Till We Have Faces

{F24C8C14-B13E-4429-9277-2F60F7705511}Img100Most famous authors have a book or series that they are particularly well known for. Sometimes their famous works overshadow their other work and even their fans aren’t aware of their less well known books. But often times there’s hidden treasure to be found in those under appreciated works.

I learned that first hand a few days back when I picked up C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, a retelling of The Greek myth of Psyche and Cupid. This was the last book that C.S. Lewis wrote and I have to say I was really impressed.

The basic story of the myth is this. Psyche is so beautiful that the people of her land begin to worship her as a goddess. This draws the wrath of Venus. Seeking revenge Venus commands Cupid to cause Psyche to fall in love with an ugly man. But Cupid instead falls in love with her himself. Her family becomes worried that they will never find a man willing to marry her and so her father calls on the god Apollo for help. He advises her father to send Psyche to the top of a hill where she will marry a serpent. And for some reason they agree to this and she goes.
But instead of finding a serpent she finds a beautiful house and falls in love with a man (Cupid) who will not allow her to see his face.
Psyche has two sisters. And one day Psyche begs to be allowed to see them. Cupid says that it is not wise, but finally relents. The sisters visit her, but become jealous of Psyche’s good fortune and begin to imagine reasons she has never seen her husbands face and pressure her that she must sneak a look.
Psyche is finally pressured into doing this, and I can’t say I can blame her. She lights a lamp at night in their bedchamber and sees Cupid’s beautiful face. She is relieved and ashamed for her lack of faith. But Cupid awakes and becomes angry and leaves her for her betrayal.
Psyche wanders the land in search of Cupid and finally comes to Venus looking for help. Venus sets a series of impossible tasks before Psyche, but Psyche succeeds and in the end is reunited with Cupid.

This is the basic idea of the myth. Now. C.S. Lewis’s tale is much different. It is told from the prospective of the eldest sisters. Apparently Lewis was not satisfied with the sister’s motivation. So he made the mansion invisible so that it was a question of belief for the eldest sister and also made it a matter of love which caused the betrayal rather than jealousy.
The character of the eldest sister is fascinating. She is loving and caring and yet jealous and possessive. She loves and yet that love is imperfect and consumes what she loves. Later on she becomes queen of her land and she is a good, strong, queen. She even rides into battle and champions her people. And yet she is deeply flawed and broken. Sometimes her thoughts and actions are deplorable and yet she is very sympathetic.
It has been said that this book is C.S. Lewis’s most mature work and I have to agree, at least in fiction. There is a level of character development which is not found in any of the other books of his that I have read. I was impressed, and I was also impressed with how well he wrote a strong and well rounded female character.
I believe I read the entire book in two or three days. As usual, there is an allegorical nature to this retelling of the myth. He deals with themes of doubt about the gods, how can they truly be just and loving, and why won’t they answer plainly. All intriguing questions.
It was a beautiful book, sad, yet hopeful. I would highly recommend it.

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Make Good Art

Neil Gaiman, author of one of my favorite books Ocean at the End of the Lane, gave a wonderful graduation speech back in 2012. I was reminded of a quote from it today and thought I’d share it with you all.

“Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you can do best. Make good art.”

It’s very inspirational and if you find yourself needing a little inspiration, or just want to listen to Neil Gaiman’s wonderful British Accent, you should definitely watch the whole speech. Let me know what you think.

~Lady of the Pen~

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Branching Out!

I am pleased to announce I’m branching into stock photography. I’ve always like photography, but never really had a reason to pursue it. But lately I’ve been trying to think of ways to bring in some extra money and maybe some day be able to quit my 8-5 job and do something more creative. Travel photography sounds fun, but seems a bit allusive at my current level of skill. Wedding photography holds no appeal. But stock photography…The more I thought about it the more appealing it sounded. I have thousands of photos sitting on my hard drive–some from Israel, and Ireland–and nothing to do with them. I also have tons of old fun things I can take photos of; an old Royal typewriter, rusty keys, leather journals, steampunk props. So I’ve been experimenting. With some trial and error I’ve had my first couple of photos accepted to Shutterstock. Check out my profile. I’m pretty excited about this new outlet. I feel like it’s even helping with my writing, since it’s keeping me in a more productive, creative mind set.
Please wish me luck! And share my profile with anyone looking for stock photos. I’ll be adding more photos soon.

Happy New Year friends!

