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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book Review: In Search of Adventure


“A novel of adventure, comradeship, and suspense, as a valiant knight seeks to overcome his merciless foes and retain honor in a hostile land.” [From the back cover]

In Search of Adventure is the second full-length novel of Alicia Willis, one of my favorite new authors, and the second installment of her Comrades of Honor series. It continues the story of To Birmingham Castle. Like the first, it breathes history and proves that the old way of storytelling is effective and compelling.

It felt like the Middle Ages, from its accurate description of the life of knights and squires to its extolment of chivalry, virtue, and heroism to its third-person omniscient narration and the Middle English dialogue of its characters. Miss Willis has certainly accomplished her goal of writing a historical fiction series that’s “family-friendly, entertaining, yet accurate.” (From The Comrades of Honor Series website.) I really appreciate her skill!

I found the characters interesting and endearing: Kenneth Dale, the squire, was perhaps my favorite of all the series yet. Adela, Sir Nathaniel’s love, was runner-up. Even though there were many dangerous moments, these by no means overshadowed the richness of the characters. The three main characters were such good friends and it warmed my heart to read their banter, because it was just like friends tease each other today, only in the beautiful language of old England. Each one’s devotion was exemplary.

Even though all of the main characters were virtuous, Miss Willis correctly portrayed them as exceptions, because there were many unscrupulous people – such as murderous lords and brutal knights – during that time and in the book. But we wouldn’t want to read about them without the light of true Christians nearby, now would we? What a depressing prospect! Fortunately, In Search of Adventure showed, in powerful ways, good triumphing over evil. People like Sir Nathaniel and Kenneth modeled godly character, which included making hard choices and dying to self. It influences you to analyze your own actions and motives.

I can think of only one downside, but really, it may not be a downside at all, because Miss Willis specifically targeted this subject: the book focused on small noblemen, knights, and squires, and very little on any other personality. But this limited focus allowed the relationships between the characters to be depicted in full.

There’s one more book in this series, scheduled for 2014. Let’s just say I’m glad 2014 is almost here – I can’t wait to find out how this series will wrap up!

Friday, October 25, 2013



Rachel Heffington of Inkpen Authoress has ingeniously created a new monthly blog link-up thing called Chatterbox. She chooses a topic of discussion that we plunk in front of a few well-chosen characters from our stories and then let them have at it! Rachel says she loves dialogue, and I heartily agree that it’s super important. Letting characters speak for themselves, with just a bit of control, is a large element of making a story real, and it’s an excellent way to get to know them.

So, this month’s topic is coffee. This first topic was easy for me because I just so happen to have a conversation based around coffee in Adventure in England. That conversation will do very nicely. I know there are a lot of characters, and I don’t expect you to keep them straight, but picture yourself in an English cafĂ© listening to a group of eleven young people, made up of both Americans and Brits. (The narrator is Marielle, by the way.)

“So, will you order something?” [Chelsea asked. “]You need to have Lizzy’s cappucinos at least.”

“So you’ve replaced teatime with cappucino time?” Caroline jested, her voice not so strong as usual. She must not have been entirely at her ease.

Paris and her friends laughed. “I’d say coffee is just as popular as tea here,” Paris said. “But there aren’t as many fancy kinds except for, like, chains like Starbucks.”

“You have Starbucks?” Abby asked.

“You bet. Not here, but in Taplow and Slough,” Chelsea answered. “Lizzy’s drinks are better, honestly.”

“That’s their opinion,” countered Paris. “Lizzy’s comes closer than any tearoom or restaurant to great coffee, but not like Starbucks. The calories are just as scary, though, as anywhere else, so I’d almost rather drink tea myself.”

“Hmm. I love Starbucks, but do you think I should try one from Lizzy’s?” Abby turned to look at the menu posters behind the counter. With all the wild swirls on them, it was a wonder she could read anything from way back where we stood.

“Use those pounds you just exchanged for your dollars!” Paris exclaimed. “It’d be your first buy, huh?”


“No way are you, like, going to be the first to buy something in England,” Kailey protested sharply. She took a step toward the counter. “Do they have mochas?”

“Uh-huh,” Chelsea replied, she and the others grinning as if they saw a joke. While I found the rivalry funny at times, like now, I always hoped it wouldn’t develop further and ruin what should be a pleasant, peaceful trip.

“Do you want something, Paris?” Abby asked.

