Til we have faces

::dons surgical mask::

::grabs dust mop::

DIE DUST BUNNIES!!!!!

::a cloud of dust erupts as the killer mutant monster dust bunnies are swept out of the blog::

Phew. I’m ba-ack! 🙂

 

moriarty

 

In my defense, it was a hell of a summer and I never promised to update regularly. 😛

The title for this post is from C.S. Lewis’ novel of the same name and it is brilliant. Read it, if you haven’t. The title seemed appropriate for this post. I have literally spent weeks trying to figure out how to put this into words as all the thoughts kept being a whirlwind in my head, refusing to coalesce into coherency. I finally found the key in the words of one of my friends (you know who you are):

 

Don’t let your passion and creativity take backseat to your image.

 

Why is this so forefront in my mind right now? This semester I took a class on teaching and pedagogy. It was, I kid you not, the most valuable class I’ve taken in the course of this degree. It stretched my mind and gave me a vision for what I want my own teaching practice and classroom to look like, and gave me so much to think about.* But one of the major things it made me think about is who I am in the classroom. Not as a student, but as a teacher. And it’s not something I ever had to think about before because I just decided to be myself, and that seems to work. My first time teaching research methods I was new, nervous, though I thought the whole thing went reasonably well. The second time around, I decided to have fun with it. I geeked out my slides: every week was a different theme, ranging from Star Wars to Doctor Who to Lord of the Rings, which inevitably led to pre/post class discussions on why exactly the Witch King could NOT have broken Gandalf’s staff**, why Peter Capaldi is a bloody brilliant 12th Doctor***, why Thor: The Dark World was NOT the worst Marvel film ever****, etc.

And that one seemingly small change changed the entire atmosphere of the classroom. I was still the instructor, but I was human. Everything was more relaxed. We got the work done, but we had some laughs along the way as well. I loved that semester.

So bringing myself into the classroom with the things that make me me is not something I ever thought about. I learned to do it.

And then we started talking about image in the classroom and the problems in academia in that respect. Do a Google search for “university professor”. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

You see the problem? The image search results overwhelmingly favour older white men*****. While the situation is changing within academia, it’s far from changed over. One of the women panelists who came to class, a young woman in her thirties, gave a talk on how she felt she had to keep the “dancing” part of herself out of the classroom in order to be taken seriously.

STOP. RIGHT. THERE.

I am a dancer.******

I am a writer.

I need both these things like breathing. I was made to dance like I was made to write. They are part of what makes me a whole person, and when I bring the whole person into the classroom as opposed to the person I think I should be it gives me so much more confidence. And I’m a better teacher for it.

 

Point.

 

 

*Trust me, that’s another blog post. I’ll get to it. Eventually. Patience is a virtue, people.

**I have no other complaints about the films. They are gorgeous. Stunning. But I will nitpick on that one detail. Fight me.

***BLOODY. BRILLIANT. I LOVE HIM.

****I WILL FIGHT YOU ON THIS. DANCE OFF. NOW.

*****I’d have provided a screenshot but my computer is being stupid and won’t let me. Grr.

******And lemme just say, I spent the entire summer dealing with an injury it only served to make me go HELL YES I AM A DANCER AND I WILL DANCE.

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The Sunshine Thingy (aka, silly questions)

Righty then. I was tagged by S. Hunter Nisbet to do the Sunshine Thingy. Also known as answering silly questions and providing some of my own. It’s a blog meme. So I’ll be tagging some suckers lucky lovelies to carry on the meme lest we all lose our way in the mists of the interwebs and what-else-have-you.

Let the games begin!

 

  1. Dost thou speaketh any other languages? If so, what is thine go-to phrase when people say “Ooh, say something in that language!”

I speaketh 3.5. Or, 2 + .5 +.5. Ish. I’m bilingual in English & French, speak a very rusty Spanish (I can get by) and a teensy bit of Russian. I know the Russian is still there, but it’s veeeeeeeeeeeeery rusty. Favourite phrase with which to impress people in Russian? “я немного говорю по русски” “Ya nyemnoga govoryou po-russki” “I don’t speak much Russian”. This is usually followed by “Вы говорите по-английски?” “Vi govoritye po-angliskii?” “Do you speak English?” 😀

Useful. Dat’s me. 😉

 

  1. Hast thine car ever run out of gas? What did you do?

Nyet. I ride a magic carpet. What do you take me for? Next!

