The Moon was a Ghostly Galleon

| About Ali

I love this poem with all my heart. My mom could recite the entire thing by memory–this was the story she told me, anytime I asked for one. It always stirred my imagination, and when I think of Halloween, I always think … “The moon was a ghostly galleon …”
And I love Loreena Mkennit’s version of the poem, though it is edited. The poem’s included after the video. Happy Halloween, everybody!

The Highwayman

by Alfred Noyes
PART ONE
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
         Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
         His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.
Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s red-lipped daughter.
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—
“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
         Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”
He rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
         (O, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.
PART TWO
He did not come in the dawning. He did not come at noon;
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
         Marching—marching—
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.
They said no word to the landlord. They drank his ale instead.
But they gagged his daughter, and bound her, to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
         And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.
They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest.
They had bound a musket beside her, with the muzzle beneath her breast!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
         Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!
She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
         Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!
The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest.
Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
         Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horsehoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding—
         Riding—riding—
The red coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still.
Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer. Her face was like a light.
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
         Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.
He turned. He spurred to the west; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, and his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.
Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high.
Blood red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat;
When they shot him down on the highway,
         Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.
.       .       .
And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
         Riding—riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.
 
Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
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Fan Friday: Motley Education by S.A. Larsen

| About Reading

S was a bloggy friend, then a Facebook friend, and now I’m super excited to be able to help celebrate the release of her debut novel–Motley Education! And, bonus!, it’s built on Norse mythology! AND, it’s middle grade! I have a soft spot for truly excellent middle grade. 🙂 I hope you’ll check out Motley Education and consider supporting S.A. in her new adventure!

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Forget having a lively after school social life, Ebony Charmed is fighting to keep the entire afterlife alive.

Ebony’s less-than-average spirit tracking abilities are ruining more than sixth grade at Motley Junior High: School for the Psychically and Celestially Gifted. Her parents argue so much her dad’s moved out. And, even though he’s scared of his own shadow and insists on bringing his slimy, legless lizard everywhere they go, Ebony wouldn’t survive without her best friend, Fleishman.

When Ebony’s Deadly Creatures & Relics’ project goes missing she learns her missing project is one of the keys to saving the spirit world.

Now Ebony and Fleishman must battle beasts from Norse mythology to retrieve her project before spirits are lost, the Well of Urd dries up, and Ebony loses all hope of reuniting her family. But someone lies in wait, and he has other plans…including creating a new world of spirits without them in it.

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s-a-larsen-author-image-1S.A. Larsen is a writer, reader, and Maine-iac ice hockey fan, who has watched more hockey games than she could ever count. She loves books that open upsecret passageways and hidden worlds to inspire and challenge the heart. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, Motley Education, will be published October 10, 2016 by Leap Books and her debut young adult novel, Marked Beauty, is set for release late 2016.

She can be found in the land of lobsters, snowy winters, and the occasional Eh’ya with her husband of over twenty years, four children (yes, they all play hockey), a playful pooch, and two kittens. 

Follow S.A. Larsen: Facebook | Website | Twitter

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POW #3: Be Imaginative

| About Writing

I often hear writing students say that their character “kicks butt”. They can fight, like hand-to-hand combat type fighting. I often hear myself thinking in response to these students, “Really? Et tu, Brute?” Because doesn’t it seem like every random person can fight? I don’t know about you, but I only know a couple people who could really fight like that and that’s just because we hung out at a karate studio for years, so I know real high-dan black belts. So, you know. Do you know people like that, too?

Or do you know people who are good with a whip? Or can lift weights? Or ride horses, play baseball, or do gymnastics? Those people might not be able to beat a Bad Guy in hand-to-hand combat, but I bet you could think of some awesome things a baseball player or gymnast could do in a pinch.

So let’s talk about ways to beef up the imagination employed in your action scene.

Be Aware of the Environment

They say setting is everything–it makes the mood, sets the tone, provides a metaphorical story backdrop for the character and his or her development. That may be true, but it’s certainly true that no scene takes place in a vacuum (or, you know, unless you’re in space in a … something spacey … chamber). So definitely, absolutely, positively, consider your environment as you write your fight scene.

Watch this video and consider: how does the environment help or hinder the action?

 

The close confines definitely contribute to the type of action you see here, right? But how does it effect it, exactly?

How the close confines hinders the action:

  • Body movement is restricted, limiting the type of combat possible.
  • Firearms may be ineffective, as it would be very easy to be disarmed.
  • A fighter might not have enough room to properly operate the firearm.
  • Fighting may be reduced to messy, desperate grappling.

How the close confines helps the action:

  • Anything can become a weapon.
  • Hand-to-hand, two combatants may be more equally matched.
  • It may be possible to retake the advantage.

I’m sure you can think up even more examples than this.

