A mouse would probably give its pumpkin whiskers, but this doodle is simple enough.
The Butterfly Conspiracy is a historical mystery with the undertone of an adventure novel.
Miss Merula Merriweather is different from other girls. She has an unconventional family life, not knowing what became of her real parents or who they were. She isn’t the prettiest of ladies, relying on a spotless reputation to secure her future. She puts that spotless future in danger by pursuing her passion: zoology.
Merula has a special interest in butterflies. Her uncle allows her to use the greenhouse as a place to raise imported creatures from their cocoons. She has an impressive collection of butterflies, but one of them—the largest—is her pride and joy. She has raised it and seen it hatch, and makes the decision to let it out during a zoological lecture.
When Merula’s prize butterfly lands on a wealthy woman’s arm, the woman dies immediately. Blame is placed on the insect, which is killed by the butler. It was heartbreaking to read about Merula’s butterfly being disposed of mercilessly, but under the circumstances, what else could they think to do?
Lord Raven Royston was present during the scene at the lecture. He knows that Merula’s butterfly was not the cause of the death, and he wants to bring justice. He helps her rescue the last cocoon of her butterfly species, escaping a greenhouse that has been set on fire. He introduces her to a chemist friend who collects bizarre creatures such as scorpions and giant spiders. When it becomes clear that police are after her, he gives her shelter at the home he hasn’t visited in twenty years.
Merula and Raven are a great team. She isn’t the fainting sort—after all, she worked with insects for fun—and does well under pressure. He is a deep thinker and willing to try explanations that seem absurd. Together, they work out what happened to the woman. If the butterfly did not kill her, and Merula insists it isn’t venomous, what did?
Rarely do I come across a book and realize from the blurb alone that I need to read it. This was the case with The Butterfly Conspiracy; I cheated my October reading list in order to devour the mystery. The characters are very well developed, the mystery seamless, and the ending satisfying.
There is even an air of steampunk to the world described here—I was waiting for the mechanic creatures to come out!
I had already found a great mystery series in the Lady Hardcastle books, but now I will be looking out for these books too. If you want to try a new mystery series, or if you like visits back in time, The Butterfly Conspiracy is a great book!
October is my favorite month. Halloween is a fantastic time; we’re allowed to immerse ourselves in ancient legends, dress up as our favorite creatures, and binge on leftover candy.
There is so much more to October—leaves fall and make the grass into a golden carpet, while the air is filled with the aroma of fireplace hearths.
The cold weather makes October a perfect time for reading. While September has warm days left over from summer, October is the beginning of our land’s slumber.
Have you chosen your reading list yet? I made a list of books I wanted to read in September and came through with almost all of them (I’m struggling with Stonehenge).
I’ve made a new list for October. Here it is!
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Last year I read the Green Gables series for the first time, all eight books in perfect order. It was worth the wait; if I had read these books earlier in life, I might not have appreciated the themes of love, poetry, and hope that Montgomery wove into the stories.
I don’t know if I can dedicate myself to the full series again. However, I will be reading Anne of Green Gables, because I need that redhead in my life as the world outside becomes crisp!
Dr. Mütter’s Marvels by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
Medicine in the eighteenth century is a fascinating, terrifying thing. What was considered a cure could only make you sicker; the solution to an ailment would make said ailment worse.
Dr. Mütter’s Marvels is the biography of a doctor who had to go through with the worst procedures in order to progress in his career. His work left behind a museum of oddities that makes the skin crawl.
Isn’t this a perfect Halloween read?
Charles Dickens’ Ghost Stories
A Christmas Carol is a ghost story that everybody in the world has read, heard, or seen. What a lot of people don’t know is that Dickens wrote other ghost stories. I am sure they’re all just as good!
This collection has all twenty of Charles Dickens’ ghost stories in one volume—or, in my case, eBook. Dickens being my favorite author, I am eager to explore more of his spooky prose, meeting more characters.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I’ve resolved to read a classic and an old favorite every month. Wuthering Heights is a great choice for the darkening days of October.
I have a nice, cloth-bound copy of Wuthering Heights I got when I first read and enjoyed the story. This will be my chance to smell the pages of that book and meet the characters once more.
I admit that part of my interest in reading Wuthering Heights is because it is mentioned in my favorite September read, The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood. Isn’t it wonderful when a classic is referenced in another book?
