Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Reading List

What are we doing?


What are we reading?


I'm reading all the books right now. A medieval mystery, an 1800s historical fiction, a super intense fantasy, a book on Christian art, and a book on ditching writing rules. It feels awesome, a regular literary feast of Christmastide.

I love posts this time of year. They're traditional, so I know exactly what I'm going to do. Today's post is the official Lady Bibliophile 2016 Book List. Thanks to Goodreads asking me about several titles, I found that I actually did get over 40 done.


That makes me so happy. I didn't think that was going to happen.

So pull up a cup of tea and let's chat together.

(list made in not exactly regular orderish.) 

1. The Bells of Paradise, Suzannah Rowntree
2. Lost Lake House, Elisabeth Grace Foley
3. Creating Character Arcs, K.M. Weiland
4. To Get to You, Joanne Bischof
5. Now We Are Six, A. A. Milne
6. The Sparrow Found A House, Jason McIntire
7. Grace Triumphant, Alicia A. Willis
8. Light of the Last, Chuck Black
9. Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
10. Fierce Convictions, Karen Swallow Prior
11. Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon
12. Miracles, Eric Metaxas
13. The High Deeds of Finn MacCool, Rosemary Sutcliff
14. The Inheritance, Michael Phillips
15. Flight School, Jason McIntire
16. The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling
17. Visual Theology, Tim Challies and Josh Byers
18. Dear Mr. Knightley, Katherine Reay
19. When We Were Very Young, A. A. Milne
20. Ben-Hur, Lew Wallace
21. What is the Gospel? Greg Gilbert
22. A Cast of Stones, Patrick Carr
23. The Bridezilla of Christ, Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin
24. Tintin (vol 5), by Herge
25. A Sparrow in Terezin, Kristy Cambron
26. 20 Things We'd Tell Our Twentysomething Selves
27. Hood, Stephen Lawhead
28. Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson
29. Tintin (vol 6), by Herge
30. Go Teen Writers, Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson
31. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas
32. Uninvited, Lysa TerKeurst
33. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
34. A Time to Die, Nadine Brandes
35. The Ringmaster's Wife, Kristy Cambron
36. The Prisoner of Zenda, Anthony Hope
37. Face to Face, Jayme Hull
38. The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp
39. The Heiress of Winterwood, Sarah E. Ladd
40. Anne of the Island, L.M. Montgomery
41. Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery

13 nonfiction--that's one for every month, plus an extra. And 28 fiction from a variety of ages, countries, authors, and genres. That sounds about like Schuyler. It was a great year for building up the mental compost.

As for next year's goals, that's all on Tuesday, when we celebrate 5 years of Lady Bibliophile and roll out plans for 2017. Please do join us for lots of cupcakes and bookish chat.

Have an awesome New Year, folkies. God is good, and he's taking good care of us. I know this year has been a challenging one for a lot of folks. I was reminded yesterday of the verse in Nehemiah 8:9 during this holiday season. While it's a slightly different situational context, I think the main thought can apply to life now. It's easy to get sucked into fear and sadness, but I'm going to try to set aside these last two days of 2016 for a time of joyful feasting on the riches of God's love and grace.

May your 2017 be full of bookish delights, and the joy of the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord our God.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Best of 2016

It's been a year for the books.

oh schuyler i knew you'd say that

I never know quite what I'm going to find when I start recapping the blog. Will I find a good year? A flat year? One with not much interesting content, and not much going on? I feel like 2015 was a year that really knocked the ball out of the park as far as wrestling with things and thinking through deep subjects. 2016, was, perhaps, a year of a different sort. Learning to think on my feet. Planning blog posts I could get done in between work and lesson planning and Bible studies. It was a year, not of personal cleverness, but of sustaining grace. And even if I feel like I didn't get quite as much energy as I wanted to tackle a blog redesign and knock out a long book list, God allowed me to accomplish several excellent things that I had been hoping to do.

2016 was the year of big books. I knocked off Ben-Hur and Bonhoeffer, as well as Our Mutual Friend, 3 books I was really hoping to read. I finished reading Return of the King for the second time and tried out a fantastic variety of new authors (Stephen Lawhead, Lysa TerKeurst, Nadine Brandes)  as well as some new books from beloved favorites (Suzannah Rowntree and Elisabeth Grace Foley). I helped out with book releases and beta read for friends. We also did the first link-ups and had a new feature of once a month guest voices.

2016 has been a thriving year of growth and new horizons. So spend a happy morning clicking links, and please tell me what YOUR favorite memories are from My Lady Bibliophile this year!

Favorite Articles From 2016
The level of nostalgia this year has reached an unprecedented height. I'm so glad, without really planning to do so, that I was able to write down some memories about reading and my own personal testimony on paper. It is wonderful to have official records of childhood memories.

