Guest Post: Raina Nightingale & Kingdom of Light


It’s always so exciting for me when a friend puts out a new book! It was thrilling when I found out that fellow writer and blogger Raina Nightingale had released a book, and I was eager to learn more about it.

I asked her to write a post telling us about her novel Kingdom of Light and what inspired it. It sounds intriguing! I’m happy she agreed to come on as a guest blogger!

About the Book:

A kingdom of darkness where soldiers guard the people against wicked glowstones that attract nightmare monsters and death…

A young girl, terrified of the darkness and drawn to the light. What if the glowstones provide the only protection against the monsters of the dark? What if everything she has ever been told is a lie?

What if the Kingdom of Light is not confined to the afterlife, but can be found even in this world?

With her friends, Louisa discovers that the real world is unlike anything any of them could have ever imagined, and thousands follow…

Find Kingdom of Light on Amazon and other retailers!


When I first conceived the initial idea for Kingdom of Light, it came out of the fact that I was thinking about how Jesus is good. He is the maker and giver of all good things, and when we meet Him and follow His call, we receive His best. I was more than a little annoyed by a cycle of reaction and over-reaction that seems to be going on. I’ve no need to name names, and little business doing so since in most cases I know little more than the names, and my knowledge of this cycle is imparted through some associations I had with some evangelism-oriented groups, but there is an unfortunate situation, where someone claims that if one follows Jesus, then that’s the end of material shortages or difficulties of any sort, and if one has anything that appears to be a disability that, too, will be healed, and so forth, and others are at pains to reject this and make a lot of statements like, “God doesn’t care about whether or not you’re happy; He wants you to be holy,” or, “You can choose pleasure and happiness now, and pain and misery forever after, or you can choose pain and misery now, and have happiness and pleasure forever after,” (I’m pretty sure these quotes are not word-for-word).

I’m not going to write a lot of philosophy or talk a lot about theology or dogma here. There’s a place for that, and I could do so (and even have, in other places and at others times), but there’s a place for other things, and dogmatic statements and philosophical discussions have their weaknesses. I’m a firm believer that there are large areas of human nature that have to learn and understand through other means, and that without context – without reaching these areas of our beings – dogmatic statements can sometimes be worse than useless, and that one of these areas of human nature responds strongly to stories. I’m going to write about stories, and a little about why and how I wrote this story.

I have found stories to be an important part of my thought process. I learn what things mean, I discover what I think, and I understand more often than not through stories. Stories unite the concrete and the abstract. In stories, ideas come alive and are put to the test. In stories, concepts and thoughts are made relateable to more than the intellect – and sometimes even to the intellect – and we are more than creatures of pure intellect and logic. To many of us, intellect and logic is not even our first choice of mode of operation, and there is nothing wrong with that: our Lord has made us all unique persons, capable of interfacing with truth and reality, and relating to Him and to each other, differently.

For me, I really know what I think when I can put it into a story, and I often have to put something into a story before I have even the possibility of communicating it elsewhere. Stories point me to other people’s thoughts and ideas in a way that dry, intellectual communication can’t. The images of a story, the fact that it is story, not one moment, but a development, something in motion, sometimes with more focus on characters, sometimes with more focus on symbolic imagery, are all capable of what other modes of communication fail, and its limitation is often its strength.

A story does not make itself out to be dogma. A story can be “truth, so far as it goes,” – far more than metaphor – but it does not make itself out to be, “the full truth, nothing but the truth, succinctly and accurately characterized,” about anything. A story is a journey, a discovery, an exploration, not a “teaching.” A story is personal. A story provides context, meaning, life. A story is flexible, and its limitations and the ways in which it is vaguer and less clear than other things are one with its ability to convey vision and value that can’t be communicated in something less opaque and more clearly defined. There is a saying that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and to a large degree what is understood by anything – a story, a philosophical essay, a dogmatic statement – is within the eye of the one who sees and the ear of the one who hears.

A story does not bypass that, and it does not pretend that it does – if anything, a story brings that out, and it is easier and more natural for people to know that when they hear a story, what they hear is in part determined by what they are prepared to hear, whether that comes from within their own hearts or from the contexts of their environment. At the same time, a story has an ability to provide depth, to frame and color, to be an environment and context, that these other things do not have. A story has the potential to suggest the value and richness of knowing Jesus, of living in the Light of the World, without falling so readily into the dangers of platitudes which quickly become meaningless and then get tossed to and fro in a storm of reaction and little understanding.