Death Around The Bend by T. E. Kinsey
Lady Hardcastle has become my new obsession. I was looking for a series to obsess over; I found it in these clever mystery books. After the amazing way T. E. Kinsey ended the previous book (what a great use of spiritualism to solve a mystery!) I am ready for Lady Hardcastle and Flo’s next adventure.
In the previous book, Lady Hardcastle purchased a car which she intends to drive on her own. Surely this will create great comic moments. Lady Hardcastle on her feet is good enough; imagine her driving in a motor vehicle—without a chauffeur!
What are you reading this month? Do you arrange your to-read pile based on the seasons, or do you prefer to read on a whim? It’s a bit of both for me; I have some spooky options as well as classics in this list.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
If you’ve noticed that my blog’s been a bit slow, I have a good reason. I said that I would be reading Dracula in September. Dracula has long been my favorite book, though it had been a while since my last read. I had forgotten a lot of the details that make it great.
I decided to reread it after almost a decade, and felt as if I were opening a new book. When a long time passes between rereads, you forget enough about a story for surprises become fresh as ever.
I finished two days ago and have been mulling over how well-written it is. ‘Composed’ in the form of letters and diary entries, it pulls you in. Being told from the viewpoint of the frightened heroes, it helps you share in the fright.
Here are five intriguing facts about Bram Stoker, creator of the most famous vampire in history.
He Wrote Other Books
I admit sheepishly to having been surprised when, surfing on Amazon, I found other books that Bram Stoker had written. Dracula overshadows them, but I am excited to explore some of his other titles.
He Was A Sickly Child
Bram Stoker suffered from a mysterious illness when he was a child that left him bedridden for long periods of time. Not much is known about this illness, but it seemed to clear up when he was seven years old.
One has to wonder if some of the horror stories Bram Stoker came up with originated during these periods he spent bedbound.
He Worked At Dublin Castle
Bram Stoker worked at Dublin Castle as a clerk during his time at university. When I learned this, I wondered how much this job would have influenced his descriptions of Castle Dracula later on.
After all, is this not the writer’s dream? Especially a writer of Gothic fiction! I can’t imagine that time in a castle wouldn’t have molded the stories he would pen.
Dracula Was Inspired By A Dream
Any author knows that dreams can give us the most bizarre ideas for stories. Whatever we come up with in the waking hours doesn’t stand a chance against what we do in slumber.
Bram Stoker claimed that his most famous book, Dracula, was inspired by a blood-sucker in a dream. He blamed the dream on a ‘too-generous helping of dressed crab at supper.’ Fans of gothic and horror literature can be thankful that the crab supper was so generous!
He Was Walt Whitman’s Fan
Bram Stoker sent fan mail to Walt Whitman. He was impressed by Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which he came across during his college years. The collection of poetry was controversial for its experimental style; this seems to have been the reason why Stoker was impressed by it.
In 1872 he wrote Whitman a 2000-word letter expressing his enthusiasm for Leaves of Grass and hoping that one day the two of them could be friends. They met three times after this, forming a friendship based on common interest in philosophy, theater, and literature.
Bram Stoker was a fascinating man, just the person to write a novel enthralling as Dracula. There is much more to be known about him, so I will be doing my research—if I’m not lost in one of his other novels!
On a side note, I have been writing again! It’s a historical romance, and I wrote 11k in about 2 days without meaning to. If there are any more pauses between posts, the reason is that I am writing a work of my own that I hope will have fans one day.
Forgive these pauses; I hope that one day you’ll read Tessa’s story and enjoy it as much as I love writing it!
I’ve been doing a bit of everything.
I am participating in a challenge—100 days of drawing—and for some reason I really enjoy drawing animals.
Here is an unusual blog post—a few glimpses into my sketchbook!
This week I finished reading The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood. It’s one of my favorite books; I loved its rich, creepy setting. I also appreciated that the ending allowed us to wonder if there might have been magic involved after all.
Because Changelings are the subject of this fantastic book, I decided to do a little digging into the topic myself. They have long fascinated me; I even tried to write about a Changeling. The character did not provide much aside from comic relief in the long run, but I remain fond of that story, the first one I took seriously.
If you’ve never heard about Changelings, you’re missing out on a great deal of fun! In many books they cause chaos and tragedy. One thing is for sure: They always bring magic with them.
Here are some characteristics that were once attributed to Changelings.
Is It My Kid?
