Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Early Bird Gets the Size

I know, I know... It's been a little while since the last post, but hey. It's Christmas. If I can't take a break now, then when? ;) Besides, there have been sales to catch (getting the right size is key), little Valleys to care for, Mr. Valley to love, friends to catch up with, and books to read (Accidentally Amish is completely diverting)...

I hope the Reason for this season has not escaped you, but nestled in your heart at some point and sown a seed for hope for life.

And seeing as how a new year is on our doorstep, I figure it's time for a new look. I realise my readership majority is enjoying snow and cold weather. Well, I hate to break it to you but today we had 105*F in the shade.

Back soon...

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2v19

Monday, 3 December 2012

A Suddenly Direction ~ The Ultimate Stand-In

I love stories where people's lives change in an instant, where an everyday Joe or Jane goes from being extremely everyday to being gobsmackingly up there. One such story is of a man named Roger Becker. He's responsible for some infamous movie moments most of us will have witnessed at least once in our lives.

Forgive me as I now delve into serious man-turf.

In The Spy Who Loved Me, James Bond's white Lotus Elise is seen screaming along the winding hillside roads of Sardinia being chased by a helicopter. The stunt driver couldn't make the car slide like the film's directors needed to make the shot, and he could not push the car to its limit. The desired power slides and full opposite steering lock just couldn't be pulled off by this grippy new sportscar while it was in the hands of someone who should've known how to work it.

The film's director demanded that the car be brought the top of the hill now! and the man who jumped behind the wheel was the stunt man's advisor and Lotus employee, Roger Becker. He knew the car, like intimately knew the car (ask any motorsport person to explain this and they will quite plainly). Foot flat to the floor he pushed the car to its limit all the way to the top, sliding, screeching, revving, losing the back end while maintaining complete control. That day Roger Becker was employed as stunt driver for James Bond/Roger Moore, and cinematic history was made.

Can you imagine the privilege of such a decision? The surprise of it and the excitement?

"You are driving for Roger Moore in this movie."

I love it. I absolutely and utterly love stories like this. Someone has gone from the everyday to the neverland of amazingness. What's striking about it is that we all have this potential on some level. We're all expert at something and it's not just about being in the right place at the right time. It's about Providence, and it's real, right around the corner.

Sometimes we just have to use the guts and boldness God gave us, take that step out of our ordinary, get behind the wheel and push it to the limit. If you don't know what's coming next, take the step, and God will put the ground beneath you as your foot touches down.

Don't wait for life to happen to you.

 "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1v7

En effet, ce n’est pas un esprit de timidité que Dieu nous a donné, mais un esprit de force, d'amour et de sagesse.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman

When I pick up a novel it's for one of two main reasons: 1) I love the storyline, subject, or author and am dying to see what happens this time, or 2) it's strikingly unusual and different to anything I've seen before. This time it was reason #2.

Check out the back page blurb here.

I do like going for books with a new slant, and this one was interesting and not quite what I expected. I'm hard to impress, but this one has stayed in my mind, so that's a good thing, too. From the outset the settings are gorgeous and classy.

The book gets straight into the action and everything is easy to picture because we've seen similar scenes from Hollywood. Saphora is complex, but to me she also seemed a bit benign. For some reason she lacked fire and if she were real I'd feel like giving her a good shake. She accepts everything, rolls with the punches, and just gets on with it. As things progress, she's less willing to be walked all over and it was good to see how her growth and personal revelations came about. Others may view her differently, but this is my take.

Bender was also someone I wanted to give a good shake (obviously both husband and wife were well-written to elicit this response!). He's so bossy and absolutely typical of many of the folks in his social class. How he handles his illness is intriguing, and how he arrives at being so approchable and tolerant is not laid out like many other writers would do it. It seems Patricia resists the need to explain his responses so we can work it out for ourselves (thanks for giving us such credit :).

The husband is dying. He's obviously rethinking being a time-poor moron and so now enjoys every moment he's got while the family pours into the situation. We don't need to have it spelled out, and yet because the only background we have on Bender is what Saphora and everyone else thinks of him, his changes of heart are fast. It's Saphora's point of view.

It would have shaded in some more colour for me to have Saphora regret some of her own contributing behaviour more (scarcely raised). Bender is the instant bad guy for cheating and he seemed to write off his wife with little explanation. These two needed a marriage course much earlier in the piece (if they were real), but this is the way the story and life goes. It's a good highlight for what goes wrong when not enough is poured in and invested with relationships that matter, and also what can happen if a partner is or isn't willing for something to happen. Much of life gets left undone.

It is definitely time to say hello to life.

