What I Learned in Oxford – Part I

The view from atop St. Mary’s Tower

My love of telling stories began almost in babyhood, coursing on through childhood, high school age, and my early twenties. However, as adulthood lengthened to my late twenties, I became increasingly disillusioned. My published books, though received fairly well when they were actually read, didn’t sell particularly well. I struggled with marketing and building an audience, and as I tried to begin learning it, so many voices began to clamor at me.

Write more. Change your style. Change what you write about. Change how you write. Change your writing speed. Publish more often.  

And I started to shift with the voices. Every time I sat with my pen, I thought of the reader. The market. Could I get this book done fast enough? Would it be well received? Would it fit within my brand? Could I publish quickly enough? Would it sell?

The more I tried to push speed, the more I tried to listen to the clamoring voices, the less I enjoyed my craft. I rewrote and rewrote, trying to like my manuscript and only partially succeeding. I would learn to love my characters, but never reached a proper level of satisfaction with how I told their stories. Then, the other questions started. Should I dial back on the message of the book? Write books that might sell better? My books weren’t selling; almost subconsciously, I began to shift with the clamor. I still enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t the same as it used to be. Perhaps, it wasn’t supposed to be. Maybe writing should change when you become an author with six books published.

Then, the LORD sent me to Oxford.

I say sent, because every single step of my heading off to the Oxford Creative Writing Master Class, I could see orchestrated by God. When the year began, I had no plans of heading to Britain this Spring, but He did and I never had any doubts that the LORD sent me there.

As I spent a week walking the same streets as C.S. Lewis, hearing and nearly seeming to witness the fiery end of the three martyrs, singing hymns by Newton and Cowper, listening to C.S. Lewis’ written thoughts on writing, becoming immersed in church and literary history, Scripture and hymns, a light seemed to break in my mind. Listening to Douglas Bond speak on writing, read from those gone before, and lay out the meaning and the joy of being a Christian Writer, the passion that I could remember, the excitement that I all but rarely experienced anymore, began to burn brightly again.

I had come with the hope of improving my craft – I left with so much more.

In that week, I re-analyzed my reasons for writing, helped on by discussions with Mr. Bond and my fellow students, who soon became my friends. Long ago, I chose my writing motto; what I wanted all of my books, no matter what they were, to reflect. I spent much time and thought coming up with a sentence that would remind me of it. I wanted to write Bible Centered, Modern Literature.

During my week in Oxford, I regained that vision.

I want to write stories, so well told, that God willing, they will stand the test of time. That, if our LORD tarries, in one hundred, two hundred years, my books might be read and seen as literature, crafted with words and cadence, characters and story-lines that still draw people in.

I want them to have a depth beyond a good story. A richness. I don’t want to merely tickle the fancy of the reader; I want to reach them.

Ultimately, at the end of everything, I want to point my reader to Christ. I want His followers to leave my stories encouraged and blessed in their walk. I want the rest to leave convicted or, at the least, with some knowledge of my LORD and His words. I don’t ever want anyone to question whether I could be called a Christian Writer, because that is exactly what I am.

That does not mean that I won’t still try to navigate the confusing world of marketing. I can’t reach anyone if my books are never read. I’ll still learn what I can, hopefully implement it, and, LORD willing, both gain a growing readership and not lose my sanity completely. It really just means, that I’ve re-shifted my focus.

It also doesn’t mean that I have nothing else to learn about writing. Goodness, do I! I don’t believe the day will ever come when I don’t have something to learn about writing. I shall always be learning.

Since returning home, despite jet lag, getting back into a nannying schedule, and a few others things, I have written more then I did in the two months previous. I began my current manuscript over again and have passed the previous point that I stopped at, and it is better then it ever could claim to be before. I have not had this much joy and inspiration to write in some time, and the LORD used my trip to Oxford to bring that about.

To the KING be all the glory!

