The Spider – a lament

spider-web
Image by George Hodan

Worthy was I of purest love;

He loved me not at all.

His schemes wove tethers ‘round my wrists;

He watched my fences fall.

 

Drop by drop, he plied his pen

In lies yet unrevealed;

A spider weaving glit’ring web,

His stings were yet concealed.

 

In desperate straits, but steadfast still,

I could not but perceive;

My virtue lured him like a fly;

His web I could not leave.

 

To friends he painted fallacies,

Sincerity his guise;

‘Til silence, my worst enemy,

Convinced my soul to rise.

 

In vain I begged for mercy;

His coldness was as ice.

He had no conscience to restrain;

He made my love his vice.

 

The spider took the coward’s path,

He heeded not my cry.

He drained me of my last defense,

And forced my hope to die.

 

The door, it loomed like Cerberus;

I slipped away by night;

I climbed the steep Mount Tartarus,

And did not slow my flight.

 

My tired soul found haven:

A cell, a squalid shore,

Where I battled in reflection,

My fevered mind tried sore.

 

I searched; I found no comfort.

I slept; I found no rest.

I ate and took no pleasure in it.

My spirit sore oppressed.

 

I reached to enfold my loved ones,

A solace amidst my pain;

I grasped at salve for my malady,

To stand and live again.

 

But there was none would help me;

Both judge and friend drew near;

They praised the sinner, claimed him saint,

Denying I’d aught to fear.

 

They said if I would go to him…

They told me to forgive.

“This lord, this man of good rapport,

Commit to him and live.”

 

My spider had betrayed me

To mother, sister, friend.

Denied even by the bishop,

Who claimed hell was my end.

 

Hear the words, oh humanity;

Spoken from the Divine:

For God hears the cry of the innocent;

The Lord says, “Vengeance is Mine.”

 

*Inspired by Samuel Richard’s Clarissa Harlowe, or the Story of a Young Lady

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3 Points of Writing & the Universal Rule

My brother, a musician, named three properties that become his focus as he works to craft a piece of music. They are: the key of the piece, the tempo, and the kick pattern.

“Making sure the song is in the right key is essential,” he said. “You would be amazed at how changing the key of the song can change the entire feeling.” He talked about some songs we both knew and how they didn’t work the same way with a key change. “This especially goes for songs that modulate for a build at the end. It can be catastrophic for certain song structures.”

“The second thing I experiment with is the song’s tempo. I have songs I struggle to keep from being too slow or too fast.” He talked about one of his slower songs, Give In. “I played with the speed of that one for quite a while. Any slower and it lost its intensity, but playing it faster took away from the serious mood.”

“The last thing will probably sound shallow, but it’s not. It’s the kick pattern. And I’m not talking about the beat of the drum so much as the pattern in the listener’s head. You want them to anticipate when the drum is coming, even when the sound isn’t there at all. The listener needs that. But you don’t want the pattern to be predictable, either.”

As he talked, I realized the method to his music was the same method I use to improve my writing. Instead of using chords in a key pattern, I’m focused on the structure of the setting. The setting of the story houses the mood, the atmosphere, the foundational guidelines of my piece. Without it, my work has suffered from being too ambiguous or lifeless. I’ve changed the setting suddenly, and it’s ruined my whole story.

Tempo is obvious. I’ve discussed the importance of keeping the pace of a story in the forefront of a writer’s mind—not letting the characters slip into reveries or flashbacks at the wrong moment, making sure there is a goal the story continues to move toward. Even the simplest digressions can have an impact on the way your reader perceives your work. Some digressions bring your reader into a closer connection with the experience you’re sharing, and some digressions confuse, and even polarize, your reader.

Lastly, there is a pattern created by the writer in every story. Sometimes it’s called the voice or the style of the work. But it’s more than that. It’s that unspoken rhythm of thought the reader recognizes and latches onto. This is comparable to the kick pattern of a song, I think. Certain stories ooze personality, the story’s own flair, from the first word. Tolkien had a beautiful sense of this. Mary Shelley played around with it in Frankenstein. (Personally, I think she overplayed it.) Maximum Ride held readers with a snarky, hard-edged flow–not just the dialogue, but the storyline itself rattled with that teen angst pattern. These three examples are easy to pick up on, but all literature of length sits within a pattern that the reader subconsciously recognizes and expects to continue throughout the work.

