Tuesday, March 26, 2013

An Update On My Grandmom

Last January I asked you all to add my grandparents to your prayer list, and for those of you who lifted them up in prayer, please allow me to give you my utmost gratitude and thanks. I realize that I have not said since that time anything about my grandmother, so I am making myself take the time to say something now.

For those of you who don't know, my grandparents were in a car accident coming home from my cousins' house after Christmas. Their car went up against the guardrail, and my grandmom was seriously injured. They airlifted her to the hospital where, over the course of the next several days, she went through many leg surgeries. My granddad escaped without any injury, praise the Lord. 

Some weeks ago, Grandmom was moved from the hospital where she had been staying to a hospital only four miles from her home, and Granddad was able to rest for the first time in his own bed. The doctors were happy with the recovery she had been making, and she was very glad to get back to her home state. Last Friday, she actually went home, much to the ecstasy of our whole family. She was very encouraged, talking with my mom later, and said she cannot wait to be back up and doing things around her home again.

While Grandmom is, on the whole, doing better, I still covet your prayers for her. I praise the Lord for the progress we've seen so far with Grandmom, and I am very happy that she is safe in the care of the Great Physician. He is good, and the things He does are amazing.

Thank you all, and God bless!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Next Big Thing Writing Tag Thingummy

I was tagged by the lovely Aidyl Ewoh! Thanks, Aidyl! :D

I was going to ramble on about the history of this tag, and where I've seen it, etc. etc. but I don't think I shall. Takes up too much time. Look it all up yourself, if you're interested. 

1: What is the working title of your book? The Twelfth Kingdom

2: Where did the idea come from for the book? Oftentimes I chew on old fairy tales, wondering how the story would change when a "what if" was thrown in. It's great fun, imagining new endings and plot twists to Cinderella and whatnot (ahem*especiallywithoutanymagicinvolved*), but for a while I was most puzzled over how to change up the story of the twelve dancing princesses. Although the idea of twelve sisters intrigued me, I thought for the main line of the story it would be best if the girls were all near the same age. But how to do that? Ah, ha! The king would adopt them! Brilliant! Hmm... but why would he adopt them? And how? That's the real question. And that's how plans for TK came into motion.

3: What genre does your book come under? Fantasy, mostly. You could tag on some other small genres, but I really put it with fantasy.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Tough, tough, tough question. I love envisioning my characters, but I have the hardest time trying to pinpoint them in certain actors and actresses. But, ahem! I will do my best!

Writing about the oldest princess, Reuthellen, the only thing I imagined was Buttercup from The Princess Bride. Not my absolute favorite movie, mind you, but there was just something about Robin Wright that reminded me greatly of my Reuth. Of course, Reuth has brown hair and brown eyes, and by now Robin Wright is much too old to play Reuth, but there it is. You asked.

Ever since I saw this picture on Pinterest, I knew I had found the second princess, Simeanna. Some research led me to discover that the actress is a French girl named Melanie Thierry, but I've never seen her act in anything before, nor do I know how old she is. But, to me, that's Simeanna.

Justine Waddell would probably make an excellent Princess Aleevity, even though Aleevity is only 18 years old. Yet, Aleevity's character is vastly different than that of our favorite, dear sweet Molly Gibson. And with a lot less curls. Josette describes her as a cat, so apply that knowledge to Justine W. and you get Aleevity.

Finding someone to play my fourth princess, Judalily was difficult, and it involved no little research and snooping through my friends' boards on Pinterest. Judalily (or as she's fondly known among her sisters as Juely) is a soft-spoken, romantic girl with a great love of happy endings, and I thought Lucy Griffiths might do the job, but I'm only going here by face.

My fifth-in-order and most likely my second favorite princess is Danyelle, and for the longest time, I could see no other picture of her than that of the image that Shirley Temple presented in my mind. Graceful and kind, proper but energetic, Dany is everything you'd want in a princess.

