Tally Ho!

My first post in months, and I’m saying goodbye.  Well, “Tally ho,” really.  This isn’t a proper goodbye, though.  I’ll still be around, just not around here.  I’m starting a new blog, “Starlit Wanderings.”  It’s going to have a lot of things in common with “Memoirs,” only I’m changing things up a bit.  I won’t go into details here, since I explain my reasons in some depth on my first post over there.  It’s up and posted now, so go check it out!

Tally ho for now!

~Natasha.

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Review: House of the Seven Gables

(Image and summary taken from Goodreads)

(Image taken from Goodreads)

For once, I found Goodreads to be entirely unhelpful to me.  I simply couldn’t find a decent summary that didn’t already begin to dissect the book, or didn’t have an enormous commentary on footnotes and whatnot, or wasn’t paired up with the Scarlet Letter.  Ah well.  I suppose I’ll just have to supply my own.

Here goes nothing:

“God will give you blood to drink!”

So declared Maule, a man convicted as a wizard during the Salem Witch Trials, addressing one Colonel Pyncheon who had been key in seeing to his hanging.  For although it could not be proven, more than a few few rumors that suggested that Colonel Pyncheon had accused Maule of witchery because he wanted to get his hands on Maule’s property.

The fact that he bought this property as soon as it went up for auction did nothing to help this rumor.

At once, the Colonel hired a contractor to build him an enormous house on the newly-purchased land, and erected the House of the Seven Gables, a legacy for posterity.

On the day of the celebration of the mansion’s completion, however, Maule’s prophecy comes to pass, and the Colonel is found in dead in his office, blood upon the white ruff of his necktie.

Centuries later, the house is inhabited by the lonely old Hepzibah Pyncheon, who has been driven to desperate measures to keep herself afloat.  Living with her is her brother, Clifford, whose mind has been ruined by some wrong that has been done to him.  Renting a separate gable is Holbrooke, a strange young man who never seems to stay in one place.    Young Phoebe Pyncheon has come to live with her cousin, and is the only one who can manage to draw Clifford out of his listless state.

But the venerable town judge, Jaffrey Pyncheon, wants something from Clifford, and he will stop at nothing to get it.

Nathaniel Hawthorne has long been one of my favorite classical American authors.  When I read the Scarlet Letter some years ago, I loved it.  And that was before I had even really begun to become interested in classics, which rather elevates his standing as one of my favorite authors.  (On reflection, I really do need to go back and reread the Scarlet Letter…  But that’s beside the point.)

That being said, I loved the House of the Seven Gables, which I know to be a relatively uncommon opinion, considering that the average rating on Goodreads is only a little over three stars.  It was a very slow-paced book, with a several chapters being devoted largely to how Hepzibah, Clifford, and Phoebe lived together.  There is very little action, and there were a great many words that I was more than a little unfamiliar with that I occasionally stumbled over.

So why did I love it?

Well, simply put, I loved it because I love that style.

I love slower-paced books.  They’re relaxing to me.  It gives me the time to process things and think things over.  It gives me more time to ponder where the story is going, and what the author is actually saying.  It gives me the chance to understand the book better.  Also, the book has to be kept in the context of when it was written.  Books back then were never so fast-paced as they are now.  They were always much more verbose and took much more time to tell us anything.  So, I don’t mind it.

But there was so much to this book that I loved!  There was so much mystery in it, so many things that you don’t find out until the very end!  And throughout the book, Hawthorn kept in such suspense!  Even when I thought, thought I knew what would happen, what had just happened, he still did not betray it with such finality that I still just wasn’t certain.

And I loved the characters!  They were so diverse and so real, and he painted them with such clarity!  Everything about them, one got to know.  The perpetual scowl on Hepzibah’s brow, Phoebe’s smile, Clifford’s flighty state of mind…  They were all so vivid!

In truth, I feel like I just need to go back and reread this one as well.  There’s so much more to be gathered from it than what I did on the first time through, so much more for me to look into and grapple with and dissect!  That’s just the nature of books like this: no matter how many times you go back to reread it, there’s always something that you didn’t catch before.

My overall recommendation for the book?  If you don’t like older works, if you prefer faster-paced books, then this book won’t be for you.  But if you do like classics, and slowly-paced books, then I would recommend it.  It was a wonderful read.

