Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Breakfast fit for an elf

Something warm and sweet is good for treating shock, I'm told, so I brewed some chamomile tea and laced it with honey. Then I went into the Miniature Room. No, not a teeny-tiny room, but a room full of teeny-tiny rooms. That is, the room where I keep all of my miniature dollhouses and furniture. I dug out the little blue English tea set with its round, serviceable pot, washed it and filled it with tea for the welf. I also washed a plate, cup, saucer and the round blue tray with the piecrust edge that goes with the set. Then I tried very hard to think of things that a wood elf would like to eat for breakfast.

I sliced a blueberry up like an apple and put it on the tray. I thought she would like some kind of biscuit, so I gave her a little piece of shortbread as well. Then for protein I added a slice of slivered almond from my baking supplies and a shred of grated cheddar cheese. I threw in a little slice of bread and butter for good measure. I considered a chocolate chip but thought it might make her sick. I ate several myself instead. She wasn't the only person in the house suffering from shock! And chocolate, as we all know, is highly medicinal.

I placed the teapot, teacup, plate and tray of food on a full-sized saucer and was about to carry it all into the study when I recalled that I could hardly expect her to eat and drink on her knees. So I went back into the miniature room and fetched a little windsor chair and table for her, cleaned them off (I'm ashamed to admit that room gets rather dusty when I'm working on a book) and put them on a tray with the saucer. All of this then I took back to the study. Taffy refused to stay corralled in the kitchen; I could only hope as she ran ahead of me that she wouldn't give the poor little elf a heart attack. If she were still there, which part of me doubted.

However, she was there. She appeared to have fallen asleep under the washcloth, but opened her eyes as I entered. Taffy sat beside her on the sofa cushion with her paws tucked under herself, purring contentedly. It was quite a pretty domestic picture.

I set the miniature table and chair on my desk, on top of my mouse pad which is designed like an oriental rug. Then I laid the table. I wished I had a tablecloth for her, but anything I could have used would have stuck out stiffly and gotten in her way. I bowed and guestered for her to eat, then went to sit in my armchair on the other side of the room so as not to intimidate her. I was afraid that Taffy would jump up and sniff all the food, get her whiskers in everything and upset the table, but for once she stayed where she was, though she watched the proceedings with interest.

The welf sat up, wide-eyed, then slowly and stiffly crept to the little breakfast table. She kept glancing at me, then at Taffy, then back at her breakfast. She sat down and cautiously sipped the tea. It seemed to agree with her, for she cupped her tiny hands around the blue teacup and drank the rest in one long gulp. Not very elflike, but I'm afraid she was very thirsty. I watched her, fascinated, as she tasted all the food in turn. The blueberry she consumed right away of course, but the other things seemed unfamiliar to her. The cheese she rejected, though the bread and butter disappeared quickly, as did the shortbread. The thing she seemed to consider the greatest delicacy was the almond sliver. I realized that while walnuts are plentiful here, almonds don't grow in this part of the world and the flavor would seem quite delicate by contrast. I myself am not all that fond of walnuts. She nibbled contentedly on the slice, washing it down with tea, until both were gone.

Then she sat back reflectively, as if unsure what to do next. I quite understood her feelings. She seemed so out of place in my study, sitting so tiny and delicate on top of my desk in the spindly chair. The sun was shining cheerfully by this time and I wondered if she wouldn't like to go home, wherever that was. She gazed out the window for a few moments, then she turned to me and pushed the little chair away from the table. Rising, she bowed her thanks. Then she began to speak.

I couldn't understand a word that she said, but the language was beautiful and flowing. I had a feeling that Elf language was a bit like French, in that it falls so pleasantly on the ears that even an insult sounds like a compliment to those unfamiliar with it. Not that I thought she was insulting me. On the contrary, she seemed to be making a very pretty speech of gratitude and explanation in her thin, clear voice. Her hands were held out to me as if imploring my help. But I couldn't make the least sense of it. She realized this, but seemed to feel the making of the speech important in itself and continued to the end. I looked at her sadly and shook my head.

