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Nanowrimo Pep(?) Talk

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To you brave souls that are doing Nanowrimo this year, I thought I would resurrect my favorite pep talk from five years ago – a year when I was in college and competing with a friend and somehow, despite a full class load, managed to reach 30k. Ah those magical, nostalgic Nanowrimo times.

To all of you other people who are not doing Nanowrimo or don’t even know what it is, disregard this post. Perhaps next time I will write something for the general populace.

Without further ado, a pep talk from Lemony Snicket:

Dear Cohort,

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it’s nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.

For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every website and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies – what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop.

Clearly, the future is moving us proudly and zippily away from the written word, so writing a novel is actually interfering with the natural progress of modern society. It is old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, a relic of a time when people took artistic expression seriously and found solace in a good story told well. We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past. It is like sitting in a gondola, listening to the water carry you across the water, while everyone else is zooming over you in jetpacks, belching smoke into the sky. Stop it, is what the jet-packers would say to you. Stop it this instant, you in that beautiful craft of intricately-carved wood that is giving you such a pleasant journey.

Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one’s entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient – the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste.

Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for? Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down. Even your friends and associates will never appreciate your novel the way you want them to. In fact, there are likely just a handful of readers out in the world who are perfect for your book, who will take it to heart and feel its mighty ripples throughout their lives, and you will likely never meet them, at least under the proper circumstances. So who cares? Think of that secret favorite book of yours – not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they’d never understand it. Perhaps it’s not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you’ll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.

Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor’s waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your n ovel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.

Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket is the author of  A Series of Unfortunate Events.

… you’re welcome.

Revolution in World Missions – Yohannan

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This book is completely, legit-ly free. In print form no less. Get it. Read it. ‘Nuff said.

http://www.gfa.org/offer/freebook/

My Highlights of Augustine’s Confessions

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I might have mentioned earlier that I was reading The Confessions of St. Augustine, but if I did not… now you know. (I also made a post back in February about how Gungor borrowed his words for one of their songs.) I have now finished the book and recommend it highly. HIGHLYThroughout the book St. Augustine does not really talk to the reader, but to the Reader. He praises and muses on life and memories, all with God as the central audience. It’s like being given permission to read his private prayer journal to God.

Some of the chapters I wasn’t too keen about – like the one he devoted to talking about memory and how it works. Overall I loved the parts where he would be musing and talking about life, and suddenly switch into praise or begin to write in poetic verse. He also liked to use question marks – which I could definitely identify with. Not to set myself equal to St. Augustine and his writings, but I felt that Confessions sometimes rang with the same voice as my journals. Or perhaps the other way around?

No wonder it’s a good book. Look how awesome he looked while he wrote it

I read the book on my Kindle (I recommend this version of the book), and in the end made ninety-three notes and highlights. Most of the time I just highlighted entire paragraphs, because the whole thing resounded with my soul!

I wanted to share some snippets with you, from my 93 notes & marks. And I encourage you again, read Confessions if you have not.

‘You awake in us a delight at praising You. You made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its place of rest in You.’

‘The most merciful, yet most just.

The most hidden, yet most present.

The most beautiful, yet strongest… You cannot change, yet You change everything. You are never new, yet never old. You make all things new, yet conquer the proud of old age before they know of its approach…

You are never in need yet rejoice in what you gain. You never covet yet exact excessive payments so that You may owe… You owe nothing, but in remitting debts You lose nothing…

What am I to You that You demand my love and care enough to be angry and threaten me with grievous woes if I don’t give it?’

‘Open the ears of that heart and say unto my soul, “I am your salvation.”‘

‘It is You who should treat me with disdain; instead You approach me with compassion.’

‘I carried around my shattered, bleeding self. I was sick of carrying it but didn’t know how to put it down.’

‘He did not make things and then walk away. He remains intimately involved, and all things have their being in Him.’

‘He adopted mortal flesh, so that it might not be forever mortal’

‘When You grasp us, the grip is firm. When we try to sustain ourselves, the grasp is feeble.’

‘They may have forsaken their Creator, but that doesn’t mean You have forsaken Your creation.’

‘But the more gracious You became in leading me, the less attractive You made anything that was not Yourself.’

And I’ll force myself to stop here. Go read the book. 😉

Book Review: Indelible by Kristen Heitzmann

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In a clash of light and darkness, can courage prevail?

Rescuing a toddler from the jaws of a mountain lion, Trevor MacDaniel, a high-country outfi tter, sets in motion events he can’t foresee. His act of bravery entwines his life with gifted sculptor Natalie Reeve—and attracts a grim admirer.

