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

Friday, November 30, 2012

Kindred Keyboard Conversations

Many of you have probably already seen this, but for those of you who haven’t, I have a link for you to check out: Reader Interview: Kelsey Bryant! I’ve had the immense pleasure of being interviewed by Elizabeth Kaiser, a wonderfully sweet young authoress I met online. She has a very fun blog where the discussions run about all things writer-ly; her blog was one of the first that I ever followed. She put out a call for interviews some time ago, both for readers and for writers, so I “volunteered” for both. She’s interviewed others, as well, and each one is so interesting! It’s fascinating to hear from all these different people and their unique perspectives on life and literary matters.

I was absolutely thrilled about these interviews because I’ve never done one before. I like answering questions, but this was my chance to really nail down my (current) philosophy on reading and writing and craft something fun and informative, with the help of Elizabeth’s intriguing questions. I had my mom and an editor-friend read both before I sent off my answers because I wanted them just right.

There are so many great blogs out there. I feel blessed to have found a community of young homeschool or homeschool-graduate writers who have pretty much the same goals as I do: to write the best books we can, to read as many classics as we can, and above all to glorify the Lord in everything we do! I have been so impressed and encouraged by the “blogging lives” of these young people and I wish them every success and happiness. Three cheers for them all!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Lord of the Rings

Pinned Image
For those of you who are Lord of the Rings fans, I hope you’ve had the incomparable pleasure of seeing the extended versions of the movie trilogy. My parents and I watched them over the course of eight nights last week and Monday of this week - this was the second time I’ve seen the extended versions and the umpteenth time I’ve seen the movies as a whole - and I can think of no other film I can watch so often and not get tired of. It never ceases to move me - and inspire me. After a dry period of writing, I am once again convicted of the power of story and my earnest desire to be the best storyteller that I can be.

But its influence over me goes beyond aspects of storytelling. It shows me the comprehensive picture of life in the real world - the epic struggle between good and evil and how vital it is to make a stand for the good - for the Lord. That inspires the way I live my life.

I am thoroughly inflamed now for The Hobbit. December 14th! (I’ll see it a bit later than that.) I am “quite ready for another adventure.” I hope it fulfills our expectations!

Some of you may not like The Lord of the Rings or even fantasy, but it sure speaks powerfully to me!  (And, to tell you the truth, it’s not so much the fantasy element as the quest against all odds that draws me.) What books and/or movies never cease to inspire you?

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Book Character Takes a Personality Test

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving!

When I embark on a new novel idea, about the first thing I make notes on is the main character. I write out a few of her attributes and go from there, trying to make her as round and complete as possible. I want to know her as well as I know myself.

I love making character charts - I’m sure every writer has their own way of doing this, because we all love creating characters, don’t we? But I’ve always wanted to take a personality test as if my character were taking it and so, since I’m developing a brand-new protagonist for a new story, I tried it out over Thanksgiving.

A friend told me about this personality test which is called The Keirsey Temperament Sorter-II. But let me give you this website: You can find the test by clicking on the question “Is there a test?” and then, on the new page, clicking on the link that says Keirsey’s Temperament Sorter II. However, I took that test before as myself and came up with a personality assessment that wasn’t exactly right-on (it said I was an ISFP, which I’m not). The website I directed you to,, also has an explanation for each of the types (which is where you’ll discover what in the world those letters mean - no, they do not describe a droid). If you don’t want to take the test, it’s worthwhile and interesting just reading those. That’s how I found my true personality type, INFP. Each explanation includes a list of famous people and literary characters with that personality and even the personality types that contrast or complement it (helpful for developing secondary characters, don’t you think?).

I enjoyed taking the Keirsey test for my new character yesterday. There were a lot of questions, and sometimes they seemed to be asking the same thing, but I wrote them all down in my notebook to reference again and again because they forced me to think about what my character would do in sundry situations - many of which might find place in her story. However, I did not feel like giving the website my name and email address, so I didn’t get her droid name - code - initial - whatever you call those letter groups. But I certainly got a better understanding of her personality.

Next, I perused the personality codes on and narrowed down her type myself: INFJ or INTJ. She’s introverted and perceptive, practical yet idealistic, and a hardworking perfectionist.

