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

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Reads of 2015

Another year draws to a close. Ever since October or so, I’ve been absurdly excited about my last blog post of the year, because I have a tradition of listing my top reads of 2015. Usually I do fifteen books, but this year I couldn’t trim the list lower than seventeen. (I read too many good ones this year!) These books all impacted me profoundly in one way or another; they’ll reside in my mind for years to come. I tried to list them more or less in order, but that’s really hard for me to do, so don’t take the order too literally. So…out of almost sixty books, here are the TOP SEVENTEEN.

Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
Melanie Rehak
I had so much fun revisiting my girlhood fictional hero, Nancy Drew. In a thoroughly engaging manner, this book presented lots of what there is to know about the history of her existence.
The Challengers Beauty for Ashes The Patch of Blue Rainbow Cottage
The Challengers, Beauty for Ashes, The Patch of Blue, Rainbow Cottage
Grace Livingston Hill
Together, these four sweet Christian romance books, published in the 1930s, enhanced my feel for and understanding of the 1930s American experience.

The Moonstone
The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins
A forerunner of the “detective” genre, this thick Victorian novel had intrigue on basically every page. It combined Eastern mystery, an old country estate with secrets in northeast England, and the maze of London with the puzzle of a missing diamond and a romance in turmoil.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
This children’s classic that I ought to have read years ago was fun, quirky, and strangely insightful.

Heidi (Heidi, #1)
Johanna Spyri
Ditto on this children’s classic, only it was a bit more life-altering than Alice. The Christian lesson was heart-warming, and it made me long for beauty—in nature, in simple living, and in helping others.

From the Dark to the Dawn: A Tale of Ancient Rome
From the Dark to the Dawn
Alicia A. Willis
This impacting book took me back to ancient Rome and the persecution of the early Christians. It strengthened my resolve to live for God and to be a witness of Him.
Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost
John Milton
This epic poem reaches across the centuries. I especially loved the latter half of the book; besides understanding it more than the first half, I thought the Biblical themes put into lyrical verse was lovely and profound.

Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination with Your Children
Caught Up in a Story
Sarah Clarkson
I thoroughly enjoyed this nonfiction book about reading, particularly choosing good books for kids to read. I closely identified with the author’s reading journey, and came away with a strengthened understanding and conviction of how essential reading good books is. It’s called being “story-formed.”

Grace Triumphant: A Tale of the Slave Trade
Grace Triumphant
Alicia A. Willis
Like Alicia Willis’s other books, this novel, about the 1700s British slave trade, was exciting, convicting, and encouraging. I was always on pins and needles over what would happen next. The characters felt so real. And the spiritual lessons—they were serious and rich.

Catherine Marshall
This well-written and -researched novel about a rural Pennsylvania factory town in the Great Depression was very powerful and hard to put down. What made it absolutely fantastic was how hard-hitting spiritual themes were woven into the very fabric of the story.

Day of Atonement: A Novel of the Maccabean Revolt
Day of Atonement
David deSilva
This novel about the Maccabean Revolt filled a hole in historical fiction that I always wanted filled. It was well-researched and detailed, and gave me a better understanding of how Israel could have slid into assimilation with the Greeks in inter-testament times. The ending was powerful and made me more determined than ever to stand for God’s ways.

The Map Across Time (The Gates of Heaven, #2)
The Map Across Time
C. S. Lakin
This lengthy fantasy adventure was one long joy to read. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style, world-building, and characters of C. S. Lakin, especially the myriad of ways she alluded to Scripture and ancient Hebrew. Although it’s the second in a series, it felt strong enough to stand on its own. So much adventure, so many twists, so much mystery, so many beautiful descriptions and lessons….

A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness & a Trove of Letters Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression
The Secret Gift
Ted Gup
This nonfiction memoir-type book was extremely helpful for my Great Depression research, being about Canton, Ohio (the setting of my WIP), in the 1930s. Not only was it helpful, it was extremely touching as the author explored a fascinating true story and traced the many lives connected to it.

Least of All Saints
Least of All Saints
Grace Irwin
The top four are difficult to order, but I’ll do my best. This was an incredibly well-written Christian novel from the 1950s. The author starts out with a distinctive premise—that of an intellectual unbeliever who becomes a Methodist minister because he believes the tenets of Christian living are compelling, even if he doesn’t believe in God. What follows is a thought-provoking, character-driven story that left me strengthened in my faith.

Les Misérables
Les Miserables
Victor Hugo
Finally reading this beloved classic, I was able to see what all the hype was about. It was truly a solid, satisfying, memorable read. Although I did read an abridged version (the vast majority of versions are abridged), it was plenty long enough. The scope of this story was incredible. Jean Valjean is a wonderful character!

