Sunday, December 31, 2006

One More for Oh Seven

Whoops. I really meant for this book to make my list. I can't believe I left it off, but it was the book I read earliest in 2006. Maybe that's why the Oscar contenders are released in December usually.

Plague Maker by Tim Downs probably is my #2 choice in 06. It had a great story with suspense, humor, and interesting plot details. I learned more about fleas than I probably ever wanted to know. It had intensity and kept the page turning without the intense "ick" that comes off in Germ (although it does have its own ick, it just is smarter about it).

My apologies Mr. Downs. But this way you got a post all to yourself. Whoo-hoo.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Top Six of Oh Six

Yes, just what the world needs: another top 5 or 10 list. The proliferation of blogs, forums, and other internet outlets lets our opinions be trumpeted out to... no one in particular. But I have read some good books this year, and I wanted to share about them one more time. So without further ado my top SIX books of the year:

1. Scoop by Rene Gutteridge. If you want to laugh out loud at an original premise and great characters, then this is the book. I looked forward with delight at getting to sit down and read more of this very enjoyable piece. See 11/15 post and following.

2. Firebird by Kathy Tyers. Okay, this is a trilogy, but I'm counting it as one. (My blog, my rules) This was the best science fiction book I've read in a long time, probably since the Thrawn trilogy of Star Wars books. Good company, as Kathy has written some SW novels. The worlds she creates are vibrant and exciting, and it is very easy to get lost in the events of the book. Book 3 suffers a little in pacing, but overall the trilogy is very worth the investment of time and money! See 8/21 post and following.

3. Hood by Stephen Lawhead. Lawhead returns with a great read and retelling of the Robin Hood story. He creates a believable scenario for making the hero Welsh, and builds great characters and harrowing situations. Here's hoping the sequels hit the same high mark. See post here.

4. Waking Lazarus by T.L. Hines. A debut novel by the brainchild of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. I enjoyed it at the time, but I was going through such a tumultous time it was hard to truly appreciate it. As I reflected, it was an engrossing story with an amazing concept. Be sure to watch for The Dead Whispers On from Mr. Hines in 2007. See 6/26 post and following.

5. Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins. I had been enjoying BC's blog since March of 2005, but Violet Dawn was the first book of hers I read. To my regret. The book grabbed hold and didn't let go with the suspense of the story rushing through 14 hours of life in Kanner Lake, Idaho. With such a compressed timeline, she kept the excitment up while making the town and its denizens come to life. Of course, I have also enjoyed participating as Pastor Hank in the book's blog, Scenes and Beans! See 9/27 post and following.

6. Germ by Rober Liparulo. This one may be cheating, as it is scheduled for a blog tour in January. I don't want to give it away, you'll have to check back then for more. Suffice it to say, this book kept me in suspense more than any other book this year. When I got it I sat down to check out a few pages. 45 minutes and 50+ pages later, my wife came looking for me since I was so distracted.

There you have it. My top 6 of '06. Here's to more great books in 2007!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Switchfoot!

Oh baby...

Oh! Gravity has landed.

The boys from San Diego released their latest album today. I wasn't going to get it right away, but thanks to my buddy TL Hines, Montana writer extrordinare, I had an extra $10 in my pocket (well, at least in my Paypal account).

I've listened to it a few times so far today (as I put together yet another Lego set for my boys. Legos must have been invented to give parents patience...). It is musically pleasing from the get go. The lyrics are thoughtful as always, a little different from their last couple of albums. It seems the theme is challenging the status quo of the cultural mentality. "American Dream" dashes the idea that life is all about money, and a similar vein runs through most of the songs.

So if you enjoy rockin' beats with lyrics to challenge you intellectually and melodies to worm inside your subconscious only to come out while waiting in line somewhere, check out Switchfoot. The cover art is bleah, but the music is well worth it.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Newsboys - "Adoration"

I’m here with the others
Who saw the heavens testify
Now I hang back in the shadows
I want to come close
I want to know
She sees me shivering here
She smiles and with a nod
I walk through the mud and straw
To the newborn Son of God

Come, let us adore Him
He has come down to this barren land
Where we live
And all I have to give Him
Is adoration

He raises a wrinkled hand
Through the dust and the flies
Wrapped in rags like we are
And with barely open eyes
He takes my finger
And He won’t let go
And He won’t let go
It’s nothing like I knew before
And it’s all I need to know

Come, let us adore Him
He has come down to the world we live in
And all I have to give Him
Is adoration

God is with us here
Our Immanuel
God is with us here
Our Immanuel

O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Jesus, our Immanuel
Is with us here and He won’t let go

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas - The Ultimate Second Chance

This is the article I wrote for our local paper, that was published in the Religion section on Dec. 15.