Tobias is the absolute hero of the book, in my mind. He's easy to disregard at his first entrance, but is a perfect example of what can happen in life if we go at it with eyes and ears open. I loved his character, and character he has. I also really enjoyed the quotes at the start of each chapter.

It's not your usual read, but that's what makes it worth picking up. There's a 13-Question Reader's Guide in the back, and it'd be interesting fodder for a book club discussion. Death is handled realistically, and in Bender's case, delicately. Grab a copy and give yourself some food for thought. Patricia's other titles (on her website) look equally as distracting.

PS~ Work on your marriage. Don't be a self-imposed victim of neglect.

"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." Proverbs 24v3,4

C'est par la sagesse qu'une maison s'élève, Et par l'intelligence qu'elle s'affermit;
C'est par la science que les chambres se remplissent De tous les biens précieux et agréables.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

In Sheep's Clothing by Susan May Warren

A darling young lady aboard the MV Doulos gave me this book at least three years ago, and I must admit it sat unread until last week, nestled comfortably in my exponentially tall, unread stack of 26 books. I was looking for something different, something with a bit of verve to break the sameness of my week. This was perfect.

You know I hate to reinvent the wheel, so go ahead and read the back page blurb here and also find the first chapter (woo-hoo!).

Published in 2005, it's great to see the ways a quality novel can truly withstand the test of time. This little ripper also deals with a topic close to my heart - salvation of the lost. Susan MW handles it so effortlessly. For the KC (key character) Gracie, it's almost a tangible pain for her to have not saved a single soul for the whole two years she's been in Russia (which would bug me, too), considering she arrived as a missionary and is about to head home.

From the moment I picked up the book the pedal was to the metal and I was racing through Russia like no other novel before. Guns, bad guys, car chases (joy), missionaries, betrayal, forgiveness, more bad guys, and of course there's the good guys. Did I love it? Oh yes!

What makes the deft handling even better and totally believable is that SMW lived in Russia for eight years. Presently I have a friend there in a missions capacity, and I know she would have loved this book. Everything she has mentioned rated a mention here, and this plausibility makes the story rock. The place and atmosphere can be felt - not to mention every Bond and Bourne film does come to mind a teency bit.

The tension (romantic and otherwise) between Gracie and Vicktor is cranking from word go, and anyone who knows anything about Christian fiction will wholeheartedly acknowledge SMW really knows how to write a guy from a guy's perspective (must have done about fifty marriage courses and now employs all she knows ;). Vicktor is a man's man, edgy and precise. His story is something wonderful when it finally comes out.

Be warned: it is a thriller. Just avoid the trouble and get the family take-out for dinner. It won't take you longer than five or six hours. SMW, you owe me many fingernails, and much sleep. Did my foot ever stop tapping? Just as well it was on the carpet or it'd have kept hubby awake :)

The beauty of this book is that there are two more that follow up on the lives of other characters. Do try and find them ;)

For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. Psalm 22v24

Thursday, 1 November 2012

In A Nutshell...

The other day I was reading this passage and it occurred to me how relevant it is in today's world. People who don't choose Jesus as the only option seem to wade through 'religion' like a bug in a gust... bits and pieces coming from everywhere but getting nowhere. Maybe it's time to give the only way a chance...

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’

“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. Acts 17v22-33

WHY is it so hard to believe that God is the only way, the only One that can save? Is He really so far-fetched that many other options are preferrable?

Don't try and firgure Him out. It won't work.

Just believe.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

No Fun (can be more fun) - Part 2

In the last post I shared how continually reading writing advice may create some disillusionment when trying to build your own voice and story. However reading Proverbs showed me something valuable. Each verse is writing advice if you know how to apply it to your work. Each verse shows a separate way to raise stakes, boost character profile, and add mystery.

I was in chapter 25 (of Proverbs) and recommend you simply have a read. What if the verses were writing tips to improve plot and structure? What if a new angle could be found that would break writer's block?

Consider the following verses:

v17 - Don’t visit your neighbors too often, or you will wear out your welcome.

Does your story need the enrichment of a meddling busybody? Is one of the characters nosy? Consider the traits of such a person including appearance, idiosyncrasies, and age. What makes them act like this? What is their relationship to your Key Character (KC, otherwise known as a protagonist) and the plot?

v28 - A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.

Could your story use a reckless soul to move it along and provide interest and colour? He might have a hankering for dim-sum-yum or an affinityfor guns - or both.
How might seemingly irreparable brokenness add flavour to your story?

v4 - Remove the impurities from silver, and the sterling will be ready for the silversmith.

Every character needs refining and it's the process that keeps pages turning. We read because we relate and we know that learning the hard way still gets us everytime. How might your KC respond to a furnace situation (that you have been through)?

v9 - When arguing with your neighbor, don’t betray another person’s secret.

