Month: February 2017

Emmeline: Matchmaking, The Great Depression and General Motors

Today I am reviewing Emmeline by Sarah Holman. It’s the first book in the Vintage Jane Austin Collection. Now I’m not really into Jane Austen very much. I’ve been slowly making my way through her books on audio and I’ve still got Persuasion to go. But Emma is my favourite and I like retellings.

Emmeline did not disappoint. Sarah Holman’s style is different to Austen’s of course, but she’s kept the spirit of the story while changing it to another time. I found it a little more relate-able, 1930 is much more like 2017 than 1815 is.

I love the characters she has given us. Emmeline Wellington is very much Emma Woodhouse, yet she’s slightly different too. There an extra little bit of kindness or teasing; I can’t quite pin it down. Mr Knightly has become Frederick Knight. He is (as is suitable to the time period) only a few years older than Emmeline and has some boyish habits. The relationship between them is a little. He’s the best friend since childhood, not the good neighbour who takes the part of a much older brother from time to time. In short they’re closer.

There’s a few things that have always bothered me about Jane Austen;s books. Her opinion of clergymen is one. Yes, there is Mr. Tilney tilting the scale back, but I don’t like her tendency to make them self-serving, social climbers. We don’t have that here. Instead of Mr. Elton, there is a fashionable young man who’s a little bit too modern and doesn’t respect traditions.. (He wants to have a dance, Shock! Horror!) His wife is suitably insufferable.

The other things that bother me are the lack of real Christianity1 and the non-productive upper-class living. Both of those have been changed. Emmeline is undoubtedly, though not overly strongly Christian in it’s feel and society. And Emmeline has a job in her father’s business. Rather like mine actually. Her father own a General Motors showroom and the Depression plays a large role in the story.

I loved the other themes that came up in it and the little changes and the big twist at the end. Yes, there’s a big twist at the end. A secondary plot of sorts. And there’s delightful ending, much humour and much fun. I’m looking forward to reading more books in this collection someday, even though they’re not by Sarah Holman.

(Just a quick comment to add that I am not denying that Jane Austen was a brilliant writer who made great use of theme.)

1. A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country Contrasted with Real Christianity by William Wilberforce was written during this time.

5 Factors in Understanding my Characters

I had something completely different planned for my post today, but something went wrong with Blogger and I’ve only got an old version of it. So I’ve had to come up with something new. I’ve been thinking a lot about character motivations and desires lately. It’s one of the most important parts of a good story.

I have found I always need something in common with my characters to be able to write them effectively. I also need something that I don’t agree with to make them interesting. Not that I’m a boring person, but fictional characters need several strong traits instead of dozens of minor ones. And I’m a product of my world, a world my characters don’t inhabit.

With that said here are the essential things I need to relate to my characters.

Ambition. This can be a desire to help people, a theory they want to prove, even something self-centred such as raising their status or taking something they feel is theirs. The nature of the ambition doesn’t entirely affect whether I like the person, but a ‘good’ character must have a strong ambition for something right.

Fears. My characters fears are probably the biggest part of myself I put into them. Fear or being alone, fear of never doing anything useful, fear of public speaking. Well that last one is actually a fear that many of my characters shouldn’t have. I have trouble making my main characters articulate and good with confrontation. I don’t make them fear it though. Maybe I should. Helping them overcome it might prove as useful to me as writing about the other fears is.

Loves. Not all my characters love the things I do. But they must have a passion for something. For Aydel it’s her medicine box and her knives; Joane has her running; Natalia, philanthropy and art; Rhesa and her orphans, Leisa and her cooking and sewing. Well those last two especially are more everyday life for Leisa than passions and they certainly are one I have.

Stupidity. Not the best term for it but all my characters seem to have one thing they cling to stubbornly which probably isn’t true. Some I laughed at other almost make me cry. Either way I can’t stand characters which are wishy-washy on everything or characters who are right about everything. Not that they could be right about everything. I’m not.