Another difficult picture. If I'm right, I think this is Reese Witherspoon in The Importance of Being Earnest, which I've never seen. Nattalaris is my favorite princess, so I shan't let her go to just any actress. I'm not entirely satisfied, but so far this is the closest I can find to Laris, my wild, tomboyish princess.

Princess Gadrienne is spoiled, selfish, and vain, and finding her actress match was not an easy task. Renn's very much like Ida Glenshaw from The Inheritance, although I think Brigid Brannagh is a little old to play a 16 year old princess. I discovered Holliday Grainger while browsing through some of my friends' Merlin boards (yes, I'm back on Pinterest again!), but her hair would have to be a deep red, which if I recall correctly, I think I might have seen some pictures of her with red hair.

Princess number eight is another redhead. Ashrynn tends to be quiet and keeps to herself, though she has a temper hidden behind her otherwise somber personality. The actress in the picture above is Dakota Blue Richards, and I really think she could be Ashrynn. 

Imogen Poots as Princess Issachella. This one wasn't so hard, and I must say I'm more satisfied with her playing Issie than with some of the others I'm putting here as her sisters. Issachella (that's Is-ah-kella for pronunciation, if you want to know) is an animal lover through and through, and as a princess, she would have nothing less than a score of pets, including two horses, a few dogs, and even a goat!

The tenth princess is black haired Zelburna, quiet, shy, and a plant lover. She hates being in company, but she does her best to act properly in society because she is, after all, a princess, but she'd much rather be in the greenhouse or reading a book of foreign floral. I don't know this actress, Zooey Deschanel, but she looks very much like what I imagined Zelburna.

Now we come to the main character of TK: Princess Josette. Her picture drives me to the brink of insanity more than any other picture. I shall be picky with her as I was with Laris. The closest I can find is the character of little Charley Neckett from Bleak House played by actress Katie Angelou. Of course, Josette has slightly darker hair, still blonde, but not the bleached look. 

And last, but not least, the twelfth princess... little Bethjasmine. I've known who she is for a long time now, actress-wise, so this one's a cinch. May I present to you Genevieve Bujold, the actress from a long time ago, whom I personally think would make an excellent Bethjasmine?

Well, that question took a lot longer to finish than I thought it would take. Sure, I s'pose I didn't have to look up pictures for every one, but I like having the visuals along with the descriptions. Ahem! Moving on!

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? When Josette and her best friend are rescued off the poor streets of Tellorn to become princesses, Josette thinks it the best day of her young life... until she learns her father's true character.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? I'm thinking self-published, with which I am most content, as I have no experience/hopes/promises/etc. of anything else; however, if the Lord provides another publishing venue, I shall rejoice.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Still writing, I'm afraid. I've been working on it for, I think, a year now, and I've only just over 20,000 words to show for it. I have the whole story just about entirely plotted out, the entire skeleton, if you will. Now I just have to flesh it out with descriptions and dialogue and whatnot. I'll admit I was rather distracted in working on CoaL, and quite forgot about TK.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Hmmm.... I really don't know. I would like to be compared to LOTR and Narnia, but unfortunately, TK isn't really an adventure/epic journey story. It's fantasy, obviously, about royal life, grudges, promises, betrayal, secrets, schooling, arranged marriages, and family. There isn't any magic in it, so it would be difficult to compare it with other fairytales. Really, I can't think of one off the top of my head that I would say it's like. But that's a good thing, right? Not to have lots of books to compare it to and worry about it being too much like too many other books?

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book? A love of writing, a desire to put my own spin on classic fairy tales, and... well, a weird inspiration to combine Charles Dickens with the Brothers Grimm.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? How about a snippet? :)

At the end of an hour, Doctor Guériron reentered the room and announced that his patient needed to rest. Reluctantly, Josette followed the princesses out of the room and cast one last, longing glance at Bethjasmine. Her pallid face was very white against the pillows, and the rosy pinks of the bedding did little to lend their cheerful color to her cheeks. Josette was reminded again how delicate Bethjasmine was, and the thought left a painful sting in her heart.

