Friday, November 28, 2014

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving

One of our favorite Thanksgiving stories is An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving, by Louisa May Alcott. It's a charming tale, and easily read in a half-hour to celebrate the holiday season. 

Sixty years ago, up among the New Hampshire hills, lived Farmer Bassett, with a houseful of sturdy sons and daughters growing up about him. They were poor in money, but rich in land and love, for the wide acres of wood, corn, and pasture land fed, warmed, and clothed the flock, while mutual patience, affection, and courage made the old farmhouse a very happy home.

Farmer Bassett's family is looking forward to a glorious holiday season, with good food and loving relatives, when disaster strikes the night before. Grandma, living at a neighboring farm, falls ill, and the Bassett parents hurry off, taking the baby with them, to see her before it's too late. Tilly, Prue, and Eph stay behind to look after the other children like little grownups, and Tilly, eager to gratify her siblings, decides that she ought to be able to get up a Thanksgiving dinner on her own. The next day they set to work.

It's a hilarious escapade, with cooking disasters, trying to choose which herbs to put in the stuffing, fending off strange bears bringing oranges, and flying around in a flurry of activity when Ma and Pa and all the relatives come home for dinner.

Since this is a short story it won't be a lengthy review; but it's a pleasant way to spend an afternoon with a warmhearted family doing everyday things. There's even a tale of history thrown in for good measure, and a lot of country dancing to end it on a high fling. If you love cozy family reads and haven't yet checked this out, you can find the entire story here.

We used to read it every year, and dearly loved the Bassett family and their holiday adventures.

I hope you all had a blessed time celebrating with family yesterday!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

War of Loyalties Character Interviews--Jaeryn Graham

Welcome to the November interview for my current work-in-progress, War of Loyalties! To catch up on other posts about the novel, check out the new tab above.

Before we begin, Jaeryn would like to insert the disclaimer that he makes absolutely no guarantees for the truthfulness of these answers. He is an agent for His Majesty's secret service, and answers these questions as an agent. He has been known to tell outright lies upon occasion. He's like potent medicine, so make his acquaintance at your own risk. 

The Interview

What is your real, birth name? What name do you use?
I currently go by Jaeryn Graham, but I have about six different aliases that I've used over the years.

What do you look like? (Include height, weight, hair, eyes, skin, apparent age, and distinguishing features)
6'1". Black hair, that was sometimes wavy and sometimes not, until Schuyler made up her mind and settled on wavy. Green eyes. Unblemished skin, with a few scars on the face. Apparent age, late twenties. Distinguishing features? Two crooked fingers, and aforesaid green eyes that can pierce.your.very.soul.

Do you own a car? Describe it.
I just bought one. A 1914 Vauxhall Prince Henry, for a decent price. It's black, but it looks rather like this car:

 What were you like in high school? What "clique" did you best fit in with?
Actually, I was a pretty popular fellow. Fit in with all the middle-class run-of-the-mill lot, and made the rich boys dance in their shoes on occasion. [evilgrin]

What is something you had to learn that you hated?
There are some times when taking advantage of well-meaning people is just a touch unpleasant, however necessary.

What is your favorite food?
Dark chocolate and Irish breakfast tea, strong and hot.

What kind of things embarrass you? Why?
A slip in good judgment. I'm supposed to be infallible, and mistakes lead to bad consequences and increased vulnerability.

What is the most frightening potential handicap or disfigurement you can conceive of? What makes it so frightening?
 Blindness would be horrible. So would deafness. Both of those senses are very important in my line of work, and as my work is a vital piece of who I am, I want all my senses sharp. I want the use of  all my limbs. I don't mind scarring; physical attractiveness is not important to me. But I think the very, very worst thing that would make me shudder to think of would be going insane.

[The below questions are taken from the Beautiful People interviews, and I have answered them for him.]

Does he or she write, dream, dance, sing, or photograph?
No. He is not good at anything artistic whatsoever. With a name like his, he really ought to be.

Favorite season of the year?
Winter. It suits his grey sweaters and dark hair and nice, hot cups of tea. Jaeryn is attached to his cups of tea, especially in the mornings.

Is there something he or she is afraid of?
He's afraid of losing the agents under him. He wants to make sure that those loyal to him come out of each mission in one piece.

 What does his handwriting look like? (round, slanted, curly, skinny, sloppy, neat, decorative, etc.)
Doing this with your geography student gets them extra points:

What kinds of things get on his/her nerves?
Tight-lipped people. Morning walks. Cold tea. Incessant talking. Lack of punctuality. Having to get up early.

What do your other characters have to say about them?
"A good fellow", "Prying", "Good-humored",  "Pushes too far", "Hospitable", "Enigmatic".

Where were they born, and when?

In Derry, Ireland. September 9th, 1889

Origin of the Name Jaeryn
The name Jaeryn is actually an accident. I was digging up some Irish names, with the vague idea that his name must begin with "J", and wrote down "Jaryn" on a piece of paper. Somewhere along the way an 'e' accidentally got added, and by the time I discovered the 'e' shouldn't be there, it was too late. He was Jaeryn.

