Friday, January 29, 2016

6 Reasons Why I Love Charles Dickens

I'm reading Our Mutual Friend right now (for the first time, so don't tell me the end) and absolutely loving it. It's the first time I've picked up a long Dickens book for over a year, and I realized as soon as I opened it how much I've really missed him.

In talking with a friend about my various passion points, I went back and looked over an old list of books that were defining novels in my personal writing journey. Dickens featured in two of them (Little Dorrit and Great Expectations). Every time I pick up one of his works, I feel like the special fanship connection comes rushing back again. Since he's my favorite author, I thought it would be fun to write a post on just why I love his books so much.

The Humor
Dickens cracks me up constantly every.single.time. If you want humor, just read about Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt's granddaughter--or Wemmick with his post-office mouth--Herbert and Pip trying to make sense of their bills when they're head over ears in debt--or Mark Tapley changing his name to Co and trying to kiss the landlady. Dickens has an uncanny knack for description and dialogue. It's not Wodehouseian, but it is both snark and whimsy by turns that I love.

The Characters
Characters are my thing. I love personalities, people, faces to put a name to, backstory that makes me cry and want to hug them. For being an introvert, I spend most of my reading time thinking about characters--which is kind of interesting. Dickens always has funny names, and characters that push the limits of brave, wicked, flawed, funny, and noble by turns. From Herbert and Pip to Esther and Lady Dedlock, I've never seen his equal for creating new literary friends that I love.

The Drama
I'm a drama girl (not in the queen way, I hope). I love a dramatic story, though. Midnight plans and snickering villains and carriage rides through the London docks--meeting girls on the steps, dancing in crowded ball rooms, kissing the hands of bitter brides in locked up rooms, and having strange dinners with a lawyer and his housekeeper. If you want excitement, Dickens is generous with it--though sometimes it may tug at your heartstrings.

Meaningful Society Commentary
Dickens wielded his words as a sword--they were part story, but mostly there to bring an issue kicking and screaming to the forefront of his reader's consciousness. He knew London society's temptation to be indifferent, to hide the cause of the poor and oppressed behind their gilded dinners and comfortable homes. So he used his novels as little revolutionaries that could make their way into drawing rooms and convict with needle-like precision. So far in the books I've read, he's tackled everything from the justice system, to orphans, to government policy, to inventions and trade, to forgiveness, heritage, family, and Society. He's a veritable bulldog of social reform, refusing to allow himself to be silenced in the face of indifference. Again and again he hammers issues, sometimes making direct asides to the real government in his narrative. He is thoughtful about the combination of justice and mercy in the narrative of human shortcomings, and for that I appreciate him.

The Length
I love a good lengthy book. I love a short book as well, but I love lengthy ones for two reasons: first of all, I get that much more page space with the characters. Secondly, it exercises my reading muscles, making them a lot stronger. Think of it like a weight set--if you only lift 10 pounders, you're not going to get strong very fast. But if you work up and consistently use 25 or 45 pounders, your mind is going to be stronger, more mentally fit, and exercise parts of your brain that the 10 pounders can't do. Do you need both kinds? Absolutely. But I like to keep lengthy books in my diet to keep my reading stamina up, and Dickens offers abundant means to do so.

The Movie Adaptations
Lastly, I couldn't leave a Dickens post without the reason that I love the adaptations. There is something about Dickens that most screenwriters stay faithful too--he's the golden storyteller, one they don't really mess with a lot except tightening and adapting things to screen. I've seen beautiful adaptations of Little Dorrit, Great Expectations, and Bleak House, and hope to add Our Mutual Friend to the list sometime this year. (I hear it's really good.) Film writers many times turn them into miniseries of love and drama, which is a win-win. Or, if you want a quick Dickens fix, you can generally find a short adaptation (the Jeremy Irvine or Ioan Gruffudd Great Expectations are great choices). They're a great period drama choice when you've run out of Jane Austens to watch. I marathon through Little Dorrit about once every eighteen months or so, and it's never grown old.

So there you have it! 6 reasons why I love Charles Dickens--and I think I've made myself a new series. We might have a few more articles like this about various authors throughout the year! :)

All illustrations by Hablot Knight Browne, in the public domain.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Sunshine Award

Hey friends! Welcome to the Sunshine Award! We desperately need some sunshine in the cold American winter, so I'm all for taking a break from deep subjects and relaxing today. This is a tag where you share seven facts about yourself. I was tagged by two lovely blogger friends--first from Wendy, who is the Queen of Sunshine herself in Twitterland, and blogs over at the Jumping Bean, and then Annie, who constantly gives me sunshiny hugs and messages, and makes her home at Curious Wren. Thank-you, ladies!!