As the doctor closed the door, Josette reached for his arm. “Is she...” The sting grew in intensity and she couldn't finish the sentence.

Guériron gave a solemn nod. “She is very weak. Her lungs especially.”

Josette had thought all the princesses had left, but she was proven wrong as Dany appeared at her elbow, Laris right behind her. “But she will get better, won't she?” Dany looked entreatingly at the doctor. “Now that she's here, she will recover.” Her voice held a tiny quiver in it as if she wanted to believe what she was saying but needed to hear the doctor confirm it.

Josette tensed. She wanted to hear Doctor Guériron say that Bethjasmine would get better. She wanted to know that her best friend would recover and become strong again. But the doctor shook his head mournfully.

“There's not much I can do for her, Your Highnesses. I am sorry. The air of our beloved kingdom is cold and harsh on her weak state. If she remains this way, even with all the care I can give her, I...” Guériron coughed as he caught sight of Josette's pale face. “Well, let us just say that I am not very hopeful for her health. Good day, Your Highnesses. I will return in a few hours to check on Princess Bethjasmine.” Bowing once, he strode away without another word.

Not very hopeful for her health? Josette's legs went numb and she swayed slightly. Laris quickly caught her elbow to steady her. Her warm hand felt comforting and supportive.

“I'm sorry, Josette,” Danyelle said softly.

“I don't care what that Doctor Guériron says,” Laris stated, her green eyes flaring, “I think he's wrong. Doctors usually are, you know. They have to make people expect the worst so that when the best happens, everyone thinks of it as a miracle and thinks more highly of the doctors.”

“Laris,” Dany's voice was gentle and scolding at the same time.

“Oh, fine!” Laris scoffed. “But I wish he'd just stick to setting broken bones. At least he knows how to do that! Cheer up, Josette! I'm sure Bethjasmine will be right as rain in a day or two. Just you wait and see!”

And to continue the furthering of this tag, I hereby declare and cordially request that both Kathryn and Melody take these 10 questions off to their own respective blogs.

God bless!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Character Encounters: Reuthellen

I slip out of my chair, manage to squeeze between my cousin and the wall, and head down the hallway. The laughter of the people behind me tickles my ears, a lasting remembrance of  the meal still happening in the large fellowship hall. It has become our church's custom to gather for a meal together every first Sunday of the month, and everyone looks forward to the fellowship time. Not to mention that we have several excellent cooks in our midst, so the edibles are always tasty. Today I particularly enjoyed the carrot cake that my sister Jessa Bri brought.

But I must leave the gathering behind for the moment. Easter is coming quickly, and I wish to prepare special music for the service my father is planning. I have a few different offertories picked out, but I have yet to run through them all to see which one I should play. 

As I near the auditorium, a delicate sound stills my feet and tickles my curiosity. Is that my flute? 

The sound certainly sounds like a flute, and as I am the only one that I know of who brings that silver instrument to church, it must be mine. But who is playing it?

I press my back against the wall near the doors and just listen. By now I've placed the song: O Love Divine. My mother asked me to bring that music with me today to run through it with her as a possible solo for Easter Sunday. I usually don't play flute solos in church, as I don't consider my flute skills worthy of such attention.

It's one of my favorite songs, and yet, played as it is now, it doesn't sound the same. Somehow, it doesn't seem to be the same song I played. This one is delicate, yet powerful, meaningful and sorrowful, beautiful and humbling all at the same time, each high note soaring clearly, echoing across the immense space of empty pews. It's almost as if I can hear the lyrics themselves coming out of the silver end of the instrument. 

O love divine, amazing love
That brought to earth from heav'n above
The Son of God for us to die,
That we might dwell on high.

For us a crown of thorns He wore,
For us a cross of scorn He bore.
He conquered death and rent the grave,
And lives again, our souls to save.

O wand'rer come, on Him believe,
His grace by faith receive.
Awake, arise and hear His call
The feast is spread for all.