Many people feel that the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible describe two different Gods. I have heard it said, even from otherwise well-educated, thoughtful people, that the God of the Old Testament is a God of justice and wrath. Conversely, the God of the New Testament is a kind and loving God.

In reality, this is a great misconception. The God of the Bible remains consistent throughout His word – it is people reading that don’t understand the way His character remains true from Genesis to Revelation.

In the Old Testament, the focus is often on the wrath of God: Sodom and Gomorrah, the 10 plagues of Egypt, the exile of the Jews to Babylon are just some of the examples of the Lord showing His anger to people. And if this is how people see Him, then they will get that impression. I would come to that conclusion myself.

However, in reading the Old Testament carefully, a different picture emerges. One begins to see a God who is a passionate lover, chasing after His people, giving them many opportunities to return to Him. The Lord reveals Himself to be the God of Second Chances.

Instead of thinking of fire and brimstone, consider this: when Adam and Eve sin, they are punished for their actions. Their sin cannot stay in the presence of a holy God. But later in the Bible it says that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23). Did God smite them down while in their fig leaf outfits? No, He revealed His plan for redemption right after their first sin.

After the serpent had deceived Adam and Eve, God curses the serpent and says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (singular tense in Hebrew) and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This offspring was the promised Messiah. Even though God would’ve been justified in stopping the whole human experiment right then, He instead showed the way by which he would redeem people from their sin.

People may say that the Flood was a severe judgment. But God again would have been justified in wiping the slate clean and starting over; that’s how bad humanity had become in a short time. But he saved Noah and his family, so that we again could have a second chance.

The children of Israel rebelled against God over and over. He told Moses He would wipe them out and make him into a mighty nation. But God showed mercy when Moses interceded.

All through Israel’s history, they turn from the Lord who loves them time and time again. He sends prophets to the people and the leaders, encouraging them to turn back before it is too late. The prophets are always viewed as harbingers of woe. Except, this too is a misconception. Yes, they use quite colorful language to try and catch the ears of their audience, but over and over again the heart of the message is “return to Me”. God’s undying love cries out for His children to seek Him, the true source of all that is good, instead of fooling themselves with the things of the world that seem to bring fulfillment, but only end in disaster.

God doesn’t even stop there. The Old Testament is focused on the Jews, but repeatedly He calls out to the other nations, that they might come to Him as well. “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6).

Hopefully you are starting to see a different picture of the Old Testament here. There is no lack of example on this principle: the God of Genesis through Malachi is a God of love. I could go on for a while on His love for His people, and how He promised He would make a way for them.

The fulfillment of this promise, of giving people a second chance to come back to God, took the form of a little babe in a manger 2000 years ago. The ultimate expression of this redemption took on human form. We could not make a way for ourselves, no matter how hard we tried. The Jews tried to keep the law. They sacrificed how many animals at their temple, to what end? The work of man and the blood of animals could not make up our debt.

There was only one way for our debt to be paid. There was only One, whose blood would be pure enough to wipe away all our stains. There was only One, whose perfect sacrifice would make a way for us to return to our Father in heaven, who desired in His great love, mercy, and longsuffering to have His children in His kingdom. It was unavoidable.

Love had to become flesh. Born of a virgin. He did not miraculously appear in that manger. He was birthed. He had to be cleaned off. His parents were so poor, that a stable for animals was their shelter. A feeding trough had clean hay placed inside so the babe could have a place to lie. The Old Testament, with its story of a loving God pursuing His creation finds its culmination in the greatest miracle of all: Jesus Christ is born. The New Testament, in full agreement with the Old, begins.

And the greatest of second chances is given to the peoples of the world.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Only "One Part Brave"

Since I've been pretty active with the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy blog tour lately, I paid more attention to the movie Eragon. When my good friend Chris and I had the opportunity to get out for a movie, our choices were narrowed to Eragon and Casino Royale. Due to the CSFF Tour, I opted for Eragon, despite lesser reviews when compared with the latest Bond flick.

I don't usually hang my hat on other reviews, but in this case they probably were right.

I'll admit up front that I haven't gotten around to reading the book. If there are any Inheritance trilogy fanboys out there, I'm not dogging the novel, just the movie.