~Lady Of The Pen~



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The Power of Live Music

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A small mythpunk concert I went to the other night with S.J. Tucker, Sharon Knight, Betsy Tinny, and The Nathaniel Johnstone Band. (You should check them out!)

Music is the language of the heart. It has a way of bypassing our brain and striking at our core. In our modern life music has never been more accessible. With the click of a button we can listen to thousands of artists from around the world. It has opened up a world of music; and I am very thankful. There are many artists I never would have found without the internet.

But in our modern world of easy access and mega stars we loose something. There is  power to live music that you can’t find in a recording. It’s a conversation between the artist and the audience, a sharing of hearts. This can happen at home listening to music on your (Insert Preferred Musical Gateway), but there’s something raw and organic when it’s live and the artist is reading the room and the atmosphere and is adjusting for the audience. That is something a recording can never give you. That said, my favorite live performances are in small intimate settings. Places where there are no barriers between musician and audience. Where we all feel like friends, instead of part of a faceless mob. When it feels like a conversation between artist and audience instead of a worship service to an idol on a stage. Not that big concerts can’t be amazing–They can be glorious! But it’s harder to feel that connection.

To me the intimate settings are how music was meant to be shared. These are the settings where your local artists play. The people who may never be famous. Never “Make It,” according to the world’s views of success, but they still play. And despite what the world says they will touch many lives in those small intimate settings. They won’t just have fans, who follow, but never truly know them, they will make friends and allies. There will be sharing, feedback, and life will happen.

The beauty of small local artists is the give and take relationship we share. They’re like the bards of old. They travel, spreading music, and speaking to us on a level beyond common speech, often times expressing our feelings better than we can ourselves. And in return we give our support and love. We take what we need from the music and return the favor in kind words, a hug, a piece of art, buying their CD, or donating money. They need us and we need them. Without musicians, artists, and writers, the world would be a sad dull place. We are meant to create and be part of a community and it’s a beautiful sight when we see all the different parts working together.

There’s nothing wrong with loving popular music, I know I do. But we should also support our local artists, because I can guarantee the heart to heart of music in an intimate setting with friends is far sweeter than the hype and excitement of a mega concert.

~Lady of the Pen~

“I know the murmur of music reveals
The things no human heart could comprehend”

– Emilie Autumn – Alas (the Knight)

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~An Adventure in Ireland~

Last month I was driving on the wrong side of the road, in a rented car, in Ireland. I went with a girl friend, we found a deal on Living Social and decided to go for it. Last year I traveled with a group, from my church, in Israel. This year I was ready to travel more independently.

In many ways Ireland reminded me of my home in the Pacific Northwest: green, beautiful, wet, and full of charm. But Washington doesn’t have castles and layers of history around every corner. I loved that feeling of history in Ireland (and in Israel). That feeling of walking with ghosts. Of wondering what events happened in this place over the decades and centuries.

I won’t talk about the entire trip in this blog post, it’s too broad a subject to be contained in one post. But I will talk about one place. The place which made me feel like a child who, while exploring, stumbled upon place which I thought only existed in books.

It was on our fourth day in Ireland. The weather was wet and windy. We were staying in Kenmare and wanted to explore Killarney National Park. We hesitated when we looked out the window, but we hadn’t come all this way to sit in doors and watch TV. We ventured out and were glad we did. We got rained on from time to time, but it was well worth it. We saw a waterfall, went on a jaunting carriage to Muckross house, explored Killarney, and visited Ross Castle.

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We were heading back to our B&B, damp and a little cold, but happy, when we saw the sign for Muckross Abbey. I had wanted to see that. The night before I read online that it was supposedly haunted and Bram Stoker, himself, had wandered the ruins of the abbey in the dead of night. But we hesitated. It was getting late and it seemed unlikely we would be able to gain access. Besides the warm car felt really nice after a day of exploring in the weather. Yet I knew we’d regret it if we didn’t at least stop and take a look.
We did and learned the abbey was open to the public 24/7. Surprised, we followed a paved path and found the abbey was only a short walk from the parking lot. The evening was nice, the sun was breaking through the clouds for the first time that day.
W came upon the abbey.

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Aside from the fact that there was no roof it was in good condition, the walls were solid and whole. Walking through a scattered cemetery we entered Muckross Abbey.

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We soon split up so we could explore and take pictures at our leisure. I found of a beautifully intact dome-arch and wandering a little further realized there were actual passageways and enclosed chambers.