Quotes: C. S. Lewis

(Image taken from Pinterest)

(Image taken from Pinterest)

This is undoubtedly one of my favorite C. S. Lewis quotes, because it so greatly applies to me and my writing.  Nearly every time I sit down and think about Guardian, I can pick out what stories have influenced it.

It usually goes something to the effect of this:

Me: *sits down to think, playing out the storyline in my head*

Me:  Well, that smacks heavily of Heartless…  Pfft, forget Heartless, that sounds like I dug it straight out of the Tales of Goldstone Wood

Me: Oh, and that character right there…  He sounds like he waltzed out of the Thirteenth Tribe

Me: *squints at a particular race of people* And you lot are a really whacked-out combination of the Hunger Games and Starflower…

Me:  And then that character is super cliche…  As is that one…  And maybe that one, too…

Me: That guy is strangely reminiscent of Victor Frankenstein…

Me: *growls*  And significant portions of my plotline look like Boneman’s Daughter…  I can’t believe I let that happen.

Me: *remembers the above C. S. Lewis quote*  Eh.  Who cares?  I love this story!  *goes back to working on it*

I think that that pretty much sums up why I love that quote.

Doings in My Crazy Life: July 2015

The time has come, my readers, for me to tell you about my daring exploits as a person, a writer, a squirrel, a…  Okay, so maybe not quite “daring,” but certainly fun!  😀  And don’t worry; I’m not going to bombard you with my entire life’s story.  I’m just going to relate to you my doings from July.  🙂

The beginning of July was quite leisurely.  I spent a lot of time writing.  And writing.  And writing some more, because what else would I do when July is Camp NaNoWriMo?  Well, some other things, certainly.  Mom and I usually played one or two rounds of Ticket to Ride a day.  That and I would help out around the house.  Just the usual, simple things of my life.

Partway into the month was when things REALLY started getting going.

Most of you wouldn’t know, but not too long ago, I entered into a drawing to get an autographed copy of a Time to Die by Nadine Brandes.  And, much to my ecstasy, I found an email in my inbox one night saying that I WON IT!!!!!

And that was of course in the middle of the night, about midnight, so that immediately doomed any and all attempts at sleeping.  And then I sent Nadine a very excited, bubbling email — (Nadine is in the same Camp NaNoWriMo Cabin as me, by the way 😀 ) — at which point we proceeded to send several ecstatic emails back and forth for a little while.

Like I said, sleep that night was a lost cause.

About a week or so later, I got it in the mail!!!

Me sitting in the car, with my new copy of a Time to Die, in complete and utter rapturous ecstasy.

Me sitting in the car, with my new copy of a Time to Die, in complete and utter rapturous ecstasy.

It just so happens that that was not my only reason for me to be beyond ecstatic that particular day, because my friend and the rest of her family were coming to visit us!  Now, I hadn’t seen them in months, due to the fact that we’ve moved a pretty substantial distance away from them.

But then they came and stayed the weekend!

Left to right: Me, Rachel. It was so great to get to see her and the rest of the family!

Left to right: Me, Rachel. It was so great to get to see her and the rest of the family!

That picture was from Sunday afternoon (hence why we were both dressed up).  The following morning, everyone was headed out.  Daddy would be going to work, Rachel and the rest of her family were headed back to their home, and Mom and I were going to the Mid-Atlantic District family camp.  (For those of you that don’t know, that’s a particular area of Christians from the Nazarene denomination.  I could explain more, but that’d be very much off point.)

I had a great time there, and I got to spend a good bit of time with some friends of mine, as well as made a good deal of new friends.  Which, new friends are a good thing, especially considering the fact that I’m relatively new on the district.  I also got to go minigolfing (Where I had to take anywhere from three to eight swings to get the ball into the holes, and successfully accidentally walloped my friend on the side of the leg with my club.  Sorry Mikayla!), go-carting (Where I got to cut off one of the youth pastors multiple times), swimming in the creek (Where I may have had hypothermia.  Not quite certain since I got into a nice hot shower really quickly.)  I also found myself spending a good bit of time in the kitchen and cafeteria.  Which, since both Mom and I were doing it, was pretty fun.

Me caught up in the anticipation of the craziness of the go-cart race. Please, do not pay any attention to this picture. Glance at it, then keep scrolling. It is of no interest to you.

