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My Teacup of the Month plan has been derailed for a while, but with thoughts turning to the beginning of school for many, I thought it might be fun to get back on track.

I won’t be returning to classes this fall, since graduating in December, but my thoughts are with those who are.  I have a niece who is working hard to graduate college within a year.  My oldest daughter, Sara, is also taking online courses while taking care of three children and waiting for the fourth to arrive.  Whew!

I need a cup of tea just thinking about it.  :^)

With the words, back-to-school, my thoughts turn to  reading and writing.  I’m still working on slogging through some G.R.R. Martin.  I’ve spoken before about how much I love to love his characters.  And love to hate his characters, too.  The man sure is a prolific writer.  I think that’s the main point that I would like to learn from reading his books — writing that much!  I hope to achieve that some day.

I am super excited to say that I have written my second novel.  I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in July and knocked out over 50,000 words in twenty-two days!  It was a great experience and an amazing learning curve.  I’ll write more about that later.

Now, about this teacup.

August Teacup 2

It’s a mix-match from my odd assortment of cups gathered from here and there.  I love the little saucer with the apples on it.  I couldn’t resist throwing a little nostalgia into the photo setting.  Jacks from my childhood, a marble collection in an old canning jar, a crocheted doily that I tea-dyed, vintage books (the one on the top is an autobiography of Ben Franklin, published in 1910.  I just love finds like that.)  (Thanks to my daughter, Lyndsey, who, by the way, is opening an antique, vintage-eclectic-stuff-shop on the plains.)  WooHoo!  Very exciting development.

And of course, in the photo I’ve included an apple for the teacher.  :^)  It’s my virtual thank-you to all of the wonderful teachers out there, helping to shape and mold the minds of students.  You deserve much honor and praise.

My youngest daughter is beginning her second year of teaching.  Her class is fourth-grade and they will be doing plenty of creative writing with Aubrey.  It’s exciting to watch this new journey unfold.

I would also like to say that since graduation, two of my writer friends and I have formed a writing group.  We’re staying accountable to each other and the writing world by setting goals, checking in, and . . . writing!  :^)

Thanks so much for stopping in and sharing this cup of tea with me.  Please pause to leave a few words to let me know that you’ve taken a moment to stop by.  It is important to me and I do appreciate the time you’ve taken,  because I know that time is often our most valuable gift.

What thoughts come to you when you think of back-to-school?

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I’ve mentioned the Mythology/Folklore course that I enjoyed last semester before graduation.  One of the requirements of the class was to build our own website and incorporate fairytales that we wrote into a theme.  I had such a great time with this assignment.  I shared with the instructor that I would like to find a way to do this full time, if only I could get paid.  ;^)  I researched original fairytales and folklore, then spun my own tales.  I used all of my own photography, as well.  My fellow students — bright, creative souls, had the generosity to vote my site as Best of Class.  I was over the moon excited — such a great honor.  I share it with you here:

Tea and Fairy Tales with Miss C

You’ll find four tales, including an Irish story for this Merry Month of March.  ;^)

Inspiration

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Where do you find your inspiration? As a writer, I’ll tell you, I look in many places. Nature, however, seems to be the place I gravitate to the most. If I can see a waterfall, or hear a stream, it immediately brings a sense of calm. Later, the creativity will follow, into an uncluttered, open mind. (Well, as uncluttered as it gets anyway. There’s always something that could use a little work.) ;^)

Also, I think the best writers are great readers. Devouring books is the perfect way to see how it’s done. Of course, most of us read to read. That is a term that I tossed around frequently while in writing courses these last few years. While dissecting fiction, I wondered if I would ever be able to read for fun again, rather than reading a fictional piece to analyze the techniques.

Last semester, I was in the middle of writing a paper on a book that I really wanted to enjoy and was having a difficult time muddling through the technicalities that hover in the mind of a writer once trained. I mentioned this to a professor. She said, “Oh no! I want you to just read it. Don’t analyze it. Read it. Then go back and see what stands out. See what makes an impact upon you.”