The plot centers around the defeat of the dragon riders long ago by the evil king, who turned on his fellow riders and instruments of justice in order to take power from his own. There is one dragon egg left that is known about, and the movie starts with the search for this stone.

Before the bad guys can take it from the beautiful warrior princess, she manages to magically get it right in front of the very one needed to unleash its potential. Eragon is a 17 year old boy raised by his uncle, content in his farm life. Only when the dragon hatches and he learns the fate he is slated for does he rise up to take a hold of his destiny.

That the movie has promise, is the best compliment I can give it. There's a good story in there wanting to get out. It is just buried by very stilted dialogue ("I suffer without my stone") repeated over and over again ("one part brave against three parts foolish").

The dragon is rendered beautifully, and the scenes of Eragon as the dragon rider flying in battle are exciting. However, at other times the visuals are like a direct-to-DVD knock off of Lord of the Rings. I don't know who the director is, but Peter Jackson he ain't.

John Malkovich is terribly wasted as the king. I enjoyed the magical Shade played by Robert Carlyle. I love Jeremy Irons, but he was hampered by the poor dialogue most of all. The young actor who plays Eragon, Edward Speleers, does the best job in the movie and seems to be a likeable star. Don't get me started about Djimon Hounsou, who has such great screen presence but is made to look ridiculous here. This movie must have brought in every overweight white guy in Hollywood to play the villanous Urgalls. There were more rolls than a NFL lineman reunion!

I heard that the young author of Eragon wasn't involved with the screenplay, which if true is a very good thing for his reputation. As another reviewer put it, the story comes off as a mish-mash of Star Wars and LotR. Yeah, blame the Hero's Journey (which may be the case), but still the plot line was done before and done better.

Overall, it was a fine diversion, but I would've rather caught it at the cheap second run theatre.

The Gospel in a Postmodern World

This blog post is a great mini-discussion of sharing the gospel in a post-modern world. As Christians we need to learn to talk to Western culture in this new language, as previous methods of evangelism just don't resonate with our neighbors any more. Hat tip to Mir, who also has a link to the audio of this.

World View

If anyone thinks Christianity is just a personal decision to receive Christ, then you need to read this article, an interview of Chuck Colson. If you realize the importance of worldview, then you'll still want to read it!

So basically - everyone go and read it. Now. Please.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Check It Too

Becky Miller had a litte more inspiration, and shares that in her 2nd Open Letter to Fantasy Readers. The main thrust: Pray! If you like quality fiction, if you support authors with a Biblical Christian world view, then I encourage you to remember them in your prayers. Making disciples of all men means influencing the sphere of entertainment and art, not leaving it to the Stephen Kings of the world.

End of the Wookiees

It was an up and down year for my fantasy football team "Wild Wookiees". I started off weak, going 2-4. I then won about 5 straight games, sometimes in very close fashion. I needed one victory to ensure going to the playoffs, but I lost 2 in a row. The last game came, and I had to get real creative on my lineup (whoever plays the Raiders this week is my defense!). I managed to squeak by my division leader 104-101 and make the playoffs as a wild card.

Unfortunately, the Wookiees' valiant effort fell short this week. I lost 121-104 to the league leader. If I had played the other two playoff teams I would have clobbered them, but it was not meant to be.


This from the man who passed on drafting LaDainian Tomlinson this year! Arrrgh.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Check It

Anyone who sees this, please go over to Becky Miller's blog today. She has a wonderful post: Open Letter to Christian Fantasy Readers. Even if fantasy isn't quite your thing, it is a thoughtful way to promote the type of fiction you enjoy, so there may be more of it!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Book Review - Hood

Most of the books I review are through the two blogging groups I belong to. I keep busy enough with those books, but I do venture out to the library for other stories. One I read this fall that I enjoyed very much was Hood, by Stephen Lawhead.

He seems to be a streaky writer. He'll have a very strong story followed by one that loses my interest quickly. I was very interested in his new King Raven trilogy, but would it catch my attention and hold it?

Thankfully, yes.

Hood is a re-imaging of the Robin Hood legend. And not of the Kevin Costner variety. I am sure there are many aficianados on this subject out there who might begin to argue with Lawhead's premise, but I think he will quickly short-circuit any criticism. He sets the story in Wales instead of England, during the time when the French (Ffreinc) control England and are encroaching into Welsh territory. As a point of interest, he gives an appendix that discusses his research and choice of scenery.