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My excitement grew as I realized there was more to this place than I had originally assumed. I gleefully spotted a stairway, which I intended to climb as soon as I had finished exploring the ground level. Then I came into a corridor which encompassed a small square in the heart of the abbey and in the cloister was an ancient elm tree. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I felt like I’d stumbled into a magical place which belonged in a fairytale. Places like this just don’t exist!

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Full of awe and excitement I took pictures and continued my exploring. I discovered that the windows from the second level looked down into the cloister and I took more pictures.

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There was even a tower but here, at last, I was met with a locked door. Disappointed I retraced my steps and soon found myself in the cloister again, looking at the tree who’s branches reached over the walls of the abbey. Sunlight was streaming in from the windows and the clouds had parted so that there was blue sky for the first time. It was perfect.

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My friend and I had a hard time leaving, but the idea of food finally convinced us.
This was probably my favorite experience in Ireland. There were other beautiful sights, other moments of awe, but this was the moment with the most magic.

~~Lady of the Pen~~

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Unique Beauty

I stumbled across a video the other day which showed an acrobat dancing inside a spinning ring. This is called a cyr ring and was reinvented by a man called Daniel Cyr, who developed it for use in the circus at the end of the 20th century.

Please enjoy these videos. I found them moving in their simple beauty and grace. It’s incredible what humans are capable of when they put their minds to it.



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Why I Love Twitter as a Writer

o-TWITTER-facebookI know several people who don’t get Twitter. They don’t see the point. Personally Twitter is my favorite social media. It wasn’t always like that, when I started out I thought it was pointless, just a way for people to stalk celebrities. But I changed my mind.

So what’s so great about Twitter? Well, it’s all about breaking down wall. And for that reason it’s utterly amazing! For the first time fans have easy access to their favorite writer, musician, or artist.  They can interact with each other creating a richer experience for both parties. Twitter lets us to connect with people from all over the world, allowing us to form communities of diverse likeminded people.

As a writer I love being able to follow my favorite authors and interact with them, but I also love being able to get to know Indie writers, and people starting out. I’ve made friends from all over the world and found wonderful sources of information.

But you have to know how to use Twitter to get a good experience out of it. When I started out I would follow anyone who had similar interests and automatically follow back anyone who followed me. The problem was I started clogging up my feed with mega accounts who posted hundreds of advertisements for their books or whatever else they were trying to push. It was annoying.

Over time I became more selective about who I followed and I started unfollowing anyone who only posted ads. For me as a writer, one of my main goals is to build a future readership. So when I publish my first book I’ll have a group of people, already following me, who will be interested. But I also want to make friends, have connections, gain contacts, and just interact with real people around the world.

As a rule of thumb I usually follow people who have anywhere from a few hundred to ten thousands followers, anymore than that and it’s less likely we’ll ever interact on Twitter. That said I will follow Tweeters with lots of followers if they have good content or I’m a fan of their work in someway.

When people follow me I try to tweet them back thanking them for following, but not one of those default tweets that sounds like I’m a soulless robot. I try to look at their profile and find something that I can comment on to make it more personal. To show that I’m not a computer, or a person who only cares about the numbers and not the people.

My goal isn’t to have a bazillion followers, it’s to build community and connect with my followers.

But even if you are somewhat selective you do want to follow people so they’ll hopefully follow you back and their friends will then follow you and you’ll become super popular and your first book will sell a million copies (ideally). The point is, if your a writer or any kind of artist is to have an audience. As such even with quality people on your feed it’s going to get crowded and confusing. That’s where lists come in. Lists are a life saver. I have lists for writers I follow, musicians, artists, as well as lists for people I’ve gotten know, who I don’t want to get lost in the sea of random followers. I’m not going to say a lot about lists because I just started utilizing them myself, but they’re very helpful–USE THEM!

Speaking of utilizing, don’t be afraid to ask questions on Twitter, sometimes it really pays off. Recently I was working on creating a setting for the novel I’m writing, and I asked if anyone had any good ideas for making certain the setting was geographically believable. I got some good responses. Don’t be afraid to throw things out there, sometimes it passes soundlessly into the void, but sometimes the void speaks back (not being overly dramatic at all.)

So that’s my advise for Twitter, basically instead of shouting at people like a Newsie on the sidewalk, hoping someone will stop, try having conversations with people. They’re far more receptive toward you and your art if you’re not flinging it at them.

If you have anything to add feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to hear about other people’s thoughts and strategies.

~~Lady of the Pen~~

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