Here are the seven facts:

1. She has a cool sister who hacks her stuff. B-)

(You'll never guess who wrote that.)

2. A couple of Saturdays ago, I spent the afternoon watching friends perform in a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang musical, and in the evening we randomly decided to see the new Star Wars movie. It was one of the funnest (and cleanest) action movies I've seen in ages. As a result of this day, which is my ideal kind of Saturday, I can now sing the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang theme song, and I made myself a BB-8 bookmark, which gives me a reason to smile every time I look at it.

3. During election season, I'm an election worker at one of our city precincts. After two years, I've finally worked up to Madam Chairperson (which means I'm in charge of the other precinct workers and various Important Stuffage.) There's something so important about jingling keys and signing red seals and whatnot. This year being the presidential election, I'm excited for an extra challenge.

4. These pairs of earrings have been added to my collection since December 31st, and they make me pretty happy: They're really classic gold and silver, but longer than anything I've had before. It's amazing how a small piece of jewelry can refresh your wardrobe and brighten your perspective on life. My grandma gave me the blue and silver pair for Christmas. I think she has excellent taste in earrings. :)

5. There are only three things I want for my someday wedding: royal purple, French sodas, and fun music at the reception. Beyond that, I'd rather have everyone I love around me than a bunch of fancy decorations. Not sure the purple thing will happen. Carrie-Grace said that might scare people. I am willing to negotiate a wedding in Ireland in lieu of it. ;)

6.  My favorite non-friend accounts on Twitter are definitely church parody and political satire. Currently, Tim Hawkins, Relevant Church Guy, Church Curmudgeon, and Bernie Thoughts make me laugh until I cry. Also, though they aren't on Twitter, oftentimes one of us kids will gather the family in the evenings to watch a few Studio C skits.

7.  The two writing sunshine things in my life are my new scheduling notebook (blue) and prayer journal (pink). I'm writing prayers this year in the form of daily praise/confession/thankful/prayer lists. I think it will make a great record to look back on. I also got a new scheduling notebook for 2016, instead of scheduling on the computer. The combination of beauty and order makes me happy every day when I pick it up to write to-do lists. It has a great many of my hopes and dreams for 2016, and the blue and gold reminds me of Cinderella.

And I'll tag:

Katie Nichols--She's an absolutely fantastic person to word war and chat with, and I love her knitting projects and pet dragons.

Aimee Meester--whose fun writing tweets, thoughtful articles, gifs, and general love of sarcasm always make my day.

Carrie-Grace--what could make you happier than special sister hugs and nicknames? (I know you don't have a blog, darling, but I'd love to see 7 happy things on G+!)

Lydia Carns--whose happy spirit, stylish art, and good taste in books are things I greatly admire.

So there you have it, friends! What's been making you happy lately? I'd love to know!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Lord, Teach Us to Pray, by Tom Harmon

I want to talk briefly today about the last book I read in 2015, on the subject of prayer.

Prayer is the new key topic in many Christian ministries for this coming year. Revive Our Hearts has the theme Cry Out, and this month they're doing an excellent radio series on personal petitions Christians should make. (I was privileged to be at the studio recording last year, and I am so excited it's out now.) Other big churches are also studying prayer. Last year War Room came out, prompting a variety of study groups and movie showings. I think people recognize we have problems, and there's less and less we can do about them. Perhaps now, more than ever, we're recognizing the vital part of prayer in moving the hand of God. This is the year of a presidential election, and the year where we'll be facing many of the aftereffects of a lot of sobering legislation in the United States.

It's time to pray.

It's a year where I think many people are waking up, drawing lines, getting serious about their faith. And in a culture that is increasingly a battlefield, our two main weapons are prayer and knowledge of the Word of God.

In the midst of all these themes on prayer cropping up in my life, I wanted to end my 2015 reading year in a meaningful spiritual way. I didn't have time for a long book, but the Lord brought to mind a thin little volume on prayer, that I had bought and still needed to read, by Tom Harmon. He's an amazing speaker on Christian living, and he wrote a series of seven booklets to pass on to his children and grandchildren as a legacy. The one I own is Lord, Teach Us to Pray.

