Books

Character Interview: Princess Elaine Penndragon

 

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Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

Today, I thought we’d do something a little bit different and meet one of the main characters of the novel I’m currently working on, Following Orders.

Now I’ll be interviewing Her Highness, the Princess Elaine Penndragon of Camelot about herself and some of her background. Please enjoy.

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Good day, Your Highness. Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me.

It is my pleasure. I’ve never had the opportunity to speak with a scribe for any purpose other than a lesson on history or politics.

I’m sure those are very dull indeed. Today, I thought you might be willing to answer a few questions about yourself? For your subjects’ sake?

My subjects? I don’t know what they think so interesting about palace life, but I suppose so.

Wonderful! My first question is about all of the balls and dinners your father hosts as king. What is your part in them and do you enjoy them?

Ah, yes. All of the fancy events. You asked about my part in them? Well, as the king’s only child and heir, it is my task to learn the names and interests of every diplomat, nobleman, and ambassador in Camelot. If they are to be my court one day, I must know their strengths and weaknesses, know them as people. And, of course, know their loyalties.

Besides that, as I am of marriageable age, I must dance with every eligible bachelor in attendance. Most of them are of no interest to either me or my father, but we mustn’t offend anyone. You never know who may end up as the future king of Camelot. It is my job to be the most beautiful and charming woman there to every single guest.

As to whether I enjoy such things, I don’t mind them. They do become tiring, especially when too many are held in a row. But I suppose that’s to be expected.

You mentioned that most of the young men are of no interest to you or your father. What do the two of you look for in the next king – and your husband?

All the usual traits I suppose. He must be strong and brave and all that, but he must also have a brain in his head. My father is not going to hand over Camelot to some halfwit. He would not send me or his people to such destruction. Other than that, he must have all the general qualities that make a king beloved by his people.

And what about you? Don’t you want to marry someone who will love you?

That’s the question, isn’t it? Who I marry is not up to me, ultimately. As part of the royal family, I have a duty to Camelot before myself. I would like a kind man who loves and whom I love, but that is not nearly as important as what is best for the kingdom. Besides, I’m told that people sometimes grow to love each other. We’ll have a whole lifetime to become fond of one another, whoever this man turns out to be.

Didn’t your father and mother marry for love?

Ah, yes. The famous story of Arthur and Guenivere. Has that become popular again? Nevermind. It was a different time back then. My father was free to marry as he chose because he had Camelot so firmly secure as one of the strongest kingdoms around. And he chose my mother – a commoner – endearing himself to the people practically overnight.

You don’t seem to hold much love for you mother. Is there a story behind that?

What impudence! That is none of your concern and I do hope you don’t speak to everyone you meet in such a rude manner. As it is, I am feeling gracious today and will give you a partial answer. I know that it is no secret that there is very little love between my mother and me.

Between just the two of us, I believe she is jealous of me. I hear from some of the older women that after my birth, my father devoted far more attention to his new daughter than to his wife. She wasn’t used to the relative drought of his affection and, as his doting on me continued, her bitterness toward me grew as the years moved on. We don’t speak often.

Now, are we through? I have one of those dances you were speaking of to prepare for tonight and my hair takes a dreadfully long time to complete.

Thank you for your time, my lady. I hope you enjoy your evening!

Kira

Book Review: The Prisoner of Zenda

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And now you see why I don’t usually take my own photos ūüôā

After my post of a few weeks ago bemoaning the depravity of today’s literature, let me assure that there are indeed still excellent books in the world. Books that spin a tale of adventure and keep you up far later than is right (oops).¬†The Prisoner of Zenda is one such book.

Rudolph Rassendyll is a typical young man with too much money, not enough ambition, and a peculiar connection to the royal family of Ruritania from several generations back. He is floating through life with ease – much to the frustration of his industrious sister-in-law. She takes it upon herself to nag him into becoming an attache to Sir Jacob. Rudolph takes it upon himself to go on a different trip entirely, visiting friends and going to see the coronation of the new King of Ruritania.