The Dean's Watch
The Dean’s Watch
Elizabeth Goudge
With breathtakingly beautiful prose, Goudge weaves a heart-warming, thought-provoking story about the enigmatic Dean of a city in the northeast England fen country. The spiritual lessons sent chills down me, and the author’s writing style is the most beautiful I’ve ever read!

The Scent of Water
The Scent of Water
Elizabeth Goudge
Although I may have liked the story of The Dean’s Watch a tad better, The Scent of Water had several scenes of beauty in it that touched me to the core. Plus, it was my first Goudge novel; thus, it was the most impacting. Set in England, the story took place contemporaneously to when it was written (1950s, early 1960s) and involved a retired teacher searching for something more to life.

What were some of your top reads of 2015? Which of the books on my list have you read, and what did you think of them?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


“I give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14a
“Before I formed you in the belly I knew you, and before you came out of the womb I did set you apart—I appointed you a prophet to nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

"NSRW Forms of water" by Unknown
God takes delight in fashioning each and every human being. Because of that, each and every human being is unique; unlike the evil governments of the Star Wars universe, God does not create clones. He made every person distinct from one another so there would be an infinite variety in His world, resulting in the greatest possible number of experiences and developments. Because we’re all so different, we’ve brought some pretty crazy stuff into this world, but we’ve also done and discovered an amazing amount that enhances and beautifies life. Which is what God intended. He does not want duplicates; duplicates fit only one purpose.

Which is why it’s absurd to covet what other people have, what they do, who they are. To feel that you’re less of a person than someone else because you can’t do exactly what they do. To believe that you’re unnecessary because you can’t think of anything extraordinary you’ve done. The very fact that you are a unique individual means that you are absolutely necessary to this world. You are not redundant. If you were supposed to be just like someone or everyone else, God would not have made you, since He delights in making His creations diverse.

Being creative yourself helps you understand that aspect of our Creator’s nature. You know the urge to make something new that wasn’t in existence before; it fulfills you unlike anything else. For example, though my main creative outlet is writing, I also enjoy making cards for family and friends. I don’t enjoy writing duplicate stories or making duplicate cards—it’s boring. I take delight in discovering countless ways of crafting words and cards, tailored for a purpose: a particular message or story I need to tell, a particular card for a particular person.

So it is with the individuality with which God created us. He delighted in making you unique, for a special purpose; don’t ruin that by being discontent with your fundamental makeup. Seek the path God has laid for you. 

"Schneeflocken 1885" by Unknown

Note: This isn’t to say we should always consider ourselves individualistically or ignore the good examples of others; we’re made to work for God’s glory in community, too. I’m just concerned about when a person thinks he or she is worthless or superfluous or is tempted to envy others.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen

It's Jane Austen's birthday today! I am so thankful for this talented woman, one of my very favorite authors. She was born 240 years ago, in 1775.

File:Jane Austen coloured version.jpg
wikimedia commons

She wrote six of my favorite books:
  1. Sense and Sensibility, 1811
  2. Pride and Prejudice, 1813
  3. Mansfield Park, 1814
  4. Emma, 1816
  5. Northanger Abbey, 1817
  6. Persuasion, 1817
If you're interested in more of my thoughts about this world-renowned English author, here are three posts: one, two, and three.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Beautiful Books: The Editing Process

Happy December everyone! I’m here with another blog link-up from Beautiful Books. Even though I didn’t officially participate in NaNoWriMo, I’m coming to the end of my WIP, Suit and Suitability, so the questions about “The Editing Process” seemed fitting. I managed to write over 27,000 words in November, a record that leaves my other monthly word totals far behind. This month I hope to write with equal persistence (come on, brain, you can do it!). But I am starting to think about the editing process, so without further adieu…

 1.    On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best), how did the book turn out? Did anything defy your expectations? 

I don’t know; perhaps an optimistic 7? The novel took turns I definitely didn’t expect from the outset but that I really, really like. It also came out way longer than I expected…frighteningly longer. 

 2.    Comparative title time: what published books, movies, or TV shows are like your book? (Ex: Inkheart meets X-Men.)  

Sense and Sensibility meets Grace Livingston Hill’s 1930s novels meets a scoured clean Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, I think. (I don’t want to see that movie, but I semi-know the story, and the rich 1930s setting is similar to how I picture my S&S. Plus, I understand that it involves an actress and two female leads with opposite personalities.)

