Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I know I said I wasn't going to blog anymore but I couldn't resist putting up this photo of our puppy, Zeke. I have been training him not to sleep on the sofa unless he lays on his blanket, so that all I have to do is wash the blanket from time to time rather than have a dirty sofa.

Last night the blanket was in the wash and he was tired. So the closest he could get to it was my statistics books piled at one end.

It looks as if he's either had a long night of studying, or is hoping to absorb the material by sleeping on it!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Don't Watch This Space

In the interest of better managing my time and doing more actual writing, I am going to shut down the blog for a while. I truly appreciate everyone who has been reading and/or commenting here. Your friendship and encouragement have been invaluable.

I'm sure I'll be back up again, but for now... don't watch this space. And have a great summer!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Meet the Hanorja

My, I'm just a blogging fool this morning! What is it about Saturdays? I did do some writing, and was pleased with the result, although it took me half an hour to get started.

One thing I accomplished was to finally come up with a succinct description of my imaginary people. I also have decided to change the tone of the book a little. This work is just too darn serious! It needs a little subtle humor to lighten the mood. (My all-time favorite opening of a book is, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.")

So, here's my paragraph:

The captain, the lieutenant, and their people were of a race called the Hanorja, who dwelled in the land between the Dagger Mountains and the Cobalt Sea. A male hanor was called a haman, and a female, a hawin. They were shorter and slighter than humans, less magical than elves, and not in the least like dwarves. For one thing, the hamen had no beards, and for another, they loathed being underground. Although fond of speculation as to their kinship with other races, all they knew for sure was that they were Hanorja, and that their ancestors had come over the mountains in ages past.

A Note to My Readers

I am aware that my blog is being read by a wide variety of people. A much wider variety than I ever imagined when I first started keeping an on-line journal. To my surprise - and slight dismay - I find that links to these pages exist on several other blogs. As my circle of online friends increases, I expect the number of links to grow, along with my readership. I am aware that despite the fact that I am not publicly searchable on Google and have not added labels to most of my posts, I still have hits from all over the world.

Social networking is truly an amazing thing.

I used to post content freely, and now find myself second-guessing quite a lot of things. Especially anything to do with Christianity or scripture references. I don't want to turn off people who might be otherwise enjoying the blog, or who might have helpful comments to post. On the other hand, my faith is such an intrinsic part of who I am and why I write that I feel it would be disingenuous not to post my thoughts here. My real reason for starting the blog was to have a place to write, and possibly share, these very insights.

You see, I can't journal in a notebook. I've tried, over and over. I repeatedly hear "Authors must journal!" But I can't write without an audience. I already know what I want to say, so why record it for myself? Especially since most of the things I journal about tend to be tedious and often depressing.

But when I have an audience, I become sharper. More interesting. If you think this blog is boring, you should see some of my diaries! I'm not saying I would show them to you (I've destroyed most of them anyway) but you should see them. Pretty dull stuff, let me tell you.

I hope that by posting my personal insights here, I may not only unburden my heart, but inspire a few people with the same struggles. I also hope that perhaps these thoughts will help someone who doesn't like or understand Christianity, to see it in a slightly different light.

In short, I have found that there is no substitute for the deep, abiding faith that gives purpose and hope to all that I do and all that I am. I hope you don't mind my sharing it.

Why are you not a writer?

I just discovered an awesome blog called The Write Power. The most recent post is about Embracing the Call to Write. In it, author Maryann Diorio asks,

"Why are you not a writer? It is either that you do not want to be a writer, or that you do not believe that God can make you one.

Either response reveals a lack of faith in Almighty God to complete the good work He has begun in you (Philippians 1:6)."

The main reason I am not, is lack of self-discipline. I can complain and squirm all I want to, but the simple fact is: I am terrible at managing my time. It is a problem that I can freely admit to the world - and everyone in my corner of the world knows it anyway - but am at a loss to solve. So that is something I desperately need to seek God's help on.

Okay, I'm going to take the next 30 minutes and write instead of blogging. Here I go...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Stretching the string

I am unaccustomed to not being able to make ends meet. I think in July I can make them meet if I stretch that string v-e-r-y tightly.

I'm admit that I'm spoiled. I used to have a really good job, and my husband used to have a really good job. We got in the habit of eating out, going places, taking vacations. We charged things often, but he would always get an overtime job and then we'd pay the balances off. Even after I quit to be a mom, money was tight, but we always pulled through despite a tendency to spend more than we should.

Now, though, I'm crying over spilled milk. A lot of it. We have, like, a whole milk factory that has to be cleaned up here. And I know it's largely my fault. Not all my fault, but I'm willing to shoulder my share of it.

