30 July 2012

Want to win a free copy of Violets Are Blue?

In two days, my blog tour for Violets Are Blue will officially begin. Each stop during the tour will be advertised on Literary Lane, with a small excerpt of the interview or guest post to pique your interest.

I had planned to share the tour schedule today in its entirety, but plans have changed since then, and I have decided to add a different twist to this particular blog tour. As mentioned above, I will be sharing each stop on the day it occurs. However, before it is revealed, you will be able to guess where I might be stopping.* I will be sharing the dates of the tour below; all you have to do is fill in the blogs you think will be featuring me (for an extra point, try guessing whether the post will be an interview, guest post, or book review!). Naturally, as each date passes and the answer is revealed, it will be taken off of the list, and you will have less chances to guess. The sooner you guess, the better! The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel earns the most points will win a free autographed copy of Violets Are Blue.

Update as of August 3rd, 2012: There has been a slight change in the rules for my giveaway. I realized that it may be a bit too difficult for someone to madly guess random blogs, as if he were throwing darts at a target while blindfolded. The odds of hitting upon the right blog once — much less several times — are not really in anybody's favor. So, I've decided to make the game a bit easier, and quite a lot more fun (at least I think so). Here's how it's going to work:

The day before (and only the day before) each of my blog tour stops, you can go to the giveaway post to guess where I'll be stopping the next day. Underneath the next day's date, I will have listed the names of three or four different blogs. Pick the answer you believe to be correct, and send it to me in an email (literarylaneblog{at}gmail{dot}com). Sound simple enough? Remember, as soon as the location is revealed, the voting closes. So you have to stop by on the day before! If it's helpful, you can write down the dates of my stops, which are all listed in that post.

Blog tour dates:

August 1st: Tea & Bree
August 3rd: By the Way
August 4th: Libri — Lost in Words
August 6th: The Penslayer
August 8th: Another Period Drama Blog
August 10th: Alberta Girl
August 11th: A Thousand Words
August 14th: The World of a Rhoswen White Rose
August 15th: Fullness of Joy
August 17th: Beloved Star
August 20th: Beacons of the Past
August 21st: The Destiny of One
August 22nd: Grace's Garden Walk
August 24th: Scribbles and Ink Stains
August 25th: Scraps From My Workbasket
August 28th: Miss Georgiana Darcy
August 29th: Dirt and Dickens
August 30th: God's Daughter
August 31st: Accordion to Kellie
Have fun, ladies!

*All guesses are to be sent to my email address, literarylaneblog{at}gmail{dot}com.

**This contest is open to U.S. residents only.

27 July 2012

Poem of the Week: Work — A Song of Triumph by Angela Morgan

... ;) Jessie Wilcox Smith
{painting by Jessie Wilcox Smith}

Work — A Song of Triumph
By Angela Morgan

Work!
Thank God for the might of it,
The ardor, the urge, the delight of it—
Work that springs from the heart’s desire,
Setting the brain and the soul on fire—
Oh, what is so good as the heat of it,
And what is so glad as the beat of it,
And what is so kind as the stern command,
Challenging brain and heart and hand?

Work!
Thank God for the pride of it,
For the beautiful, conquering tide of it,
Sweeping the life in its furious flood,
Thrilling the arteries, cleansing the blood,
Mastering stupor and dull despair,
Moving the dreamer to do and dare.
Oh, what is so good as the urge of it,
And what is so glad as the surge of it,
And what is so strong as the summons deep,
Rousing the torpid soul from sleep?

Work!
Thank God for the pace of it,
For the terrible, keen, swift race of it;
Fiery steeds in full control,
Nostrils a-quiver to greet the goal.
Work the Power that drives behind,
Guiding the purposes, taming the mind,
Holding the runaway wishes back,
Reigning the will on to steady track,
Speeding the energies faster, faster,
Triumphing over disaster,
Oh, what is so good as the the pain of it,
And what is so great as the gain of it?
And what is so kind as the cruel goad,
Forcing us on through the rugged road?

Link up with your poems below!

26 July 2012

July Snip-Whippets


I have been entirely invested in one work this month, and that would be Rifles in the South Field. Being my project for Actually Finishing Something July, I am not just inspired but duty-bound to work on it. This is my first time linking up with Katie's monthly Snippets, and I am quite excited at the prospect of joining each month. It will keep me inspired to write regularly, I hope.

