Sorting, Part 1

I’ve been pretty quiet online, but off-the-blog I’ve been up to stuff. We’ve been needing a spring cleaning for, like, 20 years, and over the last couple we’ve steadily been at it. Clearing stuff out turned into a ritual of sorting the good and bad stuff going back a whole lifetime. What wasn’t carted off or thrown away was redistributed within the family. And while I did that, I began to get rid of all my old story ideas and spin out a new one. An idea that won’t go away.

It’s funny what we dug up, threw away, polished up, or put on display. Many things I’d thought I treasured were sent to Goodwill or the book sale without a second thought. Old boxes of memories from my childhood were thrown open and sorted—much now seemed meaningless and was discarded. There were too many pictures on the walls and they were in the wrong rooms. We rearranged. I realized I’d been using for about ten years a crystal jewelry box shaped like a heart and I’d forgotten where it came from. Why was it in my life? (Turns out it was a gift from a wealthy schoolteacher who knew my mother. She gave it to me when I was 7 and our house was a disaster zone, so it’s a miracle it didn’t get broken.) We must have gotten rid of so many things . . . when I go in my room it looks weirdly empty.

I was completely shocked when I found a frenemy from middle school had actually been a meaningful relationship. I had nothing from the other girls, but several small gifts from her that I now keep safe. What a surprise. And that unknown, rather young uncle on the side. His gifts lurked around the house and we kept finding them. They’re STILL HERE. Turns out he was way more of a factor in our lives than we’d thought. Entertainment underwent a revolution. So much less Jane Austen. So much less Narnia. Sacrilege! Narnia was such a staple in our lives we got duplicates of everything when our parents moved. We couldn’t be trimming down the NARNIA. But we were—except for Prince Caspian. Which is really odd, because I’ve always disliked it. And yes, some of those souvenirs from the European trip 6 years ago are staying because, though flawed, it was an important event. I was surprised by the ones I kept, though.

And while I thought about measuring for a china cabinet (LONG story on that china thing, for another post), a girl with blonde hair, done in spiky tails on both side of her head, and icy green eyes, kept appearing in my mind. A girl who’s good with a rifle and a tomboy about fixing cars, but who has never known her mother. Or anything about her father. But she does have a silly, talkative friend she’s known since they were nine. When this friend takes Blonde-Hair Rifle-Girl to her great-great-great aunt’s diamond jubilee, they run into a cousin who looks like a lady in a 19th century painting. A specific 19th century painting. And then Blonde-Hair has enough adventure to satisfy even a girl who dreams of winning the Daytona 500.

I’ll be back.

 

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Winning the Battle for the Night

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Winning the Battle for the Night by Faith Blatchford.

This was an interesting book from Chosen publishers, about the importance of sleep and dreams in our lives. I liked it, but I didn’t love it because the main gist seemed to be that the purpose of sleep is to give you spiritual/prophetic dreams from God. I didn’t exactly have a problem with this, as I know many people have such dreams, and at times in my life I’ve had dreams I felt were important, but it wasn’t a topic I’m really, really interested in. The book is really well-written and organized, with thoughtful tips about how to remove distractions to sleep, like turning off your phone; the physical value of sleep on the body’s organism; fear of the dark in children and adults; and dealing with our children’s dreams or nightmares. There was also a list of Biblical persons with important dreams, and even more modern ones, such as Abraham Lincoln dreaming of his assassination or a woman dreaming about 9/11 before it occurred. These little factoids made the book worth picking up, but there was so much emphasis on the prophetic dreams aspect of the Bible that if you don’t plan on having any (or are one of those people who don’t get them very often) you’ll find this book just fair overall.

Perception Release Interview: Emily Ann Benedict

The Vintage Jane Austen is nearing its conclusion with my friend Emily’s Persuasion retelling. Like most people, I’ve been anticipating this book for a long time. I was fortunate to read a pre-release copy and can safely say you’re going to love Perception.

 

Perception is now available on Kindle (print to follow later) and I thought you’d like to meet author Emily Ann Benedict a little bit more. So welcome to the interview.

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How did you get involved in the Vintage Jane Austen Project?
My longtime friend and fellow author, Sarah Scheele, invited me to join the group. She knew what I fan I am of Jane Austen. This project was actually a chance to try a lot of new things; collaborative writing, historical fiction, traditional styled fan fiction. It didn’t take me long to decide this was a good opportunity to stretch my current limits.

How big of a Jane Austen fan are you?
I’m a pretty big Austen fan. I was introduced to her books through the 1995 mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice when I was 12 old and started reading her novels at 14. Her ideas and values were formative for me during my high-school years. I longed to be as witty as Elizabeth Bennett and as kind and selfless as Fanny Price. I’ve developed a love of Jane fan fiction as well. Six books just aren’t enough! Pamela Aidan’s Fitzwilliam Darcy: Gentleman Series in particular has been very influential on my writing.

