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#AtoZchallenge Blogging challenges my novel-in-progress Random thoughts Reading Review Writing

And now back to our regularly scheduled program…

Wow! What a month it’s been, huh?

FullSizeRenderTwenty-six posts, for the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. Originally, I’d planned a 26-instalment story. But the draft version ended up far too violent to publish here, so at the last minute, I changed to ’26 metaphors for God’, inspired by a cross-stitch Mum made for me. Praise God for Mums, and for friends who make suggestions like “why don’t you use your Mum’s cross-stitch?”

But that being said, it was a huge month. And although I participated, I’m glad it’s over. It took a lot of time away from my ‘normal’ writing, so I’m quite a bit further behind than I wanted to be. And as for my Goodreads challenge, that’s looking like a TKO at this point. Because although I *have* been reading, it’s been on blogs, not books!

My favourite blogs this past month have been:

https://kdjames.com/ (A fascinating story over the month of April)

https://johndavisfrain.com/blog/ (26 stories, each 6 sentences long. Chilling stories.)

http://julieweathers.com/blog/ (American history? READ THIS!)

http://www.colindsmith.com/blog/ (100 word stories inspired by the songs of Paul McCartney. So clever!)

http://denapawling.blogspot.com.au/ (Military definitions from A to Z; enlightening to say the least)

https://alleysiande.com/ (stories, and beer. And dragons…)

https://wordwacker.me/ (clues in haiku for the word of the day)

http://katelarkindale.blogspot.com.au/ (New Zealand movies from A to Z with gorgeously written reviews)

and

http://romancespinners.blogspot.com.au/ (on writing, and writer’s life)

I thoroughly recommend, if you have the time, drop by and have a read.

And for any A to Z challenge participants stopping by, THANK YOU for your encouragement and support, and YAY!!! We did it!!!

(Heading off for a well-earned nap now…)

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#AtoZchallenge Blogging challenges Christianity family anecdotes More about me Reading Review

26 lessons from God’s metaphors: #22

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 6.49.19 amOne of my son’s favourite books is BASIL THE BRANCH from THE LOST SHEEP series – about a branch who wants to bear fruit.

No matter how hard he tries, he can’t.

It’s only when he gives up in despair that he hears the voice from over his shoulder. It’s the vine. And it’s smiling at him, telling him to relax.

You see, Basil is only a branch. It is *impossible* for him to grow grapes all by himself. That’s not his job.

His job is just to focus on the vine. And *then* the grapes will grow – because it’s the vine that does the work, not each little, individual branch.

So that’s what Basil does. And you know what? After he focuses on the vine – and *does* grow a beautiful big bunch of grapes!

One of God’s ‘metaphors’ is that of being the vine. The cross-stitch picture uses the words ‘the true vine’ (from John 15 verse 1) and shows a picture of a bunch of grapes, with leaves and tendrils. John 15:5 says,

V“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

I find that pretty challenging: I’m one of those people who’s pretty self-reliant with a lot of stuff. ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ kinda gets my hackles up – until I realise that I really *am* just a branch. And I need One who’s greater than me, to be able to achieve anything worthwhile.

So that’s my takeaway lesson fro today. Jesus is the vine: my job is to just focus on Him!

Have a great day, dear reader 🙂

— KRidwyn

 

 

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#AtoZchallenge Blogging challenges Christianity More about me Reading

26 lessons from God’s metaphors: #20

There’s a lot to be said for thinking for yourself, in my opinion. I try daily to teach my own three cherubs how to not just blindly accept what they hear, but to test its veracity and decide for themselves.

One of my favourite Bible verses is from Acts 17 verse 11, comparing the Bereans to the Jews in Thessalonica. The Bereans didn’t just accept what they heard Paul (one of Jesus’ followers) say, but they “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” They checked it out for themselves. I like that.

TIn the book of John, chapter 14 verse 6 says:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Today’s letter for this #AtoZchallenge I’m doing is ‘T’. ‘T’ is for ‘Truth’ – and that, with a capital T.

