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

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Q&A With Siri Mitchell

Interviews like these normally come with a hoard of flattering words, citing achievements as long as your arm, and it's very easy to gloss over such intros to get to the good bits. That's what I was thinking about when Siri Mitchell's response came through. What do I highlight from the outset when there is so much to choose from? What angle should I take for an intro when everything I know about her is all so good? Puns abound, I know, but the lady truly does have a heart most worthy. She remains, as ever, refreshingly down to earth as the Q&A will show.

A good friend once told me everyone should have a Paul and be a Timothy... Have someone to grow you as you grow someone else. The questions I posed were intended to be helpful and encouraging, particularly for those not yet published. We can be forgiven for thinking that those who have gone ahead of us have totally got the gig down pat, however the work doesn't stop. This is a hard game some days more than others, so read on and grow...

Pretty, too!

Q1: What was your best piece of advice before you were published?
A: Keep trying; rejection is not personal. I didn’t really understand that advice before I was published because rejection felt extremely personal, but it’s actually true. None of those 100+ rejections I accumulated was saying I was a bad person or that I would never succeed, they were simply saying that my books weren’t a good fit for them at that time.

Q2: How has being published changed your approach to writing?
A: I no longer write strictly for myself. The goal of writing a book is no longer just to please me, but it’s also to please my readers. I spend a lot of time during my writing process now, thinking about what my readers expect, what they’ve liked (and haven’t liked) and how I can continue to give them a book that’s uniquely me and appeals to their sensibilities.

Q3: How did you learn what was worth saying, and what was better left out of a MS?
A: My editors might tell you that I still haven’t learned that! Insofar as I’ve gotten better though, I think it’s because I’ve put in quite a bit of time learning how to plot and structure my novels. Those are my weaknesses. I find if I can develop a moral premise first (see The Moral Premise by Dr. Stanley Williams), then I give myself some boundaries for my manuscripts. If a scene or character or theme doesn’t wrestle with my premise, then it gets left out. I do a better job at this in some books than in others. Sometimes I have to just write my first draft to figure out what questions I’m trying to ask myself in order to find that premise.

Q4: What's the most difficult aspect of the writing/editing/publishing process to deal with?
A: The point at which I realize that story I’ve written will never be able to match the story I envisioned in my mind. It’s always disappointing and I always hope that next time the vision and my efforts will match up. No luck yet, but maybe one day!

Q5: What's next for you?
A: I’ve been working on two different books this season. In March, I submitted next year’s release, Unrivaled, to my editors. It’s set in 1910 St. Louis in the cutthroat candy-making industry (don’t laugh—it’s true!). Next week I’m going to pick the manuscript up again and go to work incorporating my editors’ suggestions. In April and May, I worked 2014’s release, trying to get a solid first and second draft done before heading into summer. In July and August I hope to be able to do some research reading to fish for some new story ideas.

When it comes to the goods Siri knows what she's talking about, and not just in a practical sense. Her published works rock my heart like few others can. Her gift in dealing with the often precarious blend of faith with fiction avoids the kitsch, and the character of God gets me every time.

Je vous remercie, du fond de mon cœur.

Siri's latest book The Messenger is available now. Do not delay in acquiring a copy. You don't know what you're missing ;)

Read my reveiew for The Messenger here. You can also follow Siri on Twitter and Facebook.

As iron sharpens iron,
    so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27v17

L'homme s'affine au contact de son prochain
tout comme le fer se polit par le fer.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Messenger, by Siri Mitchell

@SiriMitchell has outdone herself with this amazing story of faith, loyalty, and love. If you're looking for a read outside the status quo, this is it. When I first read Kissing Adrien I discovered beyond a shadow of any doubt Siri is gifted to be a mastercraftsman (or woman), and I can never thank her enough for using the gift that is in her! Mon chéri, vous avez réussi à nouveau.

You can read the back cover blurb here.

Steeped in history the story's twists and turns are unexpected, and the relationship between the two key characters unfolds beautifully. Every book worth reading has a message and the message in this one is profoundly necessary. Jeremiah and Hannah are not what you'd expect and reading their journey quickly become as enjoyable as they are true to life. If you want a novel beyond the confines of your usual read, pick this one.

Siri doesn't hesitate to drop her characters in deep do-do, managing escapes of the most amazing and often lovliest ways. Her expert handling of lost english is just one of the many methods of transport back to the 1770's (it's almost a crime for this book to have been given away on!).

This book reminds me why I love Siri's writing so much. Her books are thought provoking reads, causing me to question what on earth we're doing and believing for eternity's sake, and most always manage to strike that chord within me about what I belive and why I believe it, and above all--am I doing what I believe?

I never bookmark pages in novels like I do with non-fiction books, but in The Messenger I placed two tiny post-its because of the absolute gold I found. One was on p178 where Jeremiah tells Hannah that 'You can't base your faith on a position, that life cannot be lived as a protest' (interestingly this point is again raised in the discussion questions at the end of the book). For me, this book provoked a Q&A session on the things I see around me where more and more these days people would rather fence-sit than act (and sometimes even use their faith to justify it).

My other post-it tab was stuck to a later page where Jeremiah wonders what the "good guys" are waiting for. 'Were they so afraid they might do the wrong thing that they failed to do anything at all?'

The same inertia can also capture me quite badly and begs the question, Isn't it better to step out and find out than not to and have nothing happen?

