Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The time has come," the Walrus said, 

"To talk of many things: 
of shoes - and ships -and sealing-wax -
of cabbages and kings..."
The Walrus and the Carpenter, Lewis Carroll

For no due reason, except most probably a 'slight' lack of time, I have not done much work on the blogsphere of late. My deepest apologies. I regret to say, life has been getting along at a fairly quick pace, leaving me little time for writing, be it blogging, e-mailing or novel writing; even though my brain has practically been shouting at me to put unto paper (or in this case, viral paper) those thoughts and ideas that have been cramming inside me, and my fingers have been begging and beseeching and plotting lethal schemes for them get into typing and writing again after so, so long an absence. Enough said, I sometimes like to be melodramatic! So considering my absence of a total of sixteen days, I thought that "the time has come to talk of many things: of shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax, of cabbages and kings..." Let me tell you a little about the things that have occupied me lately and I hope you will forgive me if that is all that this post is about today. 

I have finally applied for my violin exam, and Lord willing, I should be having my exam soon. Naturally, I have been getting a lot more worked up about my pieces, scales and technical exercises in general as the day approaches, and as the drums roll and I have to play in front of 'somebody' besides my family and teacher and of course that 'somebody' is the Examiner... (hmm, can anyone tell me why I am being so. very. dramatic. today please?) I would really appreciate some prayers for this. Because like any exam, it needs a lot of hard work to go through an exam and sometimes it just feels too exhausting to press on when the bow crazily bounces off the string, or my fingers just randomly decide NOT TO MOVE RIGHT, or when the rhythm of the pieces are far beyond my comprehension... *sigh*. I know the Lord will be with me in it, and I just must trust Him and cast my burdens at His feet. There is a Scripture that says, "Casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you." (1 Peter 3). This is such a comforting verse, and a reminder to let God carry our burdens, for they are too heavy for us to carry on our own.

It seems to be very common that when a student graduates (particularly for homeschoolers), his/her response would be that they'd say how they'd miss their schooling years, and regret not having enjoyed it so much when they were actually in it. I feel quite certain I'll be saying the same thing one day, but there are times when I feel am not very grateful to be still studying and think I would be happy if I never saw another maths problem in my life again! Those moments usually come by fleetingly, and after a little while I'm relishing my schoolwork and wondering what ever possessed me to hate it? About a week ago however, I was feeling really, really low about schoolwork... will it ever finish? Why do I have to do this formula in mathematics when there are all those vivid words of imagination and stories flitting in my head... who knows, they could be potentials for great tales!! Why was I stuck doing schoolwork when I wanted to write...? *sniffs*. Well, I just wasn't motivated at all, until my mum and sisters pointed out to me what I was doing wrong... in my effort to "be rid of it once and for all" I was basically doing nothing but maths day in and day out for all school hours, and only taking a slight break every other day from that subject. You can imagine how tiresome that can be, especially for someone who doesn't relish maths so much, as well as hindering me from accomplishing much. It just bogged my head in the mire of numbers and figures and I would find myself getting distracted; so I thought that if I spread myself out with other subjects (particularly the ones that I really enjoy!) I will get more schoolwork accomplished and I'd be enjoying it, which would motivate me to work harder!! So I have been trying to do other subjects, along with maths in the last couple of days, and things have been going so much better, praise the Lord! In this English PACE I'm currently working on, the subject is all about writing... so what can be better than that? I actually found some beautiful paragraphs of description and comparison that I positively have to share with y'all sometime on blogger, when I've got some free time. They are just so vibrant and vivid in the use of words so as to create those images in your head!

This reminds me that I want to share with you a bit about my progress with The Crown of Life. I opened up my Word Document for The Crown of Life yesterday and realized how it had not been really touched in weeks, much to my consternation and sorrow. It has come to me at last, that I am in this stage of pausing in my tale to reflect and research, and to work out scenes, characterization etc for a time when I finally throw myself to the task of finishing my book. Lord willing it should be sometime within the coming year or so. Having more schoolwork to manage and a violin exam coming up, finding time for finishing has been a real challenge and I think this is okay. I mustn't push or rush it. Right now, struggling and squeezing my head out to write will not help me. In fact I believe I need to take a step back, take a deep breath before immersing myself in the challenge of completing this project. And this "deep breath" will involve writing a history profile for each of my major characters as well as some minors, writing a kind of loose outline of the major events (past, present and future) of the characters, and doing more historical research into Ancient Rome, the early Church and the times of first century Israel and Italy. This will be fun, and definitely needed in completing the tale... even though challenging. Besides that, I really want to seek the Lord in writing this next stage... without His guidance, His leading and inspiration in what I do, I know I cannot complete this journey, not in my own strength or in a pride in my own achievements. I need HIM!