If you decide to take this test or find your personality type (or your characters’!), please let me know your results or how it worked for you!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: In the Company of Others, Or, A Reflection on Modern Fiction

                                           In the Company of Others (Father Tim, #2)

I read a book recently that is different from my normal fare. This book, In the Company of Others, is by Jan Karon and is the second of her Father Tim novels. She wrote another popular series called Mitford with the same main character. This is the first book by Karon that I’ve read and I can see why she’s a bestseller. My dad, a voracious reader, read most of her books and enjoyed them; this one caught my attention because it was about a trip Father Tim Kavanagh, a newly retired Episcopalian priest, and his wife Cynthia took to Ireland.

Now first of all, I love Ireland - although I’ve never been there, I think it must be the prettiest country of all and certainly one of the most fascinating. And secondly, I’m on the lookout for books about contemporary England (if you know of any, please share them!) but this was close enough to be a profitable read. I was mainly interested in how Karon wrote about a trip abroad: what traveling details she included, like jetlag and travelers’ perceptions of Ireland, and how she put a story about people in a book about a faraway place, where readers would be interested in cultural information as well as what happens to the characters.

I would have loved more description of scenery and culture, but it would probably have had to have been included at the expense of the full and touching story of Father Tim and Cynthia’s involvement with their Irish friends. It was a story not dissimilar to my Adventure in England: a broken family, complete with a rebellious daughter, whom God uses the Kavanaghs to put back together. The characters were surprisingly well-drawn with the few brush strokes of description Karon used; even though she didn’t use clear character descriptions, she “showed” her characters through dialogue, action, and the casual inner observations of Father Tim. I got an impression of what they were like while I was reading, but I would have a hard time describing their personalities to you now.

Jan Karon is what I would call a minimalist, very sparing of unnecessary words. Often her sentences would have only one brilliant word, if any at all, while the rest faded into the background. It moved the story along, but I missed the beautiful prose of my favorite novels. However, I think it was a good lesson for me to see how few words are needed to tell a story; her prose felt free and uncluttered because she frequently used incomplete sentences and left out dialogue tags, the word “and,” (“She wiped her eyes, looked at her watch.”) and action that could be implied from the scene. She never refers to Father Tim by his name unless someone calls him that; he is always “he” in the narrative, as Cynthia is usually “she.” It creates an extreme intimacy with the main characters.

I wouldn’t like the informality of writing Jan Karon’s way, but it was interesting to see how it works for her. The story was wonderful and impacting and if you read modern authors I would recommend In the Company of Others. Father Tim and Cynthia are delightful and an intriguing subplot was their reading of the 1860s journal of a country doctor.

I don’t need to observe that the majority of modern authors are out for a “minimalist” style, at least as compared to the classics, and that reflects modern society; but I love words and find a wordy novel a work of art. I’ve found that the more wordy and descriptive a modern author is, the more I like him or her. The more words, the more information the book conveys and the more encompassing it is. Of course there are more reasons than that why I love classic literature, but that is a big one for me.

What about you? What do you like or not like about modern fiction as opposed to the classics?

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Transylvanian Sabbath-Keepers

This novel has undergone many, many changes, and it faces more in the future. But it stands strong, because it knows I can’t abandon it. Its characters call to me, begging me to save them from the impossible and deadly situation I left them in and see them safely to the end. Its setting likewise lures me to further explore its very real beauty and glory.

The idea came to me when I was about fourteen: four young people, two young men and two young women, are called to go on a journey to save their country. They are basically peasants, powerless by themselves, but used by God for this great task. Their goal: to collect three richly beautiful objects to present to the barbarian nation that threatens their country.

Originally the setting was an imaginary land. I wrote faithfully for a long time, began to lose interest, and decided to turn it into two books so that I could wrap it up to my satisfaction for a while: I hung the ending of the first book off a cliff, never wrote the second, and left to work on Six Cousins.

I had never been overly excited at developing the imaginary land, so it was easy for me to leave that behind, but I couldn’t forget about the characters - Jadine, her brother McAllister, and their friends Celestia and Galen. I loved them like they were my own brothers and sisters.