The Shining Company and the Ethics of War 
Open Letters to Various Bookish Characters 
My Writing Process: The Backstory 
My Good Friday Story
Why Reading Boundaries Are a Good Thing (written when the internet was awash with hashtags to make certain characters gay)
Top 9 Fictional Dishes to Try (because I actually am a foodie)
A Walk Down Memory Lane (our library days growing up)
In Which Jaeryn Graham Has a Birthday 
Drawing on Your Inner Gold 

Guest Articles From 2016
Bibliophile Tabletalk--Elizabeth Newsom 
6 Ways to Encourage the Creative Process In Writing--Emily Hayse
From the Dark to the Dawn: Book Review--Carrie-Grace 
On Poetry and How Amazing It Is--Victoria Marinov
Why Modern Readers Should Care About History--Jordan Jachim 
Bibliophile Tabletalk--Katherine Forster 
Fairytale Interview--Suzannah Rowntree 

Favorite Book Reviews From 2016
Light of the Last, by Chuck Black
Fierce Convictions, by Hannah More
The Sparrow Series, Jason McIntyre
Poetry by A. A. Milne
To Get to You, Joanne Bischof 
20 Things We'd Tell Our Twentysomething Selves, Peter and Kelli Worrall
Tintin Comics, by Herge
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
Uninvited, Lysa TerKeurst
The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp

Nonfiction of the Year

20 Things We'd Tell Our Twentysomething Selves

Written with deep heart and practical encouragement, this book tackles a lot of things twentysomethings feel lost and need help with. If you're in your twenties and wish you had a source of wise counsel, this book offers more than ideology--it offers desperately needed practical suggestions founded on good ideology. By Peter and Kelli Worrall.

Fiction of the Year


One of the most enjoyable reads of 2016, I deeply savored this adventurous experience. It's a novel I've revisited many times, and still one of my favorites. If you haven't read Kidnapped yet, make 2017 the year to do it. By Robert Louis Stevenson.

Author of the Year

Ann Voskamp

A woman who writes with heart, grace, and desperately needed honesty, Ann Voskamp's new book The Broken Way, cemented my liking for her thoughtful work. She writes with the beauty and anguish of the vulnerable, wrapping her thoughts in a poetic celebration of everyday life. The author that lingers in my heart after a year that makes me feel both pain and gratitude.

Blessings, my friends. It is with a heart full of gratitude that I think about books and Jesus and all of you. What are your favorite books from this year? Or the best memories you've had so far with reading or writing? I'd love to know!

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 Character Awards #Booktag

(thanks to Cait from PaperFury for this amazing 2016 wrap-up tag.) 

Tintin, because ya know, I'm always getting secret clues and traveling to worldwide locations like money is no object. 

Ha. ahahahahaha. ahem. 

Actually, two right now. In reading Anne of Windy Poplars, I find Anne extremely relatable at this time in my life. She and I are about the same age in that book, and the way she describes things in her letters, deeply enjoys people's various stories, and tries to navigate life are all very much the way I see things. 

Also Davie Balfour. I've always found him so terribly relatable in his outlook and personality, in spite of zero parallel between our life circumstances. 

I was going to say SNOWY because how could you not, but then I realized that I've read several animal books this year. 

But seriously. Snowy. He is PRECIOUS. Go read Tintin immediately. 

Ugh. How to choose between Finn MacCool's band, Drew Carter, or Erroll Stone.  THIS IS NOT GOOD, FOLKS. 

However, lingering in my memory are two fellows--Fiachna and Innsa, the sons of Finn MacCool. Their stand in The Hostel of the Quicken Trees makes my heart ache with glory. 

Oh, ow. Saul from To Get To You. He's a really fun guy, and it's cool to see the dad in the story have a friend instead of the kid.  

Rudolf Rassendyll, from Prisoner of Zenda. I was expecting a fun little swashbuckler, but didn't expect my heart to be completely captured by his brave, honest courage. He's a hero worthy of accolades. 

I don't remember any good sass, which is a pity because I love a little bit. OH. I know. Max and Ruby in Death Be Not Proud, by Suzannah Rowntree (part of the ONCE fairytale collection). They had lovely sass. 

Best anti-hero would be Erroll Stone, hands down. Or Jack Boughton from Gilead

No one in books, really. It should have been Messala from Ben-Hur, but I didn't find him quite as dark as the radio show. So I'll go with Colin Campbell from Kidnapped because I'm a staunch Scottish lassie. 

I think I read three YA books this year, and none of them had bad parents? Is this a new record? 

Drew's mom and stepdad from Light of the Last. Their son goes into one of the most dangerous jobs in America, and is always showing up in jail or on a run for his life, and does this bother them? 

here honey, you can spend the night. totally not freaking out here. 

Looks at all the ships to choose from and decides to go down with the ships rather than choose. 

BUT if I had to choose...

Bella and John were such fun in Our Mutual Friend, I can't wait to see more of Parvin and Solomon, and Anne and Gilbert will always have my allegiance. 

Drew Carter. He's got angels turned out in full force to look after him. 

There were a couple, but we will not mention them. 

Abdullah from Tintin. Takes royal to a whole new level. 

I just--don't know? There was one, but that would be spoilers, so no names. 




Professor Calculus. Because seriously, who else? 

Jude, for his tune chip and for his other fascinating abilities, which we will not talk about because spoilers. I loved him very much. (A Time to Die


me me me 

But seriously, Kaja, in A Sparrow in Terezin. She needs it way more than I do, in a serious and heartwrenching kind of way.

Riley Kane, from To Get To You. I would totally love another novella about him and his new family dynamic. He seems to be on an upward trajectory after working really hard to get there, and I really enjoyed his character arc. 

Stay tuned next week for the 2016 blog wrapup and this year's reading list--which is longer than I thought, because Goodreads hasn't been counting everything. 

Merry Christmas, my fellow bibliophiles! May your weekend be bright with joy and worship. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winter TBR

Tomorrow is the first day of winter. We have our ever-faithful winter companions of snowdrifts and icicles to keep us cozy and indoors. I, personally, am keeping warm with thick sweaters and socks and extra heat on my bed.