Despite the fact that I will be diverting my attention for a little while and concentrating on editing what I have already written, doing historical research and such, I am hoping to still write in The Crown of Life a bit whenever I get the chance, especially going through the first ten chapters and kind of reworking many of the scenes that need to be done over again as well as putting in minor changes to certain events and facts that have developed since writing them. One does tend to forget what has been written already, and write things positively contradictory to what was previously recorded, so that I am left wondering which idea I had first and which one in all probability is the right one to use. Whenever I think of all that still has to be done and all that is involved in finishing The Crown of Life, I sometimes wonder what made me write in the first place! But this is something that all writers face, and I see that it is a gift God has given me... I cannot but write. And yet... how I truly long that in everything, He may be glorified! I don't want this, to be my desire... but His. He is the Author, and I long to be but a pencil in His hand. Well, I really intended to share these writing thoughts in another post, one I've been planning on writing in response to a blogging friend's post on her own blog sometime ago. If the Lord wills, I hope to work on that within the coming days when there is time, as well as some other posts (not necessarily writing-related all of them, though some will be).

I am sorry this post has been so long... but hopefully this will give you a glimpse to what's life been like for me lately. It positively has been hectic, but happy all the same, through the ups and downs. Knowing that He is faithful in all His doings, that nothing we do is hidden from His all-seeing eyes. That He cares and knows are fears and sorrows and burdens. He is there, and that is such an encouraging thought! All He does is good.
He. Is. Faithful!

Here is a lovely song, an adaption of the hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness" that encouraged me so much when I listened to it for the first time. It is called, "He's Always Been Faithful", by Sara Groves. I pray it will bless you too!

May the Lord Jesus bless you all and guide you all in this coming week.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

-Lamentations 3: 22-23 (NKJV)-

All Images except the second one from the top are via Pinterest

Beautiful People - Valerius and Claudia

Thursday, 3 May 2012

image via Pinterest
It is hard to believe how time flies by so fast. It felt only like yesterday that it was April, and I was preparing this post... a Beautiful People interview for Valerius and Claudia; one about their relationship (see here), hosted by Sky and Georgie Penn. But this one has taken a lot longer than normal to write and share with you all for two reasons: for one thing, this relationship is quite an important one in The Crown of Life, and I wanted to present it in its rightful manner! Secondly, I've been really taken up with so many other activities and things lately, so that April slipped by before I knew it and with it, Sky and Georgie have already made a new Beautiful People Interview. So I hope they won't mind me skipping THIS month's interview, and backtracking to last month's, simply because the questions just were so right for the two characters that I love most, and are in effect the true heroes of The Crown of Life. So without further ado, I'd like to properly introduce you to 
Tribune Valerius Gallus 
Lady Claudia Albinus
Note: the questions with a *, without a number are questions from previous interviews. I know, I really don't seem to stick to the rules properly with Beautiful People, much as I'd like to!

1. Do they believe in anything that most people think is impossible? 
Throughout the first part of the story, Valerius and Claudia do not tend to believe in things that are thought impossible by their fellow Romans. However, Valerius does have a strong sense of Roman justice and integrity which is considered as quite an absurd and impossible ideal by most of his patrician family and friends. As for Claudia, she doesn't stop believing that she'd be reunited with Valerius, even when everything says that it can't happen. Most of all though Valerius and Claudia in time come to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, in His death and resurrection, in original sin and the depravity of man, in the judgment to come, and salvation through faith in Him, an action directly opposing what most people believe and think to be possible or wise. 

*If your characters could be played by any actor(s), who would they be? This is a very hard question! I've tried and tried to find an actor who would fit the mental picture I have for Valerius but none 'clicked'. The closest one I found was the actor Benjamin Sadler as seen in the picture above left (he looks like him only in SOME movies, not all!)... but still, he isn't really the same. I also think Gregory Peck might have acted him well, though he didn't have the look of a Roman. For Claudia there are a couple of actors that come close, and they would be a mesh of Keira Knightley, Liv Tyler (as seen in Lord of the Rings portraying Arwen), and Jean Simmons (as seen in The Robe portraying Diana). But until an actor actively takes on a specific role, I find it hard to imagine them as the characters themselves, be they my own creation or another's.

