Monday, September 29, 2014

A Word on the Subject of Allegory

Continuing this Q&A series with this great question: "What is your advice about allegorical works? That is, is it a genre you recommend writers pursue? If not, why not?"

Bearing in mind that I do not consider myself an expert on this topic--that these are simply my opinions which should be considered alongside other opinions--here's what I have to say on the subject of allegory.

I think it is unwise for authors to pursue the genre of allegorical fiction.

Does this surprise you? It might, particularly considering my first published novel was an overt allegory of Christ's love for the Church. Not to mention the truth that allegory has a long, lovely literary history that is always fascinating to study and pursue. The problem with allegory, however, is that it so quickly devolves from beautiful story-telling into agenda-pushing. This is true with all forms of allegory, from Christian to secular.

Yes, keep in mind that allegory does not necessarily mean Christian allegory. The definition of the word "allegory" is simply this: A story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.

Allegory is symbolic; like most symbolic work, it is best when done subtly. But subtlety and allegory do not often go hand-in-hand!

I read an allegorical book recently: Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper. It is a secular allegory on the topic of beauty in the modern world. Tepper has a point she desperately wants to make and she hammers it home through the course of her novel. And it's a wonderful novel, and Tepper expresses her allegory unashamedly and with skill. However, the preachy tone of the book is often extremely off-putting. One cannot help while reading it wondering how much better the book might have been had she sometimes let the characters and events speak for themselves.

Heartless, my own debut novel, has received criticism of a similar sort time and again. And while some readers would argue that the overt allegory is what makes the book special, others would just as vehemently argue that the allegory gets in the way of the story. I tend to fall somewhere between those two camps. It is difficult for me to envision Heartless without its allegorical themes simply because, as a young novelist, that's what I thought I was supposed to do. A good Christian novelist who wants to write fantasy must write fantasy-allegory.

These days--and quite a few novels later--I don't think so anymore.While allegorical themes and plenty of symbolism run through my work, I rarely write overt allegory anymore. The closest I came to returning to overt allegory was the scene of Eanrin's rescue from the Netherworld in Starflower. That story trod close to the same sort of allegorical overtness to be found in Heartless.

As a rule, however, I don't directly attempt allegory anymore. Instead I try to write books about people. Real people in fantastical situations who react to those situations as real people would react. This in itself provides me with opportunities to write about truth, grace, forgiveness, sin. Sometimes I write about them in a symbolic manner--Daylily's "wolf in her mind" from Shadow Hand for instance. There is plenty of allegorical significance in that theme, but it's not a symbol that can be easily pinpointed and explained away in simplistic Evangelical terms. Daylily is a person. Her sin and her struggle is simultaneously unique and universal.

This is the truth of people--our sins and struggles are always unique and yet always universal.

I have mentioned him many times before, but I'll go ahead and mention him again. One of my favorite modern novelists if Sir Terry Pratchett. I disagree with him on many levels theologically and philosophically. But what I absolutely love about his work is his ability to make a point, to give a message or "preach a sermon," without the reader ever feeling like that is what's happening. Because Sir Terry's purpose is always the people involved in his stories. Not the message. The message comes through the characters; the characters don't act out the message. Is his work allegorical (in the secular sense)? Often it is, yes. Absolutely. Does the reader ever feel as though she is reading an allegory? Rarely!

So that is always my urging to novelists who think they want to write allegory. Focus on the characters. Focus on making them as real as possible. Do you want to include symbolism? That's good. Study the great writers, both novelists and poets, who have handled it well, ingrain their secrets into your brain--and then go back to focusing on those characters.

And pray. If God has a message He wants to communicate through your work, He is more than capable of handling that Himself. But that's not your job. Your job is to write real . . . whether your genre is fantasy, sci fi, contemporary, romance, or whatever. Your job is to write with authenticity. Your job is to write with barefaced honesty. Don't hide behind masks of allegory or symbolism, for that was never the intended purpose of those literary devices!

A skilled writer can use allegorical symbolism to augment her honest portrayal of people. But the goal is ultimately not the allegory but the honesty.