In this verse, Jesus said that He IS the truth. Also the way, and the life. That’s a pretty radical claim. And me being the type of person I am, I’m not just going to take this on face value. I need to examine this further.

That’s one reason why I agree wholeheartedly with C.S.Lewis’ argument in MERE CHRISTIANITY: that there’s only three options when you come to thinking about Jesus. He’s either a liar, or a lunatic, or He actually is who He *said* he was: Lord.

Warning: long quote alert!

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. …

Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” *

I’m taking the third option. I believe He’s the LORD. And I’m gratefully accepting His offer to follow Him and His way, and have life! 🙂

Have a great day, dear reader!

— KRidwyn

* Quotes taken from Book 3, the end of Chapter 3 “The Shocking Alternative” and immediately on into the beginning of Chapter 4 “The Perfect Penitent”

 

 

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#AtoZchallenge Blogging challenges Christianity Reading

26 lessons from God’s metaphors: #16

I tried reading WAR AND PEACE once. Emphasis on the word ‘tried’ – because I didn’t finish it. In my defence, I had young children at the time, was running my own business, and studying. So I probably didn’t give it the concentration I needed to. I’ll try again one day… I don’t like to be beaten 😛

But the title has always intrigued me. Are they opposites? Or just two different places on a continuum? (Jane Austen’s SENSE AND SENSIBILITY comes to mind.) Because I, for one, don’t think that the opposite of peace is war.

In my humble opinion, for what it’s worth, I think that the opposite of peace is tension.

And for me, ANY type of tension – even the merest hint of it – is enough to negate peace.

Maybe I’m not a good judge. I *am* a highly-strung person, I think. It’s on the rare occasion that I ‘relax’. Seriously. The last time I really “relaxed” was the 2nd of April, at about 10.30am. And I stayed relaxed for about 7 hours, which is rather a record in recent years. The time before that? I can’t actually remember.

[A Bible verse that always challenges me is the one they made a song out of: “Be still and know that I am God.” I get the ‘I am God’ bit – it’s the ‘being still’ bit that I have problems with!!! (And yes, my tongue’s in my cheek there. Because if I ‘knew’ – enough to trust, like in the ‘B for Bread of Life post’ – then I’d be *able* to ‘be still’!)]

But back to peace:

PIsaiah 9:6 says, “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Yes, this is the same verse that we saw in post #5, ‘E’ is for ‘Everlasting Father’, the post about my Dad.

The last title for Jesus is ‘Prince of Peace’.

I love thinking that Peace is like the name of a country – like Australia, or America, say – which has a King… and Jesus is the Prince of that country. (Although if there was a King, then it wouldn’t actually be a country, it’d be a kingdom, yeh?)

And if this kingdom called Peace, were here on Earth, then it’d have a geographical location, and people could live there. I’d like that, I think. To live in a place of Peace. To not have to worry – or be tense even! To just ‘be still’ 🙂

And that’s my lesson today. If Jesus is what God says He is, the ‘Prince of Peace’, then as one who follows Him (as in, who dwells in His kingdom) then I can be free from tension, too. ‘Be still.’ A challenge for me! But here goes…

Have a great day, dear reader!

— KRidwyn

 

 

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#AtoZchallenge Blogging challenges Christianity Reading

26 lessons from God’s metaphors: #6

Luke 7:34 says, “The Son of Man [Jesus] came eating and drinking, and you say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”

I’ve read that verse dozens of times. But this is the first time that the word ‘friend’ has stuck out for me.

FullSizeRender (2)This post, number 6 in the series of posts in my current #AtoZchallenge, has the letter ‘F’ as it’s topic. And in the A to Z cross-stitch that sits on the console table in the centre of my house, the letter ‘F’ shows ‘Friend’ and the Bible verse quoted above.

I tend to not think of Jesus as my ‘friend’. I guess there’s too much reverence there, or something. My mental pedestal is too high.