Another critical part was where Hannah can hear the voice of God yet chooses to remain silent, fully aware her Friends would just as soon oust her as hear the truth they simply don't want to do anything about. Oh my Lord, the times haven't changed at all.

Within this story healing for wounded souls is found in the unpredictable, and the courage to act is best practised in being bold. There's an old saying that bad things happen when good men do nothing. Really, if good men do nothing, then they are not good men at all...

"You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." James 2v20-26

Tu ne réfléchis donc pas! Veux-tu avoir la preuve que la foi sans les actes ne sert à rien? Abraham, notre ancêtre, n'a-t-il pas été déclaré juste à cause de ses actes, lorsqu'il a offert son fils Isaac sur l'autel? Tu le vois, sa foi et ses actes agissaient ensemble et, grâce à ses actes, sa foi a atteint son plein épanouissement. Ainsi s'accomplit ce que l'Ecriture déclare à son sujet: Abraham a eu confiance en Dieu, et Dieu, en portant sa foi à son crédit, l'a déclaré juste, et il l'a appelé son ami. Vous le voyez donc: on est déclaré juste devant Dieu à cause de ses actes, et pas uniquement à cause de sa foi. Rahab, la prostituée, n'a-t-elle pas aussi été déclarée juste par Dieu à cause de ses actes, lorsqu'elle a donné asile aux envoyés israélites et les a aidés à s'échapper par un autre chemin? Car comme le corps sans l'esprit est mort, la foi sans les actes est morte.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Shaken, not stirred

There's a saying in various sectors of motorsport that is used to describe a driver's attitude as he thrashes it out on the circuit with fierce style: Driving in anger.

Estonia's Markko Martin, driving Finland

The first time I heard this used I thought it was an odd thing to say, but ask anyone who gets behind the wheel competitively and they'll tell you it's a definite state of mind that helps them perform. This morning I was reminded of this for a number of reasons, and a verse came with it. In your anger do not sin.

Hmmm. In other words, your anger can get you somewhere but you don't have to sin while you're getting there. Might need to think about this some more.

The last 48 hours went like this: drive to the CBD 3 hours away, wait in an office for 40 minutes, get held up along the way, focus so you don't get waylaid. Get waylaid by well-meaning person but don't lose focus. Go to next appointment after cramming late lunch, get held up in peak hour traffic's car park, turn up the radio. Get to destination just as cool new song you've not heard before by favourite artist comes on, decide to wait (what will another three minutes hurt after that car park adjoining the freeway?). Visit with person and finally get to accommodation to unpack and rest.

Next morning, go to breakfast with friend. Breakfast is late and friend must leave early. Realise you've forgotten something you need to drop off. Backtrack and pickup item and continue on. Get a call from another friend you'd hoped to catch up with but now cannot as client back home has just called and informed your services are needed for their departure the following day (note to self: leave CBD no later than 1pm).

Proceed to next item on diary agenda and park in multilevel car park after being freed from behind slowest car in universe (on that note, I was not speeding or hoping to). Beat slow car through second set of boom gates and get ahead in queue to park. You snooze, you lose. Park, wait for elevator, walk to jeweller and discover ring claws are scarily low and may have lost diamond if didn't come in sooner (Thank You, God, I listened!!).

Skip parts of story (your time is precious, too)...

Driving home, endure bad, bad electrical storm as leaving CBD and its traffic behind (Hyndai Getz and Mitsi Magna/Solaras are the new "Volvo" drivers). Get home after 3 hour drive, complete two thirds of work for client, have dinner with friends down from CBD, come home and finish work for client. Get to bed at almost midnight.

Next day: sleep in unintentionally, wake Valley 1 and Valley 2, find out Valley 1 has left required uniform at friends' house. Take little Valleys to school, find out Valley 2 has forgotten guitar. Piggy back Valley 1 to class and hope friend has brought uniform so she can put shoes on. Hallelujah, shoes are there. Drive back 20 minutes to drop off work to urgent client, pick up guitar and drive 20 minutes back to drop off, notice roadworks have been going all morning and I am stuck in them for the third time (not even 9:30) and with the new footpath being put in, a guy has had a massive section of his driveway cut out where other driveways down the road have not. Guy looks suitably peeved while wife spectates.

Drop guitar off, drive 20 minutes back home. Get call from second client asking where I am. Tell her I forgot and offer apologies and explanation. Client is cheery and will return in 45 (any minute now)...

Perspective: Right about the time I was making the third school trip for the day and watching my time slip helplessly away, I remembered words from a teaching CD I'd listened to on the way home from the CBD.

This is only a test.
Pass the test if you do not want to take it again.

Essentially, I could drive in anger but not stay angry and do the wrong thing. Wouldn't a speeding fine have topped it all off??

Passing the test, indeed. Right now life is at one of its peaking moments. I don't want to re-sit any of this again, so am determining right now to pass well. Let's face it, once it's gotten bad enough to make you angry or upset or whatever, do you reeeaaalllllllly want to come back here? Might as well finish well, wouldn't you agree? Make that drive in anger achieve something worth it. It's all about attitude...

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4v8,9,7

Mais ce trésor, nous le portons dans les vases faits d'argile que nous sommes, pour que ce soit la puissance extraordinaire de Dieu qui se manifeste, et non notre propre capacité.
Ainsi, nous sommes accablés par toutes sortes de détresses et cependant jamais écrasés. Nous sommes désemparés, mais non désespérés, persécutés, mais non abandonnés, terrassés, mais non pas anéantis.