Along with books, of course, which warm the heart.

awards self Pulitzer prize for that sentence of literary excellence

I'm currently reading L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Windy Poplars) and Nicholas Nickleby. Both are amazing good fun. I'm also watching Bleak House.

(Is reading Dickens and watching Dickens too much Dickens for one Dickensian fangirl? Of course not.) 

All right, all right. I'll leave you my winter reading list and stop trying to make up bad jokes.

Nicholas Nickleby
Been waiting to read this little humongous fella for a few years. I have my own copy, and discovered a long lost postcard in it with beautiful artwork by Jan Bower that I didn't know I had. It was a pleasure to re-discover. So far I like Nicholas, but his uncle is nothing to write home about. I also want to know more about Mr. Nobb. I have a feeling I'll like him.

Storm Siren
I'm going to co-read this with Annie Hawthorne so we can discuss and swap thoughts/feels/etc.

I can't remember what I'm going to start with, to be honest, but I think it's The Brothers Karamazov. Or Crime and Punishment. Whatever is the bigger one. High time to crack into Russian literature.

finish The Book of Lost Tales, Part 2, by Tolkien
Two years on the TBR stack is long enough, especially since I promised to read the Fall of Gondolin long ago.

God and Charles Dickens
One I very much want to finish before the winter season is out, so I can draw some intelligent conclusions on his life.

There you are, folkies. Small. Hopefully manageable and accomplishable. What do you want to read this winter? I'd love to know!

Friday, December 16, 2016

7 Favorite Writing Memories From 2016

Writing down good memories can be a bit misleading on the internet. It makes it look like your life was one Tangled lantern fest (not that I've ever seen Tangled...). But this year, I'm liking to look at recounting 2016 as little lanterns of memory and goodness that God has sent throughout the year. Otherwise it's easy to get sucked into the negative of what didn't happen or what you wish hadn't happened. It's all about--gratitude.

I could choose to look at the fact that I thought I'd have the second draft of War of Honor done up to the midpoint and off to beta readers. Life derailed that. 2016 was hard. But God was there. God is here, right now. There were gifts that he sent to unwrap all throughout the year...and these are some of the good memories he sent to me writing wise. Both beacon lights of hope, and Ebenezer stones of faithfulness.

1. Camp NaNo
Camp NaNo was a treat this spring. I had a pretty epic cabin of ten people, and great was the encouragement, awesome snippet sharing, and general camaraderie. Nano lights up my life and sharing snippets fuels my work. I was writing the portion of War of Honor about the Spanish flu epidemic, something I'd been waiting to write (and had scenes written about) for years. I also wrote one of my favorite scenes ever in the entire novel, inspired by Hobbit theme music.

so presh i can hardly stand it  

2. Celebrating character birthdays. 
I have many lingering memories of happiness from 2016. One of the dearest connected to my characters was the random night a friend and I went in quest for apple pie to celebrate Ben Dorroll's birthday. Apple pie is his thing, and I'd never celebrated his birthday with it before. We found the loveliest, yummiest little apple pie, the perfect size, and had birthday dessert for two, sitting in the front seat of our car and laughing like children of sunshine. I still have the cardboard box the pie came in. I just can't bear to throw it away.

don't judge 

Also, it was super cool, thanks to all y'all's questions on Jaeryn's birthday, to discover why he dislikes shortbread (I didn't include all the details in the post because they have to do with a mystery.) In writing War of Honor, I heard him hint at various cases he's been involved in after SEVEN YEARS OF SECRECY. Seriously, that guy said nothing all this time. But someone spilled his secrets for him. And I was like whoa, the world needs The Casebook of Jaeryn Graham. DV, you'll get one someday. Now forget I said that, because it's going to be a while. Though hopefully not a decade or anything.

i just don't think this folkestone stuff is ever going to end 

3. Reading my stories with friends 
We were in the car with friends on the way to a beach in Canada, and we decided to read one of the Caribbean novellas on the way. It's a novella with a certain mix of sweetness + trauma in it, told completely through means of emails, letters, and social media. I really had a lot of fun writing that in story form, though it was written in late 2015. As we read, we laughed and lingered together, taking turns every time a different character started writing. We couldn't have timed the cliffhangers better.

4. Attending Writer's conferences 
Getting to attend two local writer's conferences this year was a dream come true. I didn't know it was possible to have my creative well so deeply filled as it was at each place. There were fun, creative people to talk to, times to wander and commune with my own soul, and idea after idea pouring through my mind on ways to make my stories better, or new stories to start writing. Writing flash fiction in the sand (it was not romantic, the black flies were biting) and crying over characters in an empty gym late at night made for some pretty great memories.

5. Writing in odd settings 
I've written in a car on the way to Missouri, in a car on the way to Texas, and in a car dealership while my brother bought a car. This car theme seems to be a thing. It was good practice to write on the go, even when life came up and changed plans once in a while.

6. The Coffee Shop Experience 
I also got to experience this thing called writing in coffee shops. I don't know if I'd never been able to before, or just never had the cash to blow $5 a drink, but at any rate, I found myself coffee shop writing several times this year. Jaeryn got his due when I celebrated on his birthday with a pumpkin spice latte. I also got to write at a little local coffee shop while attending a writer's conference with a special friend. I'm not sure what I loved more: the new story idea, Escape from Windermere, or the lovely, creamy mug of chai latte, with foam that would make you weep with joy.