Once there, he stumbles upon the new king and his two closest advisors – Colonol Sapt and Fritz von Tarlenheim. The four spend an evening of celebration together which ends with much less joy than when it started. Rudolph is thrown into a role he never imagined having and holds the fate of all Ruritania in his hands. He must struggle with the king’s brother, Black Michael, to defend the throne, while keeping up appearances with the rest of the court – especially the Princess Flavia. And through it all, he must remember who he really is, though the rest of the world thinks him someone else.

Anthony Hope’s story of Rudolph’s misadventures in Ruritania is fast paced and written with the beautiful yet easily comprehensible language that seems only to spring from the 19th century. The style of the writing led me to be wrapped up in the fictional time and place of Ruritania and I even learned a new word:

compunction: a feeling of guilt or moral scruple that prevents or follows the doing of something bad (according to Google)

I won’t bore you with a lecture on why I love Anthony Hope’s language so much, but I will say that it was refreshing to have to work a little bit to stay engaged in the book. And the excellence of the story itself provided plenty of reward for the minimal efforts it required.

The Prisoner of Zenda holds within its pages an adventure novel, a romance, and a story of personal struggles and growth, all woven perfectly together to create one unified tale of a man thrown out of his own world and into one where much more is required of him. And, (maybe this is also typical of books of this time period) it was clean. I had no fear that The Prisoner of Zenda would take a dark or disgusting turn. It was a thoroughly enjoyable story from start to finish and one that I am glad to have read.

Kira

What’s your favorite adventure story?
Have you read any older books lately?

Why I Write

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Writing is my passion. That’s easy enough to see (and if you can’t see it, I will gladly tell you about it for a full three hours). I’ve loved to write for longer than I can remember, though some of my earlier ventures barely qualify as actual “writing.” I’ve poured a lot of hours into studying and practicing my craft, striving to become better and better. And there’s a reason for that. I want to share with you why I write and why I feel that it is such an important thing.

I’m sure that everyone has been to a library or bookstore at least once. Did you visit the teen section while you were there? Let me describe it for you.

Most every teen section in every library and bookstore is the same. As soon as you enter it, the books become darker – the covers are black, often with spidery silver lettering across them. There are lots of depictions of aliens, vampires, and “hot” teenagers locked in each other’s arms. If you open the books, you will get exactly what you bargained for. Dramatic betrayals, hopeless depression, and endless love triangles (or squares) fill hundreds of pages. All of them are gripping and keep readers turning page after page. But none of them are redeeming.

The Bible teaches that the things we think about are what will shape our hearts and, thus, our lives. Millions (if not billions) of people are consuming these sad excuses for books every day and having their minds conformed to the ideas and beliefs threaded through them. And every day more and more are being written, printed, and released to the population.

I write to fight against that.

It is my goal to create masterpieces that glorify God and present good stories. Stories that don’t end in tragedy and promote sin. I want my books to be of high quality and of high moral value. In a world that is so depraved and lost, I write to offer light and hope because I know the only true Source of that hope.

My explanation for why I write is not a long or fancy one. It is simply a desire to bring light to the shelves of libraries and bookstores so that teenagers are reading better literature than Twilight and thinking about things more redeeming than The Fault in Our Stars.

I believe that Christians who write have a responsibility to do that – to bring that light to readers through their work. And I pray that I do that with every word that I put on a page.

Kira

Why do you do what you do?
What keeps you going in the face of obstacles?

Please Read the Gospels

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Photo by George Sharvashidze from Pexels

Have you ever heard a story that you loved so much you could listen to it over and over again? Is there a book that you’ve worn through from so many re-readings? A movie with scratches on the disc because you have to watch it again?

Stories are incredible and many of them are so good that we could experience them again and again without growing bored. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched¬†The Princess Bride or Annie. Whinnie the Pooh never gets old and Narnia will always have a special place in my heart.

But even those stories can wear down some eventually. I have to take a break between Doctor Who marathons and Lord of the Rings can only be seen so often.

But there is one story that is just as awe-inspiring and moving no matter how many times you read it. The gospel feels just as fresh the first time as the thirtieth, as we see our sin and then see what Christ went through to save us from it.

