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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Indie Authors Book Sale

I am participating, for the first time, in an Indie Authors group sale. I hope that if you're in the market for books you find this helpful!

Welcome to the Holiday Indie Book Sale, where all of your reading dreams become a reality. Or rather, your holiday shopping spree! You don’t have to look any further than these awesome books by awesome self-published authors for gifts to stuff your stockings. From Black Friday through the day after Cyber Monday, fill your shelves with paperbacks!

Melody Valadez
DQTR44VX (20% off)

Faith Blum
93LQLRJ8 (10% off)

Marilynn Dawson 
2MU73RQR (10% off)
Mom's Little Black Book: Godly Advice for the High School Graduate:
Becoming the Bride of Christ: A Personal Journey:

Molly Evangeline

Kelsey Bryant
YFY84GHU (20% off)

Christina & Melody Grubb

Aubrey Hansen
D6PH5HAT (20% off)

Morgan Huneke
BX6RV6SK (20% off)

Vicki Lucas
Toxic: (Discounted to $10 through Paypal)

J. Grace Pennington
9L3ES8RT (20% off)
Firmament: In His Image:

Jordan Smith
5PC4QW6S (20% off)
Finding the Core of Your Story:

In addition, you may want to participate in this fun giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chatterbox in November


I’m once again joining in with the blog link-up Chatterbox from Rachel Heffington of Inkpen Authoress. This time the topic is death. I haven’t written any books containing definite tragedies, so I wrote a conversation between three characters from The Alice Quest just for Chatterbox. Either this conversation hasn’t happened yet or it happens off-stage, but it did give me an opportunity to touch on the different ways these characters – Amy, her sister Lisa, and their grandma – relate to the century-old disappearance of Alice Prescott.

    Lisa stared at Grandma and Amy, her eyebrows raised. “How do you know she didn’t die? Her story could have ended right there, in 1906 or whenever it was she disappeared.”
   “Her diary itself says she eloped,” Amy replied, forgetting any doubts she’d had herself. Stating evidence to contradict Lisa often had that effect.
   “She might as well have died,” Grandma declared, throwing out her hands as if exasperated. “Nora never saw her again.”

   “It was worse than death because there was never any closure.” Amy sat on the porch railing as a chill crept over her, sent by the wind and clouded sky as much as by her thoughts. “Why didn’t Alice contact Nora at least? She would have kept it a secret. Alice would have been a wife and possibly a mother by then; she wouldn’t have had to deal with her parents. Nora must have felt betrayed. It was like Alice had killed herself and kept herself dead all the while that she held the power of resurrecting. She didn’t love Nora enough to resurrect herself.” Amy took her gaze from the porch floorboards and looked meditatively at Lisa. “That’s no way to treat a sister.”

This was just a snippet, because I wanted it to feel like it came straight from the story. Hopefully something like it will go straight into the story!

To finish up, I hope you have a wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving. Take advantage of this celebration to be rededicated to God as you give Him thanks and realize how much He has done for us!

Friday, November 22, 2013

November Snippets


It’s Snippets of Story time! How appropriate that my 100th blog post is about the stories I write ... my impetus for beginning a blog in the first place. And so, here are some lines from Adventure in England and The Alice Quest that I’ve written this month.

Reanna didn’t answer, but parted her lips and started singing wordlessly in a gliding melody, her soprano climbing louder and louder. I felt her emotions: she hadn’t sung for two weeks! So much was pent up inside that it poured forth now as if we were in the hills of the Lake District again, swept by the wind, teased by the sun and the clouds.
Adventure in England

“Nine o’clock already, kitten?” Amy called, though she could see the old mute cuckoo in her clock was about to pop out. The evening sky of June was still a luminescent smoky blue; if the trees had not been so thick, she might have been able to see the sunset from her window. (However, she wouldn’t have traded glorious house-hiding Sherwood-Forest trees for a sunset she could stroll out to the road to see.)
“Ye-es,” Kristia mewed deliberately, not swayed.
Amy smiled. Not too long ago, when Kristia was learning how to tell time, she could always make Kristia second-guess herself. “All right then, ask Lewis if he wants to listen, and I’ll be right there.”

