April 30, 2015

A Flight of Fancy III

A Flight of Fancy III
Janelle Spiers

The Flight Of Fancy: A Collection of Short Story Samples All Based On This Beginning Sentence...

"The brilliant blaze was burning my eyes, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from..."

'The brilliant blaze was burning my eyes, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from.  As I forced my body to sit up, I was able to discern that I was on a sandy beach and the lapping of ocean waves was audible. The sun was overhead, must have been why I couldn't see anything, it was so bright.  My throat was thick and my tongue felt parched, so I struggled to my feet. I needed a drink of water, then I would figure out what I was going to do; I remembered through the beating pulses of my headache the fire on deck, the explosion, and being flung headlong into the ocean. I felt weak at the thought of my comrades, all of whom were undoubtedly lost...'

'The brilliant blaze was burning my eyes, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from, so I shut the door and stopped to catch my nervous breath. Instantly, the light disappeared from the cracks around the old steel door.  
'What did you see, Hemlock? Was it a ghost?' 
'No, Sheila, I don't think so. I don't know what it was.' I felt my knees tremble and I couldn't let her know that I was as terrified as she was. 'Come on, doll face, let's get back to your grandfather. He'll want us back before tea-time; I think we've done enough exploring for one day.' 
She agreed, as so we turned to go back up the stairs, but though I was nervous, my curiosity was still piqued enough by the light in the safe. 'One more look, Sheila. Just one more.' I felt for the handle and pulled the door open just a crack. 
Instantly, two things happened which I will never be able to forget, no matter how old or aged I become; the events that followed will haunt me forever, because they shaped my future. First, I opened the door slightly, and the light flooded back into the room, but a heavy force pushed the safe all the way open, shoving me to the floor. and second, Sheila screamed so piercingly I felt the blood in my heart freeze as I turned to see a dark shadow gliding down the stairs towards us...'

"The brilliant blaze was burning my eyes, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from. The smoke was intense and it was billowing upwards in the sky.  As the villagers ran away from the blaze, I slid my feet into my boots and ran towards the epicenter of panic. 
'Haldrim, do something!' The people pleaded as I ran through their midst. 
'I will if you will let me through!' I shouted as I pushed my way through the mob of frightened citizens. Once I broke through the sooty masses, I unfurled my wings and glided over the abandoned homes and desecrated livelihoods. This must be the work of the Gahool. Only they could wreak such damage on the innocents.  I thought to myself as I soared towards the capitol. 
Suddenly, arrows whizzed through the air in front of me and I dived to the ground, but not swiftly enough. An arrow pierced my forearm, and I lost balance; plummeting harshly to the ground. I barely had time to get to my feet, much less remove the arrow and bind my wounds before three archers came running with their weapons at the ready. 
'Stand down, creature.' They called in bold voices, but I could read the fear in their eyes like poetry; they were terrified, and I found that beautiful. 
'Nay, fiends. Why should I bow down to my assailants? If you want me, you'll have to come and get me...'
...A Flight of Fancy... 

April 28, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

The Fruit of the Spirit Study: Peace

~ We must fight for Peace

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Philippians 4:6-9

When we choose to give God the troubles in our life, in exchange for His perfect peace, it leaves our minds open and empty of that worry, which is perfect room for lies and deception to come seeping through the cracks. That is why we must strive to think of the goodness in life and dwell on the Love of God, for if we forget to remember, we will think of anything. 

~ We must make Peace

     Definition of Peace:     freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility     freedom from or the cessation of war or violence freedom from civil disorder freedom from dispute or dissension between individuals or groupsNew Oxford American Dictionary

Peace is freedom from bad things.  Peace is freedom from bothersome noises, from horrible bloodshed, or angry arguments.  As children of God, we are called to live at peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:12) and to help to bring that freedom to the world. We must come ready to the battleground, having fought for our own peace, now prepared to bring about peace to the world. It's not world peace that we should strive for, that's an impossible task; we must look to offer a gentle serenity to the furious dissension around us.  