Me caught up in the anticipation of the craziness of the go-cart race. Please, do not pay any attention to this picture. Glance at it, then keep scrolling. It is of no interest to you.

And then there came NYC.

I went home with my cousin, Abigail Roxby (She’s brilliant, folks!  The poet/artist/photographer/actress of my generation of the family!), and the others from her youth group, to do a marathon clothes washing in ONE DAY (not quite as bad as it sounds), and then turn around, and pile into the van at some indecent hour of the morning.  I began to write on my phone for a little bit… and then my eyes just wouldn’t stay open and I took a two-hourish nap.

From there, we met up with 128 other teens and adult chaperones to get into three buses and travel from there to the Great Wolf Lodge in Ohio.

The Great Wolf Lodge Sign (Obviously.)

The Great Wolf Lodge Sign (Obviously.)

Now, you may be wondering why, if we were going to New York City from the Maryland/Delaware/Southern Pennsylvania area, we were going so far out of our way to go to Ohio.

You would have good cause to wonder that, because that simply would not make sense.

That was because we were not going to New York City.

We were going to the Nazarene Youth Convention.

The Nazarene Youth Convention (NYC) is an event that takes place only once every four years, and it’s specifically for Nazarene teens from all across North America.  We assembled in Louisville, Kentucky, for an event that comes only once every four years.  Because it comes only once every four years, most people only get to go as a student once (unless you’re like my lucky cousin who hit that just-right age range and got to go twice).  It was ENORMOUS.  There were SEVEN THOUSAND TEENS assembled all in one place with the express purpose of building friendships, listening to amazing speakers, serving the city of Louisville, and worshiping the Lord.  It was a lifechanging experience for thousands of teens, myself included.  My story was perhaps not so drastic as some of those there, but it was certainly a catalyst for further spiritual growth.

There are so many things that I could say about NYC.  Really, it was AMAZING.  Before we even made it to Louisville, I got to go to the water park in the Great Wolf Lodge and then I got to go tubing down a river, which was also rather fun.

But getting to Louisville itself and being there was by far the highlight of the trip, surpassing by far the first couple days.

Just to start with, the view from our hotel room was fantastic:

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The first night I got to go to a country hoe-down, where I rode the mechanical bull.  I managed to stay on there for about four seconds.  So about the average time for most of the people that did it.  Wish my phone hadn’t died that night.  No pictures from there, unfortunately!

And then there was that awesome moment when I got to step into the KFC YUM! Center Bowl:

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Going into the Bowl for the first time was amazing.  For one thing, there were thousands of teens all in one place.  (Have you figured that out yet?)  For another, every district had its own chant.  And when a big district (like ours) started its chant, you knew it.

The MAD Chant

The MAD Chant

We started this up after we took our seats.  I’m quite certain that the whole Bowl heard us.

Once we were in our seats, our counselors started passing out rubber bracelets that lit up during the services.  They were all synchronized to go off for certain amounts of time and at certain colors.  And with every hand raised during worship, and the lights out, it was nothing short of stunningly beautiful.

During the worship service that first morning

The lights in the dark.

That first day of NYC was the day that MAD did our MWO.  That is, Ministry With Others.  (This post is starting to sound like it’s encrypted, isn’t it?)

Every district had its own MWO, and bigger districts like ours had one all to themselves, while (I’m guessing) the smaller districts paired up with others.

MAD’s MWO was to help Kids Against Hunger, an organization that works primarily in South Sudan, which is in a lot of political unrest.  The land is fertile, but people are constantly on the move, and as a result of that, they don’t have the time to cultivate the land to grow their crops.  This has resulted in a famine.

The two men from South Sudan that spoke to us to tell us what was happening in South Sudan and why we were helping.

The two men from South Sudan that spoke to us to tell us what was happening in South Sudan and why we were helping.

What we did to help was we packaged dried, highly nutritious food that will make six meals when hydrated.  The food was measured out in very specific quantities and poured into relatively small bags, which were then sealed and stacked into boxes.  I don’t remember how many packages fit into each box, nor do I remember how many children each would feed.  What I do know is that by the time that we were done, we had filled over 25,000 bags and that hundreds, if not thousands, of children were being fed because of what we did there.

