Sunday, August 4, 2019

On the State of Abigail Beson

A few people have asked what the plans are for a follow up to The Siege of Abigail Beson, so I decided to write this status update.

Scope and Schedule

Abigail Beson is a fictional teenage girl born in 1852 and living in rural Virginia outside a small (also fictional) town named Nottowell, about 15 miles from Appomattox.

I published The Siege of Abigail Beson in 2016 via KickStarter. The published book consists of two novellas, The Siege and The Excursion. The former tells of the the surprise attack on Abby's family home and the latter describes her journey to meet her older brothers they returns home following the conclusion of the war.

I have since written drafts of two further novellas, The Subversion, which centers around her relationship with her brother Jackson and his struggle to move on following the cessation of hostilities;  and The Forging, in which Abby finds herself at war with Rose Greenhow, a notorious (real) civil war spy. 

Sketches of Cover Art for The Subversion of Abigail Beson by Emily Krueger

All four novellas touch on historical themes and events. Siege and Subversion are heavily influenced by the boots-on-the-ground perspective of individual soldiers as described in Bruce Catton's Reflections on the Civil War. Excursion and Forging touch on Civil War era cryptography, as I describe here. In telling the story from the perspective of low ranking, non-slave holding people in the south (as a writer living in the north), I hoped to humanize the individuals who were caught up in the war regardless of which side they were on.

My objective has been to complete Subversion and Forging in 2019. However, after reading through the drafts my brother observed that the story is rather whitewashed. Slavery was the driving political issue that led to the American Civil War, and telling a story about the war without touching on the topic of slavery would undercut an issue that is still pertinent today. The goal then is a challenging one. In the first two novellas I strove to humanize soldiers of the confederacy, in the following stories I want to address the legacy of the Civil War.

This is no small challenge, and it's one I am not yet equipped to properly address. My goal for 2019 has thus shifted from completing the book to improving my understanding of the nuances of the Civil War era, particularly what life was like for newly freed slaves in the postwar American south. I will not, of course, be able to address every issue associated with the legacy of the civil war, but I hope to at least touch on two points:

The overall goal of humanization remains the same; a story that simply casts all confederates as evil will only foster division. I hope instead to cast both the citizens of the north and of the south as people while simultaneously denouncing the practice of slavery and the systemic racism it begat as abhorrent and evil.  At this time I cannot commit to a completion date because I want to be confident that it respectfully and appropriately addresses these issues. 

I will update you as I read and learn more. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

How to Build a Simple Treasure Chest

My five year old had been asking for a treasure hunt and I finally found time to make a proper treasure chest for him to find. I wanted it to be weather resistant, durable, and to look like a "real" treasure chest.

The finished product


  • 3/4" oak boards (about two board feet)
  • An old leather belt
  • Brass hinges
  • Wood screws
  • Titebond II wood glue
  • Boiled linseed oil


  • Mitre saw or table saw
  • Drill
  • Pocket screw jig (optional, Titebond glue is probably sufficient on its own)
  • Clamps
  • Rachet straps
  • Heavy duty scissors


I built the base first. The base consists of five rectangles of 3/4" thick oak, shown in the diagrams below. 

Base, top view

When building the base, I use Titebond glue on all joints. Before applying glue, I drill lots of small (1/16" deep, 1/16" diameter) holes in the contact surface to help glue adhesion. 

Base, end view

I used pocket screws and Titebond II glue to attach the upright "walls" of the base to the bottom. If you do not have a pocket screw jig, you can either drill pilot holes up through the bottom, or you can just do glue. 

The top was trickier to construct because I wanted an arched appearance.

Angled cuts in the top

To close the ends of the top, I made the arched section 6 1/2" inches long, then capped it on either end with a solid piece. 

End view with top

I sanded the whole exterior, then coated the whole thing with boiled linseed oil and let it dry overnight (remember, be careful with linseed-soaked rags, they can spontaneously combust). 

I attached the top with small brass hinges, and added some metal corner hardware. I cut small strips of leather from the belt and attached them to the sides with wood screws. 

Then I buried it in the dirt, drew its location on a map, and watched the adventure unfold. 

Let the hunt begin!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Good Friday Poem: Mark 14:26

I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about Mark 14. Jesus and his disciples go to a house together to eat the Passover dinner. Jesus announces that one of them will betray him, performs the first communion, and then in verse 26

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

I want to know what hymn they sang. A little Googling told me it was likely a psalm, so I tried imagining that I was at the dinner table with Jesus after he had just announced the betrayal. I wouldn’t know what was coming, or even the meaning of what I just heard. Communion would be a totally new concept. What would we sing? Who would choose the hymn? I started paging through Psalms and opened to Psalm 137:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

There’s so much anger in this psalm. I imagine the disciples had anger - their beloved would be betrayed.


Betrayed that’s what he said to us this wine he said he bled for us this bread his body broken he spoke and then he looked to me like I was the only one with a burning coal in the pit of my sole voice arose and said ”no Lord.”

A chorus of denials joined the pile saying no Lord it couldn’t be never me or decrying that he felt that one he had chosen of man said to drop our net sum is nothing if these these prophecies end with he’s going to die.

You were supposed to be a king you were so close so why’d you bring us to this city we’re promised a chance to own with you up on a thrown centurions down bent fury it's ground in my teeth like hooves on a palm branch betrayed psalms answers enslaved brothers with a word not a sword in my hand make a stand Lord!

He raised his hand for silence stand still l listened as he looked to the core I looked to the floor frozen in a stumble dozen wanting to grumble feet washed but not humble debating and waiting when he said sing.

The angel of death passed over caught breath lambs’ blood on the door marked us holy said the seder is closing the psalms of race out of Egypt sing the psalms of places that we slept sing the psalms of provision of waters division of the earth that trembled twelve nations assembled to trust in the Lord.

Like every year ‘round the table I’ve been here I’ve been able to see the reason for hallelujah see the problem right here isn’t the fear of the sword it’s the year of the sword when the nations surround me I cut them down in the name of the Lord what’s the power of God if not the power to loose these chains to unleash our domain in these songs it’s spoken plain.

I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.

The Lord is my strength and my defense.

The Lord has chastened me severely, but has not given me over to death.

If the Lord would not give David to death then you must feel safe in your breath why this talk of betrayal we say in this last hymn today is His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God who let the Romans prevail?
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God whose Son is to die?
His love endures forever.