It really needs no explanation, for all the danger, excitement and cataclysmic results this can cause in all its various forms. It might be a story told from one child to another (or to her peer), or it could be the of the magnitude of Wikileaks. How characters within the story respond to this information leaves the writing world as your oyster, so use wisely.

v21 - If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.

What would happen if your antagonist paid a visit to your KC and was suddenly nice to him? Would this get the attention of the KC as well as the reader? What alarm bells would ring and what tone would it set (or change)?

Consider verses 13, 7, and 19. How might a brainstorm on these improve your work? You don't have to kill anybody but you can afford to be a little ruthless. Test ideas and break new ground in your writing life and remember:

1) Writing publications are necessary, yet God is able to show you your own unique voice His way,
2) The Bible is for everyone.

Don't be afraid. Investigate and try new things. Simplicity is wonderful.

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
Fais de l’Eternel tes délices, et il te donnera ce que ton cœur désire.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

No Fun - Part 1

Lately I've been reading a writing book by an author of renown. This guy is one amazing agent and his ideas are intense. When I started applying his advice to my current MS idea, brainstorming myself into infinity and beyond, suddenly I needed to pull back. The ideas were spiralling out of control into the realm of unbelievability.

Identity in Crisis?

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, however I couldn't help thinking of my market. I'm not writing a thriller, "just" a seriously good page-turner. The advice was fantastic, but writing was no longer fun. It was completely and utterly funless when it should at least be enjoyable. Following all this practical and advantageous advice left me feeling terribly formulaic.

I needed a grain of salt, and I needed to remember the real-time publishing confines of my chosen genre. It's not boring, it just ain't The Da Vinci Code.

Needing respite, I picked up my Bible and opened to Proverbs, selecting at random and landing in chapter 25. They say there's nothing new under the sun. I tell you what, every author at some point seems to have taken a leaf out of Proverbs. Writing advice is rife! It's everywhere once you know where to look. No wonder there's risk of major overload and brainiac meltdown.

We, as craftspeople seeking the original, need to remember who we are and know the genre we write for. Tips are all well and good, but there are people selling guidelines as be-all and end-all rules, and it's dangerous and can be confusing if you can't find the dividing line. Knowing your genre is so important.

I won't give up reading the amazing agent's book but I will take on the advice with a clear gaze. I want to improve, and I know the advice is very sound (and rocks!). So what do you do if the advice is all too much and you need to simplify? Check out part 2 shortly.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14

Espère en l’Eternel! Fortifie-toi et que ton cœur s’affermisse! Espère en l’Eternel!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Crossing Over

Tell me, does this bridge look like one you think you'd enjoy crossing?

Does it appear safe? Does it seem rocky? Do you think it might collapse beneath you? Give it to me straight: What's your biggest fear in facing a bridge like this one? What is the worst that can happen to you?

Have no fear. I've crossed it and can tell you it works just fine and was very supportive.

What if my word isn't enough?

Then take another look at that bridge with the crew of Russian Tall ship Kruzenshtern lined up on it.

Betcha it doesn't look so scary anymore. It's the Capilano Suspension Bridge and the setting is absolutely gorgeous! If I'd not crossed this bridge to the other side I would never have smelled cedar like it should be inhaled (the best outdoor inhalation experience of my life to date)... Ok, stick with me. Focus on the two images of the bridge.

Now imagine that's how many people could come into relationship with Jesus because they read your novel.

Get the scope? Would you cross a bridge if you knew it had lasting, eternal worth and value?

I'm most of the way through reading a book by K.P. Yohannan and it's lifechanging for a number of reasons. K.P. makes a brilliant valid point that us Western Christians should be gutted over. We're fat on the Gospel and do little with it when it comes to saving souls. We're willing to let our closest neighbours slip into Eternity unsaved while we stuff ourselves silly on every Christian growth hormone known to us (books, music, programs, buildings, etc). We'll blissfully edify our way into the Kingdom but the crux of the Great Commission goes undone.

I was wondering how this might apply to me as a writer (not just in general).

Our books are for us, and despite the goodness and value of this, we should reach a point when we ask if it's enough. At the end of the day, we all need to grow up and get moving in Christ and our fiction is a brilliant method of transport. Please don't misunderstand me. Fiction has saved me and untold others on countless occasions and in various amazing ways that I praise and thank God for. But it's not the end of the journey. There's more waiting for us. We're accountable for our words, and I know that doesn't mean only the ones that come out of our mouths. The Great Commission is for us all to fulfill.