A Changeling is a fairy child that was put in place of a human infant. Most legends say that it was done because fairies were unable to nourish their own children into strong adults. To compensate, they would give their offspring to unsuspecting humans. In turn, the human babies would be used by Changelings as servants.
Some attributes might give away the identity of a Changeling. The child left in place by the fairies may have red eyes and voracious appetites, losing their tempers if neglected for a moment. Disruptive children were sometimes called Changelings and kept in isolation.
An Aversion To Iron
Superstitious people believed iron could ward off fairies. You might find a pair of scissors hanging at a window to keep out dark spirits. Parents did this hoping that the iron would keep their children safe.
If a family member showed Changeling traits—a strange appetite or delight for destruction—the suspicious parent would crick them into grabbing some iron scissors. Iron would burn a Changeling, revealing their identity at once.
Scissors could also be placed over the door to a house. If the suspected Changeling felt apprehension going through the door, they would have to be removed.
Leave Eggshells About
Many stories claim these odious creatures have a strange reaction to eggshells. One could dispose of a suspected Changeling by leaving eggshells by the hearth. The Changelings found these eggshells hilarious. They would reveal themselves; your intruder will show himself by means of madness and laughter.
GotIreland.com tells this story about eggshells:
The old man told him that most likely the boy had been taken by the “Daoine Sith,” and they had left a “Sibhreach” in his place. Distraught, the father wondered if he’d ever see his son again. The old man instructed him to take several broken eggshells and fill them with water, then place them carefully around the hearth in the boy’s room. He did so, and within no time, the boy was jumping from his bed in a fit of laughter shouting, “I’ve been alive 800 years and have never seen the likes of this!” Hearing that, the father pushed the Changeling into the fire, and it shot up the chimney. The real boy was spit out from the Faerie mound nearby at that very moment, and the father and son were soon after reunited (taken from: J. F. Campbell, Popular Tales of the West Highlands, 1901).
Folklore shows how our ancestors explained strange phenomena and the bizarre ways in which they solved problems. Changelings make for good stories; The Hidden People was a fantastic novel and did the legend great justice!
While we now have more dignified explanations for strange behavior (and we don’t leave eggshells on the floor), it’s fulfilling to know the beliefs of those who came before us.
What is your favorite creature from mythology? I would love to know!
I can’t believe we are halfway through with September! I posted a list of books I was going to read in September, and I’m going to update you that. Some books I have read as planned, others are taking more time, and more crept in because my bibliophile self could not stick to the plan.
Stonehenge: A New Understanding is taking me the longest to read. I can’t quite name why—I bought it because I am interested in Stonehenge and its history, but the way that it is told in this book is slow and rather dry. Perhaps a person who is interested in obscure archaeological details would enjoy it more.
I am still going to finish it one day, but as it is, I’m reading a chapter at a time. I don’t want to speed-read something I don’t like and forget all about it. There is valuable information to be found in this book, but I’ve enjoyed other history books that were far more gripping.
I’ve read half of Dracula. At once upon starting, I remembered why it was my favorite book ten years ago. The book manages to be frightening without the notorious jump-scare that has invaded modern books and movies. You’re able to soak in the mystery. When they are frightened, so are you. I’m thinking that I’ll read the second half of Dracula in October.
As an aside, I’m reading the paper copy I enjoyed as a teenager; holding the pages is a great comfort!
Now, for the books I have finished so far in September:
In The Market For Murder by T. E. Kinsey
Oh, Lady Hardcastle! I think of this series and feel a thrill. Not since Harry Potter have I found a set of characters I am so fond of! In The Market For Murder can be enjoyed as a stand-alone, though I recommend you read the first installment so that you can appreciate why these characters are so great.
Lady Hardcastle and her ladies-maid Flo are not sit-on-your-hands Downton types who avoid trouble (or murder). In book one it is hinted that Lady Hardcastle and Flo were stranded somewhere in Asia where they escaped murderers, a deserted island, and other such atrocities after Lord Hardcastle’s death.
The first book, called A Quiet Life In The Country, is exactly that: Lady Hardcastle’s attempt to be a proper lady and find a quiet life in the country. There is murder in the country as well, disrupting her plans.
Lady Hardcastle and Flo are not damsels in distress. In book one, there is a scene where a drunken man touches Flo inappropriately. She ‘accidentally’ trips on the recently waxed floor and ‘accidentally’ hits him in the groin with her elbow. Then she warns him to be careful or she might ‘accidentally’ hit him again.
Read this series on purpose. You need these heroines in your life.