~ We must find Peace in every place

A king commissioned the finest artists in his land to paint him a picture of peace. One artist brought the king a beautiful painting of lush grass, blue sky, and gentle rolling landscapes.  Another artist brought a painting of lovely colors, gentle tones, and a quiet landscape in a little glen.  The last artist's painting was very different to the others, it was grey and rough, with a huge waterfall pouring down with much foam and rock.  But in the corner, tucked back behind the turbulent waterfall, was a mother bird on her nest...

We see peace in the first and second paintings, lovely, quiet...free from difficulty. But the third picture is the better choice for our own peace. We must teach ourselves to rely on God's infinite peace, no matter where we are or why. Peace is calm in the midst of trouble, and in the midst of trouble, we most need peace. It is like the eye of a hurricane; all about you is shrieking chaos and destruction, but in the eye, if you look up, you can see blue sky and gentle life. If God himself created the storm, we must trust him that there is peace in its midst. 

~ Peace in the midst of conflict

A man had a wife and four daughters.  He was a very successful businessman and he had everything he needed to provide for his family, but a fire was kindled and it burned his investments and property. With nothing in America, he decided to relocate back to his family in England. The night before they were to depart, the man was called to a business matter, so he sent his wife and daughters ahead. However, the ship that bore his family towards their new home was struck by another ship and many lives were lost, including all four of the man's daughters. His wife alone survived the journey and she sent her husband a telegram saying, "Saved alone."  

The man was devastated and he sailed to meet his wife with great sorrow. His own ship sailed over the wreckage of his daughters's watery grave and while on the boat, the man penned a famous hymn that has inspired and touched many today.  He wrote, "When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 'It is well, it is well, with my soul.' "

This is the true story of Horatio Gates Spafford, a man most remembered for his beautiful song. Despite all that had happened to his wealth and family, Horatio didn't blame God, but looked to him for his peace and strength. He relied on God's love and plan for him, he praised God, despite the pain, and he found peace in the midst of conflict and sorrow.

...It is well, it is well, with my soul...

April 23, 2015

The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth;  

Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim, 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same,  

And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black. 
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back.  

I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.

April 21, 2015

Happy Birthday, Charlotte Brontë!

One of my favorite novelists in classic English literature is Charlotte Brontë, most commonly known for her work, Jane Eyre.  She was born on April 21, 1816, the third of six children.  Anne and Emily Brontë were her sisters that also published novels, and all three of them wrote under pen names.  Charlotte went on to publish four novels, but only Jane Eyre ever became popular.

“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child," he began, "especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?"
"They go to hell," was my ready and orthodox answer. 
"And what is hell? Can you tell me that?" 
"A pit full of fire."
"And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?" 
"No, sir."
"What must you do to avoid it?" 
I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come was objectionable: "I must keep in good health and not die.” ~ Jane Eyre 

“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”  

“But life is a battle: may we all be enabled to fight it well!”  

“We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence.”  

“The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.” 

“I'm just going to write because I cannot help it.”  

“Men judge us by the success of our efforts. God looks at the efforts themselves.” 

April 16, 2015

We Must Sail...

Apparently, I'm not the only one who has sea-fever...

“I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving - we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it - but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.” 
― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Pirate Dreams

Needles and pins, Needles and pins,
Sew me a sail to catch me the wind.
Sew me a sail strong as the gale,
Carpenter, bring out your hammers and nails.
Hammers and nails, hammers and nails,
Build me a boat to go chasing the whales.
Chasing the whales, sailing the blue
Find me a captain and sign me a crew.
Captain and crew, captain and crew,
Take me, oh take me to anywhere new.

― Shel Silverstein


I die but when the grave shall press
The heart so long endeared to thee
When earthy cares no more distress
And earthy joys are nought to me.

Weep not, but think that I have past
Before thee o'er the sea of gloom.
Have anchored safe and rest at last
Where tears and mouring can not come.

'Tis I should weep to leave thee here
On that dark ocean sailing drear
With storms around and fears before
And no kind light to point the shore.

But long or short though life may be
'Tis nothing to eternity.
We part below to meet on high
Where blissful ages never die.
― Emily Brontë

Bilbo’s Last Song

Day is ended, dim my eyes,
But journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship's beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
Beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.

Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
The wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
Beneath the ever-bending sky,
But islands lie behind the Sun
That I shall raise ere all is done;
Lands there are to west of West,
Where night is quiet and sleep is rest.

Guided by the Lonely Star,
Beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I’ll find the heavens fair and free,
And beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
And fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-earth at last.
I see the Star above my mast!
― J.R.R. Tolkien

April 14, 2015

Dracula ~ A Book Review

Book By Bram Stoker
Review by Janelle A. Spiers

“Never did tombs look so ghastly white. Never did cypress, or yew, or juniper so seem the embodiment of funeral gloom. Never did tree or grass wave or rustle so ominously. Never did bough creak so mysteriously, and never did the far-away howling of dogs send such a woeful presage through the night.”
~ Bram Stoker, Dracula

“There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.”
   ~ Bram Stoker, Dracula

WARNING:  Please be aware that if you continue reading this Book Review, you may be subject to reading spoilers and or secrets of the original book.  However, all attempts shall be made to hide the crucial points, in the event that this review encourages you to read this book.  Any information divulged will be deemed by the author of this review necessary to the review, or, not capable of ruining any major surprise. 

Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897 and changed the fictional realm of horror forever.  Stoker’s haunting story of death, love, and fantasized monsters brings both inspiration and chills to the reader, thrusting them into a tale mixed to the brim with modern life and early European folklore.  Dracula has made such an impact in the literary world that Bram Stoker’s ideas have been used in many stories since that time.
Despite the grim circumstances and breath-taking drama, Dracula is a powerful story about good vs. evil.  The light of goodness, truth, and holiness are starkly and beautifully contrasted with the darkness of evil, lies, and horror.  Stoker wove a powerful, golden thread of redemption throughout his dark tapestry, so that no matter how dark the night or how desperate the character, there is always some hope left on which they can cling.  The idea of love being more powerful than fear is also present.  Each of the characters are challenged to decide how far they are willing to go for love for each other, and for life itself.
The unforgettable story begins with a man named Jonathan Harker travelling across the Carpathian Mountains to the castle of Count Dracula, where he will be helping with a legal affair.  After the frightening experience of trying to get to the secluded, mysterious castle, Jonathan finds himself the guest of an equally mysterious master.  As time passes, suspicion and fear begin to build, and Jonathan realizes that he is no longer a guest, but a prisoner; Dracula has locked him in the old castle.  A series of harrowing events plague Jonathan and he barely escapes with his life back to England where his fiancé awaits him.
But a long, arduous life has just begun for the heroes of this tale.  A shipwreck on the coast brings with it strange and deadly results and a young woman with sleepwalking issues suddenly begins to look more pale than usual.  With the help of two brilliant doctors and two other stout gentlemen, Harker and his newlywed wife, Mina, are faced with the fact that there is a mythical creature in their midst, and if they do not stop the threat, Dracula will destroy the world they know and love.
Jonathan Harker is a very steadfast, cool-headed man, but his encounter with Dracula and his eerie home leaves a great strain on him, especially when he thinks his life is at stake.  He spends the rest of the story with a burning passion to defeat the monster, but at the same time, he can lapse into a very weak and fearful state, typically more for his bride than himself.
Mina Harker is the faithful, “guiding star” for the men of this tale.  Her loyalty and compassion to her husband is equally, yet properly, shared with the other gentlemen who bond together to destroy Dracula.  When Mina is attacked by Dracula and her life takes a terrible turn, she longs to stay with those she loves, but she is willing to sacrifice herself in order to keep her friends safe.