The Book (from Amazon)
It took me ten years to learn to pray, and as I have been praying the Lord has been teaching me how. I have come to learn that prayer is acknowledging my absolute dependence on God. Prayer is the greatest expression of my faith. Prayer is contact with deity. Prayer moves God to do things he otherwise wouldn’t do. Prayer is taking out of my hands that which I cannot do and placing into God’s hands that which only He can do. Is it any wonder that Charles Spurgeon said that he would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach. It is my prayer that God would use this small effort to aid in someone’s journey of learning to pray, especially my descendants.

My Thoughts
I'm the moderator of a private online prayer community, in which I post daily prayer requests and the members pray for one another. We've prayed over everything from test deadlines to illness to life milestones to wisdom in a variety of situations. And we've seen the Lord answer an incredible array of things. It's a record of his faithfulness and his caring.

For a few years now, I've had the habit of praying every morning with devotions, before I start my day. I like to use the ACTS model (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) so I can have a balanced prayer time. This year I'm trying out a prayer journal for the first time, and while I don't choose to use it every day, I'm really appreciating the added structure and depth it brings to my prayers.

So when I came to Tom Harmon's book, I wasn't new to prayer, but it was a vital part of my Christian walk, and one I wanted to breathe fresh life into. His book does just that. It's chock full of Scripture references, lists of ideas on requests to pray for, and Bible verses on the importance of prayer in the Christian life. If you feel like you're stuck in a rut praying for the same things, this book is a perfect collection of hundreds of requests that Christians can pray for themselves and those around them. Harmon talks about prayers for your children, prayers in times of temptation, prayers for cleansing, and preventative prayer that prays against things before they happen. He even talks about how to have an hour of prayer, and what that looks like. It sounds overwhelming, but I've done it with my mom before, and when you break it up into segments, you end up having way more things to pray about than you can fit in the hour. It goes by fast.

I was encouraged by Tom Harmon's thoughts on prayer, and even more the humility of his journey in admitting that he's still learning, and he's always encountering new struggles of the flesh to overcome. I don't know how long this book will be available, so if it sounds interesting I really encourage you to pick up a copy at his website.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Shining Company and the Ethics of War

Please be aware that the following discussion contains graphic wounds and mature wrestling with issues of death. If you do not feel able to read it yet, I would encourage you not to do so.

The Question of Battlefield Euthanasia

Something that I never thought twice about, until a huge discussion resulted on Twitter, was the paragraph where one of the characters gave a mercy-killing to his dying comrade. At first read, I understood the darkness of the situation and considered it more merciful to let him die than live. But other people brought up different opinions, and the consensus in our discussion wasn't clear. In putting together this blog post, I've been wrestling a lot more with it. My hope today is not necessarily to provide hard and fast answers, but to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at a real Christian girl thinking through the different angles of an issue that's still being debated today.

For the context of the following discussion, I'm going to put in the entire paragraph from The Shining Company. It is quite graphic. Also, I have removed character names to avoid spoilers.

Close under the gate tower ----------- crouched over someone, something, that ran red like a broached wine jar. I went to see if there was help to be given, and saw that it was ------------. He was almost broken apart midway by a blow from another of the great Saxon war axes, part still and part writhing like a snake crushed under a cartwheel. It was horrible. As I reached them he cried out shrilly, "Oh, {deleted} finish it!" And ---------- slipped his dagger from his belt left-handed--his right arm was under his brother's head--and finished it as calmly and competently as he might have slit the throat of a kid for the cooking pot. ~The Shining Company, by Rosemary Sutcliff, pg. 214

Certainly an appalling and sobering situation to wrestle with, and not an ideal inclusion in any story. But it's there, nonetheless. The death wound is graphic. The means of the mercy killing is graphic (though for the record, that has been done in other wars as well) and it doesn't leave the reader with an easy answer. He is dying. His body is almost hacked in half. Is his comrade justified in killing him, or is he not? You might wonder if it's even worth thinking about, but actually it's an issue that still crops up in wars today. Part of being a Christian is having a reasonable defense for even the hard and unpleasant parts of life. This is one of them.

Right here, I would like to clarify that I am against euthanasia as a way to end terminal illness, suffering, and "less viable" lives. I do not believe in abortion for any reason at any stage. I think that goes against everything Scripture teaches about God being the author and taker of life. Euthanasia has been used in appalling ways by ungodly men to persecute people. The Lord will one day give full retribution for that. So for the purposes of this discussion, I'm referring only to mercy killing in a battlefield where a man has been almost hacked in two, in a primitive pagan culture, and one of his comrades grants his request to die.