 3.    Do you enjoy working with deadlines and pressure (aka NaNoWriMo)? Or do you prefer to write-as-you’re-inspired? 

I enjoy working with my own deadlines and goals, such as the 25k words I made myself write last month. That’s the best way to make my writing actually go somewhere fast!

 4.    How do you go about editing? Give us an insight into your editing process. 

I set aside the completed story for a while, until I feel distanced enough to read over it with a fresh, eager, yet critical perspective. I read it once, fixing things as I go (inconsistencies, clumsy sentences, wordiness, length, inaccuracies), then let some other people see it. I keep going through it until it’s as good as I feel I can make it, then I have my special critics read it and help me improve it. After all that, I’ll probably read through it again…

 5.    What aspect of your story needs the most work? 

The law case involving Ellen and Marion’s father.

 6.    What aspect of your story did you love the most? 

Ellen’s and Marion’s spiritual journeys.

 7.    Give us a brief run down on your main characters and how you think they turned out. Do you think they’ll need changes in edits? 

Thankfully, I don’t think any my main characters will need much changing, though I’d like to better develop Calvin Bradley (aka Colonel Brandon) and Everett Shepherd (aka Edward Ferrars).

 8.    What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever? 

More edits, finding beta readers, self-publishing in the Vintage Jane Austen series!

 9.    Share a favourite snippet! 

This is at a Broadway theatre where Marion has just seen the musical Anything Goes.

     Marion’s hands flew into an involuntary frenzy of applause; she felt as if the whole audience’s applause lifted her somewhere heavenly. She let her tears gather. The show was beautifully madcap—touching and amusing and thoroughly cheering, all at once. It could appeal to the masses and delight critics, planting songs and lines in the minds of everyone to flourish there forever. Someday she would know the actual feel of having acted in a show like that, and this applause would be for her and her friends.

10. What are your writing goals and plans for 2016? 

I’d like to finish S&S and tie it up with a pretty bow. I’d also like to start on a new novel…I have at least two ideas, but nothing definite yet. I also have shorter stories simmering, but we’ll see if anything comes of them.

Check out the original post on Further Up and Further In! How does your editing process work? What are your writing goals and plans for 2016?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Festival of Lights

During winter, the darkest time of the year, we naturally think of lights that can illumine our paths and thaw us from the cold. Hanukkah, the eight-day long Jewish holiday in this season, is called “The Festival of Lights” and in fact is going on right now. Since Jesus/Yeshua is the Light of the World, in honor of Him and this festival I am posting some of my favorite Bible verses about light.

Thank you, Unsplash!
Thank you, Unsplash!

2Ch 21:7  Howbeit the LORD would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and as he promised to give a light to him and to his sons for ever.

Psa 27:1  The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Isa 42:6  I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 

Thank you, Unsplash!

Mat 5:14  Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 

Joh 8:12  Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. 

Thank you, Unsplash!
Rev 22:5  And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.

What is your favorite Bible verse about light?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway for Alicia A. Willis's new release, Grace Triumphant!

And now, to announce the winner...

Congratulations, Kimberly Snyder! Please contact me through my website's contact page HERE so I can relay your email address to Alicia for your e-book. You're in for a wonderful read!

I enjoyed everyone's answers to my question, “What do you think is the most powerful thing we can learn from history?” so much I compiled the answers so we can all read them again:
  • I think the main thing we can learn is from the example of those who walked faithfully before us!
  • Learning from the examples of those before us, good and bad.
  • The most powerful thing I've learned from history is God is the Redeemer of history. No matter how terrible or hopeless a period of history seems to be, God always works in it to bring good and glory to His name.
  • I think the most powerful thing we can learn from history is God's unchangeableness, and His unending grace and forgiveness. There have been many, many before us that have gone through these struggles also, and made it through, which means we can, too, through His strength!  
  • The most powerful thing we can learn from history is that God always has a plan for the lives of His people. Whatever happened in history, God worked it all out according to His will! Plus, from history we can learn about God Himself, as it is HIS-STORY!!! :)
 To those of you didn't win, I hope you still get a chance to check out Grace Triumphant. It's one you won't want to miss.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Free Short Stories

Until December 1, two of Amanda Tero's short stories, Coffee Cake Days and Debt of Mercy, are free on Amazon!  

Meg has finally graduated and has the time she’s dreamed of for months: time to “sit at the feet of Jesus” and soak up His Word as she seeks what future plans He has for her. She soon runs into a problem: her family. Unwanted interruptions and household duties tear her away from the time she longs to spend in the Bible. Journey with her as she strives to learn the balance of spending time in God’s Word and applying it to her daily life.

