My Books

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Snow Light

It snowed today. I have never seen it snow like this where I live in New Mexico. As I sit here watching the snow fall and seeing everything, even the sky, turn white, I’ve noticed something. The light is different. It isn’t really a dim day, but is brightness is different. It is reflected off of the snow, and bounced into things in a different pattern then the typical sunny day. I’m noticing the spangles on my hat. For the first time in ages I noticed my ceiling fan, and saw it is full of disgusting dust. Even the color of my walls is a shade different today. A whole new room seems to appear in this snow-light.

Have you ever had frosty times in your soul? When the whole world seems cold, optimism is gone, and all dreams and progress are hushed and still. Sometimes it’s just a little longing that makes you seek out a friend; and suddenly everything seems warm again after that first hello. Other times it seems every dream has entirely failed and faith is necessary to even get out of the bed in the morning. These are the snowy days inside. And it is in these moments Psalm 46:10 seems to ring truer than ever before; “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Everything is quiet outside. The snow is a muffler, a silencer to all the city’s banging busy bustle. I live on a cul-de-sac, where things are usually fairly quiet. But not like this. The dogs are inside, or huddled in their blankets, the children are not out throwing footballs, and I can count the number of cars that have driven by on one finger. It is hushed. And wet. And cold. And very, very white. And the sunlight hits the still white, and bounces off into a thousand different patterns then its usual method.

The light changes on the snowy days. You notice the disgusting dust on the ceiling fan. You notice how frail and selfish the dreams are in your heart. The spangles on the hats are suddenly brighter, reflecting the sun in different ways. God’s unchanging love hits you in a different pattern on the snowy days, reflecting the Son’s light in ways you may never have noticed before, and setting off the unchanging beauty, stability, and inherent worth of serving this God.

Look at the light today, watch it change. Enjoy its beauty. Let it swirl through the snowy places and bring hope and new purpose. And don’t forget to clean your ceiling fans.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


‘A well-made cloak is a thing of beauty, the best of friends, the essence of comfort and coziness.’ –Claston Yop

If you don’t own a cloak you need one. They are useful for so many things, and a great comfort to wear, especially once you get to know yours. The above quote is one of many from Dreaded King as cloaks feature fairly prominently in the stories. Which made me think that perhaps you would like to know how to make your own. Here is a step by step account of a recent cloak making project of mine, with a few scattered quotes from Dreaded King to make it more interesting. If you don’t care to make a cloak, breeze through the quotes anyway, and leave a comment telling me your favorite. These are directions for a reversible cloak; you basically make two cloaks and then sew them together, versus sewing one and hemming it all about. If you would rather not make it reversible, simply edit the directions in your head accordingly.

“I stood up softly to draw my cloak on. It was growing old, but I would not willingly change to a new one. This gray rag had been faithful for ten years. I knew its weaknesses and strengths, and no one had ever found the pocket in its hem.”

Step 1. Find material and notions. You can of course go and buy material from a craft store. Wal-Mart sometimes has excellent deals on fabric but their selection is not the best, while Hobby Lobby has an excellent selection and their coupons make buying their fabric a great deal cheaper. (Price ought to be taken into account as you will need a good deal of fabric, about ten yards if doing a single sided cloak, more like twenty if following the directions for a reversible one.) My favorite method for this step is to visit a thrift store and buy two different full to king sized sheets. You can mix and match colors and textures this way, and the price is right. But be sure to visit either Hobby Lobby or Joann’s Fabrics for a good cloak clasp and thread to match your fabric.

“It had taken some scrimping in the food budget, but I had managed to obtain some lovely crimson and black fabric. A reversible cloak would do very nicely, red for special occasions and when he was feeling well, black for everyday use and going unnoticed in the dark.”