He turned to look at his daughter. The strawberry-blonde curls framed her face in a lopsided way, and her eyes were filled with more fear than he had seen in a long time. It put him in the mind of the girl she had been at age ten, when he had whispered brokenly to her that Mama wouldn’t be coming back.
Rifles in the South Field

The more he told himself she would be fine, the less he believed it.
Rifles in the South Field

My, my, you’d think we were feedin’ a host of field mice instead of a human girl!”
Rifles in the South Field

She froze, and it was if an icy wave had broken over her. The rivulets running down her cheeks were wiped fiercely away, and there was a cold fire in her eyes. “When do you leave, Papa?” Her haughty question, so lacking in the warmth that often was directed towards her dear papa, hung in the air like a poised dagger.
“As soon as I can.”
“I won’t delay you.” She stood after that, and he didn’t turn, hearing only the light sound of her shoes upon the floor, the bang of the door as she left the room, the rustle of skirts in the hallway, and then all was silent.
Rifles in the South Field

It was all so very trying. She had been told everything her whole life. Doors were opened to her, schedules laid before her, the whole world was an open book, and she was given permission to read it every day for as long as she had lived. Yet now, when she longed to know the truth behind something that had been so oddly concealed, the locks upon the doors were bolted, and even her pleas granted her no access.
Rifles in the South Field

Where did you get that?” Susannah’s laugh would have been louder if Lucy had not pulled her stays once more, this time with a bit of triumph mingled in the action.
King Lear. It’s a play by Shakespeare, you know.”
“Yes, I know, but how do you?” The girl’s voice fairly overflowed with incredulousness.
“One of the older women down in the quarters can read. She only owns two books — The Bible and Lear — and I can never tell which she reads more. You should hear her quote: she can go on for hours!”
Rifles in the South Field

It was altogether too dull of an ending after such a dramatic beginning, the old ladies privately agreed.
Rifles in the South Field

“’Tis the best remedy she knows.” Susannah bit into one of the warm biscuits by her plate. It was light and flaky, just the thing any self-respecting biscuit should be.
Rifles in the South Field 

25 July 2012

Actually Finishing Something July — Week #3


As impossible as it may seem, we are already up to the third week of Actually Finishing Something July! Below are my answers to Katie's set of questions.

You’ve little less than a week left in the challenge. Now that the end is in sight, do you think you’ll finish your goal?

If I dedicate myself, I just might. And even if I don't reach 20,000 words, I will still have finished the hardest step of all: the beginning.

For me, the last week and a half has been so chaotic that I’ve hardly had the time to sit down, let alone write. How have you balanced life’s craziness with your writing goals? Late night writing? Scribbling down a few lines while waiting in the grocery check-out line?

I've been very busy myself, what with summer reading for school and organizing my blog tour for Violets Are Blue, so the majority of my writing has been done either late at night or in my head. I have several scenes plotted out — now to actually write them down!

Have you written mostly in computer programs such as Word, or do you prefer scribbling in notebooks?

In general, I prefer Microsoft Office Word, but when in a pinch, my notebooks are my best friends. :)

Have any new characters jumped into your story? If so, tell us about them!

Well, Mrs. Williams thought it a fine time to remind me of The Nephew . . . that is, her nephew. I was hoping that he did not carry too many of the family genes, but I was sadly disappointed. The illustrious Leonard Williams, having spent the last several years studying in Europe, has chosen to come home at long last, and, naturally, has every intent of winning our fair Susannah Dixon's heart. He is something of a stodgy character, not very tall, has blonde hair, and the beginnings of a moustache. Europe has taken its toll on Leonard, causing him to grow more conceited and disparaging of the Colonies than ever. He is loyal to the Crown, of course, and would be ashamed to have you think otherwise. I'm going to have too much fun writing his scenes . . . ;)

Share a snippet of your recent writing.


She couldn’t explain the unnatural urge that came over her all at once to crumple the pages and toss them into the fire, to burn those words into a pile of charred ash, never to be seen again. It didn’t make any sense, this sudden flash of rage and anger and pain wrapped up into one confusing emotion. It was as if someone had choked her, and she had to gasp for air once or twice. Mr. Dixon didn’t seem to notice how the headline had affected his daughter and continued his reading unperturbed.