“No, thanks. Wait they have diet soda; I’ll get that.”

“Reanna? Anyone else?” Abby went on.

“Cappucino, with cinnamon if they have it,” Reanna responded.

The rest of us declined. I personally felt that it was poor form to order something after Mrs. Endicott had done such beautiful work for tea at her home.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Blogs

I always appreciate seeing the lists of the favorite blogs of my favorite bloggers. Since I didn’t have anything like that, I thought now was a good time to put one out! I shall soon be turning this into its own page. There are so many wonderful writers' blogs out there, but these are the ones I follow regularly, and oh, for time to follow more! (Once this is a page, I'll probably be adding to it from time to time!)

Stardust and Gravel Sarah Scheele

Road of a Writer Deborah O’Carroll

Homeschool Authors

Scribbles and Ink Stains Abigail Hartman

Whisperings of the Pen Katie Sabelko

Living on Literary Lane Elizabeth Rose

Be Forgiven Bekah Marie

Alicia Willis Alicia Willis

Word Painters

The Second Sentence Elisabeth Grace Foley

Hope Scribbles Elisabeth Allen

E. Kaiser Writes-A-Blog Elizabeth Kaiser

The Destiny of One Sarah Holman

Friday, October 18, 2013

Flying High

I’m sure not everyone finds romance in an airplane ride. Some fly so often that it’s become routine; others dislike it so much they close their eyes until it’s over and never give the windows a glance. I myself don’t think I would like it half so much if I didn’t get a window seat every time, nor if all my flights were hours long. But the flights I took this past summer, from Brookings, South Dakota, to Denver, and then from Denver to Dallas, were perfect showcases of what I love about flying.

As soon as the plane begins to move, a thrill goes through me. It glides smoothly along the runway, and gets into position for takeoff. Then it starts picking up speed with a long, exhilarating, overwhelming whoosh and I’m pushed back in my seat. The front wheels lift off the earth, and then the monstrous thing is completely in the air, climbing effortlessly higher and higher. The cabin is full of pressure; my ears pop. But most of my attention is funneled out my window. I feel weightless as the earth quickly gets smaller and smaller and all its features become sharp and clear and beautiful. Miniature things are more beautiful, more precise than full-sized counterparts. Before the clouds fade everything out below, I note the ruffled ribbons of trees, the perfectly straight fields, the network of silver roads alive with tiny cars, the multi-colored Monopoly houses.

It’s thrilling.

Clouds are lovely and mysterious because, not being solid, they’re barely there. They drift by my window like dreams, having substance yet intangible. It’s hard for me to believe this heavy, clunking machine has brought me among them.

My trip from Brookings to Denver was during daylight, so I could see the land as long as the clouds did not obscure it. It was empty and hilly; I saw a grand river; even though it was summer the country down there looked cold and forlorn in an appealing sort of way. When we approached Denver the ground was peppered with perfect circles, green, yellow, or half of each color. Are these a bunch of crop-circles? Nazca lines? I wondered. How come I’ve never heard of these before? I researched them after I got home and learned that farmers in this area use “center pivot irrigation” which necessitates circular crop fields.

It’s a spectacular thing to get a bird’s-eye view of the earth, to be isolated above the masses, who go about with the ability to see only the small spectrum of things that’s right in front of them.
My nighttime flight, from Denver to Dallas, was just as breathtaking. The night was as dark as it could be, but the cities on either end and the few in between were vast piles of little lights, gold, white, and red. They reminded me of the fabled dragons’ hordes hidden deep in a cave and glittering in torchlight. That thought, of course, made me imagine I was in just such a place – maybe gazing at the Dwarves’ newly reclaimed treasure in The Hobbit


I took these plane journeys by myself, and there wasn’t anyone to talk to, especially during the flight late at night when my neighbor was dozing, so my mind was active and my imagination often had free reign. It’s always splendid to get such a different view of the world, so different from the routine that you feel like you’re in a fictional story yourself. Which means that I and my beloved characters were in the same realm for a time and goodness, did I enjoy that!

What do you think of flying?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Snippets of September/October

It’s Snippets of Story time! I’ll be sharing snippets from two stories today. One is the sequel of Family Reunion and though the story is completely written, I am still editing and modifying so there are some new passages I wrote this month. The other one is a brand-new story in which one-and-a-half chapters have taken shape, with who knows how many more to go!