What are your thoughts on the subject of allegory? Are you for or against it? Have you attempted to write it or do you avoid it as a rule?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Inspirational and Influencial Reads


Today I am answering this question: "Do you have any summer reading suggestions, like books that inspired your books or books you think everyone should read once but no one has ever heard of?"

Keep in mind, my answer is based purely on what I think at this moment. And what I think at this moment is subject to change next moment. Also, this moment might be a forgetful one, and I'll leave out something completely vital! But as I sit here early in the morning, my hot drink scalding my mouth at every sip, Monster purring away beside me, and piles of packing surrounding . . . these are the books that pop to mind that have been inspirational to my own work and that I think everyone should read.

 The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. I read this book so many times as a child and young teenager! Of all the lovely works by George MacDonald, this is the one that had the most unconsciously profound effect on my own work. I re-read it a year or two after Heartless released and was surprised to see how many similarities my work shared with MacDonald's. Not in plot, necessarily, but in style, approach, and thematic material.

MacDonald also inspires me with his subtle use of allegory. He is rarely overt when it comes to allegorical threads in his work but allows them to weave so surreptitiously through the tale that some readers might miss them entirely. As my books have progressed, I have tried more and more to mimic that aspect of MacDonald's writing. He is a writer whom I will probably spend much of my life trying to emulate.

Another of MacDonald's works that I recommend is Phantastes. Now this book is a much more difficult read, often as strange as Carrol's Wonderland tales but not so funny. Indeed, much of the book I read thinking, What on earth is this supposed to be about? I don't understand! It's not a simple story like his Princess and the Goblin or some of MacDonald's delightful short fairy tales.

But then you get to a certain passage right at the end. And you realize, Oh! That's why I read this. That's what this is all about. And suddenly the journey is worthwhile.

Phantastes is directly responsible for the invention of Starflower. I sat down and penned out the first notes and ideas for Starflower after coming to the end of Phantastes. As most of you know, Starflower has many other strong literary influences as well, most notable of which is "The Hound of Heaven." But Phantastes is where it started.

I could go on and name quite a lot more of MacDonald's works. But I'll leave off here with a general, sweeping statement of, "MacDonald's fairy tales. Some more than others. But all of them, ultimately."

I'll quickly mention a handful of epic and sort-of-epic poems that have had a distinct and ongoing influence on my work, many of which you can find and read for free online. These include Robert Browning, "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came," Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and various translations of "Beowulf." For ease of reading, I recommend Seamus Heaney's version of "Beowulf" to start with, though I've read two or three other translations over the years as well, and each adds a unique perspective and flavor.
 
C.S. Lewis's work has always been an inspiration to me, as will surprise none of you. But his lesser-known Till We Have Faces is directly responsible for my ongoing fascination with veils as a literary symbol. It's a wonderful, profound work, a little more subtle on the allegory than his works for children and very beautiful.

I think students of literature and aspiring novelists can find something wonderful and inspiring from anything written by Shakespeare (practically). My own work has been most directly influenced by A Midsummer Night's Dream (surprise, surprise), and my favorite is Hamlet. If you read no other Shakespeare, I hope you will at least read those two, or one of those two.

 A book that I discovered partway through writing the first draft of Veiled Rose was The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. Since then I have read that book so many times--and my copy has become so ratty and dog-eared--it takes only a glance to see how much I love it! It's an odd little story in many ways . . . at one point, we meet a band of Robin Hood-wannabes who are sitting around their campfire deep in the woods, eating tacos. At another point, a prince lounging with his lady in a mystic glade pulls out a magazine to thumb through. But otherwise, it's all set in a fairly-typical fantasy kingdom! Odd, yes. And I found it completely enthralling.

Beagle writes the story with that perfect mixture of humor, horror, and heartbreak. It's not a story for everyone by any means . . . but it's one of those stories that is completely for me. We all of us have those authors we discover whom we feel wrote their work ideally tailored to our specific tastes. That's what The Last Unicorn is for me. I also adored the novella sequel he wrote years later, The Two Hearts. I read it while on a plane for Okinawa and totally broke down in tears, right there, on the plane, probably horrifying all those around me. But it was just so beautiful, I couldn't help it!

I return to The Last Unicorn and Beagle during those dry spells in my writing when I simply need to refresh myself with excellent work.