I’ve been reading through Luke for my morning devotions and I love to read all the stories of Jesus’s ministry again. The two that stand out, though, are His birth, and His crucifixion and resurrection.

My soul magnifies the Lord along with Mary and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:46-47).  How could Christ have humbled Himself so much and been willing to suffer so much just so that I could be with Him? How could anyone love me that much?

And yet, God does love me that much. He loves all of His children that much. And the four Gospel accounts are refreshingly full of that love.

It seems simple to read through the Gospels over and over again. Shouldn’t more mature Christians be studying other parts of the Bible? We already understand salvation.

But the Gospel is the basis of Christianity. It is Christianity. They are encouraging and lovely and convicting and beautiful all at once.

Don’t forget to read the Gospels. Don’t forget the most important story ever told.

Kira

What’s your favorite part of the Gospels?

Why I Read Old Books (and like them)

Let me start by apologizing for going AWOL for the past couple months. I’m back and I’m working to find a blogging schedule that isn’t interrupted by the rest of my life. Now, onto the post…

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Have you ever read Chaucer? Dickens? Thucydides? I have. Granted, all of these examples were for school, but I am glad of the chance to consume such literature.

A common problem in many readers today is that of reading only recently published books. But (and I am generalizing here) many of those books are shallow. They contain love triangles, vampires, and dead parents. Especially in books written for teenagers, the writing itself is simple and contains small words. The plot is straightforward and the characters have no crushing moral dilemma beyond whether it is socially acceptable to date whichever attractive person they are desperately in love with.

Now look at old books. Yes, some of them do contain these elements.¬†Jane Eyre is quite the love triangle. But it is more than that. It is a young woman’s journey of growing up and learning what sacrificial love really is. It contains rich dialogue, deep characters, and a morally gripping plot.

Old books not only use more complicated sentences and bigger words (offering wonderful exercise for the brain), they also bring us into the thoughts and ideals of people in the past. Charles Dickens wrote about the French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities, giving a story of political tumult and redemption which combined many plots into a rich climax. He offered his perspective on the revolution through his characters and his storytelling.

Of course, so far, I have only mentioned novels of a few hundred years ago. But the nonfiction is just important, even though those books may be a bit more dull than their fiction counterparts at times. The Federalist and Antifederalist Papers show us the discussions and disagreements between some of the core founders of the United States. The History of the Kings of Britain shows both the complicated history of Britain and the political corruption (and purity) in some major players in said history.

The theological books are, yet again, powerful and offer insights into the early history of the church. Eusebius gives us a thorough Ecclesiastical History, as does Bede. Augustine wrote countless books on different aspects of theology and the Christian life. He examined the kingdom of God in The City of God; he wrote his own testimony in Confessions; he looked at some basic Christian truths in On Faith, Hope, and Love (the Enchiridion). Calvin wrote almost too much to read in his Institutes of the Christian Religion and while we may not agree with everything these theological giants believed, they were pivotal in the development of the church and fighting the heresies of their day.

Old books offer us wisdom that recent books are unable to provide. They put at our fingertips the knowledge of the ages and the ideas and records of thousands of years. Old books are priceless. They enrich us.

Let me leave with the the advice of the great writer C. S. Lewis in his introduction to Athanasius’s¬†On the Incarnation:

“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.” (full introduction here)

Go forth and read!

Kira

What’s the last old book you read? What did you learn from it?

Book Review: Passion and Purity

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Every once in a while, a truly excellent book is born. A book that changes the perspectives and lives of thousands of people – quietly. This book isn’t made into a movie. It doesn’t go wild on the internet. It might even be rather slow to sell. But God is faithful and He uses it to further His kingdom, even decades after it was written.

Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot is a quiet little book. It’s not particularly long and is the exact opposite of flashy. From the cover to the introduction to the book itself, Elliot creates an atmosphere of peace and rest. I finished this book in the space of only a few days, so eager was I to get back to the comforting read, and then was sorry when it was over.