Raboc’s eyes narrowed to slits and he thrust his arm forward until his fingers closed around Ancel’s throat. The young man knew better than to resist the powerful lord, but his jaw clenched. “To the dungeon with you. Guards!” “Lord, have mercy,” Ancel pleaded. “Give me time and I shall pay the other half.” 
A medieval retelling of the parable in Matthew 18.

About Amanda Tero:
Amanda Tero is a homeschool graduate whose desire is to provide God-honoring reading material that challenges the readers to consider their walk with God. She has currently published several short stories which can be found on Amazon on her website.


Writing website | Facebook | Blog | Goodreads | Amazon

Amanda Tero writes challenging and faith-filled stories that are really worth looking into! I've enjoyed and been affected by every one of the stories I've read by her!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Weekend Sale

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you were blessed by being able to celebrate according to the true meaning of the day.

“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:1

Today we’re talking about books. One of the things I’m thankful for is great books…for this post, I picked five 2015 reads that I’m thankful for. (Around the last post of the year I’ll have a top fifteen most impacting books list! This is something different.)

1. The Secret Gift by Ted Gupp. This book was an answer to an unspoken prayer. It relates a real-life Great Depression story that takes place in Canton, Ohio, the setting of my Great Depression novel. It was an invaluable resource. I found it by “accident” when I was researching 1930s Canton.

2. The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge. This was my first introduction to an incredible author who God uses to refresh my spirit.

3. The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge. My second Goudge novel. Same reason as above!

4. Amazing Grace by Faith Blum. I had the privilege of proofreading this touching and entertaining book.

5. A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans by Joseph Shulam. This was enjoyably elucidating to my study of the Bible.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to another great year of reading! Speaking of more reading, here’s one more thing to be grateful for: books on sale! In honor of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a group of independent Christian authors banded together to offer over seventy discounted books on November 27–30. There’s literally something for everyone.

Every single book listed on Indie Christian Books is on sale in one or more ways. Find discounted paperbacks, dozens of books offered with free shipping, $0.99 ebooks, package deals and more. Even if you have a budget of $0, new reading material awaits you.

Don’t know what to pick? The fearless Indie Christian Books team created a quiz that will generate a book list perfect for you! Check it out!

What awesome reads of 2015 are you grateful for? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2016?

A note on the Ebooks Only page. All books are listed as “Sold Out.” This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Leah E. Good  for her work organizing this sale, Gloria Repp for completing the time consuming job of uploading book info to the sale website, and Hannah Mills   for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at  hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu  for more information about her design services.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Release: Grace Triumphant

I’ve been anticipating the release of Alicia A. Willis’s newest novel, Grace Triumphant, ever since I heard she was going to write it. I was privileged to be a beta reader for it, and now that release day is here, I can heartily recommend this wonderful book! 

Profligate London, 1788. Slave ships haunt the seas, bearing human cargos to further the wealth of the rich and destroy the souls of the slave traffickers.

Russell Lawrence is an avid skeptic. Captain of the slave ship Barbados, wealthy, and a respected leader, he views religion as a crutch for the weak. But when the debauchery of the slave trade begins to destroy his good morals, his battle becomes more than fighting pirates and mutineers. What if there really is a God?

Impressed as a cabin boy, Jack Dunbar sees his forced service on the Barbados as a God-given opportunity to witness Christ to the crew. But his efforts to influence the hardened slavers seems to be doing little good. How is it possible to live as a Christian on the sin-ravaged seas? Can his light shine bright in Africa's dark interior?

Back in Grosvenor Square, Elizabeth Grey battles opposition from society and her self-seeking fiancé. Her work with John Newton to end the slave trade is being harshly attacked. She faces life branded as a jilter and radical if she stands up for what she believes in. Will she ever glean the strength to call sin by its rightful name?

A tale of adventure on the high seas, redemption, and faith. Sin abounds. Is grace enough to conquer doubt and triumph over evil?

My review: This is one powerful book. It totally immersed me in the lives of Russell, the young slave ship captain who denies God; Jack, the Christian cabin boy abducted from a life on the London streets and impressed into service; and Elizabeth, the young Christian abolitionist who must marry a heartless man of the world. Scenes alternate between their points of view. I pondered and learned and worried along with them. Their fates kept me guessing to the very end! How God shone in their lives is something you have to read for yourself. 

All the other characters seemed like real people, too—Isaac, Roger, Cedrick, William, Walter, Anne…each one was well developed. And it’s thrilling whenever the real real people, John Newton and William Wilberforce, make appearances! The history behind this pivotal point early in the battle for abolition of the British slave trade is fascinating. Miss Willis was just right to choose this time. 