Step 2. Cut out your pieces. This can be difficult if you own corgis. But stick to it. Double your fabric and cut out one back piece on the fold. Then lay out your pattern for a side on the doubled fabric, and cut one. Low and behold, you will have both sides to your cloak cut out and ready. Choose your hood pattern and cut it out still on the doubled fabric. From the scattered material left, cut out pockets in the desired sizes. Be careful as you cut, this is the main step for sizing your cloak. I have left all measurements rather vague as everyone is a different size. You want the cloak to be as long as you are tall, from shoulder to foot. Measure your shoulders, and cut the shoulders of the back (the top of the piece) out to that measurement, leaving about two inches extra for sewing it together and enough room that you are not choked. Then make the shoulders of the sides and the hood’s neck to match the shoulders of the back piece you already cut out. You want it to fit, obviously, so take your time. And remember you can always trim it down, so go for too large versus too small. Here is a picture of the basic shapes you are after. 

“The cloak made him look ridiculously small and skinny, but I was glad Charlie had it with the way the cold was beginning to grow more bitter.”

Step 3. Sew a side to the back, right sides together, matching the shoulders. Begin to sew about two inches from where the hump forms the shoulder and then tumbles down to make the elegant sweeping-ness of a good cloak, leaving enough room for your neck to fit comfortably.

“I leapt to my feet and yelled to get the murderous Plammit’s attention, running forward with the cloak wrapped round one arm. Plammit spun around, his warty face suffused with fury and his hand coming up with the iron bar. I yelped and flung my cloak over his face, diving under one of the benches.”

Step 4. Cloak Pocket. I am assuming you want a pocket. Everyone should want pockets in their cloak, this is intuitive really. Moving on. Sew your pocket together on three sides, leaving the opening open of course. [A note on sizing pockets; I always strive to make certain the pocket will fit at least a paperback book, or perhaps my Kindle fire. Design your pocket for what you want it to carry, before you cut it out.] Take the remaining cloak side and begin to sew it to the back, like you did the first one. But stop halfway down, where you can comfortable reach in with your hand while wearing your cloak. Turn your pocket right side out. Place your pocket right sides together in the seam you are creating, in between the back piece and the side piece. Pin, and then check to make sure you have it correct, and the pocket seam is on the same side as the cloak seam. [I recommend pinning and testing like this because I always seem to get it wrong the first try, even after making a number of cloaks.] Once you know you have it right, sew the pocket in firmly. Finish sewing the back to the side.

“I looked around me, though moving my head took rather more effort then I particularly liked. I was lying on a bed of blankets and cloaks, placed over the springy needles, in a sort of cave made out of the naturally interlaced boughs of the black pine trees.”

Step 5.  Place the hood right sides together, and sew a seam from the top to the bottom. Open it up and position the neck of your hood in the center of the neck of your newly sewn cloak. You may have some differences in sizes at this point (i.e. perhaps the sides of the hood are an inch shorter then the rest of the cloak), don’t fret over them, this is where you correct it. If needed, trim the hood and cloak to match. Then sew the hood firmly to the cloak at the neck.

“Corinth ran stooped low, her cloak hood up and the long ends wrapped round her arm to keep it from dragging on branches and briars.”

Step 6. Do steps 2, 3, 4, and 5 all over again with your other colored fabric. Now you have two cloaks! [Note; with this method you end up having two pockets in your cloak. If you are feeling at all creative, which you probably are if you are trying this, don’t stop there. I have put pockets in the necks of my cloaks, and the hems, all over the place. This is a good time to pause and puzzle out any other pockets you want to add in.]

“A kind of gurgling cough came from the great lizard, and it was a truly disgusting sound. I saw Charlie’s hand go into his white cloak pocket and noticed he was tensing. Whatever he was going to do, he was about to do it.”

Step 7. Put the two cloaks right side together. There is libel to be a slight difference in the sizes of the two different cloaks. Check it by the hood, put the two hoods together and get the seams at the top and neck to match. You might have to re-sew a seam or two to make it work. Once you see it matches, sew all along the sides, hood, and bottom. Leave only a hole on the bottom wide enough to fit your hand comfortably through. Then shove your hand through your hole, grab your hood, and pull your cloak through the hole. Congratulations, you have a two sided cloak.

“Four filthy wretches leaned out the second story window, eyeing my cloak and sword, and dangling throwing knives from their fingers. Common sense dictated finding Ham Boofont swiftly and getting back to the better end of town.”