Put Yourself in the Scene

Here’s an exercise for you:
Close your eyes and live the scene. Imagine you’re under hypnosis and being guided to see beyond straight ahead of you. Allow your mind’s eye to “notice” the lady down the street, whether or not the OPEN sign is hanging in the window of the flower shop across the street, etc.

Instead of just writing the scene as you plow through it, taking in the action, kicking butt … take this time to visualize, as if recalling details from the scene of a crime. Allow yourself to get a 360 degree view of the scene, then consider all the ways that scene could effect your action.

Get Up and Move

We writers have that whole “butt in chair” thing going on. We’re so cerebral in our writing, everything happening inside, that we often forget that there’s a body attached to that brain and it can be very helpful when writing fight scenes.

Take a minute to get these two amazing parts of yourself working together for a change. Stand up, and act out your fight scene. Walk through the choreography. Imagine how your body would react to a punch in the gut, a 2×4 to the head, a baseball thrown at 75mph into the center of your back. Let yourself feel it, feel the stumble, the crushing pain, the thrust forward.

Feel it, then write it.

Next week we move on to the “O” in our POW formula: Order in Action!

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Parenting a Dating Teen

| About Ali

So, I’ve got these two teenage boys. I have to tell you, that I have loved being a mom. It has been the greatest joy in my life, my truest happiness. And, I thought, I was good at parenting them. But now they’ve grown up and entered a world that … well, I feel completely inadequate for.

I’ll be frank, I grew up with a completely skewed view of relationships. They were all or nothing. Either we were boyfriend/girlfriend and I love you, or there was no chemistry and therefore no relationship. Because all relationships were based on chemistry.

In our culture–either as an LDS family, or living in a mostly-Mormon town, or is it the States? The era? I’m not sure–dating is so relaxed. It’s about friendship and companionship. It’s clean and fun. There’s a lot of group dating and the kids move slow; “hanging out” for a while before they become a couple, holding hands only after feelings are pretty established, kissing maybe … I don’t know. I don’t think we’re there yet. (But then who knows … I’m the parent, right?)

Here’s my problem: I don’t know how to parent this. I find myself expecting my boys to be doing more, to be making choices like I made. To be attracted to a girl, to want to be close to her, to want to hold hands, kiss and maybe more.

I like the choices they’re making. I want them to take it slow, to learn how to be friends with a girl and develop a relationship. But I am constantly fighting with myself. I feel like everything I say on the topic, every time I ask a question about a girl in their lives, I’m pushing them to think of her, to hurry the relationship along. I feel like I never say the right thing. I just can’t relate to the goodness in my boys. When I was their age, I was not innocent.

I wish I had grown up innocent. I wish I could better understand the life my boys are living. I hope by now I’ve done a good enough job at being Mom that they’ll forgive me my flubs. I hope that my flubs don’t cause any trouble.

Because I’ve done a good job until now. I really hope it’s enough.

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Fan Friday! The Haunted Stepsister by Medeia Sharif

| About Reading

Here’s another great one for the spooky month of October! I actually formatted this book, as it’s published by Leap Books and I do their formatting. I haven’t read all of it yet, but gleaned a lot while I was formatting it and it looks great! Plus, I’ve been a fan of Medeia’s since I read her first book, Best Ramadan Ever.

haunted_cvrSixth grade isn’t easy for Jesenya Moradi, especially since her father’s recent remarriage and tension with her new stepsister, Kammy. After an incident at school that nearly destroyed Kammy’s life, Jess has been desperate to get on Kammy’s good side. But a fateful trip to an allegedly haunted bathroom changes both girls’ lives forever.

The rumors about the bathroom are true, and now Jess is convinced a demon’s possessing Kammy. Eerie things happen whenever she’s around – flying objects, flickering lights, not to mention the fact that something, or someone, is making people into its puppets.

Worse, the demon seems fixated on making Jess confess her part in ruining Kammy’s reputation. Sticking to her Muslim faith, Jess enlists the help of an imam to exorcise the demon from Kammy. But can they get rid of the demon before it destroys her new family?

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Medeia Sharif was born in New York City and now lives in Miami. She received her master’s degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University. Published through various presses, she writes middle grade and young adult short stories and novels. In addition to being a writer, she’s a public school teacher.

Follow Medeia: Website | Twitter

 

 

What are you reading right now? I’m reading Potions in the Pizza (ARC) by Mikey Brooks. (I loved A Man Called Ove!)

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POW #2: Be Realistic

| About Writing

Please, please, people. When writing your character’s ability to fight, be realistic.

Consider Your Character’s Abilities

Say you have an average boy who’s attacked by a bad guy. You want her to fight for his life, but inevitably be victorious. DO NOT MAKE HIM A MARTIAL ARTS EXPERT! Unless, of course, he’s been studying martial arts for years and years.