When I think of my ‘friends’, I think of laughter. Of the sheer joy in being together, of spending time delighting in each other’s company.

And I guess, when I stop and reflect on it, that *is* how I feel about God. I *do* find joy in his company; in reading His words to me and in speaking to Him (praying). [I bought myself a new Bible for Christmas and have read around 4 chapters per day since January 1st. If I continue, I’ll have read it through in a year. Cool challenge, hey! I’m up to 2 Kings at the moment. And LOVING it 😀 ]

And that’s what friendship is about, isn’t it? ‘To have a friend, be a friend,’ they say. Well, that verse above says that Jesus was ‘a friend to tax collectors and sinners’. I’m both. (For more on my tax-collecting propensities, you might like to read here.) And the sinner part? That’s pretty obvious. I stuff up ALL the time!

Jesus was quoting others’ words when he called himself ‘a friend to tax collectors and sinners’. So He must have been seen – by them – as one. And if He could be a friend then, when He was in the physical world, there’s no reason why He can’t be one now, to me… or you!

‘To have a friend, be a friend.’ I’m going to use that as a challenge to view Jesus as my friend. A friend that I still revere, and worship, but a friend nonetheless. I already delight in His company, after all!

So that’s my takeaway lesson for Day 6 of this A to Z blogging challenge: that Jesus is my friend. Well, He can be, because that’s what He’s offering. I’m accepting the offer 🙂

Have a great day, dear reader!
— KRidwyn

 

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Reading Review

Considering the “tent poles” in The Book Thief

One idea I gleaned from reading Chuck Wendig’s THE KICK-ASS WRITER recently was that of tent poles. As in, stories need them. Without them, the plot falls over, just like a large tent with no poles.

Immediately prior, I’d read Markus Zusak’s THE BOOK THIEF for the very first time. (Yes, yes. I know I’m probably the last person on the face of the Earth to do so. I’ve been busy, okay?)

And you know what? Looking back at THE BOOK THIEF, I could see what Wendig was getting at. I could see the tent poles! (Exclamation point needed because I was pretty excited; this had never happened to me before…) And I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you. So they’re below. (Warning: long post ahead! Also, spoilers. Just in case anybody else on the face of this planet hasn’t yet read the book or seen the movie and manages to somehow find this post):

IMG_0504upLiesel. As readers, we are first introduced to her on a train. I don’t know about you, but my first thought about ‘trains in Nazi Germany’ is ‘Jews on their way to prison camps’, with all its associated misery and horror. This train journey is not one of those, but Liesel unwittingly watches her younger brother die, so the misery and horror are still there. Then her mother is forced to abandon her, which tugs at our heartstrings and immediately turns her into a sympathetic character, if she wasn’t already. Obviously, Zusak needed his protagonist to be German. But she needed a point of interest to keep her separate from the ‘oppressive’ Nazi rulers. So Zusak also made her the youngish daughter of Kommunists, the underdogs, and therefore making complete our view of her as someone to be pitied. Interestingly, Zusak gave his main character the same name as the eldest daughter in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. So I also had an instant association with “an innocent, in a coming-of-age” story. Liesel also needed to be illiterate at the beginning, to develop her love of books and likewise, her love for ‘Papa’, Hans Hubermann.

Death. The narrator. He didn’t introduce himself, so as readers we were forced to intuit this piece of information – and it’s always good (so says Chuck) to make the readers ‘do some heavy lifting’. And so we do. As an outside spectator, still very invested in the happening events, Death was extremely useful, as he provided a supposedly objective view of Liesel. His being an omniscient immortal helped too. It was ‘expected’, almost, that at times he would refer to later events, and this glimpse into the future – or past, when he related the events of the Great War as it pertained to the backstory of Hans, and his debt to Max – also assisted the structure of the novel somewhat, alleviating any sense of ‘drag’ by the predominantly lock-step, week-by-week telling of the story.