Then I discovered a piece of largely unknown history: the existence of Christians who kept the Sabbath and other Biblical festivals and laws, like me. I had thought this was a new thing that we were doing, that the last time believers in the Messiah had celebrated the Biblical festivals was in the first century C.E. But no - there were several small sects of Christianity throughout history that cut themselves off from the Catholic Church and returned to their Hebrew roots. The first one I heard about is called the Transylvanian Sabbath-Keepers, or Sabbatarians. It arose in the 16th and 17th centuries mainly among the Szekely ethnic group of Transylvania. Transylvanians had always been independent, the Szekely especially so, and the Reformation got to them early on, so they were ripe for something as radical as “Jewish” roots.

I was captivated. I learned all I could and then rewrote my story in this new context: A Sabbath-keeping community in Transylvania is persecuted by the local count, and in order to determine whether they are of God or not, the evil man forces four unlikely representatives to go on a journey to collect three items that he’s purchased - if they fail, which is what he’s counting on, he will proceed with the persecution. If they succeed, he will take it as a sign that God is with this people.

Much of the storyline remains from the original story; mainly I had to change the characters’ names into Hungarian names (i.e., Jadine = Yudit, McAllister = Matyas, Celestia = Bianka, and Galen = Gaspar) and the setting to the beautiful Transylvanian mountains, and put in delightful bits about the Sabbath-keepers’ beliefs and traditions.

But, I confess that I got stuck again, discouraged by the lack of historical information. This apparently wasn’t a very well-documented time or place. As a result, I am not sure what I’m going to do with this story - change the setting, dismiss historicity, or what-have-you - but one thing I know - Yudit, Matyas, Bianka, and Gaspar’s story will be told.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Wise- and Light-Hearted


This is a very special story because it’s a collaboration between one of my best friends and me. We both love the Regency period of England, particularly because of Jane Austen, and after spending so much time discussing writing and things Austen and Regency, we hit upon the idea that we should write a Regency novel together. We don’t live in the same state, so our collaboration takes place over the phone and over the internet. Our writing styles are very similar and we are enthusiastic about each other’s ideas, so it works beautifully. I’ve never had this much fun writing - we’re living this story together! We discuss plans, share research tidbits, and take turns writing sections. It’s an energizing way to write because we write furiously, take a break, and all the while keep each other motivated.

There are two heroines - Lucia Beacham (my friend’s character) and Sophia Edwards (my character), best friends who live in Hampshire, a southern county of England. (It’s also Jane Austen’s home county.) Throughout their very opposite-running love stories and other complicated affairs, they are there for one another. Always. Sophia feels plagued by her brother-in-law’s visiting friend Stephen Brown, who’s the opposite of what she’d hoped for in a husband, while Lucy becomes dear friends with Sophia’s cousin Joseph Chapman but falls in love with a mysterious suitor named Richard Adams. Will either young woman make the right choice for herself?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Adventure in England

This post was scheduled for exactly the right time, right down to the day! For - I have finished the first draft. I can now write this synopsis while knowing the full story, from its first to last line, because I just typed that decisive, hopefully powerful ending line late last night.

Adventure in England (working title), like all sequels, was born out of Six Cousins. It’s June, 2008, three months after the family reunion. The six cousins return, with cameo appearances by some of their family; but the bulk of the story takes place in England on a private tour with their grandparents’ friends the Endicotts, who live in Madgwick, England, a village in Berkshire not far from London.

Gregory and Yvonne Endicott have a granddaughter named Paris, who is thoroughly American. She visits every summer, and so is there when the six cousins arrive. Each family, the Endicotts and the cousins, is thoroughly delighted with the other, though it soon becomes obvious there could be more harmony within either family.

A trip to England is Marielle’s dream, so she’s determined to let nothing ruin it for her, even her own insecurities at being away from home. Some of her England adventures are more wonderful than she’s imagined, while others are downright disturbing, especially when Paris is involved. Paris is a special person, but then Marielle learns something about her that makes her wonder if Paris’s future is at stake. Can Marielle overcome her own difficulties and actually make a difference in her new friend’s life?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Six Cousins

Okay - my first promised post about my novels!