We all had to wear hairnets to do our jobs. For several of our youth pastors, this involved covering their extremely long, bushy beards.

We all had to wear hairnets to do our jobs. For several of our youth pastors, this involved covering their extremely long, bushy beards.

And then there was the Hairnet Challenge that was issued.

The rules were simple: Once you put on your hairnet, you didn’t take it off.  Not even when you were done with your job.  You could only take it off once a stranger asked you why you were wearing a hairnet.

Vinnie and me were among some of the ones that were crazy enough to accept the hairnet challenge.

Vinnie and I were among some of the ones that were crazy enough to accept the hairnet challenge.

Let me tell you, I could not have been more thrilled when I was finally asked about the why I was wearing a hairnet.  I may or may not have gotten to remove it on a little bit of a technicality, but I was tired enough of wearing it that I took it off anyways.

After the nighttime services, there were concerts.  And mind you, these weren’t little concerts done by bands that no one had ever heard of.  Oh no.

The first night was Lecrae.

The second night was Rend Collective.

And the third night was For King and Country.

Every night, there were 950 people that were the lucky ones that got to go down to get floor access (standing room only) to the concerts.  The way that you found out about this was if your wristband lit up when it was time.

My wristband lit up for Lecrae.

Let me tell you, was that exciting!  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, even though I didn’t know most of his music.  Unfortunately, my phone was dead by the time I got down there, so I couldn’t take any pictures.  :/

But even though I got floor access to Lecrae, my favorite concert by far was the Rend Collective concert.

Because we had gotten floor seating to the normal service that night, MAD had to move just before the concert began.  We had to move up to the nosebleed section of the Bowl, but that didn’t dull the experience at all.  It was still AMAZING.

My view of the Rend Collective concert.

My view of the Rend Collective concert.

Pretty fantastic light display, huh?

But there was so much more to the Rend Collective concert than just a pretty amazing light display.  There was vibrancy to their music!  There was life!  It had this sort of energy that made you want to laugh and dance and shout all at the same time!  It made you want to fling your arm around your neighbor and sway back and forth in time with the beat!  It made you want to shout praises to God!

And I happily, joyfully got to do all of those things.  It was undoubtedly one of the biggest highlights of my trip.

Oh, and you remember that Chant we did at the beginning of the week?  Well, it was done over and over again, at random spots throughout the week, and every time we did it at the top of our lungs.  But it just so happened that it began to get quieter throughout the week, as our throats were swiftly becoming raw, and some of us were catching colds.  I just so happened that I was one of those that got sick.

And, loving daughter that I am, I had to share the culmination of my excitement with my mom and give my cold to her.

When I got home from NYC, I had only one more week before I had to pack up again before heading out to teen camp.  Surprisingly though, it wasn’t as crazy with packing and clothes washings as it could have been.  Instead, I wound up using most of my time to get in a lot of my word goal for Camp NaNoWriMo.

One night, a bunch of my cabin mates and I were hanging out in our chat room, and I forget which one of us got the crazy notion into our heads first.  Although, I’m thinking that it was FaithSong that suggested it…  I’m also pretty sure that she meant it in jest, but that never stopped us crazy Michtams (our Cabin name) from doing something!

So we wound up doing a massive Word Sprint of 10,000 words in ONE DAY.

We all agreed that whoever made it to the 99% mark first would stop there, so that others would have the opportunity to finish the war as well.

We all agreed that whoever made it to the 99% mark first would stop there, so that others would have the opportunity to finish the war as well.

I was super excited, because after a full day of writing (where I did NOTHING else all day), I was the first one to hit the 99% mark!  But it was close; it was very, very close, because Athelas was mere moments from reaching the goal.  I don’t know how long we were neck and neck for, but it was a good long time.  And boy, was it INTENSE.

A few minutes after Athelas and I  made it, Ana Ideline made the 10,000!

And Katie Grace — my, was she determined! — stayed up until midnight, working on it!  She made it just in the nick of time!

(Also, if you bother yourself to read what you can see of the 10,003 words that I wrote, please don’t judge my writing quality too harshly.  It’s only a second draft, and I’m still mainly focusing on getting the plot nailed down, and not paying much attention to the actual quality of my writing.)

And at the end of that week, I packed up again and set out for MAD teen camp!

