Wednesday, June 29, 2011

LOVE Fairer than Morning by Rosslyn Elliott

You’ll not often catch me reading inspirational historical fiction. But I’ve found one I’d read again. And again. Rosslyn Elliott crafts a beautiful and compelling story with her debut, Fairer than Morning.

Will Hanby and Ann Miller are two young people haunted by the past who seek love and freedom as they assist fugitives on the Underground Railroad. Based on the true story of the Hanby family of Westerville, Ohio, Rosslyn masterfully entices readers to get swept up in the adventures of a saddle-maker’s daughter and his future apprentice. I clenched reading about the abuse Will suffers and delighted in wondering about Ann’s romantic pursuits.

Rosslyn’s command of historical details combined with a solidly entertaining plot, and engaging characters results in a memorable, can’t-put-it-down novel.

I was moved to tears (it’s not often a book is able to make me cry) while reading the message of forgiveness. There are scenes in this book I don’t doubt will come to mind when I face the decision of whether or not to forgive someone.

Rosslyn impressed me beyond words with this well-told story. I can’t wait to read more of her work.

Rosslyn's website
Rosslyn's blog

*I was given this book to do any ole’ thing I wanted with it. How could I not give a review when a book stirs me like this one did?
**check out what Rosslyn shared about wanting your novels to change the world when she visited my blog last year

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gypsy Moths & Birch Trees

I got realigned this weekend. Hiking. Climbing up the side of a gorge. Camping. A sharp pine scent filled my lungs with every inhale. Spoiled with sights that took my breath away, moment by moment, I returned to myself. I encountered a homecoming of the soul. Scent by scent. Sight by sight.

Priorities realigned. Worries rushed down, crashing against the rocks, slipping entirely out of view. When I studied the waterfalls we hiked to, I wasn’t focused on where the water went, but instead my eyes gravitated to the top.

Last week I asked you when you first fell in love with learning. (I still love reading every single one of your comments.) During my time away, I realized my answer to that question and it may surprise you. It surprised me.

My love affair with learning didn’t start in a classroom or due to a teacher’s investment in me (not a formal teacher anyway), it began with my dad. Whenever we were outside, my dad made a point to educate me about my surroundings and I soaked in every word. He explained the mysterious gauzy white ornaments on the trees and called them gypsy moths. He named the white trees birch. He had me breathe in skunk cabbage and pine, while modeling how to delight in the aroma of wet leaves. And I simply couldn’t get enough of it. I still can’t.

Being outdoors, in unscathed natural surroundings, flushed out so much of what crowds my mind on any given day. I returned to me.

Realigned, sharing my knowledge of the outdoors with my own children.

Ready to let that cleansing fuel me. Ready to have the “woods me” inspire the "me" at home.

Does time in the outdoors clear out the cobwebs for you like it does for me?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Moving Thoughts Friday (on Wednesday)

I’m going to be offline until early next week. And now for your moving thoughts question a few days early…

Every Friday (or Wednesday in this case) I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

When is the first time you remember falling in love with learning?

*photos by flickr

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sarcasm under the Microscope

I’m trying to figure out what I think about sarcasm. Maybe you can help.

I admit, I’m a confessed sarcasm user. I use the innocent kind, not the stabbing, wounding kind born of deep-seated insecurities. Or is the kind I use all that innocent? Here’s where I’m stuck.

Is all sarcasm bad?

I have a tendency to paint just about any situation with a touch of humor. When I throw out a sarcastic comment on Twitter, let’s say, or here on the blog, I express it not in a mean, stick it to you way, but rather a playful, let’s see if you can tell I’m joking way.

But intentions and delivery often end up getting tangled. (Isn’t this true with so many things in life?)

So, here’s my question to you, can you tell when I’m joking?

Humor has become my default. Humor and would you believe it…silence? This is what I resort to when I’m feeling deeply. Fear. Anxiety. Shame. If any of those feelings are jabbing at me as intensely as a magician stabbing knives at the lady in the box, then I’m finding a way to laugh my way out of that box.