The first question to ask, is if we see any like examples in Scripture we can judge from. At the present moment, I can only think of one. When Saul the King of Israel died, he and his armor-bearer fell on their own swords. Saul was "badly wounded". They put themselves to death in apprehension of the kind of death they would die at the hands of the Philistines. No commentary from Scripture either way, but taken in light of Saul's life and bad decisions, it seems like a final act of folly at the end of a long course of rebellion towards God.

Then we have the Amalakite who comes to David and makes up the lie that he gave the "mercy-killing" to Saul at the end of the battle. David promptly puts him to death. But when David expresses his reason for doing so, it's not necessarily because the man killed. It's because he dared to raise his hand "against the Lord's anointed." It seems to be because of who Saul was rather than what Saul supposedly asked of him.

A couple of conclusions before continuing. In the case of Saul, euthanasia because of fear of martyrdom or persecution is sin. The early martyrs would not have been justified in doing that facing the lions in the arena. Nor do all the heroines in Victorian lit who plan to kill themselves rather than enter an ungodly marriage have any biblical justification for taking their own life. Living with pain, sin, or even dying in an unpleasant way at the hands of others is all part of what Christians are sometimes called to bear. While we can escape it by lawful means if we are able to do so, mercy-killing is an unlawful means of doing that.

So we come back to the man in The Shining Company. Is he doing it out of fear? No. He's giving mercy to his brother, refusing to prolong his death. Does his brother have a single viable chance at life? No. I'm still not convinced it was right, though. Let's keep thinking.

From a medical perspective, I can understand why he would deem it a "mercy" to kill his comrade in this situation. I read Martin D. Gilbert's The First World War last year, and the effects of mass slaughter on the human mind are heartbreaking. In WWI, so many thousands of soldiers died in the trenches that medical personnel were ordered to leave the dying ones and attend only to those who had a viable chance at life. How do you reconcile with your conscience a man lying in the trenches, with half his brains literally lying in the mud, no way of attending to him, fully conscious of the pain, and dying?

Whichever side I take, I don't think it should be a trite decision given from the comfort and ignorance of my own life. It is something that should be prayed about, wrestled over, and given time to consider deeply. Whether or not I agree with the act of mercy-killing, I understand that in those situations, a soldier could be driven to the point where he considered euthanasia a reasonable way of dealing with a suffering comrade.

Over the last week of wrestling through and thinking about this article, I have come to two conclusions.

1. I can think of no biblically supported means by which a mature Christian would commit a mercy-killing in the field of battle. 

There are three types of justified killing in Scripture. One is an accidental, unpremeditated act that costs the life of someone near you. (i.e. a gun going off accidentally). Another is the people of God going to war at his command against surrounding nations. And a third is evildoers being executed by the governing authorities. But there is no positive example of mercy-killing in Scripture. God is the author of life, and he is the taker of it. Sometimes through the sadness and tragedy of war and persecution, fellow human beings die in brutal and unimaginable ways. But ultimately, the God who gives life should be the one who takes it in those circumstances. That's how I understand matters for now. However, I can still find much empathy for soldiers who have actually had to make this choice and chosen to do it, even if I think it was the wrong decision.

2. I don't have an issue with it being included in The Shining Company. 

This story is a portrait of warfare. Warfare is ugly. This story is also a depiction of battle in a pagan culture. It's pagan characters acting according to their pagan code of honor. It's an opportunity as a reader to solidify our resolve to "not do as the surrounding nations do". I would not give this book to a child without editing out that part. But I would give it to a thinking, reasoning adult who needs to be aware that these issues exist. It's an opportunity to think through the situation in a fictional setting and ground our beliefs in Scripture before we're faced with it in real life. (Think War Games, by Suzannah Rowntree.)

It's a small part of the story, easily edited out if you don't care to think about it, and only mentioned once. That being said, if it were a major theme, I probably would choose not to read it. What I do believe firmly, is that this should not be common in literature. I don't want to see "justified mercy killings" start cropping up in Christian fiction. This is sobering. It is grievous. It is not to be used as a matter of an interesting plot tactic or "tough situation" to put your characters in. It has taken much effort to think through, and I hope would never be chosen for an "exciting" or "sad" story event. It's too real and serious to be handled like that.

