Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Best of 2015

This blogging year has been one for the books. I'm just sitting here, after having gone through all the post titles for the year, kind of awe-shaken and amazed. That God did all that. In one year. So much growth and joy and deep thinking and conversations. I think we've had some of the best discussions this year on the blog. I mean, group hug everyone.

sounding slightly awkward 

It's just....wow.

God cares about us and books, and we in turn can worship him with the joy of books and growing and learning together. He is so good.

Normally I try to narrow down favorite book reviews and articles from the year to a nice, tidy list of 7 to 10. But I couldn't do that this time. It's too limiting when my cup is running over, so I'm just going to list all the top favorites this year for you to browse through and think over and 'remember-when' as we live the last week of 2015.

But this list isn't complete without you. What were your favorite articles here on My Lady Bibliophile? Which books piqued your interest? What conversations do you still remember and think over? I'd love to reminisce with you in the comments. It is first of all God's blessing, and second of all your love and participation, which has made this blog a success. So I owe you all a huge bunch of gratefulness for that.

Let's take a moment to relax and enjoy the memories together.

Favorite Articles
How Our Family Reads Together.
Why Young Authors are Tackling Tough Themes 
Why I Love Anne of Green Gables 
Round Table Discussion with Suzannah Rowntree 
Why Every Girl Needs a Daddy (Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility)
The Book Writing Process (For All Non-Writing Friends) 
Patterns Vs. Portraits in Literature (Part One) 
Why I Take Book Reviews Seriously 
Why Homeschoolers Need to Read Modern Literature 
When NOT to Write a Book Review 
Why Book Lovers Need to be Book Buyers
How I Got Ready For My First NaNoWriMo 

Favorite Book Reviews 
Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan (read this book for the first time ever this year!)
The Faerie Queene, by Edmond Spenser
Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon
Pendragon's Heir, by Suzannah Rowntree
Richard the Third, by Paul Murray Kendall (Part One and Part Two)
Wanderlust Creek, by Elisabeth Grace Foley
The Art of War for Writers, by James Scott Bell
Mara, Daughter of the Nile, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Pioneer Girl, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
How to Be a Spy: The Official WW2 Training Manual 
The Franzon Trilogy, by Thyra Ferre Bjorn
True Woman 201, by Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Leave it to Psmith, by P.G. Wodehouse
The Butterfly and the Violin, by Kristy Cambron
Storming, by K.M. Weiland
Flame Coloured Taffeta, by Rosemary Sutcliff
You Never Stop Being a Parent, by Jim Newheiser and Elyse Fitzpatrick
Let Me Be a Woman, by Elisabeth Elliot

New Blog Friends 
I made many new friends in the blogosphere this year (and will mention more in the Birthday Post next week!) but this year I was especially blessed to have Emily and Annie join the blogging circle. I eagerly look forward to their posts each week, and had the great pleasure of interviewing them this summer. That made for a special part of 2015. :)

The Herosinger
The Curious Wren

The Bibliophile Awards 
And now comes the time of year where I have to narrow it down to one fiction book, one nonfiction book, and one author. There are no fancy prizes or great fame here--just a way to document what I thought was the best of the year. And let me tell you, it is hard to narrow down. It is agonizing. This has been an incredible year for discovering new titles.

Fiction of the Year

The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser

Because I finally finished this. 800 pages of poetry. And I've been working on it for years. It really deserved the spot. It is a work of art, and I'm so glad I read it at least once in my lifetime. I think I'm choosing it as a mark of grit and perseverance. It may be the longest, hardest book I've read thus far, and it was during a time when my laptop was on the blink, so I had time to pay attention to it.

Nonfiction of the Year
A lot of books were in the running for this one. In the end, while there are several equal finalists, (Richard III, How to Be a Spy, and You Never Stop Being a Parent coming in close behind) I'm selecting the one that has had the longest lasting impact.

True Woman 201, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian

This book changed my thinking. I'm more aware of certain sins than I used to be, trying harder to think and speak in a more honoring and pleasing way to the Lord. It changed what I accept as honoring behavior and gave me better tools for the mental battle of sanctification, especially on areas of slander, self-control, and work. I highly recommend this study and encourage you to check out the review for more about it. :)

Author of the Year 

K.M. Weiland

In contrast to the favorite book categories, this was an immediate and obvious choice. After reading Storming, I've seen such a consistent offering of quality writing, structure, and themes in her fiction books that I would pre-order anything she writes pretty much without hesitation. I owe a huge debt to Structuring Your Novel and Outlining Your Novel (both of which I read this year) and the workbooks for helping me outline a huge sequel this summer in my historical fiction series. Most of all, I appreciate Katie's friendly interaction with readers and writers online. She's a generous, positive indie author who brings a lot of quality conversations to the internet world. I consider her a role model I would like to imitate when I get published.