Step 8. Finish it up. Iron down the hem and seams, whip stitch your hole on the bottom closed, and sew on your desired clasp. Now put your new cloak on and either go adventuring in the woods, or curl up with it in a chair with a good book.

“The would-be king nodded at me, another of his funny smiles sliding over him, and he curled up under his cloak by his dog, one arm falling over the shedding creature.”

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Books I Read in 2014

My wonderful sister-in-law challenged me to record the books I read last year. So I dutifully found a shelf... of sorts... All my shelves were stuffed full, actually. I finally used a wooden ladder that I have hanging over my bed, to access a niche in which I read sometimes. Whenever the front door slammed, a book or two from my 'shelf' fell on the bed. Rather awkward when sleeping and someone left in a hurry. But it worked alright. I just pulled them off and looked over my list, and thought I would share the books I read in 2014, and a few thoughts on them. It excludes the short stories, comics, fairy tales, articles, ect. and the random ones I forgot to stick on my 'shelf.' But for the most part, here is what I read last year; 

A Fantasy of Dr. Ox, Julse Verne – Loved it. So unique!

The Mortification of Sin, John Owen – Wonderful. It was one of the better books in its genre I have ever read, actually. And (dare I confess it) while John Owen always quite confuses me, this one didn’t. It was easier to read and understand then the others I have tried of his.

The Book of the Dun Cow, Walter Wangerin Jr. –Enjoyable. It was a fantasy book, Christian based I believe. It had a few issues, as do most fantasy books, but for the most part it was quite enjoyable, and thought provoking in good ways.

Charles Dickens; the Last of the Great Men, G. K. Chesterton – A good book. With good thoughts, as always from Mr. Chesterton. A quote from it; “The optimist is a better reformer than the pessimist; and the man who believes life to be excellent is the man who alters it most.”

The Secret Ways, Alistair MacLean - Mr. MacLean is a writer of spy stories, I enjoy his works. This one was a bit more violent than some of his, but the story was good, and I learned some history I knew nothing about.

“Gareth and Lynette,” Alfred Tennyson – Definitely my favorite of the Idylls of the King. I found most of the others a bit depressing and not necessarily uplifting. But this one? Marvelous. My little black dog is named after this Lynette as she reminded me of the personality, and the description of the character; 
"Hawk-eyes; and lightly was her slender nose
Tip-tilted like the petal of a flower;" 

The Annotated Mona Lisa – Read it for a test I took on “Art in the Western World.” Very informative, and surprisingly interesting. Though, being an art book, I kept a blank index card handy to cover immodest photos as I read it.

Henry IV, Part 1, Shakespeare – Much more interesting than I expected it to be. I liked it.

Henry the IV, Part 2, Shakespeare – A bridge between Part 1 and Henry the V (which I have read before and read half of last year before getting distracted). It seemed like a bridge, but had some good parts in it too. 

Christianity and Liberalism, J Gresham Machen – Very good. Of Course.

Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love, St. Agustine – I liked it… but I honestly don’t remember much about it at this point except the fact I liked it.

Three Gringos in Venezuela and Central America, Richard Harding Davis – A travel diary of sorts from one of my favorite old time authors. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodges Burnett – I hadn’t read it since I was quite young. I hadn’t realized just how much odd mysticism it had either until I reread it. But I liked her prose, there were some passages that were very beautifully written.

The God Who is There, Francis Schaeffer – One of the many quotes I pulled from this book; “If it is true that evil is evil, that God hates it to the point of the cross and that there is a moral law fixed in what God is in himself, then Christians should be the first in the field against what is wrong – including man’s inhumanity to man.”

Manalive, G. K. Chesterton – Probably my favorite Chesterton that I have read up to this date. It is a very different sort of a book, you have to finish it if you start it, or you will never understand his point. A quote from one of the heroines; “Oh what’s the good of talking about men,” cried Mary impatiently; “why, one might as well be a lady novelist or some horrid thing. There aren’t any men. There are no such people. There is a man; whoever he is he’s quite different.”

CLEP Study Guide American History 1 – Obviously for a test I took. The writer was surprisingly good at making it interesting, and in an odd way it gave me hope for the future of our country; shady things and political deals and overbearing presidents have been happening since America started, and yet we are still here.

