How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Oxford Reflections

England in early April was more beautiful than I expected. Being from a southern clime, I thought that northern countries would still be gray so nigh to winter. But England was sunny, green, and in full bloom when I arrived. White blossoming trees, resembling suspended snow, mixed with their cousins’ young, emerald leaves in the fields of the middle counties, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Pink magnolias graced cultivated homes and college gardens. Flowers of every color were out, most noticeably white and yellow daffodils, red and pink tulips, and indigo hyacinths and muscari.

I am a plant person (though, to my sorrow, my thumbs are brown), so these beauties made me ecstatic. England’s natural loveliness praises God for His artistry. It also provided a paradisiacal backdrop to our class and tour. The weather cooperated, too, and held off the usual rain, except during our afternoon in Cambridge, Oxford’s rival university town—as an Oxford local quipped (I paraphrase), “Really? It didn’t rain here in Oxford. Well, that’s Cambridge for you.”

This class had me excited for months in advance, and I knew it would be marvelous, but I didn’t expect how deeply the actual week would thrill and satisfy me. Our leader and teacher, Douglas Bond, is extremely knowledgeable about the Bible, history, literature, and the writing craft, and very helpful and encouraging to budding writers. He gave us more than just writing tips—he showed us how to use all of life, including history, the arts, food, people, great literature, and the Bible as contributors to our writing. We studied gifted men and women who used their words in noble ways, men and women who became real to us as we saw their homes and churches and paths, and who inspired us as Mr. Bond read us their work. We took home a hefty reading list and a burning desire to write for God’s glory as these people did.

We also took home new friendships, although these have to be carried on long-distance. My classmates are wonderful people; we had such an amazing time together! We could share anything and everything about our stories at anytime, and whenever we had something to say, we could always be sure of a sympathetic and interested listener. With designated hours of reading aloud and critiquing in the cozy sitting room of the house we stayed in, we garnered fans and allies. All of us possess deep-seated love for God and writing, firm foundations for relationships.

As Christian writers, we learned we have an advantage—we have the whole picture of truth, which inspires and informs our writing. But, as C. S. Lewis put it, “Don’t write what people want, don’t write what you think they need; write what you need.”

I bet you’re ready for some pictures now!

Image: Amanda Cannon Photography

Our group plus two friends (and a photo-bomber in the doorway) and minus our wonderful photographer, in front of the Eagle and Child pub, famous for being a meeting place for the Inklings, C. S. Lewis's and J. R. R. Tolkien's writing club." We ate there twice.

One of my picturesque meals at the Eagle and Child: steak and ale pie. 

The pub celebrates its connection with the iconic Oxford authors.

Just one of many atmospheric cubbies in the pub, the Rabbit Room was a frequent spot for the Inklings to cozy up and discuss writing and literature.

Image: Amanda Cannon Photography
Our class spent time in countless remarkable places like this one, the eating hall in Balliol College, Oxford. This moment was our first writing tutorial; minutes later we penned our impressions of the hall, reflecting on the famous men who ate there—most notably John Wycliffe in the 14th century, an Oxford student and later a master.

Amanda Cannon Photography
I did a lot of this during the week—scribbling away in the notebook that companioned me everywhere! Here, we're in the sunny garden of Balliol College.

All these photos are in Balliol College, where gorgeousness abounds. We visited several different colleges, but I think this one had the best landscaping.

Christ Church Cathedral, the cathedral of the diocese of Oxford, where we heard a heavenly evensong.

Oxford rooftops from St. Michael's Tower. St. Michael at the North Gate church is the oldest building in Oxford, from 1000-1050. Unfortunately I didn't get a good picture of the building itself. (Rueful head shake.) 

The Radcliffe Camera, a reading room for Oxford's Bodleian Library, and a favorite study location for students.

These last four photos are of Merton College, where J. R. R. Tolkien taught English language and literature. Merton is one of the three oldest colleges in the University of Oxford, established during the 13th century . . . can you image teaching or even learning in an institution that's almost one thousand years old? That intricate sculpture (top picture) that looks like it came from Narnia or Middle Earth is above Merton's gatehouse.

This post is growing longer and longer, but I still have so many more pictures to share! Stay tuned for another post featuring C. S. Lewis haunts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Only Children Chase Sawdust Blog Tour

Today I'm excited to take part in the blog tour for Willowy Whisper's newest book, Only Children Chase Sawdust.

Their whole life turned to sawdust and blew away . . .

Please don't leave me, Jacob. I need you. I know you're grieving. Maybe we all are. But you're chasing something you'll never catch . . . and we both know you won't come back alive.