Thirty Days Hath – A Review

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Thirty Days Hath by Chautona Havig
Revised Edition Released February 26th, 2019

Blind Dates Are for Wimps!
At least, that’s what Adric Garrison thinks.
Can you blame him? Thanks to his sister and brother-in-law, Adric is about to embark on a year of month-long, chaperoned, blind dates. Awkward.
He didn’t ask for it. But Adric still finds himself living what seems more like a bad TV reality show than a new life in Fairbury.
Once an ordinary (if prematurely gray and vertically challenged) guy, Adric is now Fairbury’s newest “most eligible bachelor,” and dreams of permanent bachelorhood loom on the horizon. Will he call it quits before the year is out, or will one of his “girls of the month” change his mind?
One man, twelve women, one happily ever after.

My Review
I’ll be honest; this is not my first time opening up this book. I have readThirty Days Hath probably 3-4 times in the last seven years or so. For some reason, the more I read a book, the more difficult it is for me to write up a review. Maybe because I’m too familiar with it?

The evidence that I do enjoy the book, is shown by the fact that I do reread the book every while.

I enjoy reading about Adric and following his adventures, so to speak, with all the women who come stay in his house. I find his character, specifically with watching his temper, fascinating.

Further, watching all of the different types of women who Adric gets to know in a year, is actually an intriguing study, both in the differences between people, and in the abilities of the author. It’s easy to fall into making your characters very much alike – Chautona Havig had to write up twelve women and make us believe that they were all – different. She accomplishes that well, and it makes for a fascinating personality study as a bonus.

Fairbury is possibly my favorite of Mrs. Havig’s towns, as well, so the fact that Adric lives there is a bonus.

The story is fun, intriguing, and has just a touch of mystery to it. It also rarely makes me squirm, despite being a romance, which is always a lovely thing. There’s a reason why Chautona Havig is one of my favorite modern authors and this book is one of those reasons.

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Chautona is giving away a grand prize of a paperback copy of Thirty Days Hath, book cozy, and a $25 Starbucks gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into to the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
https://promosimple.com/ps/dee7/thirty-days-hath-celebration-tour-giveaway

Blog Stops
Quiet Quilter, April 15
Through the Fire Blogs, April 15
For Him and My Family, April 16
cultivating us, April 16
Godly Book Reviews, April 17
mpbooks, April 17
Among the Reads, April 18
Multifarious, April 19
Inspired by Fiction, April 19
EmpowerMoms, April 20
SusanLovesBooks, April 20
Remembrancy, April 21
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, April 21
Rebekah’s Quill, April 22
Texas Book-aholic, April 22
Aryn The Libraryan, April 23
janicesbookreviews, April 23
Lots of Helpers, April 24
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, April 24
A Reader’s Brain, April 25
Bigreadersite, April 26
Inklings and notions, April 26
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, April 27
The Becca Files, April 27
Real World Bible Study, April 28
God’s Peculiar Treasure Rae, April 28

About the Author
Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her on the web and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.

To the KING be all glory!

Flight of Fancy – A Review

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Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano
Released January 1, 2019

Miss Isadora Delafield may be an heiress, but her life is far from carefree. When her mother begins pressuring her to marry an elderly and uncouth duke, she escapes from the high society world she’s always known and finds herself to be an unlikely candidate for a housekeeper position in rural Pennsylvania.

Mr. Ian MacKenzie is known for his savvy business sense and has built his reputation and fortune completely on his own merits. But when his adopted parents are in need of a new housekeeper and Isadora is thrown into his path, he’s unexpectedly charmed by her unconventional manner.

Neither Isadora nor Ian expected to find the other so intriguing, but when mysterious incidents on the farm and the truth of Isadora’s secret threaten those they love, they’ll have to set aside everything they thought they wanted for a chance at happy-ever-after.

My Review

Flights of Fancy felt somewhat like a Hallmark movie in novel form. The rich heiress thrown into farm life with absolutely no idea what she’s doing, while attracted to the wealthy attorney and learning to look after a handful of children. I liked Ian, the attorney and I enjoyed the children. Isadora I found to be rather annoying more than once, but I do think I’m likely the minority there. The did find the story interesting; I’m fond of mysteries and I found this one enjoyable.

