Friday, November 25, 2016

When Reading Hits a Winter Season


When I passed my 30 book goal for 2016, I thought I would maybe make it to 50. It would be a tough stretch, but not an impossible go. And even if I made it into the mid-forties, that would still be respectable.

Now, at the end of November, I'm sitting stuck at 33. 50 just isn't going to happen this year. 40 probably won't either. I probably won't mind by the time next March rolls around. But what irks me most is the inability to finish anything. Finding a book that's quiet without being boring is challenging, and continuing a book for any length of time is almost impossible. Quiet is somewhat of a necessity right now for an over-taxed brain after an over-taxing year.

So I don't finish anything. And while that's not much to mark on Goodreads, I have been taking in stories this month. It's just been in a much, much slower way than I anticipated, and in very different forms. Perhaps reading is in hibernation mode right now--having it's winter day.

Earlier this month I picked up the Wingfeather Saga book 2 (North or be Eaten), and while it was too emotionally taxing to finish, it moved me to the depths of my soul, and I can't wait to read it properly.  It has grace and battles, temptation and joy and defeat and rebirth in a wondrous tale. I haven't been that moved in a long time. I'm also really enjoying Tracy Groot's Maggie Bright, a WW2 novel with phenomenally good writing. It's got more language than I care for, but I might finish it this week and give it a review.

In the afternoons we're reading A Girl of the Limberlost together. This story needs to be on every adult girl's reading list. I'm firmly convinced that Gene Stratton Porter has it right in the way she navigates tough relationships between parents and children. Her children don't become rebels or doormats. They maintain a healthy, respectful autonomy that girls struggling with being rebels or doormats need to read about and imitate.

On a recent road trip, I also picked up Wives and Daughters--how fascinating to realize that Doctor Gibson had an elusive first sweetheart named Jeannie. Who was Jeannie? And was Gibson someone's illegitimate son, or was that all the imagination of a town who didn't have any fact to go on? I wish I could know. Wives and Daughters is a perfect tranquil, interesting story to read if you're in need of something soothing.

Last week we went to the National Bible Bee in San Antonio, Texas. In between events, we hosted a couple of dear friends in our hotel room to watch episode 7 of Star Wars again. It was so fun--we had popcorn and hot chocolate and giggled and gasped over everything. I saw a detail I had never seen before--critiqued a couple of parts in my own mind I would have done better--and adored BB8 as per usual.

(Which makes me think, I need a writing cottage somewhere tucked away in England with BB8 and a bearded dragon for company. I would exchange the cat for BB8 if I had the option.)

Also on our trip, since I don't have any competitive responsibilities (being Too Old and having Never Done Bible Bee) I brought Little Dorrit, because nothing helps you knock out a 7 hour mini-series like a 10 day road trip. When we got home, the family wanted to see it too, so I'm watching the tail end by myself in between watching the beginning episodes with them. I can't say anything about this story because my family is currently watching it for the first time (DO NOT SPOIL ANYTHING IN THE COMMENTS). But it's super fun to see them all enjoying it--and spending Thanksgiving evening with Dickens was the best.thing.ever. If you want a content warning guide, jot me a line at ladybibliophileblog[at]gmail[dot]com, and I'll send it to you. The review includes violence, language count, and a list of exact timings to avoid nude statuary if you so prefer.

Side note: I know you don't want to become a movie junkie, but sometimes movies are easier to watch, and if stories are a love language for you, then ditch the guilt and watch the movie instead of reading. It's only temporary, and it's worth it.

Last night I pulled out the Little Dorrit book after we finished episode 6, and flipped through some of the pages. There were minor character names I didn't remember anymore--characters that they cut out of the movie because there are so many. I didn't remember that Pet had a twin sister that died, and that was why the Meagles loved and spoiled her so much. But it was fun to hold the book in my hands, with that sense of pride--that I had read all those pages, and it was a bibliophile trophy on my shelf.