Some of this is human nature. A mental form of flight from the fight or flight reflex. A defense mechanism. Call it what you will, but I have to believe most of my sarcasm stems from a pure desire to instigate laughter.

Here’s where the word gets really sticky. I’m a highly sensitive individual so it’s often I can dish it out, but I can’t always take it. (Especially during a certain time of month…yeah hormones!) Oh, I put on a happy face and give my best courtesy laugh. But inside I’m shredded more than any Frosted Mini Wheat. Torn up. Usually this is in response to the ugly kind of sarcasm. But you’d be amazed. The mean kind and the “innocent” kind are like the similar coral and scarlet snakes. One is poisonous, one isn’t.

But they’re both snakes.

Help me out here…is all sarcasm bad?

*photos by flickr

Friday, June 17, 2011

Moving Thoughts Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Do you have a place you go…where everybody knows your name?

*Earlier this week I read Erica Vetsch’s answer here. You guys are getting good…answering these questions before I even get a chance to ask them. ;)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Broken Wings by Carla Stewart

The Blurb: Onstage, the singing duo of Gabe and Mitzi Steiner captured America’s heart for more than two decades. Offstage, their own hearts have throbbed as one for sixty years. Only now, Gabe has retreated into the tangles of Alzheimer’s leaving Mitzi to ponder her future alone.

Everyone believes Brooke Woodson has found the perfect man—a handsome
attorney with sights on becoming Tulsa’s next District Attorney. If only Brooke felt more sure. If only her fiancĂ© could control his rage. If only her last chance at love didn’t come with so many scars.

Brooke and Mitzi’s story is one of an unlikely friendship birthed by providence and bathed in
grace as the two women face difficult transitions arm in arm.

The Review: Earlier this week, my dear friend told me she’s moving. You might be thinking what in the world does this have to do with my review of
Broken Wings. Did you really think I’d leave you hanging?

The beautiful friendship that buds between Mitzi and Brooke in Broken Wings is not the kind that presents itself often. In the wake of my friend’s news, I’ve been reflecting on the treasured bond between Mitzi and Brooke and how skillfully Carla writes characters. Carla captures an emotional depth with characters as though she’s climbed inside their shoes and walked around for a lifetime.

Carla also remarkably tackles sensitive issues like abuse and Alzheimer’s with clever grace. I appreciate how Carla’s books have an overlapping appeal for both the Christian and mainstream reader.

It takes a powerful book and a talented author to inspire me to root for the characters while reading and reflect on their friendship weeks after I’ve read it.

Cheers for Carla Stewart’s Broken Wings.

I was honored to have Carla visit my blog a few months ago.
To learn more about Carla, visit
her website.

*I was given a complimentary copy of this book (Carla’s cool like that).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Answering You

Last Friday…

What do you like to do when you need a break from it all and need renewed inspiration?

Answer: I go for a run or find something, anything to paint. I read.

Katie Ganshert asked a great many things (:D), but here are two I’ll tackle:

If you had to take all the moments in your life and point to the one that had the most impact on who you are now, which would it be?

A: The moment I understood God’s grace for the first time at a Young Life Camp (Windy Gap) when I was fifteen.

How did you name your dog?

A: We found Korah’s name on the credits of the movie The Ten Commandments. Maybe we should have paid a little closer attention to the movie because apparently Korah was the one who led the rebellion against Moses. Not even kidding, as a puppy Korah bit off a chunk of Genesis in my Bible. Hmm.

What's one the funniest things your girls have ever said to you?

A: Not too long ago, my daughters did a mean impersonation of Jar Jar Binks while dancing to “Who Let the Dogs Out”. Not sure it counts, but the visual stuck.

Do you have a life verse? How did you come by it?