There you have it, folks! It's been wonderful to reflect and wrap up an amazing year on the blog. Who was your favorite author of the year? If you could narrow down to one fiction or nonfiction book, which one would you give top ranking to? What are your favorite memories from My Lady Bibliophile?

Trusting that you'll have a blessed week anticipating 2016. See you Tuesday!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Bibliophile Tote Bag (Guest Post)

During the holiday season, I'll be posting only on Tuesdays (22nd and 29th), to give extra time for rest and break. This week, I'm delighted to showcase a new treasure and a guest post by my mom, Krista. She just completed this bag for me, which I'm SO proud of, and I knew all you book lovers would love to take a look at it too!

Lady B turned a year older back in September.   To commemorate the occasion, I wanted to make something special for her.    What can one craft for a bibliophile?   There are really a great deal of options!  Since one of my creative pastimes is sewing bags, I decided to combine my creative passion with hers--sewing and books.  What follows is what I made and a little bit of how I did it.

Browsing through a fabric shop to me is very similar to what browsing through a book shop is for bibliophiles.  On one of my just-there-for-fun trips last summer, I found a book-themed novelty fabric that seemed to be perfect.    I already had a pattern in mind that would be a good fit for the design. On a subsequent shopping trip, I came across a script fabric that was in keeping with the theme (writing...books...reading...they seemed to me to correlate).    The lining fabric itself was originally a much lighter background.  I decided to tea-dye it with Earl Gray tea to give it more of a patina and render it more practical for everyday use.  For anyone interested in the nitty-gritty details, I am including a list of specs at the end of this post.

I wish I could say that on the day of Lady B's birthday, I presented her with this gift, beautifully wrapped.  However, that was not the case.    It wasn't to be finished  in time, so I wrapped it up (beautifully, but in pieces) and gave it to her to show my good intentions.  It helped to know that she was as excited about it as I was, even though I didn't actually complete it until December! 
May it carry many books for you, Lady B, and accompany you on grand literary adventures!

Specs for Lady B's bookbag:
Pattern: "Charlotte City Tote" by www.swoonpatterns.com  (Important note:  I didn't care for the fabric design that's featured on this pattern so I chose not to direct-link to it;  there are other designs, however,  in this particular style that can be viewed and admired)

Fabric:  Exterior Fabric:  "Library" by Timeless Treasures (not so easy to find now, but "Stacked                      Books"   by Timeless Treasures makes a great alternative);  marine vinyl by JoAnn Fabrics;  
                Lining Fabric:  a cotton fabric from JoAnn Fabrics;  I don't have any other readily available              information for this one.

Notions:  zipper pull charms--Hobby Lobby
                  O-rings and rivets--Tandy Leather

Isn't it beautiful? I've loved carrying it so far, and can't wait for many more times of using it. Many thanks for stopping by today, mother mine. < 3 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Finalists for the 2015 Sea Scribblers Short Story Contest

And finally, the moment you've all been waiting for....


But wait. Don't scroll down yet. We have some important stuffage before the winners. :P

First of all, I want to say that many, many entries in this contest showed a phenomenal amount of skill, artistry, and thought. I was intrigued and delighted as I read through them. The joy, sorrow, expectancy of winter or Christmas really shone strongly through them. There were a lot more than three stories vying for placement, and we deliberated long and hard over each choice. In the end, we feel that these three entries encompassed creativity with the prompts, faithfulness to the winter/Christmas theme, and good grasp of writing skill. Personally, I felt like I had a song in my heart after I was done reading the first place entry.

So without further ado, we are absolutely THRILLED to present:

First Place: Song for Liselei, by Elisabeth Hayse
Second Place: Red Yet White, by Victoria Marinov
Third Place: We Three Gifts, by Sarah Holliday

And I would also like to extend my personal Honorable Mention to: 
Stardust, by Carrie-Grace McConkey
Untitled, by Hannah Wilson
The Journal, Esther Hayse

Congratulations!!! *throws confetti* *hands out eggnog and cupcakes* Your entries delighted and inspired us, and in celebration, Emily, Annie, and I are each posting one of the entries on our blogs. Continue below for We Three Gifts by Sarah Halliday and be sure to stop by The Curious Wren and The HeroSinger for the other winning entries. Huge shoutout to these ladies for being awesome judges.

To those of you who didn't win, I still want to thank you so much for participating. Truly. To take the time to write and edit and send in a story for our little contest moves me very much. I feel torn  I cannot choose all of you, and I want to say, if you didn't see your name here, please know that you are still a brave writer who's willing to let your work be seen and judged. That is a step that many people have never taken, and I hope to see you again in future contests. It was each one of you entering that made this contest a success, and I'm going to be watching in excitement to see where your writing journeys lead. *cupcakes and eggnog to you, too*

Cozy up with your snacks, and join me for We Three Gifts by Sarah Halliday!