The windows. We should never have gotten those new windows for the house, among other things. The final decision was up to me, although hubby was the one who wanted me to call the salesman. We had our Bush tax rebate in our hands, and we are both suckers for a good sales pitch. That guy was so pleasant, and good-looking, and convincing. And we really did need the windows. And the energy savings will offset the loan payment! Right.

I'm a mathematician, for crying out loud! I should have known better. I just thought that this recession wouldn't affect us. Mark had been working steadily for a long time, and I had just gotten the job at the college.

I have been agonizing about what to do. "Lord, tell me!" So He told me, but I'm still questioning Him.

What the Holy Spirit has been reminding me is that this is not about me, no matter how much I think it is.

"Trust Me," the Lord says. "Don't look at the problem, look at Me. This is an exercise in faith. Do you depend on Me, or on yourself?"

"But Lord, you gave me all these gifts, talents, and an education. Aren't I responsible for how I use them? Isn't it about me doing the right thing? Making the right decisions?"

"Trust Me. Look at Me."

"I'm trying Lord. I believe. Help me in my unbelief!"

This morning I read the following passage and was deeply moved by it:

Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness"... All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God."
-- I Cor. 3:16-23

I am God's temple and his Spirit lives in me. All things are mine through Christ Jesus. He won't let me - let us - fail.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rain, rain, go away

Normally, I like rain. I really do! I love the soft sound of it, the smell of the air, the excitement of a thunderstorm.

But enough already!!! I think the trees are literally rotting in the ground behind our house; they are turning black and the trunks are splitting. Most of the mulch has washed out of the schoolyard. I hesitate to buy any local strawberries for fear they'll have no flavor at all.

So I'm ready for some sunshine, please!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The rest of the first scene

Someone asked me for page two. You don't have to ask me twice to inflict... er, share... pages with willing readers. So here is the rest of the first scene, which is only about 3 pages total.



“It’s possible. But we had an early start to winter.” Faldur gave him what he hoped was an encouraging smile. “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.”

“Well, there’s food and drink inside when you’re through. I’m much obliged.” With that, the farmer turned and trudged away, the light of the lantern bobbing ahead of him.

Faldur addressed his men. “Harth, you and Brilward take the southern side of the ridge. We’ll go north. Stay in sight, follow the tracks, signal if you need help. Keep an arrow strung.”

The Rangers split up, following on either side of the nightstalker’s prints, keeping a stone’s throw between the two pairs of partners. Harth and Faldur’s partner, Romer, both had their bows ready, knowing the black lions would be visible against the snow, even at night. Faldur preferred a sword for this kind of work. Brilward, the new recruit, was also a swordsman.

They entered the trees warily, following the tracks that wound up along the ridge and then plunged into the neck of a shallow, thickly overgrown ravine. Faldur motioned for Harth and Brilward to circle around to the other side and see where the tracks came out, while he and Romer guarded the spot where the lion had gone in. They did so, their gray-green cloaks fading into the gloom. Faldur stared down into the bushes, trying to discern the outline of a nightstalker or the reflective gleam of feline eyes.

A soft hooting sound caused him to look up. It was Harth, indicating that they had found the tracks. Faldur and Romer were moving around the ravine to join them, when Faldur saw a black shape leaping up behind the other two.

He yelled, signaling them to jump left. They just barely dived out of its way, and Romer loosed an arrow which lodged in the beast’s shoulder as it overshot them. It turned to attack again, snarling with pain and fury. Faldur surged forward through the encumbering snow as the lion pounced on Harth, who was reaching for an arrow to shoot it at close range. Before he could get there, however, Romer landed a second shot, this time in the nightstalker’s temple, and it fell dead. Harth’s legs were trapped under the body, and Brilward moved to assist him.

Then Faldur heard a rustling noise from the ravine. He could just see out of the corner of his eye that a second nightstalker was emerging from the bushes. He heard Brilward shout, “There are two of them!” as he turned to face the lion, thinking that this was too close, that unless he timed it just right and was able to use the lion’s own weight to impale it on his blade, he was dead. Then, as the nightstalker pounced, he heard the snick of a bowstring, and an arrow whizzed past his cheek, landing in the animal’s chest. Harth had shot it from the ground while his legs were still pinned.

Faldur felt the spray of hot blood on his face, then the sharp sting of snow at his neck and wrists as he went down with the lion on top of him. He fell backwards into more than a foot of powder. As he strained for breath under the nightstalker’s hulking weight, only two thoughts came to mind: how grateful he was to be alive, and how much he hated going down. There were a thousand and one ways to get knocked to the ground in this business, and he was sure he had discovered at least half of them by now.

Romer didn’t assist him right away, which was as it should be. Faldur knew that he had strung another arrow and was waiting for any other nightstalkers to appear. Only when he was sure it was safe did he haul the carcass off of the Captain and help him to his feet.

“They were hunting together!” Romer said.

