Category: BooksPage 2 of 57 (567 posts)

An update

I’ve been more derelict than usual in blogging this month, and I have a sorry excuse to proffer for it: I’ve been working on a complete redesign of the site, including switching to a new custom CMS and recategorizing/tagging all 2,500 posts. The recategorization is taking far longer than I anticipated, and until the redesign is fully deployed I’ve felt less inclined to post. But since it may take a bit longer yet, here we are.

In reviewing all these old posts, by the way, I’m struck by how much I’ve changed over the years, especially in the last year or two. My writing style has noticeably matured, with far fewer smilies and a long, steady gravitation toward less colloquial language, at least in part. Earlier posts often sound like they were written by a teenage girl, and while there’s nothing wrong with teenage girls, I am not one, and for that we are all thankful.

I’m also solidly married now, which means a merciful reprieve from posts about dating and romantic yearnings, and I now have children. Life has changed, massively. The other day I was worrying about not having enough new things to write about on here, but I’ve since realized the falseness of that fear. Not only will there always be plenty of new things (and old things) to talk about, but my perspective has changed so much that in some ways I’m a completely new person. And I’m sure in ten years more I’ll look back and think how young and silly I was in 2014.

One other thing: I’ve been posting more to Facebook lately, but the whole walled garden thing continues to bother me, so I’m going to try to post more here instead.

Anyway, enough metatalk. Some quick updates:

It’s been a while since I posted about our daughter and her cardiomyopathy. She’s stable right now and appears to be in good health, all things considered. We’ll go up to Primary Children’s again in a few weeks for a followup appointment and hopefully see some progress. (As of our last visit two months ago, she hadn’t improved in the three months before that, but she also hadn’t regressed.)

I recently did the interior print design for Dan Wells’ book Next of Kin, a novella that leads into the new John Cleaver trilogy. That was fun.

What I’ve been reading lately: more history (currently Mary Beard’s Pompeii, following John Gillingham’s book about the Wars of the Roses). I’m now on the fourth Wheel of Time book, and I recently started Downbelow Station.

Since it’s Independence Day, a repost of my Facebook status a moment ago:

If Rip Van Winkle woke up in our house right now, he could be forgiven for thinking we were right in the middle of a battle. Goodness.

River's Tale

I wrote a new poem, called River’s Tale. This
time, however, I’m experimenting with SVG/CSS animations as illustrations on
the page. A screenshot (click it to see the animations):

Notes: the animations aren’t that great, it’s not responsive, and it’s probably not fully cross-browser. (I only tested it in Chrome and Firefox on Mac.)

CreateSpace test picture book

It turns out that CreateSpace only charges $3.65 to print a 24-page picture book, color, full bleed. That’s…incredible. You do pay shipping ($3.59 in my case), but still — $7 to print a picture book for your kids? Very, very nice. I threw together a dummy book to test print quality, and my copy arrived today, ten days after ordering it.

In general, I’m quite pleased. Print quality is very good. I’ve taken some photos below (with no postprocessing, but my iPhone camera added a bit more contrast than there actually is in the book).


  • The book is perfect-bound, so it won’t open as flat as it would if it were saddle-stitched. I don’t think they have saddle stitch as an option.
  • The paper isn’t glossy.
  • Colors aren’t quite as vibrant as they are on screen — blacks aren’t as dark, etc. But for actual use — reading to kids at bedtime — they’re quite fine.
  • Colors that are similar to each other can be a little harder to distinguish, but anything with sufficient contrast should be okay.


Reading on screens

The other day I came across a Wired article about reading on screens vs. paper, and it touched on something I began noticing in my own reading a few weeks ago:

What I’ve read on screen seems slippery, though. When I later recall it, the text is slightly translucent in my mind’s eye. It’s as if my brain better absorbs what’s presented on paper. Pixels just don’t seem to stick. And often I’ve found myself wondering, why might that be?

That’s exactly what I’ve experienced, albeit only for novels. I can read blog posts and longform articles on my phone just fine, with no retention difficulties. Novels, however, are slippery. It’s harder for me to keep track of what’s happening in the book, and it’s consistently nowhere near as satisfying. And so I never read ebooks anymore. (Yes, this is ironic.)

People who have no problem reading ebooks: I’m so, so jealous of you.

When the aliens finally came

Five very short stories, based off a writing prompt my friend Jonathon Penny posted yesterday. (Things got a little out of control. Apparently I like writing about aliens.)