So that is what I’m also asking you — not only where do you gain inspiration for what you do, no matter what dream chasing it may be, but what books do you read that inspire you? Is there someone that you’ve read that made you want to write like them? Why?

My daughter bought A Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin for me for Christmas. Looking at the 765 pages and the five or six volumes that follow, I was daunted, to say the least. But I found myself with a few idle days, (due to illness,) (boo) and I was able to read it. The praises of Mr. Martin have been sung far and wide. With an HBO series and untold volumes, he doesn’t need my praise. But I’ll tell you, I was inspired. I want to know history like he does. I want to design fully round characters like he does. I want to create antagonists that you love to hate and protagonists that you love to love, like he does.

I don’t want to be quite so graphic. Do you think that’s a requirement of a writer in this century? I don’t. I still believe that you can be effective without the gore and the four-letter words.  Eyes, ears, and hearts are assaulted on many fronts with access to extensive media and it is increasing.  Yet, I believe that we need more of the healing balm than ripping and shredding.    It  has to do with my views upon violence and its perpetuation.  Where do we draw the line?  On many subjects, I say, loose the boundaries.  But there are other places that I must say that I prefer the lines to be distinctly drawn.  I think that we need this as a society; not to take a head-in-the-sand approach, but to encourage innocence to flourish and gentleness to prevail.  I still hope that it can.

My youngest daughter, also a writer and the one who bought me the book, gave me the journal in the photograph for my graduation.  The embossed cover contains a Jane Austen quote. (She’s also the daughter who might chide me for being too uppity about this violence thing in the Thrones series.) But that’s okay. It takes all kinds. I appreciated reading the book. I loved it. I loved the characters. I want to know what happens to them. But I think that I will try a kinder, gentler writing style.

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” (Jane Austen)

That’s how I feel.

Mary Stewart pulled it off in her epic series of Arthur and Merlin stories, Legacy — The Crystal Cave. She is brilliant at portraying the history, hooking the reader into a marvelous, sweeping tale, and leaves you wanting more.  She can write about the victim, but it’s more about the victory.

I think that is what inspiration is all about. Take a bit of this and a scrap of that, and work it into your own magnificent quilt.

One more quote for today then:
“Writers read.”

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The opportunity to begin again presents itself every morning and I am grateful for it.  I am excited to run into the new year armed with my recently conferred writing degree and a million ideas.  I hope that you’ll join me and see what we can discover.

In 2013, I would like this blog to be a place where we treasure words of wisdom by writers new and old.  I would like to dream here, of my perfect writer’s space.  I would like to write a little fun and fiction, and of course, sip a cup of tea, laugh, and relax.

All the best to you and yours in 2013!

Here’s today’s wisdom, which may be attributed to someone famous, but I could not find it in a quick “google.”  I will say that I heard it from my professors at the University of Oklahoma over and over again and I’m sure I’ve said it here several times myself.

“Writers write.”

A Simple Luv Story

Another tale in a series of assignments from my Mythology and Folklore course:

Once upon a time in a remote valley by the River Bithynia, there lived a happy farmer, Baxter, and his jolly wife, Philisha.  Baxter farmed the land and Philisha kept a few animals:  a milk cow, a plow horse, and a few chickens.  The contented couple relished their simple life and lived their entire married days above the barn in a cozy little space that Philisha tended fastidiously.

Everything they had ever needed they brought forth from their own hands.  They fetched cool, clear water from the river, their garden produced a bounty of vegetables, they had a small fruit orchard, and they tended beehives for their honeycomb, as well.

(The Comfy Abode of Baxter and Philisha — Photo by Cynthia L. H.)

One evening, just as Philisha was setting the table for supper with a steaming plate of biscuits and gravy, two weary travelers rapped upon the door.

