Press "Enter" to skip to content

Tag: Bookshelf

Once Upon A Time It Was Now Review

Once Upon A Time It Was Now, 2nd edition, written by James Alexander Thom, is a wonderful book on the art of writing historical fiction. His ultimate goal is to write books that inspire others, regardless of whether the endings are happy or sad.

He does not dwell much on the craft of writing itself, but his focus is how to write historically. In this regard he does bring up life experiences that need to be considered that most would not think of, especially since in the past they thought and did differently than we do today. No glossing over either, he brings up the grittiness of life that most of us would prefer not to think about.

A chapter on technology discusses the use of paper vs. computers from a few of his fellow historians and historical writers. And a few ideas for research organization, which if done right will produce reams.

His book was written in response to Stephen Ambrose’s quip, “A novelist doesn’t have to have facts.” Most of this book goes into detail on how and why historical novels should be as factually accurate as possible. One of the best reasons I read was that they are read when history books would not be. I count myself one of these people, loving to read novels about historical figures.

His wife, Dark Rain, wrote most of the chapter on genealogy, and if you are writing a book dealing with Indian history, she has some very valuable tips.

My favorite quote: “The climax of a novel often is a moment that seems impossible to endure. If you can force yourself to exhume and record some personal horror you wanted to leave buried, then you will have trained yourself to write powerfully about anything the protagonist of your novel has to do.”

I will probably never write a historical novel, but I learned much from his book. His advice can be used for other genres as well. The humor had me laughing quite a bit. And he was in the USMC, another thumbs up from me. A hearty recommended read.

Writing

Ministers and Tyrants

“In America, as we have indicated, resistance to oppression had been a favorite topic in Yankee pulpits for more than a century. Indeed a quarter of a century before Paul Revere’s ride, one of its most articulate (albeit increasingly liberal) proponents, Jonathan Mayhew of Boston, preached:

It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors God’s ministers…When [magistrates] rob and ruin the public, instead of being guardians of its peace and welfare, they immediately cease to be the ordinance and ministers of God, and no more deserve that glorious character than common pirates and highwaymen.”

The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel

I had the fortune to meet Peter Marshall at a book signing. He is the son of Catherine Marshall, who wrote some of the best books on Christianity that I have ever read. His father was chaplain of the Senate in 1946.

Faith

Dictionary Definitions

Back during my high school English classes – or college, so many years ago it’s hard to remember – the grammar books had a chapter on dictionary use. The dictionary is not just a place to look up word meanings.

My Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary contains a foreign dictionary, a grammar book, biographical names (history book), geographical names (a word atlas), and other nifty sections, all rolled into one. Granted, most of these are stripped down basic definitional (that is the adjective form of the word definition – I looked it up – but my spell checker does not recognize it) forms. But in a pinch you can get an idea.

Word definitions also include etymologies: the date that words were coined. They also include pronunciation guides, though if you are not into linguistics, this can be not as easy as hearing them online. The meanings for each word are usually ordered in popularity of use. Graphics are included such as the periodical table of elements. And for the writers, proofreader’s marks.

If you are a writer and don’t have a thesaurus, the dictionary contains synonyms to give your writing some spice. But words are different, so subtle differences in meaning can totally change what is being said. So important in poetry, where condensing is pretty much the rule, unless you are writing an epic. And then that rule may still apply.

PoetryWriting

Solitude and Community

I decided seven years ago to move from Missouri to Oregon. Roughly my modern day version of the Oregon Trail. I had high hopes of making a new life here, and to be fair, I have, just not in the way I expected.

I am finishing Walden, and in the chapter called “Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors,” Thoreau talks about the lack of human companionship during the snowy winter months, and how he would visit people in his memory for company. It is with the beautiful geography I have made friends, along with a few hardy souls here. In a waiting room a few years ago, I read a travel magazine in which the writer stated the Oregon coast was more beautiful than Costa Rica. Very surprising to me, but understandable.