However, you can make him successful using realistic means.

Have you seen the movie Identity Thief? Here’s this thirty-something fat chick who lives a life of crime and who has to routinely escape from bad guys. You’d never expect her to be able to do it–especially not lay ’em out flat on the ground. But she has a very realistic way to accomplish it …

A woman can realistically learn to perform a move like this. It would disarm most people. But if she’s fighting someone more experienced, or trained, they might block it—and the average woman would likely not have anything else to do to protect themselves.

Your job is to think of realistic actions your character could perform. So what could an average woman do in a fight, or if her throat punch was blocked?

Be Aware of How Adrenaline Affects a Person’s Performance

When we think of being in a crisis situation, all we ever seem to consider is how much stronger or faster we’ll become. But let’s look at how adrenaline really affects a person …

The Negative Effects of Adrenaline

  • Freeze-up
  • Heart race increases
  • Breathing becomes rapid and shallow
  • Legs shake
  • Mouth goes dry
  • Tunnel vision
  • Time distortion
  • Auditory exclusion
  • Urinate or bowel movement
  • Become monosyllabic
  • Lose fine motor skills
  • Lose some decision-making ability
  • Lose the ability to recall data

That’s a long list! Some of those things might not be a real problem in a fight, but some could be a serious hindrance!

The Positive Effects of Adrenaline

  • Stronger
  • Faster
  • More resilient to pain

You might be wondering where the rest of the list is, but I promise. This is it. So yeah, in a crisis situation we could become stronger, faster and more resilient to pain. But we could also freeze up, clam up, and poop our pants.

Next week: POW #3: Be Imaginative

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Writing as Therapy

| About Ali, About Writing

Way back when, a good friend, Karen Hoover, gave me a beautiful journal and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. As I worked through the book, I learned the very deep connection that exists between the words we put on the page and the feelings in our hearts. Feelings we might not even recognize or acknowledge.

the-artists-way-1-470x340Cameron uses morning pages, along with guided exercises to help us work through the emotions that might be gunking up our writing–our art.

But as I was working on my current WiP (work in progress) the other day, and exploring my heroine’s backstory and point of view, I realized–she has the same perspective as me. She was quick to leave her family as a young woman, thinking she didn’t belong and need/wanted more in her life. She makes her escape as soon as possible, and enjoys the freedom and life she creates for herself. Then circumstances bring her back home and slowly, somewhat against her will, she realizes that family is everything and she regrets being so quick to throw them away. And hopes she can be forgiven and welcomed back into the fold.

When I first realized I was writing my own feelings, I felt uncomfortable. This was really close to my own experience and it made me squirm. Did I really want to write this stuff? Because as the words poured out of my fingertips, it felt like more and more of myself bled out with them. I had to think about it. In the end I decided to embrace it.

And really, it’s like a win/win. My story gains realism and heart and I gain insight and clarity. Plus, when you write a truth, especially one that flows from your heart in the way that words sometimes do, it seems to glow on the page, pulsing with your heartbeat. You know then, this is truth. And sometimes truth, especially when it comes to ourselves, is hard to find.

I say, if you find it in your writing–embrace it. Own it. Allow it to live in your stories, and to set your own heart free of secrets and doubt and piles of regret.

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Fan Friday! Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

| About Reading

I remember seeing Bad Taste in Boys hit the interwebs during its promotion stage back in 2013 and thinking it was a cool cover and title. I added it to my TBR, but never got to it. Fast forward to 2016, and we need to find a new critique partner for our little group, and Elana says, “What about Carrie Harris? She recently moved to Utah.”

I’d seen Carrie’s name around, but didn’t know her personally. I knew she was published, but didn’t know what books she wrote. In crit group she brought Illegal Alien (which releases next week! Woot!). I liked Carrie’s critique pages and then immediately liked HER upon meeting her. She had turqoise hair!

Well I finally got around to reading Bad Taste in Boys and thought it was a perfect October read for you! It’s smart, fun and quirky – and dude, it has zombies and science. And zombies.

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Someone’s been a very bad zombie.

Kate Grable is horrified to find out that the football coach has given the team steroids. Worse yet, the steroids are having an unexpected effect, turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless flesh-eating zombies. No one is safe–not her cute crush Aaron, not her dorky brother, Jonah . . . not even Kate! She’s got to find an antidote–before her entire high school ends up eating each other. So Kate, her best girlfriend, Rocky, and Aaron stage a frantic battle to save their town  . . . and stay hormonally human.