This new story is called The Alice Quest and is a mystery about homeschool graduate and history buff Amy Brown who helps her grandmother in a cross-country search for a relative that disappeared one hundred years ago. Depending on how things in my writing schedule work out, I may have plans for it come November ….

“It’s a bloody bother about that congestion charge. We could have avoided it if we had used Semley Place.” Pulling into what seemed the last available spot at Brewer Street Car Park after circling the lot more than once, Mr. Endicott was coolly bringing up all the inconveniences he could think of. Despite his being “used to the commute,” that morning’s traffic had frayed his nerves with too many close calls. 
                                                                                                         – Adventure in England

We got back to the river at the end of Clink Street and saw a replica of an ancient, tiny ship called the Golden Hinde that carried Sir Francis Drake, in the 1500s, around the whole belt of the earth. …
All of us were impressed with it; Paris had seen it only once, years ago, so she was cheerfully incredulous about the feat. “That’s dumbfounding. How could the sailors keep from going crazy? Can you imagine us on a ship that size for that long? We all like each other, but not that much.”
“Wait, how long was the voyage?” Abby asked.
“Almost three years!” replied Paris.
Abby wrinkled her nose and ran her eyes over the ship again. “Ick. You’re great, Paris, but ….” “That’s okay, I totally understand!”

                                                                                                         – Adventure in England

Amy loved history as if it were an old friend – it was ever behind her, after all – and she wanted more than anything to convey that passion to her students. She would only have them one day a week, on Friday, and those classes had to shine. She had to bring something more to them than what was in the textbook. I’m no teacher, that’s why I’m having this blasted writer’s block, she despaired. I just don’t know how to say what I need to say! Five opening lines, four of which were bisected neatly with a bold straight line, resided on notebook page number one. 

Make that five crossed-out opening lines. Maybe she should try this on her laptop.
                                                                                                                   – The Alice Quest
Even the Browns’ home was a piece of history, a spacious and beautifully restored century-old farmhouse. It sat at the front of a nine-acre wooded plot in central Michigan; its fields had been sold off long ago and were now hidden from the house by a row of apple trees and a crowd of maples and spruces.
                                                                                                                   – The Alice Quest

Check out Katie Sabelko’s blog for snippets from other writers!

Friday, October 11, 2013

On Goodreads and Inspiration

Goodreads is perhaps my favorite website, and now Family Reunion is listed and I’m on there as an author! So exciting! Here’s my profile.

Now, that wasn’t quite enough to fill up a blog post, was it? So I think I’ll have to expound on something … well, how about the *deep thoughts* I’ve been pondering lately? I’m going to be a bit transparent here with advice to myself that maybe you’ll find meaningful as well.

Inspiration. Every writer is different. “No, really? You don’t say!” But, I make that statement because sometimes we writers don’t take that to heart. Am I the only one who occasionally wishes she had certain other writers’ gifts? Maybe they’re very prolific and their stories generate effortlessly like rabbits. Maybe their writing style is as lyrical and inviting as a song. Maybe they’re so well-informed, intelligent, and profound that their books are life-changing. If only you could write like any or all of the above …!

But every writer is different. God has different plans for each one and has gifted them accordingly. Maybe you’re meant to write just a few long and weighty tomes in your lifetime. Harper Lee published only one book, To Kill a Mockingbird, but look at its legacy. Maybe you’re meant to write down-to-earth stories that resonate with practical people more than a poetic style of writing ever could. Maybe your books are meant to entertain and cheer readers up rather than stretch their minds.

And then there’s the realization that writing isn’t all there is in this world, even for writers. If you’re like me, you get depressed on a weekly basis over how little time you have to write. How will I ever get anything written if I never write? But God doesn’t just give writers one gift – oftentimes there are a multiple number of things that any one writer is valuable for. Maybe it’s mother- or fatherhood, or a day job, or a special talent in music or art … there are lots of important things to be done in this world. Writing is only one of them.

So, the next time you feel discouraged, remember that writing is profitable in many, many different ways and on many levels … even something written for your eyes alone is worthwhile if it helps you. Our desperate aim is always to get everything in our heads onto paper or into type and to as many readers as possible, but if we managed to accomplish that, our writing days would be done, and we wouldn’t want that, now would we?!