Trevor’s need to guard and protect is born of tragedy, prompting his decision to become a search and rescue volunteer. Natalie’s gift of sculpting comes from an unusual disability that seeks release through her creative hands. In each other they see strength and courage as they face an incomprehensible foe.

When a troubled soul views Trevor as archangel and adversary, Redford’s peaceful mountain community is threatened. Together with Police Chief Jonah Westfall, Trevor presses his limits to combat the menace who targets the most helpless and innocent.

 

I must say, I was predisposed not to like this book. The synopsis did not interest me, and I really only picked this book because the other choices were marriage advice and Amish romances. I began Indelible and then set it down for a while. When I picked it up again, it was difficult to remember who all the characters were, so as I continued to plunge into the book I had already begun to write an unfavorable review in my mind – “…too many names…confusing to follow…”

I began to change my opinion as I continued, though, and in the end enjoyed this book, though I would not rate it 5 stars. 3.5, maybe, or 4.

The characters were what made this book work. Trevor, Fleur, Natalie, all were well fleshed out and unique. Natalie’s “unusual disability” that affected her sculpting was also captivating. There were a lot of names and characters to remember – but that is partially explained in that Indelible was a sequel. A stand-alone sequel to Indivisible, set in the same town and sharing some of the same characters.

I think this book would have been much better were it not for the bad guy, the “troubled soul” that “views Trevor as archangel and adversary”. Sprinkled evenly throughout the book were chapters that quoted Milton’s Paradise Lost and then described the antagonist’s activity in vaguely poetic prose. If this was supposed to instill suspense throughout the story, it did not work for me. Rather I found the villain’s chapters confusing, and the parallels between Paradise Lost and the story in Indelible few and feeble. I felt that everything concerning the villain – his background, the motivations behind his actions, his comparisons between himself and Satan, Trevor and an archangel – were weak and in the end weakened the plot tremendously.

The developing romance between Trevor and Natalie and the interactions between the townspeople were well-written. It’s a pity the author tried for the currently-popular suspense spin and did not have a better antagonist – consequentially, I feel Indelible feel short of its potential.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers, in exchange for my honest review.

Up-and-Coming Teen Author: Rachel Coker

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I want to be known by people as ‘the girl who, at such a young age, used her talents to glorify God’

-Rachel Coker, Her Journal, Age 13

So at some point while exploring the web of blogs, I chanced upon Rachel Coker and the news of her soon-to-release debut novel Interrupted:  A Life Beyond Words. I was impressed enough that I wanted to spread the word about this author and her coming book, which I am considering… wait for it… BUYING. As in, new. For full price. This is something I never do. Exceptions are books by Donald Miller… and a scattered, very few others. 

InterruptedWhat impressed me? For one, that Rachel wrote the novel when she was 14 years old, sent it out to publishers on a hope, and got accepted. She is now 16 years old and looking towards publishing a second book, after her first one is released in print.

Wow.

I have read books by young, published authors. Heck I hoped to be one of them, when I was little and wrote stories about girls time traveling in driers and playing the piano when blind. But it took only a few moments on Rachel Coker’s blog to convince me that not only is she a great author now, but that she will publish even greater books (and I am going to be in line to read them!).

Maybe that’s presumptuous to say, since I have not yet read her book. Maybe her age has multiplied her accomplishments in my eyes. I’m only 19 myself, and decades of gained wisdom behind me. All I have is my opinion.

And my opinion is that Rachel is a talented writer with an amazing character – keep your eyes on her, folks, because this book is only the beginning. Smile

 

I’m holding back from gushing, because I want you to check out her blog, videos, and book yourself. Click on one of the links below to form your own opinion on Rachel Coker and Interrupted: Life without Words. Don’t forget to come back here and tell me what you think. Winking smile

Read Rachel’s blog

Watch the book trailer for Interrupted

View Interrupted on Amazon

Book Review: The Canary List by Sigmund Brouwer

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For my next book I chose an author I was familiar with. I still remember reading CyberQuest by Sigmund Brouwer when I was young(er), not once but multiple times. It was well written. More recently I read the Sam Keaton series, which was AMAZING. Those books truly showed off the author’s ability to write memorable characters and plots that draw you & don’t let you go.

If you have not read the Sam Keaton books, I highly recommend them. Winking smile

In The Canary List, I saw the author deal with yet another genre – suspense/mystery.

Synopsis:

Protected by the dark of night, Jaimie Piper runs. But is anywhere safe when Evil is hunting you?
She’s just a twelve year-old girl, bumped around between foster homes and relegated to school classes for challenged kids, those lagging in their test scores or with behavioral issues. But her real problem is that she can sense something the other kids can’t—something dark. Something compelling her to run for her life.
All Crockett Grey wants is to mark the anniversary of his daughter’s death alone.
But when his student Jaimie comes to him, terrified, her need for protection collides with his grief, and a tangled web of bizarre events sends them both spiraling toward destruction.
Crockett’s one hope of getting his life back is to uncover the mysterious secrets of Jaimie’s past and her strange gift. It isn’t long before his discoveries lead him to a darker conspiracy, secrets guarded by the highest seat of power in the world—the Vatican.