I did more research and could only discover that the name Jaeryn was Hebrew. That didn't really sit well since he was supposed to be Irish, but I was dead determined to keep it, and wrote one scene where he was Jewish. It was a good scene. It could have worked. But a friend very kindly did some more research and told me she thought it could logically be of Celtic origin with the roots of the name and the lateness in history of my story.

Jaeryn has a strong personality that would work at twenty or fifty, with blond hair or black, with Irish or Jewish or even American background. But he's best as a dark-haired Irishman at twenty-seven years of age. ;)

He now has a  puppy named after him, a very cute little girl puppy who will have an honorary cameo in War of Loyalty's sequel: (Posted with the permission of the owner.)

   "I do not fear error either. I play to win." The Irishman's white teeth flashed out in an easy smile at his boast, and he threw back his shoulders as if eager to take on the next responsibility. "Now tell me what you want me to do." 
~War of Loyalties  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tall Tales: Comfort With Sin Equals Maturity

"You should only read this book if you're mature enough to handle it."

This phrase is circulating around the blogosphere lately, a good phrase in itself and very true, that I have been pondering this last week. While the phrase is generally used to give a heads-up to people about explicit content in a story, I think it can be interpreted wrongly to mean that a reader is immature for not being able to handle a book.

If one sweeps sex, violence and language under the rug of 'maturity', that immediately pressures well brought up girls to face the fact that they want to be mature, and they also don't want to excuse sin. What are they to do? Some people are less sensitive to language, for instance. Others are not

In the desperation to be mature, aggressive readers can take on an attitude of "I can hold my liquor with the best of them," while other readers feel shame that they throw up when they drink it. Thus, the thought itself deserves some definition.

Do different levels of sensitivity mean different levels of maturity?

It depends.

Some Books Are For Older Readers 
People would be well served to use 'older readers' phraseology instead of 'mature reader'. You can have a mature 12yo who isn't ready to handle Russian literature, for instance, or a mature 40yo that takes no interest in Russian literature. Maturity is somewhat individual. There are 12yos who can read Russian lit and handle it fine. The ability of one and the inability of the other does not define their maturity.

However, the appropriate time to allow them to handle certain themes defines their capability. There are pleasures and concepts in life that are better able to be handled after the frontal, emotional lobe has completely developed, so they can be handled properly and biblically. Thus, we have the phrase around our house "this is an older book", meaning it's good, but can do damage if read too soon.

Some Readers Are Immature
When I was younger, some things I called sin that were not. It was like in Screwtape where he's talking about the young Christian fiancee:
It is an unobtrusive little vice which she shares with nearly all women who have grown up in an intelligent circle united by clearly defined belief; and it consists in a quite untroubled assumption that the outsiders who do not share this belief are really too stupid and ridiculous. ~The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis, chapter 24 
There is a kind of self-righteous immaturity that can be extremely restrictive when it comes to reading. The idea that all characters must act with the same moral lifestyle as the reader, or they are in sin is unwise. (I.e., "Our family doesn't drink wine, so all characters who drink wine are in sin.") Also unwise is forcing everything to be neat and tidy and perfect and refusing to allow the book to combat real issues, conflicts, and sinfulness.

On the flip side, it is immature to have no boundaries whatsoever. Readers who don't think through the moral implications of the character's sin, who accept the author's words merely because they are a Christian, or who excuse wrongdoing because of a well-handled plot are relying on others to make judgments for them, and taking a shallow view of dominion-minded reading.

Most serious Christians grow out of both of these stages, and time is the best overcomer for this matter. Both are certainly very forgivable and natural mistakes that we all fall into at some point in our lives.

Some Mature Readers Choose to Abstain 

Here is the crux of the matter.

While it is immature to deny sin, and immature to avoid sin, two equally mature readers may come to an appropriate difference as to how much sin they will choose to allow.

Now as to what's sin, and what's not--that's where the heart of the debate lies. But don't feel forced to cave in just because your standards are a little tighter than others. Conscience is individual. It is not to be violated for the sake of majority consensus, even if you find yourself treading a narrower path than everyone else.

The Recabites in Jeremiah were not immature for honoring their father and choosing to abstain from wine--even though other mature believers drank it. Readers are not immature for choosing to honor parents, avoid something that causes them special temptation, or abstain from something that they feel they are not ready to handle--whether other Christian readers are accepting it or not.

It would be immature to judge the level of their faith for choosing to participate; but it would also be immature to force yourself to accept the same things without flinching just because you desperately want to be considered one of the grown-ups. People will respect you for differing with them, even if  your standards are narrower than theirs.

The mark of maturity means that other people may believe differently than you, but you do not allow that to shake you when you choose not to participate. Allow them to participate, because they have the freedom before God to do that. Don't force yourself to join the party if that violates your conscience.

The mark of maturity, as a friend once told me, means that whatever you can read to the glory and praise of God, with thanksgiving, you do, and not one whit further--no matter if the person sitting next to you is thanking God for it.

You do not need to be ashamed of that.

Thus, I think it's good to clarify.

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Every Author Needs From Every Bibliophile

This isn't a pep talk about encouragement or fangirling or what you might expect from a title like the above. Authors need those things, and need them very much.