He died for you, He died for me,
And shed His blood to make us free.
Upon the Cross of Cavalry,
The Savior died for me.

As the last note dies away, I take a deep breath and open the door softly. Near the piano, I see an older girl carefully placing my flute down, gently running her fingers over the nickel finish as her hands draw back from laying the instrument in its case. Although I've never seen her before, I am positive I know her. I can't explain why.

When she turns around, she catches sight of me looking through the doorway. A bashful smile creeps over her face, lending a rosy hue to her beautiful, yet pale, features. 

"I am sorry that I took such a liberty without asking for your permission, but it is a beautiful instrument, and I couldn't help myself."

"No, no," I wave my hand at her. "I don't mind. I very much enjoyed listening to you. Where did you learn to play like that?"

"I had many musical tutors in my father's house. Although I detested most of my lessons due to the cruel dedication of my masters, the music itself captured my soul."

"Your father's house?" My brow wrinkles. Her words puzzle me, yet I don't know why I am feeling this confusion. Her father doesn't have a house... does he?

"Indeed." She replies, seeming to sense my bewilderment. "While it is a shelter for my sisters and me, I do not believe that many people would think of it as a house. In reality, the term palace would probably be better suited to the dwelling."

"A palace? You're not..."

"Princess Reuthellen Fierté." She gives me a little curtsy. "And I believe you are my author, Kiri Liz."

Why is it that I'm now just getting used to meeting my characters in person, yet whenever they arrive, I am at a loss to place them? I could blame it by knowing them only by words and phrases and not physical features.

Reuthellen is everything I've ever imagined her to be, and yet, seeing her in the flesh, she seems to be more than just my plain imaginings. Elegance and kindness are things that are easy to pen, but I never thought them things you could actually see.

Princess Reuthellen shifts uneasily. I hastily drop my scrutinizing gaze, and wrack my brain for a suitable conversation starter. I know all about Reuth; she is my character, after all, but my heart goes into rapid mode when I demand a wonderful, oral sentence of myself, even in the face of those that I count kin. 

However, Reuthellen saves me from blurting out something I would later look back upon and label dense. "Are you planning on playing this piece for one of your services?" She reaches back and holds up the sheet music for  O Love Divine

"My mom wanted me to play that for Easter." I answer truthfully.

"And will you? It's a lovely song." 

"I don't know." Now it's my turn to shift uneasily. "I'm not that good, and I think I'm going to need a lot more practice before I play that in public."

"Would you play it for me?" Reuthellen sets the music back on the stand and picks up my flute. With an expectant smile, she stretches her hands out to give it to me.

I hesitate. Reuthellen is a musical genius. She has spent years under the tutelage of several of the best music minds in all of the Twelve Kingdoms. She can play nearly any instrument she sets her hand to. My rendition of the same song she played minutes before will sound nothing like the powerful delicateness that she gave it. I consider myself a poor musician compared to her, and I feel rather ashamed of that fact.

But Reuth won't hear any refusal on my part. After a little coaxing, she has me standing before the stand with my flute raised to my lips. With a beating heart, I play the first verse of the song, and I know even before I play the first note that I sound terrible. The flute squeaks at the high notes and sounds sketchy at the low ones. 

Reuthellen stops me before I go on to the second verse. 

"I'm sorry. That was bad."

"No, you have the right approach, Kiri. You have the knowledge how to play your instrument correctly, and yet you simply play it. You do not play it with your heart."

"My heart?"

Reuthellen nods. "You are playing this song knowing that other people will be listening to you, and you fear that they will judge you according to what you sound like." She pauses and looks at me. "Do not play for them. Your song is part of worship. What they think shouldn't matter. Play for Him who loves you so."

She gestures again to my flute, and I comply and lift it to my lips. This time, I try to block out all knowledge that I am playing in front of spectators. I let the song flow freely through the instrument. I can see the words of the different verses running through my mind, and instead of focusing on the black and white notes of the song, I play with my mind on the words. I do as Reuth suggests and play for Him who loves me so. 