So, I naturally turned to a story to express what I saw, and to hopefully point towards the truth the general discussions I saw were missing and help people to see and articulate what they might really understand, instead of repeating platitudes and doctrinal statements that had become meaningless in their present context. Kingdom of Light was first born with a rather simple image including the setting of the story and the initial journey and discovery of Louisa.

Louisa’s village – and the entire known kingdom – lives in complete darkness, using crude torches for what light they must have, and sleeping and going about their work either in the poor light of the torches or in complete darkness. Everyone is taught that their steadfastness will be rewarded with an eternity in light, but that if anyone keeps one of the rare glow-stones – which provide a brighter and steadier light, without the difficulties of torches and which are to be destroyed upon discovery – will be pursued and chased by monsters and spend eternity in darkness. Louisa is terrified of the darkness, and scared of the torches, and one Warm Time, while doing what gathering she can with her torch, she finds a glow-stone.

That is how Kingdom of Light started. It remained that, but it soon became far more, for how can one write a fantasy about an abstract, generalized ‘experience of goodness’? It will quickly become far more, so Kingdom of Light developed, following the personal journey of Louisa and two others through a variety of mystical experiences wherein they discover the real world – and while they see the same Real World, their experiences of finding, following, and trusting the Light are also very different, even when they are parallel. It soon became very mystical and symbolic, in a similar vein as Phantastes and Lilith by George MacDonald (I don’t know of a genre label for works of that sort, but if I did, I would say that’s the genre of Kingdom of Light).

It was a fascinating experience to write, as usually I have some idea of where a story is going, a sense of the approximate order of the scenes and of how it will end. Kingdom of Light I wrote scene by scene – sometimes even line by line. Beautiful scene by beautiful scene, rich with imagery, every image thick with meaning often deeper than I myself perceived or can say I grasp. The Lady Lily (the lady in pink whom Louisa meets in Ch. 8 “Beautifying Light”) was inspired by a figure in an ancient dream I had as a young child of going to Heaven. Most of the dream is vague and half-forgotten, nothing but a faint lingering sense of the wholesome and indescribable, with only that one image still clear in my memory, and even that image representative of a sense of awesome bliss and other things utterly unnameable that lie beyond my comprehension or memory.

I think the story begins its long, deep dive into the mystical and symbolic about the time of that first meeting. From that point on, though Louisa does not see the fullness of the Real World, she sees everything in the Light. She does not see all of the Light, or all things fully in the Light, and there are times when the Light is very dim, but nothing can ever be the same again. Eventually, even the Darkness is transformed by the Light.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Thank you for having me, Mariella!


About the Author

Raina Nightingale has been writing high fantasy since she could read well enough to write stories with the words she knew (the same time that she started devouring any fiction she could touch). She especially loves dragons, storms, mountains, stars, forests, volcanoes, a whole lot of other things, and characters who make you feel whatever they do. When she’s not learning and exploring either her fantasy worlds or this one, she enjoys playing with visual art, among other things. She will always believe kindness is stronger than hatred.

From Dust to Rich Soil


All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.

Ecclesiastes 3:20

We have begun the liturgical season of Lent. Through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, Christians worldwide remind themselves of their dependence on God. As we set aside the airs of grandeur, we are forced to behold the messes we are, messes which only He can clean up.

Though this sounds romantic, know that Lent will not leave you as you were if you celebrate properly.

Humans like to have everything under control, especially ourselves. During Lent, we are forced to acknowledge that our own selves are in His hands. We teach ourselves lessons of morality and wrestle with demons disguised as ‘human nature.’ We set goals for Lent, abstaining from red meat or snacks; whether we succeed or not, we are reminded that we’re not in control.

Ignore the cravings, cheat on a Sunday, you will be forced to admit it is difficult.

Lent is supposed to be an uncomfortable time, but this does not mean it has to be a dark time. The spirit of Lent should be carried throughout the year, this battle for our own souls. We should learn to approach an admission of weakness as freedom: it allows us to rest our heads on His Sacred Heart, knowing that there is no other way to “be perfect.” We give it all up to Him, even the vices and pain that we somehow glorified. He loves us too much to let us stay enslaved.