‘Papa’. Hans Huberman, Liesel’s step-father. He is the first to be kind to Liesel, drawing her from the car the first time we see him. His sacrifice of sleep each night, and his teaching Leisel to read, and especially when he rescues her from humiliation over her completely-understandable bed wetting incidents, ensures he is cast in heroic light.

Rudy. The ‘best friend’. Boy-next-door, the same age (and therefore same class at school) but opposite gender. This meant that Liesel had someone to offer her support, but also have friction with. His desire to have her kiss him, meant she was seen – by him, at least – in a desirable light: and the fact that the kiss was unrequited spoke not only to her integrity but also gave both characters pathos, knowing from very early on that he’d die without ever receiving his heart’s desire. Zusak needed Rudy’s father, Alex Steiner, to be absent at the climax, so therefore he was conscripted. We are given the impression that his conscription was punishment for Rudy’s NOT going to war, so Zusak needed Rudy to be desired by the Nazis. Hence his blond hair, blue eyes and running talents. But Rudy needed to be unpatriotic, therefore his idolisation of not only a ‘negro’ athlete, but a famous American one to boot.

Max. Liesel’s other ‘best friend’, needed to add the element of danger. Max was a Jew, who Papa hid in the basement. Zusak ratcheted the tension in this situation because Max could easily have been discovered by Papa or Mamma’s own son or daughter – and their son was a brainwashed deeply patriotic Nazi. And although Max was captured – it would not have been realistic if he were not – he also needed to survive, the symbol of hope (otherwise, the book may indeed have been realistic, but would have been too dark to be palatable, I think).

The community of Himmel street. Himmel = heaven / sky. Himmel street was not heavenly, by any stretch of the imagination. But the community – with the exception of Liesel and Alex Steiner, Rudy’s father – was taken to heaven by Death, after bombs from the sky obliterated their street, killing indiscriminately. Zusak needed all of them to die, again, to make a distinction between them and Liesel, as her survival of this tragedy shows her inner strength. This event also tugs on our heart-strings, as by the time it occurs, we readers have spent the majority of the novel building strong emotional connections with these characters.

Isla Hermann. The Mayor’s wife, first introduced as the shadowy figure who watched Liesel steal a book from the remains of a bonfire. Her character was needed, as the person to take care of Liesel after her community had been obliterated. Therefore, Mamma needed a job (washerwoman) which would introduce her into the Mayor’s circle. And Liesel having a love-hate relationship with Isla not only gave more depth to both characters but also gave Zusak the opportunity to introduce the iconic symbol – the blank journal Leisel wrote in, which eventually became the book that Death carried as a reminder of his “Book Thief”.

Alex Steiner, Rudy’s father. For Max to find Liesel after the war, some part of the Himmel street community needed to survive. Therefore, Rudy’s father needed to be away at the time of the bombing. His being a businessman also gave Liesel a job after the war, where she could be found. Alex Steiner’s survival of the war also drilled home the idea of senseless tragedy – that Mr Steiner, who was in the most danger at the front, should survive to employ Liesel, and yet his entire family, neighbours and friends, who lay sleeping at home in their beds, who should have been safe, were all killed. It would also seem that Alex – not the Mayor – becomes Liesel’s replacement father-figure after Hans’ death. The juxtapositioning of these two characters is even poignant, given that Death had related Hans’ story, of his evading Death (through chance) at the front not once but twice. Thus Hans’ death is all the more tragic, and the senselessness of war is reinforced.

Overall, I loved the writing; the description was without compare. One image that prompted me to sit back and say “wow” referred to the blinds over the windows as ‘confiscating the light’. Death’s descriptions of the colours threw me a little, but not excessively.

Most events were a surprise, but not out of left field. It’s only when you consider it in hindsight, that all events can be seen to be necessary. And that, I think, was the beauty of this writing for me. That Zusak was able to masterfully craft a story, and write it in such a way that this reader, on her first time through, was hooked by the first chapter and unable to step away until after the final sentence.