My brother opened my eyes to this universal rule of the artist: We don’t mold the message alone; we mold every pause between. From the dead spaces to the underlying matter, we orchestrate and riddle out the kinks, so the listener can get to know the work without needing to know why it resonates.

The White Rabbit

I wist not where my foot had dropped;

But at the door of a world I stopped.

With little act and little thought,

I saw him in his waistcoat frocked.

He said to me, “No time!”

 

I grew a deal, but I was small;

I drank from life a little of all;

I rose and tottered from a crawl;

And listened ’bout me for his call,

The ringing words, “No time!”

 

I marched, I circled with the rest;

I sang the chants and took the test;

And all for naught it was at best–

The race was never done, I guessed.

He worried on. “No time!”

 

I searched through leaf and vale and plain;

I searched his house, calling his name.

Was I his slave, his pride, his shame;

His Mary Ann, as he did claim?

He twitched and cried, “No time!”

 

By him I walked among the great,

Touched the hem and entered the gate,

Found it false, but spoke too late;

“Silence her!” and “Off with her pate!”

He saw I had no time.

 

My world, scatt’ring threes and twos,

I cared not who would win or lose;

For games and such I had no use.

Yet, I was his and he was whose,

The one who had no time?

 

When I awoke beside my tree,

So real and safe that stood by me,

I cast aside the memory

That he had not had time for me.

He’s running with no time.

Caught up in Kingfountain Lore

Did I leave you in the depths of despair about my fan grief last week? Sometimes a fan just needs to say what she feels, you know? This week, I’m focused on the good stories being written. There are great writers making new and amazing tales, creating new worlds and inspiring a reader’s fancy. In fact, this booklover is head-over-heels for the Kingfountain Series!

 

Book 1 of the Kingfountain Series.

Jeff Wheeler’s first Kingfountain book, The Queen’s Poisoner, is a fantasy adventure with historic elements that captured my imagination from the first. Taken captive to the king’s palace, young Owen Kiskaddon (Don’t you love that name? The names in this book are splendid!) finds himself in a precarious situation. His father, a traitor to the crown, must pay for his betrayal with his life, leaving Owen’s life hanging in the balance. Feeling none-too-loyal to the king, he discovers Ankarette, the Queen’s Poisoner. Ankarette is the perfect ally… and a powerful enemy. She opens Owen’s eyes to the political upheaval going on around him, and in the process opens his mind to legendary powers he didn’t know existed!

I downloaded the Kindle edition of The Queen’s Poisoner last year and quickly knew I wanted my own physical copy… along with book 2, The Thief’s Daughter. (Greedy, aren’t I?) I saved the books to my Christmas wishlist, but no sign of Kingfountain magic graced my bookshelves. This Mother’s Day I tried a more direct approach, handing my husband and kids my list of the first three Kingfountain books. (I figured, if I’m going to be a glutton about the books, I might as well add a third.)

My book gifts came pouring in, and so did curiosity about this series. I had no qualms about sharing the first book with my kids. With its incredible, admirable characters of thought and deed, The Queen’s Poisoner is thoroughly laced with integrity and meaning. My daughter sat up reading it late into the night. How lovely it is when a mom and daughter get swept away in the same adventure!

Another fascinating aspect of Wheeler’s first book premise is the influence of the historical account of the Princes in the Tower. The disappearance in 1483 of King Edward IV’s two sons, Edward V and Richard, remains cloaked in mystery to this day. While Wheeler’s story is completely his own, there are threads and names that surface, harking back to that murderous episode in England’s history. Take the name Dominic Mancini, the royal historian both for the true and Wheeler’s fiction.

“It’s been my experience, Owen, that when everyone agrees on some point of fact, it tends to be the biggest deception of all.”