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carrieCarrie Harris is a geek-of-all-trades and proud of it. Brains are her specialty; she used to work in a lab where they were delivered daily by FedEx. After that, it seemed only natural to write a zombie book–BAD TASTE IN BOYS. She’s followed that up with a variety of books for tweens, teens, and adults. Carrie lives in Utah with her ninja-doctor husband and three monster-obsessed children. She is an organizer of WriteOnCon, an online kidlit writers conference, the president of the Class of 2k11, a marketing group for young adult and middle grade writers, and marketing director for Evil Hat Productions, an RPG and book company. In her spare time, she mainlines caffeine like whoa.

What are you reading right now? Now I’m reading A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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POW #1: Be Grounded

| About Writing

p pack-a-punch

There are three important elements to creating a scene that packs a punch:

  1. Be Grounded
  2. Be Realistic
  3. Be Imaginative

Today?

Be Grounded

You can either watch the video (in which I deliver the least convincing punch on the planet which is highly embarrassing) or read on. Or … both!

One of the most consistent problem I see with fight scenes is the lack of impact. And I’m not only talking about the damage that’s delivered when a punch (or other attack) is received, but the impact of the action itself–on the fighter, on the environment, on the recipient. You need to consider the whole body when composing a fight scene.

Consider the Whole Body

Push your chair back and stand up. No one’s watching (unless you’re at the public library, then think of the service you’re doing others around you; they’ll have a funny story to tell when they go home tonight.)

Without preparation or forethought … PUNCH. Not the wall, or the person or beside you … just the air. Too late? Shoot. Sorry!

How did that feel? Do you think you could win a fight like that? Did you feel strong and like your punch could impact damage? How does your body feel afterward? Did you kind of wrench your hip or shoulders?

Let’s try this again. This time, I want you spread your feet apart, one foot slightly in front of the other. Square your shoulders and align your body. Lift your hands into a guarding position. When you’re ready … PUNCH.

Did you feel the increased power in your punch?

Think “the hip bone’s connected to the back bone …” Every part of the body is connected and participates in your action scene. When you write the scene, be sure that your character’s body is whole and grounded.

Next week: POW #2: Be Realistic

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Gray is My Everyday

| About Ali

I think there’s something wrong with me, but I’m not sure what it is. I don’t know how to Google it, or whether I should see a therapist. The problem is: I don’t feel very much. I know that sounds weird. Let me explain:

I love God. I love my family. I know I love them because when I think of being without them, I feel sad. When I think of having wonderful relationships with them, I feel happy.

And I do feel happiness. It feels like peace and contentment, like sunshine and smiles.

But I don’t feel much else. If emotions fall between love, or hate, joy or extreme anger–I don’t feel it. I feel “meh” about most things, events, and people. Occasionally I’ll get a burst of feeling for someone; that’s how I know I really like them–or really dislike them. But most of the time feelings remain neutral.

This is a problem for me because it feels like I have to work hard in relationships to respond, and feel, appropriately. For instance, even with people I consider “dear friends,” I feel neutral 90% of the time. I know I really like them, because I’ve felt that burst of love for them. But in everyday conversation or interaction, I feel awkward because I don’t trust myself to respond appropriately. I feel disconnected.

The advantage is, I can have relationships with people who have caused me to feel extreme bursts of anger or even hatred–because 90% of the time, I feel neutral toward them. And since I feel neutral toward the people I like, it appears as if I like the people who have made me angry. Weird, eh?

I was molested as a little girl. Raped at thirteen. I lived with a horrible, evil man for all my teenage years. I feel nothing about the bad things those people did to me. I feel nothing for them.

I don’t feel anything about what happened to me, except for a distant “That wasn’t right.” I know it was wrong. I know those people did bad things. I know my mom didn’t protect me. But I don’t feel anything about those things.

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I saw a psychologist once who said that severe emotional trauma causes our mind to retreat, to cover up the damage, to erase it so you can write over it and pretend nothing happened. That’s how we can move on with our lives–otherwise we’d be sniveling puddles of emotional goo because we would constantly relive the trauma and our mind would fixate on it. He said that while the mind is awesome, it’s not expert at this task of “erasing.” He said that it often sweeps the good things, and now I think he might have added the feelings, into the trash along with the trauma.

Did my mind sweep away my everyday emotions?

I get taking away the memories and the feelings for the bad guys, but why can’t I feel anything now? Why does everything feel so darn neutral?

It feels like a curse. Like I’m not wholly human. Or that I’m subhuman. I want to connect with people, with memories and events and experiences–but when everything just translates into “meh,” it doesn’t leave me with much that is significant enough to stay in my vault.

This is the first time I’ve ever admitted this, but doing so feels freeing somehow. Like if it’s not a secret, it’s not a sin. While I don’t know what causes it, or a concise way to describe it if someone were to ask me, I know it’s real and a part of me. And I don’t think it’s my fault, even though I’ve felt ashamed of it for as long as I can remember.

Doesn’t change the fact that I’d give just about anything to feel 100%, 100% of the time.

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