Baxter welcomed them to stay for the meal and rest, as night was fast approaching.  Baxter said, “I’ll even bring out a jug of my best moonshine, if you’ll just stay, ya’ll.  We seldom get visitors in these parts, do we, Sugar?  And dagnabbit if I’ll turn you away to wander the darkness in these boondocks.”

“Baxter Dear, please watch your language in front of the guests, won’t you.” Philisha quietly chided.  “And perhaps run down to the garden and fetch a cantaloupe or two?”

“Yes, My Angel,” Baxter said.  He brought out his pipe and tobacco.

The travelers agreed to stay and so all passed a joyful time of fellowship.

When the sun rose the next morning, the guests gathered their belongings and prepared to depart.

“Baxter and Philisha, we have to tell you.  We are gods disguised as men, searching the earth for genuine, kind-hearted souls,” said One.

“And some really good ale,” said The Other.  “I think yours was definitely nine and a half on a scale of one to ten.”

“Why, thank you,” Baxter said.  “I have won several awards and been featured in Better Shines and Gardens magazine a time or two.  But I ain’t braggin’, or nothin’.”

“Why, of course not,” said the One.  “Anyway,” continued the One, “we think that you are just the nicest folks we’ve ever come across.  We want to grant your fondest desire.”

“Choose anything,” said the Other, “anything at all.”

Baxter and Philisha were just completely flabbergasted.  Nothing like this had ever crossed their minds.

“We’re perfectly pea-pickin’ happy,” Baxter said.  “There ain’t nothin’ we need, is there, Baby?”

“Well, if I may,” Philisha interjected.  “There is that teensy issue of the aging process making it not quite so easy to climb up into our little cottage here above the barn.  You remember, Baxter Dear, that today you almost fell.  Then when I reached to help, you nearly pulled me on over with you, Hon.”

(Philisha Saving Baxter From Falling From the Barn — Photo by Cynthia L. H.)

“Aw, psshaw, Philisha.  I ain’t gettin’ old.  My joints was just stove up from plowing so long yesterday.  I’m fine, now, Sweetcakes.” Baxter said.

“Nevertheless,” said the One, “we would like to grant you a wish.”

“Any wish at all,” said the Other.

“Just go ahead and pick one,” said the One.  He nudged the Other and whispered, “I hope they hurry up and decide.  We’ve got places to go.”

Philisha took the opportunity to declare,  “Now, Baxter Dear, remember that house up on top of Knob Hill?”

“That mansion?” Baxter asked.

“Yes, that one,” Philisha said.  “I’ve heard through the grapevine that it is sitting empty.  The owners… you know, what were their names?”

“Oh, yes, um, let me see … now….” Baxter scratched his beard trying to remember.

The two gods looked at each other and rolled their eyes.

Philisha said, “Betty.  Bettisimma.  Bandy.  No.  Barbie.  That’s it ….”

“Barbie and Ken,” Philisha and Baxter said at the same time.

“Oh, yes, Dear.  That’s it,” Philisha said.  Barbie and Ken.  They’re divorcing.”

“No way,” Baxter said.

“Way,” Philisha said.

“What is the world coming to?”  Baxter asked.

“I don’t know, Dear.  So sad.  Anyway, I would loooove to live in that mansion.  Can you do that for us?”  Philisha blinked her long, however gray, lashes at the two gods.

“Definitely,” said the One.

“Most definitely,” said the Other.

They closed their eyes and clasped their hands in front of them and said a tiny prayer.

At the end of the prayer Philisha and Baxter thought the two gods said “Abracadabra,” instead of “Amen.”  But not to worry.

Poof.  Baxter and Philisha were suddenly in a lovely pink mansion that overlooked the valley where they used to live in the barn.

“Oh!  Isn’t this lovely, Baxter Dear,” Philisha said.

“Well, I’m homesick, Pookie … just a little,” Baxter said.