2. Are they strong, or the "damsel/knight in distress" sort?
It depends really. Valerius is physically strong, trained to be a highly skilled soldier and capable of enduring extremely harsh conditions. And Claudia is slender and tall resonating womanly strength. 
When it comes to inner strengths though, it really is hard to tell. I guess I'll know as I write more! But they are both determined, steadfast and valiant, even though they have their moments of "distress, weakness". They do definitely rely on each other. But they both realize in time that their strength is not in themselves but in God.

3. Do they have a special place? (e.g. a corner in his/her bedroom, under a tree...) Valerius' favourite place would be his father's library. Overlooking the elegant peristyle that blooms with ivy flowers along the marble fountains and the large pool, the library includes chests and shelves filled with an abundance of ancient and classic scrolls, making it a haven to read and think in alone (which he tends to do often). Another special place that Valerius enjoys is the enclosed garden of the Gallus villa which looks out towards the city of Rome, the Tiber River and the Palatine Hill. Claudia finds solace in the gardens looking out of her bedroom chamber, its ethereal serenity and archaic beauty always refreshing her. Her favourite spot in that garden is a rock outcropping among some trees by the pool. By that rock, she often plays the harp, composes songs, and reads/writes alone. 

*Do they have a specific theme song? The theme song I've chosen for Valerius, that speaks of his own internal journey the best, would probably be "Knowing You" by Graham Kendrick. It is also a personal favourite Christian song of mine:

For Claudia, this song suites her as well, but I think I'd have a song relevant to the last stage of their tale, and that would be "Into the West" by Annie Lennox(even though it is from LOTR, I found it to really suite her, if you change the words "into the west" and "grey ships" to represent Heaven):

4. What occupation do they have, or plan on having? Valerius is one of the top 6 tribunes in Legate Albinus' Legion.  [according to Wikipedia, this is the definition of a tribune: "each year the Tribal Assembly elected 24 young men in their late twenties with senatorial ambitions to serve as Tribune of the Soldiers (tribunes militium). These 24 were distributed six to each of the consuls' four legions as the legions' commanding officers.]  As a tribune, Valerius' role of occupation varies with the circumstances, and with his military commission. His parents and superiors have high hopes in him, one that he feels obliged to fulfill for their sake and for the sake of his late older brother who was killed years before. Besides that, he wishes to prove himself worthy of Claudia's devotion and love and give her honour and happiness in their life together. Claudia is the daughter of Legate Albinus, the General of the Roman Army. In many ways, she is treated like a Roman princess, and her duties are typical of a General's daughter (attending numerous official banquets hosted by her father, appearing at the Palace frequently, and being taught the arts and duties of a aristocratic Roman wife and matron, to name a few). Claudia dreams and hopes on being one day the wife of Valerius and a mother, and is doing everything to prepare for it. 

5. Describe their current place of residence. Well, Valerius right now is living (or I should say "settling"?) in the grim military barracks of a Roman Garrison (fortress) in the region of.... well, you'll know sometime so why should I spoil it for you? *smiles*. It isn't a very cheering residence, with cold grey walls of stone, and tall archways leading to numerous, but sever, looking barracks. And there is the great drilling court with flagstones and tall gates of metal spikes. Valerius' chambers are less austere then the rest of the barracks, being the commander of the fort, but it is still nothing like his father's family villa back in Rome. All the same, Valerius doesn't complain and sees his current residence as yet another chance to act upon the Roman and Stoic ideals of his father which he had formally found hard to accept. Claudia lives on her father's large estate in Rome, in a white-stoned villa of great beauty and luxury. But her heart isn't in it at all.

*What’s their worst childhood memory? Besides the death of his infant sister, Valerius' childhood was without too much incident, and was rather peaceful and happy. However, the worst memory of his past, was when at the age of 14, his brother was killed while serving as Commander of a military detachment in Britannia. This shook Valerius strongly, having been very close to his older brother. 
Claudia's worst childhood memory was when her mother died in childbirth, giving birth to her younger brother, Antony. She was only five, but she still remembers it clearly.