In Conclusion 
I don't mean this article to be a form of teaching, though I know that's an inevitable part of it. I am primarily using it as a form of thinking and discussion. It is a question without a firm answer. I might change my mind on either point as I grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. If I find a better answer, I'll post it on the blog. But as you consider picking up The Shining Company, it's a question I hope you'll consider deeply and seriously. This book has strong lessons of bravery, comradeship, the hard realities of war, and death.

A book that makes me think and drives me back to God in prayer is one I consider time well spent reading. That is what The Shining Company did for me.

What do you think? I'd love to hear different angles and ideas on this issue.

Friday, January 15, 2016

On Break Today

 Just not feeling good enough for a blog post today, folks. I work for a while and then feel tired-out. I'm trying to get rid of this cold which keeps coming back, so I'm not going to overdo it. I have a lot of cool articles in the works, though, and we'll finish up The Shining Company next week!

Hope you have a great weekend and enjoy some good reading! I'm currently enjoying Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, and Miracles by Eric Metaxas, as well as Grace Triumphant by Alicia Willis. What are you reading right now? What do you think of it? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Shining Company, by Rosemary Sutcliff (Part One)

A precious friend gifted me with this book for my twenty-first birthday, and it was the first book I picked up on Christmas break. It was deep, exhilarating, sad, thought-provoking. It's one I'll definitely want to read again.

And it's so thought-provoking that it's going to require a two-part review. :) Today, I'll start with the traditional format.

The Book (description from Amazon) 
Life is secure and peaceful for young Prosper, second son of Gerontius, until the day Prince Gorthyn arrives with his hunting party. Prosper's unusual daring in the hunt catches the prince's attention, and he promises to make Prosper his shield-bearer when he comes of age. Two years later, three hundred princes are summoned to the king's fortress at Dyn Eidin, where they will prepare to fight the Saxon forces which are gaining strength in the east. Prosper, with Conn, his bondservant, leaves his father's lands to join Gorthyn in the rigorous training for battle. With the coming of spring, word reaches the Three Hundred Companions that the Saxon leader has taken yet another kingdom. They set out at once for the Saxon stronghold of Catraeth, where Prosper must face the greatest challenges of his life.
Adventure and heroism against impossible odds create a moving, robust tale set in Britain in the eighth century and based on actual events.

My Thoughts 
So far Sutcliff has a 100% track record of gripping characters, beautiful prose, and causing me to wrestle with deep issues weeks after I've read The End. I like a book like that. One that isn't come and go, but lingers and drives you to God, his character, and his Word in a deeper way. The Shield Ring was the best book to introduce me gently, and so far The High Deeds of Finn MacCool and The Shining Company have been double home runs of wrestling with ethics, mythology, warfare, friendship, magic, and Christian discernment. For that reason alone, I want to keep reading her. 

What's even more interesting, is that I don't think Sutcliff was a believer. Both mentions of Christianity that I've stumbled across have been negative, given from the perspective of pagan tribe members. Beyond that, she doesn't think to mention it at all. It's kind of sad, really, that a non Christian author with that much skill and depth wouldn't use her skill for the glory of God. 

I love the atmosphere of an older England with the small tribes and allegiances and secluded ways of living. It reminded me a lot of Jennifer Frietag's The Shadow Things, and the culture that Indi grew up in. Prosper is a worthy hero, drawn with simple lines and not colored in with much detail--more an observer than a main player. I liked how he was part of the shield bearers. It gave the company of men preparing for warfare a greater gravitas, looking at them as heroes of legend through the eyes of a lesser vassal. The womenfolk are strong, but not post-modern discontents with their current society. They are beautiful, fulfilling the traditions of their people, and glad to do so. The men are courageous and handsome and dashing. 

I was kind of surprised that the deep friendship that develops between Prosper and his slave dwindles away into nothingness as they grow up. It's not a plot tactic you see often. They just get busy, and still like each other, but rarely see each other. I missed them, and it made me sad, but it felt natural at the same time. 

It's a story of great effort, great joy, great competition, great pain--yet told so simply that the greatness of each man shines so much higher than it would if the author were straining to make her point. She doesn't strain at anything, and that's the gift of it. She seems to know exactly how much to say and when to stop, and to stop exactly when she has reached it. 

The only thing that wasn't my favorite was the mist the King's bard conjured up on the night of a battle. He was a pagan, but you can't attempt to control the weather without pagan witchcraft. Beyond that, there wasn't really direct reference to magic or paganism that I recall. 

It is a heart wrenching story of impossible odds, hard decisions, and the bitterness and brokenness of memory. But for all the grief, I was satisfied with the results. Sutcliff left us a thread of continuing on to satisfy our imaginations and thirst for hope. 