 

  1. Didst thou go to university, and what was thy major or focus?

Went to uni. Did a BA in English Lit with a minor in Russian (aha! you say), then did a Masters of Library and Information Studies. I was going to be a librarian. It didn’t work out. Now I’m back in school doing an MLit because I want to teach English Lit. And I focus on the medieval stuff, though I am forced out of sheer necessity (i.e. I need the credits) to take a summer course about a bloody pretentious git of a modern playwright. After this course is over, he and I are never, ever, EVER getting back together.

 

  1. What is thine starter Pokemon?

I don’t speak Pokemon. I speak Myst and Carmen Sandiego. Still putting the “miss” in “misdemeanor” as I go. 😉

 

  1. Black thumb, or digit of greenest emerald?

Black. Only give me your plants if you want to murder them.  >:)

 

  1. In a world where thy eyebrows were, in fact, long enough to reach the brim of thine hat, dost thou trim them or let them be ala Gandalf?

Hmmmm….trim them. They’d just get in my tea.

 

  1. What was the first chapter book thou ever read, and why?

What. You want to think that far back? I has no clue. None. So to weasel my way around, the first chapter book I remember reading is The Secret of the Old Clock. NANCY DREW FTW.

 

  1. How many poems can thou recite at will?

1.5. By which I mean, I can recite parts of a poem. Macavity the Mystery Cat by T.S. Eliot (screw The Wasteland, and yes I just said that and no, I don’t regret it) is sheer joy. As the threatening rhyme in the opening chapters of The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. That one must be recited with a thick Scottish accent. I do my best. *cough*

 

  1. If I say we must do something for the good of the many, not the few, thy answer will be:

Nyarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh

 

  1. What is knee high by the fourth of July?

Apparently the answer is corn. And yes, I googled that. No, I have no shame.

 

…and how would you answer? Comment if you feel so inclined!

As for the lucky ducks chosen to carry on the flame…I challenge Elaine Witt Nicole Wilson  Maggie Maxwell and Outtamylaine

I salute you all and ply you with cookies and tea. Your questions are below. You know the rest.

::cracks knuckles::

 

  1. You are stranded on a desert island. You are allowed one book, one CD, and one movie. What do you take?
  2. Favourite season? Why?
  3. Coffee fanatic or tea fiend? With milk/cream and sugar or without?
  4. What one place would you visit with that magical plane ticket? Why?
  5. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or Harry Potter? ::evil laugh::
  6. Black Widow or Catwoman? Explain.
  7. Milk chocolate or sinfully dark?
  8. Smaug: justified in defending his hoard against thieving dwarves or homicidal maniac?
  9. Dragons or krakens?
  10. You find a gold ring buried in your backyard. What do you do?

Pushing to the Forefront: Background Characters

So, this was my response to a blog post by S. Hunter Nisbet & R.R. Willica (links at the bottom) and I’m reposting it because it’s a really interesting topic and particularly relevant to me now as I’m drafting MIDNIGHT HOUR (I promise I’ll get a summary on the Writing page soon! Promise!). Three questions were asked:

Do you consciously choose the race, gender, ethnicity, etc. of your background characters?

Do you have a character with a backstory you choose not to share?

Have you ever had a background character try to push to the forefront?

 

Question the 1st: Do you consciously choose the race, gender, ethnicity, etc. of your background characters?

Not consciously, no. Much of it depends on the environment of the story and how well I know it. For example, IN SECRET KEPT is set in a very Anglo-Saxon/Norse inspired world so it’s pretty white. Regional distinctions are mostly based on life-span, hair, and eye colour. That being said, I have a broader sense of geography outside this particular part of the world and in the novella RHEDA (set a few hundred years before SECRET) the MC is (to put in real-world terms) half Saxon and half Arab. Ok, fine. That’s not a background characters. But. In MIDNIGHT HOUR, the entire setting is flipped and it’s a diverse steampunk city so background characters and main characters alike are all kinds of people. The thing with characters is that most of them just pop into my head with their faces already there and I don’t have to think too hard about what they look like. The challenge is in learning to write PoC well (seeing as I’m a white chick), but it’s a challenge I accept. The world isn’t white, nor was I taught to think that it was. Nor is it only male — and since my academic research is focused on women in Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse lit and I grew up on things like Tolkien and Nancy Drew…well, let’s just say my ladies and my men share the limelight equally. And I’m a sucker for women with swords. EOWYN AND BRYNHILDR FTW. Ahem.