– from The Queen’s Poisoner

The Thief’s Daughter continues the historic thread. Piers Urbick surfaces as the disputed king of Ceredigion. His name sounds suspiciously like Perkin Warbeck, a claimant to Henry VII’s throne in the late 1490s who turned out to be an imposter.

Wheeler’s handling of this imposter premise is quite intriguing! In fact, I think the second book is better than the first. Owen and his friend, Evie, have grown into young adults who mean much more to each other. His responsibilities require greater risks and sacrifices. Just how often does a sequel outshine its predecessor?

If you’re a fantasy bookworm with a penchant for a strategy-filled clean read, this is the series to try! Book 3, Book 4, and the prequel, The Maid’s War, are also available on Amazon. Book 5 is in the works.

First Relationships

From the series Breathing Life

A young student at co-op started cleaning my table before I’d finished eating. Realizing I wasn’t moving my food, she politely said, “Excuse me; I need to wipe this table.”

I scanned my area for the usual crumbs, and there weren’t any. I told her, “All clean here!”

She hesitated, the wet wipe hanging limply from her fingers. “But I have to wash here.”

I explained to her that it was her job to wash away dirt and food, but there wasn’t any dirt or food.

She nodded and walked away, but her expression told me she was still perplexed. She was supposed to wipe down the table, and she had not done that. What to do! What to do!

We humans tend to do things because we are told to do them. This behavior begins before we have the maturity to understand the reasons behind what we do. As we get older, we begin to study the principles and concepts we live by. (The sheep-like behavior remains only if we feel pressured to conform or lack impetus to change.)

This account of the first man and woman was not written to teach Adam and Eve; it was written to teach a people who were becoming a nation. They needed to understand where they’d come from and what was expected of them. So, the Author of Genesis 2 sets down a major principle immediately after Adam makes his observation about the woman God had made.

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24

Image by Keriography. Used by permission.

Two relationships are mentioned here. Leaving father and mother refers to the parent-child relationship. The second relationship is a union between Adam and Eve.

The first man didn’t have a mom and dad to leave, and neither did the first woman. So, why does the Author record this rule right after Adam meets Eve? It’s a reminder to me that Adam and Eve are not the audience.

Every word expressed by a writer is made to say something. A writer’s challenge is to deliver a message or concept so that the reader can grasp it, examine it, and, hopefully, use it. The audience is always there in the back of the writer’s mind, the impetus for him/her to change and develop the approach to better communicate with the reader.

Reviewing what I know about the audience of Genesis 2 – a fledgling group of Hebrews who have escaped slavery in Egypt – I can gather they are undergoing a reconstruction. They are developing their own civilization, and the covenant between this first man and first woman is crucial. This marriage covenant is the cornerstone of their societal development. They are a nation establishing laws, rituals, and procedures that will be more advanced than any of the neighboring peoples around them for many centuries.

According to this passage, the marriage relationship takes precedence over the parent-child relationship. The Israelite nation under Moses was organized according to the twelve tribes of Jacob. Sons inherited tribal land from their fathers (and, in some cases, their mother’s first husband’s tribe). This land could be rented out but would always return to the family tribe. So, a son’s relationship with his father and mother was tantamount to his identity as a citizen of the nation. His relationship to his family was extremely important, but this passage makes it clear his relationship to his parents was not to eclipse the union of a man to his wife. This honor in the marriage relationship is depicted in Adam’s feelings toward Eve.

“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

She is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. She belongs with him as he belongs with her. She is his companion in life. (Parents are not a person’s life companions, though they hold an honorable position.) Knowing she is made the same as he, his natural behavior toward her would be to treat her as he would treat himself. Her flesh is to be his flesh, meaning he would not want to harm his own body, so he would not harm hers. He would not shame himself, therefore he would not shame her. He would not deprive himself of physical and emotional care; he would not deprive her of that same care.

It’s a basic understanding of a relationship that spans millennia, and that principle is expressed in two sentences. Amazing, isn’t it?

Writing Tip Recap: A writer communicates the message best when he/she keeps in mind the audience to whom it is being written.

This is the last of the Breathing Life series. You may wonder why verse 25 of Genesis 2 is missing. After studying it, I came to the conclusion it fits perfectly with the thought flow of Genesis 3. So, I will keep that for a future series.