Intrigued? Don't look up this book quite yet. In its pages, there's one huge question that I was not expecting, on the issue of battlefield morality and euthanasia. We'll be talking about that on Friday. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Beautiful People #14--Writerly Resolutions and Goals

At the beginning of the year, I want to make some concrete goals to make sure my writing time is spent productively. So I'm joining up with this wonderful tag by the Beautiful People hosts to think about it! 

1. What were your writing achievements last year?
In 2015 I finished an extensive edit of War of Loyalties. The 2nd extensive edit. Only by the grace of God. In June I wrote a short story for a friend. In July I did Camp NaNo and worked on Homeschool Diaries, which I'm still in love with the concept of, but it didn't click. I want to get back to it. In August I sent my laptop in for repairs and found it was a hopeless case, so I wrote things on three different family computers while I earned money for another one. In September, I wrote up all kinds of proposals and one sheets for the ACFW conference, and pitched my novel to agents in Dallas, Texas. In the fall and winter, I wrote 2 novellas, Caribbean Dance and Caribbean Dream, exploring the beautiful world of Colby, Julian, and Roo, which was something I never expected. They enrich my life in a beautiful way, and it hurts that I will never get to meet them in person. I also started War of Honor *cheers* which I have been waiting for years to dig into. All in all, over 173,000 words just in story writing.
2. Tell us about your top priority writing project for this year?
Definitely finishing War of Honor. That is my top priority project. Other plans include another Caribbean installment, Hope that You Remember Me, and writing the second half of a dark and exciting novella entitled Night of the Harvest Moon. We shall see what the Lord has in store.
3. List 5 areas you’d like to work the hardest to improve this year.
I can't think of five, but there are three major ones. 
Kindness to myself--I am not kind to myself. I recognize it, but have never done anything about it. Recently I went through all the sharp criticism I put myself through on a daily basis and was horrified. It pretty much went from the time I got up until the time I went to sleep, with breaks of forgetfulness or distraction in between. Honestly, it is a fault that must be overcome. I'm not sure how, but that's one of my projects this year. Most of those thoughts center around the idea of telling myself what I lack. Not enough focus, not enough writing, not enough research, not enough prayer, not enough rest, sometimes (believe it or not) not enough work. It's a vicious cycle that needs to end, it wreaks havoc on my writing quality, and it's not a healthy part of the life of a child of God. 
Plot--It is not my strong point. So I'm trying to balance getting it tight enough without losing everything about my stories that I most love. I feel like I've swung the pendulum too far the other way, and I don't love the characters quite as much now that I'm always thinking about plot structure, so I'm experimenting with that and trying to reassure myself that authors do not have to have everything figured out by the age of 21. 
Taking Time to Replenish Creativity--Ouch. Again, another really bad area for me. Creative projects, watching movies, reading a lot, and generally taking time just to rest and be glad fills the mind and refreshes the soul. I generally push those things away to get my to-do lists done, saving them for the fantasy breaks that never seem to come. So one of my goals this year needs to be intentional creative time. Not to accomplish a great goals. Just to slow down and be. I think I can do more of it, as I develop the habit of being kinder to myself. 
4. Are you participating in any writing challenges?
I hope to do Camp NaNo as well as the official NaNoWriMo again! Seriously, the writing highs, encouragement, and focused concentration are priceless. I love them. I love the word wars and incredible focus and comraderie from writers all around the world. Last year was my first experience with both, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
5. What’s your critique partner/beta reader situation like and do you have plans to expand this year?
I have a lovely group of beta readers in the siblings of three different families, and a couple of come-and-go beta readers depending on schedule. I would like to add a couple of more interested in historical literary fiction who want to form a partnership with me. I write character-driven historical fiction, and I would love to find a couple of people serious about the craft of writing who are interested in swapping, fangirling, and strengthening each other's work not just after the book is done, but throughout the creative process of plotting and brainstorming.
6. Do you have plans to read any writer-related books this year? Or are there specific books you want to read for research? 
Good question. I don't have any specific ones planned, but I want to read the Go Teen Writers book on writing. I may have some in my Kindle that I need to get around to.
7. Pick one character you want to get to know better, and how are you going to achieve this?
Some characters I feel like I need to rediscover in the sequel I'm writing. Can't say who because of spoilers.
8. Do you plan to edit or query, and what’s your plan of attack?
I hope to send out two queries this month. If that doesn't turn up anything, I am in a quandary as to whether to go secular, Christian, or indie. I honestly don't know, and I want to decide soon.
9. Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” What are the books that you want to see more of, and what “holes” do you think need filling in the literary world?
I want to see more big chunky history stories. I see a lot of fantasy, which I love, but most historical fiction I see is romance. And I'm not against romance, but I'm sad about the same spiritual and physical plot repeating itself over and over again until it's a worn-out cycle. I want to see stories move into different time periods, break word count stereotypes, and plot and character stereotypes, and really contribute something meaningful and different to the literary community. In saying that, I'm not trying to bash modern romance stories--there are many new authors in that genre I have found both originality and depth in that I am enjoying a lot.
10. What do you hope to have achieved by the end of 2016?
Like I said, the three novellas, and beginning to send out War of Honor chapter by chapter to the first round of beta readers. I'm so excited I can't wait much longer, and they really have been extremely patient. And I want to share it with someone. The plot twists! The romance! The suspense! 