“Oh, pishposh, Baxter Dear,” Philisha said.  “Well, just go on down and sleep in the barn, then, Hon,” she continued.  “I’ll cook supper.  Look at this kitchen!  My my!  Even a microwave!  I am just so excited.”

“What are we havin’ for supper, My Love?” Baxter asked, just a little hesitantly.

“Why, biscuits and gravy, Dear.  Of course,” Philisha said.

“Perfect, Darlin’,” said Baxter.  “I think I’ll stay.”

“Perfect,” said Philisha.  She smiled and hugged Baxter.

He smiled and kissed her cheek with his scratchy beard.

And they lived happily ever after.  Dear.

The End

Author’s Note:  The inspiration for my story came from Ovid’s Metamorphoses — Philemon and Baucis.  Many of these Ovid tales seemed ridiculous.  I decided that another ridiculous story was in order.  I switched the names around.  The female in the Ovid tale was Baucis.  The male was Philemon.  I made the female, Philisha, and the male, Baxter.  I had a little too much fun with this one.  ;^)

Hi-Ho!  Seamus here.  It’s been a while.  Miss Cynthia asked me to apologize for her, but I told her there was no need.  As you can see, Finn has been getting into everything that he possibly can.  Circumstances have gone beyond quite lively.  Well, more on that later.

Miss Cynthia wanted you to know that our summer that was supposed to have been spent learning more on Celtic history and lore, was actually spent straightening out multiple shenanigans that inundated the household.  (Poor Miss Cynthia.  I do believe it was all Finn’s fault.  Oh well.  More on that later, too.)

For now, Miss Cynthia is immersed in her classes at the university.  Lo and behold!  One of her classes is Mythology and Folklore.  (I guess she gave up on me ever helping her.  Little does she know that I’ve been spinning all kinds of magic to inspire the muse.)

For the Mythology and Folklore class, her professor is requiring the construction of yet another blog.   It is, however, private to the students of the class.  Miss Cynthia asked permission to share her tales with you here.

Without further ado — may I present Miss Cynthia’s very first legend in Blogland:

STERLING AND THE VICIOUS BEAST

By Cynthia L. H.

In a mystical valley far beyond normal vision, a ferocious dragonfly tormented the miniscule faerie folk until they had lost hope.  The inhabitants of Glen Ywen found their faith drained away.  All became dark and bleak and the earth around them turned black.  The sky was black and the massive tree beneath which their village stood was black.  Its branches spread broad and high, but every leaf was black as midnight.  Shadows abounded.

The black dragonfly, Ferox, roamed the countryside by night and devoured whatever he fancied.  Wheat crops, grape vineyards, cottages, villagers – it made no difference.  If Ferox wanted it, Ferox destroyed it.  He would feast and then burn what remained before him.  The ashes and coals simmered in the blackness for as long as the villagers could remember.

Ferox was not just a dragonfly, but a vicious creature of death.  Spouting black flames, he pillaged and burned and burned and pillaged.

The faerie folk lived in quaking fear of the rancorous beast.  In former days they were a strong clan who possessed much magic, but Ferox had beaten them into subjection.

The outlook of the villagers had grown so grim that their judgment was as clouded as a storm-clad day.  They sought to appease Ferox, but there was no relief.

Each month, at the advent of the New Moon, when the sky was nothing but blackness, they would lay one of their first-born sons at the mouth of Ferox’s lair.

This day, there was but one who remained.  He was the child of the only noble in the land, who was no longer very noble.  If Ferox had left their possessions, he would have been king.  As it stood, his name was his only redeeming quality:  Sterling.

Now being the last of the boys to be sacrificed, Sterling had been protected and grew strong.  He spent most of his days sword-fighting with an uncle or riding round the countryside.

He was cunning and swift, as well as strong and courageous.  In spite of all that surrounded him, Sterling was rather a miracle, against all odds.

On the day that he was to be sacrificed, his family had kept it secret.  Sterling had no idea of his impending doom.