Is there a reason you choose Persuasion to translate into the 1930s?
By the time I joined the project the only unclaimed titles were Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. I choose Persuasion for two reasons. One, I’ve read several fan fiction versions of Pride and Prejudice, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to lend too much creativity to the it. Two, I feel like there is something unique about Persuasion in the lineup of Austen novels. It was the last book Austen completed and I think you can really see the maturity she had developed through it, especially in her choice of an older heroine who is a little worn by life. If I had originally been able to pick any of them, I probably would have chosen Mansfield Park, because it is my favorite of all of the novels. But in hindsight, I’m glad I ended up with Persuasion.

How well do you think Persuasion translates to the Great Depression?
Persuasion is a perfect fit for the 1930s! Two central themes of the original novel are the return of the army/navy after the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the loss of wealth and status by a once prominent family. In 1930, many families lost everything to the stock market crash and WWI veterans were a major part of the changing society. The Elliots and the Wentworths fit nicely into this new decade.

What kind of research did you do to prepare yourself?
I’ve always been a fan of books and movies from this time area, so I already had a good atmospheric background when I started out. I find the best form of research for me is reading books published during the actual time frame I want to learn about. Perception is heavily influenced by the Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacotts, novel Giant’s Bread. Published in 1930, this fictional autobiography of a musician gave me a good sense of what the culture was like both at that moment and during the childhood/young adulthood of someone who lived to see 1930.

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Did you stick pretty closely to the source material, or did you find ways to deviate and/or add new scenes?
Structure wise, I did stick closely to the original novel. I felt like this project called for a little more truer adaptation. However, I did expand the novel by making some things only mentioned in passing in the original into full scenes in the book and I also deviated a bit with the way I transformed Ann (now Abbey) from the beginning to the end of the book. There were still many restrictions on women in 1930, but not nearly as many as there were in 1817, so I was able to free her character, and few others, up a bit. And I decided to make a bit of a change to the famous “fall” Louisa (now Lilly) takes.

What did you find most challenging about this project?
The parameters of the original book, which I was committed to sticking to, were my greatest challenge. I constantly worried over ways to make the book both true the original and yet new and creative. Hopefully I found that balance, but it was tough.

What other books do you have on the market?
I have four other books on the market, none of which are anything like Perception, which is my first historical. Previously, I have mostly written suspense/humor, usually with a bit of a supernatural twist. I have two suspense titles, Only Angels Are Bulletproof and The Moment Max Forgot Me (free if you sign up for my newsletter), and a two book Christmas collection called The Father Christmas Series.

Thank you for joining me today. Please check out Perception – A novel of Persuasion on Kindle. (Hard copies coming soon.) And don’t forgot the other great books in The Vintage Jane Austen Series!

http://www.emilyannbenedict.net

Thank you for visiting my blog, Emily! And you’re right. There’s a website for the project. To learn more about Perception and about the upcoming Pride and Prejudice retelling, visit http://www.vintagejaneausten.com

Words of Grace

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This is a great devotional coloring book. It’s small and lightweight so it can even be used for doodling while traveling, and the pictures are beautiful.

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It can be completed in 28 days, the pictures paired with a daily devotional passage, but I’ve been more leisurely, working on it for about 2 months. It’s a delight to color. Very restful.

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I go through several coloring books a year now (really gotten on board with the trend) and among the religious ones this one has really impressed me. I got it free, but I would also have paid for it.

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Rogue One

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I was stunned at how bad this movie was. I’d thought it might be a little weak because it’s fanfiction, but–wow. It had nothing whatsoever to do with Star Wars except for the two scenes with Vader, which were SO MUCH better I was literally swooning over a 45-year old deformed psycho in a suit like a stove. But he was real Star Wars. The new characters were flat as cardboard and you could almost smell the complacent insincerity out of whoever came up with this. Cassian was the best new character, as he was only a bit stale and an action hero in the style of Keanu Reeves, but he wasn’t enough to carry it. The Scarif battle had some moments that almost felt better, but it didn’t save the movie. On its own it was a pretty good recent sci-fi action movie. I would have enjoyed it much more if it hadn’t tried to blend with–and rip off–A New Hope.

4 Star Reviews

4-star reviews are usually lumped with 5-star reviews as “positive.” But they are really tricky because they’re usually negative reviews in disguise. I skim over 4-star reviews as not helpful at all. (Which probably makes it awkward that I’ve published a lot of them myself, including one most recently for Brave. :P)

I always wonder: Why wasn’t it a 5-star? What’s making you hold back? 85% of the time it’s because the person giving the 4-star review actually dislikes the book or movie, but won’t admit it. Either they’re feeling social pressure from others not to be too blunt or they don’t want to admit their feelings to themselves. The other 15% the opposite is true. The person loves the book or movie and also, even more curiously, doesn’t quite want to admit it.

4-star reviews tend to be inarticulate and vague. I post them sometimes if I really can’t think of another way to say what I think. But they are the insincere reviews and we all know there’s nothing more useless than that. 4-star reviews are also a vital part of the eco-system–probably because this exact insincerity is something we’ve all had, or been expected to have, from time to time. It’s hard to imagine the world without it.