For a list of the posts, check the “Breathing Life” page.

*Featured image by Keriography. Used by permission.

From Surgery to Cloning

I underwent surgery last summer and was given a “clicker” in recovery for a morphine drip. I was told I could use it every six minutes and that it wouldn’t release the drug until the six minutes had passed. (I was certain I’d been told I could use it every six seconds, but Realm assured me it was minutes.) Minute five was murder; I thought I’d never live through those 60 seconds. My body did not take kindly to the morphine, not only because of the rebound/dependence pain in minute five but because my stomach rejected the drug’s influence with a disgustingly vile display of its contents sometime later. The morphine did its job – I cannot imagine how I would have dealt with the pain without it – but it would’ve been nice not to have had side effects.

The first man didn’t experience any of my problems. His was the perfect procedure and outcome.

“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;” – Genesis 2:21

This is God’s second operation. The first was the descriptive “breathing” of life into man. This second one has general anesthesia involved. His deep sleep is a trance-like state in which Adam is completely inert. The phrase “and he slept” means to be languid or slack. This is not the same as drowsiness of sleep, translated ‘slumber’ in many passages. It is also not the sleep meaning ‘to dream’ or ‘to talk while dreaming.’  This word depicts a sleep that can lead to death. It is so deep the person is unaware of what is going on around him/her and feels nothing.

Surgeons use anesthesia because they don’t want their patients to be aware of what is happening, have a memory of it, or experience any pain. This is to keep the patient completely relaxed. The medical community still does not fully understand the reasons why anesthesia works to disconnect the brain from the body, yet more is known about the response of the body to types of anesthesia and its stages than could possibly have been known when this was written. The Creator’s anesthesia required no synthetic chemicals, no concerns about getting the right dose, and no adverse side effects. This is another example of how the Creator is attentive and involved with His creation. This man is being cared for in the best possible manner. Jehovah God could have taken Adam’s rib by any means He chose to use. Man was His creation, after all. Should it matter to Him whether Adam was nervous, panicked, tortured when He removed the rib? Why would it matter to God whether Adam healed immediately and had no painful aftereffects? This gentleness and consideration shows a Creator who has a tender feeling toward His human creation. Adam’s pain – any discomfort in this new life experience – matters to Jehovah God.

Another phrase I had to look up is “closed up the flesh instead thereof.” The meaning for closed up is the absolute shutting or sealing up of the body. The picture given is one in which the Creator is thoroughly closing the gap where He removed the rib. No stitches. No waiting for the site to heal itself. No tears, pulls, or reopening. Adam is going to have the fastest recovery known to man when he wakes.

The Author chooses precise words to describe what Adam goes through. He also gives a step-by-step account of the procedure. The detail in so few words fascinates me. I’ve noticed that the most climactic accounts in the Bible are written concisely.

“God created the heavens and the earth.”

“And man became a living soul.”

“Jesus wept.”

“And they crucified him.”

The lesson for every writer is that monumental/deeply moving events cannot be expressed by forced emphasis or an abundance of description.

“And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” – Genesis 2:22

And the woman is finally created! She was built (that’s the meaning of made) from the rib of Adam. This is an exciting detail when I consider what is known about bone marrow today. I have heard the romantic speculation that the first woman was made from a rib bone because it was close to Adam’s heart. I personally find the scientific discoveries that prove the rib bone to be rich in blood and immune cells, and carrying Adam’s genetic material, far more intriguing.

“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” – Genesis 2:23

The first statement out of Adam’s mouth depicts his feelings, which helps me relate to his emotions. The Author doesn’t make the mistake some writers do of saying, “Adam was happy” or “He was mind-blown.” I can see those two feelings in what Adam says. He knows Eve was created from his body. She belongs because he belongs. She was cloned from him, yet she is woman – the female version. They are genetically perfect and complete, and their DNA is from the same source.

Adam’s operation removes a ton of skepticism surrounding the first woman’s birth. If she had been made from the dust of the ground, like Adam, it would have opened the door to questions about her DNA. Was it different from his – perhaps genetically weaker, more vulnerable, less or more intellectually capable?  She was directly formed from his genetic material.