“Two males,” Faldur gasped, still catching his breath, as Harth and Brilward joined them. They all knew what that meant. The nightstalkers were hunting in teams again. Their numbers had increased, and they were hungry.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My First Page

I have finished editing my first scene (again) and thought I'd put up the first page for comments, a la "Flogging the Quill." Would you turn the page?

A neat stone farmhouse squatted beside the massive barn, its garden tucked under a thick blanket of snow. No new flakes had fallen since the previous night, so the lion tracks were clearly visible in the lantern light as the farmer showed them to the four Rangers.

“The ‘nightstalker’ came up here." They were standing in front of the barn door, where the beast had paced back and forth. Deep scratches showed on the wood. "Couldn’t get inside. I had it shut up tight.”

Captain Faldur Relaszen bent down to study the prints. He was lean and compactly built, a bit like a cat himself, with gray-green eyes in a smoothly weathered face and an air of competent authority.“These were made by a male. A large one,” he said.

The lion had come out of the woods on the opposite side of the barn, circled it, and then struck up the ridge behind the house, disappearing into the woods again. Faldur didn’t like the fact that the nightstalker had come so close to the house. “You’d best go inside, and keep your doors and shutters bolted,” he said.

The farmer nodded, a worried look on his face, and glanced up at the looming peaks of the Dagger Mountains, which showed as pale smudges against the gentian blueness of the winter evening. “They don’t usually come down until after the new year. Do you think they are

A New Beginning

No, not for the book. For me. (Well, I might change the book again. Who knows? I feel like I'm rearranging the trees in the same forest.)

Yesterday we had a very convicting Sunday School lesson at church. It was based on the following Scripture verses:

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. - Matt. 16:27

...his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. - 1 Cor. 3:12-15

O-kay then! Gotta quit fooling around on the Internet and get working on that novel already.

If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, I've certainly laid my share of bricks.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Faldur's Big Day

The hero of my novel is Character of the Day over at Come in Character. Stop by if you have a chance and say hello. Better yet, have one of your characters drop in!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My goals

I was thinking this morning as I threw balls for the dog outside (this seems to be my new purpose in life, now that diaper-changes and bottles are things of the past), about my recent writing hiatus and what I really want to do with this novel.

First of all, I think I need a new title. I've no idea what, but I always knew the current one was a little lame. Titles are not my forte.

More importantly, I want a book that both men and women will enjoy reading. My girlfriends love what they've read so far; my husband hates it. I don't expect him to like anything that doesn't have firearms in it, but he did have some interesting feedback. I recently came across a statistic that only 20% of fiction is read by men, which makes me feel a little better about catering to the female crowd.

Since I've decided to alternate points of view between the hero and heroine, I want a very clear, consistent voice for both of them. One of the things I want to highlight is how very differently these two people perceive what is happening around them, and the personal barriers they must overcome to get together in the end.

This means overcoming my fear of emotion. I am so paranoid about making the book sound like a romance novel that I've shied away from the more intense passages. Perhaps that's why Tolkein made his heroes confirmed bachelors. It's hard to make the brave adventurer seem studly while he's secretly torn up inside by his feelings for the lovely maiden. But that's something both Faldur and I will have to overcome.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Faldur: Character of the Week

The hero of my work in progress, Faldur, has been selected as Character of the Week over at Come In Character. Tune in on Friday to meet Faldur and take part in the discussion at CIC.

He's not looking forward to it, because he doesn't care much for being the center of attention, but he can't refuse a request from a lady, especially sweet, kindly Mrs. Fettleston - last week's character - who chose him for the job. So he will do his best to rise to the occasion and do his duty faithfully, as always.

I wonder what the other characters have in store for him? Should be interesting!

Do people look like their dogs?

My blogging friend Mira asked whether characters resemble their authors. I don't know the answer, but I do believe dogs resemble their owners. Why? I think that people tend to choose pets that somehow look friendly or familiar, and unconsciously choose ones that resemble their own face in the mirror. Just my totally unscientific opinion, here.

For example, here are me and Teddy. Not that similar in hairiness, but we're both pretty pale and there's something about the eyes...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Listen to the Rain

We are having a soft, rainy day here. I love these kinds of days! I took the dog for a long walk in the rain yesterday, and today I'll be bustling around getting ready for my mother's visit this weekend.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Idea for My Novel

The one comfort I have is that I think my story idea is pretty good. It grew out of a conversation a friend and I had about the deplorable lack of female perspective in The Lord of the Rings. It started out as just a fun writing exercise, with her and myself as the main characters, and grew into a complete fantasy world entirely distinct from Tolkein's, with its own language, culture and history.

I tell people it's "an adventure story from the girls' point of view, but I wanted them to retain their femininity, so I threw in some guys to do the fighting and found myself getting into their heads, too." So now it's told in alternating chapters from the hero's and heroine's points of view.