Well, congratulations on making it to the end of an excessively long blog post! And what did you think? Were there “tent poles” I missed?

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Random thoughts Reading Review Technology

Goodreads…

So I joined Goodreads yesterday. I’d heard about it quite a bit recently, but hadn’t had the chance to check it out until now. It’s not quite as user-friendly as I’d hoped, but maybe that’s because there’s s much functionality to it…?

Anyway, I guess I’ll figure it out more as time goes by 🙂

Have a great day, dear reader!

— KRidwyn

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#blogjune family anecdotes Reading Review

Reading time

I’m sitting at the dining table. Mr6 is next to me, reading to me. I love that!

He’s chosen his favourite books.

Bears on Wheels by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman

and

Inside, Outside, Upside down by Stan and Jan Berenstain

He’s just finished the last page. We had a discussion about the text on the final page. Mr6 refuses to read the first line: “Mama! Mama!” His coping strategy (typical autism here) – he runs away if he’s made to read it. He always has. Today we talked about why. I thought that it was because the word is different to what we use at home: he calls me ‘Mummy’ not ‘Mama’. But no, that’s not it. He said that it was because if he said it, the mother bear should be answering, “Yes, yes?”

Interesting, hey! Well, I think so, at least 🙂

Have a great day, dear reader!

— KRidwyn

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#blogjune my novel-in-progress Reading

Feedback from beta-readers

So I wrote a book, edited it, and gave it to some people to read. This was both exciting and scary! It was just over 25,000 words; an adventure story aimed at children aged 7 – 10. I’ve since had feedback from some of my beta-readers. One member of my writing group gave the manuscript to her two nieces. The seven-year-old wandered off after a few chapters, but the ten-year-old loved it, took some of it to school and showed her teacher – who also really liked it. I like that sort of feedback! Another member of the group gave me really detailed feedback on multiple aspects. This was more than I had expected, and incredibly helpful. He also made me laugh with this comment: “You write short sentences. My average sentence has 25 words. Yours has eight.” Another group member asked if he’d counted them; apparently he’d run the manuscript through a computer program. I didn’t even know that these existed!

Then again this morning, I spent a few hours with another of my beta-readers. A retired lecturer in Creative Writing, who gave me some intensive feedback. As in, two hours on just a couple of chapters. Which was brilliant! Mentally exhausting, but fantastic nonetheless.  And this afternoon, a lady who I aspire to be just like, is planning to spend the next three hours curled up on her couch with my manuscript. She was looking forward to it, and had set aside the time – this time, this afternoon – weeks ago, because she knew she could have some interrupted time to herself, and that’s what she wanted to spend it doing.

I’m really very blessed to have people in my life who are so supportive! I just hope that my little story is worthy of their time! 🙂

And to you, dear reader, I wish for you a lovely, lovely day.

Thanks for stopping by!

— KRidwyn

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#blogjune my novel-in-progress Reading teaching

Keeping it at bay…

The laryngitis, that is. Well, so far. But I’m teaching for the rest of the week, so let’s just see how that goes, huh? I find that the constant swapping from speaking to singing voice (that’s an integral part of classroom music teaching in a Primary school) is such a strain on it; far more than it ever was in a High school. But maybe that’s just me.

But anyway, on to yesterday. So I edited the first 12 chapters of my book – now the first 11 chapters. And I was pretty happy with that. 30 chapters to go.

I also found some research that I was doing over 10 years ago. For my first ever historical novel. And there’s HEAPS of it – five folders full, in fact! So I’ve been thinking that I might start that piece again. See how it goes, you know? So I read it all through, and that inspired me to continue the research last night. Head back to original sources, back to the Latin versions, etc etc etc. Supremely interesting stuff!

So the plan for today is: not lose my voice. Edit 10 more chapters. And maybe dig some more into the history of Autun. Because I can 🙂

Have a great day, reader!

— KRidwyn