Take comfort, for you are dust. From dust the Lord shaped you into a human. Everything unique about you was formed by His Hands. Your strengths and weaknesses were breathed by Him. Take comfort–while you are still expected to fight the good fight and endure until the end, your failures are progress. We do not need to feel like gods when we are formed from dust. We do not need to wallow in shame; we are dust and, as He shaped into what we are, He can shape us into more perfect versions–if we let Him.

Lent is more than a time to give up donuts. We should always live grateful that our God never gives up on us. If we will drop the petty things that make us feel unique, things we won’t admit are hurting us, He will transform us. The flower must push through the ground before it blooms; we are dust, and dust can be made into beautiful clay statues, but not without an uncomfortable process.

If we live our lives with the penitential, humble spirit of Lent, we might one day be perfect.

I am trying to purge myself of toxic thoughts. I am trying to do scary things and step over the boundaries I set, somehow believing I knew myself enough to dictate what I am capable of. I know nothing about myself; how can I dare say what I am capable of? I am savoring every moment and opening doors I can’t afford to keep closed.

A heart shut up won’t break, but neither will it grow.

I am dust. So long as I remember this, I can be shaped by God into something worthy of Him. I will never be finished in this life, but how dare I stop seeking worthiness? How dare I settle in this shriveled version of myself? Lent is uncomfortable, but so is life.

Use Lent as a time to take action and toss your demons out the door. Don’t give them the key or tell them where the spare is hidden. You might feel empty for a while without them, but angels won’t take long to come to your aid.

Do not be grieved by the memory of being dust. Beautiful things grow out of dirt; God can make this dust into rich soil, home to a most glorious flower garden pleasing to Him.

Waiting at the Manger


Last night we made a small pilgrimage to our church, where there is a Nativity scene. Baby Jesus is not there yet; according to tradition, He will be placed in the manger on Christmas Eve. In our house we have a small Nativity scene where Baby Jesus is covered up; He will be revealed on Christmas Eve.

Friends, it has been a year to test all of us; enough has happened to chip away at the faith of the most pious person. We cannot let fear steal away our joy of the holidays. We cannot let fear steal away our joy.

I’m not a theologian. I am a storyteller. Long ago, when I was baptized, I knew Jesus had sent us all out to tell the greatest story of them all: the story of how He came to save us from eternal grief. My short posts on lives of the Saints at Write Catholic are only the result of the first chapter.

What is the first chapter? Is it not when the Creator descended as a babe, helpless in the arms of His Mother, surrounded by the animals blessed to adore Him–already rejected, because there was no room for Him at the inn?

2021 is a good time to erase fear from the inns of our hearts and make space for the gifts that Jesus brought us. In 2020 we were all afraid, and we had reason to be; in 2020, many people lost loved ones and had their lives changed forever.

St. John Paul II’s handwriting encourages us to remember the 365 times that the Bible tells us not to be afraid. Anyone who knows of St. John Paul II’s life can agree that he saw fear; he felt it; he wept when he lost his friends, he must have been frustrated when Parkinson’s debilitated him, and there must have been times when he asked God Why?

He had a purpose, though, and God never gives us more than we can handle. You have a purpose, too; so do I. In 2021, I will follow the words of St. John Paul II and pray for the grace to stand steady in the face of a shifting world.

As survivors of 2020, what might our purpose be? Here are some ideas off of the top of my head:

  • Comfort the mourning. You probably know somebody who lost a friend or family member to COVID; send them a card in the mail and reassure them of your prayer and friendship.
  • Exercise your faith. Like a muscle, faith needs to be put into action daily. Read the Bible or a devotional; sit in silence and wait for the soft voice in your heart to give you instructions.
  • Pray the Rosary. Our Lady gave us the Rosary with the promise that this Sacramental would save the world. She told the children at Fatima that it should be prayed every day. I have made this a practice, and it brings me peace I cannot describe with human words.
  • Count your blessings. A dear friend encouraged me to write my small blessings in a gratitude journal. Be grateful for your breakfast in the morning; be grateful for that line in a song you really love. The more you practice gratitude, the more grateful you will be.
  • Tell someone about Jesus. I can assure you that, in the chaos of 2020, many people have forgotten about Jesus and what He did for us. Tell one person about Jesus this year; remind them that we have not been forgotten, and that we look forward to a better world.
  • Practice charity. Whether it’s donating to a food bank or being kind to someone you do not know, those five dollars might buy a meal–a kind sentence might be the only kindness someone encounters in an entire day. Love covers a multitude of sins–and heals a multitude of hurts.