Unfortunately, I found the number of trailing sentences and ellipses throughout the novel to be quite distracting, as well as the author’s tendency to repeat the same information two to three times. I also found one of the main supporting characters, who was meant to be a voice of wisdom, come off as rather arrogant and obnoxious.

As a warning to those among my readers who are younger or prefer to avoid such, there are rather too many references and descriptions to Ian’s muscles and chest, as well.

Still, if you’re fond of society lady turned farm girl stories with a touch of the ridiculous, peppered with some truly cute children throughout, I would recommend you read this book.

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Jen is giving away a grand prize of a trunk filled with all of Jen’s full-length novels released to date!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d8d1/flights-of-fancy-celebration-tour-giveaway

Blog Stops

The Avid Reader, January 10

Among the Reads, January 10

Through the Fire, January 10

To Everything A Season, January 10

Reflections From My Bookshelves, January 11

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, January 11

Blogging With Carol, January 11

Southern Gal loves to Read, January 11

Back Porch Reads, January 12

KarenSueHadley, January 12

Godly Book Reviews, January 12

Daysong Refections, January 12

Livin Lit, January 13

The Christian Fiction Girl, January 13

The Becca Files, January 13

Texas Book-aholic, January 13

Rebekah’s Quill, January 14

Blossoms and Blessings, January 14

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, January 14

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 14

All-of-a-kind Mom, January 15

Just the Write Escape, January 15

Stories By Gina, January 15

God’s Little Bookworm, January 16

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, January 16

Splashes of Joy, January 16

Janices book reviews, January 16

Happily Managing A Household of Boys, January 17

Mary Hake, January 17

Maureen’s Musings, January 17

Bibliophile Reviews, January 17

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, January 18

Baker Kella, January 18

Simple Harvest Reads, January 18 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 19

Captive Dreams Window, January 19

Robin is Bookish, January 19

Carpe Diem, January 19

Have A Wonderful Day, January 20

Life with the Tribe, January 20

Inklings and Notions, January 20

Rachel’s Back Talk, January 21

Inspiration Clothesline, January 21

amandainpa, January 21

A Baker’s Perspective, January 21

Locks, Hooks and Books, January 22

Pause for Tales, January 22

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, January 22

Raining Butterfly Kisses, January 23

Live Love Read, January 23

A Rup Life, January 23

Bigreadersite, January 23

About the Author

Named One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publisher Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. When she’s not writing, she spends her time outside of Denver, CO.

To the KING be all glory!

Not So Happily Ever After – A Review

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Not So Happily Ever After by Susan Barnett Braun
Released August 28th, 2018

Think history is boring? Then you’ve never met Mad King Ludwig, who inspired Walt Disney with his magnificent castle in the clouds. He ruled the German kingdom of Bavaria for twenty-two years, inspiring his people by his support for the arts. And yet, “Mad King Ludwig” rarely appeared in the capital or attended any government functions. He slept most of the day and stayed awake all night. He dined with his horse and waved pistols at servants. He created a fantasy world inside his castles, complete with caves and trap-door tables. To this day, no one is sure exactly what caused his untimely death in a lake. Who was this man: fairy tale king? Insane eccentric? Mad King Ludwig’s life followed many twists and turns on its way to Not So Happily Ever After. The book’s intended audience is young adults, but it is perfect for adults wanting to learn more about Ludwig also.

My Review

I read this book in one sitting last night. Written in a language that would entertain a middle schooler, the book nevertheless didn’t fall short when it came to pulling in my interest. I feel like I personally got to know King Ludwig II of Bavaria last night; a man who, before that, I had scarcely even heard of.

His love of fairy tales and folklore, his intricate and unique castles, his personality and manner of assigning story-like names to real life proved to be captivating. It is no wonder that Ludwig’s people often called him the Fairy Tale King – he earned the name for certain.

The book’s title does not lie. King Ludwig meets his end in less then pleasant circumstances and I confess that I didn’t want the book to end in the way that I knew it headed. I am not, however, sorry that I read about the Bavarian ruler. I found myself fascinated by and even relating to parts of Ludwig’s life, and I learned a good bit of history in the process. The photograph’s included of Ludwig and those close to him, added greatly to the story.