The wave of emotion passed quickly, and Susannah was left reeling, still making no sense of her sudden change in mood. Why on earth should the headline in a newspaper affect her to such great lengths? The memory of that sudden flash of unnatural rage was so painful that she put the thought out of her mind. Fanny was already coming in to clear the tea things, and Mr. Dixon was folding the offending newspaper and kissing his daughter on the cheek, saying he thought he might continue reading in the library and would be there if she needed him.

Susannah felt that she replied back in kind, though if someone had asked her a minute later what she had said, she would not have recalled the words. They slipped through her lips as if they were not her own; and then her father was gone, and she was alone in the dining room.
— Rifles in the South Field


Sometimes the most mundane, simple of things can spark one’s creativity. Have you come across anything, simple yet special, in your daily life, inspiring you to write?

Yes, it seems everything around me is acting as a catlyst. A smile here, a clip of a movie there, a soft strain of music. Now to conjure up the time to write it all down . . .

Any pictures, images inspiring bits of your story?

None worth sharing at this point.

Introduce us to the antagonist in your story and tell us his favorite dessert.

James Campbell, the gruff overseer, is the only antagonistic character I have so far. He is cruel, calculating, and relentless. As for dessert, he doesn't have a favorite — to him, desiring sweets would be a display of weakness.

Pick, from all of your July writing, your favorite three lines said by your characters.

One of the older women down in the quarters can read. She only owns two books — The Bible and Lear — and I can never tell which she reads more. You should hear her quote: she can go on for hours!”
— Lucy

I have made my decision, daughter. It is final. Do not beg me to change my mind, for you will only meet with disappointment.”
— Mr. Dixon

Why, Miss Susannah, is something the matter? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost!”
— Fanny

Any advice for your fellow writers as we reach the final stretch of this challenge?

Perservere. Perservere, perservere, perservere. Note that I'm talking just as much to myself as anyone, as I have been known to put the "p" in "procrastination."

24 July 2012

Book Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott {rewrite}

“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.” 
― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Little Women is arguably one of my favorite books in the world (I have a lot of favorites when it comes to books ;)), and most definitely the book I've read most. I have a tiny green-covered copy, and it has been read so many times that it's apt to fall apart sometime soon. But I can't help it — I absolutely love the March family. There was a period in time — before Ava was born and when Ethan was too young to play — when Bree, Emilia, Lydia, and I were always acting out Little Women. The casting list changed by the day (and sometimes by the hour) until we finally settled on playing in age order, with me as Meg, Bree as Jo, Emilia as Beth, and Lydia as Amy. Those days have long since passed, but I still look back on the memories with a special fondness. (Not to mention that it was with amazement that I realized I am now the age Jo is in the beginning of the book — fifteen — an age that seemed so old, so grown-up, when I was eight.)

Little Women
By Louisa May Alcott
*Summary via Goodreads.com

Little Women is one of the best loved books of all time. Lovely Meg, talented Jo, frail Beth, spoiled Amy: these are hard lessons of poverty and of growing up in New England during the Civil War. 

Through their dreams, plays, pranks, letters, illnesses, and courtships, women of all ages have become a part of this remarkable family and have felt the deep sadness when Meg leaves the circle of sisters to be married at the end of Part I. Part II, chronicles Meg's joys and mishaps as a young wife and mother, Jo's struggle to become a writer, Beth's tragedy, and Amy's artistic pursuits and unexpected romance. 

Based on Louise May Alcott's childhood, this lively portrait of nineteenth-century family life possesses a lasting vitality that has endeared it to generations of readers.

My Thoughts: Oh my, where to begin? This splendid book is overflowing with heartwarming tales of family life, making do in the midst of poverty, and working through life's hardships together. We hear of the classic incident in which Jo burns Meg's hair, Beth's special gift from old Mr. Laurence, Amy's twenty-four delicious pickled limes (she ate one on the way to school), various plays put on by the four girls, meetings of The Pickwick Society, and Jo's disastrous luncheon. At the end of each chapter, Marmee is there to help the girls rejoice in their triumphs and learn from their mistakes. When Marmee leaves to tend to an ill Father in Washington, the girls take up their additional responsibilities with good will, desiring to do all they can to help.

