Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Waldo Reed and the Totem Mountain

Now available on Kindle for $0.99!

Book Description:

Waldo Reed is a freshman at the Oklahoma University of Wizardry. He just wants to enjoy his first semester at college, which may include:

- Making friends with the guys in his dorm (living and dead)
- Meeting girls
- Figuring out the university’s crazy meal plan
- Deciding on his major

But when Waldo discovers that a legendary portal to the netherworld—long protected by ancient totems—is reopening in the mountains, he has more to worry about than his GPA.

Now Waldo must find the portal before someone destroys the totems of protection—or face the terror of a demonic invasion into our world.


This is my second ebook on ($0.99!) It's a funny, entertaining contemporary fantasy short story. If you like it, please post it on your Facebook wall, Tweet, or share it some other way!

If you don't have a Kindle, you can still download "The Vines" or "Waldo Reed and the Totem Mountain" with a Free Kindle Reading App for PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and Android phone.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

One Last Hurrah

On July 30, my friend Aubrey and I took the bus from High Street, Oxford to Heathrow Airport. Unfortunately, neither of us knew which gate we were supposed to be at. When I checked online, the information that I had thought was for Heathrow was actually for DFW.

Thankfully, some high school students from America were taking the bus to Heathrow as well. They had stayed at Brasenose the same time we had. They were going to Gate 3, so we just went with them. That was a good choice, because Gate 3 is the American Airlines gate.

We got to the airport 3 hours early, which is fine with me, because I don't care to ever miss a flight. We watched Dr. Who to pass the time. Then we met up with Erica and Erica and took the flight back home across the ocean. It tested my attention span quite a bit. 9+ hours in a plane is not fun, especially since I didn't sleep.

I feel worse for the little kids on the flight though. But we all survived, and we got back home in the U.S. of A. Back to Texas, land of brown and 100+ degree weather. Quite different from the green hills and 60-70 degree weather of Oxford, England.

But I'm not going to end my Oxford blogs* by talking about my flight home. I'm going out of chronological order one last time. I'm throwing one last hurrah!

*And just because I end my Oxford blogs doesn't mean I've ended my England blogs. Ha!

One Last Hurrah!

On the morning of Thursday, July 28, the day that I did the C. S. Lewis tour, I visited Saint Mary's Cathedral with Kayley and Sarah. Saint Mary's is where C. S. Lewis delivered his "Weight of Glory" sermon. It's
the church of Oxford University.

So we climbed up the tall tower, which overlooks Radcliffe Square. Saint Mary's Church isn't as tall as Magdalen Tower, but it's still very tall.

Here's a shot of Saint Mary's Cathedral from two weeks earlier.

Kayley climbs the spiral staircase, trying not to hold onto the sketchy, sweaty, damp rope.

All Soul's College, the graduate school that is not open to all souls.

Brasenose College

The Radcliffe Camera

Looking east down High Street. You can see Magdalen Tower in top center.

Shops on High Street

Christ Church College

Bonus Ben's Cookies!

This is Ben's Cookies, the super-duper-awesome³ cookies place at the Covered Market in Oxford.

I see what you did there.

Oh Look I'm at the Hogwarts Infirmary!

This is at the Divinity School in Oxford. It served as the Hogwarts Infirmary for the Harry Potter movies.

(My Last Hurrah!)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Imperial War Museum

On Friday, July 29, I took the bus with Aubrey and Sarah to London to see the British Museum. After the museum, they were going to the Globe Theater to see Faustus with Ashley and Kayley, who were already in London, but I wanted to see the Imperial War Museum in the afternoon. So after eating lunch with Aubrey and Sarah, we rode the underground and parted ways.

A part of me was a bit nervous at this point, because my last incursion in a big city ended in a 12 hour train/bus debacle, but I was in London after all, and the Oxford Tube was ever-present, so I figured that I'd be alright.

And I was mostly right. I got back home safely enough.

But less talk about travel--more talk about museums!

A Whole Lot O' Swag

I could have easily spent two or three days in the British Museum (if enough time and a long enough attention span), because it has everything (I'm not even kidding--even this laptop that I'm writing from is in the museum. Right now. I'm in the museum too.)

I didn't bother taking pictures at the museum because it was a sensory-overload, similar to the Ashmolean and, to a lesser degree, the Natural History Museum in Oxford. But while the Ashmolean has a wide variety of artifacts, this was the British Museum. When you're the greatest superpower the world has ever seen, and the sun never sets on your empire, you got a whole lot o' swag to display in your top museum.

And there was, indeed, a whole lot o' swag. And no pictures.

The Imperial War Museum
My good auld buddy and suitemate in Couch 5 at OU and roommate in Staircase V at Oxford, Will, is studying history, and he highly recommended the Imperial War Museum. I was not disappointed. It is a magnificent museum, showing the machinery, the industry, and the inhumanity of that depraved human practice called "war."

It was fun, I suppose, to see all of the planes and tanks and guns.
But it was also very sad.

Fifteen-inch guns. The one on the right bombarded Normandy Beach on D-Day.

A German Focke-Wulf fighter plane.

A British Spitfire fighter plane.

An American P-51 Mustang fighter plane.

The tank that British General "Monty" used.

Monty's Many Medals and Uniforms

Children in World War II Exhibit

British Propaganda Posters encouraging parents to evacuate their children (because of the Blitz) and leave them in the country.