Taffy, however, seemed acutely interested. She sat up with one of those trilling noises cats make when their interest is piqued.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

An Early Morning Visitor

I'm sitting here in my study sipping coffee in the early morning. There is real cream in it, not the powdered stuff and it slids down my throat like warm ambrosia. The garden is still damp from yesterday's rain and the sky is overcast, but it will clear soon. I can tell from the quality of the light and from the latent heat in the air that today will be a scorcher. I should be working on the latest installment in my best-selling mystery series, but I can't bring myself to focus just yet. I wonder if there are any blueberry muffins left that Bridget, the maid, baked Friday. We've been using the berries up at a surprising rate. Perhaps I can go pick some more this afternoon, after church.

My fantasy is briefly interrupted by 37 pounds of sleepy offspring shuffling into the room and climbing into my lap. Apparently I woke him up when I made the coffee, but after a few pleasurable minutes of cuddling I convince him to go back to bed. Now, where was I? Oh yes, blueberries.

One of my favorite children's stories was "The Blueberry Pie Elf" about a little elf who left blue footprints on the tablecloth after he helped himself to some pie. I've tried to find it since then, but it appears to be out of print, as well as one of my favorite fairy tales "Greenwillow" by B.J. Chute. The writing in that little book is so beautiful it made me want to cry. It's a genius of a story - a brilliant kind of old-fashioned, modern tale based on rural American life. If you can find it, read it.

Taffy the cat comes into the room while I am thinking about all this, actually getting tears in my eyes from thinking about Beatrice Chute's little book. (How many of those tears are from sentiment and how many from envy, I wonder?) Taffy has been out in the garden prowling around, which surprises me because normally she doesn't like to get her paws the least bit wet. I saw her a little while ago under the blue hydrangea, tail twitching as if she had found something interesting. I'm not too worried, though. She would rather ask a mouse to play with her than eat it, and has been known to guard baby birds until their mothers find them.

She usually doesn't bring things into the house, however, so I am surprised to see her with her mouth full of something that looks like a frog or a very large grasshopper. She is holding it gingerly, the way cats do. Rather than coming straight to me at my desk, however, she lights on the sofa and sets the creature down on the cushions.

"Taffy!" I scold gently. "Don't put that there."

She gives me a distressed look and mews pathetically. I've never seen her this upset before, and especially not over a frog. I get up and go to see what it is that she has brought into the room.

There on the flowered cushion of my sofa is a little green person about five inches long. Not actually green-skinned, but dressed in green leggings and a little green tunic, like a miniature Peter Pan. Her outfit is embroidered with microscopic stitches of shimmering thread, she has neat little brown boots on her feet with tiny buttons, and her cornsilk hair is braided back from her face under a little round hat that looks like an acorn cap, but is obviously made of something soft and water-repellent for the rain is beading on it, as on her little cape of the same material.

She looks as if she has been through some kind of accident (or perhaps an On Purpose), for she is battered and scraped and her clothes are torn. I suspect that she is a welf, or wood-elf, that has somehow ended up in our garden. She is terrified, huddled in a little ball on the cushion, eyes darting back and forth, clearly thinking that she is about to be dissected by one or both of us.

"Don't be frightened," I say very softly, afraid of hurting her tiny eardrums with my Big Person voice. I have no idea whether she understands me. I leave her with Taffy for a moment, who is anxiously guarding her like an injured kitten. I fetch a clean washcloth from the linen closet to use as a blanket (fortunately I have some new ones that are very soft and fluffy) and bring it to lay over her. She seems to relax a little, closing her eyes. I think she is in shock and should be left alone, so I pick Taffy up and take the cat firmly into the kitchen, shutting the door so that she can't return. I put the kettle on to boil and give Taffy a treat of leftover fish. She eats it quickly then sits by the door, clearly unwilling to abandon her charge.

And now I'm afraid I must leave off ... it has taken me an hour to compose these few paragraphs and there are morning duties in my real life to attend to, including the five-year-old who did not go back to sleep after all. Tune in again for the next installment....

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Deadhead me

Deadhead vt. to remove the spent blossom of a flower in order to encourage reblooming

I have been trying for the past two hours to clean out my office and have made a little headway, but not much. I can't think anymore about anything. My brain is dead. I have no idea why it is so exhausting to go through all these papers and things, but it is.

Would someone please cut off my head so I can grow a new one?