Passion and Purity tells the love story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, a gripping and sweet tale that seems as if it could come out of a storybook. But their story serves a deeper purpose, as do all of our stories. Elliot uses their years of joy and pain to discuss faithfulness to God in the midst of romantic relationships – purity in the middle of passion.

I’ve heard this book recommended countless places and will now join the voices urging that everyone desirous of living a pure life read the short volume.¬†Passion and Purity is the first book on relationships I have read (and I have read many) to focus so pointedly on living for God in all your life and not just what to do with these feelings tangled up inside. It recognizes that we were created to glorify God and serve Him alone – even if that goes against what our heart is telling us to do (thank you, Disney, for that worldview). We must not waste these years of singleness and we must not waste future years of marriage. All is for the glory of God.

As much as I hesitate to use the word, “relatable” describes Elisabeth Elliot’s work quite well. She understands what it feels like to want marriage so badly, but to be kept from it over and over. She knows the struggles of submitting yourself to the Lord’s plan for your life. She knows the daily discipline of obedience. And she offers encouragement, through it all.

And so I say, read Passion and Purity. Read it carefully; read it slowly; read it with open heart and mind. Elisabeth Elliot holds much wisdom from the life God has given her and she generously shares it if only we are willing to listen.

Kira

Have you read any good books lately? What made them worth the read?

Book Review: Hand of Vengeance

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Photography is not my forte, but at least you can see the cover.

Yes, yes, a second book review in a single week. That’s just the way it worked out. ūüôā

Hand of Vengeance¬†by Douglas Bond was recommended to me by Moriah Simonowich of Delighting in Him and one of my friends offered to let me borrow it. So I started this book by Douglas Bond in the midst of all the other books I’m reading in at the moment.

Living in an 8th century Anglo-Saxon community, Cynwulf is shunned by most of the people in his world. Being left handed and part Viking, the rest of the community is happy to both avoid and judge him. Until one of his weapons is found at the scene of a murder. Cynwulf becomes the chief suspect in a murder trial he wants nothing to do with and must try to clear his name and save his life.

Bond writes a compelling tale (one which kept me up late for “one more chapter” more than once). His characters are complicated enough to be brought to life. I felt as if I understood Cynwulf even though I’ve never been on trial for murder. I wanted to know what was going to happen to them, so I kept coming back.

As I mentioned in my review of¬†Jane Eyre, wholesome books are becoming more and more difficult to find. A large majority of authors are content to write fiction overflowing with sin and vice (not to mention lazy grammar and writing). It’s a tragedy, and I don’t say that lightly. Books hold great influence over the thoughts and lives of those who read them and authors are entrusted with the responsibility of shaping minds.

That being said, Douglas Bond’s¬†tale of murder, love, and geese is a refreshing read. He shamelessly and easily weaves in the gospel – something also not done well in many modern tales.¬†Hand of Vengeance was relaxing to read. I knew I wouldn’t have to be on the lookout for anything sinful or dark that might make me need to put it down. The world needs more books like this one.

Kira

You can find Douglas Bond at douglasbondbooks.blogspot.com

or bondbooks.net

Are there any authors that you know are “safe” – that will deliver a great story without treading sinful waters? How did you find out about them?

From the Archives: Book Review: Jane Eyre

I began reading Jane Eyre after a ridiculously frustrating injury in April and I loved it, so I had to keep the review.

Originally published: 5/30/17


Classics. Those books that have lasted centuries, only to be left on the bookshelves of well meaning readers, unopened, unexplored. The shelves in my room hold many of these works of art, most of them as yet unread.

However, during the week of the neck injury awhile ago, I needed something to entertain me (other than Netflix – one can only take so much bad television). So I decided to tackle one of the books that I had been putting off for much too long. I figured my inability to move would provide motivation to actually finish the venture this time.

I chose Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and completed about half of it before I was up and moving again. It happens to be quite a thick book though, and it took me a few more weeks of regular life to reach the end.