O love divine, amazing love
That brought to earth from heav'n above
The Son of God for us to die,
That we might dwell on high.

God bless! 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Five Dickens In Twelve Months... No Problem

2012 was the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, so Abby (formerly of Newly Impassioned Soul) asked us to participate in a Charles Dickens reading challenge. I posted about this sometime last summer, but I am only know getting around to telling you exactly which Dickens tales I read, and what I thought of them. Though, I fear my reviews shall be in no way sensible nor logical... nor overly long. 

I should warn you that if you haven't read these stories, you may want to know that I tend to release spoilers. Just so you know.

David Copperfield

My first Dickens. And what a tale to start out with! David is just the sort of character for whom you want to like immediately, you want to see happy and successful. And yet, there were those times when I wanted to shake him, particularly with his attachment to Dora. Didn't you see that Agnes loved you the whole time? Ugh... Idiot. Anyway... I especially enjoyed the bits about David's aunt. ("Janet! Donkeys!") and although she was a character that you really weren't supposed to like, I liked her. David's stepfather, Mr. Murdstone, was the one character that I detested. Such a man! And what a sister! Dickens can really pen people in a way that makes them utterly unlikeable. Uriah Heep, the 'umble, 'umble man. Ooh, I hated him with relish. I'm not what I made of Steerforth, seeing as he was David's only friend at school, but it was through his friendship with David that he met and later ran away with Little Em'ly. I was appalled at his actions, but there was a small part of me that wished he could have had the chance to seek forgiveness.

As this was the first time I got into Dickens, I was unaccustomed to his way of writing, so I read DC slowly. Oftentimes, I found myself backtracking to reread passages to understand what was happening. For those not used to it, Dickens is difficult to comprehend, but I quickly got used to his writing style as I read more or it. Sure, there are a lot of words, but that will never deter me. But the most important part: Did I enjoy DC? Yup. Lots. And you should read it, too.

Nicholas Nickleby

This has probably been my favorite Dickens tale to this point. I have yet to read/finish Bleak House and Little Dorrit and a great many other Dickens, so I won't say NN is my absolute favorite, but I did very much enjoy this one. Nicholas was a likeable character and the experiences he went through only made you like him the more. Mr. Squeer is another of Dickens' most hated villains (on my list), and I squirmed uncomfortably in my chair every time his daughter Fanny stepped onto the pages. Mr. Newman Noggs, however, was a favorite. He was poor, ill-dressed, not really all there, but he had a good heart, and it gladdened me to see the way he stuck by Nicholas. I laughed heartily at the scene when he tried to trace down Nicholas's love and ended up at the door of the wrong lady! Uncle Ralph is another story altogether, his twisted black heart never capable of love or any feeling, IMHO. He cared only for money and personal gain, even at the expense of his family. Poor Smike! And to think him Ralph's own son! John Browdie was an epic fellow, indeed, a good man, and he deserved the caring wife he found in Tilda. Nicholas's sister, Kate, I liked and pitied for the situations she found herself in (mostly by her uncle's hand), but she, too, got her happy ending. I enjoyed the playing troupe under Mr. Crummles and was glad that Nicholas fell among them for a time. Sir Mulberry Hawk and Mr. Mantalini... ugh. Horrid. Let's not go there.

Oliver Twist

Also a favorite (I'm sensing a favorite pattern with most of the Dickens I read). This is probably one of Dickens' more gritty and bloody novels, at least of the ones that I've read. The orphan Oliver Twist, neglected in the beginning of the novel, moved on to only be mistreated at the Sowerberrys' funeral home. From there, he ran away to London to meet The Artful Dodger and be caught up in the schemes of the old Jew Fagin. Bill Sikes was despicable. I don't know what Nancy ever saw in him, but she would have been much better off without him. I liked Miss Rose and Mrs. Maylie, and Oliver deserved to spend that happy time with them, even though if it had not been for Bill, he would have been happily at Mr. Brownlow's house. I think for the most part, I felt sympathy for Oliver through most of the novel. He was always accidentally getting somewhere he never wanted to be. He was used for the gain of others, and usually against his own wishes. All he wanted was a home and a family. Somewhere safe. Somewhere where he could be loved. 