7. Finishing War of Honor 
But my favorite coffee shop experience was the day I finished War of Honor. I had made a coffee date with a friend, so I brought my laptop and wrote a bit beforehand. Tying up loose memories in a series is always nostalgic. Tying them up in company with I Vow to Thee My Country and The Last Goodbye on repeat achieved the perfect note of poignancy. In this series, I equaled the Lord of the Rings for word count, which was pretty epic. And though the ending needs some tweaking, I think by the time it's done it will pack just the right emotional punch for all the characters (and the readers) will have experienced along the journey.

Gifts of friends-- of The Ends, and ideas, creativity, strength, music to write to, people to share stories with, and characters to celebrate--these are some things I'm so grateful to God for from 2016. And though I don't have time to write eloquently, since work is calling, I can't wait for 2017, where I hope you'll be able to click that little purchase button next to something with my name on it.

As the Lord leads.

What are some of your favorite writing memories of 2016? Tell me all--I'd love to know!

Friday, December 9, 2016

One Thing Every Bookworm Should Do Before 2017

Lingering is the best antidote to a goodbye. As we say goodbye to 2016, it leaves us with memory. For some, exquisite happiness. For others, some very dark days of wandering without being able to see the stars.

God is there in both places.

In my life, I've made two mistakes about remembering which I suspect most everyone has made: the one, is to not linger long enough in appreciation of good times, and the other, is to not correctly process the sorrowful seasons.

Such times come even to bookworms. So as we rapidly close out the old year, I thought it might be fruitful to write an article about how to linger and remember the bookish side of our year during the holiday season.

I'm the queen of lists here, so I'm going to put this in list format.

1. Make a list of books you've read. (Or head over to Goodreads). 
I'm a big proponent of making book lists. I used to make them by hand, but Goodreads is a lot easier for people who are on the go on their computer. Just mark a book as finished when you're done, and away you go! At the end of the year, you can look back at all of them, marvel, laugh, and remember. If you don't have Goodreads, get out some gel pens and nice paper. Don't sweat if it you can't remember all the books. After all, this is supposed to be fun.

2. Make a list of new books you enjoyed. Mark off old favorites that you revisited. 
I discovered Jason McIntyre's Flight School, A.A. Milne's Poetry, and Fierce Convictions. All of them gave me new thoughts about children, gospel, and women in the culture. I also got to revisit Kidnapped and The High Deeds of Finn MacCool, two beautiful old favorites.

3. Write down the books on your TBR list that you checked off. 
I got to read Metaxas' Bonhoeffer this year. I tackled Ben-Hur. I'll recap more in future posts, but those were big books I had been putting off for years, saying "I'll read it next year." I was pretty tickled to have those done.

4. Write down a regrets list: books you regret not reading, or books you wish you hadn't read. 
I don't regret the books I read, but I regret not being able to read The Shock of Night, by Patrick Carr. I love his books, and I'd been waiting for book 2 all year, but it was too intense to handle right now. So for the state of my own mental health I'm waiting. And that was disappointing. I also regret choosing so many review books that I got burned out, though I don't regret any of the ones that I read--almost all of them were a home run.

5. Share what books you got your friends into. 
I love the fact (though I sometimes look longingly at commissions) that I can get books into the hands of friends through this blog without worrying about affiliate links. Recommendations have power, and it tickles me to no end when someone says "I bought this book you told me about." Books this year were 20 Things We'd Tell Our Twenty Something Selves, A Sparrow in Terezin, and The Broken Way. I'm sure there were others as well. (And friends got me to buy books, too. You'd better believe.)

6. Write down the books you read with your family. 
Maybe y'all don't read aloud, but we still do (after all, Jane Austen adults did in their stories, even if Edward Ferrars couldn't read poetry to save his life.) It's a tradition I highly recommend starting if you haven't already. Probably Sutcliff stands out as the shining star of our reading time this year. We read both The Eagle of the Ninth and The Silver Branch, and sis read them beautifully. But we also got a taste of John Bunyan, Gene Stratton-Porter, and Jan Karon.

7. Jot down a list of books you want to read in 2017. 
I'm already picking out my themes for 2017, but I'll share those later. Jot down a theme list you want to follow, books that are releasing, authors you want to try out, or recommendations you want to pursue.

8. Jot down a list of ways you want to read differently next year. 
I want to be more intentional about judging my time and energy for review books. In some instances, that might mean buying the book so I can read it on my own time rather than getting a free copy with a deadline.

9. Write down some big themes you took away for your own spiritual walk in 2016. 
Reading is fruitless if we merely absorb without allowing the content to change our thinking and ultimately, change our actions. What things do you want to apply from 2016 reading? Maybe it's a way of thinking, maybe it's something you want to improve in your walk with God, a relationship you want to handle better, a writing technique you want to apply, or an author you want to support.

Speaking of...

10. Jot down a list of authors to support in 2017. 
I already have several in mind. Suzannah Rowntree, Nadine Brandes, Patrick Carr, and more. Buy books from these people. Leave them Amazon and Goodreads reviews. Follow them on social media, and give them as gifts to your friends. That's the gift that keeps the book world spinning.

Linger over these prompts if you want. Make your list a pretty, artsy keepsake. Or scrawl it out on the back of old envelopes during the car ride to Christmas gatherings. Throw it up on your blog, put it on a social media post, mail it to another bookish friend. Email it to me. However simple or complicated, short or long--take some time to relish and remember this past year's bookish victories.

Let's carve out some time on Christmas break and linger over what we've learned and loved this year. I'd love to hear your answers to any of these prompts in the comments.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Currently // December 2016

This post was written Monday on three hours of sleep. Beware.