But there's one great power we have as readers, which doesn't get too much press time, and which is so vital for a Christian bibliophile.

That's accountability.

I've been thinking deep on a couple of issues this week, and Tuesday and Friday will be the fruits of that contemplation. They may be controversial, but I hope they will give food for thought and a fresh perspective on some issues that readers and writers wrestle with. Today we're discussing the importance--and necessity--of the reader relationship to get the author back in line when they're off track.

Authors can get off track. They're human; fumbling to tell God's stories after Him, with a heart to do the right thing, but also a keen longing to portray reality. Issues like sex, sin, language, and violence in books are perennial topics on the blogosphere simply because everyone has a different opinion on how best to honor God with the details. After all, people do have affairs. They do swear. Men have swung swords to kill throughout history. It would be foolish and near-sighted to deny that.

But at the same time, readers can sense when an author is playing the details simply to flex their muscles of power. There can be a general attitude among writers of "I am An Author. I create. And I intend to be true to my voice and beliefs." that effectively silences criticism. Not to mention the hairy idea of "My characters do it, and I really have no idea how to control them."

I'm a big proponent of letting characters play in the playground, but adult supervision is key. ;)

So how can a reader help an author stay true and humble to the Word of God?

Contact them. 
We shouldn't just disagree and tell all our friends. (Ouch.) Tell the author themselves. I know it's scary. They might be offended and never speak to you again. Other readers might think you're just driveling on. But say something. Don't just hide; don't just talk behind their back. Draft a concise, friendly, honest email and click the send button. They will thank you in their minds for being honest and mature, at the very least.

Be gracious. 
Don't yell. Don't use excessive emotion. Don't use the guilt trip or sweeping absolutes or narrow moral strictures. If you know that mature Christians think differently than you on the point you're making, you can still make the point, but realize that there's room for different viewpoints.

What bibliophiles really need to hold authors accountable for is viewpoints that could lead readers into error. That's key. Viewpoints can be expressed in character words or behavior, or narrative itself, depending on the style. If authors are teaching something through the story that is anti-biblical, or unwise, then that's where you as the reader contact and gently point out the fact that this displeases you.

The goal of accountability is because you love the author. 
"I love your work, and I want to see your books give full honor to the Lord." When we express disagreement in that spirit, then we will be giving the faithful wounds of a friend. The speech seasoned with salt and grace. Giving an author kisses all the time isn't friendly, and won't help them. Our goal is to strengthen them in Christ, and to strengthen the Body of Christ. Speaking up not only helps you and helps them, but helps other readers as well.

The review is powerful. 
Once those ratings start dropping on Amazon, and the reviews get a little more dubious, authors start pricking up their ears. If an author show consistent blind spots in a serious area, then it's all right to write an honest review and give the heads-up to other readers. Make sure you don't bash their books--but since the author is putting out the book in public, it is acceptable to give an honest critique in public as well.

Know your power. 
Authors can probably find fans who won't question them, but they don't want that. They want committed, thinking people who will dialogue and and read their books on a deeper level, and most of them are prepared for the fact that deeper thinking will lead to different opinions on some things. When you both are believers, you have the added power of talking to them about your concerns in the context of sin and dominion, and challenging them to bring their books under the guidelines of what is pleasing to the Lord.

Realize it's their decision. 
If an author is a sincere Christian, hopefully they will take your advice and weigh it and wrestle with it before rejecting it. We all have blind spots that we won't listen on, and many times that's what you're trying to contact them about, but most likely they will read through your advice and think it out carefully. They may choose for biblical reasons and between their own conscience and the Lord not to apply that advice. Let them. I've had that happen as a reader with contacting authors. I have received negative feedback and chosen (after much prayer) not to apply it on occasion. Authors simply can't live life tailoring their books to everything that readers might not like.

But they should listen to readers' concerns and think them through.

Pray for them. 
Just like you'd pray for a pastor or a teacher. Authors are writing words and sending them out into the world to influence people. That is a heady responsibility. We're all prone to pride, and when we're proud we don't see or accept correction well. Pray that the Lord would protect their hearts and guide their words. If you see them getting off-track, pray that the Lord would help them get back on. The powerful prayer of a righteous man availeth much. And whether or not they agree with our point, we should pray continually that the Lord would keep them pure and glorifying to him.

Make your point and then back off. 
Sting once, quickly and lovingly, and they'll remember. Buzz around the house like a fly, and you'll only be remembered as a pest. No one pays attention to the person who keeps on disagreeing and pressing their point. You can plant the seed, another reader can water it, but only the Holy Spirit's work of grace and conviction can make it grow.

Spend most of your time upbuilding them for what you like. 
Most comments and emails should be with what you appreciate. That's going to go a lot farther than critiquing; and authors will be eager to give you more of what you enjoy. They're human people; many of them would be grieved if they had done something that wasn't honoring to the Lord. But if they're Christians, most of their work will probably be good and glorifying. Tell them that. Praise them. Cheer them on. Don't kill the dream--wound with truth and then heal with grace.

For some of us this concept of keeping authors accountable is too easy, and we're eager to get in there and share our opinions. For others, disagreeing is very hard and doesn't come naturally. Most times when I disagree with someone, I'll lose a night's sleep formulating a gracious and mature response, and then never give it to them. That's not the best way to handle it.

