The Exploits of Conquering Dainty Tomes

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

I suppose even if any of you do follow me on Goodreads (i know some of you do), my reading updates have a strain of infrequency, contradiction and a plethora of titles in the 'currently-reading' section it would be quite hard to figure out what I am actually reading. So, following the band-wagon of Abigail's post as well as Bree's, I present you with the books I am really currently reading. 

Reading comes slow these days, as I assign my time for school and writing, leaving me only with long-car-rides and foolish late night readings under torchlight to satisfy my thirst for the written word. That's why what normally would have taken me a week or two to read now takes me months on end. Spoons and fiddlesticks! I must be wise and content.

Conquering Dainty Tomes

With Christ in the School of Prayer -Andrew Murray 
I am reading this slowly mostly because I just want to glean the most I can from it, spiritually. It is a wonderful book, though, and enriching/challenging to the heart, mind and soul.)
Kidnapped -R. L. Stevenson
I am fond of David Balfour a great deal - I am taking it at a leisurely pace though thanks to lack of time. Adventure-riding stories like Stevenson's deserve not to be hurried up I find
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien - J.R.R. Tolkien
 Re-browsing through the letters I have not read yet. I feel immensely for him, because, poor fellow, he had such doubts to anyone really liking his sagas before the publishing of The Lord of the Rings ^_^
Heartless - Anne Elisabeth Stengl 
In the process of trying to decide whether the Tales of Goldstone Wood is something I would feel comfortable reading, I was fortunate to download a free ebook of Heartless on my iPod - only for skimming through it, mind you. But yesterday I started to read in it some and got 'trapped'. Oh dear! This is a bit unexpected and worrying, but so far of what I read I really liked it! Now to consider whether I should buy the first book.... :P
North and South  -Elizabeth Gaskell 
Actually I only own a free kindle version on my iPod so it is what I call a 'skim-reading'. I want to own a real copy for proper reading soon because the story has captivated me. Like, a lot!
Blood, Sweat and Tears: Australia's WWII remembered by the men and women who lived it 
- Margaret Geddes 
This book, which Sarah borrowed from the library for me, is for research to help with writing A Love that Never Fails  and, oh! it is such a trip of fun and inspiration. Soooo helpful and interesting!!!!!
The Swiss Family Robinson - Johann Wyss  
(re-reading/studying for my English course at school)

Recent completed books for school 
Michael Faraday: Father of Electronics 
- Charles Ludwig 
 Up from Slavery 
- Booker T. Washington 
(which were a real pleasure to read, despite being school-readings.)

So that is what I have been up to, bookwise. 
What have you been reading is the question on my mind. Leave a comment and talk away!

Actually Finishing Something [in] July + a blog-shout-out

Friday, 12 July 2013

#A Love that Never Fails
In complete accordance with my spontaneous craziness, I've decided to jump in the band-wagon and join in Katie's Actually Finishing Something [in] July blog event (despite having a current blog event on my own blog already running). It may seem like it clashes with the blog-party event, and it does, but not really when I think about it. I shall still keep up with answering the questions of the blog-party and I shall try to come up with another tag or two for everyone to join in, though maybe at a slower pace. However, you probably all know very well how much I long to get my fingers writing again seriously in A Love that Never Fails, and how I have had such a trial of a time getting passed the first-chapter-stage. So, I decided to link up on this challenge (a week late, so I could indulge in my procrastinative nature I am sure) to help me get all this shebang nonsense of Chapter 1 done and over with. Here is a few tag questions Katie asked to help in motivation of the writing challenge, and I hope you enjoy!

But if you will allow me to ado a bit more about some really important stuff, I have a happy little announcement to make. My sweetie sister, Sarah, who I am sure you've heard a thing or two about on this wee blog of mine, recently started a new personal blog of her own called, Of Simple Things. She used to blog a while back on her history blog but what with lots of uni-work and the stress of exams, etc, she found it hard to keep up with it, being more formal and serious in topic nature. So now that she's on holidays (hurrah!), she's started a personal blog in which she can share all the fun, happy, simple things of her life and faith... and I am sooooooooooo excited to have her back blogging - it is such fun. I don't believe I am biased in saying that I think you will love her blog, her and her posts as she pens them (especially, if like me, you are partial to hobbits). So why don't send her a bit of love that will put a smile on her face, and go over and check it out, and if you really liked it - follow and leave her a sweet note or two too? I'd be glad, glad, glad! You will be too. And so will she ^_^

