Coffee or Tea as Literary Device

One of the devices I see used over and over again in novels is the cup of coffee/pot of tea. Characters need to have a chat? Let them do it over a cup of tea. Something terrible happen? Coffee or tea is so comforting. Character need a jolt? A hot cup of joe will do the trick. Someone need something to distract them? Send them to make a pot of coffee. I wonder how much this reflects author’s own habits–do tea drinkers write characters who drink coffee? My characters hardly ever drink coffee. Ella drinks plenty of tea, as do I. Tea is my go to literary device because it’s my go to beverage in real life. I start off my work day with a cup of tea. I have a cup mid-afternoon and I almost always have one before bed. I used to drink strong, black tea with plenty of sugar. But then I had some heart issues so I gave up caffeine and then I calculated just how much sugar I was consuming and gave that up too. So it’s not the stimulants I’m after. One of the kids at work asked me why I drink so much tea. (Don’t you love how kids can just get to the heart of a thing without even trying?) I had to think about it. Honestly, it’s kind of a marker for my day. Morning, afternoon, bedtime. The routine of boiling the […]

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Trust Your Instincts

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie  or tried a new restaurant that friends raved about and said you would just love? And you just didn’t? I attended a poetry lecture a while back. It was by a writer I like and he was using poems by one of my all time favorite poets to illustrate the points he was making. A formula for awesomeness–right? Ack. Gag. Phew. I finally decided that the lecturer was secretly mocking his audience, feeding them outrageous junk just to see if they would swallow it. They did. But guess what? If you don’t like something that lots of other people do, that’s okay. I thought The English Patient was a terrible movie. I simply could not finish The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I’m not saying they were bad. I’m saying they weren’t to my taste. I don’t like bananas, either. And if you don’t like apples, I promise I won’t try and convince you to eat them. POETRY LECTURE Listening to the precise dissection of poems, disassembled so that we can withdraw so much more than is really here, enough to feed this throng not content with mere loaves and fishes, I look out a window and see a pine snapped by the weight of winter snow.

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Book Snobs

I’m ashamed to admit that I can be a book snob. When people ask me what I’m reading, I want to be able to throw out something impressive. “Oh, I’m finally making me way clear through Joyce’s Ulysses. I’ve been meaning to get to it for such a long time.” In 1999 I found a list of the top 100 books of the past century (who’s qualified to make that list?!?) and I carried it around for a long time with the books I’d read highlighted. My goal was to read them all. I never did finish. I have a degree in English, I’m supposed to read literature. And as a Christian writer, I’m supposed to read in my genre–contemporary Christian fiction. No tawdry romance, no Stephen King and certainly not someone so mainstream as, say, John Grisham. But mom sent me his latest, The Confession. So, what the heck, I started reading it. There is a reason Grisham has written around two dozen books that have pretty much ALL been best-sellers. There’s a reason several of his books have been made into movies. There’s a reason his books are wildly popular around the world selling in the vicinity of 250 million copies. Strong characters, masterful plotting, pacing that keeps the reader engaged and stories that entertain while offering up some nuggets of truth. I don’t know that Grisham has ever won a literary award. In 2007 he won a British lifetime […]

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Who are your literary heroes?

Whether you’re a reader, a writer or both, there are bound to be authors who inspire you–writers you can always turn to knowing you’re going to get a good read. Here are some of my favorites: Francine Rivers – This woman has such range! There are epic series like “The Mark of the Lion,” sweet contemporary stories like “Leota’s Garden,” and Biblical retellings like “Unveiled.” I love that I can read such variety knowing it’s all going to be good. www.FrancineRivers.com Jan Karon – I always find Jan Karon’s books to be so comforting. She writes lovely stories with good messages that are like easing into a hot bubble bath at the end of a long day. Ahhhhh. www.mitfordbooks.com C.S. Lewis – Oh how I wish I could have met this man. I think he’s the single, greatest Christian thinker I’ve ever had the privilege to read. From “Mere Christianity” to the Narnia series to his foray into science fiction with his Space Trilogy the man was a genius blessed with an immeasurable talent. Jane Austen – I’ve read her novels again and again and find them forever witty, sharp and delicious. And I have no illusions of ever writing anything even remotely like “Pride & Prejudice,” so I can just savor her books without wondering if I could write that well. I can’t. (And if I could it probably wouldn’t sell in today’s market.) Q4U- Who are your favorite authors? Why do you love their work?

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Christians can be literary, too

Once upon a time I didn’t ready ANY Christian fiction. I thought it was lame and preachy and boring. I have a degree in English–why would I waste precious reading time on something so–well–uneducated? Ha! I’m currently reading “How Do I Love Thee?” by Nancy Moser. It’s a Christian novel about poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning falling in love. Elizabeth was a recluse for much of her life so a great deal of the book follows her inner life, thoughts and dreams from the setting of her room. And it’s wonderful! I wouldn’t recommend it if you like nonstop action, but if you enjoy a well-crafted, thoughtful story, jump right in. And yes, it’s literary in style and concept. There are references to all the literary stars of the day–Longfellow, Dickens and so many more. Tailor made for the Christian, poet, English major. Enjoy!

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A Good Birthday!

I enjoyed a delightfully book-filled birthday. I got the latest Jan Karon book, two by Francine Rivers, the full Chronicles of Narnia (which I’ve read, but didn’t own) and a Guide to the Biblical Truths in Narnia. Jackpot! There were other, lovely gifts, but it’s always nice to see the library swelled by a few volumes. Now I have to remember to moderate my reading with some actual writing!

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Changing the story

I recently read “Off Season” by Anne Rivers Siddons whom I typically enjoy a great deal. As usual, this book kept me turning pages (although the start was a little slow). But I didn’t much like the ending. Not because of how things turned out for the characters, but because I felt like the author pretty much switched genres there at the end. It had been what would probably be called chick lit up until the last several chapters when it became a supernatural thriller. What? Not a bad ending, not poorly written, just a jarring juxtaposition. It’s still a good book, just not as good as I expected. Q4U: What do you think? Is switching the story up unfair to the reader? Or does it make for an exciting twist?

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