Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Yarnalong: baby blanket and "The Winner's Crime"

Today I'm linking up with Ginny, over at Small Things, who says, "Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading . . . I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading?"

I'm reading "The Winner's Crime", by Marie Rutkoski. It's the second in a trilogy, and you can read my review of the first one here. I think my favorite thing about this book is that while it gives you all the angsty emotions you'd expect from a YA, it doesn't let its protagonists be idiots about their emotions. Yes, they're in love and they're young and they'd like to Romeo-and-Juliet all the consequences . . . but they don't. They keep the broader picture in mind, they temper their emotions with reason - maybe not well, maybe not perfectly, but wow, I just like that they're teenagers who are trying.  

(And yes, I think the angsty emotions and gorgeous setting and quickly-moving plot are awesome, too.)

Now, the knitting!  This is a heavily modified version of the "Hip To Be Square" pattern in "60 Quick Baby Blankets", using some of the oldest yarn in my stash: Universal Yarns Classic Shades. Some friends just had their first baby and I wanted to make her something snuggly!  I love how the subtle color changes work with the mitered squares in this pattern.

Thank you for stopping by! For more yarny goodness, head on over to the link-up at Ginny's!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Sunday, January 24, 2016


If you're here from Daily Sci Fi, hello!

I blog about a variety of things, but here are the tags for my reviews, links, etc. on:
-sci fi

My favorite of my archives is, I think, this post about Lois McMaster Bujold's "Borders of Infinity" and (glory be!) Bujold's own response to the same.

Hope you enjoy poking around the site and hope - even more - that you enjoyed the story "Expensive" over at Daily Science Fiction. I surely enjoyed writing it!

-Jessica Snell

so here's some excitement

My short story "Expensive" went live tonight over at Daily Science Fiction. I'm so pleased to have a story up at a site I enjoy so much as a reader!  Please head on over and read, rate, and enjoy.

(And subscribe to their email list: it's free, and you get great short fiction in your mailbox every week day. Not a bad deal!)

-Jessica Snell

Friday, January 22, 2016

Come and say hi! (plus, a giveaway!)

I'm honored to be the Friday Featured Guest over at June Foster's blog today. Come on over and say hi in the comments!

Also, have you been curious about "Not Alone", but not quite sure you wanted to buy? Jennifer Hallmark has your solution! She's hosting a giveaway of "Not Alone" over at Elaine Stock's blog. Head on over in order to enter!

-Jessica Snell

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Diligence and Anxiety

The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.  
-Proverbs 12:24 
I think Proverbs 12:24 might end up being my verse for the year. I’ve been in Psalm 28 for the last two years, but . . . but now, this is probably it.

I keep trying to explain why, to write about why, and talk about it, and I feel like I keep losing my words. I think it’s because I keep trying to talk about it while I’m slightly anxious. That’s never the best time to do anything (but, me being me, that's sometimes the only time I have).

Speaking of which . . . maybe that’s how I can explain it: diligence saves me when I’m anxious.  Because diligence doesn’t submit to anxious questions. When my emotions and mind are spinning with, “what if? what if? what if?” diligence answers, “Now do this. Okay, good. Now, do this. Okay, good. Now . . .” and is not flustered.

Diligence calms me, if only by forcing me to work. Not franticly, but properly.

Diligence knows what is next and commands me to keep walking.

And the walking itself brings me to a place of peacefulness inside. Because if I am doing (not hurrying! not scrambling! just steadily doing), then I am seeing progress. And eventually, I am seeing completion: that floor is clean, that chapter is edited, that email is sent, that batch of dishes is done.

For a long time, my housekeeping motto has been: Not Perfect, But Better.

Diligence improves that. Diligence makes it: Not Perfect, But Better . . . And Now Better Again. And Now Better Again.

Diligence is refocusing every time my anxiety causes me to careen off into the wild blue. 

Diligence says, “Don’t worry about what might happen; do what you already know is your duty.”