There are more trophies to come. They may not be 800 page ones right now, but that's OK. There is a season for everything. Sometimes it's not a book I pull out--but a scene. Just before we took a trip, I pulled out Light of the Last by Chuck Black and read one of my favorite dramatic chapters. Sometimes it's a poem. A blog post. A psalm.

So if you're finding it hard to read anything, we're in this together. Read what you can, when you can. It will come back. I promise. And maybe even sooner than you think.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Newton and Polly

It's not often I like to bring a negative review here, unless it's a classic, but sometimes books just don't connect, and sadly, today's was one of them.



This cover is one of the most beautiful ones I've ever seen. I love to look at it and think it makes a beautiful complement to the life of this storm-tossed, grace-saved man. I truly wish I had loved the rest of the book as much. In this tale of John Newton's love for Polly Catlett, perhaps my biggest struggle was a lack of connection to the characters and conflict. Since we already knew Newton married Polly, I felt it would have been more interesting to choose a conflict other than a love triangle. The hunt for slaves and struggles with smuggling gave me a good taste of the historical times, while the hunt for kittens, building bookcases, and parties that John experienced as he lingered with Polly felt like they lessened the depth of the story for me. I think I would have loved to see them spending more time with music and composing instead. I also would have loved to see a stronger relationship between Polly and God early on in the story. A vigorous prayer life, not overshadowed by guilt and doubts, would have made a welcome addition to her life story.

Also, while John struggled with treating women honorably in real life, his love for Polly was showed most by his physical desire for her, and she echoed back the same perspective in her scenes. I understand that completely--there is physical desire present in love, especially as young as they were at the time that they met. But it felt like a very intense and heavy focus throughout their meetings. In the end, I just wasn't connecting and wasn't able to finish.

But I'm not the last opinion on this book! If you love Jody Hedlund's stories, you might connect with Newton and Polly much better than I did this time around. Feel free to check out more about her with the following links:

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Of Snippets From Various Novellas

I've been writing leisurely lately. Three different novellas are gripping my heart, each for different reasons and in different ways. I thought today it would be fun to share some snippets with y'all today. Yes?

YES SCHUYLER DON'T KEEP US IN SUSPENSE 

About the Novellas
I'm writing a modern-day country story, about a city girl who visits the country. It explores brokenness, mentoring, community, grief, and healing. (Country Novella)

I'm writing a 1913 spy novella--college student Jaeryn Graham is sent to investigate a mysterious kidnapping on the shores of Lake Windermere, until a disastrous twist sends him on the run in the Lake Country to survive. (Escape From Windermere)

And I'm writing another Caribbean novella. They don't all take place in the Caribbean, but that's the easiest placeholder name for it. This one is called Colby and Julian in New York City. Colby and Julian come to visit Roo, and there are all sorts of fun adventures.

Country Novella 

Toronto was nice at night. Something stirred in her soul, as she left the quiet suburbs behind where she had ridden bike and skipped rope and drawn chalk, back years ago when she talked and went to church and wrote sticky, sideways letters to send in the mail.  There was a for sale sign at one of the neighbor’s houses, she noticed with surprise. They had lived there since before her parents had moved in.

So that was changing, too.
*
You didn’t randomly eat cereal at the edge of a fallow field in the city. In fact, you didn’t eat it outside at all. You sat at the table, with a napkin and a cup of coffee and a newspaper. Grandaddy’s coffee pot was broken, and he didn’t approve of the newspaper—and all of a sudden, Becca realized she could go outside and eat her cereal and watch the sunrise if she wanted.

Not that she was exactly watching a sunrise. The sun had risen hours ago, and she was still sleeping. Granddaddy didn’t wake her up. They were all being careful of her—letting her recover.