Dr. Seward is a major piece of the puzzle and he is necessary to the destruction of Dracula.  He specializes in helping the insane and mentally disabled, and when one such man is found to be working for the Count, Seward manages to pry information from the man to help them in their conquest.
Perhaps the greatest protagonist is Abraham Van Helsing, a Dutch doctor and former teacher of Dr. Seward.  Van Helsing is the first one to discover what Dracula is and how he can be stopped, and despite the fact that no one believes him, he manages to prove Dracula’s true identity and the means to ending him.  Van Helsing is a quiet, thoughtful man with much faith and brain that ultimately result in the demise of Dracula.
Dracula himself is a creature of much discretion and sinister intent.  As a vampire, he is neither dead nor living, and is called “un-dead” as a result.  He preys on anyone and everyone but with so much secrecy that it is almost impossible to detect.  One of the most remarkable traits that Count Dracula possesses is that he is very patient and slow; with no fear of dying from old age, he has hundreds upon hundreds of years on his hands, and so every movement he makes is bold, but in no rush.
The writing style of Dracula is very unique.  Instead of constant narration, the entire book is split up into journal entries written by the main characters, gatherings of newspaper clippings, letters, telegrams, etc.  In addition, the ways the words are written or constructed vary, depending on which character is writing or recording.  However, on an overall note, the understandability of the story can be difficult, due to the older way of speaking and writing, also, based on the long, winding plot line and information that comes with it.
Abraham Stoker was born on November 8, 1847, in Dublin, Ireland, the third of seven children.  Stoker was bedridden for the first several years of his life from an unknown disease or illness, but by age seven, he was completely recovered and able to attend a private school; he never suffered from any major illness again.  In his early adulthood, Stoker married Florence Balcombe, who had been previously courted by his friend, Oscar Wilde.  The Stokers moved to London, where their only child was born, and Stoker became the theater manager for Henry Irving, a famous actor.  There he was introduced to notable people, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and on traveling to America, president Theodore Roosevelt, William McKinley, and Walt Whitman.  Dracula was written in 1897, but never attracted much popularity until after his death on April 20, 1912.
Though the story and its characters are fascinating and enjoyable, some of the content may be unsuitable for young or sensitive readers.  There are a few instances of swearing, but they are mild and not used flippantly.  There is some romance between two couples without the book, but nothing intimate is ever recorded or hinted.  Several of the female vampires that appear in the story are described as intensely lovely and they act rather seductively in hopes of luring in prey, but the characters shun such creatures.
            The intensity of the story can be overwhelming.  Several beloved characters die, and one, who died a as a vampire, must be mutilated after death to keep her from attacking innocent children, which she had been doing.  Blood is a central theme and gory idea that fuels the story along, so it may be unpleasant to read.  There is also a mentally insane man who eats flies, spiders, birds, and wants to eat cats, as well, and his death may be distressing.
            The progression of Dracula’s stunning plot line is neat, concise and has left very little room for argumentation, barring the fact that vampires are works of fictitious imagination. All the characters, from gentle and graceful Mina to the intelligent and thoughtful Van Helsing are almost like living creatures that grow and live within the tale.  Bram Stoker has painted a breathing portrait of a world about to be undone by the un-dead.
            Dracula was not the first story about vampires, but by it, a path was forged through the uncharted territory of fiction that still progresses today.  One of Bram Stoker’s characters once said, “I want you to believe...to believe in things that you cannot.” Stoker tried to create a piece of far-fetched fiction into a tale that would seem so real it could bite you, and that is exactly what he did.   Dracula is an amazing, thrilling, haunting tale about the search for light in the darkest places, love in the most hopeless times, and peace from the dreaded monster, Count Dracula.  