We are a people of joy, not fear.

Christmas is nearly upon us; I can feel in my bones that we Christians have extra work to do in 2021. Raise the hashtag #2021BeNotAfraid. Seek the positive, the reminders of God in the world. Tell people why you still have hope.

My part in all of this? I am a writer. I can use words to get messages across. I am more than a fiction writer. My interests are in more than fantasy and historical fiction. It is my vocation to keep telling the greatest story in the world.

I believe this is my purpose. Sit down for a while now and ask God…what is yours?

The Catholic Project – November Digest


Back in July I announced that I would be using my gift of writing to talk about my Catholic faith. It took a few months for me to decide how to do just that and where. Though I shared my conversion story here, I want this blog to focus on book reviews and other literary things. Aside from a monthly update on what’s going on in my missionary blog, here I will focus on books.

Consider these monthly summaries newsletters. My missionary blog, Write Catholic, is where you will find my posts about Catholic Saints’ lives, Catholic book reviews, and–sometime in the near future–lives of the greatest Popes, as well as conversion stories. We are given gifts and expected to use them to build the Kingdom. I want to use my passion for writing to draw people nearer to Catholicism and teach what we really believe.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite posts from the month of November. Great sites such as Ignitum Today and Catholics Around the World have been kind enough to feature some of them.


November 8 – St. Cecilia: Listening to Heavenly Music

Saint Cecilia by Jacques Blanchard

Saint Cecilia is the Patron Saint of music in the Roman Catholic Church. She is patroness of music because it is said that she heard heavenly song in her heart. She might not have played the piano, though works of art often depict her doing so. Nonetheless, musicians ask for her intercession. Read more…


November 8 – St. Therese of Lisieux: Who’s That Nun?

In the month of October, many non-Catholics scratch their heads as their Papist friends fill their feeds with images and quotes of a nun. She died long ago, and is a Saint in the eyes of the Church. Despite her popularity, many people cannot fathom how a normal-looking girl became a Saint. Read More…


November 20: Sts. Louis & Zelie Martin: A Love Story

St. Therese’s family was close to God from the moment of her parents’ marriage. Her mother, Zelie, prayed that she would have many holy children–and all of her daughters became nuns! In this story, the graces did not begin when the Martin daughters chose to become nuns. This story begins with their parents, a tale of love written by the hand of God. Read More…


November 25 – Six Famous Carmelite Saints

When you say “I saw a nun” or “I saw a monk,” can you name which Order they belonged to? Benedictines, Jesuits, and Dominicans have different habits and ways of serving the Church. Some choose the cloistered life; others are missionaries, serving the poor. The Carmelites are one of the most famous Religious Orders. Here are six great Saints who came from this community. Read More…


November 27 – St. Nicholas Owen & His Priest Holes

Priests were targeted by priest hunters, who searched for these servants of God and arrested them. If a priest was spotted, he was given forty days to leave the country or be punished for high treason unless he renounced Catholicism. Many brave priests chose to stay and feed Christ’s sheep. They would take refuge in the homes of the faithful, hidden in tunnels or “priest holes” built by men like St. Nicholas Owen. Read More…


December 4 – St. Maria Goretti: Only The Strong Forgive

The surgeon tried to save Maria’s life, but the wounds were too deep and too many. He soon realized that he could do nothing for her. It is said that he asked his patient, weeping, to pray for him in Heaven.
“I will gladly pray for you,” Maria said.
Who is the true warrior–the one who survives and lives as a coward, or the one who falls with courage? Read More…


Conclusion

These are my favorite articles that I wrote in the month of November. I must say that, since I started this project, I have never felt so fulfilled. I am finally using my gift to serve the Church and introduce my Heavenly siblings to the modern world.

I have already published my first Saint biography for December, the story of St. Maria Goretti. I plan to write about St. Nicholas, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Agnes this month. I post on Wednesdays and Fridays, so if you’re interested, join me on my journey to learn more about my faith.

I believe that in rough times, people need stories of heroes who also endured trials. The Saints are perfect. Comment if you have any ideas, or if you are a convert and would like to share your story!

Happy Advent, and I hope you have a lovely Christmas season!

My Catholic Conversion Story


I just realized that, as a Catholic blogger, I’ve never shared my conversion story.

I love hearing others’ stories about how they discovered the joy that that can only be found in the Church; how they found that, in Jesus’ flock, there is a cloud of witnesses—so many Saintly brothers and sisters looking out for us that we are never truly alone!

