Worldbuilding Resources

What do writers do when they are procrastinating while putting together a story? They go hunting for writing resources to help them with worldbuilding! This is a concept I’ve always struggled with as a writer—I relish the dialogue but drag my feet with the setting. In developing the world for Death and Taxis, I have been researching writing resources for assisting with world development.

Reddit – 100 Worldbuilding Prompts

https://www.reddit.com/r/worldbuilding/comments/als11s/100_worldbuilding_prompts/

This seems like a good list, filled with some offbeat questions to get the mind thinking differently about their world – such as question 17:

It’s late at night and I’m hungry, what food venues are still open?

The Novel Factory – The Ultimate World Building Questionnaire (131 questions)

https://www.novel-software.com/theultimateworldbuildingquestionnaire

This resource is broken up by category and therefore gives more structure to the world development than the previous resources. The first section pertains to the physics and nature of the world, the second section to geography and natural resources, etc.

As an added bonus, Brandon Sanderson, one of my favorite fantasy authors, teaches a course at Brigham Young University on novel writing, and all the lectures are available online: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLH3mK1NZn9QqOSj3ObrP3xL8tEJQ12-vL

That’s all for today. Back to procrastinating worldbuilding.

An Introspective Analysis of My Relationship with Pens and Journals

I was on one of those mental rabbit trails where you suddenly look up and have no idea how you got here.  The track behind me veiled in the mist of forgetfulness, I found myself in a clearing contemplating why I don’t like using pens.  Uh-huh.  Pretty fascinating, right?

Believe it or not, I managed to turn this random thought process into an introspective analysis of myself.  But perhaps that isn’t too surprising to those who know me well.  As I started to inspect my dislike for pens, I noted that I don’t mind using them for things I plan to throw away, like sticky notes and to-do lists.  I also realized that I don’t like using beautiful notebooks or journals for anything permanent either.  I never feel anything I write is worthy of them.

One elegant red and gold journal exhibits faint signs of use on its first two pages where I wrote something down in pencil, deemed it unworthy, and erased it.  That’s about the closest I’ve ever gotten to using my favorites of the many notebooks people have given me over the years.  I can use most of the pretty (but not gorgeous) notebooks without qualms, but the special ones are just too special.  I don’t want to ruin them or fill them with something that I will want to throw away in five years.  Childhood experience in such matters has scarred me a little, I think.  And talk about a high bar, one pale blue journal with gold stars scattered on it says in gold letters on the cover “My Bright Ideas.”  Even someone without my authorly commitment issues would probably find that a bit intimidating.

Once I made the connection between pens and notebooks, I looked around the mental clearing and began to notice other patterns around me that all point to a hesitation to commit when writing.  I don’t want anyone else reading what I might write in these journals, and I can’t just delete or revise the content like I can in a computer document.  In fact, I’m even a bit scared of what my future self will think of what I write.  Have you ever read a childhood journal and thought, Why did I write this, or My handwriting was terrible (or worse, My handwriting was better when I was eight)?  Finally, if the content is on the border between awful and sentimentally valuable, you must decide if it’s really worth keeping that notebook as you try to downsize your stuff.  Why set myself up for hard decisions like that?

As we embark on a new year and a new decade, let me stop you right there.  I do not intend to set any grandiose personal goals.  While I’m fond of making lists and setting goals, New Year’s resolutions have never appealed to me, so don’t even think about it.*  I’m going to start small because, as I’ve just pointed out, I’m a bit scared of committing to something in writing that I can’t erase or edit.  But I also know the value of pushing my limits and learning from all the mistakes that come with simply trying, so I want to push my limits at least a little.  After all, isn’t that what Thousand Mile Walk is all about?  We didn’t call our blog Writing Epitome or make any claims that everything we post will be gold standard.  “Writing isn’t a destination; it’s a journey” is our motto, and I should remember that more.

As I headed out from that mist-veiled clearing to explore new rabbit trails, and as I return to the clearing to write this introspection, I have decided to write in pen at least some of the time for things that matter and consider using my beautiful journals if I can come up with a convincing plan for how I can create content that will be at least moderately timeless.

I resolve to be a braver, bolder writer.  At least a little bit. 🙂


*(Side note: Why wait till a new year to start your new project?  If it’s that worthwhile, why not start right now?)