We Three Gifts
She would be born on the twenty fifth of December, her mother decided. Christmas-born, she announced to an awestruck, celebrating kingdom. There was the then-queen’s first mistake: little children don’t come when called.
Christmas morning, she had her servants prop her up with a fluid cloud of pillows gathered from all corners of the castle. They embraced her on all sides with arms of silk. Like soothing a swine into acceptance, stroking its head before bringing down the axe. Only there was no pain, no butcher’s knife to her abdominal region. So, enlisting help of a mixture from the apothecary, she resolved to drag her child into being.
She welcomed the pain. She demanded it. And after six nightmarish hours, she smiled at the harsh screams of her infant.
She named her child. She murmured. “You will be adored.
And the axe fell.
The motherless infant was laid in a gleaming, sandalwood cradle, swaddled in fragrant, lavender sheets woven with ribbon gold. From the moment of her birth, she was fitted as a queen, provided for as a queen, exalted as a queen. It would be only fitting that she become a queen.

We observed her beginning and her coronation as one holiday. We may as well have spit over her parents’ graves.
When her mother passed on from this world, she yet remained oblivious to the crackling of the cannon that widowed her and had effectively orphaned her daughter. “Land disputes,” the new queen would be told, well past the age at which she was old enough to be taught the meanings of revenge or assassination or war. Such simplicity. Stubborn, beautiful simplicity.
Simple queens breed simple subjects. It was Christmas evening, and the masses were clueless as to how to honor a funeral, much less two. Too much complexity, too much rise and fall. So their superiors chorused, “On with the show!” and plopped her mother’s crown over her head. It slid down her nose and kept from settling around her neck like a noose only by catching onto a breath of an ear. Her coronation guests applauded the ill fit and danced in circles around her cradle-turned-throne, singing her name. Already she was expected to fill the role of miracle.
We observe from a candle-glowing table, from the arms of a handler, from the middle of a silent harbor. Tonight is a night of giving, and while the rest of the populace rains flower petals over her bed, we are the three lone gifts of tonight’s festivity. We are what’s left of her inheritance and what remains of her future.
We are the final mistake.
We three gifts tell tales of the crown
Children rise and monarchs drown
History’s faded, future’s jaded
For the child born high-renowned

I am only what I make my wearer to be. To the proud, I am as lace, delicate and ridden with imperfections advertised as careful design. To the mysterious, I am as a solid shell, a shadow to hide in from the world. My velvet twists and turns are as precise as if penned by a calligrapher. Many a pair of dainty hands have stroked the bridge of my nose, traced the gaps where eyes should be, tied and unwoven the two silk ribbons on either side. These ten-year-old hands weigh upon me with the heaviest disinterest.
“I wouldn’t rather I had to hide,” the new queen whines. She dangles a ribbon loosely against her garment. It’s a lovely species of dress, a green that winks with gold embellishment.
“It’s a masquerade, your highness.” A new pair of hands, simpering-maid ones, wrench me from her grip. “A good queen sets the precedent.”
And as she ties the two ribbons against the queen’s golden hair, she adds, “Do wear your mother’s mask. It’s an heirloom. The court would be proud.”
I see the world through new eyes, eyes that can’t see far past a turned-up nose.

I am dumped unceremoniously upon the workbench of the palace jeweler, ancestry disregarded with a flick of her fingers. They’ve aged; there’s six more years of power in them since they first stroked the greying velvet.
“Gold,” the queen ordains. “I want every inch of black plated in it. With diamonds also. Embedded like stars.”
The jeweler protests. Her queenship has crowns that fill that very criterion, precious jewels in which to wrap her fingers and neck. I sense his reluctance to soil a treasure of the royal line of matriarchs.
“You’d be doing them a favor,” her royal majesty dismisses. “For the first time, my subjects will look upon this mask and know it for what it is: the mark of a queen. When you’re through, I want even a fool to recognize me, even when I hide my face.”

I am ornamentation over the eyes of a statue of an ancient goddess.
At the same time, I’m dancing, as I have in masquerades of old. Though her head is held aloft with a queenly grace, this dance is a forced affair. Each time the music stops, I am twisted with a longing gaze directed toward the throne. She shudders with claustrophobia. She fingers my ribbons every time a new pair of eyes glances over her, just another mask in the crowd.
This is her first masquerade, and she’d rather it be her last.
She is unwilling to shoulder her discomfort for one minute more. Spying a partner−a lanky youth masquerading as a noble for the night−she approaches and raps him on the shoulder.
“Tell me I’m beautiful,” she demands.
The boy’s eyebrows disappear behind his mask. “What for?”
“It’s what’s expected of an honest gentleman,” she insists. Her face burns. I burn with it.
He shrugs. “Wouldn’t be very honest if I did tell you,” he says. “I don’t even know what it is you look like.” There is the faintest twinkle of cheek in his tone of voice. It is enough.
I am flying.
I come to rest against a marble pillar, facedown upon the ballroom floor, discarded. No one notices, a familiar feeling.
Meanwhile, the music has stopped, replaced by a bemused buzz. Heels click nervously on the floor, skirts shift and shuffle clumsily. The whole room is bowing.
Luxuries of power aligned
Diamond, gold, and velvet entwined
On face most fair, but ne’er to share
To her pow’r let none be blind