What are your writing goals this year? Which stories on this list most intrigues you? 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

4 Years of My Lady Bibliophile

Guys! It's birthday time! Lady Bibliophile is officially 4 years old. *pats its head* This is a moment of proud fondness. It is a moment of celebration. Of cake and ice-cream. Of fondly mingling around the bookshelves and stroking our favorite covers.

Looking Back 
I want to take the opportunity to give a huge shoutout to the social media family who has supported this blog. I have accounts on Google+, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter, and they all have thriving niches dedicated to talking about books. It was just this last year that I added Facebook and Twitter to my platforms. I would have Instagram now, but Instagram, alas, requires a mobile device, so not yet. But seriously, we've had some good discussions in the comments of various places, and I want to thank all the people who have supported this blog, both new friends and old.

It's also been a year to meet new authors (Kristy Cambron, Sarah Sundin, Tricia Mingerink, and others) as well as to help out with book releases (Pendragon's Heir and Storming). I finally got around to Pilgrim's Progress (I know, that was way too long) and tried out Anne Elisabeth Stengl for the first time. We talked about Anne of Green Gables. There were some things I didn't get around to: taking a look at science fiction and reading some Russian literature. But we did do a story contest instead, and those genres are things I'm hoping to continue into 2016.

Looking Ahead
This year I am not setting a Goodreads challenge. The 52 book goal cut out some big books I really wanted to read, simply because I was trying to hit a certain number. I want this year to be the year of doorstoppers that have been sitting on my shelf waiting for me to get around to them. Ben Hur. A Child's History of England. The Brothers Karamazov. The Return of the King. A re-read of Metaxas' Bonhoeffer. I can't do that when I have to finish a book a week, so this year my goal is big page count over big number.

I'd like to incorporate a few more guest posts this year. I really enjoyed the interviews last year and want to do more of that. If you're a book lover and want to be featured here in an article or interview, shoot me a line at ladybiblophileblog[at]gmail[dot]com and I'd be thrilled to talk to you. Also, if you have a review book you would like me to read, I am open to request, as long as schedule and interest coincide.

I've always wanted to host a reading challenge. I think we should have some more giveaways around here. And I have a few publishing ideas up my sleeve, which I'll have to see if 2016 is actually the year for. Beyond that, I'll continue reviewing, thinking through subjects, and posting thoughts here. We have some more writer/non-writer conversation posts to get through, and I really want to discuss K.M. Weiland's writing workbooks, now that I've had several months to test them and put them to practical use. It will be exciting.

I'm currently sitting on the couch writing this with a bad cold. Apologies if it doesn't sound too epic. STICK AROUND, I PROMISE IT WILL GET BETTER.

But here's the part where I would love to take your input--articles you want to see? Reviews you want me to do? Give me your suggestions, I would absolutely love them. :)

Top Visited Post of Last Year: The Bibliophile Tote Bag. The sewing community got hold of this one (it actually won a feature spot on a blog) and it has a whopping 820 views. Guys. I can't even. I am one lucky girl to own this bag, and huge shoutout to my mom for making it.

Top Commented Post: Tied with The Bibliophile Tote Bag and Why Book Lovers Need to be Book Buyers. 

The Infinity Tag 
For a wee celebration, I'm going to join in the Infinity tag, and just give y'all some casual chat about myself and likes/dislikes. Because sometimes I forget that it's mostly books around here, and I want you to know the person behind the blog. Especially if you've joined the club recently.

Here we go.