Miss Bronte’s protagonist, Jane, is a plain little girl at the opening of the story. Her life, young as she is, is already marked with suffering. Jane is an orphan, entrusted to the care of a guardian who does not love her. To get rid of the troublesome child, Jane is sent to a charity school where she receives an education and eventually ventures out into the world on her own. Life does not get any easier though, as she begins finding her way in the world, and Jane is left to face many difficult situations which try her courage, morality, and love.

As is often the case with old books (“classics”), I found¬†Jane Eyre¬†to be much more gripping and intriguing than I expected. The story is compelling and well thought out. Jane is a character who takes some getting used to, but is easy to grow to love. She is surrounded by a supporting cast with interesting backgrounds who leave their mark on the girl. Her tale is told by a woman with an excellent vocabulary and skill in crafting sentences.

I appreciated the moral questions raised by Bronte and how they were answered. As someone who loves to read, I’m finding it tragically and increasingly difficult to find books written in the recent past with clean language, themes, and choices.¬†Jane Eyre¬†was a breath of fresh air in that regard. Jane had to make terrible decisions, but she was strong and chose well. Emotion did not dictate the choices in her life – sound judgement and convictions did.

Though quite long,¬†Jane Eyre¬†was worth the read. I kept coming back to find out what would happen to the heroine and how she would respond throughout the weeks it took me to finish the book. Jane has left an impression on me, and, I have to say, I’m sorry the story’s over.

Kira

Are there any books you’ve been meaning to read for far too long?

From the Archives: Book Review: Crazy Love

I only read¬†Crazy Love a few months ago, but I’m already looking forward to reading it again someday.

Originally published: 5/23/17


There’s nothing quite like a book that makes you take a good hard look at yourself.¬†Crazy Love¬†is one of those books.

I mentioned¬†Crazy Love¬†a few weeks ago in a different¬†post¬†before I had finished reading it. Now that I’m done, I had to review it because I absolutely loved it.

Francis Chan’s¬†Crazy Love¬†is about how incredibly out of this world God’s love for us is. It comes through in His every action – from salvation to the creation of caterpillars. Our sin left us with no claim to His love, but He poured it over us anyway. By the bucket full. When we stop and actually try to fathom for a moment the depth of this love, we are left with no other reaction than to pour out our lives in service to Christ.

We have no reason to fear death, no reason to conform to this world, no reason to worry or stress or be caught up with ourselves. This life is about God, even though we’re the ones living it. Chan makes that incredibly clear in his book.

Crazy Love is not overly eloquent or complicated. While I usually enjoy finer language in a book, Chan made his point simple and I appreciate that in this case. Rather than detracting from the book, the simplicity of the writing allowed me to focus on the message and how it applies to me.

It took me awhile to reach the point spiritually where I can see the benefit of conviction when I first feel it, rather than wanting to run in the other direction, toward complacency. It has led to a deeper appreciation of books like¬†Crazy Love¬†and how God uses them in my life.¬†Francis Chan is not shy about saying that the church as a whole is not following God completely. But he doesn’t just leave it there. In “A Conversation With Francis Chan” at the end of the book, Chan stresses that he’s not attacking the church. Rather, he loves the church and wants to urge her to follow Christ’s calling.

“I’m not coming up with anything new. I’m calling people to go back to the way it was. I’m not bashing the church. I’m loving it.” (Crazy Love, pg 180)

Over all, Crazy Love was a convicting and, more importantly, encouraging read. It has led me to examine my own life and walk with God and to spend more time focusing on Him.

Kira

You can find Francis Chan on his blog: crazylove.org

And his Crazy Love website: crazylovebook.com

Have you read any convicting/encouraging books lately? Any that you can’t wait to read again?

From the Archives: On Death

This post was the result of reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations and¬†Francis Chan’s¬†Crazy Love at the same time. It got me thinking about death and, more importantly, life.

Originally published: 5/5/17


So I’ve been reading a lot about death the last couple days. Not intentionally. It’s just happened to come up in a couple books I’m working through this week.

This has resulted in my thinking about death. And the time before death. And how that time should be spent. You know, now that I think about it, this reminds me of one of my semi-recent posts: Borrowed Time.