As I write this review and think back, I’m amazed at the intricacy and ingenuity of the plot—everything that happened, how it all tied together, how so many scenes left me hanging and wanting to know what would happen next. The only scenes that occasionally seemed static were Elizabeth’s, but I think that’s because her life was quieter and thus it seemed to take her longer to learn what God was teaching her. But everything, everything, that occurred was interesting and involved me fully with the characters. 

Ms. Willis certainly accomplishes her goal of showing how we can live as Christians and shine our light in a dark place, even if nothing seems to come of it. Grace Triumphant was very, very sobering for me. It was so realistic, and set in a familiar setting to me, both because the era and its struggles resembles our own, and because I’ve read so much about 18th century Britain. I admit I felt sobered almost to the point of depression, thinking of how much suffering there is and was in this world, and how few seek God. It’s a reality check and a clarion call to shine our light. Read this book, but be prepared for a serious look at your faith. I am so thankful for yet another of Ms. Willis’s God-honoring and life-changing historical novels.

View the trailer here.  

Learn more about Alicia A. Willis and her books by visiting her blog. And...enter a giveaway for an e-book copy of Grace Triumphant! To place entries, comment and tell me how many of the following you did or answer the questions I posed (you only need to comment once). I will add up your entries and do a drawing Tuesday, December 1.    

  • Add Grace Triumphant on Goodreads. 
  • Follow Alicia A. Willis on Goodreads.
  • Like Alicia A. Willis on Facebook.
  • Follow Alicia's blog
  • Share about this giveaway on any social media site.
  • Answer the question: What is your favorite historical time period?
  • Answer the question: What do you think is the most powerful thing we can learn from history?
Update: Tuesday, December 1 - The giveaway is now over. Thanks for your entries! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Beautiful Books: The Writing Process

For those of you who write, have you ever joined in the Beautiful Books/Beautiful People link-up by Further Up and Further In? I’ve done it just once or twice, but it’s really quite enjoyable! November, as national novel writing month, shines the focus on your work-in-progress.

First, an update: While I’m not officially participating in NaNoWriMo, I have been using the motivation of this literary month to apply myself to my WIP, Suit and Suitability. And it’s going well, praise God! My goal is 25,000 words (half the 50,000 NaNo count), and amazingly, I’m ahead of schedule. I wasn’t expecting this, because so many individual days of my past writing life have felt defeating, as I either didn’t write at all, or rejoiced at word counts of 800 words or so max. And, each day this November save one, I’ve written more than that, and with comparative ease, too. Don’t you just love it when the words flow effortlessly, through no struggle of your own? So far I’ve logged two days exceeding the daily NaNo word count—1,692 and 1,715. I am so grateful to God for giving me clarity of mind as I forge forward with this novel.

And now for the fun stuff—Beautiful Books: The Writing Process!

1.    Is the book turning out how you thought it would be, or is it defying your expectations?
It’s mostly turning out how I thought it would. I had a vague knowledge of what needed to happen to my characters once they reached New York, but having to write so much has forced me to make something concrete out of that vagueness.
2.    What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?
This may or may not be the absolute first two paragraphs, and I may or may not be happy with them, but…here you go:
“Yes, we find him guilty.”  
      The foreman of the jury’s voice was deep, level, and emotionless; it sounded so uncannily like Ellen’s father’s that she could almost believe her father was convicting himself. The foreman looked nothing like him, though—short, paunchy, and dark-haired to her father’s blond hair and straight, well-built form.
3.    Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you ever tried both methods and how did it turn out?
I am a plotter and haven’t even attempted being a panster. The latter goes against the grain of almost every piece of my personality, so I doubt I could get very far by trying it. Maybe I will, one day, just to see…and who knows? The results may be surprising!
4.    What do you reward yourself with after meeting a goal?
Feeling a deep joy that I can’t really explain, and then telling people about reaching the goal, hoping they’ll rejoice with me. : )
5.    What do you look for in a name? Do you have themes and where do you find your names?
Since Suit and Suitability is a retelling of Sense and Sensibility, I’ve mostly adapted my characters’ names from the original novel, with a 1930s “flair”—Ellen, Marion, Greta, and Everett are my favorites. (If you’ve read Jane Austen’s classic, do you recognize Elinor, Marianne, Margaret, and Edward?)
6.    What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?
I have the most experience with middles, because they make up the vast majority of my writing…but I would say either middles or ends. Beginnings worry me…I never know if I’m including too much or too little!
7.    Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?
Ellen Dashiell, the protagonist. She’s based, of course, off Elinor Dashwood, perhaps my favorite literary character ever.
8.    What kind of things have you researched for this project, and how do you go about researching? (What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched?!)
Good question! S&S requires a lot of research, being set in the thirties. Let’s see…I’ve researched the Great Depression; Canton, OH (I was even blessed to do that on location!); theatre, Broadway, and movies; secretaries; typewriters; houses; New York; trains; cars; education; fashion (yum!); books; telegrams…to name a few things. The weirdest thing? Um…I’m not sure. Maybe the typewriters—figuring out exactly what model Ellen (a secretary) used and loved. Or perhaps it was the senior play of 1935 at Canton’s McKinley High School that Marion (an actress) lost her chance to star in (it was “Secrets,” based off a movie by Mary Pickford).
9.    Do you write better alone or with others? Do you share your work or prefer to keep it to yourself?
Alone. Definitely alone. But I do share my work…though only when it passes my approval, usually after one or two readings.
10.    What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!
I don’t usually eat while I write; it distracts me. If I do, it’s tea or fruit. Nope, no music…it distracts me. : ) I seem to write best at night, or afternoon. Usually 8:00pm to 10:00pm. As for other writing habits…a bad habit of mine is to have an internet tab open where I sneak to when my writing drags. The guilt steps in quickly, though, and I scurry back before I lose complete momentum. I don’t have a picture of my writing space, but I do have a video! (No, I’m not an over-achiever…I had to do that for an author program I did over the summer. Here is the YouTube link if you're really interested: My Writing Space.)