The Particular Charm Of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright & Cass Grafton
What would become of the world if Jane Austen had never written her books? What would a bookstore look like without Pride and Prejudice, in all its different editions, entire shelves? This comedy/romance, the first of a duo of books, insists that life without Mr. Darcy would be tragic.
The character of Jane in this book has the ability to travel in time. She is enjoying the costumes, tributes, and merriment at the annual Jane Austen festival in Bath, one of the cities where she once lived, when the necklace that lets her travel in time is lost.
Following its loss, her work disappears. There is no longer a Jane Austen festival. The main character, Rose Wallace, is frantic that she will never read about Mr. Darcy’s dysfunctional courtship again.
This book is a comedy, so I try not to be cynical that Rose’s first worry is not about Jane Austen being trapped in a century not her own. Instead, she’s going berserk about the fact that Mr. Wickham is no more.
I often wanted to scream at Rose that she was being a selfish entitled little—er, bookworm.
Because of all of these things, the book is hilarious. It’s a great twist on Jane Austen fan fiction, and it’s well worth the read. I won’t soon forget it!
The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood
I have just finished reading The Hidden People today. I might have written this update post because I needed a space to gush. The book is often compared to my other all-time favorite, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and rightly so. The setting is impeccable; I have literally had a dream in which I was staying at a bleak house exactly like the one described in Littlewood’s book.
It’s the second book that influenced my dream world with its magical setting and description. The first book to do so was Piranesi; I’ll talk about that sometime soon!
Halfoak is a little village in the English countryside where the people swear that Changelings are not only real, but they live in an oddly shaped hill and steal children. When main character Alfie’s cousin Lizzie is killed on suspicion of being a Changeling, he goes to investigate this murder and ensure that she is given a Christian funeral—which few of the superstitious villagers attend.
The magic in this book is that the ending doesn’t steal the wonder. Was it all a result of the villagers’ superstition, or are there really Changelings in Halfoak stealing children and corrupting wives?
It is not a happy ending for Alfie, but I consider it happy that the reader can ask themselves while unable to sleep, Could it be?
The Hidden People is a perfect Halloween read if you need something a bit lighter than Dracula. It’s also good for people who like fairy stories.
All of these books are ‘family friendly,’ though Littlewood’s book is Gothic and that is the magic of it. In The Market For Murder is a cozy mystery; there is a crime committed, but you spend more time laughing at Lady Hardcastle’s antics than dreading pools of blood. Miss Jane Austen is pure fun—if you want a light read, this is it!
What have you read this month? Please tell me!
Peter Rabbit, the adorable bunny in the blue jacket, is a familiar character to us bookworms. You might have learned of his mishaps when Grandma read them to you; perhaps you got to know him better when reading to your children.
He brings to mind youth and innocence, reminding us of how it felt to be a child willing to think outside of the box. How much do we know about the woman behind the rabbit?
Beatrix Potter wrote many stories aside from The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Not only did she come up with charming animals and their adventures, she also illustrated them. The stories might have deprived her of some things, though. Potter didn’t have a conventional love story, but she had a happy ending.
Here are five inspiriing facts about Beatrix Potter.
Peter Was A Real Bunny
Have you ever written a story in which someone special made a cameo appearance as a character? Beatrix Potter did this with her bunny, Peter Piper! He was her close friend, traveling everywhere with her. Eventually he became famous as a protagonist in one of the most beloved childrens’ tales.
The first story featuring Peter Rabbit was written in a letter to the son of Potter’s former governess. The young boy was ill. She wanted to make him feel better, but suffered from writer’s block; she did not know what to say.
It is said that she was sitting in the yard with her bunny when composing this letter. Deciding to tell a story instead, she made up the adventure of Peter with his sisters Mopsy, Flopsy, and Cottontail. The rest is history.
She Fell In Love With Her Editor
Beatrix Potter had a tragic first romance. She had taken her stories to a publishing company called Bedford. The company was run by a father and his three sons—Harold, Fruing and Norman.
Norman was the editor. Some have described it as love at first sight: Beatrix, an intelligent woman, admired Norman for his mind. He must have enjoyed meeting a woman he could hold a real conversation with. It was not long before he had proposed to her.
Unfortunately, Norman became ill. Beatrix had gone on holiday with her family when he was diagnosed with leukemia and died. Beatrix did not find out until after her return. He refused to write of it because he did not want to distress her.