I am the offspring of the ancestral champions of the hunt. Bred for tracking. Trained to follow a scent like a trail of golden thread through a maze. Bred for hunting, for stamina. My silver fur can shake off the frigid reality of the iciest of snowfalls. All signs of life down my hunting path shrink back as I bare my teeth and dig my claws into the ground. Bred for loyalty, that is, if such traits may be bred. I believe otherwise.
I was born to be her protector, not her companion. My loyalty was my own first gift to my mistress. And in time, I would come to offer her all I had in the one field I ever knew.
Humans have trainers too; the difference is that they insist on denying they are being trained. My lady was also trained in the hunt, given a horse and a whip and the words I had been drilled to understand. I became an extension of her gloved hand, the knife she would descend upon her quarry to make the final blow.
Knives become blunt over time, no matter how often they are driven against a stone. There came a time when my senses dulled, when running along a forest trail became as difficult as running through snow, when a stone in my belly weighed me back down to earth faster than I could leap.
That same year, I became a mother.
I gave birth to five pups, and they were mine to nurse until they were deemed strong enough to learn the ways of the hunt, to learn to replace this withered tool. My mistress never saw them until they were of hunting age. I never saw them again.

I died alone. I remember cold; I also remember moonlight. I used to never notice moonlight and other such trivialities of the eyes. But that was before I lost the keen focus of my smell, before my handlers left plates of food at my door that shrank in size each passing day. I counted days by counting passing footsteps. I thought of my mistress, who was my companion, but I could never be hers and that’s why I died useless.

That was the date of my death, the day the palace groundskeeper tossed my body into the wood and left it for the flies. But I was not yet gone from the world.
My former commander had matured into an elegant huntress. I would have once traveled in any direction her finger indicated, and we were formidable. But at the head of the five of my litter, they became an army, a storm. They blew between the trees like a blizzard and left the ground barren in their wake.
One morning while returning home from a rather meager victory, an adder, slipping between the shadows cast by the foliage, crept up alongside the party. It sunk its fangs into the paw of Balthazar, the strongest of the pack. The chaos that followed was instant. The dogs converged on the serpent for a swift kill. The hunters converged on Balthazar. With the swift slice of a silver knife, they contained the poison. All the while, the huntress sat poised, waiting for the report.
They wrapped the stump in the few pelts they had obtained to stem the outpour of blood, but Balthazar still hobbled, whimpered. The party spoke in hushed voices. They hypothesized the worst: that he would no longer be active in the hunt.
A clear female voice cut through the silence. “Smother him in today’s kill.”
There was silence. “My lady?”
“This one can no longer hunt.” Her voice dripped logic like a bough that dripped icicles. “And game was scarce this morning. The only use we can expect it to have anymore is target practice.”
This was the real moment I died, when they took my pup and matted his fur with the innards of fox, lathering him until he was unrecognizable to the smell. Even his brothers looked upon him confused. This was the moment when my mistress failed to consider the mother when ordering the murder of a son. My memory fell like a fresh kill at her feet.
“Scare it off,” she ordered. “Fire the gun.”
Born a hunter, cunning and shrewd
My last gift−I offer my brood
She giveth what may, she taketh away
Ne’er ‘twas for I to feud