Be brave. Cross the bridge when you come to it, and open your mouth (and pen) so God can fill it with His words. Don't just be entertaining; make it count. Determine, at some point, to write something that crosses over. Avoid the kitsch, run from the mediocre, strive for something that hits an eternal mark. It's beautiful on the other side, and it's for everyone to know about, so don't hold back.

Pause for thought: In the movie Titanic, Jack raises a toast to 'making it count'. Would there have been any impact if his toast had been, "To being satisfied"?

What have you read lately that made you consider your eternal future, or someone else's?

“It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.” Deuteronomy 13:4

tu n'écouteras pas les paroles de ce prophète ou de ce faiseur de rêves. En effet, c'est l'Eternel, votre Dieu, qui vous met à l'épreuve pour savoir si vous l’aimez, lui, de tout votre cœur et toute votre âme.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Scene Most Worthy

One of the best parts of reading a good book is the ability for a scene to flash back to mind and bring a smile, a wince, or a giggle. I make no secret of my Siri-Mitchell-fan-status, and seeing as how hers is one of the last books I've read, the scenes from this one are still pretty clear (it'd help if I could concentrate on other things sometimes...).

If you're not familiar, you can read the back page blurb for A Heart Most Worthy here.

I fell most in love with the character of Annamaria. It had everything to do with how she handles herself, how I wish was more like her, and the way her romance unfolds. It's painfully beautiful and takes place in unexpected ways. Darn it!! I so don't want to spoil the story for you, but it's too good. Aaaaugh!!

Ok. A huge struggle with myself and I just can't tell you what takes place, but I will give you a page number. It's 268 and half 269. Siriously (pardon the pun), does anyone know how to craft a moment so worth the wait? The only thing that makes it any more complete is the way Annamaria's story concludes in the book, and how Rafaello behaves. Can there be any greater love than this?

If you were looking for juicy bits, sorry to disappoint :) You'll just have to invest and get between the pages...

Aunty's Wise Words

Earlier in the year I had a great long chat with my Aunt. She's been on the scene of my life since I was in the very early single digits. She's always been supportive of me and I couldn't ask for a better aunt. Recently we also realised I'm her only niece and she is my only aunt (even more exciting).

We share a number of similarities and among them is the tendancy to go with the flow when we'd really rather be doing something else. We've both been through the wringer in different ways and a recent text message she sent me contained these words:

"...just love everyone exactly where they're at. Everyone helps to remind me where I'm at. Attitude brings Altitude. Judging others is just judging myself. If something bothers me, it's a great indication of what's holding me back. This year I have particularly worked on speaking up rather than staying quiet and including rather than excluding, others..."

These words are easy to take as platitudes, and remind me of kitsch key lines from dynamic speaker conferences, but the poignant ring of truth to each phrase is a gem. I know she'll be reciting these words in her own mind repeatedly, and there are a few I'd love to put on my wall.

I'm praying her through her current hardships in the knowledge God can do anything, and in the meantime there's every day life while we wait for breakthroughs.

Break it down...

People will always let you know where you're at, when you've failed, when you're a disappointment. Do you love them anyway? Admittedly some peeps are harder to love than others in the face of discouragement.

If a good attitude brings you higher, where are you now?

Do you suffer from log-in-eye syndrome?

Is there a bee in your bonnet? Could it be what's stopping you from going forward?

Is it possible for you to speak the truth in love? Are you able to speak up when you ought to, or do you allow yourself to get steam-rolled and subsequently, frustrated?

Do you extend grace?

At the end of the day, it's a good thing God is bringing us to completion ;)

“[Praise to God for a Living Hope] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1 Peter 1:3

“[L’espérance du salut] Béni soit Dieu, le Père de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ! Conformément à sa grande bonté, il nous a fait naître de nouveau à travers la résurrection de Jésus-Christ pour une espérance vivante...”

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Romance of Writing

There is something truly beautiful and wondrous about taking a pen in hand and having it drift over a page to write. Not everyone gets this sentiment...

...until they are on the receiving end.

Apparently with the advent of email, postal services are suffering. Recently I received some cards in the mail and it was the loveliest thing to see words written in the hand of people I love. I could see that person instantly, and their kind words let me know I was valued. It's the beauty of posted mail.

I encourage you, and I challenge you today to pick up a pen, find some paper or a card and write an actual letter to someone. Choose a name from the top of your head and go for it. Allow God to use your encouragement and kind words. I guarantee you'll bless their socks off at the other end because nobody actually writes anymore.

And your postie will love you for it.

Last night I wrote two letters and will write another two today (only one of these people has email, and she's on the other side of the world so email would be faster, but hey... do you always want to read in front of the pc?? Letters are a beautiful act). They are always lovely to open when you recognise the hand of someone you miss.

