Yearning for Wonderland

There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it...until they have grown so old that they forget the way. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again...The world calls them singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland. ~ L.M Montgomery

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And through the field the road runs by
To many-towered Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow-veiled,
Slide the heavy barges trailed
By slow horses; and unhailed
The shallop flitteth silken-sailed
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to towered Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers "'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."

"He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless…"

Back when I was playing Lord of the Rings Online, I was wholly enchanted by the way that the game designers had managed to turn my beloved Middle Earth into a playable experience. They managed to incorporate so many tiny details from the books and the movies, creating a whole new reality. As a LOTR geek, I could pop through the round doors in the hobbit holes in Bag End. I could amble along old pathways with Strider. It was like World of Warcraft for book nerds.

In fact, I loved it so much, I had to stop playing because it was taking up way too much of my time. Before I left, though, I stumbled upon one of the most charming surprises I have ever encountered in a game.

I was playing Ilbe, the Hobbit Minstrel (don’t laugh), and was getting thoroughly thrashed with a small group of players in the Barrow Downs. In fact, I got killed almost immediately. Previously, I had been resurrected in one of the resurrection points near one of the towns. Not this time.

I was resurrected in the Old Forest near Breeland. Instead of verdant rolling fields and friendly, apple-cheeked hobbits, I saw this:

Giant spiders, creeping undergrowth, and hostile trees surrounded me. Panicked, I hacked and slashed my way through, running like crazy from the most dangerous monsters until I realized I was actually lost. I was running in circles and couldn’t get back to my group. I was in danger of being picked off again, my life force was dwindling, and all of a sudden in the distance I saw a light…

I slowly walked up to the door of the cozy cottage. Once inside, I wandered around like a child, exploring. I thought it was possible that I had actually been killed in the Old Forest and this was just Hobbit Heaven.

And then I realized…this was Tom Bombadil’s House! The literary thrill from that realization was like a shock. I experienced true bliss, also known as nerd-vana.

Sometimes this also happens in real life. We are wandering lost in a dark, scary place and, just when we think all hope is lost, we see a light in the distance. There is a refuge just behind that door; all we have to do is open it.

Book Review: The King’s Rose by Alisa Libby

Poor, foolish Catherine Howard: she is my favorite of Henry VIII’s queens. Much fuss is made of Madame Boleyn, but the difference between Anne B. and Catherine H. is the difference between fire and water.

Anne’s passionate and tumultuous reign managed to immolate just about everything she touched: her brother, her family name, the unfortunates who paid court, and of course herself. Catherine was under water, in way over her head before she even knew it, and was soon washed away for Henry’s final wife, Catherine Parr. Catherine’s greatest crime is that she was young, foolish and in love.

Take a young girl, raised in lax circumstances, and raise her to the highest lady in the land. Then surround her with courtiers and confessors and advisors who would rather see her fall. Add a mercurial, jealous king, old and ailing. Drama, in any setting, let alone the Tudor court where the penalty for refusing the king anything is treason.

Should you be equally enamored with this era, you will be enchanted by Alisa Libby’s novel, The King’s Rose. Written from the point of view of young Catherine, it sweeps you into Catherine’s dizzying ascent through the Tudor court.

Catherine’s primary assets are her notable beauty and willingness to be dangled in front of the king as a dazzling lure by her family, the Howard clan. She loves the magnificent gowns and jewels: “I am like a dream of me.”

Only later does she realize the true cost of all these luxuries: complete and total compliance to a king old enough to be her grandfather. Libby does a masterful job of portraying the fascinating yet creepy courtship of Catherine by Henry and the willful blindness of the court to the inappropriateness of the match.

Predictably, this glorious wealth’s appeal starts to wane as she is thrown together more often with Thomas Culpepper, a handsome courtier. The pursuit of this love affair, as crazy as it might be, seems all the more inevitable and poignant in the way it is portrayed by Libby.

Through the eyes of Catherine, you see the dread as the coils tighten, you hear the pound of distant drums; she is surrounded by people who know too much of her past, as she walks the steps to the end that history has taken her.

The King’s Rose is quite well-paced and all the little delicious period details are tossed in with effortless flair. One of the greatest challenges of historical fiction is immersing the reader in the era without distracting them with all the things they must learn to understand the people of the time.

Fans of Philippa Gregory and of the Tudor era will devour The King’s Rose. Read more at Alisa’s website.

Article first published as Book Review:The King’s Rose by Alisa Libby on Blogcritics.

Ergo, NaNoWriMo

I wish that I could blame my lack of recent posts on my new obsession with my word count on NaNoWriMo’s website. However, since it starts in November and I am still 48,332 words away from my 50,000 word goal, I can hardly blame it with conviction.

I have kept up nicely on the Facebook page. If you haven’t joined up, please do check it out. There is some content that is exclusive to Facebook and I enjoy promoting the amazing creative projects of others as much as my own.

I am pleased that I am writing, even if it is not in blog form. My project for NaNoWriMo was inspired by a dream, actually. I had the dream on the 31st of October, so the timing was impeccable. I tend to have these epic, plot-driven dreams that have no seeming parallel in my real life. In fact, the dream was so fascinating that I actually half-woke up thinking that I needed to write it all down…so I wrote it down in the dream and woke up with no notes. Figures.


Agatha Christie

I have an odd, half-superstitious fear of synopsizing, so I won’t bore you as to the content of the dream. Suffice to say it involved London in WWII, a derelict theatre, apparitions, a sprawling country estate, mesmerizing patterns, a murder of a beautiful girl and an unlikely killer. Kind of a cross between Dame Agatha Christie and Busby Berkeley.

I’d love to hear some comments from the writers who read my blog. Have you done NaNoWriMo? Did it help to have a deadline? Were you pleased with the results?

So, forgive my silence, friends and picture me scribbling away on my note cards and the backs of burger wrappers. “Write, write and maybe one day you might be read”, think I.