Okay, the truth is, I could fill this whole post up with "serious" works of literature because I firmly believe that any well-written book of any genre has the potential to be inspiring to any novelist of any other genre. That's just the nature of great writing.

But I'll take a moment to talk about some of my favorite lighthearted reads as well.

It's no secret to anyone reading this blog that I am a huge fan of Sir Terry Pratchett. It might surprise some of you who have read his work since he can be both very silly and very irreverent, often simultaneously.

What I love about Sir Terry Pratchett, though, what keeps me coming back to read his works again and again (and there are PLENTY of them to read!) is his use of real people as protagonists. By this I mean Pratchett doesn't go in for "the hero" or "the heroine" like other novelists of fantasy do. Nor does he write "the villain" all in terms of black and white.

He writes about people. Real, natural, foible-filled people. Once in a blue moon he'll feature a hero or heroine with unusual powers (Tiffany Aching, Moist Von Lipwig, Granny Weatherwax--though even in these instances, his super-characters are so much more real than everyone else's), but for the most part, he likes to focus on the Ordinary Hero in the Unusual Circumstance.

Often his regular hero/heroine must rise to the occasion, to become something more than he or she once was. Sam Vimes is a fantastic example of this, though he never loses his Vimesishness (thank heaven!). We love him because we love to watch him struggle. Nothing comes easy to him. He doesn't have any natural brilliance or secret power to fall back on.

Terry Pratchett writes people we feel like we could actually know. He writes people we feel like we could actually be. And for this reason, Sir Terry will always be one of my all-time favorites.

If you're curious to start reading his work, I recommend both Nation (a YA read and one of my favorite books) and Guards! Guards! (which is aimed at adults but which is also one of my all-time favorites).

There are SO MANY more books I could recommend here, but I think I'll end on an obscure note, a little-known trilogy which I think everyone should read--but not as teenagers. Wait until college-age, perhaps. I know I wouldn't have appreciated this work as a teenager, but a few extra years and I loved it.

I'm talking about The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter. This series, made up of The Heaven Tree, The Green Branch, and The Scarlet Seed is set in 13th century England and focuses on the turmoil between England and Wales during that time. But it's really not about war and politics, though war and politics come into it. It's a book about art. About the artistic spirit which lives on after death. It's a book about cathedrals and statuary, a book about love and passion. It's the story of Harry Talvace and later on his son, also Harry Talvace.

I don't know if I can really call this trilogy an influence, per se. I've only read it once, and I don't know if any book can truly be an influence after only a single reading. But it's a wonderful work and one I know I will read again.

Anyway, I hope you found some interesting titles among these I've listed! It's not an exhaustive list of influences and recommendations by any means, but these are all books I have thoroughly enjoyed.

What are some of your all-time reading picks and recommendations?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Short Question - Short Answer

Here is a fun short question-short answer for all of you, one I've been looking forward to sharing! This reader asked: "What has been your favorite activity this summer?"

Well, I don't know if favorite is quite the right word since this whole business is quite a stressful one . . . but certainly the most exciting activity this summer has been this!

That's right. We bought a new home! We officially closed on the sale yesterday, and I am probably, even as you read this, in the midst of hauling boxes of belongings over to it and beginning the labor of setting up our new life.

We started house-hunting earlier in the summer, looking for a spot a little bigger than Rooglewood and in more of a neighborhood setting (Rooglewood is located in the downtown and, though surrounded on three sides by a bamboo forest, faces a busy commercial road). This house is the perfect solution, full of character and quirk with a big back yard for Milly to run around in . . . and plenty of room for a future family should that be God's will for us.

I'm a bit sad to leave Rooglewood, I won't lie. Okay, a lot sad. Rohan and I have loved this first home of ours and made so many memories here. But after four years of marriage (not to mention twenty-plus rescue kitties and two rescue doggies later!) the time is right to move on.

The new home has been christened as well . . . it is called Drakenheath.

Why Drakenheath, you ask? Well, I grew up in Lakenheath, England, and this house is situated on a sweet, heath-like landscape. And "Draken" is, of course, in honor of my dragon-books. So next month I hope to post the very first "Doings at Drakenheath" post for all of you!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Influencer Readers!