It reminds me of what Corrie Ten Boom said (and I’m quoting from memory here, so forgive any lack of accuracy): “Don’t worry about the parts of the Bible you don’t understand. Worry about the parts you understand but don’t obey.”

Diligence is the obeying. It is the action.

Not in a scurrying rush to be found acceptable or to prove my worth. But in simple gratitude that I have good work to do.

Huh. Diligence is gratitude.

I like that.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Weekly Links: Ice, Oxy, Red Letters, and More!

Wow, I'm posting my weekend links while it's actually still the weekend! This is progress indeed.

Let's start with things that are either funny or pretty:

-This Icy Hair-Freezing Contest definitely falls under the "funny" category. I love it because it reminds me of my childhood in the Northwest Territories, and how my ponytail would freeze into a sharp spike while I walked back to school from the (indoor) swimming pool.

-"Mesmerizing Space Photos of 2015" - This one falls into the "pretty" category or, maybe more properly yet, into the jaw-droppingly gorgeous and awe-inspiring category.

-"Home Soil - 1:18" - aaaaaaand, back to funny. A particularly enjoyable recap from "Fashion It So" - that fake novel cover!

And, on to our more General Interest Links:

-"Standford Professor Who Pioneered Praising Effort Sees False Praise Everywhere": The "growth mindset" described here is a really helpful concept.

And, the links specifically for my fellow writers:

-"We Regret to Inform You": Maybe this should have gone under the "funny" category, but, no. No, it's just too real.

-"Writing Your Manuscript a Third at a Time": I'll admit that I'm just linking to this one for my own sake - because it's something that I think I might want to try!

Finally, the specifically Christian links:

- "Burning and Yearning" - I appreciate the distinction the author draws in this article.

-"The Spirit of the Red Letters and 'Progressive Evangelicalism'" - There's some very useful clarity in this piece. (Pitting Jesus against Jesus is not a good idea.)

-"Before the Birds and the Bees" - And finally, this goes in the "sad but necessary" category. Fellow parents, take heed.

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Notes: "Dear Committee Members", by Julie Schumacher

So this was the book I had to refrain from reviewing till now, even though I finished reading it in the fall. Why?  Because I wanted to give it for Christmas presents! And some of the people I love have the bad habit* of purchasing books I recommend.

This book . . . oh my friends, this book. This book made me laugh so hard.

It's also rather melancholy at the end, so: fair warning. This book might not make you feel, in meme-speech, all the things, but it might come close.

"Dear Committee Members", by Julie Schumacher, is an epistolatory novel, wherein all the letters are written by an English professor. More specifically, by a writing professor.  And yes, both the fact that it's epistolatory and the fact that it's about writing made it almost inevitable that I would pick it up once I heard about it.

But it lived up to my hopes.

If you know anyone in academia, you'll be familiar with the exquisite pain of the procurement of letters of recommendation. Painful from the point-of-view of both professor and student, I am given to understand.

In this book, our protagonist, Prof. Fitger, has written letters of recommendation. Oh, has he written letters of recommendation. So many letters of recommendation.

So many, in fact, that he has begun to go a bit mad.

Not really mad, not crazy, but mad enough to write them now in the driest of sarcastic voices, with the withering, biting humor than only a very, very, very annoyed professor can muster.

And not just sarcastic letters of recommendation, but plaintive letters of complaint to the dean, self-deprecating letters to his ex-wife, and (most heartbreakingly) pleading letters on behalf of his students, who he knows very well might find themselves without home or means once they're out of the half-hearted embrace of their home university.