He thought that he was going on a country ride with his uncle and cousins.  He threw a leaf saddle over the back of his shiny black steed and galloped up into the night sky.  The wings of his horsefly beat against the black of the night and cooled the simmering air.  Sterling looked back and saw no one.  He was puzzled, as he thought they were right behind him.  He was wrong.  His family had sent him on his own to face the mighty Ferox.

Sterling rounded a corner and there he was – Ferox – roaring, belching smoke and spitting up sulfurous hairballs every which way.

Sterling pulled his sword from the scabbard and fearlessly charged the beast.

Ferox roared in indignation.

“Who dares to challenge the Great Ferox?”

Sterling pulled back the reins of his charge.  “It is I, Sterling of Glen Ywen, Bearer of the Standard of Truth.”

Ferox emitted a deep belly laugh that nearly knocked Sterling off his horsefly.  Thankfully, the steed was steady with his wings and remained aloft.

“I will devour your Truth with one breath if there is such a thing,” Ferox said.

“Of course there is,” Sterling said.  “I am the representative.  Truth lives in me.”

Ferox thought this was hilarious.  He had never been so amused.

“What makes you think so, Sir Piety?” Ferox teased.

“If I answer you, will you leave me be?”  Sterling asked.

“I will,” Ferox answered.  He crossed his tiny black dragonfly toes because he knew that he was lying.

Fortunately, Sterling knew that Ferox was lying, too.  As the bearer of all Truth, he could sense these things.

“You hold in your mind the thought that I will make you a fine dessert,” Sterling said.  “Is this so?”

“It is so,” Ferox said.

“Truth,” Sterling answered.

Ferox was puzzled.

“You will not chase me when I turn my steed, because you think that your flames can leap farther and faster than my horse and I can fly,” Sterling said.

“Dare!”  Ferox said.

Sterling whirled his horsefly about and spurred him until they hurtled out of Ferox’s reach.

Ferox was baffled.  No one had ever dared to dare him.  He wasn’t sure what to do next, but he took up pursuit anyway.

Sterling and his horsefly climbed steeply into the sky and were now diving straight above Ferox.

Ferox heard the drone, but did not see them.

Sterling’s Sword of Truth pierced through the heart of the black dragonfly.

With a bellow and hissing, Ferox crashed to the ground with a mighty thud.  He screamed and tried to rise again.

Sterling swiftly searched for the sulfurous spheres of charbroiled sheep that he had seen the soulless beast spit out previously.

He stabbed each orb with the tip of his sword and poked them into the jaws of Ferox.

One last hissing breath produced a tiny spark.  It was all that was necessary.

The sulfur ignited and Ferox sizzled and fizzled until not even ashes remained.  His own darkness had consumed him.

At that precise moment, the village became verdant and full of life again.

A beautiful faerie appeared out of the clouds, riding upon a lavender butterfly.

“I am Verity, Queen of Candor.  I am on a quest to find the Bearer of the Standard of Truth.  Are you he?”  She asked.

“I am.”  Sterling nearly burst his buttons at her beauty.

Verity reached across the span between them and grasped his hand.  She smiled.

Sterling smiled back.

They galloped off into the dawning of a new day where the sun was rising in brilliant hues of amethyst, peach, and amber.

***The End***

Photo — St. George and the Dragon — Stockholm — Web Source:  Wikipedia

Author’s Note:  In this class, we read legends and folklore.  We take a story that we’ve read and spin our own tale off of it.  I based my version upon the story of Daniel and the Dragon from the apocryphal Book of Daniel in the Septuagint.  I love this story and wish that it was in all adaptations of the Bible.  Of course I twisted the details again in my tale.  I created faeries, horseflies, and dragonflies.  I also wanted to question the integrity of family who would sacrifice their children to a dragon — not very honorable.  But somehow, the hero turns out unscathed.  I also wanted to unleash my creativity with my own odd humorous perspective.  I really had fun with this one.