 

Question the 2nd: Do you have a character with a backstory you choose not to share?

I don’t think so, no. All of my characters have a backstory and I need to know that in order to know who these people are. While the reader might not get the entire backstory as mapped out in my head, I try to weave in enough so that what is happening in the present makes sense and resonates emotionally. MIDNIGHT HOUR is especially challenging in that respect because all of these rogues (because they are all screwed-up sons-of-you-know-what to varying degrees) have connections with each other and backstory that is important to the present narrative (again, to varying degrees). Figuring out when and where to place a flashback scene or a comment in dialogue is tricky and sometimes I write a scene that I love and realize it’s actually not necessary and — more to the point — not doing what I wanted it to do. The thing about MIDNIGHT HOUR, though, is that I realized early on there’s too much story for one book so the sequel (HEART’S BLOOD) will touch on a fairly major backstory point that I can’t deal with in MH. It has me ridiculously excited.😀

 

Question the 3rd: Have you ever had a background character try to push to the forefront?

Oh, HELL YES. SECRET has one of those — actually, two. But they’ll be getting their own novella once I figure out what their story is. And actually, I wrote a short story called A ONCE & FUTURE KNIGHT and while it’s told from Gawain’s pov, the moment Jael walks onto the page I’ve been told she nearly upstages him. But that’s fine. Because that’s the kind of lady she is. In fact, the two of them are too big for a short so I’m going to rework it into a novel at some point. >:)

No, I can't say that I did...
                 No, I can’t say that I did…

 

So those are my answers. What are yours? Leave me a comment or check out:

S. Hunter Nisbet’s Post and Excellent Blog

And sure to check out Part Two (coming this week!) on:

R.R. Willica’s Likewise Excellent Blog

 

Ciao!

 

She’s beauty, she’s grace (she’ll punch you in the face)

Disclaimer: my thesis is about women in Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse texts and how awesome they are. So yes, I’m biased. What follows is the ramblings of a grad student in love with her subject matter and Agent Peggy Carter.

 

In my thesising today, I was examining the Old English poem Judith which is based on the apocryphal Latin Vulgate text. For those who don’t know the story, the Jewish city of Bethulia is being besieged by the evil general Holofernes. Long story short, the city is saved by Judith who uses her femininity to seduce* the general and subsequently cut off his head. He gets drunk and passes out in her presence.

An interesting variation on this tale is found in The Saga of Hrolf Kraki. Queen Olof pretends to go along with her evil suitor, only to stab him with a sleep thorn when he passes out, drunk, in her chamber. She then tars and feathers him and sends him off packed up in a burlap sack. I kid you not.

Then there’s Jael and Sisera. In the book of Judges, Sisera is a general attacking the Israelites. The judge at the time, Deborah, leads Barak and the Hebrew army to victory, but Sisera escapes. He arrives at Jael’s tent and she offers him hospitality, though he doesn’t know she’s a Hebrew. When he’s asleep, she drives a tent peg through his skull.

And I started noticing a trend. You’d think they’d learn. If you’re an evil general/king/person, do not pass out in the presence of a woman. It will not end well for you. I guarantee it.

Which brings me, perhaps in a not-so-round-about-way to Agent Peggy Carter**. This character means a lot to me***. Not only is Hayley Atwell a dream (I had the ridiculously amazing pleasure of meeting her at Comiccon last summer in a brief 10 second photoshoot, and it remains the HIGHLIGHT of my Comiccon experience), but the character is unashamedly feminine while still kicking ass. She knows her value and retains her moral compass despite all the war took from her. And I love that. And I love that the writers of the show understand that love and romance and happily ever after do not undermine that. With so much media in the atmosphere, it’s hard to escape the still-present message that a woman is incomplete without a man, or that she needs to look or act a certain way, etc. And here we have the brilliant Peggy Carter putting her fist through it all and saying You are enough. And when love does come calling****, she reaches for it as a whole person which makes it so much more beautiful*****.