Now, for it!
1) What is your writing goal? 
To put it plainly, and shortly, I want to finish the first chapter of A Love that Never Fails. It doesn't matter if it isn't too brilliant, but I do care that I be at least moderately satisfied with it and that it would help give me a launch pad for the coming chapters and the plot. I think I shall start from scratch too. Also, I want to do some serious historical research and plot/character-outlining. Sounds like fun? I think so.

2) Give us a short synopsis of your project. What makes it unique?
Perhaps the unique element about it is the theme; I don't believe I forced this theme, as I realized its presence seriously only after starting to write the short story (near the end of it in fact). A Love that Never Fails has been inspired somewhat by 1 Corinthians 13, in the theme of love and what it really means. When I mean love - it is not confined, though it does include romantic love, alas, but the world seems to think that is the only meaning of love (if they understand the word at all). Love is so much more than that. As C.S. Lewis put it 'Love is more stern and splendid than mere kindness'. I do not think it will be the only theme, and as  I write; there are themes, other components to the tale and I think I will be dealing with this theme of 1 Corinthians' love in a lot less thematically focused way then I did in the short story, but it will and is there still. I think another unique element is that the story is set both in England and in Australia (yay, for Queensland), deals with the evacuation story of London children, and is set in World War 2 which is always fascinating I find.

The story goes like this...
The year is 1940, London. Despite the encroaching shadow of evil from Hitler's Germany, Jane Wilson's world consists of the love, memories and daily happiness of those whom she loves best. But when she is torn from her beloved father and Grandmamma by a war she cannot understand, she finds herself one of many children evacuated to the golden shores of Australia, away from England and all that she held dear there. In a new land, with a new family, Jane discovers, against the grief of loss, the truth of her grandmother's words, 'love never fails' in an unlikely way. 
3) How long have you been working on this project? 
The story was born in May, 2012, when I wrote a short story during a family holiday on a beautiful island off the coast, for a local competition at our library. After it got short-listed, I edited and edited and then edited some more at the writer's conference and at home till I deleted some of my favourite paragraphs of the whole story! Sad, that, but it finally got published in an anthology with other teen writers which made it worth the effort and I was quite a happy lark for a while. Nonetheless, I had from almost as soon as I finished editing the short story a nagging feeling that this story deserved to be told in its full-length and space within the happy confines of a novel. Ideas came and went to inspire and excite me, while I patiently waited and wrote other things.  Finally, in November I started writing it for NaNoWriMo; I did not write much though - a little less than a first chapter, which now belongs somewhat further into the story with Jane's evacuation. I've been fiddling about with this first chapter since then, but have only come up with bits and pieces of scribblings I am only half-happy with. Let's hope for better things, shall we?

4)  How often do you intend to write in order to reach your goal by August 1st? 
Well, we've got three weeks till August. Hmm - well, I think I shall confine myself to writing in the evenings ( a full hour and 1/2) every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and if I can snatch anymore time during the rest of the week or Saturday/Sunday, than I am all the happier... though I think I shall confine these days for catching up on emails, letters, and blogposts and happy reading of course! But writing means writing, you know... no facebook, google+ pinterest, blog nonsense!

5) Introduce us to three of your favorite characters in this project.
Ooh, that's hard. I'll try...

Jane is the heart of this story - the story is mostly told from her perspective. Jane is a happy girl, with a high-spirited character - actually, she is very loving, affectionate and humble, but she can equally be naive about life, with a bent for cheekiness and the instigator of infrequent harmless mischief, shy at intervals, and very much afraid-of-change. Her quiet thoughtfulness and genuine love and care for people generally endears her to those around her, but she can also be a puzzle to figure out what with her absent-minded daydreaming, social awkwardness and fun-loving ways. She loves her Pappa fiercely like thunder and storm and is fond of her Grandmamma like nothing else. I don't think she could ever love anyone quite the way she loves those two, except she learns that love is bigger than her small sentiments. She dreams big and has high hopes, but the reality of war and grief of loss make her grow up and realize life is beautiful and happy but not in the way she used to look at it. It is hard to say much, for fear she eludes me as I try to reach for her. She's too much like a cloud that can't be pinned down. But if I master her character and get to know her, it will be such a happy victory! I love her a lot, that girl.