One must wonder if Beatrix’s parents were sad—they did not approve of the match.
She Had An Excellent Education
Beatrix Potter had an excellent mind and was able to hold conversations about science, history, and other subjects considered unladylike at the time. Where did she learn about the biology of a bunny? How did she draw such realistic pictures?
She was born into a wealthy family in which both parents were heirs to cotton fortunes (hence their disapproval of her match with Norman). Her father took great interest in painting and photography. He taught his daughter to draw, and they shared a love for art.
Beatrix had access to her father’s library of books, where she was free to learn about science, voyages, historical figures, and other unladylike topics. She later tried to enter the science circles of the time, but they were too superstitious to let a woman into their chambers.
The Science Book
It would be wrong not to elaborate on how gifted Beatrix Potter was on the subject of science. Her understanding of nature was so advanced that she was able to make remarkably detailed illustrations of fungi and insects for the time.
Though Beatrix also drew animals, she focused on wild fungi. She completed a book of illustrations and presented it to the male-dominated science circles. The drawings were outstanding, but she was a woman. She didn’t have much of a chance at becoming a scientist.
Now her images of fungi are lauded by modern science, but in her own time Beatrix Potter gave up that dream and moved on to storytelling. Perhaps we can be grateful for this—if she had become a scientist, Peter Rabbit might never have existed.
Happily Ever After
Beatrix Potter finally found found love at the age of 47. She married a solicitor named William Heelis in 1913, and they moved to the beautiful Lake District. She and William lived a comfortable life in their secluded house, where they grew old together.
Beatrix purchased a farm where she could interact with the animals. Though the Lake District had no shortage of inspiration, it seems that Potter had become tired of writing. When at last she married, she favored a peaceful life exploring the country.
When Beatrix Potter died, her body was cremated. She told a trusted groundskeeper to release her ashes at an unmarked spot in her beloved Lake District. To this day, no one knows the location of her remains. We can still find her in the stories she wrote.
My inspiration for writing about Beatrix Potter hinges largely on my sudden obsession with drawing mice and frogs. I don’t know where I’m going with this hobby; am I simply procrastinating writing? I do enjoy learning new things, and it’s good for the creative to try all sorts of mediums.
Beatrix Potter is one of my inspirations for my nature-based art. I have no illusions of drawing like she did, but Peter Rabbit is alive in all of us. I hope you have a good Friday!
As an added bonus, here’s an excerpt from my lately well-loved sketchbook!
Chanel is one of the most famous names in fashion. We have all seen the classic style of dress; we’ve heard of the famous perfume No. 5. It brings to mind thoughts of elegance and beauty.
How much do you know about the woman behind the name?
Coco Chanel was one of the most powerful women in the world. She worked her way out of a childhood steeped in poverty to create a fashion empire. Though her later life was darkened by controversy as war ravaged Europe, her determination and sense of dignity are things to be admired.
Normally I write blog posts about female authors, but my recent read of The Queen of Paris—an excellent, though fictitious, novel by Pamela Binnings Ewen—inspired me to hunt out some facts that will shed some light on this iconic woman.
Coco Was Her Nickname
Though she was known by the world as Coco, the fashion designer was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel on August 19, 1883 in Saumur, France. Where did she get the nickname that was to become her identity throughout her life?
One theory is that it was inspired by a song she used to sing as a cabaret singer. Two songs became inseparably associated with her—Ko Ko Ri Ko and Qui qu’a vu Coco. She later said that Coco was a name her father gave her.
Wherever it is that she got the nickname, everybody knows it—this is the name that made her famous!
She Started With Hatmaking
Chanel is best known for her delicious perfume No. 5, but she did not begin her career as a fashion designer with perfume. In 1909 she opened a hat shop in Boulevard Malesherbes in Paris. Her hats were simple and notably lacking the fruits and flowers which had ornamented such accessories for years.
Her name became synonymous with simplicity and convenience. Her hats could match any color and style of dress; she upped her game by designing dresses that did not require corsets. These dresses were even so daring as to show the ankles!
Starting with the dignified, elegant hat, Chanel showed women that it is possible to achieve beauty in simplicity.
Pants For Women!
On the subject of useful fashion, we can’t forget Chanel’s trousers! Though she did not invent the idea of pants for women, she became a pioneer in the style after the first world war.
It started with her design for the hiking trousers that she made in order to get into gondolas in Venice. Soon followed her famous yachting pants which took the world by storm. Women could wear pants for their leisure activities and look as elegant as they would have in a skirt.