Bran ap Brychan is a spoiled lout of a prince when his harsh father is cut down by the troops of a Norman count. As a fugitive he is almost killed, but is saved by a withered old woman whose mysteries both repulse and intrigue the young lord. As he is nursed to health, he catches a vision of what he could become.

Meanwhile, political intrigue is stirring in the land, which may include a young woman named Merian. Will Rhi Bran follow his destiny and free his lands and people from their cruel masters? How will he overcome the invading forces of the Ffreinc?

The book will appeal to fans of historical fiction, action tales, and fantasy alike. Lawhead has a gift for tales of British folklore, and Hood is the perfect subject for him to tackle. He catches your attention quickly with tragedy and discovery. You will come across familiar faces set in new ways - and in this prepare to be enchanted! He does a fun turn with some of the famous Robin Hood supporting cast.

The turning of Bran's character is thoughtful and inspiring. The wickedness he is up against is a good foil - you're ready to root against the enemy. But you don't always know who the enemy is either. The book does slow a little in the middle, but it does not disappoint. The ending leaves you hanging and anxious for book 2 (Scarlet) due next year.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gainfully Employed...Sort Of

It's been a long road, and I bet some are wondering why this has taken so long? Well, I wish I could explain that. I've been searching, praying, and waiting for over 3 months at home.

But for now I have some employment.

I have some temporary work with a bit of a commute, but working a couple days a week will keep us secure for a while. God is good. Things were starting to stretch a little thin, but He meets us in our need.

I am still waiting to hear on a permanent job. It involves the government, so we know how that goes. I may be waiting a little while. So the temp opportunity that fell in my lap is perfect. I can still look for a permanent position, or if the sought-after one comes through, I am not committed.

Don't know why it has taken so long. There's been opportunities that have pretty mysteriously not panned out. But God sometimes works that way - gets us to the end of ourselves. He is never late, but He is not necessarily early either.

I'll let you know what I hear on the permanent position front. I may not be quite as active here in between. If you've prayed, thank you and keep up the good work!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

CSFF Tour - Review of Trackers

Trackers is book 2 of the Birthrighters series. The book follows a young group called by God to restore Creation and to spread the gospel. The world had been devastated by wars that ruined everything, pushing mankind back to times of swords, horses, and magic. Rampant genetic tampering has made monstrosities of people, flora, and fauna, and is the major way the magicians stay in service to despotic rulers.

Before the devastation, a modern day ark was built and hidden under the Arctic ice with a faithful remnant. After a long time, these people in their late teens are sent out to establish camps and fulfill their mission of restoration. However, their agenda runs afoul of the local warlords who brutalize their kingdoms like medieval serfs. Lord Alrod of Traxx is the particular stronghold prince who intends on wiping out the birthrighters.

Having not read Outriders, I was in catch-up mode to understand what was going on in Trackers. Mackel brought me into the action quickly, managing to give a pretty good overview of what was going on without backtracking into the previous book much at all. We follow Timothy as he sneaks into Traxx and attempts to rescue a beautiful villager Dawnray, before she can be used as a surrogate for Lord Alrod.

His initial attempt is foiled, and on returning to the Birthrighters camp he receives a mission that takes him once again into Traxx. Another group follows the leader Brady on a hunt for unaltered species until they run into danger and horrors they must confront. Lord Alrod travels the countryside with his new master sorcerer to recruit a master army, while his deposed magician Ghedo conspires in the court to keep his mysterious hold on the lands as well.

Mackel does a great job with details of a new world. Sometimes she has a little slang for the Birthrighters that is not all at once apparent, but it is not too difficult to overcome. The action is crisp, and you want to keep turning the pages to see what will happen. I found the characters for the most part engaging and believable, which is always a key ingredient for me if I'm going to enjoy a book. I did find the magician Simon too mysterious to really get an appreciation for him as an antagonist.

My biggest complaint is that the overall plot seems a little disconnected. The thread with Brady is an important subplot that (apparently) brings resolution to problems from the first book. It just lacks the import somehow to carry as much of the book as it does, in my opinion. The mission back to Traxx discovers some amazing secrets, but the conclusion there is dealt with too quickly.

I've heard that the series was meant to be a trilogy, but is being limited to 2 books. This is too bad, because the ultimate confrontation between the good guys and bad guys would be an epic ending, as she has set the opponents against each other well. I would like to read Outriders to complete my understanding of her world, and would gladly purchase a trilogy if it did come through.