Lilith, George MacDonald -…I don’t think I can cover my thoughts on this book with a few sentences. Check out my blog post in the archives on it if you really want to know.

All Things for Good, Thomas Watson – An excellent, excellent book. Highly recommended from me to you.

And then there were the series I read this year;
The Guild of Specialist, by Joshua Mowll; - Interesting little books, young adult adventure novel type of things about two children in the 1920s. Relatively clean, and I enjoyed them enough to read all three.
Operation Red Jericho
Operation Typhoon Shore
Operation Storm City

The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson… twice. I read them twice last year. – I had read the first three already, but the last book, Warden and the Wolf King, came out. So I had to read the others to bring myself up to date. And then, I was taking the series to a friend to borrow, and it was a long drive, and I was sitting there… I read them all again. And do not consider it a true waste of time, I do recommend trying them if you enjoy fantasy works. There are issues in the books that most fantasy novels have (visions/telepathy and some other oddities) and I wish very much it wasn’t in there. I would put them perhaps at a suggested age range of fourteen to adult or so. But they are definitely Christian works, and if you have any interest, you should try them. Really.  

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

North! Or Be Eaten – A quote; “I don’t know what old Gnag has planned for you, but you just trust the Maker and… And do like your father would have you do. Do like me and yer ma would have you do. Don’t just follow your heart. Your heart will betray you.”

Monster of the Hollows

The Warden and the Wolf King – A favorite quote (one of many I pulled from this particular volume); "Sometimes in the middle of the night, the sun can seem like it was only ever a dream. We need something to remind us that it still exists, even if we can't see it. We need something beautiful hanging in the dark sky to remind us there is such a thing as daylight. Sometimes, Queen Sara" -Armulyn strummed his whistle harp- "music is the moon."

Rangers Apprentice Series, John Flanagan; - I read all but three of them in the series sandwiched in between the other random stuff I was reading. I enjoyed them. Really very clean for modern young adult books, and all the characters make pretty solidly noble decisions throughout the ones I read. Good reads for when you are feeling brainless and want something you know will be entertaining and clean.
The Sorcerer of the North
Erak’s Ransom
The Battle for Skandia
Seige of Macindaw
Ruins of Gorlan
The Kings of Clomel
The Burning Bridge
The Icebound Land
Halt's Peril
The Emperor of Nihon-ja

Narnia Series, by C.S. Lewis; - Apparently this has been a year of enjoying fantasy novels. Although strictly speaking I didn't read them, for the most part I listened to the unabridged versions while I did chores about the house. Always some of my favorite works. 
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Horse and His Boy
The Magicians Nephew
The Last Battle – A quote; “And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Lord of the Rings Series, and The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien; - So… we pulled the Hobbit out during our mushroom eating and feasting on Bilbo’s Birthday in September, and I made the mistake of cracking the cover open. So yes, I read them all again. 
The Hobbit - A quote; "Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, but not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable palpitating and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway." 

The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers
The Return of the King

Those are the books I read that were not written by me. In between them all, I was reading over mine, editing various ones, and writing others. The two overhauled majorly (the Parabaloni and The Slingshot Effect) I revisited again, and again, and again… Editing is a long and grueling process that involves reading your book from beginning to end many times, and rereading some chapters about fifty times before you are satisfied they are decent. I enjoy it for the most part, as I like rereading books. But after the fifth time even I really want to move on to something else. Here are the ones I edited last year;

Consider the Raven Series;
The Way of the Ravens
The Raven and the Wolf

Parabaloni Series;
The Parabaloni (at least 7 times)
The Slingshot Effect (probably about 5 times)
As the Eagle Flies
Adelie Angst
Evil Roots

And then my writing; Dreaded King has taken up all of November, and December, and it looks as though it will take up January too. The first book, of about 80,000 words, has been written and overhauled a couple of times. The second book is nearing the end (at 68,000 words now) of being written. And then the editing begins… But I have thoroughly enjoyed these two books. I hope you will enjoy them too once I get them in a shape to share!