A Rare C.S. Lewis Book

Mere Inkling

readers

Just because you read a book doesn’t mean you need to purchase it for your library. Yet some of us do feel compelled to add almost every volume we enjoy to our personal collections. The dilemma arises when the cost of a particular book may exceed its “long-term” value to us.

Faced with this question a few weeks ago, I pursued a course open to many readers of Mere Inkling. I simply borrowed the book from my local library, which in turn borrowed it via interlibrary loan from a university in a neighboring state. Most libraries offer this service without charge. I regularly use it when researching obscure subjects I don’t anticipate I will continue to follow.

The subject of the particular text I am currently reading, of course, C.S. Lewis. While I believe I own a copy of every work ever written by Lewis that has been published, I doubt any human being could gather together…

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My Takeaways from the Writing Conference

It’s already been a week since I attended my first Writers Conference. I’ve been busy correcting my manuscript (more on that shortly), and writing some flash fiction for a contest. But I want to take a few minutes to give you some highlights of my takeaway from the conference. First, it was exciting, disappointing, and fun. Exciting just to be there; disappointing to receive my critiqued manuscript full of red marks; and fun meeting and hearing from other writers.

I attended several workshops, heard from the faculty during two panel discussions, and listened to the main speaker, Torry Martin.

At one workshop led by Larry Leech, I learned about the importance of having an “adorable antagonist.” A villain is needed for conflict but should not be used just as a scapegoat. A villain should be likable in some way and the bigger (s)he is, the greater the victory for the protagonist.

From DiAnn Mills, I heard about creating good dialogue. A writer needs to know what motivates their characters, to understand their top emotions and what type of body language they would use to express themselves. Gestures and body language help to “show and not tell.”

During a panel discussion, the members of the faculty were asked to give and explain some of their pet peeves concerning writing. Among these were: exclamation points, misuse of pronouns, using the passive voice, run-on sentences, indefinite “it” beginning a sentence, and the overuse of being verbs. When I heard this last discussed, it struck home with me, and I had to wonder if my writing was guilty of this. I didn’t have to wonder long. When I received my critique the next day, the use of many “be” verbs was heavily marked.

The main speaker for the conference, Torry Martin, spoke on the importance of networking. He stated that we don’t need to be a “bon vivant” to network. (Always good to learn new words and how to use them). Since most writers (including myself) are introverts, this was good to know!  Torry had a lot of good advice on networking, and if you ever have a chance to hear him, I highly recommend taking the opportunity.  I particularly appreciated his way of looking at networking from a spiritual perspective. He quoted Philippians 2:3 (“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves”) several times during his lecture, stating that all networking by Christians should be done with this verse in mind as we want to do all things under Christ’s leadership.

In all, I enjoyed hearing from different writers and having a chance to mingle for a couple of days. I know I have a great deal of work to do, but I left inspired and encouraged to keep at it.

Any conferences or workshops that you have attended lately? Or plan to in the near future? I hope this has encouraged you to check some out.

Going to a Writers Conference

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On Friday I will be attending my first writers’ conference–the Christian Writers Conference in Spartanburg, S.C. I’ve been pretty excited for several weeks now, but I can now add: scared, nervous, and a bit intimidated.  My first class will be on “How to Get the Most Out of the Conference.” That was an easy enough choice, but choosing the right class in the different workshops is a little more difficult, though it’s great to have so many interesting ones to choose from.

There are many writers conferences out there, and even though I haven’t yet been to one, I can already recommend that if you’re into writing at all, that you look for one that you can attend. Besides the classes that are available, attending a conference gives you the opportunity to meet other writers and others in the industry. I especially hope to connect with some writers who might live in my area.

Also, for any of you on facebook, I started an author’s page under the name–P.M. Gilmer. I’m posting and sharing news about reading and writing, so if you’re on facebook, check it out and give me a follow. I’ll be sharing some highlights from the conference on there (probably through Twitter) when I can, but I will definitely be sharing more right here when I get back.

How about you? Are you attending any writers’ conferences this year?

Listening to Books

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In the past few years, I have been listening to audio books more and more. I first began listening to them on my daily walk as it was rather dangerous to try and read a book while walking. Since I discovered bluetooth headphones, I can listen even more while cooking or performing those necessary evils known as “housework”. Last year I began to listen to them as I’m driving. I had tried to listen in the car at different times, but found my mind wandering too much to keep up with what was happening and thoughts of “where did that character come from?” were occurring too often. Then my son broke his leg, and I was spending more time on the road making daily trips to and from his school, so I decided to try listening again and was soon hooked.

I’m not sure why “listening” to books took some getting used to since, after all, that is how I was first introduced to reading. As with most people, my first introduction to the world of books was my mother reading stories to me. I also remember listening to books on a record player (you know, LPs or what is now known as “vinyl”) at school. I heard the books of both Wrinkle in Time and The Hobbit when I was in fourth and sixth grades. Though I have since read the print version of both these books, the memory of hearing them while sitting at a desk (breaking into my usual daydreaming) makes them more special than most.

I don’t believe audio books will ever replace the written word for me, but I am glad to have found a place for them. Anyone that enjoys listening quickly learns that finding a narrator you like is as important as finding favorite authors. There are also some books that lend more to listening than others. Some books are just harder for me to pay attention to without being able to go back and review who certain characters are or what actually happened in that first scene.