I am the artistry of shipbuilders. I am a vessel that is very much hers. Royal colors fly gaily from the crow’s nest. The woodcarvers outdid themselves in detail, threatened against presenting a lack thereof. The gun ports resemble palace windows; most don’t even hold a cannon so as to not obstruct the view. My sails glow. They have neither known wear nor tear. They have never pointed away from the harbor.
My function is not that of a warship.
Though I may look the part, what with the sheen and the grandeur and the mere size, I follow the real warships into battle years after the battle began. I slink between the ranks of fleets victorious and add my victory cry to theirs, pretending I was there all along. I trade bolster for bluster. The wisps of cannon smoke for wispy curtains. A war room for a parlor room. Crew quarters for her private chambers.
Yet I am still the commanding vessel of the royal armada. Were anyone to ask my thoughts on the matter, I would say I felt like a fool on a throne. But any question is drowned out on all sides by several miles of open water, and inside, talk turns to battles. Voices of the generals overlap amidst the salty wind. But it is after the voices have receded that the rigid finger of the only woman aboard points in swift decision, to action she knows will bring the swiftest, most brutal retribution upon her meddling foe. Whether it be by means of the sacrifice of hundreds, or toeing the line around civilian territory. This is her inheritance, what she was raised for, to wage a war miles away from its reality.
And she still will refer to it as a land dispute.
At long last, there is a cease-fire, a dimming of the cannons. The officers receive news that her presence will soon be requested at the negotiations of the enemy’s surrender. The captain steers confidently, though he can’t bring the speed up to much more than a shameful crawl.
I was never to be a warship. But I was also never to be a casket. Makes one tend to think that anything’s possible. Possible as a screech in the night that comes from no mouth. Ice on cedar. Ice can fell a tree. It can also fell a ship. Water soaks through pores. It shaves away splinters. Splinters rent by ice. I die because of a few splinters.
She and I die of the same cause. We are weighed down by our embellishments. She by her twinkling mask and the golden stars embedded in her dress. Worse still, she is caught in her final moments in the act of cowardice. Not even by the most tenuous, thread-width tethers can she be called a war hero. She has false visions of martyrdom; she has never known sacrifice.
As she is drowned, she fancies she sees lights below, reminiscent of the candles illuminating the smiling faces of her coronation vigil. One by one, the lights go out.

A glitt’ring hull, a palace at sea
Ne’er known war, but ruins I’ll be
Gathering depth, heard her last breath
Decrying the irony

Stars of diamond, star on high
Stars of the deep reflect the sky
Her lights once shone, now left alone
Adored at birth but left to die 

2015 Blogger Awards Cover Finalists

Sea Scribblers winners will be posted later today, folks! We're SO EXCITED. 

Hey folks! I'm back with the final round of the 2015 Blogger Awards cover division! In the first round, you all nominated 40 covers for me to look through, and let me tell you, it was a hard choice narrowing it down to three finalists. But we did it, and these three books are the finalists for 2015 Best Cover: 

 The typography is simply beautiful, as is the lady on the cover, and I love the way the castle overlooks the garden. Another really special winner from Rooglewood press. Of all the covers, it was easy to tell that this one was universally loved. 

I love, love, love the glowing apple. It's beautiful and bright and magical. The silver leaf, the simple title font, and the blue cover with a faint splash of red really tie in all the elements together nicely. Another popular choice. 

The title color pops really well next to the red dress. I love the whimsical font of the subtitle and the author's names, and I think the names on the suitcase really draw the eye. It's a cover well designed to draw you to the most important elements--author and title--while giving a taste of the historical fiction genre. 

And the winner of the 2015 Blogger Awards Best Cover category is:

Ultimately, it was the beautiful lighting of the apple and the hand fallen in shadow, as well as the really nice typography on the cover that made this one my favorite. It looks mysterious, and the simple elements really pop. I'm interested in looking up this series. Congratulations to Winter, by Marissa Meyer! 

Be sure to check out the other finalists at the blogs linked below:
Saturday, December 19- Best Cover, hosted by Schuyler
Sunday, December 20- Best Title, hosted by Hannah
Monday, December 21- Best Short Fiction, hosted by Ghosty
Tuesday, December 22- Best Character, hosted by Annie
Wednesday, December 23- Best Book, hosted by Sarah
Thursday, December 24- Best Author, hosted by Allison

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Comeback, by Louie Giglio

Jesus, will you remember me today? 

Thus asked the thief on the cross, hanging next to Jesus as they both were dying. It's a question many of us still ask today. When the scan comes back that says cancer, when the friend walks away and doesn't speak to you anymore, when the relationship looks like it will never move forward, when the gravestone stares back at you with all the finality of that death date.

Whatever your spiritual maturity, or even if you're not a believer in the first place, everyone hits those dark moments where life will never be the same. And even though the scars can never be erased, Jesus can take the broken and bring a restoration beyond the pain you started with.

Louie Giglio discusses the question, "Jesus, will you remember me?" along the answer in his newest book, The Comeback.

The Book (from Amazon)
Have you ever longed for a comeback? We all know what it feels like to have life disappoint us and not work out as we'd hoped. We all know what it's like to long for something different, something better, something more. The Comeback celebrates new beginnings. It offers encouragement and perspective, and it's for you if you feel frustrated or confused, if you're sorrowing or in pain, if you've made mistakes or are grieving, if you're disappointed or feel as though life doesn't make sense. The good news is that God is in the business of giving fresh starts to people. He gives hope to the hopeless. Direction to the directionless. Help to those who need help. God is always good, all the time, and God's plans will always prevail, even when our plans don't. God already knows what the solutions are. No matter what kind of disappointment or grief or pain or trouble or heartache you encounter, God always offers a new beginning, a change of heart, or a powerful spiritual turnaround. God offers the way forward, and his pathways are always good. Your current circumstances will not get the final say in your life. God is the God of the comeback, no matter what kind of challenge you're facing. And your story can become a great comeback story too.