Justification. This is especially important for villains. I may completely disagree with everything they do, but I have to understand why they’re doing it. Maybe not fully because some people have a very twisted view of reality, but I usually can get my head around it somewhat eventually. It’s the same with my protagonists. She might do something foolish, but it can’t be blatantly so.

Now since It’s already one o’clock here, I think I should just post this whether there are more factors or not. I hope you enjoyed this little look inside my mind.

Beautiful People: Celino and Cloe

So it’s Link-up time of month again. And time to get back into character questions. In other words, it’s Beautiful People time. And because of a 3rd (or 1st) century bishop (or priest) who may (or may not) have had something to do with marrying people against the emperor’s orders, the theme for February is couples.

Now I have several couples in Lady of Courage. But I can’t talk about Natalia because that’s too complicated, and I’d rather not talk about her friend Eloisa who made a political marriage, so I’m going to talk about Natalia’s parents. Or rather her mother and her step-father. But they’re still both her parents and theirs is a lovely story, if I do say so myself.

Celino Acqui

Now I had better introduce them both properly.

Celino Acqui is a merchant and a veteran of the Third Yallici war. 
Cloe Neroni was raised to occupy a high position and was an assistant to the late Deso of Vecoa and the mother of his heir.
Besides Natalia they have Alexso who is fifteen and Sofia and Teresa who are twelve.

How and why did they meet?

Cloe: Supposedly it was the second time I met Sebastian (my first husband). I was sixteen at the time and very nervous, though excited about the possibility of an engagement. I do however remember him being with Sebastian when he visited me in between then and our wedding.
Celino: I distinctly remember being dancing with her once on the first occasion. Sebastian asked me to help entertain her, then made me promise not to step on her feet.

What were their first impressions of each other?
Celino: I thought that she would be good for Sebastian and make a wonderful Desa for Vecoa when the time came. And I’ll admit I thought she was rather young.

Cloe: When I did properly meet him I was impressed by his devotion to Sebastian. And possibly a little too admiring of his swagger and skill with the sword. He wasn’t so steady and cautious back before the war.If he had been I might have attempted to set him up with one of my friends and then where would we be. 

How would they prove their love for each other?

Celino: Well she listens to me and confides in me.
Cloe: I would have to say the same.

Cloe Neroni

What would be an ideal date?

Cloe: A date for what? The only big occasions to plan are all Natalia’s and I doubt are what you’re asking about. But late spring is preferable.
Is there something they emphatically disagree on?

Cloe: Celino still thinks I wouldn’t have married him if Sebastian hadn’t left a clear letter asking me to let Celino take care of me if he was killed. But though the letter may have played a part, especially in him offering, I couldn’t help but be won around to him.
Celino: And I disagree with that statement. She convinced me of her story years ago. I don’t understand why, but I believe it.

List 5 quirks they know about each other. 


Cloe: Celino doesn’t like going into the city without his big admiral’s hat. Even as a merchant he’s still got that sea blood. Sometimes I think if it weren’t for his commitments he’d been raging off over the sea.
Celino: But you know the war ruined me for seafaring. I’d go if there was a war, but that will be a terrible day.
Cloe: He also hates politics and is very fond of the tapping noise his wooden leg makes. Now what do you have to say about me, dear?
Celino: I have no such awkward things say about you. There’s only your odd preference for Rosan partridge over our native pike.
Cloe: I grew up in Rosa. It’s natural I’m partial to their food.
Celino: But you spent an equal time on the isle of Fazoe.You didn’t have partridges there. And that was where they taught you to cook.
Cloe: And that my dear, is why I have never eaten a badly cooked partridge.

What’s one thing they know about each other that no one else does? (and now you will)
Celino: Cloe almost joined a religious order when she was fifteen and again straight after the war.
Cloe: I’m sure at least one other person knows that. The same with the dreadful secret I have. When he was twenty Celino helped captured an Ayutian ship and almost married a girl on it.
Celino: *raises eyebrows* Did Sebastian tell you that story? And it wasn’t nearly so close as that. Her mother told me to behave or I had better marry her, but there was never anything for her to worry about.