*
Then Becca realized the pastor had finished his announcement and the woman was hitting the drumsticks to count of the rhythm. Granddaddy gave an audible sigh as they stood up and crashed into something. She hardly heard what it was. She was watching Caramel Girl, hitting those drums so passionately. Her eyes were closed, and her feet were in gold gladiator sandals, tapping the kick drum in perfect time, as her hands seemed to do six things at once. The people around them were singing. A hand went up on the other side of the auditorium, and all of a sudden Becca saw that Caramel Girl was singing too.

She had her eyes closed, and she was playing more drums than Becca could count, and she was singing.

She was smiling.
*
“You look like you need a hug, Becca girl.” That warm lilting voice again of Caramel Girl. Becca pricked up her ears. The voices were still singing by the fire, so they hadn’t all stopped to look after her.

“I don’t do hugs,” Becca gasped out.

“Then don’t hug back. I’ll give you one instead. Just like God does. Colossians, didn’t you know?” That gold circlet and the tanned arms slipped around her shoulders, and Izzy held her close, leaning her head on her shoulder. “I think you have secrets. But that’s all right. There will be time for that later. For now, you are just lost and need love, because you don’t love yourself anymore.”

Something salty rained down faster. Breath heaving, heart tearing, curling up as small as possible, dying inside. But living on in a cruel, unmerciful way.

Escape From Windermere 

No one knew what could possess anyone to kidnap a visiting stranger to Windermere. He’d come in for a visit, he said. Lunch order: one hot cup of coffee, one poached egg on toast. The housemaid had seen it before: business people with no appetite who, after a few days of hiking and hearty lake air, could polish off an entire English breakfast in one sitting. He’d be doing it by Friday, she guessed.
So she said to the police when she was giving her report, tears running down both reddened cheeks.
*
The police were puzzled, and set up a search accordingly, making inquiries of the quiet man who ran Windermere Ferry, checking telegraphs and mailings and train tickets in and out of town on Friday. But the abandoned boots found along the shore of Lake Windermere remained in their office without anyone to claim them, and the troubled lines had deepened on the housemaid’s face when the new clerk for Storr’s Hall arrived.

He had hiked in along the shoreline—he must have got off a station earlier and wanted a walk--tall, with a grey jumper and slender fingers clutching the strap of the knapsack on his shoulder. Martin, the bell boy, brought him in to her to be introduced to his duties.

“Cullin Reid,” the young man said, his lilt betraying his Irish upbringing. “Here to see to the books for you.”

The house maid looked appreciatively. Serene green eyes, dark curly hair reaching the edge of his shirt collar, and the young keen face of a student just fresh from examinations and ready for a summer away from studies. It wouldn’t be half bad to have him around to chat with.
*
As soon as she was gone, Cullen went to the window, took one more keen look out on the back lawn, seeming to take more interest in the direction of the shadows on it than on the young gentlemen playing cricket on the far side. Then, his inquiry evidently satisfied, he pulled the curtains on the bright sunshine and went to his bed where the worn leather knapsack lay. Untying the flap and reaching inside, he pulled out a small leather book, a pen, and a bottle of what might have been ink, but looked entirely too transparent to be legible on paper. Dipping his pen in the ink, he scratched a few illegible words on it, or at least none that Grace could have detected if she had been looking. Then he glanced at it, held it up to the light in a funny kind of tilt, and inserted the small sheet into an envelope. After pulling out another bottle—this time of real ink--he addressed the envelope and took it downstairs in quest of Grace.