My Thoughts 
I'm not sure what I was expecting when I came to this book, except it turned out different than I expected and I can't pinpoint what or why. That's a terrible admission for a professional review, but it is the holiday season and I'm wiped out. However, I found much to inspire, comfort, and think about. 

First of all, if you're looking for a deeply Christianese theological book on the disappointments of life, you'll find this one has a different mission focus. It's a blue jeans and mocha kind of book, with a casual conversational style. And that's very intentional. A lot of people need a comeback, not just scholarly book lovers. This book is written to be accessible to a wide variety of people. As a person who is used to going down deep, staying down long, and coming up dry, that took a little bit of adjustment. But I can appreciate the purpose, and value the audience for which it was intended. 

My favorite chapters were easily 7 and 8. 7 talks about Peter's comeback, after denying Jesus and going back to his fishing. Jesus comes to him and asks him to eat breakfast. No long talks. No figure things out. Just come and share a meal and settle down. His mercies are new every morning, and he takes a moment to remind Peter of his mercy and faithful provision before gently and squarely telling Peter that it's not about his efforts, and it's never going to be: it's about Jesus working through his failures. 

Chapter Eight talks about Jesus being enough: "The sustaining grace you receive in the first moment is different than the grace you receive in the second. And the grace received in the second moment is different than the grace received in the third moment. And in the fiftieth moment. And in the two thousandth moment. And in every moment after that." Jesus offers individualized grace for every different phase and struggle of the dark places we go through. He doesn't offer us someone else's grace, or last month's grace, or even yesterday's grace. The grace I need for this moment. Some things--like death, amputation of a limb, etc.--are things from which a comeback can never restore to what was. But Jesus is enough, in himself, even through that loss. Giglio also says there will be hard days even after the comeback. Many times the comeback is a process after the initial moment of release and turnaround. 

In chapter eleven, Giglio talks about our identity as believers, using Paul's introduction to the Ephesians. Even starting the epistle with the word "Paul" packs a huge comeback into a name. The persecutor of the church was now an apostle of God. Paul writes to the Ephesians as "saints in Christ Jesus". Giglio points out that he could have called them "sinners saved by grace". But that's not what their identity was anymore. Christ Jesus turns us into saints. And we live up to our identity. Instead of focusing on what we were, we need to focus on what we now are in Christ. Giglio says, "If you go around thinking of yourself as a sinner saved by grace, then it becomes highly likely that you'll see yourself primarily as a sinner first and saved by grace second. And when you go around calling yourself a sinner, you're much more likely to act like a sinner, even if you're saved by grace." In other words, you live up to your identity. I think I need to update my terminology. 

Much to inspire and to think about, and packed with examples of people from Scripture and real life who hit bottom and turned around again. I appreciate Louie Giglio's ministry to people in hurting places. 

I received this book for free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Ain't We Got Fun

Ever since I first caught wind of Ain't We Got Fun, I've had a longing to read it. It looked like a lot of fun. The cover design is one of the nicest covers I've ever seen for a historical indie fiction, and the authors posted several charming interviews when their book released that made me want to read it even more. When I saw it on the list of Black Friday books from indie authors, I picked it up right away.

I read it all in one Sunday afternoon, and ever since, I've been walking around in a happy glow. It was everything I wanted and more.

The Book (from Amazon)
It was never much of an issue for Bess: living contentedly on her family's farm, despite the Depression which loomed around them. But when her older sister Georgiana takes off to New York City to make a fortune and help Papa out, feelings of adventure and wanderlust strike Bess at home. Through their lively letter correspondence, the sisters recount to one another their adventures, surprises, and heartaches, leaving little room for depression. For in a world of such wonder, ain't we got fun?

My Thoughts 
Both sets of letters are equally dear. It's one of those split POVs that works to a charm. Georgiana and Bess are quite different--one spunky and independent trying to make her way in New York, the other with an endearing love for the people and places she's always known. In spite of their differences, their sisterly connection and love for each other forms a common bond. 

Ain't We Got Fun has a tight plot, engaging characters, and a beautiful story of growth and adventure. I think what I love most is how all the plot points have a simple familiarity that combines to make a beautiful whole. Their writing makes me think of Louisa May Alcott in many respects (rather fun, because the Little Women theme is a common one). They write with a faithfulness to what the genre and the time period require, and the talent of their creativity shows more and more as the story goes on. With every letter I was like "Yes! Yes! It's so delightful and homey and fun, exactly like I thought and hoped it would be." 

The romance is light and sweet and entirely appropriate. Each sister has a beau, equally different according to their personalities. I loved Willoughby and Georgiana with the Broadway shows and ice skating, and Tom and Bess holding down the home fort with dances and pancakes and hair ribbons. 