I’d love to visit Ludwig’s castles and, quite frankly, would love to live in one of them. A real life castle built as, possibly, as close to a fairy tale castle as possible? It would be a dream come true!

I would certainly recommend this book and hope to get a hard copy sometime.

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Susan is giving away a grand prize of a world/globe necklace and a paperback copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d8a1/not-so-happily-ever-after-celebration-tour-giveaway

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, January 3

A Reader’s Brain, January 3

Real World Bible Study, January 4

Inklings and notions, January 5

Ashley’s Bookshelf, January 6

Genesis 5020, January 7

Rebekah’s Quill, January 7

All-of-a-kind Mom, January 8

Random Thoughts From a Bookworm, January 9

Bigreadersite, January 9

Carpe Diem, January 9

Just the Write Escape, January 10

A Baker’s Perspective, January 11

Mary Hake, January 11

Bibliophile Reviews, January 12

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 13

Texas Book-aholic, January 14

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 15

Janices book reviews, January 16

About the Author

Susan Barnett Braun earned a BS in retail management from Indiana University and an MA in education from the University of Alabama. She taught for eight years in northeast Indiana, earning a Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Study Scholarship. Susan has had work published in Parents, Children’s Ministry, and The Secret Place. She also writes online for Fort Wayne Visitor’s Bureau and blogs at Girls in White Dresses. She is married with three wonderful young adult daughters. Susan enjoys reading, playing piano and organ, and spending her time with her family and pets (currently three rabbits and a chinchilla).

To the KING be all glory!

Connection to the World at Large…

It’s not often that I think about my connection to the world. I don’t tend to consider what my connections are to the wild, bustling planet of continents, countries, counties, cities, towns, villages, communities, and homes. In person, I interact with so few and such small pockets of my community.

Presented, however, with the question on one thing that connects me to the world at large, I thought for a bit. After consideration, I would have to decide on literature.

As a child, I devoured all the books that my parents provided. Isabella Alden held prominence as my favorite author, giving me a glimpse into American life in other parts of the country, albeit, in the early twentieth century. My other favorites O.F. Walton and Hesba Stretton as well as a few other Lamplighter titles gave me my first glimpse into the dirty streets of London and the glowing countryside of England.

As I grew older, Arthur Conan Doyle took me through various corners of Britain, while Douglas Bond showed me the bonny braes and beautiful accents of the Scottish. G.A. Henty introduced me to the French, aided by Mr. Dickens who also let me explore Britain in more detail, while strengthening my growing fondness for Egypt and the Scots.

True, many of these books are old. Classics. Jules Verne showed me a world long since aged and shifting. Carriages no longer rumble through London as Mr. Dickens told of and I know the mines aren’t run as Hesba Stretton described. It didn’t matter. The connection had been made.

I still love those connections and still enjoy learning about their more modern ways. I’ve studied many of the countries and their ways both historically and modern day because of those stories. England is on my list to visit some day. I would love to learn the French language. If I could choose to give myself any accent, I’d pick a Scottish one.

Further, their influence makes it into much of my writing. The reverend and his wife who join Georgiana’s church in Grandmother’s Letters are from England. The Wallace clan, who appear more than once in multiple books, began in Scotland, while the patriarch David Wallace shows the accent of his native home in his speech. Knowing what I do about my own future projects, I know that influence isn’t going to wane any time soon.

In my every day life, I use English and Scottish words, I play around with the accents of multiple countries both when reading aloud and just when I feel like it, and I enjoy watching movies or shows that show life and characters from around the world, especially those places that I learned to love through my books.

Certainly, there are other connections that I could ponder and pontificate upon. So much in this world is connected and interconnected, often only in ways that the Creator of this intricate tapestry of life can see and identify. I do think, however, that literature might be my favorite connection, it certainly is one of them, and I’m rather thankful that it can be.

To the KING be all the glory!