Gotta get back to writing that thing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Another Query

Here is the latest, trimmed down version of the query letter. Ack!

Sometimes, the aftermath of peace is war.

Things are back to normal in Belhanor after a violent civil war... or are they? The traitors were beheaded and their families dispossessed, but now some of those same families are plotting to seize back their land. They call themselves the Restorationists, and are working throughout the kingdom in a surprisingly organized fashion. Who is directing them? Could it be the King’s own son, who disappeared five years ago? Or could the King’s nemesis, Lord Synedd, be using them to try to seize the throne a second time?

It’s up to Faldur, a captain of the Rangers, to find out. When he and the remaining Prince discover a Restorationist plot which threatens the Prince’s bride-to-be, Faldur is given the task of escorting her safely to the capital. Accompanying them is the bride’s cousin Marenya. Her father, Faldur’s mentor, was killed in the course of duty and his death made Faldur vow never to leave anyone behind. In spite of this (or perhaps because of it) he is drawn to her, and she to him.

After narrowly escaping a surprise attack, Marenya takes her cousin's place as decoy. One of Faldur’s own men then betrays them and she is taken hostage. Soon both Faldur and Marenya realize that someone is using the Restorationists as a front for the real plot to murder the prince and overthrow the king. Marenya must navigate through a series of dangers for which she is completely unprepared, while Faldur is obliged to complete his mission before he can attempt to find her. In the process, he battles not only their enemies, but his own ideas about love and loss.

THE GOLDEN GRYPHON is a fantasy in 100,000 words aimed at the same teen/adult audience that enjoys other traditional fantasy. One reader has described it as having a "bottom of the forest floor, Tolkein-like feeling." The story explores how love and loyalty can pull us apart as well as draw us together, and how truth is essential in combating evil.

Christine Hardy is a writer and college math instructor. This will (hopefully) be her first published work.

The Wondrous Gift

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his Heaven

These lyrics came to mind this morning as I was reflecting and praying. Lest I sound overly spiritual, I must say that I don't make time for these activities nearly as often as I should. Zeke woke me up at 4 a.m., so he gets the credit today.

Yesterday during the Pentecost service at church, the Holy Spirit blessed me with the wondrous gift of His presence and comfort. I am ashamed of myself when I think how often I doubt His loving care and His willingness to reassure me, and how easily worried and distracted I am. Like St. Teresa's image of the soul in her book Interior Castle, I seem to spend way too much time in the outer courtyard getting stung and bitten by the creatures of this world, rather than in the holy Presence of God in the innermost rooms. (Unlike Teresa, however, I cannot shun the world to seek His Presence. Becoming a Carmelite nun seems quite tempting at times. However, I fear it is too late.)

My point is that the Holy Spirit makes himself known in a silence that is overwhelming in its profundity. The still, small voice is voiceless - and yet perfectly clear. Jesus said "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me." John 10:27. It takes a while to cultivate this type of hearing, and I admit to being confused and misled many times in my younger days, but now there is nothing sweeter or clearer than the voice of my Lord speaking to me, as he must have spoken to Mary in the garden.

What He said was "Don't worry! I will tell you when it's time to go back to work. I know that you are obedient. Don't worry. I hold you in my hand, and won't let you fall." He said this not once but over and over for several minutes, knowing that I need confirmation and absolute reassurance that it is truly His Spirit and not mine speaking.

Kind of like the Star Wars clone troopers sending a repeating "All Clear" signal to the Republic fleet in the story Jeff and I are currently reading. See? And you thought Star Wars was unspiritual.

I have been told many times by concerned, loving Christians, "You shouldn't worry about money! God has promised to provide, so you are displaying a lack of faith." But they are missing the point. I do not doubt that my family and I will always have food to eat and a roof over our heads; if the absolute worst happened and we became penniless, my parents still own the large house I grew up in and have a garden where we could grow food.

The point is that, as a Christian, I am responsible for how I use the time, resources and talent God has given me. It is not a question of having money, but of how to use the money we have in the wisest manner. Was it wise to get a dog now? I believe with all my heart that it was. Is it wise for me to commit to a full-time job at this time? Apparently not yet. Is it wise to focus on finishing the book instead? Perhaps I should.

I think one of the reasons I've been feeling so discouraged is that I allowed myself to hope that just maybe I could have the life I really want, being a mom and a teacher and a writer. That perhaps this was God's will for me and I could relax, finally, and just do it. I thought that was the case, and then all this happened and ruined it for me. But I also know that God disciplines those he loves and that I needed some discipline.

So, it's 5:38 and I am going to try to work on my book a little before it's time to get Jeff up for school.

Zeke, of course, has gone back to sleep.