I always smile when I think of Grandmamma - not because she is funny. Oh no! But because I never meant her to exist from the first place - or if I did, she was to be that heartless, unemotional old woman who cared little for her flighty granddaughter and wished to be rid of her at all costs. Oh but that woman lifted her little finger and defied my stupid notions with her gallant spirit and loving heart. Grandmamma is the total opposite of all that meanness. She's not a silly woman, nor is she unduly emotional and sentimental. She is a fiery woman with a strong personality, but she loves... she loves deeply and wisely. She feels strongly too, but is self-controlled and patient. She is a silent woman, who says little except on occasion when she says... a lot. In a gentle few words. She loves her son, George, and Jane very much. Perhaps more than anyone else, she suffers the most, because it is in silence and alone as those dearest to her are scattered across the globe, and she is left to face the horrors of the war in England. Grandmamma is a gem. <3

Jane's father is a professor at the Queen Mary, University of London (disclaimer: the exact university is subject to change with more research ^_^), as a tutor of ancient literature, history and philology; he is an intelligent, slightly philosophical but diligent man who knows the meaning of honourable toil and hard-work and has an obsession with books, languages and airplanes  What with his meekness and quiet, bookish nature, one would think him a pacifist, but George has strong patriotic love for his beloved England; his greatest earthly joy is Jane and coming back home to a warm hearth, a comfortable arm-chair and a good book by the fireside. It broke his heart when his wife, Abigail, died when Jane was but seven, and yet he himself remained a solid rock of support and strength to Jane in her growing up years, holding unto his faith in God, and the love of his mother and daughter for whom he would sacrifice anything for their well-being. After Abigail's death, he temporarily gave up his place at Queen Mary and moved with his little girl into his widowed mother's estate in the countryside, as Grandmamma longed for Jane to grow up within her care but loathed the city. He took up a position of tutor at a boy's Grammar School in the small town they lived in, and spent his time in teaching, quiet study and time spent personally tutoring Jane in her education until she grew older. When Jane was around eleven, he felt it was time to return to his work in London, so he and Jane (and Grandmamma for she found she could not part with them) returned to the bustle of their old home. But some things are never the same, and for George he finds he cannot stand idly by as England is battered by war...

6)  Go to page 16 (or 6, 26, or 66!) of your writing project. Share your favorite line or snippet on the page.

When the light of morning met their faces, they saw a pearly mist of cloud drift sadly against the fume-ridden crumbling buildings that lay twisted in a hazy spiral of charred flame and smoke before them. The London Jane had known and loved the fourteen years of her life now lay in ruins. Worst of all the destruction, her city faced the loss of life and the sufferings of the injured. Despite the pale light of the sky, the day hung with darkness and gloom. In her soul Jane wondered if ever a bright morning would dawn in the hearts of those around her, or in her own.
- A Love that Never Fails (pg. 6) 

7) Tea or coffee? 
Well, I have not really started drinking proper caffeinated tea or coffee, though I think I'd enjoy both very much. I have drunk decaffeinated coffee before though and that was quite something, and once or twice chai tea which was enjoyable in a spicy way. And I dearly love drinking a nice cup of herbal tea such as mint or roobios. It is quite perfect on a cool, rainy day. Oh, and I enjoy a hot cocoa. Immensely. 'almost any day <3

'Little by little, one travels far.'
J.R.R. Tolkien


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

From all that I have heard, it seems that Google Reader will be shutting down, in which case I really don't know what will happen to my 'followers' and whether it means that you'll be able to view the posts I write on your blogger feed or not. But for all it seems, there is another way! And so, I am pretty excited about that; I would so appreciate it if you could follow my blog and keep up with it, if Google Reader fails us. Won't you? I will be grateful to you for six and twenty years!

Click the link above to follow Fullness of Joy with Bloglovin. As Katiebug said it, 'It's the way of the future!'