Photo credit: by Jaymantri from Canva.com

The Beginning, Again

How far the emptiness seems to stretch before me,
Although not nothingness, for I see the days and weeks ahead,
Peering into their empty shells, without form
Passing through the void of the coming year.
Yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Never fear, this is just my new calendar,
Empty, yes, but not for long, soon to be full of
Wonders that will happen this coming year; I hope.

Yesterday’s deeds are crossed out, and new
Events are written in – a sortie soon to the symphony,
A work thing in February, birthdays, and a trip, as
Round the sun again we go.

In Him, Life

The Incarnation is one of the most joyous, miraculous, and astounding events to happen in all of human history. Easily trivialized to little more than a sentimental gesture towards the birth of Christ, it represents with unreserved nakedness the love of God towards a people alienated from his presence.

A Fall and a promise

The Scriptures document thoroughly the fall of mankind. From the first sin when “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6) to the first curse:

So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.” (Gen 3)

The subsequent pages of scripture outlining man’s rebellion against his creator demonstrate man’s utter sinfulness in light of God’s complete holiness. However, almost as soon as man’s rebellion is revealed -a more powerful good is made known. Even as he is cursing the serpent, God makes a promise -the first of many -that culminate the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ:

15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel. (Gen. 3)

And down through the ages His promises continued. To Abraham, ” in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3) and David, “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Sam 7:16).

When Everything Became as Nothing

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1)

The incarnation is diametrically opposed to the way of the world: in a culture where success is measured by upward mobility in work, family, influence, power, etc -humbling oneself from a position of affluence seems unreasonable, if not unthinkable. After all, even Adam and Eve, in the fall, sought only their own elevation and glory. Not only that, but the incarnation represents a condescension of such magnitude that it cannot be fully understood or appreciated -no equivalent comparison exists within the observable cosmos. Returning to the quote from John 1, the implications are quite stark: Christ has been and will always be; he is the one who spoke and brought ALL things into existence -every star, galaxy, planet, creature, and atom. This is who it is who became a cold, poor, crying baby. The following passage from one of Augustine’s sermons is quite helpful thinking about God becoming man:

“Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.”
– Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)

In Him, life

The Incarnation only makes sense inside the context of fall, promise, and redemption. As Paul says in Galatians 4, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” So this Christmas, as we consider the meaning of the day, let us wonder at God’s love for those who rejected him: that he would become one of them, suffer as one of them, be humiliated by them, and murdered by them -all so that “He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

Death and Taxis: Chapter 1

This story is inspired by a conversation with a friend–B. L. White–about a deceased taxi driver who gives people rides in the land of the dead.


“Where are you headed?” said Tom, taking a tire-squealing right turn onto Purgatorial Circle as he attempted to beat the oncoming rush of the traffic circle.

“Excuse me,” said the passenger, “This is very embarrassing…but could you please, before I tell you where I am headed—tell me where I came from?” The passenger, Kaylen, had a strange sensation, akin to the feeling of blacking out, and a vague, mostly physical recollection of the feeling of throwing up, and then of—this! Waking up, the growing sense of alarm at not remembering the immediate past and anxiety of not knowing…did something happen? Kaylen looked for clues at her appearance and clothing. Everything seemed normal: she was wearing a wooly blue-and-green sweater and grey jeans.

She sized up all these things in a moment as Tom glanced in the rear-view mirror and began to answer her question. “Well, if you’re here, then…well…” His voiced trailed off for a moment as he thought. “Well, you see…you have died. And now you’re here on the other side.”

Kaylen tried to process these words. Instead, she became curious about the road. “This is a traffic circle, you said?” She asked. “It’s pretty long, huh?”
“Longest there is,” said Tom. “For some reason the planners of this place didn’t like the idea of stoplights and intersections here. So they did what everyone does—they made this place an enormous traffic circle. Also, the architects have always been obsessed with ring-shapes. You know Dante and the 9 rings…?” Tom looked in the rearview mirror and was met with an empty expression. “Nah? Well, he was just an old dude—more my generation—and he wrote about heaven, hell, and purgatory. And he theorized that the places are divided into concentric rings—starting with the outer ring and working inwards. Or outwards…I don’t remember!” Tom said brightly. “Anyway, the point is—Dante got it more or less correct, only instead of rings, it’s really a bunch of concentric traffic circles. Dante didn’t know what a car was.”

