being is analogous to the fact that things like war, hatred, and discord are abstract concepts that produce disastrous physical results. The fact that Grendel cannot be harmed by weapons represents the powerlessness of medieval people to defend themselves from death. In the time in which Beowulf was written, humans were relatively powerless against things like natural disasters, famines, and illnesses. Even war and civil discord were out of the hands of most people.
(Sad, I know. The good news is that Grendel gets killed in the middle of the poem. In fact, all the monsters in Beowulf get killed. That's the thing about monsters--no matter how scary they are, they always die, and the townspeople get some peace before another monster shows up. It's a cycle, but it's a hopeful one. Comment your favorite literary monster!)
Hello, everyone! Instead of a poem today, I have an important announcement to make: we're having a book signing!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.