Story 1

When the aliens finally came, just a week before the rogue planet–the one we didn’t see coming till two weeks before that, when it was too late to do much of anything except arrange the deck chairs and say a few prayers–when they came, we thought maybe they could save us. Just maybe. But we were wrong. They came, not to save us, but to be saved. And the thing slithering through space after them–well, let’s just say we were grateful the planet got us before it did.

Story 2

When the aliens finally came, our xenolinguists were stumped. The aliens didn’t talk, at least on any frequency that we could see. They didn’t chitter. They didn’t make signs with their heads or the appendages we arbitrarily called hands. They didn’t seem to grok the equations the mathematicians showed them. They didn’t reverse the magnetic fields around themselves like the swimmers do down in the outer core. (Most people still think of the swimmers as aliens, by the way, and I suppose they are in one sense, but you could make a strong argument that they’re more native to the planet than we are.) Then we figured it out. It took us longer, you see, because they lived on the outside of their ship, and our suits didn’t pick up smells from the vacuum, and long story short, Milner–the one from New Canada–somehow noticed the constantly shifting scents, and one thing led to another. Heaven knows what the aliens thought we’d been saying to them all that time. Anyway, it wasn’t long before they were hugging the astronauts like long-lost relatives, and next thing we knew they’d taken a chunk of Brooklyn–a big one, too–right up into their ship. Haven’t seen them since.

Story 3

When the aliens finally came, they arrived not in large ships, but in a hail of small cocoons that fell scattershot across the East Coast. At sunrise the next morning they wriggled out, small like a grain of rice, and burrowed down, gnawing at the dirt and rock, growing bigger and bigger. We didn’t notice any of this, mind you, until buildings and subways started collapsing and sinkholes began showing up everywhere. Terrorists, we thought. By the time we realized what had happened, it was too late.

Story 4

When the aliens finally came, sir, no, I wasn’t at my post. I was…hiding. Yes, sir, I understand. No, not at all, sir. They appeared to be shapeshifters, sir. Knots of tentacles, shiny, all over the place. Real tall one second, short and stumpy the next. Sometimes they were in two or three or ten places at the same time. Weirdest thing I ever saw, sir. No, she’s doing fine, sir, thank you for asking. They say what I saw was, uh, fluctuating cross-sections of higher-dimensional beings. No, sir, I don’t think I understand it, and if I may say so, I don’t think I want to. Thank you, sir.

Story 5

When the aliens finally came, ribbons of light all a-dancing in the sky, they put the northern lights to shame. Some fools on the news said something so beautiful couldn’t be evil. Me and my folks, we bundled up quick and got out of the city, went down south into the jungles, to get as far away from other people as we could get. Apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea. We’ve been holed up here for a month now, listening to the explosions up north. Lost my oldest to a snake bite. Lost my second oldest to a spider bite. My wife’s been down with the trembles for five days. I don’t know what those aliens can do, but it’s looking like it can’t be much worse than this jungle.

My new favorite blogs

First, Tom Simon, a Christian fantasy author. I first came across his essays, specifically the ten-part series on fantasy beginning with Quakers in Spain, and I’ve enjoyed his blog since then.

Then, back in February, Tom posted the following quote by John C. Wright:

The preference among biologists is to emphasize the similarities of man to other animals, and downplay their immense and categorical differences. This is not science or religion: it is merely a slant. The glass is half empty rather than half full.

Anyone can see the similarities between humans and apes. Apes are just like humans, as both human scientists and ape scientists agree. Ape cathedrals and human cathedrals both use flying buttresses. Ape operas and human operas both use four-point harmony. Apes crap in the woods and so do humans when we cannot find a toilet, and have not taken the time to dig a latrine. The Ape-Pharaoh of Ape City wears a pshent just like Ramses II of Heliopolis. (From Losing Religion II)

I loved that. John is a science fiction author who converted from atheism to Catholicism a few years ago. I haven’t read any of his books yet, but I plan to. (Same for Tom.)

Both have their heads on straight, and it’s very refreshing. They’re Chesterton fans as well, which is probably why their blogs appeal to me — how I wish more people read Chesterton.

Shutting down Mormon Texts Project

I know it was just a month ago that I was getting MTP going again, but I’ve found that I can’t run both Mormon Artist and Mormon Texts Project at the same time. (Which should be no big surprise, since MTP’s death rattle has been shaking for over a year now.)

So, no more MTP books. I’m sorry. If someone wants to take over the project, I’d love that, and I’m more than happy to pass on what I’ve learned and help get other people going with something like this.