Tom looked again at Kaylen and saw that her eyes had glazed over and that she had no idea what he was talking about. “Look, I’m rambling, but the point is, we have to get through 9 different traffic circles, and you got here at a pretty busy time of year actually—December always seems to be a rough time, and there’s a civil war going on in the East right now, so that’s also increased the number of visitors considerably. So the traffic is pretty bad today. You have until we get to the center to figure out where you’re going. No need to rush, though!”

A Christmas Book Trio

Winter has so many aspects that I love.  While I don’t care for the longer nights and sometimes dreary cold for their own sake, I do appreciate the juxtaposition they create with the indoors.  How cozy wintry weather makes home seem!  I love cuddling up with a book in a warm house with a cup of cocoa when it’s cold outside.  I love the colors of snow, ice, evergreens, holly bushes, migrating birds, and Christmas decorations.  One of my favorite parts of winter is singing and listening to Christmas carols, and I am always tempted to break family tradition and listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, in spite of my sister’s objections.

What truly makes winter wonderful, though, is Christmas and the story of Christ’s birth which we celebrate during this season.  Christmas is a story that mankind has been commemorating since before it even had the name “Christmas” or the date December 25th.  This true story began with Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds and for over two millennia has continued with the young and old, men and women, around the world.  We continue to celebrate it in many ways, from decorations and traditions to music, movies, and books.  And as is my tradition, here are three Christmas books I have discovered over the past year.

A Child's Christmas in Wales

A Child’s Christmas in Wales / Dylan Thomas (illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman)

This children’s book is my most recent Christmas discovery.  A Child’s Christmas is essentially a collection of Christmas memories and scenes.  Dylan Thomas writes in a very poetic, stream of consciousness style that is sometimes confusing and at other times creates a vivid picture of what is happening.  The book captures the quirky, unfiltered reality of life at Christmastime in Wales.  However, although I appreciate the realism and the artistry Thomas displays, the content and tone don’t seem to suit a young audience.  While the book is packaged as a children’s story, contains “child” in its title, and follows a child’s perspective of Christmas, I think adults would appreciate the story more because of its complex writing style and nostalgic tone.  That said, I would definitely recommend the book for its art.  Trina Schart Hyman is one of my favorite children’s illustrators, and her artwork fills the story with character, expertly bringing to life the scenes Dylan Thomas paints with words.

The True Gift

The True Gift / Patricia MacLachlan

Liam and Lily are visiting their Gran and Grandpa for Christmas.  When Liam finds out that their grandparents’ pet cow no longer has her donkey friend, he worries that White Cow will be lonely and sets out to find her a new companion for Christmas.  This story resonates my Christmas memories and family visits in surprising ways.  From making snowmen cookies with red cinnamon buttons to debating how many books to pack for vacation, Liam and Lily’s experiences are funnily similar to my own.  I found this little book charming and hope you do as well!

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree / Julie Salamon

What’s your Christmas tree story?  Mine isn’t all that glamorous.  First, my father or brothers climb into the attic and haul down the artificial tree (version 3.0 since I’ve been around).  Then, my mother, siblings, and I shake the dust off the needles (and shake off some needles too) and spread the stiff branches.  After swathing the tree in strings of lights, topping it with an angel, bedecking it with ornaments, and swaddling it in a rug and a pile of presents, the journey is done.

Keeping this in mind, you can imagine my surprise and curiosity when I discovered in The Christmas Tree a story about the journey of perhaps the most famous Christmas tree in the world.  I had never thought much about where the famed Rockefeller Center Christmas tree comes from each year.  But in a beautiful story filled with fascinating characters, sweet illustrations, and Christmas themes, Julie Salamon crafts a delightful Christmas narrative that gives me a whole new perspective on Christmas trees.  I would say more, but it’s been a while since I read the book—and I want you to enjoy it for yourself!

Do you have a favorite Christmas book?  Or have you discovered any new ones this year?  I would love to hear from you in the comments.

I Have Expensive Taste

I have expensive taste – in some things,
but not in others. I’ve found
that most important to me
is the person who’ll be my company.

If it came to it, I’d choose to stand
in line with you. However long
the wait, it’d be a better home
than fireworks and music for me alone.

What I remember most about that eve
isn’t the performance itself. Though
it was lovely, it would mean much less
without you in that suit, and me in that dress.

I have expensive taste – in company,
in time shared. Remember
the museum? It was our laughter and light
that brought those paintings to life.