It was a story I felt intimately at home in. As if I was welcomed into their little world and could watch it unfolding and rejoice in all the things that happened along the way. I'm definitely going to read it again, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves a relaxing story of family and light romance. Bravo, ladies, on an excellent piece of plotting, characterization, and cover design!  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I hope you collaborate again in future!  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Have You Entered the Sea Scribblers Short Story Contest?

Have you started your entry for the Sea Scribblers contest yet? Don't give up now! There's still time, but you'll have to hurry! By Saturday midnight, your short story of 3,000 words or less is due to seascribblerscontest[AT]gmail[DOT]com  We've already had entries coming in, and we can't wait to see yours! More details below....

The Challenge 
Choose one or all of the prompt photos on our blogs to incorporate into a short story, along with a winter or Christmas theme. Write a short story of 3,000 words or less, and send it in to seascribblerscontest[AT]gmail[DOT]com by December 12th, following the rules below. You can send in one story, or send in a couple of stories for the different prompts. 

That means you have over a month to get your creative thinking cap on!

The Prizes
1. First place winner will receive a paperback copy of The Art of War for Writers, by James Scott Bell and a digital copy of The Rakshasa's Bride, by Suzannah Rowntree. 
2. Second place winner will receive a digital anthology of short stories by Annie, Emily, and Schuyler, as well as a bookmark. 
3. Third place winner will receive a $10 giftcard to The Book Depository. 

The Rules
1. All entries must be submitted to seascribblerscontest[at]gmail[dot]com by December 12, 2015, midnight EST. Files should be .doc files. 
2. Entries should be no more than 3,000 words. There is no minimum word requirement. Entries must use one of the photo prompts provided, and contain a Christmas or winter theme. Contestants may submit up to three seperate entries, but only one entry can win.
3. Email subject line should read "Entry for 2015 SEA Scribblers Short Story Contest" and should not contain your story title. 
4. Entries should be in Times New Roman, size 12 font. 
5. Entries will be judged for creative use of the photo prompt, style, and grammar. 
6. No language or explicit sex, please. 
7. Judges for the contest are Annie Hawthorne, Emily Hayse, and Schuyler McConkey.
8. Winners will be notified by email and announced online on Saturday, December 19th.
9. The final entry will be posted on the judges' blogs. All stories remain the property of their owners, but may be used for promotional purposes in connection with the contest. 
10. The Art of War for Writers will be shipped to contestants outside the US from The Book Depository. However, the bookmark will only be shipped to US entries, and if a person outside the US wins second place, a digital prize will be substituted. 

The Prompt
Here's my photo prompt for you all:

For two more prompts (remember, you can use one or all, but be sure to incorporate a holiday or winter theme) go to The Herosinger and The Curious Wren.

We look forward to your entries, and can't wait to see what exciting things you come up with! :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Desert Island Tag

A nice island with sand and sky. 
 Joy C tagged me over at her lovely blog Fullness of Joy for the Desert Island tag. In this, you share eight books you would wish to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island. Thus, as follows:

(And certainly not Robinson Crusoe, which bores me to tears every time I think about it.)

1. The Bible.
I think that would keep me busy without the seven other choices. Preferably one with good study notes and helps, but any one will do so long as it's a good translation.

2. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
Because Herbert Pocket and "what larks" and this beautiful, beautiful story of biblical justice and mercy will always be one of my favorite novels ever.

(Actually I could probably throw in seven Dickens novels and be happy, but we must not do rash things.)

3. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
I could read all my favorite Samwise bits and study things and think about things, and it would be just 'eavenly, as Maggie would say.

4. Sherlock Holmes, the complete works, by Arthur Conan Doyle
I've been working on "re-reading" Sherlock Holmes for years, and I would finally have time to get it done. I am a Holmes geek. I actually read a Sherlock Holmes commentary before a Bible commentary, for which I am ashamed.

*adds to list of things to scold oneself about*

(I do study the Bible much more than Sherlock Holmes though, just to salvage my reputation. Sherlock Holmes commentaries were once in the dear dead days beyond recall, When We Were Very Young. Brownie points for the references.)

In looking around for pretty island photos,
sis said "Schuyler, it would probably look like this."
5. The Pilgrim of Hate, by Ellis Peters
Basically my favorite mystery book ever. Monk detectives. Justice. Nighttime chases. O.o

6. The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne
One might need a Comforting Sort of Book if one is on a Very Small Island. And when I outgrow my love of Milne, I will be beyond all hope.

And now I am seriously down to TWO BOOKS and I'm not nearly finished yet. Ahhhh.

7. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet Spy, by Eric Metaxas
I want to read the unabridged version again so badly and I just haven't had time. I love that book.

Stares at Freckles, Kidnapped, To Have and to Hold, Jane of Lantern Hill, and The Fisherman's Lady

8. I just can't decide. One of the above options, whichever came handiest before the ship sank. They are all too precious to split up. It would break my heart and motivate me to get off this island as soon as possible so I could return to them.