Watch the book trailer:

Willowy Whisper is a young Christian fiction author. She lives somewhere in the middle of nowhere, smack-dab in the country hills of West Virginia. She is the author of seven novels, six of which are published, and numerous short stories. She is also a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, an incurable romantic, and a passionate dreamer. To follow her, visit her blog at

Add Only Children Chase Sawdust to Goodreads.
Check out the book on Amazon.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Off to Oxford

No, I’m not attending Oxford University . . . but I will be studying the writing craft in Oxford and its vicinity with author and teacher Douglas Bond. If all goes according to plan, I set off on a plane tomorrow, March 31, and arrive in England on the morning of April 1 for a week of touring and writing tutorials in the central southern part of England. The Oxford Creative Writing Master Class is something I’ve had my eye on since its inception last year, and I’m so blessed to go this year!

Hopefully when I come back I will have many interesting experiences and photos to share with you. Until then, you can look at this website for a survey of what I’ll be doing:

Bodleian Library, from when I was there before

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Indie e-Con: Copyediting Walk-Through

 It’s Indie e-Con week!

This online writer’s conference began yesterday and goes all week on Kendra Ardnek’s blog, Each day has a theme, and today’s theme is editing. Editing is, I confess, one of my favorite aspects of writing, but there are all different levels of editing. You can visit the conference to learn about them all, but on my blog today, I’m talking about copyediting.

Copyediting is the most technical type of editing, ferreting out grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes as well as other slip-ups that are blatantly wrong (such as an inconsistent character name and obvious factual errors). These things trip up a reader and make your work look less than professional, which is why copyediting is essential.

So . . . to demonstrate via a walk-through, I’ve taken a passage from one of my published books (England Adventure) and generously sprinkled it with fourteen typos. See if you can find the errors. Then, I’ll write the passage again and highlight the errors. I’ll explain each correction, and then write the passage typo-free.


“I’m prepared to walk my feet of if I have to!!!” Caroline declared. I’m determined to see everything and anything I can.”
“Me, too!” I said My feet felt like they were on springs, adding to the desparate sense that I had to experience everything, even though I could now realize how vast England was and how impossible that would be.  We were on Purview street now, traveling the way we’d come into Madgwick, where trees, bushes, and flowers grew wildly free and only an occasional sign or bench was tucked.
“There’s so much to see and do in London.” Paris asserted fondly, as if defending a pet object. “Literally the best stores-except what’s in Paris--not to mention all those historical sites, its hard to imagine you’ll have energy for anything else that day. Like I always say, “London is the world”.”

Caught typos:

“I’m prepared to walk my feet of if I have to!!!” Caroline declared. I’m determined to see everything and anything I can.”
“Me, too!” I said My feet felt like they were on springs, adding to the desparate sense that I had to experience everything, even though I could now realize how vast England was and how impossible that would be.  We were on Purview street now, traveling the way we’d come into Madgwick, where trees, bushes, and flowers grew wildly free and only an occasional sign or bench was tucked.
“There’s so much to see and do in London.” Paris asserted fondly, as if defending a pet object. “Literally the best stores-except what’s in Paris--not to mention all those historical sites, its hard to imagine you’ll have energy for anything else that day. Like I always say, London is the world”.

Found them? 
- Of should be off.
- There should be only one exclamation point; more than one is really not acceptable in published writing.
- Every dialogue piece should begin with double quotation marks. (At least in American English.)
- Missing period.
- Desperate is one commonly misspelled word. 
- Beware of extra blank spaces, especially at the beginning of sentences. There should only be one blank after punctuation marks.
- Streets are capitalized if they're named.
- Dialogue ends with a comma if it's followed by a dialogue tag (such as said or asserted).
- Em dashes that indicate breaks in thought are dashes the length of a capital M—make sure they're long enough.
- Double hyphens aren't enough, either.
- The comma isn't strong enough to separate two phrases that should be two separate sentences.
- Watch out for its and it's and other tricky homonyms and contractions.
- If someone is quoting within dialogue, single quotation marks set it off, not double. (At least in American English.)
- Quotation marks, single or double, always go outside periods and commas. (At least in American English . . . yep, the differences between British and American rules are tricky!)

And finally, the corrected text:

“I’m prepared to walk my feet off if I have to!” Caroline declared. I’m determined to see everything and anything I can.”
“Me, too!” I said. My feet felt like they were on springs, adding to the desperate sense that I had to experience everything, even though I could now realize how vast England was and how impossible that would be. We were on Purview Street now, traveling the way we’d come into Madgwick, where trees, bushes, and flowers grew wildly free and only an occasional sign or bench was tucked.
“There’s so much to see and do in London,” Paris asserted fondly, as if defending a pet object. “Literally the best stores
except what’s in Parisnot to mention all those historical sites. It's hard to imagine you’ll have energy for anything else that day. Like I always say, ‘London is the world.'” 