A Prayer of Thanks

Christians are called to rejoice and give thanks at all times, and in all situations -and how can we not if indeed the Gospel is true? As Paul says,

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~1 Thess. 5:16-18

This Thanksgiving, the holiday can merely be a break from routine, a time eating lots of good food with family (not a bad thing!) -but it can also be more. While Christians are called to give thanks always, this day provides an opportunity to intentionally praise God for the ways he has worked during the past year. There are any number of ways this can look -but the following from the Book of Common Prayer has helped me as I’ve contemplated God’s working in the past year, and maybe it will be beneficial to you as well:

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

~Book of Common Prayer -Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

The Contrapositive of Love

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” – John 21.15

The Inverse or the opposite? A discussion at an IEEE computer society meeting a few nights ago might seem like an unlikely place to be talking about love, but amid the discussion of a networking concept, the presenter distinguished between the opposite of a thing and the inverse of a thing. “What is the opposite of love? Most people would say it’s hate, but the opposite of both hate and love is apathy.” I didn’t fully follow this distinction, but the thought process started me thinking about synonyms, how we use them, and what they mean.

So, what is the opposite of love, and how is it different (if it is!) from inverse, converse, and contrapositive? Let’s take a look!

What do those words even mean? Time to dust off those logic definitions and find out! Let’s examine a statement and the 3 related statements we can draw from it, and evaluate whether these statements are true.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” – John 14.15-17

The Statement

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Converse

If you keep my commandments, you will love me.

This is false – without a heart changed and set to love God, outward obedience is insufficient to form love.

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘LORD, LORD, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” – Matthew 7.22

Inverse

If you do not love me, you will not keep my commandments.

This is also false—there are lots of moral people who, even without loving Jesus, are capable of keeping Jesus’s commandments. It is possible to honor God with our lips and obey commandments taught by men, while also having a heart that does not love God

And the Lord said:

Because this people draw near with their mouth

and honor me with their lips,

while their hearts are far from me,

and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,

therefore, behold, I will again

do wonderful things with this people,

with wonder upon wonder;

and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,

and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” – Isaiah 29.13-14

Contrapositive

If you do not keep my commandments, you will not love me.

This is almost true—but more accurately stated as—if you do not bear fruit in keeping with repentance, then you do not love me. UPDATE: a more math-minded reader than I pointed out that the contrapositive of a statement is always true, so ignore the previous statement! The correct phrasing of the contrapositive should be: if you will not keep me commandments, then you do not love me. This is true!

Loving God expresses itself in the fruit of good works in believers. Though believers are imperfect, backslide, go through perhaps even seasons of life where they hold on to sin, the fruit of a heart truly in love with Christ is a walk that is increasingly obedient to his commands.
In Conclusion

What is the opposite of love? Is it hate, or is it apathy? Since opposite, unlike converse, inverse, and contrapositive, doesn’t have a strict definition in logic, I am left with a dictionary lookup to decide. The definition of opposite is as follows:

op·po·site (adj.)

1. Placed or located directly across from something else or from each other: opposite sides of a building.

2. Facing the other way; moving or tending away from each other: opposite directions.

3. Being the other of two complementary or mutually exclusive things: the opposite sex; an opposite role to the lead in the play.

As an an adjective, we would say that love and hate are opposite emotions, whereas apathy is the absence of emotion. As a result, to answer the original question in an extremely roundabout way, the opposite of love must be hate, but in the absence of love, there is indifference.

References:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-do-i-know-if-i-really-love-jesus

https://www.varsitytutors.com/hotmath/hotmath_help/topics/converse-inverse-contrapositive

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+7%3A22-23&version=ESV

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2014

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/opposite

Rise and Fall of Rain

Rain is one of my favorite themes for poems.  Consequently, a small portion of my poetry collection is dedicated to rain and its different aspects that I’ve noticed and enjoy.  Perhaps inspired by my recent nighttime driving in the rain, I decided to dig these up and share one of them today.  This particular poem focuses on the onomatopoeic quality of rain.

“Rise and Fall of Rain”

Tap, tap, tap at the back door.

Slap, slap, slap it goes again.

Rap, rap, rap a growing din.

Crack, crack, crack—open the door.

Whoosh, crash, bang there is a roar.

Of rushing rainy torrents pounding,

Lightning cracks, and thunder sounding,

Then the rush recedes to dribble,

Pitter, patter, then to trickle.