The Alice Quest

[Amy] hadn’t quite lost it, but she hadn’t kept it together, either. Her squabbles with Lisa felt so childish, but she couldn’t get the better of them. Was this anything like Alice’s turmoil as she confronted the division in her family, between her and her parents and between her and Del?
The Alice Quest

“Right down to the gravestones, eh? I’d like that. A whole lot. You’ll help me find them, won’t you then?” [Grandma asked.]
Amy’s reading ground to a halt … the request sounded ominous, and she had better be on her guard. “Alice and Wilson? Or the gravestones?”
“Both. You just said we could find them, right down to the gravestones. I take things literally. The more I think about it, the more I see that I won’t be satisfied this time until we find Alice, her body, and any descendants she might’ve had.”

The Alice Quest

No one ever means “nothing.” [Amy thought.] Everyone, even if they’re long dead in our time, matters to God, and they mattered to people who missed them beyond their lifetime. Everyone has a legacy that still lives today, even if their names are long forgotten.
The Alice Quest

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Interview on Stardust and Gravel

I was privileged to be interviewed yesterday on Sarah Scheele's blog, Stardust and Gravel. You might like to read it; feel free to comment!


Friday, November 15, 2013

Book Review: Champion in the Darkness

 Champion in the Darkness (The Champion Trilogy, #1)

Champion in the Darkness, a fantasy by Tyrean Martinson, was an excellent novel. Many elements stood out from your average fantasy; when I finished it, all I could think was, “Wow! Where’s the next book?”

The world is Aramatir, the kingdom is Septily. Fifteen-year-old Clara is the only child of her parents and they, like other believers, have a gift that they use in service to the kingdom: Clara is training to be a Sword Master, like her mother, and her father is a Shepherd. The third discipline or gift is Law-Giver. The three disciplines are taught at centers called Triune Halls. Clara and her parents’ lives in Skycliff, Septily’s capital, are whole; Clara is about to receive her Crystal Sword which means she is ready to become a Sword Master. But then Clara learns she is the Champion, a hero raised up at different times by the Lord to save the people of Aramatir during great tribulation. Almost immediately after that, the tribulation breaks forth in the form of a takeover of Skycliff by the army of Kalidess, an evil sorceress and pawn of Satan who desires ultimate power over Aramatir. Clara’s world falls apart and she hardly knows herself as she must put her training into practice, help lead those who escaped from Skycliff, and become the Champion God called her to be.

Epic fantasies don’t always give me thrills because I can’t always enter into their world; usually the problem is sketchiness and lack of originality. But Martinson’s world felt unique, well-drawn, and complete. Aramatir had a history and geography that was fairly easy to grasp, and the differences between the countries were intriguing and realistic. I think it could have benefited from a map and more description, but as it was I did get a clear picture of each place in my mind. Martinson put me there very effectively; one great method she used was not explaining a custom or action and therefore “assuming” that readers knew what it was, because obviously the characters knew. Like historical fiction, this makes readers believe that they are really in the place and time.

Another thing that some epic fantasies lack is character development. I love character-driven narratives, and that’s what Champion in the Darkness is. Almost every character – Clara; the Sword Masters Stelia, Salene, Dantor, and Prince William; the Aerlandian prince Adrian; the Septilian king Alexandros – had an arc and an important, interesting story all their own. The novel incorporates several points of view, mostly Clara and Stelia, but each view is clearly delineated.

The battle scenes and fight scenes were very well-described. I grew breathless every time one of the Sword Masters, such as Clara or Stelia, took part in a fight because I was watching it in my mind. Does the author run her own sword academy? She even got down to the way they trained! This brings up a point that perhaps more than any other aspect gave this book its grip on my mind: the issue of women fighting. The society was essentially androgynous; there were no assigned roles, and women as much as men took part in battles. I haven’t read many “Girl-Warrior” books, but the fact that no one balked at Clara, a female, being the Champion made gender a non-issue. Clara was very humble, knew she was a woman, and didn’t lord it over anyone, man or woman. It was not “I am Woman, hear me roar!” I like the idea of women being able to fight if they need to (I am a martial artist, after all), but I’m not entirely comfortable with the image of women-warriors in this book. There, I said it. If I had to give my conclusion, it would be: I liked that Clara (and the other women) could fight, but not to the extent that they did so. Contradictory? Maybe, but our feelings about issues like these sometimes are.