Thank the Blog that Nominated You: Thank-you, Grace!! *gives you cake*

11 Facts About Me: 
1. I call a lot of things "Little guy". Don't know where the habit came up, but everything from a pan of caramel sauce to my ASUS laptop is often christened that nickname in passing.
2. Currently loving popcorn from The Popcorn Factory. It is the best thing evah.
3. Just hit 100,000 words in my latest historical fiction.
4. I only write in cursive. Which is probably illegible.
5. I am a melancholic phlegmatic scatterbrain. Work that out if you can.
6. My main goal is to be a safe place in the earth for hurting people close to me.
7. I'm currently memorizing Psalm 119.
8. My favorite clothing store is Dress Barn. Classy stuff.
9. My main writing preference is historical fiction, except when I take side jaunts into modern-day novellas with a dash of romance. Everyone has to have an escape clause.
10. I work a house help job.
11. One of my molars is a primary tooth without any permanent molar underneath it. So every time I go to the dentist I hear about bridges and implants that I can look forward to in my 30s.

Epic fact to end on.

The Questions 
What's your least favorite saying?
 "God will never give you more than you can handle."

So not true. But God is strong enough to handle what he gives you. That I believe in.

What's your favorite holiday and why? 
Christmas. I love the combination of peace and joy surrounding the advent season. The snow and Christmas lights, the couple weeks where the whole world seems to take a breather, gift-giving and time to relax and worship.

Where do you gain inspiration the most? 
Probably from my Spotify playlist, or the books I'm reading. And if you like, you can join me on Spotify or Goodreads, depending on whether you like books or music!

How long have you been blogging, and what got you to blog in the first place? 
Well now, that's ironic since this is a birthday post and all. I've been blogging 4 years. I started blogging after I graduated highschool, because I wanted to create a corner of the web where people could come and discuss books and Think Deep Things.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? 
I want to seriously start planning an Ireland trip. I have friends in Australia that I'd like to get out and visit as well.

2015 Reading List--52 Books!
For your reading pleasure, here are the books I read and enjoyed last year! Most of these titles are reviewed on the blog, and you can find them in the search bar or on the reviews page. (Which needs to be updated. I apologize.)

The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan
Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon
Twelve Extraordinary Women, John MacArthur
With Every Letter, Sarah Sundin
The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien
Show Your Work, Austin Kleon
When Sorry Isn't Enough, Gary Chapman
Pendragon's Heir, Suzannah Rowntree
Wanderlust Creek, Elisabeth Grace Foley
Whisper, Lauren K. Lotter
Rise of the Fallen, Chuck Black
From the Dark to the Dawn, Alicia Willis
Jane of Lantern Hill, L.M. Montgomery
A Rare Benedictine, Ellis Peters
The Art of War for Writers, James Scott Bell
Outlining Your Novel, K.M. Weiland
Richard the Third, Paul Murray Kendall
Corral Nocturne, Elisabeth Grace Foley
Mara, Daughter of the Nile, Eloise Jarvis McGraw
The Door in the Wall, Marguerite de Angeli
A Mighty Fortress, Faith Blum
Structuring Your Novel, K.M. Weiland
Soul Friends, Leslie Parrott
Pioneer Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder
A Season of Shadows, Paul McCusker
Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
Heartless, Anne Elisabeth Stengl
How to Be a Spy, Denis Rigden
The Prince of Fishes, Suzannah Rowntree
Bonhoeffer: Student Edition, Eric Metaxas
The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser
The First World War, Martin D. Gilbert
Papa's Wife, Thyra Ferre Bjorn
Papa's Daughter, Thyra Ferre Bjorn
True Woman 201, Mary Kassian & Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Mama's Way, Thyra Ferre Bjorn
Leave it to Psmith, P.G. Wodehouse
The Butterfly and the Violin, Kristy Cambron
My Man Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
You Never Stop Being a Parent, Jim Newheiser & Elyse Fitzpatrick
Storming, K.M Weiland
Flame-Colored Taffeta, Rosemary Sutcliff
7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness, Eric Metaxas
Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot
The Shock of Night, Patrick Carr
The Comeback, Louie Giglio
Mardan's Mark, Kathrese McKee
The Shining Company, Rosemary Sutcliff
A Dream Not Imagined, Shantelle Mary Hannu
Ain't We Got Fun, Emily Chapman & Emily Ann Putzke
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Anne of Avonlea, L.M. Montgomery
Lord, Teach Us to Pray, Tom Harmon
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