Colby and Julian in New York City 

“What gives?” Colby asked Julian, around a mouthful of pulled pork, as Julian glanced between the two dishes. “Girlfriend or appetite?”
Julian hesitated and reached for the beef. Colby crowed in victory and slapped the edge of the table. Aunt Flora raised an eyebrow.
“Kumara,” I said flatly, “Is lovely.”
Julian grinned and reached over for the salad spoon. “I’ll do it, but I’m not turning vegan for love of you.”
“You think that if it comforts you, child,” Aunt Flora said.
*
The one thing about Colby Fisher when he watches something is that he wiggles terribly.
I had just gotten everyone settled in the living room with earl gray macaroons and Ize pops, and Tory looked a little less like a scared bunny left under the bush, when Colby pulled out a bag of Cheetos.
“Roo, your snacks are not patriotic. Junk food is the national American staple,” he said, opening the bag with a decisive rustle.
“Macaroons are refined,” I said, reaching over his head and pulling away the bag before he could react. “British.”
*
“Game,” I said desperately, wondering how in the world to play hostess to such a diverse bunch.
“Nope,” Julian said, suprisingly unhelpfully for him.
Colby perked up. “Pokemons. Let’s go look for Pokemons.”
“Colby—” I groaned.
“Not after yesterday,” Aunt Flora called from the couch.
He fell back and groaned in recollection.
“What?” I asked.
“Aunt Flora killed one outside the grocery store yesterday. She didn’t like it—said no friend of her niece’s should be involved in such a ridiculous thing.”
“I offered stopping or the next plane ticket home,” Aunt Flora said from the big stuffed chair, where the only thing I could see of her was the top of her white hair and one wrinkled, be-ringed hand resting tranquilly on the arm of it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Creating Character Arcs--K.M. Weiland's New Release!

Every author knows the delight of sinking your teeth into a powerful writing craft book. It gives you a further glimpse into your craft, opportunity to mull over how you do things, compare it to how others do things, and find YOUR happy process along the way.

But lest this book seems strictly writer-related, it's far from it! If you love to read, and want to learn more about the science behind how characters are created, then pick up K.M. Weiland's newest release (today!) Creating Character Arcs. Before you know it, you'll be bossing around terms like "flat arc" "midpoint" and "bleak moment" for everything from Beyond the Mask to Doctor Strange. It makes viewing and reading that much richer, and conversations with bookish friends that much more fun.

Here are my thoughts on this book.

The Book [From Amazon]
Powerful Character Arcs Create Powerful Stories

Have you written a story with an exciting concept and interesting characters—but it just isn’t grabbing the attention of readers or agents? It’s time to look deeper into the story beats that create realistic and compelling character arcs. Internationally published, award-winning novelist K.M. Weiland shares her acclaimed method for achieving memorable and moving character arcs in every book you write.

By applying the foundation of the Three-Act Story Structure and then delving even deeper into the psychology of realistic and dynamic human change, Weiland offers a beat-by-beat checklist of character arc guidelines that flexes to fit any type of story.

This comprehensive book will teach you:

How to determine which arc—positive, negative, or flat—is right for your character.

Why you should NEVER pit plot against character. Instead, learn how to blend story structure and character development.

How to recognize and avoid the worst pitfalls of writing novels without character arcs.

How to hack the secret to using overarching character arcs to create amazing trilogies and series.

And much more!

Gaining an understanding of how to write character arcs is a game-changing moment in any author’s pursuit of the craft.

Bring your characters to unforgettable and realistic life—and take your stories from good to great!

My Thoughts 
If you've ever read a character that seemed kind of flat, never learned anything they should have, or changed from bad to good so fast you got whiplash, they probably had a poorly crafted character arc. If you've ever read a sequel where the character seemed to unlearn everything they learned and then learn it a second time, it was definitely a poorly crafted character arc. That happens in the world of literature--but it doesn't have to.

Writing is a science, and Ms. Weiland has dedicated her time to unlocking that science for many of us author wanna-bes. Her popular website, www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com, has helped readers around the globe. It's one of my top recommendations. I love her upbeat style and generous interaction. But she doesn't stop at the outlining. Her books take much of her blog content and make it easy and accessible for learning writers. Her Outlining and Structuring books have seen me through lots of spring and summer afternoons, working on War of Honor. So when I had a chance to review Creating Character Arcs, I jumped at it.