My Back Room

It's been an exhausting and stressful week, so today I'm going into the back room of my cottage. This is the little study where no one disturbs me except the cat. I have a sweet, beautiful little orange tiger cat with white socks to whom I am not allergic. Her name is Taffy and she keeps my chair warm, but she magically does not shed so my clothes are never decorated in orange and white hair.

The fire is burning low in the fireplace to keep out the damp of this rainy summer day. It is a soft rain, gurgling in the gutters and dripping outside my diamond-paned windows. I have a comfortable sofa between the window and the fire, where I can curl up with a cup of tea or a book. My desk is in the corner, made of rosewood, as is the bookshelf covering one wall of the room. The low-beamed ceiling makes everything feel close and comfortable; oil paintings of landscapes decorate the walls and a copy of "The Shell Seekers" hangs over the fireplace. Outside is my garden, which I tend every day so there are no weeds at all. It is enclosed by a little white fence and behind the fence the land slopes up to an orchard covered-hill. On the other side of the hill is a pond where I can fish and beyond that, standing patient and watchful over the rest of the rolling countryside, are the distant mountains, though you couldn't see them today for the clouds.

I live in a wonderful neighborhood. All of the most delightful cottage dwellers are nearby. Mrs. Bloxby lives near the church and Agatha Raisin is just around the corner on Lilac Lane. Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm is visible from the top of my orchard. Miss Marple lives just around the corner in the other direction. Miss Seeton is across from the post office. James Herriott takes care of my cat. I can take the bus to Lochdubh as well.

Besides all this, I can go to the Shire and have a cup of tea with Sam and Rosie any time I wish.

It's really a lovely way to live.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Gentle Reader

"Can it be - it must be - that you are that embodiment of the incorporeal, that elusive yet ineluctable being to whom through the generations novelists have so unavailingly made invocation; in short, the Gentle Reader?"

-Henry James

I came across this quote today. I had to look up "ineluctable." It means: "not to be avoided or escaped; certain; inevitable."

I have been browsing in bookstores during the past week, reading the first pages of books that look interesting to me or similar to what I'm trying to write. I'm trying to get ideas for the opener of my book. I have to admit I've been feecing a little discouraged. It seems that most authors try to grab the reader's attention with something shocking or violent. Even Christian authors. "Perhaps this is the only kind of thing people will read anymore," I have been thinking. "Perhaps this is the only kind of book that publishers will print. Perhaps my vision is simply unpublishable."

I had to remind myself that from the beginning, this project was an attempt to write what I would like to read. Every time I stray from that and try to conform to what I think is publishable, I get discouraged and frustrated. This little tidbit from Henry James is a gentle reminder that it's okay to be gentle. That readers like myself are ineluctable. That they are out there, waiting for me to finish my work.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Halfway there

It's official... my first draft is now 41,067 words. Halfway to 80,000.

Of course I'll probably write significantly more than 80K as I edit and rewrite, but still... it's a milestone. The earliest file I have was created Feb. 26, so it's taken about four and half months to get here.

I have confidence.... sort of?

I had another of my education classes last night at the community college. Were were talking about classroom management - establishing rules and procedures, discipline, etc. I woke up with this song running through my head from "The Sound of Music."

So let them bring on all their problems
I'll do better than my best
I have confidence they'll put me to the test
But I'll make them see I have confidence in me

Somehow I will impress them
I will be firm but kind
And all those children (Heaven bless them!)
They will look up to me and mind me

- "I Have Confidence" by Rodgers and Hammerstein

My favorite part of the song is near the end, where Julie Andrews (who has been skipping and singing all over town) finally approaches the gates of the huge Von Trapp house and sort of swallows her voice and says "Oh, help!"

I know that's how I'm going to to feel on my first day of teaching. I'm starting to feel a lot more sympathy for that poor little new Kindergarten teacher I observed at the public school this fall who could barely keep her class in order. However, the program I'm going through this summer is excellent. It's a crash course in Teacher 101.

I just picked my books up for the rest of the program, which runs from September through May. I knew it was going to be $353 dollars, so I parked near the bookstore. I didn't want to carry all those heavy books too far. Well, the cheerful assistant went to fetch my books and when she came out she was holding a shrink-wrapped bundle about the size of a shoebox. I know it's been a while since I was in school, but this thing looked like a stationery set and was about as heavy. I feel kind of gypped that I didn't get a free pen with it!