6. Explain their last crisis. How had they changed when they came out of it? To explain would be to give away a vital plot-line, so it will have to suffice to say that it was sad and tragic, one that gravely alerted their lives, and threatened their future together. Though it tore them away from each other, yet it also strengthened their love and faithfulness for each other the more.

7. If they could ride any horse they wanted, what would it be? Valerius would definitely choose to ride his own favourite horse, Gnaea, above any other. She was given to him many years before as a gift by Flavius and he treasures it, not only as a gift, but because it is a prized mare, beautiful, graceful, light-of-foot and sturdy for fighting. Claudia would ride on any one of the horses in her father's stables as they are all very good.

8. How do they deal with change? Change comes hard for both of them, but I am afraid to say it happens so often (perhaps a little too often?) that they gradually grow used to it.  Any change jars  Valerius but he quickly adapts and tries to deal with it as rationally and logically as possible. Emotional and thought change is something he finds a lot harder to deal with. He can outwardly adapt quicker then he would on the inside. Claudia deals with change in a more emotional and sentimental way then does Valerius, but she is quick to adjust as well.

*What is a cause they would die for? At this time, ideally, Valerius would die for Rome and the Empire, and for the honour of his family. But above all that, he would die for his loved ones. Valerius is not yet a Christian, but when he does the greatest cause and reason he'd willingly die for would be for his faith in Christ. It is much the same with Claudia except I don't know if she'd care to die for the sake of Rome or the Empire very much...

*Would they rather die fighting valiantly, or quietly at home? Wouldn't the answer generally be fighting valiantly? It sounds so heroic! Taking it from the perspective that they aren't Christians yet, Valerius, trained as a soldier, would prefer dying fighting valiantly, rather than die as a doddering old man taken to his bed. But he loves life, and in his heart of hearts he does not relish fighting. And yet it is what he knows to be the most honourable and glorious act any Roman can do, and therefore that's what he'd prefer. Claudia would rather die quietly at home, having lived a fruitful life, but she is willing to die fighting valiantly for the ones she loves if she must.

*Are they Christian or will they eventually find Jesus?
No, as of this time, they are not Christians and barely have any knowledge of the Faith. But yes, they will eventually find the Lord Jesus as their Saviour... that's basically what the novel is about, in a broader sense :).

9. How did they meet? It was actually a very traditional "meeting". As history, the Gallus and Albinus families had been household friends since the time when the Senator Gallus and Legate Albinus had been young bachelors starting out their careers. Not long after Claudia was born both Cassia Gallus and Helena Albinus secretly conspired together that when Valerius and Claudia were of age, they should be wed. But no official betrothal or engagement was performed, due to Albinus, who being so proud after the birth of his only daughter, didn't want to even consider the possibility of his daughter being brought into a betrothal in infancy when he had hardly been her father for a few months. Valerius' sister, Anthea, was Claudia's closest friend as they grew up and Valerius often had fleeting glimpses of Claudia playing with his sister when she visited their home, or when Valerius met with the Legate in his villa. Though they rarely ever met personally or talked to each other, they had a mutual liking and respect for one another, unspoken though it wasBut when Claudia turned sixteen, Valerius finally got the courage to approach her father, Legate Albinus, for her hand in marriage. And by then, Albinus had become quite fond of the lad :). So the first time they officially met and really talked with each other was at their betrothal. 

10. How do these two deal with conflict? They deal with conflict with a great deal of dignified pride and obstinacy on both sides. But usually their love and steadfastness for each other quickly overcomes whatever conflicts they might ever have between themselves. As a side note, I've yet to see them argue or have a real conflict, even though I can see it coming... eventually. We'll see!

11. Do they have a special song, phrase, item, or place? I haven't considered much about giving them as a couple a special song, phrase or place. Valerius did gave Claudia a ring on her third finger on their betrothal (as is typical of the times of course). I'll have to think about the other tokens though!

12. What kind of things do they like to do together? Well, I am sure everything.

*Are they married? If not, do they someday wish to be? At this precise moment they are not married. Do they wish to be? Yes, they do. Very much. But some things are just not in their hands, and marriage right now is one of them. 

13. Describe their relationship as a whole in 3 words or less. Faithful. Loving. Enduring.