Teen camp was very different from NYC.  It wasn’t as jam-packed with activities as NYC was, but it was still a very good time.  I spent a lot of time making new friends, hanging out on the little merry-go-round at the playground (I know, it sounds juvenile, but it was fun), and playing oversized checkers on flagstones (The checkers were pieces of logs painted red and black.)

The worship services, while not half so elaborate as those at NYC, were still deeply meaningful and greatly impactful.  For me, those services were very much an extension of NYC, of the spiritual growth that started there.

And then (I know, I know, you’re beginning to wonder if this post will ever end), right after teen camp, I had all of one or two day to wash everything again and pack and head back out, because I was getting on a plane to fly out to my grandparent’s place!  Which is where I am currently, actually.  I’ll be here for another month yet, and though I’ve only been here a few days, and I’m already having an amazing time!

But more on that later, my dear, patient readers.  I’ve only one more doing to share with you, and then I’ll take my leave of you.

I WON CAMP NANOWRIMO!!!!!

I WON CAMP NANOWRIMO!!!!!

That is all.  Tally ho, my friends!

“I Thought You’d Been Eaten By Dragons!”

No.  No, I have not been eaten by dragons.  Which, I think that the majority of you will be glad of.  If not… Well, that’s not my problem, now is it?  😛

But I am back from my hiatus, which was basically just a temporary disappearance due to the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of traveling of late, as well as a fair amount of writing, finishing up Camp NaNo.

I could tell you all what’s been going on in my life of late, but I think that I’ll save that for another post.  After all, I have been planning on doing what FaithSong did and write a “Doings” post, where I’ll fill all of you in on what’s been happening with me.

So, I just thought that I’d chime in, letting you know that I am alive and well.  I have not fallen off the face of the earth.  I have not been abducted by aliens.  I have not been eaten by dragons.  Although, I wouldn’t cross that last one out as a potential, abrupt end to my writerly life.

I''ve been honing my artistic skills!  Aren't my stick figures just lovely?  :P

I”ve been honing my artistic skills! Aren’t my stick figures just lovely? 😛

Cheery bye for now!

Hiatus

I know that I just started this blog, and I know that this is probably a bit soon for a hiatus.  My apologies for that.  But my life is going to be so crazy, with much more than just Camp NaNoWriMo, that I probably won’t have the time to post or comment.  I don’t know how often or how much Wi-Fi I’ll have, so I’m just going to post now and say that I’ll be taking a bit of a blogging break.  I’m guessing that it’ll be over by the end of the month.

Tally ho!

Writing Until Your Fingers Bleed

There’s only one short week left until Camp NaNoWriMo starts!  No doubt those of you that are doing it are a chaotic jumble of excitement, nervousness, and writerly madness, especially for those of you that are cramming months’ worth of plotting into a single week, trying to get everything ready for the enormous task that is ahead of you!  Chances are you already feel like Camp has begun, your life is becoming so crazy with this!

Last Camp session, I was talking with one of my cabin mates, and I said, “With all the writing we’ll be doing, I wouldn’t be surprised if we wound up with calluses on the ends of our fingers from all the typing!”

She agreed that that would be really neat, and I was honestly considering that that might be a possibility.  Sadly, however, that didn’t happen.  Maybe someday, though!

A month or so later, in May, I was at the CHAP Homeschool Convention, speaking with one of the vendors, Jonathan Brush, about my writing.  And he gave me this bit of advice:

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He told me that this was what I need to be doing.  He told me that I need to be honing my craft so that I got better and better.  He also said that I need to write all kinds of things, forcing myself to stretch beyond the comfortable bounds of fantasy.

Seeing as this is Camp NaNoWriMo, I will, of course, be working on Guardian, and not the other things like Jonathan mentioned.  But hopefully I will write enough during Camp to make my fingers bleed.  Later on, after that, I can get to working on writing other things.

But whether or not you’re doing this Camp session, if you’re a writer, this still applies to you.  I know that it takes a lot of resolve to hit the little red button in the top right-hand corner of the screen when Pinterest’s up.  Believe me, I know.  I’ve wasted a WHOLE lot of time on there myself!  So if you need a procrastination buddy, I’m over here!

Really, though.  Pinterest can wait.  As can pretty much all the other forms of social media.  There are too many tales waiting to be written to waste all that time on other, less important things.

Let the writing commence!