Anyway, back to today. Let me start by giving you a sampling of what I’ve been reading and then tell you what’s running through my very scattered brain.

The first book is¬†Meditations¬†by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. No, I didn’t just pick it up because the cover looks cool – it’s for school. To be honest though, I don’t totally dread reading it. Aurelius isn’t all that boring.

Meditations¬†is a book of personal thoughts, resolutions, and observations of the world from the worldview of a Stoic philosopher/emperor shortly after the time of Jesus. Aurelius’ goal was to live a virtuous and moral life. Here are his thoughts on death:

Death: something like birth, a natural mystery, elements that split and recombine.

Not an embarrassing thing. Not an offense to reason, or our nature. (Meditations, Book 4)

People who are excited by posthumous fame forget that the people who remember them will soon die too. And those after them in turn. Until their memory, passed from one to another like a candle flame, gutters and goes out.

But suppose that those who remembered you were immortal and your memory undying. What good would it do you? And I don’t just mean when you’re dead, but in your own lifetime. What use is praise, except to make your lifestyle a little more comfortable?¬†(Meditations, Book 4)

Those two excerpts basically cover Aurelius’ views on death as told in his¬†Meditations. According to him, death is not something to be feared and there is absolutely no use in trying to get people to remember you and your fame.

The second book I’ve been reading this week that brought up the subject of death when I least expected it is¬†Crazy Love¬†by Francis Chan. I’m not very far into it yet, but his perspective on death and “posthumous fame” still gave me pause.

In about fifty years (give or take a couple of decades), no one will remember you. Everyone you know will be dead. Certainly no one will care what job you had, what car you drove, what school you attended, or what clothes you wore. This can be terrifying or reassuring, or maybe a mix of both. (Crazy Love, ch 2)

That’s pretty straightforward. The chapter containing these sentences is about how everything and every time is about God – including the miniscule piece of eternity that our lives occupy.

Reading these books at the same time has left me thinking a lot about death, as I mentioned before. But it hasn’t been depressing. In fact, the result of all my meditation on death has been that I’ve been thinking about life a lot. Particularly my life. It may be an easy question, but who is my life supposed to glorify?

Now, Aurelius was not a Christian. In fact, even though his book is full of virtues and morals, he heavily persecuted the Christians. It was a crime not to worship Caesar and guess who the Christians didn’t worship? His answer is that your life isn’t really meant to glorify anyone. You go about your business, try to do the right things, and eventually die.

Francis Chan on the other hand is a pastor. He is so passionate about his faith. So his answer is that our lives are supposed to glorify God – even though they are incredibly short in light of eternity. He uses the illustration of all of us being extras in a movie about God to make his point.

We have only our two-fifths-of-a-second-long scene to live. I don’t know about you, but I want my two-fifths of a second to be about my making much of God. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” That is what each of our two-fifths of a second is about.¬†(Crazy Love, ch 2)

Question: Who is my life supposed to glorify?

Answer: God.

Harder Question: Who does my life glorify?

Harder Answer: Usually me.

It’s not natural to instantly give God the glory or to act in every little thing in a way that honors Him. But that’s what we’ve got to strive to do. God is too great and wonderful for us to make this about us! Even Aurelius realized that fame and glory don’t actually do us any good. So if they’re not going to help us out anyway, we may as well make our lives about God, right?

But that’s not how it’s supposed to work either. We don’t just glorify God because our glory won’t last. Our lives should be lived as a response to everything He’s done for us. For me, that includes salvation, putting me in the beautiful mountains of Virginia, piecing together my family so that I understand His picture of adoption, letting me be homeschooled, and tons and tons of other stuff. What does it mean for you?

When I think about all the stuff God has given me in my life that I don’t deserve, it makes me¬†want¬†to live for Him. Yes, I still mess up. All. The. Time. But His grace means I can try again. I don’t have to stay down.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from Francis Chan, because he said it well.

The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift. (Crazy Love, ch 2)

Kira

What do you think about death? Is it something that you avoid thinking about or examine in light of eternity?