Author’s Bookshelf: Myths and Mermaids

Reading is easily one of my favorite pastimes. It both relaxes and refreshes my brain. Ironically, it is always the first activity that I drop, when I have too many things swirling through my brain; ironic, considering, reading also helps me relax my thoughts enough to stop the swirling and organize what I must do.

All that to say 2020 reading commenced rather slow. Until last week, when I got my reading schedule going again.

First, I finished reading Shallows by Denver Evans. I enjoyed it as a new take on mermaids, though admittedly, I have read nothing about mermaids besides Hans Christian Anderson. I did quite like Emerson Kadwell and the story made me wish, again, to go on a boat someday.

Thanks to a night of very little sleep, I found the time to read C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces in little more than one day. That is a fascinating read; a retelling of a Greek myth, but in Mr. Lewis’ style. I didn’t particularly care for Orual, the main character and narrator, most of the time, but I don’t think that you’re supposed to. Honestly, I’m still trying to sort through the book in my head. Not the story. That was clear enough. It’s the whole point of the book that I’m trying to get to and understand. I’m still thinking about it and I finished it on Friday night – well, Saturday morning.

Currently, I’m still actively reading The Return of the King and getting my first taste of Louis L’Amour in Off the Mangrove Coast and one other book about writing. I’m technically in the midst of a few others, but I haven’t been active in them this week. One can only read so many books at once and pay attention!

What have you been reading this week?

To the KING be all the glory!

May I Present: Café Chocolaté!

When Charles Dickens wrote Nicholas Nickleby and Martin Chuzzlewit, he published them as serial novels in the newspaper. He did this with other stories as well, and people looked forward to the monthly installment with anticipation. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle released the famous Sherlock Holmes stories in a similar fashion in the Strand.

The idea of a serial story always fascinated me. I don’t know why, but I always wanted to try my hand at it. Possibly, because two of my favorite authors had done so. There aren’t any newspapers around to publish in, but my blog would do as well. Still, though I toyed with the idea over the years, I never brought it into reality. Until now.

Today, I am excited to announce that my new blog serial Café Chocolaté is, LORD willing, set to release its first installment on Friday, February 7th! Each installment is planned to be one chapter long. Unlike Mr. Dickens, I plan to put up a new one every week, instead of once a month. So, mark your Fridays!

It’s an ordinary Tuesday morning. The regulars are settling in with their coffees and their laptops, when an explosion rips through the air. No one can see what happened nor can they get out of the café. Stranded and perplexed, the people need answers. What caused the explosion? Where are the police? Why isn’t the man in the corner moving? And when will that woman stop screaming?

I’m really enjoying this story. I’m getting to know new characters and having so much fun with older, already established characters. Like I said in my writing update, if you’ve read Grandmother’s Letters you’ll get to see a couple of old friends in Café Chocolaté! If you haven’t, I think you’ll like them anyway. At least, I hope that you will!

In the meantime, isn’t my cover lovely? Perry Kirkpatrick makes such beautiful ones – someday, I hope I learn enough from her to do as well as she does.

Now, I really must get back to work. I’ve got another chapter to type up, another to write, and Patrick Quill is calling my name…

To the KING be all the glory!

Cafés, Quills, and New Stories…

It’s been awhile since I posted a writing update. Probably because, even though I have been writing for over twenty years, I have never fully determined how to properly give a writing update. I either say too little, so that no one remembers anything that I’m writing about or I ramble on until my listener’s eyes glaze over, hoping that I’ll be quiet. As I try to avoid the latter, I end up not really updating very often. Someday, I will figure out the proper middle ground.

I do have a lot of hopes and plans inside my head for 2020. Currently, I have five or six stories jumping around as the most prominent in my head, but as both my brains and hands can only do so much at once, I am really only working on two. Well, three if you count the research I’m supposed to be doing.

Café Chocolaté… I plan to have more to say regarding this project very soon. Suffice to say at present, it is a mystery with coffee, explosions, and two old friends from Grandmother’s Letters showing up. I really am very happy to be writing about them again. LORD willing, you’ll see more about this project sooner than anything else – so keep an eye out for it!

Patrick Quill… That is not the title of the book, but of my character. Elliot Windle wants a modern young hero that will live up to his childhood admiration for Peter Pan. So, Arabella and Damien tell their brother about Patrick Quill. He’s older than Peter and very much on earth – no flights to Neverland or fantasy lands – but he may just fit the bill. Still in his twenties, Patrick allegedly takes in unwanted and frightened boys, giving them a home – only no one knows where. The Windle siblings enjoy the story, Arabella sure that it’s true, but as they prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, they hardly expected to meet the legend himself or to be able to work with him.