Speak your piece. Authors need to hear. Speak it in love. Authors need that, too. Allow God to speak to the heart. Only He can do that.

It's part of the Great Conversation that makes for deeper, richer interaction among the world of bookworms.

Who do you need to contact this week?


Friday, November 14, 2014

War of Loyalties November Snippets

Here are some November snippets for War of Loyalties! I hope you all enjoy them. :)

            Jaeryn stood with his mouth open in frozen shock before recollecting himself. "I was under the impression you wanted a career in intelligence. That's what Ryson told me."
            "No, I only came for one assignment. As soon as it's finished I'm going home to set up a practice," Ben reiterated.
            The surprise of his words effectively silenced any further questions Jaeryn wanted to ask. He was rather dumbfounded for the rest of the afternoon, and didn't attempt any more personal inquiries. But Ben could see the green eyes processing their conversation as fast as the slim white fingers scrawled out prescriptions, and he had no doubt the doctor would be back with more questions in future.
            "Speaking of letters, I'm going to write to my parents after supper. Am I allowed to mail it with my real name?" The corners of Charlotte's eyes creased in laughter. "They'll want to know what I've done with you if I put Dailey on the envelope."
            She wasn't the prettiest woman he had ever seen--more pale than rosy-cheeked, and rather too slender than not. But she had soft skin, and a smile that was gentle or bright by turns, and she always carried herself straight and tall with her head held high and a ready word for everyone she met. After a few months of friendship at medical school, he loved her too much to graduate and go his way without her.
            Jaeryn stirred his tea with his spoon. It was cold by now, simply a conventional cover for the conversation; and there was nothing he hated so much as cold tea.
            Fenton raised an eyebrow. “Do you mind telling me the reason for your interest in him? You don't show such affection towards the rest of us.”
            "Perhaps the rest of you lot aren't worth my while," Jaeryn retorted.
            Jaeryn frowned, then held up his hand for silence, and cocked his head to listen again. "Are you sure you don't hear a plane?"
            Ben strained to hear the thrum of an engine above the clatter and clang of the market. "No, I--" Then he, too, caught a faint droning, followed by a muffled rumble, and the hair rose on his arms, though he could not have said why.
            Fire raged in the remains of the grocery across the street, and a team of men worked frantically, pouring sand to try to smother it. One of them, a muscular fellow whose red hair was streaked black with soot, held the position closest to the fire and worked with a will, but he paused to wave as Jaeryn came out of the clinic.
            Jaeryn waved back and shouted urgently, "Tell me where most of the casualties are."
            "Bouverie Road, doc," the man yelled. "This place is the worst, but they'll need help there, too."
            "The pane of glass shattered in my face. Do something, for mercy's sake." Jaeryn grimaced as he spoke, and the blood trickled in rivulets down his face, turning Ben sick with the sight of it.
            Oh God, have pity and let her not be there.
            The sound of the Channel waves' ceaseless roar against the rocks greeted Ben when he opened the door the next morning, and he hurried out to look before heading into town. A cool breeze filled the air with its salty tang, and the sky showed mother-of-pearl and pink in the sunrise. Light mist as airy as gossamer thread hovered over the water, hinting at rain later. Far above him, the gulls circled back and forth on the wind currents, calling to each other with shrill mews. He breathed it in, content to soak in the calm and leave the world behind. It calmed the nervousness that he felt in starting his first day, and almost made him anticipate it with pleasure.
            "You're a filthy parasite," Jaeryn groaned, returning to the present
            "You asked for my services, didn't you?" Fenton looked up at him with shrewish eyes. "I give them in my own way or not at all."
            Jaeryn came up then and gave a frosty nod to Mrs. Miekle, who returned one of her own with the same degree of coolness. "Dailey, don't forget that you're in charge of the calls tonight," Jaeryn said."I have some errands to run, so I suggest you drop Mrs. Dailey off home as soon as possible and come back to the clinic."
            "Ye're in an awfu' rush, aren't ye, doctor?" the postmistress said sweetly.
            "Yes, ma'am. I like to keep busy," the Irishman replied.
            "An' a good resolution too, so long as a body keeps busy wi' honest work."
            "Certainly." Jaeryn touched his hat brim in farewell.
            Ben roused himself. "He's a gentleman, and a rich one at that." Jaeryn had to strain his eyes to see his assistant while they talked, but he could sense the young American had relaxed from his usual reserve after an evening out, and he was glad. "His voice is almost hypnotic," Ben said. "So deep and smooth he wraps you around his little finger without you even protesting.  I don't envy the side he's working against, whichever side that may be."
            Ben reached out and smoothed down her hair as innocently as if she really were as young as she looked. "Don't worry anymore. I will take care of you."

            The stranger grinned, and thrust his hands in his pockets, obviously confident of his powers of service...."It was a pleasure. She's a pretty little acushla."  

All text from War of Loyalties, by Schuyler McConkey. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Lord of the Rings Tag

The Ringbearers, copyright Jenny Dolfen

Today feels like a Tolkien sort of day. :) I have a 30 day LOTR challenge here, which I am going to combine into one blog post. Unfortunately I don't know who the original questions belong to to give credit, but I have had it on my Pinterest board for a long time.