'The Music of a People...'

via Pinterest
As my fingers touched the keys, I could hear Mary play Chopin's trois nocturnes on the piano next to me, the warm evening lamp-lights of the living room cast pleasant shadows on the walls, and  Dad was reading on his arm-chair while my sisters and I tried to coax him that Les Miserables movie would be a movie he'd like to watch after all with us and mum. (Why is it so hard to get dad's to watch new movies, I ask you? ^_^) Everything was pretty relaxed Friday evening, I was trying to summon up the courage to write this post, since I have not kept up a daily Blog-Party posting since last week (forgive me, pretty please?). But then everyone invaded the room in the way our family is famously wont to do, and we got to choosing what we would watch (a big ordeal with us unless Lord of the Rings is on the menu, in which case it gets the cake).  I am so glad though, that after trying out a disappointing new movie titled, Return to the Hiding Place (more on that in another post), we decided to switch movies and even Dad agreed to watch Les Miserables after all. It was beautiful, and we all loved it (Dad included!) and were so inspired and blessed by the beautiful themes of the tale (we did skip the two inappropriate scenes with Fantine and then later with the Master of the House song by the way). But I found it so amazing at just how Christian the whole story was, a tale of grace and love, and focused on the redemptive story. And the singing...? My mum, sisters and I have been humming the songs empty chairs and do you hear the people sing? non-stop since Friday ;). Okay, I will best keep a proper review of this film for later, along with some others on my 'blog-to-do' list since it is well worth it. However when I came back to write this post today, I got to wondering what of the many varied topics posed to me in Get 'em Tigers! post I should write up first...and then the thought struck me that with all the Les Mis songs running through my head, what better topic to write about but a musical/literary one!  At least two of you (Schuyler and Annie), have both asked music-related questions regarding to my writing, and I think I am going to have fun answering them now! So here I go :).

Do you pick music theme songs for your characters? 
- Schuyler

Oh generally, yes, I do, and I so love it when I find a song that 'clicks'. The thing is, because I tend not to listen to any secular songs besides the ones in my favourite movies, musicals or folk songs, so a lot of the time it can be a challenge to choose theme songs from beloved Christian songs and classical hymns that would match the characters and their story arc. However, that hasn't stopped me from 'finding' those songs in which I suddenly exclaim to myself, 'Stop! That's Flavius - all the way!' or get inspired so much by a song that it actually helps form the character of one of my heroes. And then, of course, I save that song onto my iPod, and hit repeat more times than I care to count. Also, especially with my novels, I tend to love having theme instrumental tracks (Howard Shore, Harry-Gregson Williams, John Williams, etc), sometimes even more than the ones with lyrics, because they just fit overall character and story-themes perfectly. 

On this blog I might have scratched the surface of theme songs that I use for my novel, The Crown of Life, however, I have increased my theme songs to quite a list by now since my last Beautiful People posts regarding its cast, and of course I haven't shared anything regarding that with A Love that Never Fails yet; besides not even making a post introducing the principle cast... gracious, that must be remedied! So, ladies, may I please introduce you to the theme songs for my different characters...

from the Crown of Life
Boil it down, and Valerius has been a character that has lived with me, in my inner imagination and thought, with little major changes for over five to six years. I guess you could call him the firstborn child of my pen, and he will always hold that special place for me as a writer. As for theme songs, for a long while I have been inspired by Graham Kendrick's song, Knowing Youfor the faith and longing of Valerius' heart, to 'know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings', and also presenting the theme of the cost and sacrifice of giving up everything to gain Christ and follow in His steps; so this is probably the main one. Kendrick's Consider it Joy is another appropriate one for Valerius; the Sons of Korah's  album, The Light of Lifehas been such an influential part in sparking the element of the sufferings Valerius goes through, with the beauty of the Psalms for inspiration, along with other songs from the Sons of Korah band, like 'Pilgrim' (Rain), 'It's Over Now' (Light of Life), 'Whom Shall I Fear' 'One Thing' and 'In the Day of Trouble' (Live Recordings Vol 1). 'Born Again', and 'In Love for Me' from the musical, The Witness by Jimmy and Carol Owens for more overall Crown of Life theme inspirations. I am also particularly fond of Into the West by Annie Lennox that both suits Valerius and his bride, Claudia, in that promise they have of one day reaching an eternal home and joy everlasting. As instrumentals, Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings and Braveheart composed by James Horner have been the most inspirational instrumental soundtracks for his overall story I think. 