This book is still in the early stages. It’s being written for A Very Bookish Thanksgiving – a collection of Thanksgiving stories by five authors, including myself – and it should be shorter than most of my books. That is the plan, anyhow. I am not talented at keeping my stories short. Believe it or not, I already have an idea for a sequel too – which may help me keep the story on the smaller side. Even though I hardly have time for yet another one!

As for the other books, regarding each of the three, I am researching the 1920’s, trying to remember everything that I saw and heard in Oxford, and trying to discover how pastry ties to a nefarious crime… If these were my only story ideas, I might stay busy for a good while, but since this is only the priority stack on top of the 80 or so ideas that I have going… I have no clue when I’ll finish. Especially if I don’t stop adding more ideas on random days. I do have fun with it though and may I glorify the LORD while I do so!

To the KING be all the glory!

Reading Recap for 2019

It seems that authors everywhere are talking about their favorite books they read in 2019. Usually posting a top ten on their blog or Facebook page.

I have tried to follow suit. I really have. I have sat down and tried to pick ten books out of the 67 or more different volumes that I read in 2019, but I have failed. I really did read a lot of good books this year. (You can see the log of what I read in the picture above. It doesn’t include books I read twice – they’re only drawn in once.)

In January, I read Peter Pan for the first time. I loved the way J.M. Barrie told his story. Parts of the book are a little weird, and I honestly didn’t expect Peter to be so flighty in his memory, but I quite enjoyed the book. (Which is probably one reason I’m writing a story with Peter Pan as the theme now. More on that later, however.)

2019 marked the first time that I completed C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. I had read The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe more than once, but for various reasons I had never finished the series. I completed it in 2019 and could only say I was sorry not to have read it before. (Though there is something to be said for finishing Narnia while traveling to and staying in Britain!) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader had me skeptical, but in the end I liked it as much as the others. I fondly recall The Silver Chair. I don’t comment on all the theological points of The Last Battle, but that book, especially, left me in awe. Particularly the depiction of death and going to Heaven. It was so beautiful and like nothing I had ever read.

On the recommendation of a friend, I read Silas Marner by George Eliot this last year. The first page, I confess, had me skeptical. (It doesn’t take much for me to be skeptical about a book in the beginning. At least, it doesn’t usually stop me from continuing.) It seemed a little dry. I soon found myself proven wrong. I loved how the author portrayed Silas as such a simple man, but wholly human and likable. Not animal-like in any way, just because he had such a simple way about him. I loved watching him take in his little girl, learning to love and care for the child. It was so sweet. I bought a copy of my own a short while later.

In the summer, I read Brothers at Arms: Treasure and Treachery in the Amazon by John Horn. Lawrence and Chester quickly placed in my list of favorite characters. I actually read the entire Men of Grit series in the summer, and I enjoyed every one, but Brothers at Arms is my favorite. The Mountain Fortress: Escape to the Outback is probably my second favorite, though it is difficult to choose.

I can also count As You Like It as one of my favorites this year, but I can not with honesty say whether I loved the Shakespeare play for itself or whether the fact that I read it for my trip to Oxford, saw it as my first play, and attended the play in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, no less, made it a favorite. I can not decide on an unbiased opinion in this case and I do not intend to continue trying at present.

War in the Wasteland. Douglas Bond has been a favorite author of mine since I was sixteen. With that knowledge, I had high hopes for this book, but it far exceeded my expectations. You can read my review here.

Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant. I know that I actually wrote one of the books in this series. I also know that we published The Vintage Jane Austen Series two years ago. For various reasons that I will not bore my readers with, I only managed to give the entire series my full attention this year. I would venture to say that, lovely as our series is, Kelsey may have written the best story out of them all. I really loved the way that she retold Sense and Sensibility.

This seems to have been my year for reading series, which is odd since I generally avoid them. (Short version: I’m always afraid that the further the series goes, that the author will somehow ruin the story. I didn’t see that happen in my 2019 reading, however.) I discovered Chautona Havig’s Meddin’ Madeline series to be quite fun. So fun, in fact, that I am cheerfully anticipating the release of book four. I do enjoy a good mystery and the characters really are realistic, but relatable. I can’t pick a favorite here… I really can’t. I rather think of them as one long book. I’m not sure why.

Another series I enjoyed in 2019 is The Accidental Cases of Emily Abbott by Perry Kirkpatrick. Not sure I could pick a favorite book here either, but I do have a favorite character. Brent Peterson makes being a spy look like such an adventure. Again, I look forward to the next installment. This series was likely one of the most amusing of anything I read in 2019.