Writing // A Colby Country Christmas. Full of donuts and coffee and snow and family time and aesthetic galore. Don't you just love the word aesthetic? It sounds so artsy and smart. This story is all about aesthetic, and nothing too traumatic so far.

(besides separating an engaged couple over the holidays *cough*)

Listening // To Christmas music. Here are my recommendations:

Joy: An Irish Christmas, Keith and Kristyn Getty (The studio CD is my favorite over the live rendition, but that's just me.) With joyous, heartstirring melodies including Mary's Magnificat and Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven.

A Hollens Family Christmas, by Peter Hollens--with two renditions of his new favorite, December song, as well as stirring acapella versions of Belief, O Come O Come Emmanuel, I've listened to this several times since it released.

Heavenly Christmas, by Jackie Evancho--still my favorite of her two CDs, with beautiful renditions of Walking in the Air and O Come All Ye Faithful.

Someday At Christmas, Jackie Evancho--I'm just beginning to explore this new album, and aside from Hallelujah, I like all the song selections she chose.

The Classic Christmas Album, Celtic Thunder--This is an updated version of their older Christmas album, which I actually prefer much better, but if you're looking for some classic Christmas songs done very well, these guys nail it. I like all the songs except Fairytale of New York, which I don't recommend.

Studying // How to have a sophron (sound, reigned-in, healthy) mind through the True Woman 201 study by Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss. This is truth my mind needs so much, and I recommend this study to everyone.

Celebrating // The last day of teaching before Christmas break. What ho, writing time! Debating over working on War of Honor or novellas. My poor patient beta readers. It's just, I have to make VERY DIFFICULT DECISION about the plot, (basically who dies which will affect everything) and I am Miss Betwixt and Between.

(Kudos if you can name the book that spin-off came from.)

Watching // I need to watch The Scarlet Pimpernel, because I lost my skip n' mute list for that movie, so I have to replace it. Basically, I am the manual VidAngel remote for this household. I love stories so much that I'm willing to take the time and effort. Plus, The Scarlet Pimpernel is worth the trouble.

Bonjour, Monsieur *howls of laughter*

Lately, we've polished off Little Dorrit, A Matter of Faith, and Mansfield Park. Because I'm on Amazon Prime trial, I'd also like to polish off Bleak House before the Christmas holidays end.

Thankful // creamy drinks, colored Christmas lights, melted snow dripping on the roof, wakeful nights with Jesus, friends who pray with and for me, cozy sweatshirts, Bible studies about Jesus in John.

I am so thankful for a life with aesthetic. Aren't you?

That's my word for the day. Tell me what you're watching/studying/thankful for, folkies. I'd love to know.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Go Teen Writers Guide to Getting Published

Lest the blog title scare you away, this book isn't just for teens.

Navigating the publishing world can be scary and overwhelming--you hope you make the right decision at the right time, and you really, really want to impress the right people.

Do you have a proposal ready? Do you know what a proposal even is? How about an author bio? And how do you write a pesky synopsis of your entire story in three pages?

That's where Jill Williamson and Stephanie Morrill decided to come together to gift their teen writing community with a guide to getting published. It explains practical documents you need to have and mindsets you need to develop to make this publishing journey a success.

These two authors have a lot of experience to offer, and they offer it in such a kind, encouraging, factual way that this book is a gem for any writer of any age who wants an understandable editing and publishing manual to work with.

My Thoughts 
I've used this book again and again for various projects, particularly the section on novel proposals. A proposal is a giant document of your references and experience, your book's marketability, and its synopsis and main teaching points. Go Teen Writers was a lifesaver when I had a manuscript request a couple of years ago and didn't have a proposal and didn't know how to put it together. Stephanie and Jill give lots of easy lists and bold headings, making it easy to find advice on every section of this document. They even give advice to writers who don't have a lot to put on a resume yet.

If you need some quick, clear advice on proposals, then grab this book now and it will help you with a lot of your questions. If you're not quite at the proposal stage, but you want to avoid doing things at the last minute, then grab it now and study it before you need it. It's a lot easier than Googling myriads of articles, though you might have to do both. There is a sweat equity component to writing, after all.

This book is good for navigating the world of proposals and agents, but it's also good for two other things: editing, and brainstorming. At the back of the book is a gold mine of lists for hobbies and traits your characters can have, phobias, time periods for them to live in, and more. The editing section of the book, which is a hefty portion of it, helps you go step by step through a list of things to fix: from theme, plot, and characterization in the macro edit, to point of view, dialogue, and correct document formatting in the micro edit. All practical things that can take long periods of time trying to learn one by one, and are much easier to read about when they're collected in one place.

For a limited time you can snag Go Teen Writers for .99 cents on Amazon. When I saw that deal, I thought it would be a good time to review and recommend it, but I wasn't asked to do so--it's simply because I enjoyed the product, and think it would be a huge help to any writer dreaming of publication. You can pick it up here on Amazon.

Friday, November 25, 2016

When Reading Hits a Winter Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Newton and Polly

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 18, 2016

Of Snippets From Various Novellas

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


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

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

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

Country Novella 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t do hugs,” Becca gasped out.

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

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

Escape From Windermere 

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

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

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

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

Colby and Julian in New York City 

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

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

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

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

Here are my thoughts on this book.