A Tale of Two Cities

I received this book as a gift from a very dear friend for my last birthday, and couldn't wait to get into it. I'd heard much of this one, and I recall many people say how much they liked the character of Sydney Carton. Can I say that I really didn't like him? Sure, he was supposed to be not such a great character, he was Dickens' unlikely hero. Charles Darnay was unjustly condemned to Madame Guillotine, and Carton, bearing a remarkable resemblance to him, took his place. The tale was so intricately woven together, but it wasn't hard to guess from the start that Carton would be Dickens' classic unlikely hero, the one who unselfishly gave up something unexpectedly so that someone good could benefit. However, the character of Carton in the beginning, lazy, drunk... I could not see him as a hero. I'm sorry I don't like him more now, even after what he did for Darnay. My favorite characters were actually Mr. Jarvis Lorry and Miss Pross. The way Miss Pross stood up to Madame Defarge at the end to protect Lucie was... well, rather brave and loyal. The plot wouldn't let me go, and this book was one of this list that I read quickly, caught in the tale, and familiar with Dickens' style. I'm not extremely fond of the era around the French Revolution, but I'd have to make this book an exception alongside The Scarlet Pimpernel. Ah! If only Sir Percy knew Darnay! 

Hard Times

I enjoyed reading that one more than I thought I would, although I can't say it's my favorite Dickens. I loved poor, little Sissy; hated the very mention of that odious Mr. Bounderby; read Mr. Thleary'th thpeecheth twithe to underthand them; laughed heartily at Mrs. Sparsit's misfortunes; wasn't sure what to make of Mr. James Harthouse; shook my head at Mr. Grangrind's schooling; alternately felt compassion and frustration for Louisa; and restrained myself from slapping the whelp Tom upside the head. When I first got into this book, I knew very little of it, hearing almost no mention of it when people listed their favorite Dickens tales. Really, I don't 

know why it's one of the lesser known Dickens. I would encourage any reader looking into Dickens to read this one. It's classic Dickens.

And so, my dear friends, after completing this list of tales, I made myself a new list to read this year. I don't know if I'l be doing another five Dickens, but we'll see. 

Bleak House

I got this book for Christmas last year, and after several failed attempts to start it, I am finally getting well into it and very much enjoying it. Love Esther Summerson. I've seen the popular miniseries from BBC, but I almost have to say I like Esther better in the book. I will say, though, that they got Mr. Jarndyce perfectly down to a T!

Great Expectations

After seeing so many people post about the new Great Expectations (the one with Lady Dedlock as Miss Havisham), my sisters and I finally got it out of the library. I couldn't say it was my favorite tale ever, but it was intriguing, and I knew I had to read the book. So, thanks to Swagbucks, I earned a couple of Amazon gift cards and purchased this and the following two books for myself. Can't wait for them to come in the mail!

Our Mutual Friend

How many of you have seen the 1998 adaption of this novel? My family just watched it, and we really enjoyed it! We have a parent guardian, thankfully, for the language. I found myself liking the character of Bella Wilfer, so flawed, yet with so much potential. I was glad to note how her character underwent a drastic change throughout the story. I knew this was a must to read. I added it to the list.

Little Dorrit
I. Love. Little. Dorrit. This is probably and easily my favorite Dickens tale ever, even though I've never read the book, only seen the series with Claire Foy. Amy Dorrit is high on my favorite literary heroines list! I've been looking for this book for a long time, and I cannot wait to read it! 

What about you? Comment and tell me which Dickens you've read, which ones are your favorites, which ones you're planning on reading soon. I'd love to hear from you!

God bless!