My biggest problem in these classes is that I can't shut up. I am starting to annoy myself and probably everyone else as well. I don't know if it's because I am so personally invested in this lifeline for my survival in the very near future, or because I so rarely get to be in a room without any Thomas trains in it. But I'm having a very hard time stopping myself and if I were teaching me, I'd probably put my name on the board. I was racking my brains for a creative way to help myself overcome this and came up with the idea of a red piece of string tied around each wrist. Okay, I know that sounds really weird, but I need some kind of a visual cue for myself so that when I see my hand going up, I stop. I've already earned my participation grade for the whole course in the first four classes.

It's a side effect of being an extravert. Everything I'm thinking, I just have to share or I feel like I will burst. The good news is, it really helps at parties when silence falls among a group of strangers. I can make conversation about the tablecloth, if needed! I actually had a shy person at a business conference come up to me after a really awkward dinner and say "How did you DO that? I thought I was going to die in there." Bless her. I thought they were going to kill me.

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Dream is a Fickle Thing

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost... For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish."

-Luke 14:28-30 (New International Version)

This book, even the first draft of it, is not likely to be completed any time soon. Thank you for your support, friends! But I am feeling very foolish and seriously doubting my abilities. If it weren't for my healthy fear of the Author of my faith, I'd probably just tuck the whole thing away in a dark corner and pretend I'd never thought of it. However, I am well aware that the Author and Finisher of my faith is also the author and finisher of ME!

A dream is a fickle thing.
It sits a while and then takes wing
Taking the thread of hope it wound
Around the heart it found.

A dream is a fickle thing.
It's better not to let it sing.
For once the world has heard
You can't disown the bird.

- Christine Hardy 2007

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Writing Fears and Challenges

Hey there, everyone! I was just thinking about some of my greatest challenges and fears as a writer. I thought I would post a couple and invite you to do the same in the comments section.

1. The fear of not making my male characters masculine enough. In many books by women authors (especially romances) I find that the male characters think, act and talk a lot like women. I don't know whether this is really because of faulty writing, however, or just because I'm sexist and I think men should seem different. Because they are from Mars.

2. The beginning. I think all writers struggle with this. On the one hand you have to set the scene without boring the reader with details, but on the other hand action that takes place in a vacuum is confusing and boring as well. I really don't care who is stalking Esmerelda as she approaches her car if I don't know who Esmerelda is, where she is, what she is doing there or where she is going next. Putting her in imminent danger on the first page makes me feel manipulated. On the other hand, too much detail is boring too. (For an excellent example of this, see my "Prologue" below.)

3. Keeping strong physical (or emotional) action from seeming overdone. Sometimes I find that when I'm describing a busy scene, it comes out looking silly on the page. I find it helps to read these sections out loud and to try cutting about half of the original description. It's easier to add more if needed than to keep shaving little bits off. Unlike carpentry.

4. Feeling foolish when I see my prose. Sometimes even after I've done several edits, the whole thing still just seems invalid. I have come to realize that this is a side effect of looking at my own writing on a computer screen rather than seeing it in print. Other books seem to have an authenticity about them because they are actually books! Imagining the text of my favorite novel as it would appear in a Word Document helps a lot.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


I revised the prologue for the book. I thought this was really great, but the feedback I have gotten is that it's just not terribly interesting for an opener. So, I'm going back to the drawing board with the prologue. What you see here is really a synopsis of the background for the story. Kind of like those words that scroll through space at the beginning of Star Wars. I had deleted it after the first posting, but decided to put it back up for those of you diehard friends and family members who are wondering what the heck the story is all about.

"Long ago, when the mountains were newer and the seas younger, there lay between the Cobalt Sea and the Dagger Mountains a kingdom called Belhanor. It was ruled in those days by Elmoran the Great in the white fortress at Tor Aden. It was said that he knew much of the deep things and of magic. He had a brother, Synedd, also wise in the ways of magic, who struggled against him for the throne. Synedd was finally defeated and driven into the mountains. That struggle was known as the Gryphon War. It was a dark time for the people of Belhanor, but also a time of great heroism and wonder, when the golden gryphons appeared as they had in the very early days and fought alongside men and unicorns and many other creatures.