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

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

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

This comprehensive book will teach you:

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

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

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

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

And much more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Sunshine Blogger Award

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

The rules:

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

The Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 4, 2016

10 Politicians I Would Invite to a Round Table Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

he's so nice, i wish he was real. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Broken Way, by Ann Voskamp

This week, we pulled up at a bookstore not too far from us to meet a very special lady. A woman who has known brokenness, and has vulnerably and beautifully poured out her brokenness for the world to be healed by. We found seats--very early, and they were already getting full--and listened to Ann Voskamp talk about her new book, her little daughter, and visiting Iraq. Then we lined up with lots of other women who had shared eucharisteo and koinonia grace with Ann, and waited in line to have her sign our books. (I bought her newest one hot off the press so I could have a print copy.)

She listens intently to each person, and freely gives love to those she talks to. You can tell she's a deep thinker.

When I came home, I set my books beside me and opened them up to her signature now and then. It was a surreal kind of moment.

And today, I'm here to review The Broken Way.

The Book 
Ann Voskamp, a farmer's wife from Canada, has learned how to see the world through a special set of eyes.

Not only has she learned herself, but she's also shared this gift of seeing with others. Her first book, One Thousand Gifts, deeply stirred my own heart as she chronicled her journey from desperation and depression to giving thanks--seeing God's graces in a thousand ways. A dare to see how much he loved her. Her second book takes the premise of a grateful heart and brings it one step further--to a given heart.

It is only by be present in each other's brokenness--both by carrying the brokenness of others with them, and sharing our own brokenness--that we can reach the full impact of the koinonia fellowship of Jesus Christ. He gave thanks and then he broke, and then he gave--and that's the only cycle by which we can live an abundant life.

My Thoughts
Throughout the whole book, I enjoyed Ann's lyrical style of writing. Each chapter had a rhythm--a situation, sometimes just an action like hanging laundry or dishing up dinner or waiting in a doctor's office--that begins the chapter and weaves through her thoughts like a refrain until the end of the chapter. She lingers over textures, feelings, and actions in a way that creates a vivid portrait of family life along with the spiritual life she talks about. The writing style gently rocks you back and forth, like a rocking chair itself, as you think, and ponder, and revel in the grace of each succeeding thought.

The Broken Way reads like a deep weaving together of everything she has seen, heard from friends, read, and pondered on this topic of broken and given fellowship among believers. Her content draws from a deep well of everyday reflection. This isn't truth she's just writing easily and quickly, but truth that she has tasted and lived in a myriad of ways as she puts pen to paper. I love reading an author who has taken the time to experience for themselves what they are promoting. It's the thought I heard once from Madeleine L'Engle's book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, that says a writer must be willing to carry their message like a mother carries her child in the womb. The Broken Way has been lovingly, painfully nurtured and given birth to before it was sent out into the world, and now its ready to bless thousands of people.

Chapter 3 made some of the biggest impact in my life out of the entire book. In it, Ann talked about brokenness in the context of taking communion. Jesus was broken and given for a broken and given people. When we pass the bread and cup of communion, we are commemorating his brokenness and givenness. In essence, when we eat the Lord's Supper in remembrance, we remember that his brokenness came to heal our brokenness--and we exchange our brokenness for his. That gave me a fresh perspective--and I'll admit a reassuring one for a perfectionist--on communion. Now it's a joy to celebrate brokenness and givenness with him.

And I won't spoil it, because it really has a superb effect, but the last chapter ties together the entire premise of the book in a way that completely took my breath away. You'll want to read it for yourself. It hit me in a way that I need to grow in, and reminded me that being a safe place myself requires accepting safe places from others.

Part description of life, part reflections from things she has read and heard and experienced, all offered in love, The Broken Way is a call to look outside ourselves--to heal our own brokenness by reaching out and healing other people's. If you feel broken, or you know someone else who is, gift yourself with the grace of The Broken Way.

I'm so honored to be on the team reviewing Ann Voskamp's newest book, The Broken Way. I received a free book from the publisher, but I loved it enough to go out and buy a copy for myself. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Character Letters // October

On this fine October day, it's the perfect time to curl up with a fox mug filled with hot cider and read some character letters. I have another installment all set to go for your reading pleasure. Enjoy missives from The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Prisoner of Zenda, Star Wars, and A.A. Milne.

Sir Percy

Sink me, isn't it a fine morning. I heard through the grapevine that you've been having difficulty communicating with a certain beautiful wife of yours. While the fellows may be more dependable, the fact remains that she has a right to expect a certain level of confidence from you. Andrew Ffoulkes seems like an INFJ, who make excellent counsellors, I hear. Perhaps he might have some advice to share on Controlling Erroneous Suspicions and Showing the Authentic You Now and Then. Also, if you weren't so rich and so good, your absolute controlling leadership would be concerning. But who are we to be concerned? You dance into our lives, charm us, and go on your merry way. I'm already writing fan fiction.

Entirely Yours,
Lady B.

Rudolf Rassendyll

My Dear Sir,
You deserve a seat amongst the grandest of adventurers. I love your gallant integrity. I am, however, receiving dire hints about either your physical longevity or your personal honor, I'm not sure which yet. If you die, you will have my mournful self to reckon with. If you lose your honor, then I hope you get whatever's coming to you. You shouldn't win my affections and then risk them in such a manner.

Hopefully yours,
Lady B.

PS. Who are we kidding? I hope you get off without a scratch.

Kylo Ren

Dear Son of Solo,
Bet you're loving the fact that you've single-handedly captured the hearts of half the female fandom universe. Who wouldn't? I've been volunteered by the Jedi to offer you some free counsel. Early bedtimes, honest sweat, and a healthy dose of genuine repentance are all excellent remedies for confusion as to life purpose and emotional angst for your own wrongdoing. I wish you all success in finding the True You.