I loved this book. It's been a long time since a book has made me laugh like this, and I shook my head in recognition of the erudite, dysfunctional rhythms of academia. For the purposes of this blog, I can't recommend it as Christian or hopeful or anything like that, but all the same, I can't imagine an avid fiction reader who wouldn't enjoy this one. It's just really good.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*errr, that is, lovely! I mean, they have this lovely habit.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I'll receive a small percentage of the purchase price - for my own shopping! :) (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Infertility and Miscarriage - in the authors' own words

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post, where I wrote a bit on what I noticed while editing "Not Alone". I thought it only fitting to use today's post to direct you towards some reflections from the actual contributors to the book, so here's a small link round-up of their thoughts:

-Jared Begg, on promoting a book about such hard topics:
I contributed to a book again . . . The first book was uplifting in theme and overtly worshipful. 
This second book is a little different than that.

-Marcy Ratcliff, on all the emotions reading the book brought up:
These beautiful, heartbreaking stories. I want to hug everyone in the world. Especially every mother, but also every father, everyone yearning for a child, even everyone not. Those struggling with other things and those who are like, Why are you hugging me, you crazy lady?!
-Jennifer Hallmark, in an interview about writing her contribution:
It could be called an "edgy" Chicken Soup for the Soul. By edgy, I mean the essays, written by men and women who've dealt with the pain and emotions that come with miscarriage and/or infertility, are heart cries. These stories are told by broken people who have found hope in the midst of their struggle.
-Finally, Anna Gissing on "Advent and Infertility":
And even now, God sees and hears you. God knows your unfulfilled longings and desires.

If you've experienced miscarriage or infertility, or if you (like me) want to understand your loved ones who have been in this place, considering picking up a copy of "Not Alone".

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

things I learned about infertility and miscarriage

"Not Alone", the book on infertility and miscarriage that I edited last year, is still occupying my thoughts.

And how could it not? The generous people who shared their struggles in that book have stories so full of pain and hope, of anger and love, of so many other conflicting emotions and honest feelings, that I think their stories will always stay with me.

I'm looking back over some of what I learned as I spent so much time with their words. The list below is far from comprehensive, but there were some observable patterns that emerged from their stories, and I thought I'd share them here.

(I want to add: I really cherish these observations, because all of the essayists who submitted to this project really put not just their hearts, but their minds into this project, and I appreciate how much it costs to really think through a painful experience, and to offer those thoughts up for the perusal of others.)

Here are a few things I noticed, as I reviewed these essays:

-Every person's experience is unique. No one feels pain quite the same way, and circumstance and personality mean that everyone feels loss differently.

-The loss of a child, or absence of wanted children, is more common than we'd like to think. A common thread among these entries is that the writers had no idea how many other people had been through the same pain until they admitted their own hurt. And then they found themselves surrounded by a crowd of sympathetic friends.

-Husbands and wives experience these losses differently, even within the same marriage.

-Music speaks to us when nothing else can. About half the "Works Cited" page in this book are references to songs.

I hope this book makes its way into the hands of people who are suffering in these situations, and into the hands of their loved ones. Just because this can be such a lonely pain, and it doesn't have to be. You are not alone.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, January 11, 2016

"Peace Attend Thee" blanket and cardigan

My sister just had her first daughter, and I had the joy of visiting her the day she was born. Isn't she a little cutie?

This could just be an excuse to post a slew of cute baby pictures, but I'll try to talk a bit about the knitting. :)

The blanket wrapped around my new niece is the "Alpaca Baby Shawl" and I knit it in Knit Picks' yarn "Imagination" in the colorway "Giant Peach".  My Ravelry project page is here.

This was a great pattern: the lace wasn't too difficult, but it was interesting, and there were lots of stockinette rest rows. All of that knitting joy, and the finished project itself turned out beautifully. It's a warm blanket, but since it's sock-weight, it's not too warm for a baby born in southern California.

The above picture (with the cute baby) shows the yarn's true color well, but here's one that shows the shape of the finished object better:

I also made a little cardigan to go with, but no cute baby pic here because the cardigan is more 3-6 mo. size, rather than newborn:

I liked this pattern too, and was so pleased with how it turned out, but I admit: I almost gave up on it at the beginning just because there were so freaking many stitch markers. It drove me a little insane.  (The pattern is "Sunnyside" and my frustration shouldn't keep you from knitting it: the pattern's good and clear; the frustration was all my own fault. My project page on Ravlery is here.)