She is presented as the match that fills the void. She is help for Adam. She is meet (or fitting) for Adam. She is a gift directly from the Creator. The man is no longer the solitary human who thinks and feels above the rest of God’s creation. She is now beside him, able to relate to him, experiencing their new world.

Writer Recap:

  1. Good writers use succinct terms in their narrative to capture important events.
  2. Rather than telling the reader what the character feels, let the reader experience the character’s feelings through his/her own words and/or actions.

*Featured image by Keriography. Used by permission.

The First Scientist

From the series Breathing Life

The Author of Genesis introduces a loose thread in the fabric of the story with a bit of dramatic pause. The Creator’s thoughts are recorded for me, proof-positive that Jehovah God not only designed His creation with certain needs but considers those needs. It’s not that He doesn’t already know what Adam needs; God wants me to know it matters to Him.

“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” -Genesis 2:18

Am I surprised to find out mankind was designed to need companionship? Not really. But it is awing to see that need as a priority to the Creator. I’ve talked about the meaning of the word ‘good’ before. Jehovah God doesn’t make semi-good or sorta-good things, so He’s going to create what is best for the man He made. He shows me the best thing for him is a companion who will provide assistance. The word for ‘help meet’ means just that, a fitting helper. This companion must be, literally, “just his type.” But God doesn’t create this help meet immediately. He brings all the animals for Adam to inspect and name first.

“And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them:” – Genesis 2:19a

The first chapter of Genesis makes it clear the animals were formed before God chose to create the first man. As I pointed out previously, Chapter 2 is not focused on reiterating the chronology of chapter 1. Like the garden, the animals were created with mankind in mind, and God brings them to Adam to name. These land animals and birds were formed by the same Creator, but they aren’t like Adam. Sea creatures and creeping things aren’t even mentioned; they are clearly of a different ilk and unsuited for Adam’s companionship needs.

By the way, this verse is the first time Adam’s name is used. ‘Adam’ is the Hebrew word for ‘man.’ This confused me. How did the translators decide when to translate it ‘man’ and when to use ‘Adam’? Looking at this entry where ‘Adam’ is introduced, it seems the translators chose to use the name Adam when the second variety of mankind, the female, was implicated in the passage. So, Adam, the male version of mankind, is looking for a companion. From here on the name Adam is used so that he will not be confused with any other of his kind.

By Eviatar Bach (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” – Genesis 2:19b

Adam won’t be confusing any animals either because now they have names, too. I cut verse 19 in half like this because this last section is fascinating. On the surface Moses is saying, “And whatever Adam called every animal, that’s what the animal’s name was.” Well, duh. But, really, Adam is given the authority to tag every creature he discovers. See the weighty meaning? He graduates with his PhD in Zoology on Day 6. He knows more about the world than any other being living on it. And he established his naming system in one day1. (Poor Linnaeus was dead by the time his system took hold of the scientific world.) Today, I can’t even name my own child without a bunch of forms to fill out. Even a namesake star will cost me $19.99!

“And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.” – Genesis 2:20

This lets me know that God gave him the whole find-a-buddy tour, and Adam found the creation wanting. Wait a minute! God doesn’t leave His creation wanting, does He? Yes, He does. He will leave me wanting so that I can know what it means to be without something I need. I don’t know how to value what I need if I don’t go without sometimes.

Ah, there’s the second major story tip. Every good story has a character who is lacking something. When the character becomes aware of what is missing, the reader will want to follow along as he/she searches. This creates its sense of value when what is missing is found. It also develops the deep sense of satisfaction the reader feels at the end.

Recap:

  1. Use dramatic pause to introduce important aspects to your story.
  2. Withhold what a character needs to develop its value and a satisfying resolution.

I’ll add one more obvious one: You should probably name your characters. Yes, some writers have chosen not to, but, unless you are the experimental type and just have to show how many descriptors you can come up with, please give me a name to attach to that character. Book clubs will thank you, too.

*Featured image by Keriography. Used by permission.