Professionally Yours,
Lady B.

P.S. I can't believe I seriously wrote that to you after a long soul symphony of compassion for the outcasts. What level of worm can I sink to?

American Political Candidates

Dear Political Candidates,

Oh, wait. The 2016 election isn't fictional. Moving on.


Dear Rabbit,
We need your executive abilities to Make America Great Again. Imagine what you could do with our Hundred Acre Wood if you turned your paw to it. You'd be a natural at writing executive orders and making speeches. And you'd also be a natural at going around and getting everybody to do it. I think you'd especially enjoy harnessing America's man and woman power (must be politically correct) to the profitable task of finding all of your friends and relations. If you turned it into a smart phone game, you'd be a millionaire. Do consider this propisition.

Respectfully Yours,
Lady B.

PS. I have a Small too. Isn't that cute?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Drawing on Your Inner Gold

There's a lot of talk of brand these days. Find your brand, what makes you you, what sets you apart from other authors. Find your passion. What makes you tick. The elements that light you up. Then use those as much as possible in your own creative work to maximize your potential.

Tracy Groot, at a recent writer's conference, talked about drawing from your instincts as you write. Ultimately the best writing comes not in following craft books step by step, but in drawing from your creative well--that inner compost inside you that Tolkien talks about. That black gold rich with memory, zeal, excitement, and zest for stories.

The best exercise I've found for discovering my inner gold was in James Scott Bell's The Art of War for Writers. In it, he had you make a list of what you believe. Then he had you jot down your favorite books and movies and analyze the elements that you loved most about them. He said you want to put elements from both lists in your stories, so you're always passionate about them.

Today I thought it would be fun to share my lists with you and see how they've played out in the wide variety of genres I've read and written.

Things I Believe 
This isn't just a list of theological things I believe. But mindsets I hold that strongly affect the way I act, treat others, and make decisions.

  • God is a deeply loving and perfectly holy Heavenly Father. He gives us his love and calls us to pursue holiness.
  • Kindness and courtesy are essential elements to communication
  • Be a safe place in a world that has few of them. That shoulder they can cry on, the place where they feel able to share who they really are and let off the pressure of performance and masks.
  • Be vulnerable and authentic for real relationships.
  • Don't be afraid to live with all-out passion for the things God has given you to love.
  • Find friends who are shield brothers--loyal, loving, generous, forgiving.
  • Have compassion on the outcasts. The messy, the broken, the struggling.

Books and Movies that Mean the Most to Me 

  • Great Expectations--it leaves me feeling that justice and mercy have been fully satisfied. I end it feeling mentally inspired, with a heart that's been touched and a host of new friends in cast and characters.
  • Little Dorrit--I feel as if we have come through much suffering and yet suffering has not broken us.
  • Kidnapped--the male soul-friendship to trump all soul friendships. This one will always be my favorite in the realm of literature.
  • Amazing Grace--I must not give up the causes I am passionate about, even when it takes a long time and seems to ask for everything I have. When it ends, I feel triumphant, contemplative, grateful, and deeply moved.
  • The Pilgrim of Hate--I love the twist of justice and grace.
  • The Young Victoria--Victoria and Albert can stand shoulder to shoulder, with hearts beating in unison, and face anything. I feel excited about marriage when I watch that movie.
  • A Cast of Stones--I get to walk step by humiliating step with a wrecked, drunken outcast and watch him rise above his pain and humiliation to conquer it. Nobility for the outcast gets me every time.

Common Elements Between Them 
Tying through all those books and movies are themes of passion, grace, justice, mercy, kindred friendships, and suffering. Every single one of them has a clear picture of the kaleidoscope of personalities in the world that I love. They all have people paying the price for things they love, but refusing to give up: grappling with impossible darkness in themselves and others, and coming out scarred, but victorious.

I don't particularly love villains, but I deeply, deeply love flawed heroes. And this list very much shows that fact.

If I sat down and made a list of favorite literature and movies with my mom, my dad, or my sister in mind (hey little kylo ren fangirl), they would be completely different, with completely different elements. They would have different passion points, different common elements they're always looking for before my family pronounces a story "good". And that's the cool thing about the world if literature--we'll always have different types of stories because people are moved by different things.

How They Play Out in My Novels 

War of Loyalties 
War of Loyalties pretty much crams everything I love into one giant epic. Ben, Jaeryn, and Terry all have to grapple with justice, mercy, suffering, scars, friendships, and overcoming in a world of spies and broken generations and political turmoil. That is my first baby, therefore all my passions went into it at once.

The Caribbean Novellas 
These novellas are way different than WoL. They're modern day friendships exploring life and growing up and budding romance. But they started out with the soul-friendship theme, and the main characters have safe and authentic fellowship, both funny and contemplative by turns. Colby, Julian, and Roo are safe places for one another and find ways to show love and enjoy life in whatever they're walking through. This story pulls more from my core beliefs list than from the dramatic literature I enjoy.

The Jazz Age Novellas 
The Jazz age novellas incorporate zeal+shield brothers into one story. They don't have a lot of angsty safe-place scenes. They're just about having a purpose to better the world and holding to that purpose with joy, vigor, and willingness to sacrifice self. Plus, I suppose, slightly unlikely friendships.

schuyler and her outcast theme. has to get it in somewhere.