I've read Ms. Weiland's blog, so her thoughts on characters weren't completely new to me. But reading it all in one book cover to cover was far easier than opening dozens of internet tabs in my quest to improve my characters. She has a relaxing, fun, and informative style to her writing books that make it easy to read, while every section is packed rich with information to improve your writing. She includes concrete tips, examples from film and literature (both classic and modern) and great questions at the end of every chapter to get you thinking how you're doing with your own characters.

When I finished writing War of Honor this spring, I remember walking away feeling like my main character had no arc. It was just the thing I was afraid would happen. But as I went through her book, and answered some of the questions at the end of each chapter, I was very happy to discover that my character was grappling, learning, gaining tools, and finding defeat or victory moments at just the right places. I'm sure much of that came from instinctual absorption of Katie's teaching, and reading Creating Character Arcs was just the confirmation I needed to know that I have been following good structure--now all I need in draft two is to shine it up and polish it.

I highly recommend this book for an informative read for writers and readers alike--character arcs are super fun to discuss, and I'm even using what I learned from this book to think through the story of Esther that our pastor is preaching about!

Head on over to Amazon and treat yourself to a copy. 

I received an advance copy from the author. All opinions expressed are my own. No affiliate links in this post.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Sunshine Blogger Award

I got tagged for the Sunshine Blogger Award thanks to the lovely fellow Tolkien fan, Benita J. Prins. She thought up some awesome questions, and I couldn't wait to do it for you all!


The rules:

– Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
– Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
– Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
– List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

The Questions

Who is your favourite actor/actress and why?
I enjoy Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Richard Armitage, Emily Blunt, Ramola Garai, and Jeremy Brett. 

There are others I enjoy while I would have technical critiques of their acting, but these ones I enjoy because they act very, very well. 

How many languages do you speak well enough to hold a conversation?
English and Authorese. Also Tolkienese. Those are languages, and they are very important ones to know. 

What is the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?
Probably The Prisoner of Zenda. I was glued to that all Sunday afternoon, and could.not.stop. It was just epic and swashbuckly goodness. (That's a word. I made it.) It does have some profanity in it, so be aware as you pick it up. 

What is one genre you would never read?
Horror or erotic. I would think those would be fairly obvious. 

Do you have any unique quirks?
Mhm. I found one the other day. When I'm done with a CD or DVD, I don't put it back where it belongs. I put it in the case of whatever I'm watching or listening to next. I leave this trail of DVDs in the wrong cases, so you can figure out the order of what I've been watching by putting them all back in the right ones. It's like a treasure hunt. 

Other quirks: 
-I always eat my toast starting at the top of the slice of bread because SERIOUSLY who can eat something starting from the bottom. That's out of order. It drives me crazy.

^^Random 

What’s the best book-to-movie adaptation you’ve ever seen?
Ohhh, I don't know. The Ramola Garai Emma is really good, as is North and South. Also Great Expections with Jeremy Irvine. I'll go with those. 

Do you like maps?
Hahahahahahaha. Ask my family about my geography skillz. They will laugh too. Maps are pretty on fabric as purse linings, or on the covers of notebooks, or inside book covers. I once dedicated myself to a map when I read The Silmarillion. Sometimes I look at maps when I'm trying to figure out where I'm supposed to be going on MapQuest. But last year, we drove down to Texas and drove back and I had no idea of where we were in the state the entire time. I mean, I knew the names of where we were, but not where it looked like on the map. *cough* 

So....yeah. Maps are nice little fellas, and they and I don't mix much. 

How often do you write by hand compared to typing?
Actually, I write fairly often by hand between note taking on sermons, for stories, and answer questions for Bible Study Fellowship lessons. But by far, I type most on the computer. I still like to think I have a happy mix, though. 

Which author’s books can you never resist picking up?
Patrick Carr's fantasy will always attract me. I really enjoy Kristy Cambron's historical fiction as well. K.M. Weiland will always get my loyalty. Suzannah Rowntree as well. (Have you heard of ONCE yet?) 