Six Cousins -This is the first novel I ever finished. I started it in March 2008 out of a desperation to write an easier story than I’d attempted before. It would be about what I knew (advice I recommend at least for your first novel) and so would require little research; I could pour my very self into it and it would come out real and deep and personal. Female authors like Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, and L. M. Montgomery were my inspiration - they wrote about what they knew and few books have succeeded as well as theirs.

I finished it in 2011 and have been editing it, letting it sit, editing it, having others read it, and now the process is finally drawing to a close. I hope to self-publish it next year!

The protagonist, Marielle Austin, is 14 years old, small, blond, and blue-eyed. She’s home schooled and is passionate about the Lord, the past, and literature. She’s dreamy and poetic, perhaps too much so; but she’s also endearingly sweet, quiet, shy, with just enough pluckiness to surprise acquaintances if they knew of it. She lives with her parents and two younger brothers, Garrison and Benjamin, way out in the beautiful Texas hill country.

It’s spring, 2008, and her family and her dad’s parents, who live two miles away, are hosting a week-long family reunion. All of Dad’s siblings and their families will be there, including Marielle’s two best friends and cousins, Emma and Caroline Yardley, and her three other girl cousins, Abby, Kailey, and Reanna, who hale all the way from Wisconsin. Marielle doesn’t know them so well so she’s worried about how they’ll connect.

The first day, Sunday, their grandfather, Will Austin, presents them with an exciting plan: he has three projects for them to complete by the end of the week, and if they succeed, he and their parents will have a prize for them, more wonderful than they can imagine. But not only do they need to get the projects done: they need to accomplish them with love and teamwork.

Each project is unique and calls for all of the girls’ input, but Abby, Kailey, and Reanna are not willing workers. Problems surface right away because of their bad attitudes and bad work ethics. Marielle, Emma, and Caroline are at a loss - what can they do to push the projects through? And more importantly, what can they do about their cousins who won’t welcome their friendship? How can they show their love when it’s hard even to feel it? Will the mysterious prize slip away, and with it any chance of relationship?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Library Sale!

Well, my next post was going to be about my novels, but then came Friday - and our local library's fundraising sale. I just had to write about that. Throughout the year, donated used books are collected and over the course of four days in November area booklovers comb the tables for treasures that had been other people's cast-offs. It's a highlight of my year because I'm sure to find something wonderful. Not only are the books cheap, there are some there that one can't find anywhere else.
Here is a list of the books that are now safely within my book-loving home:
  • I Spy - Super Challenger! - I'll never grow out of these beautiful, fascinating books. I have a whole collection of them but this was one that I was missing!
  • Tirzah - by Lucille Travis. "Tirzah and her family are slaves in Egypt. ... If only Tirzah's people could escape. If only Moses could persuade Pharaoh to let them go. ..." (from the back cover) This is a story of the Exodus from Egypt. I saw it years ago in a children's book catalog and had always wanted to read it!
  • Tristan and Iseult - by Rosemary Sutcliff. I've been intrigued by this Celtic legend for quite some time, and what better storyteller to retell it than Rosemary Sutcliff?  
  • The Story of the Jewish People - by Gilbert and Libby Klaperman. This is an old, three-volume set for children about the course of worldwide Jewish history from Bible times on.
  • Sand and Stars - The Jewish Journey Through Time - by Yaffa Ganz. Another history book on God's chosen people beyond Bible times. (I find my knowledge of Jewish history sadly lacking, so these books will remedy that!)
  • The Kings and Queens of England - A Tourist Guide - by Jane Murray. I've always wanted a fun-to-read yet detailed book that can help me memorize the whole line of British monarchs.
  • European Civilization - by Ferguson and Bruun. This is a two-volume set on the entire span of European history. We already had the first one, and I'd read that, but I was pleased to find a matching set and am anticipating reading volume two.
My mom picked up some treasures of her own, and so in total we bought 15 books for $23. A bill only a library sale could allow!
I brought home only two fiction books, which is very unusual for me. I'm actually relieved about that, because I already own a ton that need reading. :-)
Does anyone want to take a guess at what book I'll read cover-to-cover first? (I admit I don't know myself, yet!)
Do you have any neat stories about buying second-hand books? I think it's more fun than buying new!