Here goes!

1. How did you discover LOTR? Tell us about it. 
I don't remember exactly how it came to my attention, but I asked my dad if he minded me reading the books, and after he granted permission, I joyfully embarked on the most wonderful literary adventure I have ever had.
2. Your favorite movie? And book?
Favorite movie is definitely The Fellowship of the Ring. I love the first film, the scenery, the characters--it carries on the enchanting joy I felt after dipping into the book for the first time. As for books, I am torn between them, but will share the glory and say Return of the King.
3. Is there any of the film adaptations that have made you angry because they've ignored important parts of the book?
Hum. Hum. He. Ha ha HA.
4. Who is your least and your most favorite female character and why? 
Favorite would be Eowyn, because of the beautiful way Tolkien handled femininity, the lie of Eve, and her finding her place in working dominion for her people. Least favorite would be Goldberry. I don't dislike her at all, it's just she didn't capture my interest.
5. Who is your least and your most favorite male character and why? 
Least favorite would be Wormtongue because of his poisonous deceits. Favorite would be Gandalf or Samwise--for their wisdom, perseverance, and Sam's simple-hearted friendship.
6. Where would you like to live in Middle Earth? 
I would be tempted to live in the Shire. I like quiet hobbit holes where the world is bright and green, and nothing adventurous ever happens. But in the end I like a bit of refinement (especially in table manners) and I would miss stories that stir the soul and songs and laughter and glorious nobility. I think I would choose Elrond's place--the elves at Rivendell.
7. Favorite poetry?
From LOTR? Definitely the song that Sam sings at the tower of Cirith Ungol. "I will not say the day is done, or bid the stars farewell."
8. What is your favorite people (hobbits, orcs, elves, ents, men, dwarves, etc.)? 
Hobbits. Love them. Need a gardener like Samwise.
9. Faovrite song from the LOTR OST? 
I've listened to May it Be pretty often. :)
10. Lothlorien or Rivendell? 
Rivendell. As aforementioned. They seem further from danger, and more in touch with the concerns of Middle Earth.
11. What character would you say you are most like? And what character do you wish you were most like? 
I've taken quizzes and gotten Galadriel, but in my worst moments I'd probably be like the fifth hobbit who stayed behind. :P Up to a point I could be a combination Sam and Frodo. I don't know--any ideas? In the Hobbit quiz I was Balin and nearly Thorin--counselor type and slow to rouse, but with a deep anger against injustice when once I am quickened to it. I think I would gladly be like Galadriel. Able to resist evil, and comfort those who carried heavier burdens than I.
12. First, Second, Third Era or (even) fourth era, and why? 
First. To see the Valar and the creation of Middle Earth would be spectacular. There's so much more to learn about the first, and I feel like I would have to see it to fully grasp and understand what's going on.
13. Least favorite movie? And book? 
Movie definitely The Two Towers (yes, a lot of it is still awesome). And book--I suppose in all due fairness I should force myself to answer this.

But I can't.

Aragorn, copyright Jenny Dolfen
14. Team Mordor or Team "all free peoples or Middle Earth"?
As a Christian, I go for all free peoples of Middle Earth. There is no other answer.
15. Who would be your best friends at Middle Earth? (Three only). 
Three! Arwen, the Gaffer, and Legolas. If they would have me.
16. Favorite hobbit? 
The Gaffer!
17. Are you excited about "The Hobbit" movie or scared it won't do the book justice? 
I am over the moon for the final Hobbit movie. It gives promise of fulfilling great expectations, and I think Peter Jackson, as this is the last Middle Earth film we shall see for some time, will do the book 85-90% justice. It's going to be exciting! I have the waterproof mascara all ready for it.
18. Ever dressed up as one of LOTR characters? Tell us about it. 
Never. Unfortunately. I should throw a LOTR party someday.
19. Do you prefer the books or films? 
I prefer the books for their richness, strong worldview, beauty, and artistry. I prefer the movies for a quick LOTR fix when I'm tired or lonely for Middle Earth.
20. If you had to meet one member of the cast, who would it be? 
I'm not sure I really want to meet any of them...probably Elijah Wood or Sir Ian Holm.
21. Out of all the characters that died, if you could bring one back, who would it be? 
Not going to answer this question. It's too dangerous to put spoilers out in the open like that.
22. Scariest place? 
Paths of the Dead. I hate Shelob, yes, and Moria was bad, but Paths of the Dead would be horrific.
23. Any part of the books/movies that makes you cry? 
I always cry at the end of the book or the movie. Tear up like a baby. I cry over some bits with Sam in the movies, his speech in TTT, and when he holds Frodo and remembers the Shire.
24. Any particular scene you wished would have been put in the movie but it wasn't? 
I think I most miss the scene where Frodo and Sam are having dinner with Faramir. That was my favorite scene from TTT, and thus my prejudice against the movie.
25. For you what was the worst part of the Ring-bearer journey to destroy the one ring? 
When Frodo and Sam, disguised as orcs, were captured by the orcs and forced to march in the orc line. *shiver*
26. If you could spend one day of your life in Middle Earth, where would you go? What would you do? To whom would you speak to? 
I would go to Gondor. I would have lunch in the halls of Rivendell. I would eat at the Inn of the Prancing Pony. I would speak to Galadriel and Bilbo and Aragorn and Merry and Pippin and Sam's daughter Elanor. And if I were granted such an esteemed privilege, I would ask to sail into the West. Even if they wouldn't let me sail the whole way--just to sail a little, and then be swept back to my own earth again.
27. Would you rather own Narya, Nenya or Vilya? 
None. I am content to live in humble obscurity. If I had to safeguard one, I would choose Gandalf's or Galadriel's.
28. Apart from LOTR, what's your favorite book? 
The Silmarillion. It deserves it.
29. Did you enjoy the Lord Of The Rings Soundtrack? 
Yes, of course, though I don't listen to it often.
30. What effect has The Lord of The Rings made on your life and how much does it mean to you? 
Next to the Bible, the Lord of the Rings has had the most profound impact on my literary diet and way of thought. Since reading it, I have pondered deeply the epic legend of Christianity, God's way of working with his people, and good and evil in the hearts and minds of men. It opened me to a wider realm of literature and taught me that writing well takes time and is worth taking as much time as you need. Whenever I feel rushed, I think of Tolkien's 11 years completing LOTR.