Dear imps, the time has come! We are looking for influencer readers to read Golden Daughter before its official launch date in November. That means if you are interested in reading this story early, now is your chance!

Influencer readers will receive a PDF file of the book as formatted for print. So on your computer screen it will look like it does in the book with all the pretty artwork, etc.

David Cross is handling all the marketing and publicity work for this project, so do write him a quick email (david.cross@rooglewoodpress.com) if you are interested in being added to the influencer list. The rules are pretty basic! You have to agree to write an Amazon review, and preference will be given to influencers who can/will also write reviews on Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and personal blogs.

Feel free to share the button and let other reviewers know of this opportunity! I am very excited to be launching this project so soon now. It is my favorite of my finished works, and I hope it will swiftly become a favorite of yours as well.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Walk Through Our Wedding

Today is the fourth anniversary of my wedding to the one and only Rohan, my darling, funny, handsome beloved. And I rather thought it might be fun to take all of you on a little photographic walk through our wedding, including some of the days leading up to it. Sound like fun? I hope so, because I'm feeling romantically nostalgic today, and there's no stopping me!

Due to all the craziness that is Wisconsin marriage policy, Rohan and I were legally married in North Carolina four weeks before our real wedding. This meant the judge had scarcely declared us “man and wife” before I hopped on a plane and zipped up to Wisconsin for four weeks to prepare the real wedding.
 
Of course there were dress fittings and the like:


Since the wedding was to be held in my parents’ back yard, I had originally intended to wear a much simpler gown, just a sweet little white sundress. But my father really wanted me to at least go try some real wedding gowns. So I did. This gown was the first one I tried on, and I fell madly in love with it. Still simple enough for an outdoor wedding in my parents’ back garden, but embellished with lots of pretty details.

Soon after this was taken, however . . . I came down with German measles. Which, while not dangerous, was probably the most miserably sick I have ever been! Not only that, but I had worked for months on getting a proper tan to look right in that pure-white gown of mine (not something this nerdy-writer-type ever does!), and now it was all spoiled with blotchy red lattice rash. Bleh!

But thank heaven, both the measles and the rash cleared up two weeks before the actual wedding date. To make me feel better, my handsome man sent me something pretty:

   That’s right, two dozen long-stemmed red roses! I’m looking a little pale and sickly there still, but I’m very happy. Not long now until I’ll see my legal-but-not-really-husband! (Keep those red roses in mind . . . they come back as an important plot point later.)

Things started speeding up around then! The dress arrived, and of course I had to “practice wearing it.” Papa had to practice giving me away too . . .

  Eeeeeee! So close to the big day now! You can still see some of the red patches where the rash was, but it’s mostly cleared up (thank you, Lord!).

And the ladies at my mother’s church gave me a lovely wedding shower.

 Note: the dress I’m wearing there is technically my FIRST wedding dress. It’s the one I wore when Rohan and I went to the courthouse and got legally married.



 And here I am with a lovely young woman who was at that time enjoying a long-distance correspondence with my older brother. Just a correspondence. No, really! They were just friends!

Uh huh. Riiiiiiiight . . .

Anyway, fast forward a couple of weeks to the day before the wedding. Finally! My handsome man and I are reunited just in time for a quick wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Did I mention that this was an outdoor wedding? Do you want to see what the weather was like the day before?
Yeah. Everyone is freezing. Bundled up against the drizzle. And the wet. and the cold.


“No, I’m not cold at all!” I insisted in my little sundress and sandals! Rohan’s sister made me go stick my feet in a hot bath a few minutes after this took place . . . and probably saved me from pneumonia as a result.

 But I didn’t care for the cold or rain! My handsome guy was back with me, and we got to practice our first dance on the deck, and everything was going to be beautiful . . . as long as the weather cleared. (None of you will be surprised to learn that my most consistent nightmare during the four weeks leading up to the wedding was all about thunderstorms and rain etc.)