"Following the war, peace came and the land prospered. The King married and produced two sons: Melbrinor, the elder and Raynor, the younger. While Melbrinor remained at his father’s side and learned to rule the kingdom, Raynor was restless and turned his eyes to the mountains. In ancient times their ancestors had passed through the Daggers seeking refuge from war and hardship. Finding a sheltered, fertile land they had remained there until their origins had passed out of memory. No one had crossed the mountains since; the peaks were steep and treacherous, the old ways lost forever. But it burned in Raynor’s heart to discover what lay beyond them. After many failed attempts, he sent a message to his father that he had found a way through. He was never heard from again.

"The King’s heart longed for his son, as did Melbrinor’s for his brother. Melbrinor led many forays into the mountains to find the path that Raynor had taken, but after two years was forced to give him up for lost. Greatly saddened, Elmoran occupied himself with affairs of state but he was not a young man and his years seemed to weigh upon him. It was whispered that he slept little and ate less, and spent many long hours staring into the fire. There were stirrings among some of the lords that Elmoran had grown weak and that more power should be given to them.

"In order to distract his father from his grief as well as satisfy the desire of his own heart, Melbrinor declared that upon his thirtieth birthday he would marry Lady Pelwyn, daughter of the Delfenward of Glenholm. Pelwyn was gracious and lovely, and perceived by all as an excellent choice. The King and the entire country prepared for the wedding with great joy.

"However, rumors reached Tor Aden that the King’s enemies were plotting to use the occasion to their advantage. While the lords loyal to the King were gathered for the wedding, his enemies would attack and occupy their lands, refusing to release them until their demands for power were granted. A warning was secretly issued so that the insurgents might be caught in a snare. But even as all these things unfolded, the King’s heart was still with his lost son and he turned his thoughts ever towards the mountains, searching for an answer that was hidden from him. This in itself was perplexing and he wondered why his sight was frustrated and by what power."

Monday, July 2, 2007

Refuge under golden wings

One of the things that has plagued me about "The Golden Gryphon" is whether it is even worth taking the time to write. Not because I don't think it's a good story, but because I doubt the value of writing it at this particular time in my life. Of course, as any author knows, an idea left to stagnate is usually as good as dead, so if I don't write it now it will probably never be written.

But is it really worth all the stress it is causing me, as I struggle to keep on top of my chores at home, my schoolwork and making my husband and son feel valued despite my constant preoccupation? What eternal good is being gained from it? Why not wait until later, when my child is grown and my husband is retired and things are less hectic?

My new online friend, writer Michelle Gregory, sent me some very encouraging words on this topic. She described a conversation with her husband about her book, Eldala, also a medieval fantasy.

Is this important? This was the question my husband had to answer more times than I can remember.

"Yes, it is important."

"Why?" I would ask.

"Because it's your heart."

Which refers back to question one. It's just a fantasy story I made up.

"Yes, but it's in your heart to write it, and if you don't write it, you'll have to shut down your heart."

I found another quote, also referenced on Michelle's blog, by James A. Garfield:

"Tell me…do you not feel a spirit stirring within you that longs to ...hold before you some high and noble object to which the vigor of your mind... may be given? Do you not have longings like these, which you breathe to no one, and which you feel must be heeded, or you will pass through life unsatisfied and regretful?... They will forever cling round your heart till you obey their mandate. They are the voices of that nature which God has given you, and which, when obeyed, will bless you and your fellow men."
~ James A. Garfield, in a letter to a friend

I knew I liked him. I've visited his home in Mentor, Ohio several times and was particularly impressed by the library. Now I know why.

This morning, I opened my Bible for a brief look while the house was quiet. I have been finding things there that strangely support this unusual and possibly ridiculous task I have undertaken - to write a novel about a conflict between a great and good King, and a great and evil one, in which supernatural beings play parts on both sides. The beings on the side of good are the angelic and powerful gryphons who assist the heroine, Elinor, and her friends on their journey. The beings on the side of evil include great black lions - huge black panthers or mountain lions - called Nightstalkers by the peasants because of their tendency to attack at night. One of the themes of the book is the treachery of appearances and the need to judge the heart, as well as the power of steadfast faith and perseverance.