In The Imaginative Conservative, this article confronts the loneliness of our times. It mentions two books that I have read, which stress the importance of community, and more specifically, conservative communities – The Benedictine Option by Rod Dreher, and Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. What these two books also say, is sometimes it is necessary to be in the world but not of it. During Germany’s pre-WWII and beginning years, Bonhoeffer ran an underground seminary, and his book is the story of how it actually worked.

That being said, the hiding of our identities behind masks, the stay at home orders, and the lack of human touch through certain businesses being shut down is cruel and inhumane treatment. Even the most introverted people – that would be me – crave some social time every now and then. Some of us do not have the local option of community. And social media helps.

While on the run from the Catholic Church and living in a redoubt at least part of the time, Martin Luther translated the Latin Bible into German for everyone to read. I have a plaque in my house that artistically says, “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” I could be bitter about my lack of local friendships, but I see it as a time of learning to be a writer. And as much as I despise this time of separation we are living, Romans 8:28 (KJV) states, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Faith

Walden: An Unknown Prophetic Clip

“I was witness to events of a less peaceful character. One day when I went out to my wood-pile, or rather my pile of stumps, I observed two large ants, the one red, the other much larger, nearly half an inch long, and black, fiercely contending with one another. Having once got hold they never let go, but struggled and wrestled and rolled on the chips incessantly. Looking farther, I was surprised to find that the chips were covered with such combatants, that it was not a duellum, but a beellum, a war between two races of ants, the red always pitted against the black, and frequently two red ones to one black. The legions of these Myrmidons covered all the hills and vales in my wood-yard, and the ground was already strewn with the dead and dying, both red and black. It was the only battle which I have ever witnessed, the only battle-field I ever trod while the battle was raging; internecine war; the red republicans on the one hand, and the black imperialists on the other. On every side they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely. I watched a couple that were fast locked in each other’s embraces, in a little sunny valley amid the chips, now at noonday prepared to fight till the sun went down, or life went out. The smaller red champion had fastened himself like a vice to his adversary’s front, and through all the tumblings on that field for an instant ceased to gnaw at one of his feelers near the root, having already caused the other to go by the board; while the stronger black one dashed him from side to side, and, as I saw on looking nearer, had already divested him of several of his members. They fought with more pertinacity than bulldogs. Neither manifested the least disposition to retreat. It was evident that their battle-cry was ‘Conquer or die.’ “

Reading

First Amendment and the Danbury Baptists

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

1st Amendment of the US Constitution

The Danbury Baptists wrote to Thomas Jefferson, concerned that the state was giving them the right to practice their religion: that it was not a natural – or inalienable right. The first amendment states emphatically that government can not regulate religion but does not state that religion is to be kept out of the public.


U.S. Constitution for Dummies by Dr. Michael Arnheim is a good source for understanding the Constitution. Explains it step-by-step. I am not crazy for the “for Dummies” part of the title, but it is very clearly written. (An aside: Don’t give as a present. I once thought I was helping my mother by giving her one of these books and didn’t realize until later the look on her face when she opened her present.)

Have a blessed weekend!

Faith

Memorizing Poetry

One of the few things I remember from 5th grade was reciting a poem from memory. I chose Psalms 100 – this dates me because I am sure this would not be allowed without a fight nowadays.

Memorizing poetry or scripture can be closer than the tips of your fingers. An immediate source of comfort when fear or anxiety strikes.

Poets.org has a few tips for memorization and many good poems to choose from, citing many sonnets because they are rhythmic and short.

And my scandalous book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature (one blurb: “The greatest English literature is explicitly Christian and celebrates military courage”), has a section on the whys and wherefores of memorizing poetry. “Instead of being bored out of your mind when you’re waiting in line to renew your driver’s license, you’ve got a collection of museum-quality art in your own head, and you can look at it at your leisure.”


Psalms 100 KJV

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness:
come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the LORD he is God:
it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting;
and his truth endureth to all generations.

FaithPoetry

Copyright © 2021 hrenell's Hearth. All rights reserved.