Anyway, as I said earlier, our wedding was held at my folk’s house up in Wisconsin. A big beautiful log house on a lake. I loved being able to get married right out of my home! But there was also quite a lot of set-up to be done. So following the rehearsal, after Rohan was sent back to his hotel to catch a few hours of sleep, I, my mother, my cousin, my aunt, my former roommate, and my totally-just-friends-with-your-brother friend set to work getting the house ready for company! Here we are:


We decided that we all looked like a lipstick palette together in our clashing shades of red and pink. Oh, and yes. I am totally wearing pajamas in that picture. Another advantage to getting married from your parent’s home! Set-up is very casual.

I got up sooooooper early the next morning to have coffee with my father, as is our early-birds-of-the-family tradition. Then I hurried down to try to get my hair and makeup done on my own, before my two bridesmaids arrived. I thought if I could do it myself, maybe they wouldn’t feel like they had to . . . but I ended up needing help after all, so I shouldn't have bothered. Here I am having my hair styled by Rohan's sister, Rochelle.


See my pretty purity ring there? I actually kept losing (or breaking) my purity rings through the years, so that is purity ring number four, I think. Ah well. I suppose it’s the thought that counts.

Then of course we had to rush out onto the deck and get a few pictures taken of the overall look! I decided to have these taken without my veil so that the details would show.

I love my pretty flower crown! I always thought that if I did get married, I’d wear an off-shoulder wedding gown and flowers in my hair.

Here you can see my pretty wedding ring! Rohan designed it and had it made for me in Sri Lanka, which is his home country. The stone is an Alexandrite, which is mined in Sri Lanka. It’s very beautiful, set in a silver leaf pattern—delicate and lovely!

One of these days I’ll have to write and tell you the story of our engagement as well. Heheh. It’s probably not the most romantic engagement story on the planet . . . but I would be willing to bet it’s the funniest! Yeah. One of these days . . . 

Here you can see my necklace, which was my grandmother’s (father’s mother). My grandfather gave it to her for a wedding gift, so they were both very pleased that I wore it (and the matching earrings) for my wedding. Something borrowed and blue (though Grandma insists that it does not count as old!).

My bouquet was the sweetest-smelling thing you ever did encounter. And it was heavy as a brick. Seriously, I could have clubbed someone to death with it! (And almost did. But more on that later . . . ) I didn’t have specific colors for my wedding, simply wanted as many colors done as classically as possible. The flowers were mostly roses and stock. While stock doesn’t have the most romantic name in the world, it is the most heavenly-smelling flower ever! So I thought my bouquet—both for beauty and potential lethality—was perfect. 

See those pretty little shoes? Guess where I got them. You never will, so I'll tell you: Wal-Mart! I could not find shoes that I wanted (needed flats for the grass, you know), so I finally just purchased $10 ballet flats at Wal-Mart. When I told the tailor who was fitting my dress of this, she offered to add matching lace to the shoes so that they would go with my dress. And all she wanted for payment was a signed copy of Heartless (which had just released a month or two earlier). I was so pleased and blessed. And the shoes turned out adorable!

Meanwhile, as I had my hair styled and pictures taken and all those other things to which brides are subjected . . . my handsome fiancĂ© brewed tea. 

Yes, that’s what he’s doing there—brewing a sample of the tea we would later serve at the wedding. His mother had just come over from Sri Lanka, and she brought tea leaves with her from the mountain tea region out there. The strongest and most amazing tea ever! (Rohan brought a gift of it to my father as the “bride price.” LOL. Papa doesn’t believe in dowries; he thinks he should get something after all the work he put into me! He and Rohan agreed that fresh Sri Lankan tea was a good trade for me. Um . . . thanks?)

Here are my folks, patiently awaiting the tea Rohan was brewing:

And my father and Rohan sit, discussing how very long it takes for girls to get ready for simple things like weddings . . .

Do notice Rohan’s quite wonderful get-up for this event! He wore an afternoon-grey suit with a beautiful silver cravat. We were going for a My Fair Lady Ascot races sort of look, and I think Rohan carries it of admirably. (Also, let it be known that the cravat was his idea.) 

Around that time it was discovered that my beautiful dress was lacking a hook and eye in the back! Thank heaven, my best-friend was on hand, ready with needle and thread to save the day!


Here I am being sewn into my dress. Still smiling though!