But I'm glad I kept on, because once more of the knitting was done and I could really perceive the shape of it, it started making more sense and I think the zigzag lace down the front and around the shoulders is classy. 

One change I made: instead of a knit picot edging, I did the edging in crochet. Not only was it easier, but I like the look of crochet picot better than knit.

All in all, these were really satisfying projects - but the most satisfying thing of all was meeting the baby I made them for!  Thank God for his great mercies. 

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, January 8, 2016

Book Notes: "The Salvation of Jeffrey Lapin", by Summer Kinard

". . . we have been given the grace of having our hearts broken. It was easy for us to see you."
"But you are all so beautiful." Jeff cleared his throat and sat up. "I can't think of you as broken."
"Think of us as healing, then. What you see that is so beautiful is the image of God peeking through as he heals us."
-The Salvation of Jeffrey Lapin, pgs. 209-210

"The Salvation of Jeffrey Lapin", by Summer Kinard, is an Eastern Orthodox vampire novel.

I know.  Why do you think I was compelled to pick it up?

When I first heard about this book, I cocked my head to the side in puzzlement - the same way you're probably doing right now! But when I heard a bit more about the premise, I knew I wanted to read it.

And honestly, after reading the whole thing, the premise is still my favorite part of the book. Here it is: Jeffrey Lapin is a vampire - a man who cannot die, who yearns to kill and eat the living - but he's that way because he is possessed by a demon. He longs to die. And when Maddy, a police officer who happens to be Eastern Orthodox, touches him, her touch burns his skin. It's the first thing that's ever hurt him since he was turned, and it gives him hope that he might have finally found a way to finally end his misery.

So he decides to commit suicide . . . via baptism.

I love that! I love it because it makes the premise actually work.

But, what Jeffrey doesn't consider is the fact that a traditional baptism service includes an exorcism. I imagine you can guess what happens next.

So, how did I like the book as a whole? I'm going to break it down into two categories: Things I Liked & Things That Didn't Quite Work For Me.

Things I Liked:
Again: the premise. Fascinating & bizarre, but Kinard actually made it make sense. Which shows that she is brilliant.

Also, I love that it's about supernatural things, but it approaches them Christianly. In a literary world with no lack of fantasy novels, this is rare and wonderful to stumble upon. For instance, I appreciated that the demon in the story actually sounded like a demon - blaming, accusing, etc. Another for-instance? Even though it was squirm-worthy to read, the author allows the broken, post-possessed man to make at least one truly weird, stomach-turning mistake. That's realistic to the damage evil does in us.

Above all, I appreciated that the answer to all the evil in the story was simple: it was Jesus.

I also liked that these characters lived in a real community. Too often books feature a hero and heroine who apparently have no family or neighbors or coworkers or acquaintances. That was not true of Jeffrey and Maddy, and I enjoyed the atmosphere of community in the book.

Things That Didn't Quite Work For Me:
It was so very, very Orthodox. Now, this clearly won't be a problem for everyone, and it shouldn't keep anyone from reading the book, but I mention it because it did pull me out of the story sometimes. In particular, there were several times where it felt like religion was treated too much like magic. Now, I've read enough EO theology that I know there are reasons behind treating icons, crossing oneself, etc. the way the characters do, but in the logic of the story, those actions still felt a little too much like talismans.

Let me be clear though: I would much rather read a book from a devout Christian I disagree with than a lukewarm Christian of my own denominational persuasion! So, I'm grateful to Kinard for being true to her tradition. The particular is always more interesting and honest than the general, including when it comes to the practices of various branches of the church.

The second thing that didn't work for me was more personal: I did not buy Maddy, the main female character, as a cop. Why? Because I know too many cops in real life. This was a problem because Maddy's main internal conflict was very related to her work, but the way it was set up and the way it all worked out just didn't ring true to me.