That was fun! Feel free to join in. If you don’t wish to do a whole post, how about answering a few of your favorite questions in the comments? I’d love to hear them! And if you’d like to check out more writers’ questionnaires, go to Further Up and Further In to see the link-up list!

And I almost forgot! Amanda Tero at is doing a giveaway of four e-books by indie authors, including one of mine. The giveaway ends in three days, so if you’re interested, check it out right away! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Kate's Innocence Blog Tour!

Today my blog has the privilege of being one of the final stops on the Kate’s Innocence blog tour. Kate’s Innocence is the first book of a brand new series by Sarah Holman, Kate’s Case Files

What would you do if you were accused of a crime you didn’t commit?

Kate watched as her campus was torn apart by bombs and now is being accused of perpetrating the crime. As the evidence quickly stacks up against her, she begins to lose hope that the truth will come to light. Even though the handsome FBI Agent, Patrick, has taken up her cause, will they be able to prove her innocence? Will God, who she neglected for so long, listen to her prayers for help?

Patrick is an agent with a very special team of agents. He wants to help Kate prove she is innocent, but as each new piece of evidence is revealed, that goal seems harder. He wonders why he feels so compelled to help her and so sure she is innocent despite the evidence. Will he be willing to put his job on the line to help her? Can he trust in God to make sure the truth will come out in the end?

My review: The book is as intriguing as it sounds! I love a good mystery, and Kate’s Innocence really delivered—it kept me guessing until the very end, and I do mean the very end (as in the last page or two!). The ending was one of my favorite parts, actually, because of the brilliant manner in which it opened the way for more books.

But I’m getting ahead of myself (obviously, because I’m already talking about the ending!). What captured my attention even more than the mystery were the characters. The whole FBI team was made up of well-drawn and interesting people. No-nonsense head agent Thomas, humorous Brian, quirky Logan, steady Kim, and chivalrous Patrick were all young, energetic, fun (well, Thomas could use a little help in that department!), and very serious about their job. Patrick had a good character arc (as the second paragraph of the synopsis explains).

Kate, though, was probably my favorite character. Though she was rude and tough at times, it was realistic given how much pressure she was under and the kind of background she had. She intrigued me, because segments of her life are actually left a mystery to us for now. I felt sorry for what she was going through, yet I did identify with her commitment to neatness, healthy eating, and staying in shape, and I also appreciated the struggle she went through about wondering where God is, and her guilt over neglecting Him. That, too, is very realistic, and I look forward to seeing where Kate goes next with the lessons she’s learning.

Believe it or not, another of my favorite parts was the note from the author at the end. It gives quite a bit to chew on!

In the end (speaking of endings), I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more in the series. There aren’t a whole lot of clean, Christian crime-fighting books out there that young people can get into. Ms. Holman has done an excellent job coming up with this storyline, with adventures that Kate and the FBI agents go through and the way they have to rely on God!

To view previous stops on the blog tour and learn more about the author, visit The Destiny of One (Sarah Holman’s blog). You’ll find book reviews and articles from the author about the story and the characters. 

And finally…a giveaway! Click on the image to enter.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Book Review: Ryan and Essie

Just lately I’ve been awakened to learning more about the stars, so this wonderful science fiction novel for kids, which involves a journey into the mysterious reaches of outer space, was a read I was eager to dive into. 