Rohan and I decided that we would not wait until the ceremony to see each other all dressed up. We wanted to take a bunch of pictures together well ahead of time so that after the ceremony we could mingle and enjoy our friends and family. So we had a private moment, just the two of us, for him to see me in my gown. He was quite delighted with the look! Still says he thinks it's the most beautiful wedding dress he's ever seen (though he might be a little biased . . . he's pretty head-over-heels for the girl who wore it).

Then we went out into the yard, still pretty early in the morning, to have our pictures taken. Here are some of my favorites!






Then we moved on to other locations and took MORE pictures together! It was Motorcycle Weekend in my hometown, and some motorcyclists saw us and asked us to come pose on their bikes. My dress was a little too tight for me to straddle a motorcycle, so I just sort of propped on the end there.

Rohan’s saying: “So, can we get one of these?” I’m laughing: “Not on your life!”

This is a discussion we continue to have to this day . . .

Our photographer spotted this cute little hideaway bench and had us pose on it too:

“Kiss each other!” she told us.

And we tried. We really did!
But we were at just such an angle that we could NOT reach!

Oh well. It was a worthy effort. 

Then it was time to head back to the house and part ways until the ceremony. While we’d been away, everyone else had been hard at work completing the set-up and preparation, not to mention greeting guests as they arrived! I slipped out of my dress and flower crown and had some help from my bridesmaids re-fixing both hair and makeup.


Rochelle tidied up my hair while I visited with my namesake, Annie . . . who wasn’t born yet but who was very present nonetheless!

Then it was time to get back into the wedding clothes and  . . . wait for our pastor. Who thought the wedding was at 4:00. Which it wasn’t. It was supposed to be at 2:00.

Whoops.

Sometimes doing things low-key can be a little bit accident prone. Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

While waiting, we took some more fun pictures.

Heheh. My train got a little tangled up there! But now you can see all the pretty colors of my wedding. Again, I didn’t pick a specific color scheme but told my bridesmaids simply to find pretty dresses in summery colors. This picture is a perfect depiction of what I’d hoped for! My cousin Nicole (the one who looks like me and is wearing teal) was my “bridal attendant”—not an official bridesmaid, but a help-me-with-that-long-train and help-carry-this-brutally-heavy-bouquet-maid. My mother is in the coral, Rochelle (Rohan’s sister) in the green, and Erin (my best friend and “sister”) is in the yellow . . . with baby Annie.


I love this picture of Erin looking tearful and happy! Rochelle did her hair, and I think she looks sooooo pretty here.

Pastor Steve did make it eventually, and we were able to start the ceremony only a little late! My former roommate Charity and Erin’s husband Daniel provided the music for us. Charity played Mussorgsky’s “The Great Gate” for the processional (Rohan’s pick).

Erin went out first (with baby Annie!) 

Then came Rochelle, looking lovely.

There’s my Peter. He was only fourteen then! Now he’s eighteen and off to college. Sigh.

  
And Jimmy, my middle brother.

Sadly my big brother Tom couldn’t come due to being off on deployment at the time (he’s a rescue pilot). But he found a special way of contributing of which I will tell you soon.

Again, we didn’t do things very much like a “normal” wedding. So I didn’t have bridesmaids on one side while Rohan had groomsmen on the other. Instead, Erin was my maid of honor, and my youngest brother stood beside her on my side. And Rochelle was Rohan’s “best man,” and my brother Jimmy stood beside her on his side.


There I am with Papa! The sun was so BLINDING just as we came through the door, I seriously couldn’t see for quite a number of paces. (Maybe it was just the blinding quality of Rohan’s love radiating at me? Maybe . . .)


There’s my handsome guy, watching me approach! You can see his mother, Mama Astrid, standing behind him there. She wore a gorgeous gold and black saree to the wedding and looked amazing!
 And here we all are, just on the verge of Papa officially “giving me away.”

Now comes the important part that I want all of you unmarried women to REMEMBER. Seriously. This is vital. Take notes right now. Let me show you . . .
Do you see what is happening there? In this picture? Do you? I’ll tell you what it is!