from The Crown of Life
Flavius. There need not be much debate about his theme song! Cliche as it may sound, I would say his theme song, the song that most affected me in discovering his depth of guile and moral degradation forming the three-dimensional aspects of his character, would be Gollum's Song. It just fits so perfectly... ^_^. I know my family tend to wrinkle their nose at this song and mute it when we reach the end of the Two Towers film, (for it is a song full of self-pity and misery!), yet it immensely helped me see the wretched, twisted heart of Flavius, even as Gollum/Smeagol himself is depicted in The Lord of the Rings. The torment and grief in his character, his queer mixture of cruel treachery and weakness; the bitterness of what life and humanity had done to him, and his response to it. It is so heartbreaking. I know it doesn't really fit but just for inspiration (the music, lyrics, etc are beautiful) I love listening to Javert's song, Stars, in the Les Miserables musical when I work with Flavius' character; that and Javert's Suicide. Perhaps more than anything, the fact that Javert firmly believes what he does to be moral and right, it is much the same with Flavius. Did I ever tell you that Javert was another inspiration as I wrote Flavius' character? Well, now you know. Robin Hood 2010 soundtrack captures something of Flavus' theme for an instrumental.
'Where once was light
Now darkness falls
Where once was love
Love is no more
Don't say goodbye
Don't say I didn't try...'

from The Crown of Life
For Claudia, her theme songs make me so sad and tearful and yet happy inside as well. She's like that with a beautiful, happy, pained dignity about her whole character that makes the music reflect that as well. Annie Lennox's beautiful song, 'Into the West', definitely would be hers. Also, there is something of Claudia's theme in Show Me by Audrey Assad... 'Bind up these broken bones, mercy bend and breathe me back to life... but not before You show me how to die.' 'Come Away with Me' (Sing, O Zion) is another beautiful, appropriate song with that element of the tender yet powerful call she receives from hearing about Jesus. And another one that often makes me think of Claudia would be Arwen's Song, sung by Liv Tyler, if anything because I have found so much to draw from the character of Arwen in regards to inspiration and themes for this particular character of mine, but also the words themselves are quite telling of the relationship of Valerius and Claudia at one point. Braveheart would be her theme instrumental album.

from The Crown of Life
Julius, minor character though he is, has a particular song reserved for him that, to me, seems to perfectly fit his story, the bittersweet sadness of his life, the life of a soldier poignantly. Every time I listen to the full soundtrack of Gods and Generals, and stop by the song 'Going Home' Julius comes to mind... his longing to return home brings a little pang to me, and I wish like those mere boys, that they did go home.

from The Crown of Life
Jolly, but I 'get cobble-webs of joy' just thinking of my darling vivacious Anthea. But you know when a parent sort of takes a long time to realize that the child of their youth is growing up? It is the same with me and Anthea, coming as quite the shock, when I realized how much growing up she does over the course of The Crown of Life. I think you know enough about Anthea to know a taste of her childish, spunky side, however there is the 'growing' and more 'serious' part of her that such theme songs as, To Believe sung by Jackie Evanchio have helped establish and nurture. Another perfect song that establishes something of her later importance in the tale and the burden placed upon her would be Enya's May it Be. Another song that comes to mind would be In the Night (My Hope Lives On) by Andrew Peterson.

from A Love that Never Fails
The more I write in A Love that Never Fails, the more I grow fond of Jane's grandmother. She's such an amazing woman. And for all her love and comforting strength, she has her own struggles and fears; she too has had a lot to give up. She too learnt what it means to love. For Grandmamma,  I think of such songs as 'Carry the Fire' by Andrew Peterson that match that steadfast spirit of hers, despite taking a while to warm to that particular song... yet, if it were not for the music, the words are truly fitting for this woman. I am not so sure how fitting the song is, but the song 'You'll Never Walk Alone (My Gift To You)' by Richard Rodgers makes me think of Grandmamma, and so does Never Say Goodbye as well.