Each girl has something which endears her to her readers. Meg is kind, helpful, and motherly, wanting to be married with plenty of little children. Jo is a flighty soul and a wonderful writer, with a "quick temper, sharp tongue, and restless spirit." Sweet Beth, "Little Faithful," is a dear, shy character, and though not quite as relatable due to her seeming lack of faults, will quickly find her way to your heart. And what of Amy? Amy, the talented, the beautiful, the artistic, the would-be fashion plate if she didn't have to wear hand-me-downs. She provides a great deal of comic relief within the pages, although I fear she would swiftly grow irritating if released into the real world. There are scores of other wonderful characters, including mischievous Laurie, gruff but kindly Mr. Laurence, studious Mr. Brooke, and Hannah, the Marches' dear housekeeper-turned-family-member, but I would go on for hours if allowed to discuss each individually. You'll just have to read the book. :)

Part II takes a more concise and serious tone than the former, dwelling on the four girls as they become grown women. There are marriages, trips, and touches of tragedy, making the stories more solemn and mature. Though just as well-written and humorous as Part I, I prefer the stories about when the girls are younger and still living at home together.

Pros: One of the most wholesome and wonderful books for girls that I have ever read. It is engaging, entertaining, wonderful, and yet refuses to include a smidgen of language, violence, or inappropriate content. The romance is portrayed in a manner that is clean, but still very sweet. In addition, the girls are portrayed so realistically that you feel as if they are real — no stiff dialogue here! I'd recommend Little Women to anyone.

Cons: Though Christians, the girls' faith seems to be based more on good works than true faith in a Savior. They speak of God in more Deistic terms, as if He were a Being who set the earth in motion, but did not necessarily intervene in the lives of men afterwards. Meg refers to Heaven as "a [lovely] country . . . where we shall go by-and-by, when we are good enough." This makes no mention of accepting Jesus' saving grace, but of relying on one's own works to get into Heaven.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 10+

A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
"Meg's high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo's nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable, but, dear me, let us be elegant or die!" — Little Women, chapter 3

23 July 2012

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing {a guest post by Amy Dashwood}

Write every day!

As a part of her book tour for Only a Novel, the lovely Amy Dashwood has agreed to make a stop at Literary Lane and chat about the wonderful world of Publishing — while drinking tea, of course, because it just wouldn't be Literary Lane without that.

Hello everyone! Elizabeth has very kindly invited me to guest post on her blog today, and I’m thrilled and honored to be here.

On June 21, 2012, I self-published my very first novel through CreateSpace, an Amazon.com affiliate.  (More information about the book, Only a Novel, can be found at the end of this post.)  It was the end of a long, fun but arduous process that began in November of 2011.  And today I am here to talk about the experience of self-publishing.  Do me a favor and don’t fall asleep, okay? I promise to try and make it interesting.

When I first heard about self-publishing, my initial reaction was, “Oh, that’s nice… but when I write books, I want to publish them for real.”  I think that may be most people’s viewpoint on self-publishing, and I am here today to say that self-publishing IS for real.

I don’t claim to be any sort of an expert, but it seems to me that there are three main reasons why people shy away from self-publishing.

1-     Your work is not reviewed by an agent or a publisher, and you don’t get accepted or rejected.
2-     Your book won’t appear in bookstores unless you make arrangements yourself for this to happen (and that’s not an easy thing to do).  In the same vein, you won’t get to do book signings unless you organize those yourself too, and so you miss out on all the free chocolate running around at book signings.  (There is free chocolate at book signings… right?  Don’t disillusion me if there isn’t.)
3-     You have to do all the formatting, proofreading and editing yourself (unless you hire someone to do it for you, which can be really expensive).

Like I said, I ain't no expert, nor do I claim to have all the answers, but I do love to debate, so I have a ready argument for each of those three points. Let's start with number one.  (For obvious reasons.) With self-publishing, you have the freedom to publish what you like without worrying about rejection from a publisher who wants nothing more than to make money.  No, you aren't getting an acceptance letter from a big-name company-- but why, exactly, is that so special?  I'm not trying to sound cynical here, but when you think about it... who really cares what a publishing house thinks? Are you writing to please a publishing house, or to please your Savior, your loved ones and yourself?  (And hey, I'm not saying that publishing a book through a traditional publisher is a bad thing-- not at all.  I'm just saying that it's not the only option!) About book signings-- again, this is one of those "are you seeking praise or just writing because you love it?" things.  Book signings aren't bad.  Book signings are fun! And there's chocolate!  (That is, having never been to one, I can only assume that they are fun and that there is chocolate.  Again, don't disillusion me.)  But we don't write because we dream of book signings, do we?  We write because it's in our blood.  (Although if you do write only because you dream of book signings, then by all means churn out a book about vampires, make a gazillion dollars and have fun at your book signings.  Only don't expect me to ever speak to you again if you write a book about vampires.) 