Finally, I felt like the story lost a lot of momentum once the initial problem - Jeffrey's possession - was solved. I did really like that we got to see the fallout of that, I liked that 100+ years of demonic residence left marks, and I liked the idea of seeing how recovery and healing worked in that situation. It just didn't kept me as engaged as the beginning did, though I think that might be largely because the second half was concentrated much more on Maddy's conflict which, as I said above, didn't work for me.

In the end, I'm glad I read this book, and I really, really hope that the world sees more and more Christian authors attempting to tell stories like this: stories that are challenging and creative, and stories where church communities and relationships really matter.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I'll receive a small percentage of the purchase price - for my own shopping! :) (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"Why Celebrate Epiphany?"

why baptize? in Jesus' words, "to fulfill all righteousness".

Happy Epiphany!

My friend, Anna Gissing, has a good article over at The Bethlehem about why we celebrate this day.  She has ideas for celebrating it in the home, too - of course she does, because she authored the "Epiphany" chapter in this great little book! :D

Epiphany celebrates three distinct events in the gospels, which are all about Jesus' glory being shown forth to the whole world - Jew and Gentile alike! His glory was to be declared to every person, regardless of race or culture. After you've had a chance to read Anna's words over at the link, you might also take some time on this holiday to read the gospel passages about the three "showings-forth":

-The adoration of the Magi - Where Gentile wise men found God's Messiah.
-The baptism of Jesus - Where the Father declared his pleasure in his Son.
-The miracle at Cana - His first miracle, where he "manifested his glory" and "his disciples believed in him."

God bless you on this good day!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I'll receive a small percentage of the purchase price - for my own shopping! :) (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Weekly Links - Christmas Edition

I know, I know, it's not weekly at all. But, Christmas!

Okay, here's my list of good reading for what's left of your weekend - and I've been saving links the whole time I've been on holiday, so this particular link entry is particularly full of goodness!

It IS still Christmas, for two more days, so I'll start with the seasonal links:

-"Christmas Can Be Creative!" - fun (mostly easy!) group-oriented ideas for the last few days of Christmas.

-"The Party Has Just Begun" - I'm a bit late linking to this one, but it's good for the last few days of Christmas this year, and it's also so resource-full that it's a good one to bookmark for when the season rolls around again.

-"Every Shepherd Soul" and the Invisible Mission of the Son - a good meditation on a mostly-forgotten hymn.

-"The Slaying Song Tonight" - Unlike the rest of the links on the list, this one isn't informational. It's a piece of holiday flash fiction by Lars Walker, one of my favorite authors. Flash fiction often requires at least two readings, because the ending can change your perception of the beginning so much. That's certainly so in this case.

-"Christmas Traditions Without Kids" - Another good one to bookmark. So many holiday activities are planned around children, but not everyone is a parent, and Lisa has lots of good thoughts on how to celebrate with your loved ones if that's the case for you.

Now, moving on to the more general interest links:

-"Making Home" - Jessica Brown is one of my new favorite authors (I might have had a sneak peek at her upcoming book project), and I thought this meditation of hers was really beautiful.

-"You Don't Need a Date Night" - for all of us who love just living ordinary life with our spouses!

-"Why Is English So Weirdly Different From Other Languages?" - my fellow etymology nerds will love this one. (Especially when you read here that etymology isn't really a big deal in languages that aren't as weird as ours!)

-"King Lear: The Syntax and Scansion of Insanity" - Another good one for English nerds - esp. if you're into not just etymology, but also literature.

-"The Secret to My Productivity, Or: Thoughts About Luxury and Privilege" - a lot of home truths here.

-"Writing Wednesday: Are Short Stories Worth It?" - Yes - but only if you sincerely like them!

-"7 Reasons to Join the Liturgy of Life Reading Group 2016" - Another one from Erica and, yes, I might have personal reasons for thinking this looks like a great reading group, but even aside from those: Folks, this looks like a great reading group!

Happy Christmas, dear ones!

-Jessica Snell