For more fun, check out the official Birthrighters site. It has music written for the books, a test to see what type of Birthrighter you are (I am an Outrider), and more. Good stuff. Also check out Kathryn Mackel's web site, as well as fellow tourmates below. Mirtika has a book giveaway on her blog. Beth Goddard has an interview with the author. Those are just a couple highlights I know about, but sample them all to find more goodies!

Jim Black, Jackie Castle, Valerie Comer, Frank Creed, Gene Curtis, Chris Deanne, Janey DeMeo , April Erwin, Beth Goddard, Mark Goodyear, Todd Michael Greene, Karen Hancock, Elliot Hanowski, Katie Hart, Sherrie Hibbs, Sharon Hinck, Joleen Howell, Karen and at Karen¹s myspace, Oliver King, Tina Kulesa, Lost Genre Guild, Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium, Terri Main, Rachel Marks, Shannon McNear, Rebecca LuElla Miller, Caleb Newell, Eve Nielsen, John Otte, Cheryl Russel, Hannah Sandvig, Mirtika Schultz , James Somers, Stuart Stockton, Steve Trower, Speculative Faith, Chris Walley, Daniel I. Weaver,

Monday, December 11, 2006

CSFF Tour - Trackers, Day 1

This week is the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy (CSFF) blog tour for December. Our goal is to promote CSFF as a viable genre within Christian fiction, and to raise the visibility of the genre and those involved with it.

Trackers is the highlight this month. It is book 2 of the Birthrighters series. You can find out more at Kathryn Mackel's web site.

The previous book is Outriders, obviously establishing the series. I haven't read Outriders yet, but that didn't put me off much in enjoying Trackers.

Check out my fellow bloggers below. Next time I'll have a review of Trackers.

Jim Black, Jackie Castle, Valerie Comer, Frank Creed, Gene Curtis, Chris Deanne, Janey DeMeo , April Erwin, Beth Goddard, Mark Goodyear, Todd Michael Greene, Karen Hancock, Elliot Hanowski, Katie Hart, Sherrie Hibbs, Sharon Hinck, Joleen Howell, Karen and at Karen¹s myspace, Oliver King, Tina Kulesa, Lost Genre Guild, Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium, Terri Main, Rachel Marks, Shannon McNear, Rebecca LuElla Miller, Caleb Newell, Eve Nielsen, John Otte, Cheryl Russel, Hannah Sandvig, Mirtika Schultz , James Somers, Stuart Stockton, Steve Trower, Speculative Faith, Chris Walley, Daniel I. Weaver,

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Modern Love Story

Ten years ago, a modern love story began.

Two people had grown up together, through church and school. Her mother taught both of them in Sunday School and youth group. They didn't run in the same crowd at school, but being in an area of few Christians, they had a connection there because of their faith.

She was popular, in student government and choir. He was a little awkward, in band and drama. He wrote some weird creative stories that could get him kicked out of school nowadays. He was pretty shy, and asked her to prom - only because he knew she was so nice she wouldn't say no. Otherwise he probably wouldn't have had a date! They had fun, but it was just as friends.

She was actually a year older than him in school. When she graduated, she went to Youth With a Mission for their Discipleship Training School in Lakeside, Montana. He was a little lost without his good friend that year, but ended up following in her footsteps, also going to YWAM after his graduation.

When he returned, they both attended the local university, actually carpooling together the first year. She didn't like it when he was snooty about having to listen to country music. He wasn't amused when she and her friends all got in the back of his car and treated him as their chauffeur. Sometimes they seemed to bicker like brother and sister, but they remained friends through it all.

She found that she could even call on him when he was about to sit down to a hot plate of homemade macaroni and cheese, when she was being chased by a vicious spider. He arrived at her house, only a few blocks away, to find her standing on the kitchen counter using a broom to fend off the ferocious arachnid. A well-placed sandal ended the threat.

After a couple of years he decided he needed something radical in his spiritual life, and signed up for a Bible school program through YWAM - in Australia. She is one of the last people he spends time with before leaving. He even calls her from Oz, since he has some extra time on his phone card. She wasn't quite expecting a call from overseas, since they were just friends.

After 9 months he came back from Down Under, and their friendship resumed. She noticed that he had actually matured in his time away. He had always honored their relationship so much that he never dared to make it more, because he didn't want to scare her off.

Over the next year, they continue their friendship. Best friends now, they even start working together at a local restaurant. But when asked if he's ever thought of dating her, he replies that "they're just like brother and sister." When you're both in your early twenties, and some of the only Christian singles around in a small town, that automatic pairing is inevitable. However, they both share a strong passion for the Lord, and they try as best to let Him guide their lives.

