(from O Holy Night, by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure)
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
(from O Holy Night, by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure)
Posted by Beth at 10:50 PM
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Julie Weathers made me do this.
I'm supposed to open the closest book to page 56, copy down the fifth sentence, then the following two to five sentences. After that, I'm supposed to make five other people do this, or at least ask them nicely.
The closest book physically to me is the one I'm currently reading, which is Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier, who is one of the best fantasy storytellers around. I always get sucked into her books, big time. She jacks the tension, and the stakes, way up high and keeps 'em there.
(This comes in the middle of a dialogue segment.)
"He tried once to buy the disputed territory from me, and I turned him down. Well, he found another use for his silver pieces."
Eamonn took a mouthful of his wine, wiped his hand across his mouth. His expression was somber.
"We began to hear of lightning raids by an unseen enemy."
Then I thought, let's try this with my most recent purchase. And so the next is from Medicus, a mystery set in ancient Rome by Ruth Downie. I haven't read it yet.
p. 56 is at the very end of a chapter, and consists of only two sentences and a fragment left over from p. 55:
"...whole lot more bodies, three of them ours. My advice, Doctor, is not to get involved with the locals if you can help it."
"Yes, sir," said Ruso, glad the second spear did not know who was in Room Twelve.
Hmmm. That's enticing. Who is in Room Twelve?
I'm moving that one up in my TBR pile.
And finally, I'll copycat Julie and see what's on page 56 of my own manuscript.
Riordan laid the instrument aside before his clenched fingers could damage the fragile wood. It was a moment before he could speak. "I've been told that when I was an infant, my father would hold me in his arms and I would stare up at his eyes, never crying so long as he looked back at me." He swallowed heavily. "Tell me—is it an act of cowardice to look my father in the eye at dawn tomorrow and offer myself to his knife?"
An uncomfortable silence fell, until Darric cleared his throat. "That is not cowardice, true; it's more like an act of insanity."
Now--who gets to be tagged?
OK, I did it! What's the prize?
There is a prize, isn't there?
Posted by Beth at 7:52 PM
Monday, December 01, 2008
When I was a kid, one of my favorite things was opening a brand new box of 64 Crayola crayons.
All that luscious color, right there in one box. (1) I would rearrange them--each color family together, one shade blending into the next. I loved the names: Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber (2), Spring Green, Periwinkle, Thistle, Midnight Blue (3), Sepia, Indian Red (4), Orchid (5). It intrigued me that Red-Orange was different from Orange-Red. And the smell--fuzzy-crisp paper wrappings, the scent of wax and dyes...it was heady. An old box of crayons smelled stale and spent. The new one was redolent with the perfume of ideas and inspiration.
OK, so I don't still sit around sniffing boxes of crayons (though I do linger over catalog pics of artists' pastels and rainbow arrays of chalk) but color is still endlessly fascinating to me. It's no wonder that spring and fall are my favorite seasons--not only is the weather more agreeable, but the world becomes a more colorful place. Bare gray branches give way to soft pink blooms. Uniform summer green is replaced by shades of fire. A flower garden is visual catnip. The eye soaks it in and the spirit grows drunk on it.
I recently read a book called Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay. It has opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at dyes and pigments. Who knew that:
--There's no such thing as black ink or black dye (but there is black pigment). Black inks and dyes are made of blues, reds, and yellows, all blended to absorb light and appear black. In the old days, anything dyed black tended to fade rapidly, until they discovered a dye made from logwood, which was found in the New World and was much in demand by the Puritans. As Protestantism spread, so did the need for a black dye that stayed black. Privateers happily supplied the logwood, the proceeds funding brothels and the rum trade all over the Carribbean. Both black clothing and irony abounded.
--One of the most prized pigments of the old world--carmine red, also known as cochineal--is made from the blood of a white parasite that lives on the prickly pear. For many years this was a fiercely protected secret.
--Saffron comes from a species of crocus that blooms one day only and must be harvested before noon to be truly potent. Because of that, saffron remains one of the world's most expensive spices.
--The Chinese once produced a green porcelain so secret that only royalty could own it.
--Ultramarine, made from lapis lazuli, is so difficult and complex to produce that it's a wonder anyone ever discovered how to do it. The finest grade of lapis is called by the Afganis "red feather," this being a poetic metaphor for fire. This grade of lapis is a rich violet-blue, like the deepest, hottest part of a flame.
I will look at old art with new eyes now, because I'll know the story behind the pigments, and in fact, which pigments were likely used to produce certain colors. And what they may have cost the artist to obtain them.
Color plays an important role in the writer's palette, too. It enhances description, providing contrast and visual focus. Light can interact with color in interesting and revealing ways. Color can evoke a mood or add sub-text. Or be a symbol or motif.
The next time you set out to describe a setting or a person or object, think about how you can use color to say something.
A low sun scattered rays through the treetops and painted the snow in a lattice of amber and black.
Saree eyed that silk, so exactly the color of a ripe red grape that she could almost taste it.
Lirya picked at a tangle in the yarn. Lamplight gilded her white-gold hair and warmed the winter-blue of her eyes.
It was a tranquil cave of a room, suitable for intimate conversation and divulging of secrets, softened by tapestries and deep-cushioned furniture, lit by candle-lamps with tinted glass shades of cobalt, amber, and jade. The lamps glowed unobtrusively in wall niches and they limned the scented smoke with sea-like hues as it climbed from incense burners to drift through the air in unhurried eddies and thin currents. The effect, aided by feather fans in each corner that undulated like giant, lazy fins, was that of an underwater grotto—dark and dreamy, with shafts of nebulous light and unexpected pools of shadow.
Her jade-green eyes were the only gleam of color amidst the grays and duns of early morning.
The woman withdrew a handful of tiny, round stones from a scarlet pouch. There were seven: two each of gray, black, and white; and the last was an oval ruby, unfaceted and polished to a liquid gleam, perfect as a drop of blood. "The eye of the rat," she said matter-of-factly. "The rat wanders in dark places and knows many things."
The figures stopped. The shorter of the two hung back, keeping to the shadows, but the tall one was close enough to the feeble circle of lantern light that Miren could see he was hooded and dressed in the colors of the forest, tattered and dirty and faded like the back end of autumn.
(1) These days, the largest box is 120, but many of the color names I remember are gone forever.
(2) Raw Umber was one of several colors retired because the name was thought too dull for modern children. But I found the name full of mystery. What, I wondered, is umber? Or for that matter, sienna? (Umber is an earth pigment that changes color when heated. Likewise for sienna, which is particularly associated with Sienna, Italy.) Heaven forfend that a child these days would have to actually look something up, though it must be said I never looked up the strange names myself, because my imagination provided so much more interesting answers than the truth ever could.
(3) Before my time, Midnight Blue was Prussian Blue, but since anything German was out of favor following WWII, it was eventually renamed. A shame, because Prussian Blue has a crucial place in the history of pigments. Ever heard of the term "blueprint"?
(4) Out of misguided PC zealotry, Indian Red has now been renamed Chestnut (though if I'm remembering it correctly, it was far closer to Bay, if we're talking horse colors (g)). As it happens, the original name of Indian Red was never intended to represent the skin tone of a Native American but was derived from a pigment found in India.
(5) Orchid has been inexplicably renamed Best Friends, at least according to the article on Wikipedia.
Posted by Beth at 2:35 PM