Chanel was not happy with unnecessary trifles that society forced into women’s fashion. She did more than make pants popular. She cut her hair into her famous black bob, which scandalized the world, encouraging her so-called ‘garçonne style.’
She Said What She Meant
The word bold describes Chanel in every imaginable way. Not only did she dress as she wished, but she was not afraid of stating her opinions on the competitors and critics who disdained her. This sometimes lost her friends, but never enough for her to sink into obscurity.
She accused Dior of dressing women like armchairs with all of the unneeded fabric that was hemmed onto his dresses. Balenciaga’s designs met her approval, but she did not like his ability to cut. Regarding Paul Poiret’s designs, she said they looked more like costumes than evening wear.
Coco Chanel designed everything in her life, so why would her headstone have been any different?
Her zodiac sign was Leo. She kept that powerful creature present in her designs throughout her life. Lions decorated her cigarette lighters and scissors. Lions were also engraved on the bottoms of her tweed suits. At the end of her life, she designed a headstone decorated with five lions.
Chanel did not have any known children. At her funeral, the front chairs were reserved for her models. She is buried in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Chanel was a woman with a strong personality who changed how the world looked. Her name remains synonymous with elegance and power. She inspired many leading ladies to carve their own ways with determination and creativity.
Next time you go out wearing No. 5 or cut your hair into an elegant bob, remember that these fashions are strong today because of this outspoken and fiery woman!
It’s always so exciting for me when a friend puts out a new book! It was thrilling when I found out that fellow writer and blogger Raina Nightingale had released a book, and I was eager to learn more about it.
I asked her to write a post telling us about her novel Kingdom of Light and what inspired it. It sounds intriguing! I’m happy she agreed to come on as a guest blogger!
About the Book:
A kingdom of darkness where soldiers guard the people against wicked glowstones that attract nightmare monsters and death…
A young girl, terrified of the darkness and drawn to the light. What if the glowstones provide the only protection against the monsters of the dark? What if everything she has ever been told is a lie?
What if the Kingdom of Light is not confined to the afterlife, but can be found even in this world?
With her friends, Louisa discovers that the real world is unlike anything any of them could have ever imagined, and thousands follow…
When I first conceived the initial idea for Kingdom of Light, it came out of the fact that I was thinking about how Jesus is good. He is the maker and giver of all good things, and when we meet Him and follow His call, we receive His best. I was more than a little annoyed by a cycle of reaction and over-reaction that seems to be going on. I’ve no need to name names, and little business doing so since in most cases I know little more than the names, and my knowledge of this cycle is imparted through some associations I had with some evangelism-oriented groups, but there is an unfortunate situation, where someone claims that if one follows Jesus, then that’s the end of material shortages or difficulties of any sort, and if one has anything that appears to be a disability that, too, will be healed, and so forth, and others are at pains to reject this and make a lot of statements like, “God doesn’t care about whether or not you’re happy; He wants you to be holy,” or, “You can choose pleasure and happiness now, and pain and misery forever after, or you can choose pain and misery now, and have happiness and pleasure forever after,” (I’m pretty sure these quotes are not word-for-word).
I’m not going to write a lot of philosophy or talk a lot about theology or dogma here. There’s a place for that, and I could do so (and even have, in other places and at others times), but there’s a place for other things, and dogmatic statements and philosophical discussions have their weaknesses. I’m a firm believer that there are large areas of human nature that have to learn and understand through other means, and that without context – without reaching these areas of our beings – dogmatic statements can sometimes be worse than useless, and that one of these areas of human nature responds strongly to stories. I’m going to write about stories, and a little about why and how I wrote this story.
I have found stories to be an important part of my thought process. I learn what things mean, I discover what I think, and I understand more often than not through stories. Stories unite the concrete and the abstract. In stories, ideas come alive and are put to the test. In stories, concepts and thoughts are made relateable to more than the intellect – and sometimes even to the intellect – and we are more than creatures of pure intellect and logic. To many of us, intellect and logic is not even our first choice of mode of operation, and there is nothing wrong with that: our Lord has made us all unique persons, capable of interfacing with truth and reality, and relating to Him and to each other, differently.