Tolkien was a catalyst that helped me better understand and see the glory of Scripture. I am grateful for it.

And there you have it!

This, friends and fellow bibliophiles, is my 300th blog post! :) Thank-you all for reading so faithfully, and if you've enjoyed the content here, I would be greatly obliged if you could give it a follow under the Google Followers and spread the word to other fellow bibliophiles who might enjoy this blog. Spreading the word not only helps me boost my own platform and make plans for future writing and publication, but also gets the content into as many hands as possible, which is what I would love to do.

Come back Friday for the second installment of War of Loyalties snippets!

Lady Bibliophile

Monday, November 10, 2014

Anon, Sir, Anon Blog Tour

"And over the years every time Farnham has been at Whistlecreig and there’s been any sort of mystery, I remind him he stands to lose ten quid if he doesn’t beat the police. I’m waiting for that one perfect case that baffles him.” -Anon, Sir, Anon by Rachel Heffington

Hello friends and fellow bibliophiles! Today I have the pleasure of hosting Anon, Sir, Anon on its tour around the blogosphere. Rachel gave me the delightful task of sharing favorite quotes and whatnot with you all, so if you're still waffling over purchasing this lovely mystery, I hope the delightful little snippets here will convince you!

This statement elicited a chuckle from her companion. “Old ways die long deaths. I suppose Farnham is no one’s real landlord but he is a Farnham and they’ve headed the land from time out of mind. Folk still respect him for his bloodline and breeding.”
“I’d rather they respect him for his decency.” Vivi spoke in a low voice, feeling it was rather bold of her to state a less than flattering opinion aloud.
“Pouting? Has your uncle set you off your tea, Vivi? He’s an odd boy but you won’t hear anyone criticize his mettle. Give him a chance.”
“I didn’t expect a lecture from you.”
“At your service, madam.” Jimmy tipped his cap. “Perhaps I ought to go into business as a young ladies’ finishing school marm. Now, Viv, don’t get cross. Where were you off to? I can be your chivalrous escort before meeting Michael at the Lark & Eagle.”

“Miss Langley certainly is not a fiz-gig.” Farnham offered Vivi his arm and drew her through a knot of damp, sparkling-eyed young people toward a table draped with bunting.
“I take it I’m to be glad I’m not a ‘fiz-gig’?”
“Quite.” Farnham smiled at a young girl behind the table. “Two glasses of lemonade, if you please.Thank you.” He handed one glass to Vivi and raised the second in his left hand. “To my niece, who is anything but a wild, brazen flirt.”

“For what Thou hast given us, liege Lord, we thank Thee and ask that our lives might be of service to Thee,” Farnham prayed in an elegant, soothing voice that seemed to treasure the holy words. “In Thy Son’s magnificent name do we pray. Amen.”

“Tell me, Miss Langley, are you one of those nature-spiritualist people who eat nothing but dried fruit and hot water and apologize to the Earth for taking even that much from Her bosom? No? Good, because I was going to tell you that I’ll have none of that here. We eat fish. We eat poultry and lamb and pork and whatever we take a fancy for. Allen raises cabbages and he doesn’t weep a little weep over each plant as he decapitates it and takes its head to steam in a pot.”

“You have gone too far if you accuse me of murder, Miss Langley.” He whispered the last words close to her ear and when he drew back, his eyes were too bright. “You come to my room without provocation. You insult me. I agree to answer three questions and you accuse me of murder. And what do I get from this, O purity? What gift will you lay at my feet for my cooperation?”

 “Allen is a butler.” She smiled that curious smile of hers where the left side of her mouth
quirked upward, and removed a tray of puddings from the oven. “And butlers resent housework.”
“He’s never complained.”
“They never do, but they retaliate in a million different ways. I know, dear, I took over
household decisions for Mama on my twenty-third birthday. Ours invariably rubbed Father’s black shoes with brown polish until we discovered that he’d been made to cook muffins for breakfast every Thursday. Put him right off his tea and the inner peace of the household was intricately bungled till I figured out where things had gone awry.”