Proofreading, editing, and formatting, however... well, on this note I can't be quite as upbeat.  The simple truth is that these things are a pain in the upper-vertebrae-and-laryngeal-tubes.  Formatting will cause you to want to tear your hair out when you realize that the margins on every other page are off, editing will give you an overpowering urge to pull the computer's plug and go take a nap and proofreading has been proven to reduce your creative capacity by 87.3 percent.  (We have not yet determined who has proven this fact, but once we do, we'll let you know.)  But there is one ray of light shining through the pages and pages of glaring text, and that is that you're doing this exactly the way you want to.  You get to pick the font, you get to choose how the pages will be numbered (top or bottom? corners or middles? that is the question) and you get to design the cover image. You're completely in control of your book... it's a deliriously delicious feeling. In fact, the whole experience could be described as deliriously delicious.  In a nutshell, self-publishing enables you to get a jump start on your writing journey, and though there are headaches involved, it's so worth it.  And even if you don't get book-signing chocolate along the way, you'll survive.  Plus, you'll be at a lower risk for diabetes.  Yay!

* * *

Yet Another Period Drama BlogMiss Amy Dashwood is a daughter of the King of Kings, a homeschooled seventeen-year-old and a lover of books, period dramas, chocolate, long bike rides, babies, teacups, historical costumes and fiddle music.  Only a Novel, her first full-length work of fiction, chronicles a year in the life of Elizabeth Markette, a young woman with a head full of books who takes on a job as a governess after the death of her grandmother.  Only a Novel is available for purchase on Amazon, and you can find Amy at either of her two blogs, Yet Another Period Drama Blog and The Quest for Stories.

22 July 2012

Sunday Blessings

"A Mother's Love" by Breezy Brookshire
{sketch (c) Breezy Brookshire}

"Gifts of God's Spirit equip believers to serve others, whether through spoken words that declare God's truth or through serving deeds that display God's compasion."

— Dennis E. Johnson

It is important to remember that we are not only to speak the words of God's truth, but also extend our hands to the needy and bless them. Through these actions, we are showing them the love of Christ. How will you show God's compassion to those in your life today?

"As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."

— 1 Peter 4:10

Have a blessed Lord's Day!

21 July 2012

Pray, Do Not Forget Your Daughter.


I am joining Rosamund in her July edition of Character Letters with a hurried epistle from Susannah to her absent father. The girl's hand is everything a lady's penmanship should be, having been raised the daughter of a gentleman. She is of the sort that would go on tangents if she had the time, but presently she can only scribble out what is most important. Her stationary is of fine quality, but simple, and being of the eighteenth century, she is not in the habit of doodling.

. . .

12 March 1777

Dearest Papa,

I do not know if this will reach you. I can hardly determine whether the address I have found is false or not — it was given to me by a friend who, though certainly congenial enough, has not the advantage of many years of acquaintance to recommend whether or not she is of the honest sort — but I hope that somehow, somewhere, you will see these words, read them, and write them upon your very heart.

You will forgive me for not sending you a letter before now. I'm afraid I have been most consumed with the duties of the plantation, and my hours seem to dwindle more each day. I now have greater respect for you than ever, when I think of all that you have done to keep this plantation running, saying nary a word about your weariness. As for myself, I fairly drop into bed each night, only to rise in the morning and begin my day's tasks once more.

Aunt Nelly has been making all manner of delicacies to help me along, and Lucy and Fanny have grown quite helpful around the house, not quite the flighty girls they used to be, which is a mercy. I hope to do you honor in the way I manage affairs here, but it is so dreadfully hard, you understand. I worry that I shall make some fatal mistake and all your work will be for nothing. The very fate of our home seems to hang from a thread, and I cannot bear the thought of ruining what you have so confidently entrusted to my care.

Papa, I know the cause for liberty is important — and I truly hope you will be successful in your endeavors — but pray, do not forget your loving daughter. I miss you, Papa. The lack of your kindly presence seems to grow more pronounced each day. I miss the sound of your boot in the hall when you come in for the evening meal. I miss your smiles. I even miss your scoldings, rare though they may be.

Oh! There has just been a knock at the door . . . I shall go and answer it presently — please forgive my hurried hand — I shall write back as soon as I am able.