Something else that made this fantasy unique was its religion. It’s Christianity as we know it, albeit with some differences accounted for by custom, such as we see in the real world. The Septilians know the Scriptures, and the main characters have deep, true-to-life relationships with God and deal with tough issues, tougher than many of us will ever face. One thing that felt very realistic was how they see that the men in Kalidess’s army can repent and join the good side.

There are several other points I wish I had room for, but let me end with the ending. I found the ending to Champion in the Darkness to be perfect. There is closure, but it’s apparent there’s much more to be done to accomplish Aramatir’s freedom. It didn’t feel rushed or incomplete, and yet it set up the next book, promising a fresh story as Clara continues her journey as Champion. I will be looking for that second book!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Hundred Thousand Doors

Books, books, books, everywhere! All for the taking, well, in exchange for anywhere from fifty cents to a few dollars per book. But the price is hardly inhibitory as you consider the gems written into the pages between those tempting covers. “Buy me! Read me! You won’t be disappointed!” they seem to say, and it’s easy to believe them, because your guard is down like a sleeping watchman’s gun. You’re in a dream, after all, a beautiful dream where a hundred thousand doors lead into other lives, new experiences, exotic countries, surprising veins of thought, even fantasy worlds that read like a dream themselves.

Ah, the library sale. Our area is blessed to have a big one, with two warehouse-like rooms spread with table upon table of used books. They come from individuals and libraries, and probably other sources, too, but what matters is that they can all come into your home library via a paper sack that you tote, then drag, then shove along the floor with your feet, until you carry it to a holding table or snag a friendly carter who’ll take it there for you. Then you go back to searching with a brand-new sack. It’s easy to pick out too many, and by the time you have to go several hours after you began (allow at least four), you’re feeling overwhelmed and picturing your stuffed bookshelves at home and thinking, “I’d better not bring all these home.” That thought helps with the culling. But plenty of precious finds still travel home in your trunk.

So, what were some of the precious finds that made it home in my trunk?

  • Mrs. Hurst Dancing & Other Scenes from Regency Life 1812-1823 – a Regency treasure! Diana Sperling water colored these scenes out of her family and friends’ lives. An excellent primary source.

  • Before Jane Austen, The Shaping of the English Novel in the Eighteenth Century – by Harrison R. Steeves. The history of literature, especially English novels, fascinates me.

  • Twenty Master Plots (And How to Build Them) – by Ronald B. Tobias. I heard about this on the internet and am intrigued to learn more: “Here you’ll find twenty plots discussed and analyzed – plots that recur through all fiction, no matter what the genre…. This book shows you how to develop plot in fiction….”

  • The Gammage Cup – by Carol Kendall. “A Novel of the Minnipins.” Three outcast friends must save their people, the Minnipins, from their enemies. A Newbery Honor Book. This fantasy has garnered rave reviews from several readers whose opinions I respect, and I couldn’t resist!

  • The Good Master – by Kate Seredy. Another Newbery Honor Book, this historical novel is set in Hungary, a rather out-of-the-ordinary setting. A friend recommended it the day before the library sale, and then there it was!

  • Young Falcon – by Elizabeth Anne McKinney. The cover of this fantasy adventure about an Elven girl arrested me; it’s a new book by a young author, a senior in a private Christian school in Texas. It looked like a very good story.

  • Trixie Belden #1 The Secret of the Mansion – by Julie Campbell. Another friend recommended this mystery series. 14-year-old Trixie can be likened to a young Nancy Drew, though perhaps not so perfect. I love Nancy Drew, by the way.

  • The State of Israel – by Israel T. Naamani. “A Triumphant portrait of Israel today …” This was published in 1972, so a bit outdated, but I’m looking forward to the history it contains.