With love,

MV  xx

I thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1v3

Je dis à mon Dieu ma reconnaissance de tout le souvenir que j’ai de vous.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Life's Like That

Sheesh. All I wanted to do was leave a couple of tweets and thank new followers for being so kind as to add me to their list and maybe actually read my tweets once in a while (because dang, they are SO worth reading, right?).

Whatever's going on inside the Twitter realm I shall never know, but I get a pop-up every time lately telling me that running a certain script may cause my computer to slow down or become unresponsive. This means I cannot leave a single solitary tweet or thank anyone or even leave a reply! I have to get out and away via the good old faithful CTRL+ALT+DEL method. It's just plain wrong.

How will my adoring following of 235 ever know how much I appreciate them with my ongoing amazing tweets of wisdom??? How will the world live without me?? Hmmm. I guess God will have to make a way, but here's the lowdown in case anyone was wondering (even if you weren't really wondering...), I did have some good things to share. After all, isn't that why we tweet?

*sigh*  -  it's not all about me, you know.  ;)

Today I came home with A Way To See In The Dark, a new album by Jason Gray (who is not on Twitter either and probably doesn't have to use C+A+D method to escape bad windows). This album I highly recommend for anyone who desires to rise above life in general and find strength in weakness. His testimony is quite amazing and encouraging as he overcomes - by the grace of God - a significant stutter. His voice is one we are blessed not to have to live without. Sometimes we truly need God to remind us who we are.

Also, I recently finished reading Di Morrissey's The Plantation and loved it. She's got a few titles up her sleeve but this is the first of hers I've read. It's been almost a year since our family vacay to Borneo and so I read it to bring back a flood of happy memories (which it did). I guess the bottom line is, would I pick up another of her books? The answer is yes, but seeing as how there are a massive cache of them (like, 20 or something), I would again choose the one closest to my interests because my unread book pile stands about 3 feet tall...

So, there you have it. That was what I wanted to say. And a big thank you to the kind live ones out there who opted to follow lil' ol' me. I appreciate the clicks. When Providence dictates a turn of events, I may even be able to follow you back instead of having to C+A+D my way out as fast as possible or be deadlocked forever.

Darn you script!!  Time to phone a friend...

Q: What do you do when life locks you in??

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phlippians 2v3-4

Ne faites rien par esprit de rivalité ou par désir d’une gloire sans valeur, mais avec humilité considérez les autres comme supérieurs à vous-mêmes. Que chacun de vous, au lieu de regarder à ses propres intérêts, regarde aussi à ceux des autres.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Cost of Living

When was the last time you felt relieved. I mean like really relieved—freed from a great burden and struggle for success? I’m not talking about running a billion dollar enterprise, but everyday life.

As I sat in my quiet spot after my morning read and felt refreshed over the things I prayed about and what God might be saying to me, my eyes drifted to all the book titles beside me on the shelf and it dawned on me almost all of them were about what I could do to make life work or to get success in some area.

Damn. There goes the light feeling of refreshment...

It’s times like this I feel good about writing fiction, about contributing to a world and genre that some openly consider to be a frivolous enterprise. Fiction is a necessary escape in a world that simply has to “do” or die trying. If you think work is part of the curse placed on man since the garden of Eden, think again. God made man to rule, to be fruitful, to increase, to work and to care (Gen 1-2 NIV). All these are verbs. Work was reality before the fall of man. The fall only made it harder, more laborious.

I have nothing against work yet when everything feels like an effort, one must force himself to stop and take stock, or very quickly be forced to stop and take stock. Over the last six weeks I’ve had an unforseen rough trot with my health thanks to a medical infusion that was supposed to help. Life came crashing down and we didn’t know why. I needed to stop, to give myself permission to rest, and only one verse gave me any relief when all else seemed like work.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

I hope today, that amid life’s must-do’s and must-achieve’s and must-be’s you will find some rest in knowing Jesus doesn’t want your doing as much as your resting.

Jesus is saying here (Luke 10v20), “Don’t rejoice in your successful service for Me, but rejoice because of your right relationship with Me.” ~ Oswald Chambers

Don’t get so caught up in what the world would tell you is a formula for life that you forget or neglect the enjoyment and reality of your one Relationship that keeps everything else alive.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11v28-30

Venez à moi, vous tous qui êtes fatigués et courbés sous un fardeau, et je vous donnerai du repos. Acceptez mes exigences et laissez-vous instruire par moi, car je suis doux et humble de cœur, et vous trouverez le repos pour votre âme. En effet, mes exigences sont bonnes et mon fardeau léger.