My conclusion, to myself and to anyone else, is to remember that the essential thing is to work hard and write for God’s glory, and the results are up to Him.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

First Anniversary

Obscured by the book- and sukkah-shaped shadows of Family Reunion’s release and the festival of Sukkot, my first-year blog anniversary nearly slipped by unnoticed. Why it would want to hide, I don’t know, but I’m bringing it out of the shadows now.

I posted my first small note on “Kelsey’s Notebook” on Friday, September 21, 2012. This date is important because it took a lot of nerve for me to begin a blog, nerve I could have sworn was nonexistent. God led me step-by-step. It represented my entry into earnest, for-publication writing. I had been doing my research and realized that I needed a presence on the web if God was going to fashion my dream of being a published author into a living reality. I didn’t want to do it at first, but reason and faith prevailed and here I am, very happy with what’s come about, directly and indirectly, from my blog.

First of all, it urged me to be serious. I followed blogs and got into contact with other young writers/authors which was, and is, of immense encouragement. Being resolved to write more widely seemed to prepare me to enroll in The Christian Writer’s Guild apprentice program in December 2012, one of the most edifying things I’ve ever done.

It’s been a comfort, as in: I need to write … for real. Let sweet, creative juices flow without any guidelines or expectations …. And it’s been a terror – It’s 9 pm on a Tuesday and I still don’t have my blog post written! Ahhh! 

It’s been one of the most enjoyable ways for me to interact with online friends. Many thanks to those who read and/or comment! You make it worthwhile.

And now it’s overseen the publication of Family Reunion, which was my first goal! May God grant that, in one form or another, it oversee the publication of many more.

Here’s to another year of blogging!

What do you like about blogging or reading blogs?

                                                                embarking on a dream

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Sukkah

It stood like a transplant from a garden, swathed in color and greenery, with palm branches for a roof, lattices for three of the walls, and four-by-four beams for the frame. Richly patterned curtains like the drapes of a Persian palace, tied at their middle, moved back and forth in the wind at the opening in front. Autumn leaf garlands and a string of paper lanterns hung from the roof beam, mingling with the palm fronds and ringing all four sides of the sukkah.
But that wasn’t all. Inside and outside, fresh fruit, testimony of the harvest, hung among the other decorations and graced the center of the long, sun-dappled table. Embroidered wall-hangings and paintings of the Holy Land adorned the interior lattice walls. Six chairs surrounded the table and a narrow, cushioned daybed reclined at the back of the sukkah.
Soon this little booth would fill with active, breathing life.
It happened as the shadows lengthened: the grassy backyard housing the sukkah suddenly brimmed with people. The family invited their guests to make themselves at home before the festivities of the first evening of Sukkot would begin. There would be prayers, singing, dancing, and feasting. Extra chairs were squeezed into the sukkah, and more strands of lights were hung from the nearby tree as everyone exclaimed over the beautiful booth at the center of it all.
And then it was dusk. The group of a dozen men, women, and children talked and laughed as they found their places, jostling and rattling the table, candlesticks, and glasses. The wind rustled the palms and stirred the leaves and curtains. The paper lanterns glowed like jewels as they mingled with the other outdoor lights to illuminate the celebration.
The host thanked the Lord for this season of joy, and the hostess lit two white candles to show it was a holy time. The group chanted or recited a few prayers and then sang, their voices pure music. A few of the women and children jumped up and danced in the grass and everyone clapped.
Aroma and taste joined the festival atmosphere when the ladies brought out bread, soup, and roasted meat. When everyone had eaten, the adults remained in the sukkah to talk while the children played in the yard. By the time it grew late and a satisfied weariness had crept over the group, they all felt that they had celebrated in the presence of God and participated in the joy and fulfillment of the Messianic Kingdom. Sukkot, the great week-long wedding feast of Israel and Yeshua, had begun.

This describes my dream sukkah and my dream Sukkot. Sukkot is the Hebrew word for tabernacles or booths and describes a temporary dwelling. This seven-day Biblical festival is all about rejoicing as we look forward to the time when we will dwell with God!
“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’” (Rev. 21:3, NKJV)
My Sukkot last week was similar – only we were in a campground in the Ozarks and dwelled in a tiny cabin; others stayed in tents, trailers, and hotel-style rooms. We were all there to worship God, fellowship with each other, and separate ourselves from the worry and frustrations of the rest of the world. We learned a lot from Bible teachers, had awesome praise and worship, and got to know some lovely and interesting people! Sukkot is always a special time of year for me. : )