Tell me about some of your favorite secondhand book finds!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fifth of November

                                              Please to remember the fifth of November
                                                       Gunpowder, treason and plot.
                                               I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
                                                           Should ever be forgot …

Have you ever heard that rhyme? Ever since I read it in a nursery rhyme book in my single-digit years, it has stuck in my head. I soon learned that it commemorated Gunpowder Treason Day, or Guy Fawkes Day, when the Catholic Guy Fawkes’s attempt on King James I’s life in 1605 failed. It was made an official celebration to thank God for His deliverance of the king. It was a day for church services and sermons … anti-Catholic sermons. British people celebrated it since then, mostly with bonfires, fireworks, and Guy Fawkes effigies … but also with much anti-Catholic sentiment; by the late 1800s, the anti-Catholic violence fortunately stopped. It is still a British holiday today.

The rhyme and the holiday and their association with old England fascinated me even when I was little, and therefore November 5th was a memorable day to me. This may sound silly, but I am someone who remembers and values her childhood particularly well … I gave Angela, my favorite Whitney doll (Barbie’s little sister Stacy’s friend? Remember those, one step up from the Kelly dolls?), November 5th as a birthday. She’s red-haired like me; she’s very pretty; her hair is short and cute and her hazel eyes sparkle. I gave her all the qualities I admired most, such as intelligence, athleticism, kindness, and bookishness; that’s why she needed a birthday with an intriguing history, and one in autumn at that, which was my favorite season. Angela appreciated it: I don’t recall ever having her go to a bonfire, but she thought a lot about the history of her birthday. She would have liked to celebrate it like England does, however: a chilly, windswept, star-studded night, trees with just a smattering of clinging leaves, the heat of a huge bonfire warming your insides and battling the cold, fireworks piercing the dark sky and scattering the chatter of friends.

The reason I have such fond memories of my dolls is that I played stories with them, which turned into my writing fiction. The stories I created with them were in essence like the stories I would write. Most of the creative elements were there … characters, personality, plot, action, dialogue, setting … the only thing lacking was words on a page. As I grew older, my story-writing increased in direct relation to my role-playing’s decrease.

Well, one thing led to another in this post, I suppose, but my main thought is this: November 5th isn’t really just another day for me. Like fall in general, it makes me nostalgic.

Any thoughts on Guy Fawkes Day or special things, like toys, from your past?

Oh, and I almost forgot! The Alice Quest is up to 8,769 words. I’ve written 3,187 words since Friday.

Friday, November 1, 2013


November is going to be a fun month for a number of people – they’re participating in National Novel Writing Month! I am not, but I won’t say I wasn’t tempted. I finally decided it just didn’t seem healthy for me. I already give myself a hard time over my paltry word count every day, and I’m afraid NaNo would only make that feeling of failure worse. Everyone has a different method of writing; mine is to pick and rework my words as I write them, and that’s part of what takes me so long to get words on the page. But, who knows? Maybe NaNo would get me over that problem! In any case, for a couple of reasons, I decided this was not the year to try.

I did learn something interesting yesterday related to this. The professor on a DVD writing course of mine was talking about how to start a writing project. For some people, that’s the hardest part of writing! I’ve experienced it more than once and it can feel like you’re trying to get through a brambly path – you have to make up your mind, grit your teeth, and push through regardless of the thorns and clinging vines. One way to ease the pressure is by allowing yourself to free-write for a while, writing down anything that comes to mind about your subject. The result is probably not very good, but after you come back and look at it, you’ll no doubt find the germ of a really worthwhile idea that you can run with. First drafts, however bad, are necessary to the finished product.

It’s a similar principle with NaNo. NaNo forces people to just start, and then, to persevere. Don’t worry about making it fantastic the first round; most of us just need the permission to dive in and swim. You can fix it later.

While I see the logic in this mind game and applaud how it stimulates people, it isn’t the way I tend to work; I’m more comfortable making passages as good as I can as I write them. Is it about having control? I don’t like letting things getting away from me, after all, and NaNo is notorious for that, isn’t it? : )

I’m going to watch my friends who are participating with interest and further my own work-in-progress, The Alice Quest. Here is my word count as of writing this blog post: 5,582. Let’s see how far it’s grown by next Tuesday! And for all you NaNoWriMo writers out there, Godspeed!

What do you think of National Novel Writing Month?