Monday, 6 August 2012

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning ~ Olivia Newport

The saddest part about writing versus reading a book is that it can take as little as eight hours to consume what took the writer months (if not years) to create. If there's more than one in a series, the reader is then forced to wait before their next indulgence. Waiting for my order to arrive had me wondering if it did involve cutting down the trees to make the paper for the printer to print on... It turned out my order at the shop was misplaced. *sigh* But we all know anything worth having is worth waiting for, and every good thing is worth the wait.

So, after all that, was Lucy worth the wait? Yes she certainly was, and you can read the back page blurb here.

Olivia Newport's debut novel is soon to be followed by a second in the Avenue of Dreams series, and I will definitely be in line for it. I really do like it when a book is not what I expect, and this one fit the bill. The highlight for me was when Lucy is sitting in church and considers the pews purchased by "better" families (as was the norm back then), those sitting in the loft seats who cannot afford to be on the floor but get the privilage of looking down on those who are, and she is listening to the message from James 2 about how actions speak louder than words.

"Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes
and daily food. If one of you says to them,
Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’
but does nothing about their physical needs,
what good is it?"

For me this was a defining moment and embodies the tone of the book, and in an age where there's a lot of talk and no action, Olivia delivers a message well worth taking to heart. Lucy is a bonafide doer, and she does with flair, patience and love. It seems nothing is too much trouble, and when the new housemaid's secret is revealed, Lucy takes it in stride and doesn't back down (and what a secret it is!).

The descent of Lucy's fiance, Daniel, came as a surprise. And in a time where such 'descents' were dealt with differently, by the end I could not help but compare the way things were handled then to now. The historical details are a treat and I always love it when fact mingles authentically with fiction.

Lucy's determination to be her own woman builds slowly and steadily, and in an era where women were more seen than heard, this would have been quite the drama for her family. Women were on the cusp of breaking into their own, and her slow realisation of who she is, who she is meant to be, and what she doesn't have to remain as are like the slow rising of the sun after a long winter. I loved that she came out from under so many expectations and chose to listen to God and to her own heart. This message is true for women today. So often we go through life under expectations, neither listening to the Voice inside or giving expression to the beautiful gifts with which we were endowed for His every good purpose.

This book is in need of a second read, I think. I can hardly wait to see how the next one shapes up, and I think there may be a need to take the pre-order option ;) Thank you, Olivia! The reminder of James 2 is so timely. God bless the works of your hands!

Decide: *Can you be the person God made you to be? In your world, who gives you permission to be you, and how does it make you feel toward that person? 

*Did you know you are no surprise to God?

"As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." James 2v26

En effet, de même que le corps sans esprit est mort, de même la foi sans [les] œuvres est morte.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

So What's the Big Idea?

Tonight I received an email from my Dad telling me about a novel idea he had. He can be a bit of a joker, my father, so I began reading with a grain of salt. As I progressed through his email and thoughts, I found the idea was actually quite good, so formed a serious reply with advice I'd like to share for any authors who're having an idea form in their head that they don't know what to do with (but need to do something so they can hit the hay in peace).

Basically, I gave him a starting point... I think the last actual story he wrote was one he told me before bed when I was six. Fresh ideas are so cool and should be encouraged, so here is the reply worth reading if you're having an idea and want to know what to do about it...

Without spilling the beans on his concept, you'll get the gist of what he said by my reply. The references to sleep are because the idea keeps him awake ;)

I like it, it's good! - and very you :)

I like the code name you chose for the character... as for his real name, you might want to consider the Bourne movies - he also has a real name (Jason Bourne is his file name) as 'real' names can affect the way the audience views the character, too. That he has no super powers gives him "street cred" or believability. Your character must have a weakness, and presumably the love interest becomes it (however a second weakness is also good because then the girl can become leverage)...

Books are way more detailed than movies, as every page of a screenplay equates to one minute of screen time, believe it or not. For this reason I would suggest to go with a book first, and the cinematic creative license can come later (make sense?).

I hope you sleep tonight, too :)

May I advise or suggest you buy a 96 page exercise book solely for the use of penning down your ideas in detail (inluding what your mind's eye sees in the background if you find it relevant because it can help set the scene for when you need to revisit the scenes you originally envisioned). Don't get bogged down in the details unless they are important, but write down as best and quickly as you can the important parts. My exercise books usually involve conversations and/or emotions the character(s) is feeling. The purpose of jotting stuff down is to clear your mind so the fresh ideas can flow in and the ideas that got you started are out of the way.

Another benefit is that you also get to sleep some :)

Also, I find actual writing with an actual pen quite cathartic, and also you can pick the book up at ANY time (beside the bed in the wee small hours, for instance) instead of having to turn on a computer or waiting for a program to load...