Anyway, I opened my Bible and the page that I saw was Psalm 91:

4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day...

8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked...

13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

Am I claiming that God told me to write this particular book? No. But it was a good reminder of the universality of certain themes and symbols. Storytelling is one of the best - and oldest - ways to teach and to understand the world. Even Jesus taught using stories to illustrate spiritual truths. In modern times, fictional stories both explain and in some ways define a particular culture at a particular point in time. Just think of the impact of Harry Potter, for one. I can only hope that in some way "The Golden Gryphon" will add just a little to that definition.


A friend of mine with four children once gave me her definition of torture. She said it is to give an intelligent, capable adult a certain number of tasks to complete in a day, and then interrupting her every five minutes as she tries to complete them. This was said in response to her husband, who questioned her about why she never seemed to get anything done even though she was home all day.

Being a writer compounds that torture, although thankfully I have only one child to deal with, because the interruption is not every five minutes, but rather a constant stream of narrative in my head. It goes something like this...

"Oooh, look at that photo of a mountain on that magazine cover. That would make a great setting for that part of my story where they climb up to discover the... NO! Focus. What was I doing? Why am I standing here holding dirty clothes? Oh yes, going to the basement... "

(I go down the steps, passing the bookshelf.)

"Hey, vacation photos over there. Don't we have some great shots of the Alps? And that castle we visited, I should see what the sleeping chambers were like. But that was a later castle, a Victorian fake, really. What century would my story be comparable to? Do they use gunpowder, for example?... NO! STOP! FOCUS! Should I do whites or colors first? What are we doing tomorrow? What clothes does my son need? I can't remember!"

(I go back upstairs to look at the calendar, clothing still in hand.)

Yesterday I made a field trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to look at armor. What a fiasco! Because of the Welcome America activities, I didn't drive for fear of getting stuck in hellish traffic and took the train from New Jersey instead. I had to drive 20 minutes to the train station, catch the PATCO train across the river to Philly, then transfer to the subway, get off at City Hall and trek seven diagonal blocks up the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum. I left my house at 1:00 and arrived at 2:50. I couldn't believe it! I kept looking at my watch trying to calculate how the minute hand could have possibly gone around two full rotations since I left the house. I had to be home at six. So I gave myself exactly an hour and twenty minutes in the museum.

What I found when I went to the armour room is that princes and dukes and such could afford really, really nice armor. They even had - get this - armpit protectors. Their horses had nice armor too. The collection at the museum is mainly presentation armor. It looks really nice and is highly decorative, but is not very useful for helping me figure out how the average foot soldier kept himself from getting chopped to pieces on the battlefield, or what he did his own chopping with. I did find out however what a brigandine is. Basically, it's like high fashion Kevlar - a coat of mail with a decorative fabric covering. Those were cool. And they had a bunch of helmets (though they weren't call helmets but some fancy French name that I can't use because my story doesn't take place in France) that looked like long pointy bicycle helmets worn backwards. Anyone wearing one of those would look like a bird. Or an orc.

By this time I was feeling dehydrated and in great need of a place to sit down, so I hiked another couple of blocks through the museum, from the second floor of one wing to the basement of the other wing to the cafe, had a salad and a Frappachino (my first - what a wonderful thing Starbucks has invented!) and then hiked back up to the European collections with a little quick detour through the American furniture and pottery (my favorite part). I then made a very quick circuit through the period rooms - peeking into the Tudor room, the German kitchen and the Dutch room with the bed in the wall behind a red velvet curtain - and looked at a few paintings to see what the soldiers were wearing in the battle scenes. Not much armour, mostly just helmets and breastplates. Then I started the long trek home, about fourteen dollars poorer but not much richer in knowledge than when I started out.

At least I got some exercise! But I was so tired this morning I woke up late and didn't do any writing, and now my day has taken off again, barging through the hours like a stampeding elephant with lists of things to do and an essay to write before my education class tonight. C'est la vie! Or perhaps I should say, as my heroine Elinor would, "Gryphon feathers!"