from A Love that Never Fails
I don't believe I have introduced you to him before. But he is a fine fellow! To be perfectly candid, I have not featured him into any of the actual scenes I've written so far. But his part (which is quite a vital one) has been growing in my mind for future scenes in the novel for quite a while now; he is in a way one of the main protagonists of the story. To give you a splattering of information on who the youngster is, well, he is a young army pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and is involved in the Allied air attacks on Germany. I can't tell you much else of him at this stage, but I can assure you that you'll probably hear lots more of him as I continue writing. For him, a song like Empty Chairs at Empty Tables fits perfectly. It depicts his life as a soldier so vividly, the loss of his friends, the grief of war, and his sorrow that 'I live and you are gone'. Though these two are for me relatively new songs, Rich Mullins' If I Stand is a beautiful one that suits well in its solidness and assurance in the grace and mercy of God; Psalm 91 by Sons of Korah is one of a promise of protection, which Ernest clings on to daily in the war-front. The other one which I was a little reluctant at first to add to the list is Andrew Peterson's You'll Find Your Way. I am not awful fond of Peterson's music generally, but in this case, I think the song has a theme that fits Ernest well, and echoes the gentle words of wisdom his mother, back in Australia, would have told him before he became a soldier and went off to war.

from A Love that Never Fails
George's theme songs are ones of fatherhood more than anything else, but also of faith and hope; Bring Him Home reminds me so much of George, for his love for his men, especially Ernest, is very strong and sacrificial. The Call by Regina Spektor is perhaps the closest to characterize the loneliness and sadness he feels for leaving his little girl, Jane, behind as he goes into a war for the second time in his life. But he has hope too and a deep trust in God's faithfulness, so He's Always Been Faithful by Sara Groves fits; the solidness and strength of his faith calls for a doxology though, so here it is.

from A Love that Never Fails
It is telling that Jane doesn't have many theme songs. There is a simplicity to her character, and yet a certain strength and greatness of heart that her life or person cannot be summoned up in a song or two (a bit like how it is for us in real life). Also, perhaps because she's the main character, I am more picky with the themes I pick; for a while in fact,  I did not have much of a theme song for her, and all that I could come up with was her favourite song which is, Jesus, Lover of my soul by Charles Wesley. A fitting hymn, actually, and I have been tempted to leave it at that. However, I have found two songs that while not being theme songs, are ones that fit perfectly some of the times and struggles in the life of Jane: You Raise Me Up is beautiful and so uplifting, I can imagine how encouraging this theme would be to Jane in her darkest and most pain-filled moments. 'I am strong when I am on Your shoulders, You raise me up to more than I can be...' Harry-Gregson Williams' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie soundtrack album and The Hobbit by Howard Shore are her instrumental theme tracks, they just suit her so perfectly (the Blitz, 1940, Evacuating London and The Adventure Begins especially). Her other song is by Laura Story, Blessings.
Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

Do you find listening to music whilst writing helping or distracting? 
- Annie

Elizabeth from The Endless Road asked much the same question in her tag months ago, Annie. The answer is that it generally depends on the mood I am in as I am writing. Sometimes it can prove an inspiration (especially putting on the music I have on Spotify or on one of my YouTube playlists), and at other times, when I am struggling for words or am nose-high in the emotions of a scene I'd rather be in complete quiet. The genre of music I prefer to listen to while writing would be instrumental music mostly as songs with lyrics, while proving an inspiration at other times, is quite distracting as I write. My favourite kind of instrumental music would be movie soundtracks or at times classical music, quiet Christian songs, gentle pop-songs or church-music. I intend to share in another post sometime who/what some of my favourite music bands and composers are, but, for now I will say that my favourite movie soundtrack composers are Howard Shore, Harry-Gregson Williams, John Williams, David Arnold, James Horner and some other less known ones like the composers for movies such as, Luther, The Nativity, Gods and Generals, Becoming Jane... etc. So yes, I do listen to music as I write, and movie soundtracks undoubtedly rank among my top list of 'inspiration for imagination' when talking about literary inspiration.

So that, my dear friends, is a peep at the songs that have inspired me in my differing characters, and have helped me ground themes in the overall telling of their stories over the years. Do tell me what songs inspire you with your characters, for I would love to know!