This illustration is in memory of the German children who were interned by the British during World War II.

"You can't get sweets..."
Some humanity in the midst of all the inhumanity.

Rationing ends and the candy stores reopen. If I remember correctly, that wasn't until 1953.

I wept.


There was also a Holocaust exhibition. The pictures, film, stories, and items from that exhibit are beyond words--as is the evil that was at work in the Holocaust.

At the highest level of the Imperial War Museum was the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, an exhibition of all of the Victoria Cross winners. I wish I could have spent an hour there, but my time was up. There were excellent stories of all of the courageous heroes who have won the Victoria Cross.

Friday, August 26, 2011

C. S. Lewis, The Kilns, and Holy Trinity Church

C. S. Lewis is a personal hero of mine. I'm not alone on that count. I've wanted to visit his home and resting-place for many years. I did lots of research to find out where-how-when, and I finally got there on Thursday, July 28, 2011.

Like many of you, C. S. Lewis has had a big influence on my life because of his fiction, his Christian thinking, and his Christian apologetics. The Chronicles of Narnia was the first of the Three Great Fantasies in my life. I entered Narnia before I was 7, I went to Middle-earth around the age of 9, and I went to Hogwarts very late as a 16 year-old.

Middle-earth and Hogwarts have a special place in my heart, but Narnia came first.

This is The Kilns--the home of C. S. Lewis ("Jack") and his brother, Warnie. Lewis bought the house with a friend's mother after World War I. He and a friend in the army made a promise that if either one of them died in the war, the survivor would look after the other's family. Lewis' friend was killed, so Lewis looked after his friend's mother and sister.

Thanks to my friend, Jamie, for the Dutch Angle. We're in Thor.

Going to Narnia--brb! (Or to the C. S. Lewis Nature Reserve)

This is Holy Trinity Church, where Lewis attended and was buried.

The Narnia Window in Holy Trinity Church. It was a dedicated in memory of children from the church who died tragically.

He was here.

Jack died in 1963, and Warnie died in 1973.

The inscription says, "Men must endure their going hence." This quote is from King Lear, and it was the quote of the day on the Lewis' Shakespeare calendar when their mother died. They were children when their mother died. The death of Lewis' mother affected him greatly. Scenes from The Magician's Nephew show this influence--when Diggory tells Aslan that he wants his sick mother to get better.

I took this photo because of a scene from the movie Shadowlands, which is about Jack and his wife, Joy, who died of cancer 4 years after they were married. (They got married on Joy's deathbed, but then her cancer went into remission for 4 years.)
At the beginning of the Anthony Hopkins' version of Shadowlands, Lewis is giving a lecture on The Romance of the Rose, in which he describes how desire is better than attaining. I.e., longing for love is better than actually having it.

But then Jack meets Joy, and he opens up his heart, and they have four years of happiness before Joy passes away. I think the point of having that scene at the beginning of the movie is to show how Lewis changed his mind about desiring and having.

That's why I took the photo.

You should watch the Anthony Hopkins' version of Shadowlands. It will break your heart.

And when someone whom you love passes away, you should read A Grief Observed, which Lewis wrote anonymously after Joy died.

This is the Mason's Arms, a pub that Jack and Warnie would visit sometimes after church. They always left church at the last hymn, before everyone else, leaving the door to slam conspicuously.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Magdalen College

On Tuesday, July 26, I visited Magdalen Tower at Magdalen College, which is where C. S. Lewis taught as a professor. Magdalen College is one of the oldest and most well-endowed colleges at Oxford University.

I was taken aback by the confined space of the winding stairs that led to the top of Magdalen Tower. People with claustrophobia would have panicked for sure. The tower is around 144 feet tall. The view was worth it, and I shared the moment with my Shakespeare classmates.

Atop Magdalen Tower with my Shakespeare classmates.

This is the photogenic English Contemporary Novel class, taught by Professor Wright. They're the reason we were able to go up here--because their tutor was from Magdalen.

Pat is very pleased, and he indicates his pleasure by giving the "thumps-up."

A view of Magdalen College from the Tower.

The High Street, as seen from the Tower.

Nice view. Long drop.

Here I am, holding the key to Magdalen Tower. I tried a dramatic pose, because it is quite an honor to hold the key to Magdalen Tower. Sometimes humor works, sometimes it fails miserably and people roll their eyes and say things.
Pssh, things.

This time, humor worked.

A glorious green lawn.

Magdalen Tower

Those windows with the red flowers were where C. S. Lewis stayed. I was excited to walk on the same grounds as the see the outside of Jack's old room.

A hallway underneath Lewis' room.

I would have loved to stayed longer at Magdalen College, but it was soon dinner time, so we left to enjoy another delicious and glorious meal at Brasenose Dining Hall.

Farewell Dinner

We had our Farewell Dinner on Wednesday night of July 27. My last tutorial was Wednesday afternoon, so I could stop being silly and stressing myself out over papers that I shouldn't have stressed out over. I shall miss discussing Shakespeare's plays with my tutor, Ben.

We all dressed up real smart and purty for our Farewell Dinner. We even took some photographs.

My Shakespeare Class, taught by Dr. Velie. One of my classmates bought Dr. Velie a blanket with all of the Oxford college crests, and we all signed it.

All the beautiful people from the University of Oklahoma Honors at Oxford 2011 Program.

Thumbs-up. Don't Panic.