I handed my bouquet and my handkerchief off to my maid of honor. My beautiful antique handkerchief which I had carried down the aisle for a reason. That reason is that weddings are emotional. And emotional people like me are very likely to cry. And when you cry, you need something to wipe—not your eyes. No. Tears are romantic. Everyone likes a dainty tear trailing down your cheek. 

You need it to wipe your nose! 

There is absolutely nothing romantic about a runny nose on a bride, particularly not when she’s gone all traditional and worn her veil through the service and therefore can’t do anything about it.

Thankfully, during the prayer I was able to signal Rohan to pass me his handkerchief, which worked out all right. But do remember this, unmarried women all—when you hand off your bouquet, hold onto your handkerchief! Because you’re likely to want it. 

Speaking of tears, here’s a shot of Erin crying.

 And here’s a nice parallel shot of Jimmy crying. It’s all about balance, people.
Despite the absolutely horrendous weather of the day before, our actual wedding day turned out divinely beautiful.

Don’t you love those scattered flower petals? I don’t know whose idea that was (maybe it was mine?), but I think it’s so lovely!
Take a moment to admire my dainty veil, another gift my father insisted on giving me. (I had planned to just make something, but he wanted me to have the very best. I’m a spoiled girl!)


We sang the hymn “O Father All Creating” for our wedding song. Charity provided the accompaniment, and it was a special moment for all of us.

Then it was time to exchange vows and rings. Here you see Rohan getting my wedding ring from his sister:


And here you see me giving Rohan his ring . . . along with my life and love.

And a kiss to seal the marriage!

Hey! I like you and we’re married! (Again, you’ll see that we were very classic with the veil and him lifting it at the end of the ceremony to kiss me. I’ve always loved that symbol.)
Happy man and wife!
I tried to go CHARGING down the aisle afterwards, but Rohan managed to slow me down to a more elegant pace. Our recessional was Edvard Grieg’s “Wedding Day.”  I used to play this piece back in high school, and I always said that if I did get married, I would want it played at my wedding. Erin’s husband Daniel did a wonderful job performing it!
 


We went immediately from the recessional up to the balcony above the guests to dance our official First Dance as a married couple! We chose the beautiful waltz from My Fair Lady as our dance tune (again, in keeping with the My Fair Lady style of our wedding.)



  That long train of mine was appropriately swoopy for a romantically swoopy song! Rohan is a wonderful dancer, and he taught me a thing or two before the wedding so I wouldn’t trip and break my pride.

After that it was all fun and games and cheesecake for the rest of the day! My mother and I worked hard for several days previous making cheesecakes of many flavors for the occasion, and “really, I’m just friends with your brother” Kristen made a decadent chocolate one as well! She also blessed us by decorating the cheesecakes with flowers and chocolate shavings and arranged the tables for the reception.



Isn’t it gorgeous??? I love my mother’s lace table cloth. Oh, and do you recognize those red flower petals? They come back into the story yet again later on . . .

We took family pictures, naturally. Here I am with Rohan’s family:
 And here we are with my family:
Yeah, we’re not a very serious bunch. (My poor father looks like, “I don’t know these people!”)

There was lots more dancing. I danced with Peter . . . we pretended we knew what we were doing.

I danced with my father, who was rather shy about it. But he promised that he would do a Father-Daughter dance with me as long as I picked a Very Slow Waltz. So here we are, dancing to this Very Slow Waltz . . . which Erin played for us quite a lot slower than this recording!
And I danced many, many dances with my lovely new husband!

Here we are dancing and singing “The Rainbow Connection” to each other. Which is also a waltz, in case you didn’t know! Charity played this one for us. We had quite a number of classically trained pianists at this wedding, so we were not lacking for great live music.

A bunch of my dear friends from college days road-tripped up to Wisconsin to be there for my wedding! Kristine (my talented freshman roommate), Melanie (a wonderful woman, wife, mother, and musician, who remains forever in our hearts), Hannah (the most gifted young artist I have ever met), Laura (a brilliant literary mind and wit!), Elizabeth (a poet-biologist), and Esther (multi-linguist extraordinaire!).

We all enjoyed family time. Here’s Rohan and his beautiful sister, toasting his new marriage!