What is your favourite letter of the alphabet?
I think any letter that starts the name of a friend or beloved character gives me happy endorphins, especially when I see it in my email inbox. (Friends. My characters haven't taken to emailing me yet.) 

How much chocolate do you consume on a weekly basis?
Depends on the week. We eat chocolate chips without putting them in anything around here. Sometimes that's all the chocolate we have, and we're desperate. This week was pretty good, because we had brownies, and a friend gave me two Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. I was a happy girl on election day. ;)

(Now that's odd, isn't it. Where are you in this nation, Schuyler?)

And there you have it! I'm going to forgo the questions and tagging this time, but be sure to come back Tuesday for a wonderful writerly book review!

Friday, November 4, 2016

10 Politicians I Would Invite to a Round Table Discussion



I don't know about you, but I've heard about a little election that's ongoing right now. While I don't comment online about it, and only briefly in face-to-face settings, I have noticed that it's seemed to create a certain amount of turmoil.

While some people are satisfied with our current selection of prospective presidents, I've heard many others who are deeply disturbed at what either one could bring to America's future. I'm not here to comment on parties today--but I did think it would be fun, during the political season, to create a round table discussion linkup for 10 politicians from literature and history I would like to hang out with.

If I were running America for an evening, then a round table discussion with these politicians and rulers would be absolutely my cup of tea.

High King Peter 
A resourceful and noble young man, with a heart committed to Aslan, he would offer excellent advice about just ruling, not to mention an example of a noble private life as track record.

Alan Evesham 
(This is cheating, because I wrote Alan Evesham as a government official in my latest War of Honor novel.  But it counts because it's literature. If random write-in votes were actually valid, I might be tempted to put his name down.) Alan Evesham's perspective would bring a refreshing sense of honesty and integrity, as well as expert knowledge on how to investigate corrupt government officials.

he's so nice, i wish he was real. 

Prince Albert
With our need for a concrete government plan, Prince Albert would be excellent at casting the vision for arts and sciences, improving current political functions, and making sure the executive orders and vetos didn't encroach on the will of the other government branches.

Warwick 
We don't need Warwick for any government functions. He's a slightly two-edged tool to have about us, because he's a little heavy on personal advancement. But he would be useful on the campaign field and could take care of any private alliances or negotiations for whatever candidate we chose to put forth.

clearly, Schuyler, you are leaning in a British direction. should you be realizing something? 

Prince Caspian
Well trained, born for the position of ruling, and with a heart untainted by greed, he could give excellent strategies for a last minute campaign that would mobilize fringe supporters and turn the tables on large party establishments.

King Arthur
A legendary ruler who can inspire his followers to standards of honor, dignity, integrity, and the right treatment of women.

William Wilberforce 
Whose rhetoric would win the hearts of men, sway voters, expose injustice and unwise government policies, and would definitely be the MC for the round table discussion.

To represent local officials with smaller offices, I would recommend:

Prince Imrahil
A forgotten and underestimated ruler in the Middle Earth kingdom, he was faithful in the midst of hard circumstances, conducted himself with honor, and knew who to obey and when. He would make an excellent state governor, though he would deserve a much higher position than that.

Hugh Beringar
A sense of justice, an ability to conduct himself respectfully with higher men, and the strength to be faithful in small and great duties alike, he would watch over the needs of his community in the midst of national turmoil.

Father Stanton
For his views on beauty, individual property, Christian office, and education, he would be invaluable. He would be excellent on the board of education, or in any local position you chose to put him in.

King Tirian would also be an excellent choice, if only we had room. Clearly, C.S. Lewis knew how to write a ruler. If only America knew how to educate and elect them.

Who would run your national government? Your local government? Who would run your campaigns, or donate to them? Join the link-up fun with your literary choices for a political round table discussion!

(Let's keep it fun in the comments, m'kay? *high five*) 





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