Read Chapter One here.

I never lost interest in the book, and the characters were unique – although the theme of an ordinary man (Crockett Grey) suddenly finding himself in the middle of a mystery seemed slightly cliché. The book’s pace was steady but not fast, although the chapters were short – a technique that I chuckled at for a while, before finding that the short chapters accomplished their mission – I kept reading! Enough chapters ended up in a cliffhanger to keep me turning the pages, even though I had resolved to pause “after this chapter”.

I felt that some plot elements were introduced but never completely resolved. Crockett’s dreams, for one. This book was also interesting in how it concerned demons and demonic possession, but each character had their own opinion on the spiritual realm, so views on the existence and influence of demons remained… unresolved. In other words, this book did not preach, nor would the reader be able to pinpoint for sure what the author’s own views are.

I give credit to Sigmund Brouwer for his ability to write books set in a variety of genres. He truly is talented. I do not feel that this book is among his best works. I never lost interest, but I would not read this book again.

The Canary List was good, but not great.

 

Don’t forget to check out the Sam Keaton series. Winking smile

 

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Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers, in exchange for my honest review

Blogging for Books: Sierra Jensen, Volume 1

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Wow, I haven’t written a post since my last review? That’s bad. Sorry about that. Right now I’m kinda figuring out… future plans, so blog posts have been on hold til I’m sure of the direction I want to travel. Sometime in the near future, I’ll find some interesting topics to blog about. Smile

But for now, I have another book review! I recently joined a second program that allows you to read free books, with the criteria that you must review them on your blog and on a consumer site (Post to follow on how to get involved in such programs).

Sierra Jensen Series: Volume 1

The first book I requested from Blogging for Books, which offers books from publisher Waterbrook Multnomah, is the first volume of the Sierra Jensen Collection. I had heard good things from friends about the author Robin Jones Gunn, who also wrote the popular “Christy Miller” series. This series is connected to the Christy series, in that Sierra met Christy while on a mission trip in Europe, and will continue to meet up with Christy further on in the series.

Volume One is a collection of the first three Sierra stories, “Only You, Sierra”, “In Your Dreams”, and “Don’t You Wish”. In these stories, Sierra returns from a mission trip in England to one adventure after another that will try her – a new home, a new school, a grandmother that is losing touch with reality, sister troubles, the need for a job, and a chance meeting in a London airport with a guy named Paul that happens to live in Oregon, too, and that she begins to run into frequently.

Through it all – even with her strong will and sharp tongue 😉 – Sierra keeps God in the forefront, and will make a great role model for every tween/teen girl.

Gunn’s casual way of writing about a teen girl’s daily life never lost my attention, and in fact reminded me a lot of the “Diary of a Teenage Girl” series by Melody Carlson, which are some of my favorite books. My only complaint about these books is that even though the main characters go through hard times and struggles, it often feels like their lives are pretty well put together. When I was younger and reading Carlson’s books, it felt as if every one of her main characters had a job, their license, and a car by at least 16, 17 years old. Felt pretty unfair to me that their lives were so easy, although looking back it wasn’t that long until I had my license and a job, just felt like a long time in waiting, ‘cause everything feels like a long time when you’re a teen…

I’ve also wondered if the reason the lives of the teen girls in Gunn’s and Carlson’s books seem easier and “rosier”, is because it’s difficult to truly capture the small things that cause friction in day-to-day life and keep us from having truly great days. When you think about it, what are the things that bring you down, that cause tension in family and friends? Sure, there’s the big things, but I’d bet that most of the things that can make our lives short of perfect… would just sound plain silly when written down. Someone drank the last of the chocolate milk in the fridge? Slow person driving in front of you as you were headed to the grocery store? The day is ruined!! Sounds silly… but stop and consider, what are the things that get to you, and that you allow to make your day that much less enjoyable?

And if the lives of these characters in these books ever start to feel a little rosy, consider… maybe the things that we allow to bother us are so trivial, they would sound ridiculous written down.

Just a thought. Smile

I’m hoping to get the rest of the Sierra series through Blogging for Books – I want to see how her life continues to play out. 🙂 If you want to check this book or this author out, I would say go for it. Although Melody Carlson is still definitely my favorite – if you’re going to head to the library to check out any books after reading this blog post, I recommend her “Diary for a Teenage Girl” series, especially the Caitlin books.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for free, in exchange for my honest review.

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