Hey ho.  Seamus here for Miss Cynthia.  She asked me to speak on her behalf, as she is recuperating.  There has been a long list of events that you would hardly believe if I were to share them.  Miss Cynthia made me pinky-swear not to say a thing about them.

But there was that whole tea and tranquility and threats about litigation in blogland thing that threw her for a loop.  She was compelled to change the name of her blog.  She is still seeing spots over that one.  Red spots.  Just came out of no where — the invisible ethernet, she says.

I said, “Magic?”

She said, “Hardly.”

I said, “Black magic?”

She said,  “Something like that.”

I said, “VooDoo?”

She said, “Exactly.”

Well, then I knew what she was talking about and I did feel a mite guilty.  But what is a gnome to do?  We are nothing if not a wee bit mischievous.

I thought back to the Galveston trip and remembered that odd fellow we met in the gift shop…

Miss Cynthia snatched us away in just a few seconds, but not before Finn and this character exchanged a few quick words.  It was all mumbo jumbo to me.  I did, however, catch snippets like, “tea, poison, not tranquil, blog, Miss Cyn___, mean, darkness,…”

Finn is versed in many avenues of magic and I assure you, it has nothing to do with “Bippity Boppity Boo.”

Miss Cynthia whisked us away to a brighter spot and said to be good little gnomes and if we would stay out of trouble, she would buy us our very own sand castle.

Finn said that was ridiculous.  He wanted a real castle.  One like we had seen earlier in our tour of the city.  He said there would be plenty of room there for his friends and a much larger still.

He pitched a king-sized hissy fit and disappeared for several hours.

This is where I found him.

When I explained to Miss Cynthia that he refused to leave his new-found friends, she gasped. “Sharks?  Finn’s new best friends are sharks?”

I tried to explain to her that Finn saw no harm in it.  He was not likely to be devoured by them.  He comes from a long line of shark whisperers.

Miss Cynthia counted to ten and said that Finn must find some new friends immediately, that friends with sharp teeth and beady black eyes were not friends at all.  They would just as likely bite him in the behind as not.

She picked him up by the top of his hat and strode down the aisle mumbling something about how she should have known better.

Finn kicked his little black boots and hollered at the top of his voice, “I’ve known sharks with kinder personalities than you and some of your so-called friends.”

Then Miss Cynthia deposited Finn and me here:

Seriously.  Next to a hermit crab painted with a likeness of Sponge Bob Square-pants.

Not a good move.  I believe you have a saying here that is something along the lines of “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

Well.  They haven’t met Finn.

I’m surprised Miss Cynthia allowed our return to her garden at all.  She said that she could hardly imagine Finn’s shenanigans unleashed upon the unsuspecting population of Galveston.

Finn has pouted ever since.  And practiced his own sort of magic around the clock.

Finn has quite the amazing connections with nature.

Since we have spoken last, Miss Cynthia has experienced a horse-fly bite that made her ill for a week.  Then a flying-ant stung her in the eye and made her ill again.  She has encountered eight tarantulas within a few hours time.  Her gardens are experiencing a grasshopper invasion of Egyptian proportions.  The fire-ants are everywhere that a grasshopper isn’t.  The days are an endless chain of 100 degree temperatures.  She keeps wandering about with her eyes glazed over, but seems to have no clue that Finn might be responsible.  She says that summers on the plains just keep getting more difficult.

And that is saying nothing of the additional guests.

Additional guests, you say?  Yes.  Quite.  Uninvited by Miss Cynthia. She said that she is strongly considering finding a mountain cave and becoming a hermit herself.

Finn just whistles and rolls his eyes when confronted with that situation.

Miss Cynthia said that her blog friend, Scriptor Senex, was right.  He made a comment about worrying that her home might become over-run if she made us too comfy.

She truly had no idea.

Stay tuned for photos and an update on the inundation of Miss Cynthia’s home, courtesy of Finn P.  McOrnery.

Sincerely,

Seamus  and Snickers