Go with it, Dad. You could be onto something. I'd buy it. And thanks for telling me your idea. It takes a lot of trust ;)


Q: Have you been struggling with an idea you didn't know how to escape? How did you get it out? Are you still stuck? Do you know how to find help? A great place to start may be with one of the books mentioned at the foot of this page...

In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves. Psalm 127v2

C’est inutilement que vous vous levez tôt, que vous vous couchez tard
et que vous mangez un pain gagné avec peine:
il en donne autant à ses bien-aimés pendant leur sommeil.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Latest Reads

Recently I've somehow managed the enviable task of reading novels (I know, can you imagine?). Once upon a time in a Michael Hyatt post I read some common knowledge that isn't so common. Schedule time in to read.

Now why didn't I think of that?

There are still a ton of books waiting for my attention but I am slowly working my way through them and enjoying it immensely. Rather than review them all, I'll give honourable mentions with a comment or two on what I thought of the read and whether or not it affected me in some profound and contagious way.

I hope you can find something here you like, too, or maybe a couple you've already read and think you need to comment as well. I'd love to know.

And 'Liv, if you read this, my copy of Lucy Banning hasn't taken a while because they're still cutting down the trees for paper to print on... It's because the order was missed at the shop after I placed it. *sigh* Good things come to those who wait :) It's not long now...

Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke

I really enjoyed this book hugely and have recommended it. There is so much to be gleaned here and I'm aiming to leave a bigger review of this one shortly (when I schedule in the time :)... One thing I will say is that having read it after Tricia Goyer's By the Light of the Silvery Moon (reviewed in my last blog post), it made me feel like I was still on the Titanic, just on a different deck. This book needed at least another ten pages! :) As they say in racing, it was a very close photo finish.

Reclaiming Nick by Susan May Warren

This book was given to me by a friend working aboard the MV Doulos at the time. It was her most favourite and treasured book of all time and she'd already given away a copy. Her heart just about broke when she passed this one on to my mother for my good. Recently I gave a copy to a friend. Doesn't that say it all? (am currently reading #2 Taming Rafe, and #3 Finding Stephanie will be right behind).

Not in The Heart by Chris Fabry

This is the first of Chris Fabry's books I've read and it sent me on a search for more! This is not the kind of book I'd usually go for, but the premise was much too intriguing. I've recommended this one also, and the ending packs an unexpected punch (which is to be expected for him, apparently). That's it. I'm hooked...

Blue Moon Promise by Colleen Coble

Needless to say, I bought this one for the dress :) It's been a while since I read one of Colleen's books and it was an enjoyable overdue jaunt through Texas (I've not been ranching for a while). These kinds of historicals where the guy marries the girl by default or proxy always makes me wonder what it would've been like to live in those pioneer days. Times were tough!

The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers

This book was a tough one and as with many of Francine's books, is not for everyone. I did like it and definitely agree with the pro-life side of things. I bought it after a friend read it and I had also recently read the Mark of the Lion series. Am now all dosed up on Francine for a while, but have Sons of Encouragement and Lineage of Grace waiting for me at the right time...

Q: What's your latest read? What did you think of it?

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

“[Le résumé de l'Evangile] Car je suis fier de l'Evangile: c'est la puissance de Dieu par laquelle il *sauve tous ceux qui croient, les *Juifs d'abord et aussi les non-Juifs.”

Thursday, 21 June 2012

By the Light of the Silvery Moon ~ Tricia Goyer

For me, many novels are ingested by a rapid inhalation. This one was a luxuriating stroll that picked up a maddening pace through an era I love, and in particular, a moment in that era set apart like no other maritime event.

From the day I picked out Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember from the library in 3rd grade, the bittersweet details surrounding every fact of the Titanic story never failed to capture me (my collection of info is embarrassingly large). When the movie came out in ’97, James Cameron revealed in the behind-the-scenes details that they had to use a torch in a lifeboat scene—a torch that was never in a lifeboat because there was no other way to light the scene. Forget binoculars. The lookouts were doing well to spot anything that freezing April night, especially because they didn’t have a moon to light the wash at the base of any icebergs.

So when a novel set on board a ship with a lofty reputation is released with the title By the Light of the Silvery Moon, even the newest coffee table book expert will lift their brows and cite, ‘It was a moonless night...’ So where does the moon fit in? At first I rebelled. I didn’t need any more Titanic (as Mr. Valley keeps reminding me). But on Twitter, Tricia Goyer’s smile is so gorgeous... Every time I was on there she just kept smiling at me! Go on... you know you want to...