Obviously, writing is subject to a lot more mistakes than these fourteen, but these are some of the more common ones for you to be aware of. If you have any patience for copyediting, I encourage you to learn more about the rules so you can catch them yourself. Style manuals (such as the Chicago Manual of Style) and dictionaries are the best. But it's still a great idea to have another trained pair of eyes to look at your manuscript, too, because typos are sly little imps that are expert at hiding, and 99% of writing will still harbor a handful even after copyediting and proofreading. But that doesn't mean that we can't try to catch them all!

Do you have any questions about the work of copyediting? If you are a copyeditor, what are some of the most common mistakes you have to correct?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Julius Caesar

I am not a Shakespeare aficionado (yet!); I’ve only read three of his plays on my own (The Winter’s Tale, The Comedy of Errors, and just recently, Julius Caesar). I’ve enjoyed him every time . . . his stories are short, entertaining, and told with lyrical language; but before I read Julius Caesar, I had somehow developed the idea that he was hard to follow. Maybe it was because of The Comedy of Errors. (Which stars two sets of identical twins with the same names. Yikes!)

Julius Caesar was fairly easy, though. There were only about four or five words I had to look up in the dictionary, and there was only one pair of people with the same name. Following the story was no trouble (it helped that I already knew the historical situation). It certainly encourages me to read the rest of Shakespeare’s works! 

The Assassination of Julius Caesar (PD-1923)

Here are some quotes I particularly liked. You may recognize one or two that have filtered into everyday English as regular expressions:

“Draw them to Tiber banks, and weep your tears
Into the channel, till the lowest stream
Do kiss the most exalted shores of all.” Flavius

“Those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me . . .” Casca speaking of Cicero

“Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.” Caesar

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears . . .” Marc Antony

“O, that a man might know
The end of this day’s business ere it come!
But it sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known.” Brutus

My favorite character was Brutus, Caesar’s friend who was so torn about helping to kill him . . . yeah, there were some complicated moral questions here! What about you? Have you ever read Julius Caesar? How about anything by Shakespeare? Which play would you recommend I read next?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Book Review: Your Sins and Mine

I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of her before: Taylor Caldwell, an extremely popular bestselling author of mid-20th century America. And what’s more, she often wrote on Christian themes. Where have I been?

I had the opportunity to be introduced to her work when I read Your Sins and Mine, recently re-published as an e-book by Open Road Media (which I received from them in exchange for my honest review). Although the apocalyptic/dystopian genre is far from my favorite, I was impressed with how “the end of the world” was portrayed in this short novel. It was different from anything else I’ve read or seen.

“The land hated us, the violated land, the faithful land, the exploited and gentle land. The land had decided that we must die, and all innocent living things with us. The land had cursed us. Our wars and our hatred—these had finally sickened the wise earth.”

The narrator, Pete, who farms with his father, George, describes the earth’s gradual, terrifying betrayal of mankind. Various phenomena occur that match the end-times prophecy of Matthew 24 – drought, disease, disasters – punishing man for his evil. Other horrors either resemble Revelation’s prophecies or spring from Caldwell’s imagination. The weeds were particularly interesting . . . but I won’t say anything else, because the uncertainty of what will strike next keeps you turning pages.

Since Your Sins and Mine was published in 1955, it is replete with Cold War and Communist concerns. I also wonder if readers of the time saw similarities between the book’s murderous drought and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The Cold War references date the book but are interesting because they provide insight into the fears of 1950s Americans. The rest of what happens on the destructive earth, however, felt close to home to me since I believe in a coming tribulation and judgment caused by mankind’s sin. I really appreciated the message of the book: repentance.

The characters aren’t developed with any great depth, but we know them enough to sympathize and identify with them. Pete, George, and their family and friends go through heart-wrenching times; I hated some of what happened but that did make the book reach deep. They use a lot of mild expletives, so if you’re sensitive to that, be aware. I liked George the best, the sturdy, masterful man of the earth who encouraged people and never lost his faith in God.

In short, Your Sins and Mine can get depressing, but it’s a fast and thought-provoking read.

To learn more about Taylor Caldwell, visit her website:

Have you ever read anything by this author?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Faith Blum: Blog Tour and Guest Post

Have you ever wondered what it was like for orphans born in the Wild West? Faith Blum has a new book that explores the life of three orphans born during that time. She’s with us today to tell us a little about her book. Make sure you read to the end to see the super fun giveaway she has going on, too!