Here are my happy parents:
I really love the dress my mother found for my wedding. It's a perfect color and style on her! My father looks so dashing in the tux too. I am not skilled at picking out clothing, but I tried to find a tux for the guys that went with Rohan's without matching it, per se. (Rohan was the star, after all.) I think my father and brothers all looked very handsome!

Rohan’s father made it for the ceremony . . . and I met him for the first time right after  the service!

My Aunt Paula and new mother-in-law, Astrid. Both teachers, so they hit it off right away!
 Don't you just love Mama-Astrid's saree? She looked so elegant.

We had an afternoon tea for our reception, and ladies from my parents’ church pooled their teacup collections in with my mother’s to make certain we had plenty!
Kristen and her sister Megan worked hard all day as tea and cheesecake servers, keeping the slices rotating, the kettles boiling, and the teacups washing. And not a single teacup was broken! They were amazing.
 One of my favorites of all my mother's teacups featured in the wedding!
Sadly I never got a taste of the tea and barely any of the cheesecakes! Some kind soul handed me a teacup at one point, but every time I lifted it to my mouth to sip, someone would ask me a question, and I'd start talking again! Rohan at one point told me to open my mouth and popped a forkful of cheesecake in. But that was all I got of that! But a few years later, Kristen remade her chocolate one for us, so I got to sample it then. And either Rohan or I makes the raspberry-white-chocolate cheesecake every year for our anniversary.

One of the most special moments of the day came when my father called everyone inside. He spoke of those who could not be present, including Erin’s brother, Matthew, who was serving with honor and courage overseas in Afghanistan at the time. And, of course, my own big brother, Tom. But Tom did not want to let the marriage of his little sister go by without being part of it . . . so he filmed and sent us a beautiful toast! (Which arrived the day of the wedding . . . talk about timing!)

 Rohan listened very carefully as Tom warned him how much I dislike having toothpaste squirted into my hair. (Thanks for reminding me of that special moment, brother dear!) But really, it was a wonderful toast, and I'm so glad we have it on DVD. Thinking of Tom's sweet words never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

It was a perfect moment. Made perhaps a little more perfect by the obvious delight in Kristen’s voice and face when she running downstairs earlier in the day to tell me Tom’s DVD had arrived on time. (Yeah. She was totally just friends with him. Totally.)

So do you remember that club-like bouquet of mine? Well I did have to toss it eventually, didn’t I?
 And what better place to toss from than the balcony??

All the lovely single ladies gathered below . . .

I tossed, and . . . you’ll never guess who caught it!
 That’s right! Kristen-who’s-just-friends-with-my-brother. According to witnesses (I had my back turned at the time!) it sailed over the heads of everyone else and landed directly in her arms as though aimed for her. Well, I know I didn't aim it . . . but perhaps some angel with a sense of humor helped it along a little.


We got a picture together, and I took a moment to whisper to her that, “just friends” or not, I hoped she would marry my big brother someday. I got my wish-come-true not very long after! (And I’m so glad my bouquet didn’t break her skull as it came hurtling straight toward her from above . . .) 

Someone was so happy about the bouquet toss, she had a little meltdown moment!
I think Kristen was touched. If Erin—the surrogate sister of the Stengl family—was that happy, she was going to fit in just fine!

It really was all good!
 Rohan wore fencing cufflinks in honor of how we met. (At fencing class, for those of you who don’t know the story.)
 Yeah, we make each other laugh a lot!

Then it was time for us to leave. I changed into my beautiful get-away dress (a sky-blue saree, a gift from Mama Astrid), and everyone else gathered outside and grabbed big handfuls of . . . that’s right! Red rose petals. (I told you those would come back into the story! Rohan’s gift from a week earlier came in very handy.

 And there we go! Off into the wonderful adventure of married life together!

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of our wedding. My best friend calls it the "Fairy Tale Princess" wedding because of the setting, the style . . . not to mention the woodland animals who came out to watch it. (Seriously, a chipmunk came and sat on her husband's foot.) I don't think that day could have been more perfect.

Though honestly, it could have thunderstormed in buckets, and I would have still been happy, because my sweet husband was now REALLY my husband, and there is no man in the world so darling as he.