A: Isaiah 41:10 (first verse I memorized)
or Psalm 71:6 (speaks to the trust part of my faith)

What is your best time management trick? I know you have young ones at home, but still write a ton, so I'd like to know how you manage it.

A: I used to admire the Cheaper by the Dozen dad when I was a kid. I loved the idea of doing a million things at once. Haven’t quite surrendered that love of multi-tasking. Also, I’m big on prioritizing. I’m reading a book called Weird right now (about not living like everyone else) and as I read, I keep nodding my head saying, “Yep, I’m already weird.”

Would you rather be stranded in an over-crowded airport during a snowstorm, or alone in your car?

A: Alone in my car as long as I have sufficient food and perhaps something to read.

Kittens or puppies?


What are your novels about? Are there certain issues or struggles you like to explore in your women's fiction?

A: I like to dig in to the nitty gritty of relationships. Each novel has a different theme, but I gravitate toward exploring moral questions that challenge thought. Most of my novels were born with what Stephen King describes as the “what if” question in his book, On Writing.

What's your favorite indulgent treat? :)

A: Starbucks Java Chip ice cream.

What is your favorite color? A: Three way tie between cream, plum or blue

What is your favorite fruit? A: Raspberries

What is your favorite ice cream flavor? A: Coffee

Keli Gwyn asked (encouraging in her comment as always):

You have such a unique perspective, Wendy, and view the world in a whole new way. I admire that. How do you think that came about? Did a family member have the same ability? Did a teacher challenge you to think outside the box at an early age? Or is that simply the way the Lord made you?

A: I’ll answer that with something I wrote and posted on my other website…
I’m an amalgamation of every place I’ve ever lived, every person I’ve ever loved, every
success, every triumphed failure, every lesson learned and every future hope.
I’m a blend of hardships and victories, struggle and succor. I’m an introvert and extrovert, a lover of nature in the shadow of
night and the bursting forth of day.
I’m awash with bright and brilliant shades, the boldest splashes being the most beautiful and transformative marks on me yet—those of Jesus, my Savior.
I write to understand who I am. I love to let go of who I am.
I live to represent Him.

Laura asked:

Of the books you read in college, what stands out the most and why?

A: A cool college professor had us read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I owe that man big time.

How much of yourself do you put into your characters--traits, fears, etc?

A: More than I’d like to admit. No really, in order to write them authentically, I have to go there with them and in going there I often find I’ve already been there in some way or another. (How’s that for a Dr. Seuss answer?)

Tamika asked:

How many books have you written and how many of those do you think are publishable material?

A: Six and two or three are or will be publishable.

What's your favorite childhood memory?

A: This one stumped me the longest. I have many fond memories, but this was the hardest question to answer. I’ll go with putting on elaborate plays (costumes and all) for my folks with my three older sisters. We performed dozens in our day…a real von Trapp extravaganza.

How did you choose your children's names?

A: I like to fool myself into believing I’m Irish. We named all three of our girls Irish names. I looked in baby books and did a lot of negotiating with my husband. Our third girl would have been Mariska if it were up to him. Though I like that name…clearly not so Irish.

Pain and gain or no pain, no gain? And, of course, why? (Amy, I’d like you to do a guest Moving Thoughts Friday for me someday soon!)

A: Pain & gain. Paine is my maiden name. It’s been with me so long; I’m kind of used to it. And with pain can come great understanding and great victory.

If you could go back and do one thing over, what would it be?

A: I would have made some different decisions in college.

Anne Lang Bundy got this one in just in time:

If granted a wish to do one thing that you were guaranteed would be successful, what would you wish to do?

Why, I’d have a flourishing career writing, with multiple books published of course :D. (Anne, I can’t comment on your posts anymore as well as a handful of others. If you change comment option to pop out, it might help.)

Thank you all for asking questions. I enjoyed thinking through my answers. Thought it was due time I answered some questions instead of always being the one to do the asking. However, this Friday you’re on for answering again.