Although I have read them before, rereading most of The Lord of the Rings in tandem with a dear friend of mine (we’re still working on the end,) deserves mention, as I have highly enjoyed the reading. Also, I began by reading The Hobbit first, which I hadn’t done before. It’s been fascinating to notice just how often The Hobbit or its characters are referenced in the succeeding books.

I read The Weight of Glory toward the end of summer. I love how C.S. Lewis can make clear, things that have confused or befuddled me. I plan to read it again.

Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and Not a Word by Chautona Havig both get honorable mention, as favorites of mine that I reread.

As this list is growing long beyond all sense of reason, I shall bring it to a close. I would, however, be remiss if I didn’t include among my very favorites, Dorothy Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey books. I have not finished this series, but I plan to. Whose Body? Charmed me from the first chapter. Lord Peter has not replaced my favorite detective, (because who could replace Sherlock Holmes?) but he does hold second place, currently. His best friend, Detective Inspector Charles Parker, may also be my favorite police detective ever, actually. I look forward to finishing the series.

These are not in order, though they are somewhat in order of my reading. Somewhat. Some of my most favorite are up towards the top, but then… some of them are farther down. And then the list gets mixed up.

I enjoyed my 2019 reading year and I’m looking forward to 2020. (Thus far, I am enjoying Tolkien’s The Return of the King.) What were some of your favorite reads in 2019?

To the KING be all the glory!  

The Year of the Best and Worst of Times

2019 is drawing to a close. On the one hand, the idea of 2020 seems fantastic. On the other, I hardly know how 2019 is still here, if only for half an hour.

I have taken to naming each year at the end. The Longest Year of My Life. A Year of Thanksgiving. This year I have two titles; The Year of the Best and Worst of Times and a title I’d rather not share publicly.

If I am honest, this year has been one of the most difficult of my entire life. Probably the most difficult. I can’t say that the difficulties are all passed yet either.

Looking beyond that, however, what am I thankful for? What contributed to the “best of times?”

In April, I experienced the best week of my life, when the LORD provided for me to go to Douglas Bond’s Oxford Creative Writing Master Class in Britain. Truly, even being able to attend the class was a Providential blessing; something I should write about at some point. I’ve written Part One of What I Learned in Oxford. Hopefully, I’ll write subsequent parts this year, because I really do want to share and mark it down.

Despite my fears, I made new friends on my trip. People who I truly did (and do) like, enjoyed spending time with, were a blessing to me, and who I hope not to lose contact with.

The LORD also provided for my trip out east at the end of the summer, another highlight and favorite part of my year. I had the loveliest visit staying with my friend Christianna and her family. I hope they let me come back sometime! Laughter, long walks, games, music, and late night chats… After my visit with Christianna, I headed out to a writer’s retreat up in the peaceful mountains, followed by a short and lovely visit with my friend, Anne. All in all, my September trip was a blessing.

In 2019 I wrote and published Christmas Carol Society, which I consider to currently be my best work yet. I found it painful to write in some ways, but also a blessing. It drove me to prayer often, as I tried to work out how to write what was on my heart. Further, Charlie Baker is one of my all-time favorites among my characters.

Shortly after publishing Christmas Carol Society, my niece Mayflower made her grand appearance. She’s a sweet, darling little bundle; I wouldn’t ever tire of cuddling with her. (Though, I love her brother and sister just as much!) Being an auntie will always be one of my favorite things.

Also in 2019, I wrote Gingerbread Treasures as part of the A Very Bookish Christmas collection. We published in late November (and actually the collection is no longer available – it was limited to the end of the year!) and I am blessed to have been able to write two stories this year. My last book had been Presumption and Partiality two years ago.

Those are merely some of the larger, more obvious blessings that the LORD has sent me this year. There are many more. Toddler hugs and chatter, understanding and sympathetic friends, a vehicle that has needed work but is still going, new hymns to learn, beautiful distant mountains topped with snow.

The greatest blessing of this year has been my increasing knowledge of my LORD’s love and faithfulness through even my most difficult days. The LORD is my Shepherd and because of Him, I need not be afraid of the arrow that flies by day nor the terror that falls by night.

What do I expect out of 2020? I don’t actually know. I hope to write a few books. Read rather more than that. Finish my Bible Study book. I don’t know what the future holds; the LORD knows. It’s in His hands.

What was your favorite part of 2019? What do you hope to do in 2020?

Psalm 91

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

To the KING be all the glory!