For me, I really know what I think when I can put it into a story, and I often have to put something into a story before I have even the possibility of communicating it elsewhere. Stories point me to other people’s thoughts and ideas in a way that dry, intellectual communication can’t. The images of a story, the fact that it is story, not one moment, but a development, something in motion, sometimes with more focus on characters, sometimes with more focus on symbolic imagery, are all capable of what other modes of communication fail, and its limitation is often its strength.
A story does not make itself out to be dogma. A story can be “truth, so far as it goes,” – far more than metaphor – but it does not make itself out to be, “the full truth, nothing but the truth, succinctly and accurately characterized,” about anything. A story is a journey, a discovery, an exploration, not a “teaching.” A story is personal. A story provides context, meaning, life. A story is flexible, and its limitations and the ways in which it is vaguer and less clear than other things are one with its ability to convey vision and value that can’t be communicated in something less opaque and more clearly defined. There is a saying that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and to a large degree what is understood by anything – a story, a philosophical essay, a dogmatic statement – is within the eye of the one who sees and the ear of the one who hears.
A story does not bypass that, and it does not pretend that it does – if anything, a story brings that out, and it is easier and more natural for people to know that when they hear a story, what they hear is in part determined by what they are prepared to hear, whether that comes from within their own hearts or from the contexts of their environment. At the same time, a story has an ability to provide depth, to frame and color, to be an environment and context, that these other things do not have. A story has the potential to suggest the value and richness of knowing Jesus, of living in the Light of the World, without falling so readily into the dangers of platitudes which quickly become meaningless and then get tossed to and fro in a storm of reaction and little understanding.
So, I naturally turned to a story to express what I saw, and to hopefully point towards the truth the general discussions I saw were missing and help people to see and articulate what they might really understand, instead of repeating platitudes and doctrinal statements that had become meaningless in their present context. Kingdom of Light was first born with a rather simple image including the setting of the story and the initial journey and discovery of Louisa.
Louisa’s village – and the entire known kingdom – lives in complete darkness, using crude torches for what light they must have, and sleeping and going about their work either in the poor light of the torches or in complete darkness. Everyone is taught that their steadfastness will be rewarded with an eternity in light, but that if anyone keeps one of the rare glow-stones – which provide a brighter and steadier light, without the difficulties of torches and which are to be destroyed upon discovery – will be pursued and chased by monsters and spend eternity in darkness. Louisa is terrified of the darkness, and scared of the torches, and one Warm Time, while doing what gathering she can with her torch, she finds a glow-stone.
That is how Kingdom of Light started. It remained that, but it soon became far more, for how can one write a fantasy about an abstract, generalized ‘experience of goodness’? It will quickly become far more, so Kingdom of Light developed, following the personal journey of Louisa and two others through a variety of mystical experiences wherein they discover the real world – and while they see the same Real World, their experiences of finding, following, and trusting the Light are also very different, even when they are parallel. It soon became very mystical and symbolic, in a similar vein as Phantastes and Lilith by George MacDonald (I don’t know of a genre label for works of that sort, but if I did, I would say that’s the genre of Kingdom of Light).
It was a fascinating experience to write, as usually I have some idea of where a story is going, a sense of the approximate order of the scenes and of how it will end. Kingdom of Light I wrote scene by scene – sometimes even line by line. Beautiful scene by beautiful scene, rich with imagery, every image thick with meaning often deeper than I myself perceived or can say I grasp. The Lady Lily (the lady in pink whom Louisa meets in Ch. 8 “Beautifying Light”) was inspired by a figure in an ancient dream I had as a young child of going to Heaven. Most of the dream is vague and half-forgotten, nothing but a faint lingering sense of the wholesome and indescribable, with only that one image still clear in my memory, and even that image representative of a sense of awesome bliss and other things utterly unnameable that lie beyond my comprehension or memory.
I think the story begins its long, deep dive into the mystical and symbolic about the time of that first meeting. From that point on, though Louisa does not see the fullness of the Real World, she sees everything in the Light. She does not see all of the Light, or all things fully in the Light, and there are times when the Light is very dim, but nothing can ever be the same again. Eventually, even the Darkness is transformed by the Light.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Thank you for having me, Mariella!
About the Author
Raina Nightingale has been writing high fantasy since she could read well enough to write stories with the words she knew (the same time that she started devouring any fiction she could touch). She especially loves dragons, storms, mountains, stars, forests, volcanoes, a whole lot of other things, and characters who make you feel whatever they do. When she’s not learning and exploring either her fantasy worlds or this one, she enjoys playing with visual art, among other things. She will always believe kindness is stronger than hatred.