And this is something I love about the heroines I’m studying, some of whom I’ve mentioned. They say loudly through their actions that They are enough and that they, as women, will get the job done. Any job.

As Shakespeare put it so eloquently, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

beauty

grace

face

(all gifs from: http://ctgraphy.tumblr.com/post/109153691032/fitzwich-inspired-guess-what-i-started)

 

Peace out.

 

 

*the OE text is rather uneasy with Judith’s sexuality in this regard and downplays it to a certain extent while the Vulgate makes no bones about it. Just fyi.

**If you’re not watching Agent Carter then what are you even doing with your life?

***As in, she’s up there with Eowyn and Jane Eyre, but those are whole other blog posts and I’ll get to them eventually. 😛

****In the form of the delightful Daniel Sousa. Talk about a beautiful love story. *melts*married

*****I was totally grinning and cheering like an idiot during the final moments of the season finale (um…sorry Jack). NOW I NEED SEASON 3 DAMMIT.

You remind me of the babe

…in which I talk about my love for Labyrinth. With footnotes.

Ever seen Jim Henson’s Labyrinth? If not, you need to rethink your life. Just sayin’.

I love this movie. Not only is the music fantastic (all songs by David Bowie, need I say more), but it has this girl:

Jennifer Connelly is gorgeous at any age.
Jennifer Connelly is gorgeous at any age.

and this guy:

Sparkling like a boss since 1986.
Sparkling like a boss since 1986.

There are a lot of reasons I adore it: it’s wildly imaginative; the music is brilliant; there are muppets, and Jennifer Connelly; and David Bowie sporting a mullet that would put MacGyver* to shame. But more than that, the strength of the story and characters, specifically Sarah, is what resonates with me.

Why?

Because it’s the story of a girl who says No. And wins.

Briefly:

Jareth, the sparkly, devious, goblin king, has stolen Sarah’s brother and whisked him away to the Labyrinth, giving Sarah 13 hours to solve said maze**. Or else he will turn Toby into a goblin.  Rather than risk losing, he throws various wrenches into the works and eventually attempts to seduce her. Keep in mind this a family film*** so said seduction involves a ballroom and music and a gorgeous puffy, sparkly dress. And a dance with a handsome king. Watch the video, you’ll see what I mean. And yes this is possibly my favourite song in the film.

Up until this point, Sarah has been running around dressed like a teenager. Suddenly, she is dressed like a woman and in a very adult environment. And someone – a man not a boy – notices****. Keep in mind she’s fifteen. And if you watch her face (go ahead, watch the video again. You know you want to 😛 ), you can see she’s trying to figure out if she’s comfortable with this whole scenario. She’s at an age where you’re not a girl and not a woman, but something in between, and she’s trying to navigate her way through that in-between stage. Been there. Not easy.

So there she is, on the king’s arm. And he’s singing to her and treating her like one of his adult courtiers. (Take note of said adult courtiers in the vid) For a while she seems to go along with it, but eventually remembers what she’s looking for and breaks free from the illusion.

Fast forward to the end of the film. She’s practically won. And then Jareth appears with his final offer:

“Fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave.”

And her response?

“You have no power over me.”

BOO-YA.

In doing so, she comes into adulthood and acknowledges her sexuality on her own terms. Not on somebody else’s. She learns, early, how to say No to something that isn’t right.

And Jareth? He’s defeated. Her refusal is seen as a definite thing. It doesn’t covertly mean “yes”. “No” means “No”. End of story.

As it should be.

 

I promised you footnotes:

*And if you have no idea who MacGyver is, you need to rethink your life again. 80s/90s TV shows FTW.

**Technically a maze and a labyrinth aren’t the same thing, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment. Carry on.

***Debatable.

****Personally, I think Jareth does actually fall in love with Sarah, but it’s moot because he still acts like a skeeze. That’s also a whole other blog post. Maybe.