*puppy photo by flickr
**four girls = me & my sisters in England

Friday, June 10, 2011

Moving Thoughts Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you...

I’ve been asking you hard questions for more Fridays than I can count on one abacus. (Math & I never really did get along that well.)

Your turn…ask me anything.
(I’ll make a point of answering to the best of my ability next week.)

*photo by flickr
**I’m hopeful Blogger issues with commenting have improved. This is good.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Great Wall Perspective

The Great Wall of China took over 1,700 years to build.

Crazy, huh?

Just offering a little perspective for you today.

Got any perspective shedding facts to share?

*photos by flickr
**Blogger comments are still jacked. I can’t comment everywhere I want to and people are still cool to leave their comments in my email inbox and elsewhere. Oi. It’s messing with my favorite part of blogging…the connecting! But, I’m brainstorming and the storms inside my brain are really quite something. :D

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gran Torino Characterization

When my husband drove my daughter out on an adventure this weekend, and after the other two were tucked in bed, I took advantage of the rare free time by watching a movie. We already own Gran Torino on DVD, but it was on TV and I got all swept up in it. It blew me away. This time around I paid attention the adept characterization.

Things I noticed that could easily be applied to writing:

Flaws make for realistic and sometimes more likable characters
Characters emotionally hooked into something captivate
When this emotional investment leads to action we begin to root for the character
A cost involved helps move the story along
A positive trait showcased in one person contrasted by the absence of that trait in another is a clever way to reveal motives and the hearts of unique characters
Natural tension is necessary to portray as relationships build
Characters must talk the talk by acting genuine to culture, class, ethnicity, and situation (etc.)
Humor has the power to bond unlikely characters
Characters acting in unexpected ways (unpredictable at times) feels oddly realistic and is rewarding for the audience

It’s an intense movie, one I’d watch again. I know a movie or a book is pieced together well when I’m still thinking about it days later. Gran Torino goes beyond simply starting a conversation with its characters. This movie keeps the questions turning—continuing the conversation.

Can you think of a movie or book with phenomenal characterization?

"Over and over I feel as if my characters know who they are, and what happens to them, and where they have been and where they will go, and what they are capable of doing, but they need me to write it down for them because their handwriting is so bad." Anne Lamott

*Blogger seems to have improved with comments, though I’ve gotten a few emails with answers to my Moving Thoughts Friday (which brought a huge smile to my face…that there are those who would work to keep the connection going like that).

**photos by flickr

Friday, June 3, 2011

Moving Thoughts Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

What songis you?

*photos by flickr

**hoping Blogger has worked through comment kinks

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Elemental Journal by Tammy Kushnir

I’m a visual person. I’ve also found homemade gifts to be the most meaningful.

The Elemental Journal, with its exquisite photography and step by step guide of how-to crafts, tapped into my love of visual aesthetics and my thirst for all things creative.

I’m not sure which attracted me most, the vintage appeal, the use of ordinarily discarded items, or the nature-inspired projects.

Although the crafts detailed in this beautifully assembled book wouldn’t necessarily be what I’d spend time making, when I described the ideas to my sister, she sounded enthusiastic about it. The Elemental Journal would make a great gift.

I should also add the artsy projects weren’t exactly what I’d expected. There were few actual journal ideas, but rather an abundance of decorative expressions. When I read the word journal I was expecting pages where I could write, but the definition of journal throughout this book veered from my expectations.

Finally, I loved this line from Jen Osborn, “My advice to anyone wanting to create is to roll up your sleeves and get messy. Forget all the rules you’ve been taught, go out on a limb and try something new. Do things ‘they’ say can’t be done, but most of all, just GO MAKE ART!”

Do you enjoy craft books?

*Yeah for all 401 followers! When I’m certain the kinks have been worked out with Blogger comments, I’ll have a giveaway to celebrate.

**I received The Elemental Journal free and reviewed it as a part of BookSneeze.

Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...