Books that are the most entertaining (for me) are those in a series. Once you’re in a series and are familiar with the characters, it seems easier to stay focused. Another plus is having a narrator with whom you’re already familiar (unless the series changes in mid-stream, but that’s another story). One series I’ve enjoyed over the past few years has been Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles.  I’ve also listened to several books from Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series as well as Charles Todd’s two series. I’ve listened to several books from Simone St. James. Though her books have similar themes, they are not part of a series.  I also enjoyed Stella Bain by Anita Shreve; Bone Gap by Laura Ruby; and most recently, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.  I found The Sun is Also a Star enjoyable as an audio because there were multiple narrators. Some books have put me off when a male tries a female voice and vice versa; but, not always.

Every year awards are given by the Audio Publishers Association (APA) which “recognizes distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment”. Looking these up, as well as past winners, is a good way to find books you might enjoy listening to. For a list of the recently released finalists of 2017, check out AudioFile’s webpage: http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/audies/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=20170222-nl3feb-audiestxt1

What about you? Have you jumped on the audio book bandwagon yet? Any favorite books? Narrators? Most people listen to audio books while performing other tasks. What else do you do while you’re listening?

 

Valentine Reads: Christian Romance

20170214_122302-3Though I admit, “romance” books are not the genre I usually list as a favorite, I do have a few favorite authors and several books on my to-read list.  I mostly enjoy some historical romance, romantic suspense, and even fantasy romance. And what better time to look these over than on this day of love? So, quiet your inner cynic, grab some chocolate and look over this list and see if you can’t find something you might enjoy to take you through the rest of this winter month.

Tamera Alexander: She has several different series, all historical. I recently read the first two in her Timber Ridge Reflections series: From a Distance  and Beyond this Moment. Both take place shortly after the Civil War in Colorado. Interesting history (concerning both photography and the time of Colorado shortly before it became a state), and suspense in these books.

Lori Benton: I have read her first book: Burning Sky set in colonial times. Looking forward 20170214_121054-2to reading soon: The Wood’s Edge, (also set in colonial times) Christy Award winner for Book of the Year and Historical and First Novel.

20170214_122302-3Laura Frantz: Frantz has several different series and these also take place during the colonial period of the U.S. Two I have read and highly recommend: Love’s Reckoning and The Colonel’s Lady.

 

Jody Hedlund: Also has several different series, but two of her books I have on my to read-list: Luther & Katharine (winner of ECPA Christian Book Award & Christy Award for Historical Romance) and Newton & Polly (recently long listed for INSPY). As you might be able to guess, these are based on the real-life relationships of Martin Luther and his wife; and Amazing Grace writer, John Newton and his wife.20170214_121203-2

For more contemporary romance, Katie Ganshert is becoming a favorite as well as Beth Wiseman and Pepper Basham. What about you? Reading any romance today?

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Research: An Ongoing Process

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Writing a book of historical fiction obviously requires quite a bit of research which I enjoy, but can also find challenging. I know some writers feel they should do all their research before they put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. Of course, you need to do some research to make sure you have your timeline in decent order, but because I have characters that tend to show up unannounced or do things I wasn’t expecting, research is an ongoing process for me. To give you more of an idea of what I have been writing about, I decided to share a few of those areas of research.

archery-847876__340In one case, the brothers (sons of David) are practicing their archery, and all I know about archery is that it requires a bow, some arrows, and, hopefully, some targets. I know these young men didn’t run down to their local sporting goods stores for their equipment, so where did they get it? How did they make it? And how far advanced would they have been at this time? Was archery even a thing for the sons of David? (I know they must have learned to use a sling at some point. Surely, their father taught them that!)

In another scene, I picture Bathsheba coming into the palace garden, a small dog trotting at her side. Wait a minute! Did the Israelites have dogs as pets? Did they even have dogs at all? (They didn’t, but I cleverly worked around that).

Much of my book revolves around horses and chariots. This was not in my original game plan, and not knowing much about either, I’ve had to work at learning more about these two subjects. Having the internet is a wonderful thing for both finding the exact information you need or pointing you to books and articles that can deepen your understanding.

After writing most of my manuscript, I found a book, The Horsemen of Israel: Horses and Chariotry 20170210_105239in Monarchic Israel (Ninth-Eighth Centuries B.C.E.).  At first, I read most of this book online, but was eventually able to find it at a reasonable “used” price (looks brand-new). After reading through several chapters, I needed to go back and change quite a bit of what I had written and was also able to add interesting details about the way horses were trained and first introduced to Israel. I have found this book helpful on several levels and plan to give you a more comprehensive review in the future.

Then there is that trip to Egypt Solomon takes with two of his brothers. Not in my original outline, but it has been interesting to do some studying in that area.

Knowing more about the people and the way they lived helps me to better understand Bible characters who are familiar, yet can seem so distant. Of course, not every detail I uncover will end up in the finished manuscript (or it would be a few thousand pages), but every one that does enhances the story and makes the characters come alive, both for myself and my future readers.

You don’t need to be writing a book to do research. Every time you “google” something, you’re doing some type of research. What about you? What are the kinds of information you enjoy finding? Does it help you on your job? Your personal Bible study? Or are there certain areas (science, history, etc.) that you just enjoy learning about?

Spurgeon on Psalm 25:1

20160530_111007Psalm 25:1–To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

“See how the holy soul flies to its God like a dove to its cote. When the storm winds are out, the Lord’s vessels put about and make for their well-remembered harbour of refuge. What a mercy that the LORD will condescend to hear our cries in time of trouble, although we may have almost forgotten Him in our hours of fancied prosperity.

Unto Thee, O Jehovah, do I lift up my soul. It is but a mockery to uplift the hands and the eyes unless we also bring our souls into our devotions.” Charles Spurgeon