“You don’t know how to shoot.”
“No? I hardly think it matters at point blank range.”

Her voice ended in resignation and Farnham wondered how many times in his niece’s life she had used that term: “sensible woman”, to kill one or another of her hopes and dreams.

“In my day,” Farnham offered, “there was a delightful practice called conversation. You ought to take lessons sometime--you’d enjoy it.”

"'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.'"

Of course, a lot of my favorite quotes come during the climax. But the dear authoress stipulated that it must be spoiler-free, and I abide by the rules. I will only leave you with the hint that the best is yet inside.

Anon Sir Anon is packed with wit and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. It also contains plenty of moments to reflect, though the mystery doesn't lose it's snappy pace. And the area surrounding Whistlecreig, best of all, is packed with characters that will stand the test of time in further mysteries. From the buxom Mrs. Froggle to the jolly Doctor Breen, to the flirtatious Cora.

I think what makes this mystery special is the way Rachel is able to transcend ages in her characters. There are no children, but there are college-age folk and older folk--and she stays true to all of them. The college-age folk are true to life, caring about things like a good time and a village dance and little banter back and forth. And the older folk are steady, crotchety,  able to see life through the eyes of experience, yet with struggles and ailments and faults of their own.

My favorite characters as I read the novel were definitely Jimmy Fields and Farnham. Farnham with his ulcers and his "Oh bang"--which may not be the best expression, but he uses it to keep himself from saying worse things, so I love him for it. And Jimmy--with his cheery demeanor and carefree country boy air.

And Doctor Breen and Farnham with their gentleman bets were the pink of British middle-aged perfection. ;)

I also had a last minute favorite. But that would be telling things...

This is the last day you can enter the giveaway, so be sure to do that now if you have the chance!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And you can pick up a copy of Anon, Sir, Anon on Amazon. It would make a lovely just-because give for a bibliophile if you already have one. :)

Blessings, Lady Bibliophile

Friday, November 7, 2014

Greenmantle, by John Buchan (Richard Hannay #2)

This is the cover of the edition I own.
It is a constant source of amusement.
Before we went gallivanting off to Florida, I was able to read the second Richard Hannay novel, Greenmantle. For those of you who have read The 39 Steps, if you haven't moved on to the other Hannay novels, then you have a treat in store. Buchan--and Hannay--are like a nice Double Gloucester. They only get better with age.

The Book
Richard Hannay is in the middle of a distinguished career in charge of the Lennox Highlanders when a bullet at Loos sends him home on furlough, and an old political ally, Sir Walter Bullivant, calls him up to London. They need him to give up his Lennox Highlanders and volunteer again for the secret service. They don't know what the mission is; they only know that something or someone is setting the whole Islamic world ablaze for the German cause, which could bring the Allied troops crashing down. The leader of the cause must be stopped. But the only clue they have, discovered by Sir Walter's valiant, (and now dead) son Harry, is a paper with three words written on it: "Kasredin", "Cancer", and "v.I.". The source of the Islamic uprising is somewhere in the Middle East.

That is all the information they can give him.

Richard teams up with a "nootral" American John Blenkiron, who can only eat milk and crackers; Scotsman Sandy Arbuthnot, the high strung and well travelled second son of a baron; and Peter Pienaar, a rough and tumble, simple-hearted velds-man with an unfortunate temper around Germans. Their plan: split up around the Middle East to do some digging and meet in Constantinople on the 17th of January to pool their information.

It's a cause that may very well bring four level-headed soldiers under its spell.

My Thoughts
Sandy Arbuthnot makes up a fascinating character study in this book. He's a valiant man, able to take a dare and make a plan and mix in with the natives pretty much anywhere. But he's also a sympathetic man with a more tender conscience than Richard. Richard is a soldier and an unimaginative thinker. If a car needs to be stolen, he steals it. If a lie needs to be told, he'll lie without a second thought. Sandy will do the same things up to a point, but as the pressure gets greater, the beautiful glass of his ideal starts to crack under the heat.
Sandy was a man of genius--as much as anybody I ever struck--but he had the defects of such high-strung, fanciful souls. He would take more than mortal risks, and you couldn't scare him by any ordinary terror. But let his old conscience get cross-eyed, let him find himself in some situation which in his eyes involved his honour, and he might go stark crazy. ~Chapter 19 
I find it fascinating that Buchan creates a man who is tempted by the evil they are fighting against, and grieves that he is tempted. But he's not legalistic, nor moralistic. He's willing to do anything it takes to get the job done, if he can hold out long enough.

All Buchan books have language and profanity in them, and since there are mostly male characters, they have no restraints. They're not crude, mostly the classic British stuff you'll find in Sayers and Cristie novels, but for some reason it bothered me more than usual this time and made the book less enjoyable. It is not right when one moment a man is praying earnestly to God that he will see the dawn, and next is yelling his name in vain over the barricade when he sees the enemy coming. I don't like language, but it's hard to find WWI novels, and since I'm writing a WWI book, and Buchan writes from a solid worldview, I chose to keep going. Now I have a copy whited-out of the language that I can read in peace.