About the Book

The ground shook and a rumble sounded through the air as the train squealed to a stop. Maybe, just maybe, I could carry someone’s bags without the porter taking notice. And then there was the even bigger maybe: Maybe I could get enough money to at least buy a crust of bread for Trevor and Tabitha to share.
I hid behind the boxes in the freight yard and kept one eye on the porter, and the other on the second class passenger car. The porter had his attention on the first class car, so I slipped into the gathering crowd.

Titus Hine has always taken care of others. First in protecting his brother and sister from the men his mother entertained. Even more so after her death, when the townspeople refused to help the orphans of a town prostitute. He’s been protector and provider, despite the hardships. He’s learned that no one will help, no one cares and if he wants to survive he’ll have to rely on his own strength not just for himself but his family as well.

Then a stranger shows him the kindness and help no one else seems willing to. Between her kindness and the lecture she gives the Christian Leaders, Titus’s life takes an unexpected turn for the better. With help and provision from the local believers things should be easier, his burdens are lifted. So why does it feel like life is spinning out of control?

Can Titus learn that while man may fail him there is One who will never fail? Can he learn to allow God to be the Shepherd of his life and lead him? Or will life continue to push him every which way?

Note: 50% of Faith Blum's income from this series will go to the World Orphans organization.

Buy now on your favorite eBook platform:

About the Author

Faith Blum is a 20-something author of multiple books in various genres. She loves to write, read, play piano, knit, crochet, sew, watch movies, and play games with her family.  She lives in Wisconsin with her family on a small family farm where they raise goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and have 2 dogs and a varying number of cats.

Faith’s goal in her writing is to encourage Christians in their walk with Christ. If you want to know when her latest book comes out, go to her website to sign up for her New Releases Newsletter so you can get an email when her next book in the series comes out. You will also find links to her other Social Media sites on her website. She loves to hear from her readers, so feel free to contact her.

Guest Post

My Kind of Romance

Everyone has their own views on many things, including romance. How much is too much in a book? How much is too little? Should you even read romances? It’s something I’ve thought about a few times and as a writer, it is also something I’ve needed to think about.

As a reader, I like a good romance, but I’m very picky about what I personally consider a good romance. As an author, I’m also very picky about what I write as a romance.

Just what is that? I’m so glad you asked. If you read my books and there is a romance/love story in them, most of them will have the following characteristics:

  • A sweet, clean romance with no “pink” parts
  • A romance that develops naturally and without some sort of crisis happening that makes them suddenly realize “I really did love him/her! And now s/he’s dying! My life is over!” Then at the last possible second the lover miraculously gets better and all is well. (purposely exaggerated)
  • The kissing is all G-rated or lower with simple descriptions like “He pecked her on the lips” and other such phrases.
  • So far in my books, each couple has gotten to know each other through a courtship since that was the way it was done back then. I may eventually delve into other methods such as dating, but that will depend on many things.

I know many authors, Christian and secular alike, write more “spice” into their stories, but I have come to the personal conviction that a good romance is one you can believe could really happen, that doesn’t create premature feelings (or feelings you should only feel about your spouse), and is something God wouldn’t mind you reading.

As an author, that is what I endeavor to do. If you disagree, I am 100% okay with that. You can either choose to read my books or not. I will not be offended in any way. If that is what you’ve always wanted to read in a book, great! One of my slightly more romance-y books is free February 23-27, 2017! (Note: This story inspired Savior, Like a Shepherd! Click HERE to find it.)


Faith is giving away EIGHT prizes! She has two paperbacks and two eBooks of Savior, Like a Shepherd up for grabs as well as one paperback and three eBooks of her Hymns of the West Novellas: Volume Two. The novella collection contains the novella that inspired her latest series as well as her new novel. Fill out the rafflecopter for the chance to win one of the prizes:

Tour Schedule

Bonus Post from February 10
Petticoats and Pistols – The History of Paint (Note: the giveaway on that post is closed)

February 16
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Introduction
Peggy's Hope 4U- Character Spotlight of Titus

February 17
Leah's Bookshelf- Book Spotlight
Rebekah Lyn Books- Character Spotlight of Tabitha

February 18
Zerina Blossom's Books- Guest Post – About the Town

February 20
Sarah Allerding- Author Interview

February 21
Tara Ellis Author- Book Spotlight
Melanie D. Snitker, Author – Character Spotlight of Trevor

February 22

February 23
Reveries Reviews- Character Spotlight of Titus Hine
Kelsey's Notebook- Guest Post – My Kind of Romance

February 24
With a Joyful Noise- Book Review

February 25
Writing Dreams- Guest Post – Why Orphans?
Zerina Blossom's Books – Book Review

February 27
God's Peculiar Treasure Rae- Character Spotlight of Trevor Hine

February 28
Homeschooled Authors- Author Interview
Rachel Rossano's Words- Guest Post – What’s the Inspiration and song connection?