It was the year that St. Pope John Paul II died, and it was my dear mother who made everything happen.

I remember that he was giving his Easter blessing that night—trying, as he could no longer speak without difficulty—and my mom knew that his time on this earth was almost at an end.

She went to the bedroom and woke up my brother and I; she turned on the television so that we, too, could see him for the last time.

The day of our baptism!

I still thank my mother, to this day, for making sure I had that last holy glimpse of him. The next time I saw him was after he had died, during his funeral.

Soon after this, Mom decided that my brother and I, who had not been baptized in any church yet (because half of our family are LDS, we were to be given the chance to choose for ourselves) needed to be part of a faith. She asked us to pray about it and decide what we wanted to be.

I didn’t have much to think about, really; I remembered feeling protected when my grandmother on my mom’s side would visit with her little saint statues.

These were visual reminders that there was something else. I wanted to know what that other thing was.

We went to church for the first time in our lives. I remember being awed by how big the church was, not just the building, but the sense of joy and unity within.

Not long after that, my brother and I were baptized. We received our First Holy Communion. We were home.

After my baptism, I entered a frenzy of wanting to learn more about the Church, the saints, the sacraments, history, and devotions. Perhaps I tried to get into theology too early, as I burned myself out on all of the things to know, and lost interest as a teenager. Recently, though, I have grown interested again. There is so much to know!

In rough times, when I have thought the Church perhaps too demanding or judged myself as wanting in the Communion of Saints, I’ve felt myself comforted by Mother Mary and the Saints—particularly St. Thérèse and my patron saints, Rose of Lima and Catherine of Siena. I think that St. John Paul II has also been watching over me; after all, he is the first “saint” I knew of before I was baptized, and I did see him alive.

I’m in love with the Church and all it has kept for us over the centuries. I acknowledge that there have been bad Popes, that the human aspect of the Church has led to decisions that were not Christlike. This does not change my love for her.

Until we are all in Heaven, we will all make mistakes.

What’s your story?

Catholicism in the Storm


It has been a rough year for everyone. With loss and anxiety spreading across the globe, it can be difficult to remain optimistic. I’ll be the first to admit I spend more time struggling with emotions than seeing the silver lining.

The year has also offered many opportunities for growth. I’m finally getting around to read books that had been stacked in my room for years. I have discovered new authors and made progress on my trilogy.

We are all enduring abnormal amounts of anxiety as we hope for the way to clear. We have either lost loved ones, or experienced the sense of losing ourselves.

Whenever I find myself choking in negativity, I go outside and see a flower. There is still beauty in this world. 

As I contemplated the flowers in my garden today, I realized that I can find peace in my own garden to begin with, even if I can’t go much farther; every bloom is a reminder that God is still here and that He loves us.

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

Romans 8:19, NIV

It is easy to lose our grip on faith with all of these challenges set before us; we don’t understand why it’s happening. I have come to see that, in times like these, we need to hold onto our Catholic faith more. 

We need to cling to the truth, the thing that never changes, the comfort of Christ’s promise.

I started a new prayer journal. It’s a place where I am raw with my emotions; some days I am more hopeful than others. He understands. In my prayer journal, I’m taking my questions and placing them at His feet. 

We are tempted to lose hope with the world as it is now; walking away from God is a sure way to feel weaker, more helpless. 

I will choose the little way like St. Therese of Lisieux, finding God in my garden and content to be a little flower, if that is His will. After all, I believe each flower in my garden is beautiful, regardless of size or color.

St. Therese, the Little Flower

For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.

― St. Therese of Lisieux

Seek the truth in prayer, in the Bible, in your garden, in the silence when you can only hear your breathing. Turn to the saints who felt despair and plead their intercession. Seize this opportunity to learn context, history, and find ground that does not wobble beneath you.

I used to be passionate about apologetics, until they bored me. Now, their complexity is a comfort, not a burden. Our faith is woven with fact and history, martyrs, great thinkers, and ordinary people. They also went through trying times; they will guide you through this.

Remember to stay safe and healthy. This can’t last forever, and we will all emerge stronger, knowing what really matters. When it’s harder to walk, take another step. When it’s harder to believe, dig deeper.

My next read is Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI. I am going to try and read at least one spiritual book every two weeks, aside from the Bible, which is daily bread. What are you reading?