Your loving daughter,

Susannah

20 July 2012

Poem of the Week: The Library by Barbara A. Huff

Reading under a tree = perfection <3
{via pinterest}

The Library
By Barbara A. Huff

It looks like any building
When you pass it on the street,
Made of stone and glass and marble,
 Made of iron and concrete.
But once inside you can ride
 A camel or a train,
Visit Rome, Siam or Nome,
Feel a hurricane.
Meet a king, learn to sing,
How to bake a pie,
Go to sea, plant a tree,
Find how airplanes fly.
Train a horse, and of course,
Have all the dogs you like,
See the moon, a sandy dune,
Or catch a whopping pike.
Everything that books can bring
You'll find inside those walls.
A world is there for you to share
When adventure calls.
You cannot tell its magic
By the way the building looks,
But there's wonderment within it,
The wonderment of books.

I'm considering making my Poem of the Week a meme, with a Simply Linked list so all of you can link up with your favorite poems each Friday. Would anybody be interested in joining? Share your thoughts in the comments below. :)

17 July 2012

Book Review: The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright

When you fall in love with a book, there is nothing so heartbreaking as the Last Page. The words "The End" might as well say "Good Luck Living After This", because they have the same effect. For a while, you wander about your house like a shadow, your favorite scenes playing themselves over and over again in your head. "The End" broke the gossamer that had left you encased in a dreamworld for days, and now you are left to contend with the Real World.

. . . That is, unless the author had the foresight to write a sequel and put you out of your misery.

The Four-Story Mistake
By Elizabeth Enright
*Summary via Goodreads.com

Into the Four-Story Mistake, an odd-looking house with a confused architectural history, move the Melendy family — Mona, Rush, Randy, Oliver, Father, and Cuffy, the housekeeper. Though disappointed about leaving their old brownstone in New York City, and apprehensive about living the country life, the four Melendy kids soon settle into this unusual new home. Here, they become absorbed in the adventures of the country, adjusting themselves with all their accustomed resourcefulness and discovering the many hidden attractions that the Four-Story Mistake has to offer.

My Thoughts: Sequels are hard, and sometimes it is in the author's best interests to only write one book. Recapturing the reader's attention without having the story grow dry or not so good as the original is a difficult task. With that thought in mind, I think Elizabeth Enright was born to write sequels. The Four-Story Mistake is every bit as charming as The Saturdays; perhaps a bit more, with the added interest of the country location. Mona, Rush, Randy, and Oliver have made no groundbreaking changes, and are in their own (relatively) pure forms, just waiting for you to take a peek into their never dull life.

Unlike in The Saturdays, when the Melendy children found adventure outside their old brownstone home on their respective Saturday outings, in this book, they realize that there is a great deal of treasure right under their very noses. This includes (but is not limited to) the tree that allows Rush to climb right out his window, the cellar that becomes Oliver's sanctuary, Randy's diamond, and the sixty year old secret hidden within their very own Office. And of course, we couldn't forget The Show. All in all, it's a wonderful book that will wrap itself around your heart immediately. Ms. Enright clearly knows how to write a good sequel.

Pros: Endearing little epistles that are adventurous and wholesome at the same time. Elizabeth Enright has the gift of writing about children realistically — not an easy thing, I assure you — and her Melendys leap right off the page and into your heart. When I first read this book, I was fourteen years old (not quite the target age range, I should guess), and I still found myself caught up entirely in the delightful mishaps of this wonderful family.

Cons: None that come to mind.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 8+

A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
"You know, Randy," Mona said solemnly, as she put on her tall, gilt cardboard crown, "this is Life!" . . . "H-m-m!" grunted Cuffy. "Tomorrow we'll have a powerful lot of cleaning up and dishwashing to do, don't forget. And that's life, too." — The Four-Story Mistake, chapter 7

16 July 2012

Actually Finishing Something July — Week #2

Week #2 finds me sadly behind my word count goal. Rather than the bright and hopeful at-least-5,000 words I was hoping to have, I sit at the computer, my open document rather proudly declaring that it has kept me from attaining more than 2,000. But I think I am finally getting the hang of things, and as my word count goal was not enormous, I am still hopeful of finishing on time. 

(Susannah Dixon, if you're this feisty with strawberry-blonde hair, I am extremely glad I never made you a full-fledged redhead.)

Be truthful. How has the first week-and-a-half of your personal writing challenge progressed?

Not so well. In fact, I've written about as much in total as I would normally write on a good day.