What’s one thing that they keep secret from each other?
I was unable to ask this question so I just went digging around in what I already knew. I don’t think Cloe tells Celino all of her hopes for Natalia and he has never shared a particular secret that Natalia confided in him.
How would their lives be different without each other?
Cloe: I’d be a lonely widow meddling too much in the life of her only child and Celino would be another mad sea captain. And no, that’s not debatable.
Where do they each see this relationship going?
Cloe: Well we’ve been married seventeen years. Let’s see if we can make it to 70.
Celino: I think you mistake your math. I won’t live to be one hundred years old.


I hope you enjoyed that. I haven’t developed them as well as I’d like yet, but I got a bit of banter going.

Yes, I Want to Change the World

There, I said I’d have another post this week. I’m hoping it’ll be a little different to most of the blog posts I’ve seen these last couple of days. January is in every second title. If I was doing that it would be late anyway. It’s February in Australia. Shortest month in the year. So I had better get onto it.

I’m much better at dreaming about the future than keeping records of the past. But mostly just dreaming, no planning. And I’ve been learning that to lead people anywhere you need to know where specifically that is and be able to look back to where you came from. I’m not sure I’m a leader, but as I said in the title, I do want to change the world.

Actually, I’ll rephrase that. I want the world to be changed. I want it to become more conformed to God and I want to be a tool for him to use. Specifically I want to touch people’s hearts and help them to the see the truth. I want to do this through my writing, and with everything else I’m called to.

Maybe it’s not a good idea to state outright what I’m trying to do. People might catch on and avoid my writing, but it helps me to write about it. Besides, one author might change the direction of a few people’s lives, but not the whole culture. There needs to be many of us. I want to be working alongside others. Alongside you. Writer or not, God can use you to make a difference.

How do we do this? What am I specifically doing? I don’t know. The course I did last week strengthened the call I felt to do something. It brought forward some of the issues in our culture that ust be grappled with. I gained a clearer way of thinking about some issues, a completely new understanding of others, and many ideas to incorporate into the worlds of my stories. It gave me a direction for learning more, told me who God was and who I was. But it didn’t tell me what to do or even what to think.

About 1% of my handwritten notes from last week.

At the simplest level, I must be faithful to whatever God has placed in front of me, I must be willing to take opportunities he offers, and most of all I must trust in him and keep close to his teachings whatever I do. After that there are the ideas I have been given for stories, the imagination I have been given, the unique circumstances that give me my particular view of the world (as opposed to all the other unique views). I must use those gifts and I must do it to the best of my ability. Our God is not a God of mediocrity. He does everything perfectly.

I do have a basic plan for what I wish to do with my writing though. I am attempting to shed the light of the gospel on certain circumstances, to provide examples of both good and bad actions, to use the grandeur of a made up story to bring clarity to the simple, but difficult issues of life. I want to reflect the way God made this world to work, and to show the goodness of what God has revealed to us.

I am also trying to show the glory of God in his creation, to evoke a beauty we can forget to notice in the world. The life of a forest over the brilliant depths of a gorge, The sweetness of birds singing by a trickling brook, and the devotion of a mother to a child. I can picture them now, a dark haired  woman looking down on a child in her arms. There is a slight expression of weariness in her face, but such a glowing look of joy as well. The baby sleeps, its little face scrunched up in peace and happiness.

I will also have to show the flip side of that. The horrors of destruction, the anguish of the death of one beloved, the remorse of a wrongly made choice. I cannot show the glories of perfection without contrasting the utter darkness we fallen humans can create. I won’t focus on it, I might not even get a close look, but I cannot try to lessen it, or shut it out. I must be honest.

And that is my plan for changing lives through my writing. It’s probably not the same as yours. You might never write for the public. You might think my ideas are crazy. But please, whatever your thoughts are, always be ready for God to use you. Learn new skills, try to do everything with excellence, be aware of what is going on in the world, most of all keep close to God. And maybe we’ll be changing the world together.

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