(Based on a rating system entirely made up of pros and cons, I judge by different categories to ensure that the reader of this review can aptly choose if this book is an appropriate for themselves or others.)

Theme ~ Positive! (For excellent topics that are inspiring and applicable to life.)
Plot Line ~ Positive! (For a gripping, unmatched storyline)
Characters ~ Positive! (Very memorable and extremely consistent)
Writing Quality ~ Negative! (For difficult, archaic writing style)
Mature Content ~ Negative! (Intense and graphic sequences, more suitable for an older audience.)
Congruency ~ Positive! (For extreme consistency in plot, characters, and quality)

The total score for Dracula by Bram Stoker is 4 out of a possible 6 positive points.

April 9, 2015

Where the Road Ends

"The Road goes ever on and on..."

Every life is a picture, or a painting, or a legacy to leave behind, but how is it that we get from one place to another?  Life is a story, but we are all traveling down the road that gets us there, from one chapter to the next. On and on it goes, but few of us can ever see that we are taking a journey that will lead us to our final destination; it will either lead us home or we will be lost along the way. 

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” ~ Lord of the Rings

I looked out of the window through the foggy glass, and I saw that a road wound before me, disappearing into the mist and fog of early morning. There's never any time like the present, so I grabbed my coat and slipped out into the chill, determined to see where the road would take me.  As soon as my feet touched the pavement, a little cloud of fog vanished in a whirl of vapor, but it was not enough. I could only see one step ahead of me, and so I stepped again.  As if it knew my intent, the humid smoke disappeared, but only enough to see one step farther. This time I could see a light that helped me to see the edge of the road, but not what was ahead.  In anxious excitement, I resigned myself to follow the road until I came to the end.

It was easy going at first. One step cleared the way for the next and I hurried forward towards the light as fast as my feet could go, making marvelous ground. I could see behind me; it was hazy with dew, but visible, which relieved my fear. I could always go back. 

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” ~ Lord of the Rings

I pressed onward, steadily going on, until I came to a place where there was no fog. It had stopped like a wall and as I pressed out of it, I saw that I had come to a cross road.  One branch of the road was wide and smooth, with large, scented flowers all bunched around the edges.  The other was narrow and coarse with small, insignificant buds blooming along the cracks that ran through the road.  'Why shouldn't I choose the way that is clear and pleasant?' thought I, as I summoned my tiring feet forward. 

But the smooth way was not easier, as I soon found out.  It started leading me downwards towards a valley that smelled so strongly of rich perfumes, I felt myself growing faint with delight. The way was beautiful and satisfying, but as I reached the valley, I saw a terrible creature pacing back and forth along the grass.  At once I was horrified and I turned to escape the beast, but found that there were no longer pleasant flowers and lush meadows, but sharp crags and dusty winds rising up to meet me.  As storms raged and overcame me, I cried out for mercy and hid my face from the gales.  I staggered back the way I had come, but the road was steep and difficult for me to scale. But for my fear of the dragon, I should have laid down and let the storms take me.

"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater." ~ Lord of the Rings

After a long, arduous fight, I made it back to the little crossroads and took the narrow branch speedily. There was no apparent beauty, and my love for the other path began to taint my view of the small one, but I was reminded of the hideous beast and kept on.  I soon discovered that this road had a beauty of its own; the wildflowers that grew in the path made me stop and gaze at them. The birds were singing cheerfully and the sky was blue overhead.  Suddenly, the fog drifted back over the road and I could no longer see ahead of me further than one step, but the little light held fast in its center.  The birds still chirped and the flowers lingered, but I had to trust that the light would hold true and not lead me astray. 

After much climbing, upwards, as I believed, I began to grow weak from weariness. I shed my jacket and left it by the roadside and continued forward, until I reached the place where the fog again ceased. In its place was a weather-beaten shepherd, who sat with the rod in his hand and a flower in the other. 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." ~ Robert Frost

"So you have come," the shepherd said, as if expecting me.
"Yes, but where am I?" 
"You have come to where the road ends. Is that not why you have come? You set out to seek it."
"Indeed, I wanted to know where the road leads to, but I nearly forgot my purpose for coming. It has been a long journey." I said as I sat down to rest. 

Suddenly, the fog on the road vanished and all was clear as light upon water.  I could see the place at which I had started, far off in the distance, but it was as close as if it were before me. I saw the twisting winding road which I had taken, though I thought it to be straight. I saw the forked path and the valley which looked now as dark as midnight. And I saw that I had come to a place high above the rest and could see clearly the road that lay behind me. 

"You, my friend," said the shepherd with his rod, "have come a far way. The fog made it impossible to see, so that you would trust the light to guide your path. You took many turns that you did not know, but now, looking back, you can see what a journey you have taken. You fell prey to the temptations and delights of the wide path, and were nearly overcome by the evilness that lurked there.  But, dear one, you righted your course, and though difficult, you made your way back to the lighted path.  And now you are here, where the road ends. You have come into your home."

"…time has a way of leading a person along a crooked path. Sometimes the path is hard to hold to and people fall off along the way. They curse the road for its steep grades and muddy ruts and settle themselves in hinterlands of thorn and sorrow, never knowing or dreaming that the road meant all along to lead them home. Some call that road a tragedy and lose themselves along it. Others, those that see it home, call it an adventure." ~ The Fiddler’s Gun