Did you reach your weekly goal or wordcount?

I didn't make a literal goal, but I'm not quite as far as I'd hoped.

Are you finding it easier to work with a goal in mind? Or does it make you nervous and even less inclined to get the work done?

Ahh . . . both, I suppose. A goal scares me into getting at least a little writing done, as if the Word Count Police are going to beat down my door and hold me hostage if I don't reach 20,000 words (where on earth do I get these ideas?). To be brutally honest, though, nothing motivates me more than a visit from good, solid Inspiration, and she hasn't come a'knocking since I first came up with the idea for Rifles.

Did you do most of your writing in the morning, afternoon, or evening? When do you like to write?

like to write in the morning, because the house is quiet, and I am more or less distraction-free. I've tried to write in the afternoon, and it doesn't work quite so well.

What music has been inspiring you to write?

I think iTunes is going to break down if I play Safe & Sound by Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars one more time. In a roundabout sort of way, it has become the theme of this book. "Don't you dare look out your window, darlin', everything's on fire // The war outside our door keeps raging ooonnn . . ." I've also been listening to my favorite movie scores, including Braveheart, Titanic, and The Patriot (I haven't seen the first two and don't necessarily endorse them, etc., etc., etc.)I tried Les Mis, but it was far too distracting for writing.

Share a snippet of your writing!

“Oh, papa, you know what they say among each other. Even when we’re in the same room, they just lower their voices to a whisper and go on chatting.” She took a slow sip of tea, careful not to laugh this time. “Nearly every single one of the ladies at the surrounding plantations thinks you ought to be married, and I should be paraded about in my finest gowns, playing the pianoforte at parties and other such nonsense.”
“There’s nothing wrong with performing at gatherings,” Mr. Dixon admonished his daughter, buttering a biscuit with one hand and trying to force the little sugar icebergs in his tea to dissolve with the other.
“Of course not, but when the neighbor ladies say it only because they think you need a string of beaus — nearly four or five at least, I should guess — it rather makes a body want to stay within her house’s four walls and never play an instrument again.”
“Now, daughter, you mustn’t be so harsh on Mrs. Williams, or any of the ladies of the neighborhood who invite you over. They only want your company, you know.”
“Yes, papa, but must they do it so frequently? It is as if they think I sit at home just dreaming of the day I will be released from my confinement!” And with that, she threw her teaspoon down so angrily that her teacup rattled in its saucer.
Seeing his sugar lumps finally going under, thanks to his daughter’s disturbance, Mr. Dixon only opened his newspaper and began reading it once more. His voice came from behind the inky pages, “Susannah, I think you should visit Mrs. Willams.”
— Rifles in the South Field

Share your favorite "Ah-HA!" writing moment. Have you written anything that made you sit back and think, "Okay, this is awesome," during the last week and half?

Yes, I have, actually. Saturday afternoon I made the pivotal decision to put aside everything I had written already and start anew. The story was sounding like a flat version of Elsie Dinsmore, which wasn't my original intent. Instead of starting at the beginning, I picked a scene that I had been anticipating for some time and just wrote. That was when I first caught a snippet of Susannah's voice, as well as the way Mr. Dixon views his daughter and life in general. It was eye-opening, especially when Bree told me, "I think this is your best yet — even better than anything in Violets Are Blue." And hearing someone say that just warms the cockles of any author's heart.

Any problem spots, scenes that are proving hard to work, or characters giving you grief? If so, how did you overcome these obstacles?

Susannah, as previously mentioned, is proving terrible in everyday scenes. Which is strange, really, because she's supposed to be the level-headed daughter who is "regular as a clock and twice as steady." But apparently she much prefers speaking in icy tones and going off in dramatic exits to sipping tea and discussing the weather.

When I realized she was going to be difficult, I gave her exactly what she wanted and wrote the dramatic scene brewing in my mind. Pleased with herself, she is now far easier to write, although the girl has warned me not to make her say certain things. We still wrangle with each other at times, but the road ahead is smoothing out.

Share your favorite line said by a character during this week-and-a-half of writing.

“Papa, Papa, please don’t leave me.”
— Susannah

How are you going to move forward in this challenge? It's been little more than a week-and-a-half since the start (July 4th). Are you changing your wordcount or page goal for this coming week?

I have made a new writing schedule for myself, and so far it is going splendiferously. I am keeping my wordcount goal as it is.

Click here to join Actually Finishing Something July!
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