Sarah Scheele's tale starts out in a normal enough world: Ryan and Essie meet at an observatory in Texas, where Ryan spends a lot of time because his dad is an astronomer and which Essie, who is home schooled, visits on a field trip with her parents. The two kids are complete opposites and really start off on the wrong foot. Studious, arrogant Ryan and overly outgoing Essie are probably the most realistic average modern-day middle-schoolers I’ve ever read. They certainly have their faults and are sometimes downright nasty to each other, but the way they interact and argue is rather entertaining. I cared about them and wanted to see them friends…if left unchecked, kids that age get so wrapped up in themselves they don’t realize the need to understand other people. And that’s what the relationship part of the story is largely about—kids learning how to respect each other. And the way Ryan and Essie learn is a way no child reading this will soon forget.

Ending up on a space shuttle through Essie’s thoughtlessness, and getting sucked into a wormhole, also via Essie’s thoughtlessness, the kids end up at a planet called Caricanus. There they are plunged into an adventure involving alien royalty, magical pillars, the fates of planets, and astonishing discoveries about themselves. I’m somewhat of a dunce when it comes to the names of places and “people” groups in science fiction, so I was a bit lost when there were so many to remember, but I doubt scifi lovers will have a problem with that.

The suspense kept me turning pages, the characters were funny and had snappy dialogue, the foreign galaxy was fun to imagine, and the ending made me tear up. The book includes biblical allusions and a strong lesson that kids won’t even know they’re learning until wham! And then they’ll care so much about the story and be so happy at the conclusion that they’ll care about the message.

I agree with another reviewer: Ms. Scheele’s narrative style in this book reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s (and other classic author’s) children’s books. Think of characters like Edmund and Eustace. Readers can stand back and recognize (even be entertained by) the foibles of the characters, but still follow along and care about what happens. It’s a good style for children, I think, because the kids aren’t encouraged to have the same wrong feelings as the protagonists. At the same time, however, there isn’t enough distance to make readers feel like they’re reading from leagues above these characters, either.

Sorry…there I go philosophizing about writing styles. But anyway, I recommend this fun book for kids who like science fiction or fantasy, say from age eight to fourteen or so, or really, for any age—it’s one that adults and young adults like me can enjoy!
I was provided a free copy of this book for my unbiased review.

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Reader's Poll

Hey bibliophiles! Are you looking for good deals on good books? This Black Friday, at least 23 Indie Christian authors with 71 books in a plethora of genres will be putting their books on sale!

To make this the best sale for you we've put on yet, we need your help. Please take a moment to complete this quick reader survey. We appreciate it so much! Be prepared for an exciting array of book possibilities in a couple of weeks...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Going for Goals

Happy November! Among writers this month is a big event called National Novel Writing Month, or, NaNoWriMo. Or, if you want an even shorter designation, NaNo. Every writer who participates makes it their goal to write at least 50,000 words in the thirty days of November. Breaking it down into daily chunks, that’s 1,667 words a day.

I’m not participating. I write too slowly. I think I may have written 1,667 words in one day before, just to see what it was like, if I could do it…and it was torture. I know my limits, and I don’t like failing, so, no NaNo for me. I’ve made it my informal goal to write as much as I can every day this month, to see if I can finish my work-in-progress (Suit and Suitability). So far I’ve written 1,689 words, and hopefully I’ll add to that in a writing session tonight. (And, hey! I just thought of this. Doesn’t this blog post count?)

But aren’t people who do participate, and who win, fascinating? I find them fascinating and I cheer them on. Gritting your teeth and giving a month-long shove to get your story rolling is admirable. Writing goals in general are definitely a must if you’re ever going to finish something. I find that, for me, knowing exactly what’s going to happen next in the plot is the key to getting a big word count in every writing session.

So, what types of goals do you set to pull yourself along on a writing project? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, how is that going for you?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Book Review: Girl Sleuth

Perhaps you’re thinking what I’m thinking…another book review? Yes, I know, but it isn’t my fault the books I’ve been reading lately have been so fascinating they’re worthy of a blog post! (Or maybe it is my fault for picking such intriguing books…)

Anyway, I’ve just finished a book about Nancy Drew, the heroine of my favorite childhood series. And my, did it reinvigorate my interest in her! It made me nostalgic for what I loved to read in my pre-teen/early teen days…fast-paced, plot-based mysteries and adventures. In fact, I got this writerly thought in my head: Maybe I should reread a bunch of my Nancy Drew’s to give me an infusion of plot ideas…I feel weak on that in my own writing!


Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak is a must-read for anyone who is or has been an ardent fan of Nancy Drew, original or revised. It clears up the mystery of her authorship, the identity of pseudonym Carolyn Keene, the wide appeal of Nancy, and the differences between her old and new versions and when exactly she changed. It goes into all things Nancy Drew in pop culture. Beyond that, it gives a fascinating peek into the history of children’s book publishing in America and into the lives of the people responsible for Nancy's creation: Edward Stratemeyer, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, and Mildred Wirt Benson.

The Stratemeyer Syndicate is the principal “character” of this book. Its inner workings were quite intriguing. It turns out Edward Stratemeyer was the hero behind many of the classic dime-novel characters—Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift, the Rover boys, and so on—and all these series were written under pseudonyms. Some reading this probably already knew that, but I wasn’t aware of these books’ origins.

The only thing I, personally, did not like about Girl Sleuth was the author’s feminist bias. Nancy Drew became an icon during the women’s lib movement of the 1960s and ’70s, even though the women who created her were conservative on that front (they were of the previous generation, after all). The author used Nancy Drew as a measuring rod and a jumping-off point to go into the history of feminism, though the character herself was never intended as such a symbol. But, the cultural tie-ins were interesting, because American women did live through these attitudes and events. I found myself agreeing with Harriet S. Adams, one of Nancy’s creators, who though not a women’s libber believed that women have brains, rather than the author, who counted stay-at-home motherhood as an unfortunate setback to women’s advancement.

So, it will make you think about the issue of feminism, but at the same time, I think you’ll be pleased with how Nancy is presented. (One warning: Toward the end, there are a couple of obscenities, because they are part of quotations.) (Disclaimer: I think most of my readers view feminism as I do, but if you do not, it is not my intention to open up a discussion about it. Thanks!)


Girl Sleuth makes me so glad I still have all my 56 revised Nancy Drew’s because I plan to reread them after this. I also have a facsimile edition of the very first, The Secret of the Old Clock, as it was in 1930, that I plan to reread first. I’m also reminded that I need to insert a reference to Nancy Drew somewhere in my 1930s novel…she was all the rage then, so why not capitalize on the opportunity to give a nod to one of my most beloved fictional heroines?

Have you read and liked the Nancy Drew mystery stories? I think part of their appeal is how many generations loved them. My mom never read them; surprisingly, as a child she did not like to read (boy, has that changed!). But I need to ask my grandmother, who grew up during the twenties and thirties, if she read any!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Books I Treasure

What reader doesn’t like making book lists? I’ve made several on this blog—including favorite fairy tales, funniest books, classics I’ve read, and top 15 reads of 2013 and 2014. But I’ve never done a list of straight-out favorite books. At least not here. On Goodreads, I have a “twenty favorite” shelf:

Kelsey's twenty-favorite book montage

Sense and Sensibility
Pride and Prejudice
Mansfield Park
Northanger Abbey
Wives and Daughters
North and South
Jane Eyre
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
The Complete Anne of Green Gables Boxed Set
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Lord of the Rings
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Pilgrim's Progress
Little Women
The Little House Collection
The Zion Chronicles Complete Set
The Wanderer: or, Female Difficulties

Kelsey Bryant's favorite books »

Now this is my as-of-2015 list. I don’t change it often, but be aware I may change it in the future, as is understandable—reading tastes evolve in everyone. I chose these books because I love the stories, the characters, the settings, the author’s writing style, and the messages more than any other books I’ve read. (Excluding, of course, the Bible! Wonderful book; have you read it lately? It trumps all others.) I wanted to add the two Elizabeth Goudge novels I just read, but these twenty books won’t budge quite yet…maybe re-reading everything will get something to move.

Okay. I’ve rambled enough about that list. Now for the mega-list.

The mega-list? Yes, the one hundred-plus books that I count among my favorites, the books I’d hold onto and re-read…that list. Notice it isn’t here, fortunately (or else this would be a really long post); it’s accessed via a tab at the top of this blog so you can browse it at your leisure. It used to be the top 100 best books I’ve read, but I thought my favorites would be more fun, and more measurable and easy to evaluate. For example, I don’t really like Wuthering Heights but I included it in the “100 best books” because it’s so well-written, but I can’t exactly gush over it. There are tons of other “best books” lists that anyone can make, but only I can make my favorites list.

I wish I had time and space to lovingly describe how each book arrived there…but that would take a book in itself. Somehow or another these beauties just thrilled me while I was reading them and kept me feeling warm long after I’d said goodbye.

I’m assuming you have a list of favorite books, too…have you ever made an “official” one? What are your top favorites and why?