The Country Story 
This is a newer venture, a novella that hasn't been finished yet, and is barely started. It's a story about Becca, and it deals again with safe places and outcasts, but in a slightly different way than the Caribbean novellas. Becca is deeply in need of a safe place and finds it in someone who isn't a social outcast, but who could be in homeschool circles.  I'm already getting ideas for a sequel from watching God's Not Dead 2 yesterday with the sis. A real outcast walked into the cast of characters, and I want to explore where it takes me. While the themes of outcast and safe space are classic ones for me, the setting is fresh, placed in the country, with characters and struggles that are deeply autobiographical and personal for the year that 2016 has been.

You see, it's not about making sure every story is unlike the one before it. It's about putting your message to the world in fresh guises. After all, Dickens deals with social injustice, Ellis Peters writes mysteries with oppressed lovers, every Jules Verne is a tale of perseverance and impossible discovery, many L.M. Montgomery novels deal with escape from harsh control. You can change settings from America to Asia, change ages from young to old, change character religions and incomes and family backgrounds, but ultimately that heartbeat of what you believe and love should sink into every single thing you write.

After today, I think I've discovered that for now, every story I write will have the outcast, the dreamer, or the flawed hero.

Because that is who I am. And that is what I want to offer to the world.

So I'd love to know--what are two or three of your favorite books or movies? Do they mirror your passion points? How does what you believe influence the stories you like to read--or write?

(Or feel free to steal this blog post idea and link up to it in the comments.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Book For When You Want a Safe Place

My heart cry, for several years, has been to be a safe place.

Safe places aren't so rife that you fall over them every step of the way. There's a lot of safe people out there. I'm privileged to know quite a few of them.

Not everyone has a safe place. Not everyone is a safe place. But everyone, safe place or not, needs a safe place.

Jayme Hull is passionate about mentoring the millenial generation. The 25-35 somethings, so full of potential, seeking out who they are and where they belong in life and in the church. In her book Face to Face, she shares some of that wisdom, reaching out to countless girls who desperately want a woman to sit down one to one with them and meet regularly for sharing their hearts.

The Book [From Goodreads]

An indispensable resource on what everyone needs: a mentor

Whether you have a mentor, can’t seem to find one, or haven’t even thought to look, Jayme Hull walks you through every aspect of this critical relationship, including:

Its purpose, value, and benefits
Marks of a healthy mentoring relationship
Initiating, navigating, and even ending a mentorship
Becoming a mentor to others
Packed with stories and anecdotes from Jayme’s experience as both a mentor and mentee—plus sprinklings of wisdom on balance, purpose, and change—Face to Face speaks to the heart of young Christian women eager to grow. In her warm, personable style, Jayme offers expert advice on how to journey well with someone further along.

My Thoughts 
I love Jayme's warm, conversational style in writing this book. She knows how to reach out to millennials. She includes things that they care about: dreams and potential for the future, as well as wrestling through the gap of struggling to get started in life. Her own examples of trying to find her life purpose and starting her own mentor relationship makes the book feel like you're sitting down for a cup of chai and some good advice from a woman who cares about you.

The beauty of Face to Face is that it doesn't stay in the realm of the theoretical, but spends most of it's time on practical action steps readers can take to develop a mentor relationship. You won't walk away from this book only thinking "I wish I had a mentor." You'll also walk away thinking "I have some ideas on how to find one." Jayme gives tips on where to meet, what characteristics to look for in a mentor, and how to care about them as well as having them care for you.

It's easy to look at the description of a book like this and think "I don't have a mentor, and no one would do this for me." Not only is it possible, but we've also probably had mentoring more than we realize. While not discounting our need for regular meetings with a one-on-one, heart-to-heart mentor, Jayme gives examples of people who have mentored us. Coaches or teachers, friends, parents, Bible study leaders. I've never had a formal one-on-one mentor. I've always wanted one. But I have had mentors who have generously given time, effort, love, and listening ears to me. They've been both women older than me and peers. People I can text writing questions pretty much any time, and they'll answer. Parents I can talk to late at night, when life's problems seem to want to be solved. Women who have prayed for me, held me while I cried, sent Scripture and encouragement, and seen my potential. I wouldn't be where I am without the informal mentors who have poured so much love into me.

But the one-on-one kinds are important too. I know it would help in a few ways to know someone to meet regularly and talk through some issues I've walked through. Jayme gives some great ideas for getting to know someone like that. She walks through how to ask someone, how to deal with feelings if they say no, how to judge if you're both a good fit, and how to work through differences of opinion or uncomfortable moments that might arise. I especially appreciated her advice on that last part, because I want to know how to navigate the hard parts of navigating the human side of a good relationship.

The last chapters on balance, romance, and getting out of stuck spots in life seemed a little more life advice and less geared towards how a mentor could help with those things. While they were good advice, I thought they wandered from the heart of the book. But those are issues that Jayme encouraged readers to discuss with their mentors, so it all ultimately ties together, and they were really good chapters in themselves.

I suppose the only danger from this book could be reading it, agreeing with it, and walking away without taking action steps. As you read, take the time to ponder and pray, make lists of people you are being mentored by, and people you might want to be mentored by--or issues you want to be mentored in. (I'm talking to myself here, too. *makes note to Schuyler*)

Then make the first meeting. Don't jump into asking them to be your mentor just yet. Just get to know them, let them get to know you, and then ask them if they might be interested in a formal mentoring relationship.

And if you're scared, or need some words to say, then pick up Face to Face. It's an engaging read, rich with content and practical suggestions. You won't regret it.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and I was not obligated to give a positive one in any way.
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