No. Wait. I think I know....

8. A very thick, very large blank notebook, which I could fill with stories.

And there you have it.

If this tag looks like fun to you, feel free to grab it for your own blog, or tell me your choices in the comments! I'd love to see your answers. :)

Friday, December 4, 2015

NaNoWriMo Novel Snippets

Y'all knew this was coming, right? Who could do 50K in a month without sharing snippets! :) I had an absolutely thrilling time last month with my first NaNoWriMo. Preparation paid off, and the Lord was gracious in blessing those efforts. Thank-you all for the prayers, encouragement, virtual chocolate, and rejoicing with me over the victory. :)

As a thank-you to you all, here are some snippets! They are first draft stuff, but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless.

The chilly wind blew through his shirt as he skirted the stone walk of the huge Opernplatz square under the big Grecian columns of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden opera building. It was lit up brightly for an evening of music and entertainment, and part of him wished he could join them.

“I’m just a stable hand, sir. I follow orders. When someone wants me to come, I come. When they want me to run an errand, I do it. When Ernest Reinhardt requested me to share a glass of Ratzeputz, I obeyed his invitation and was grateful for the attention.”

“It wasn’t like that.”
“Then you shouldn’t have said so,” she said crisply. “Telling the truth is a virtue.”
“I did.”
“You just said you didn’t. When you make up your mind, I’d be obliged to know.”

Dear Schatzi,
I am not the same person I was when I went away. I hope you are not either. Time destroys us all, makes us forget the pain, or perhaps in some cases, strengthens the evil. Is the evil strengthened, or have you forgiven me for telling you who I really was? I hope you have.

“It’s a dangerous woman who can fix your car better than you can.”

“You have a beautiful cross.”
She wrapped a hand around it, and the smile shifted to something graver. “I pray for the German people on it.”
“It’s valuable to carry to work with you. If someone saw it, they might try to take it from you. I would hate for you to be injured.”
A little, devilish amusement lurked around her hazel eyes, as if she rather wanted someone to try. “They would regret it.”

“I didn’t know you had it in you.”
“It’s something I put on with much reluctance—like a coat, I suppose. And then before it’s too late I have to catch myself and take it off again.”

That evening as he lay with Wolf pressed close against him for warmth, he fell asleep. And in his sleep, the pulsing ache of the stakes he had set twisted through his dreams. In one dream, he saw Lucie walking towards him with love lighting up her eyes. But just as he reached out to slip a small gold ring on her finger, a white hand with crooked fingers snatched the cross knife from Lucie’s neck and stabbed him again and again. He woke up with a start of panic and heard a whimper that couldn’t have come from Wolf. He had seen those fingers before somewhere. But what did they have to do with him?

“The British secret service has more vital uses of its time than accomplishing unnecessary individual revenge."

He remembered the anguish of cold steel cutting through flesh that dark night in Calais, feeling something wet run down his side, and the taste of salt, and the warm, sick smell of blood in the air.

“Forgive me.” A smile played at the corners of his mouth. “England too has its hardships. It is not as if this is America. Now they, I think, will leave this war almost as unscathed as when they entered it.”

Sydney Gavell leaned on his cane as he limped out. It was a black cane with gold inlay—a fine piece—with a gold lion’s head. He hadn’t seen that one before. It was certainly a piece to be remembered.

"He was everything I wanted. A kind of idol, I suppose. But he knew I worshiped him, and I think he took advantage of that to show me the face that I wanted to see, even though it didn’t belong to him.”

“Very well.” Slowly and gently, he took her hands and turned them over to kiss the palms. “I will wait. But every time you touch someone until then, I think you will remember me.”

“I’m woman enough to break bread at the same table with you.”
“And I am man enough to do the same.”

What he saw slammed him in the gut. It was a watercolor—a good watercolor, soft and true, with the kind, vivid lines of Carey’s face. The eyes stared back at him with that beautiful shade of milk chocolate brown, and the little dimpled dints in her cheeks made him want to reach out and touch them to see if they were real.

If a company of ghosts and mutes had gathered around his table, they could have been no more tormenting than the two men and two women who filed into the kitchen and took their silent places.

After a few minutes he caught himself singing an English folk song and broke off in mid line. It was his mother’s song. But he hadn’t been thinking of his mother while he hummed it. He had thought instead of a pretty pair of hazel eyes and the small, strong hands supporting Ernest at the top of the hospital steps. Strange. He couldn’t remember his mother’s face in sharp focus anymore. He had left all the photographs behind. Now it was a hazy memory, fast supplanted by someone younger and more present.

Put away the past, beloved, and make room in your heart for something new....We have been given another chance at life. Let us seize it, and not blaspheme God in heaven by rejecting the gift.
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