Buchan starts romanticizing like Sandy now and then, and once or twice gets a bit carried away with the noble savage mentality of the Islamic world. The whole lot of them--Richard, John, and Sandy (with the blessed exception of Peter) get a bit touched by the madness of the cause they're working against, even though it is a worship of Allah and not of the Christianity. His conclusion is a little weak towards the end--he kind of leaves it hanging as to the ideals they're fighting against. But the action of the climax is superb. Peter's crawl through no-man's-land, the stronghold, wondering if the Russians will come through in time, choosing who will have a chance at living and who will not--it is non-stop, tight writing with a good mix of action, introspection, and character development. Buchan shines in plotting and characterization, and if you're a writer of any form of drama or suspense you should give him a try. He's good for you.

*Young readers may wish to skip the next section.*

The most interesting note I found in this story was actually when Richard was picking up clues from a German woman. I've been mulling over romance and sexualty in fiction, and it's fascinating when an author you respect--especially a male author--addresses the issue from a male character's perspective:
I see I have written that I knew nothing about women. But every man has in his bones a consciousness of sex. I was shy and perturbed, but horribly fascinated. This slim woman, poised exquisitely like some statue between the pillared lights, with her fair cloud of hair, her long delicate face, and her pale bright eyes, had the glamour of a wild dream. I hated her instinctively, hated her intensely, but I longed to arouse her interest. To be valued coldly by those eyes was an offence to my manhood, and I felt antagonism rising within me. ~Chapter 14
I've had a lot of discussions on the boundaries of how to portray sexual attraction in literature. The end of it all is that it exists, and there's a way to do it tasteful and honestly. And from what I've read of Buchan, I would take my pattern after him.

*end of section*

As a final note, Buchan portrays us Americans as good-hearted chaps who help make up the salt of the earth, so I give him an extra star for a most laudable and patriotic sense of brotherhood.

Lady Bibliophile

A side note for you Buchan fans: Can you tell me if the Harry Bullivant that Sir Walter says was killed in the first chapter of Greenmantle is the politically naive young man that rescued Richard after his car fell in the ditch in The 39 Steps? I connected the two names, but wasn't sure.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Anon, Sir, Anon Now Available! +Giveaway

Today is the day, folks! Rachel Heffington's cozy English mystery, Anon, Sir, Anon, is now available for your reading pleasure. I had the pleasure of reviewing an advance copy earlier this year, and highly recommend picking up a copy. Let's hear it for an amazing indie author! Congratulations, Rachel, on another wonderful addition to the literary world. :) 

Back Cover Blurb:
The 12:55 out of Darlington brought more than Orville Farnham's niece; murder was passenger.In coming to Whistlecreig, Genevieve Langley expected to find an ailing uncle in need of gentle care. In reality, her charge is a cantankerous Shakespearean actor with a penchant for fencing and an affinity for placing impossible bets.When a body shows up in a field near Whistlecreig Manor and Vivi is the only one to recognize the victim, she is unceremoniously baptized into the art of crime-solving: a field in which first impressions are seldom lasting and personal interest knocks at the front door.Set against the russet backdrop of a Northamptonshire fog, Anon, Sir, Anon cuts a cozy path to a chilling crime. 

Author Bio:
Rachel Heffington is a novelist, a nanny, and a people-lover living in rural Virginia with her family and black cat, Cricket. Her first novel, Fly Away Home, was independently published in February of 2014, while her novella, The Windy Side of Care, was published by Rooglewood Press in the Five Glass Slippers anthology in June of 2014. Visit Rachel online at

Purchase Links
You can find Anon, Sir, Anon on Amazon in PAPERBACK format or KINDLE format. :) Rachel is working on getting her book up on Barnes and Noble, and that should be available soon. Also, if you're interested in an autographed copy, stay tuned on The Inkpen Authoress for future info on that! 

Giveaway: Cozy Quagmire Party Pack
Enter to win a complete party in a box! The Cozy Quagmire Party Pack includes everything you’ll need to have an evening worthy of guests such as Vivi, Farnham, and Dr. Breen. Prize includes P.G. Tips (my favorite British black tea), a $5 Panera Bread gift-card for toasting-bread, a Yankee candle, matchbook, and a paperback copy of Anon, Sir, Anon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to check out the other blogs featuring Rachel's book for fun interviews, guest posts, and all things English mystery throughout the following week! My Lady Bibliophile will be joining the blog hop on Monday, November 10th, with a "Favorite Things" post from Anon, Sir, Anon. :)

Now off to Amazon, and purchase your copy!

Lady Bibliophile 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Back Wednesday!

Carrie-Grace and I at Bible Bee semifinals--she went on to finals and placed fifth! :)

I just got back from Florida tonight, and am away working elections tomorrow, so I'm going to forgo the usual blog post. Sincere apologies! But do come back Wednesday, fellow bibliophiles, because I'm helping a friend with a very exciting book release that you won't want to miss! :) And Friday's post will be up like usual, so I look forward to talking with you all then.

Lady Bibliophile
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