I ordered the book, unable to keep from reading since the very moment I picked it up. Crossing the street between traffic with one’s nose between the pages of a book can be hazardous to one’s health (note to self).

There’s only one way to approach a setting and topic like this. It must be character-driven because you know how the story ends. The ship sinks. So. How did it go? Hee hee... The better question would be ‘Where do I start?’. Suffice it to say, Tricia doesn’t waste a single word in this thorough unpacking of the story of the Prodigal Son.

You can read the back cover blurb here.

1912 was a time when more people still believed in God than not, so I found it refreshing that the characters so willingly accepted talk of Him even if they did not profess a personal faith. One of the most beautiful and profound scenes for me in this book is where Quentin’s father, C.J., is having an evening chat with John Jacob Astor. It’s a gorgeous moment and insightful because C.J. offers the man who has everything something his heart both craves and needs.

Having witnessed this private moment, on another occasion Amelia reflects on how Quentin came to board the ship and the unexpected relationship between gift-giver and recipient gives her pause.

‘Where would he be if she hadn’t offered him the ticket?
He would have missed out on this, but she would have, too.’

In many respects this sums up the whole book for me. What is life worth if you don’t share what you have? For every believer, at the top of that list is the love of God. Expecting God to move in the ways of the unexpected can only happen when you step outside your own world and into chance—not coincidence, but God-incidents. We marvel at people with such lives of faith who put everything on the line while failing to see we can be one of them! We just need to pause and listen, then obey.

Quentin is a complex and broken character, and Amelia is his perfect antidote to all he’s ruined and left behind. Damien is a strong and dutiful older brother but so much more (I really liked him!). Their father is the complete epitome of everything you’d expect the Dad from Luke 15 to be. Their individual humanity is portrayed exactly.

The irony is that there is nothing expected about this book, even though you know the ship must sink and the son must be welcomed back. How it happens is truly engrossing and Tricia wraps the story around the reader so effortlessly that you don’t even realise how invested you are. It’s not just another Titanic story, which is what I’d feared. Phew.

There are a few editing glitches in the latter parts where I think the proofies must have simply gotten caught up in the pace and by then weren’t proofing at all ;) It was really the only thing I felt sad about because the rest was so darn good!

I won’t go on and on about the impact of the event because it’s something that should be read and dealt with as you turn the pages, but the sentiments on board and effect of the Titanic story on the world at the time does come across in many of the different quotes used. One of my all-time favourites is from the sinking when a husband says to his wife, “You go, and I’ll stay a while.”

You have a fair idea of what’s going to happen to the husband when the sentiment was women and children only. It’s heart-wrenching stuff when you remember it’s real.

Man. It really was a fabulous book and very historically spot-on, which is good because creative license can fast get out of hand and sink into the unbelievable, no pun intended. I would definitely recommend this book and next time Tricia is smiling at me on Twitter, I won’t hesitate.

Pure gold: think something good can come out of... failings...
...past shouldn’t be forgotten... offer it to God to be transformed.

Yep. I would definitely recommend this one.

Tricia, you’re getting the message across in such a perfect and perceptive way. May God bless the words from your hands! Thank you for this book and so much more...  XX

Monday, 11 June 2012

The Last Word... for today at least!

Lately we've been having a bit of a clean out and along the way I've come across the kind of things most people in the northern hemisphere put into a box and stow in an attic before heading off to college. It's fun, it's depressing, and most of all it's annoying (I hate wasting time).

No matter what it is, going through items long kept since childhood serves as a good reminder to keep eternity in sight. There's a verse that says to live our lives here on earth as strangers in reverent fear (and awe). It makes throwing things away much easier, because I'm reminded I can't take it with me. It also makes me more decisive on what to keep before I keep it.

Of all the things I have found today (the 1994 Far Side desktop calendar is going to the op-shop), I enjoyed coming across some quotes I wrote when I was about 14. Yes, I liked them that much. You just can't go past a good bit of wit.

Before I throw the book away, here are a few worth sharing...

Keep smiling, it makes people wonder what you've been up to.

If you pray for rain, don't forget your umbrella.

Good grooming makes anybody into a somebody and a person into a personality!

James Bond movie line:
"You have a bare chest."
"Yes, American girls like it."
"Old Japanese proverb says bird do not make nest in bare tree."

Jack Lemmon - "Failure doesn't hurt you. It's the fear of failure that is the killer."

If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always had.

Advertisement on Hey, Hey It's Saturday: FOR SALE: shower chair for disabled person with adjustable legs.

Why don't people who believe in reincarnation leave all their money to themselves? Craig Charles, Liverpool

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." 1 Corinthians 13v11