Their college studies are coming into focus: she is majoring in education, and he is trying to get into the physician assistant program. Come December, and he's dealing with finals in fun classes like anatomy, physiology, organic chemistry, etc. English papers aren't the highest priority, so that's why on a Sunday he is holed up in his basement most the day to research and write his next assignment. He might have been farther along, but his mind was distracted by what she said after church.

"I need to talk to you about something. But I can't do it right now."

Isn't that maddening?

"Well, when are you going to tell me? What if I call you when I get my research done?"


He finds that he can't concentrate, and his active imagination is spinning with different possibilities. Finally he gets enough done where he figures he can take a break and give her the long awaited phone call. Despite all his imagination, he can't expect what would happen next.

"Remember how you said we were like brother and sister?"


"Well, my feelings for you have changed."

Pause. "What do you mean?"

"I like you more than a friend."

That may not be the most amazing line ever spoken in a romantic film, but it was the most wonderful thing I have ever heard. This woman, who was my ideal, had just opened a door that I could not have ever hoped would open. She is beautiful. She loves the Lord with all her heart. She is sweet and kind, tender and caring. Her smile lights up a room, but she could also speak with God's fire when moved.

So our courtship began. Being good friends, we knew that this wasn't a trifle. The next day I fasted and prayed and the Lord spoke Proverbs 18:22 to me. Wow.

It wasn't easy to be single and waiting. Both of us railed against that at times, but mercifully Jesus kept us hidden in His hand, keeping us from any serious entanglements, keeping us pure.

March 28, 1998, was the day that we were joined into one, and that day will always be special. But our journey started 10 years ago. The day we fell in love.

I love you Beccy. Always and forever.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Blog Tour - Never Ceese

I haven't had the opportunity to personally read this week's featured book, but I must say, it sounds interesting. If this piques your curiosity, then check it out.

Today's blog tour is a member of the CFBA, Sue Dent! Sue Dent was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and currently resides in Ridgeland. When not writing, Sue designs websites and works with digital photograpy. Sue loves to hear from her fans through her website; in fact, the push from eager readers has already set the ball rolling, and she's hard at work on Forever Richard, the sequel. In Never Ceese, Sue sets out to prove that faith and fun can live happily in the same story, and that vampire/werewolf fantasy can have a spiritual message too.

Never Ceese takes religious fantasy to a new level, bringing an entirely new Light to a very dark side of fiction, doing a very admirable job to prove that vampire/werewolf fantasy does not have to be evil to be enjoyed.

The story starts with the classic tale of an English manor owned by Richard, the vampire who righteously is the bain of his neighbor's existence, what with the missing goats and all!

Then enters Cecelia, better known as Ceese, the young werewolf maiden who's arrived via invitation by Richard's aging companion, Penelope.

Ceese and Richard would prefer to tear each other apart, literally, but they are drawn together by their mutual love for Penelope. She is dying and has one request...that the two of them love one another.

This is the overall theme throughout Dent's interesting tale of two who were wronged but learn to work together. Meanwhile they are threatened by an evil stem cell researcher who wants the immortality and power that he thinks their blood will bring him!

Dent's characters do differ from the stock one's we're all accustomed to in a very important way. They are not mindless, brutal killers. Bloodthirsty, yes, but they are constantly resisting the urge to kill, and, thus, curse another human. Feeding on rodents, goats, virtually any warm-blooded animal helps to satiate the never ending thirst for blood, but how long will they be able to resist that most delicious morsel, man?

There is a chance that their curses can actually be lifted if they can find the strength within to resist their selfish natures and act selflessly toward another. Will they succeed? That same basic choice lies before us all every day...

A vampire and a werewolf, one determined to, once again, be able to acknowledge what will get her to heaven, the other no so sure he can. A spiritual fantasy designed to spark the imagination, to speak to the heart as well as entertain.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Day of Infamy

My mother was a young girl during World War II. She remembers learning silhouettes of Japanese planes in school, in case there was an inland attack. She always stressed the importance of December 7, 1941.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared it a "day of infamy". The attack was planned carefully on a Sunday morning, to catch America at its lowest point of attention.

Over two hours, chaos reigned. Airfields and shipyards were attacked. A bomb managed to detonate the magazine of the USS Arizona, blowing her out of the water and cracking her in half. 1,177 men go to a watery grave in this one instance alone.

We will never know all the stories of fear, courage, life, and death of this day until we all cross over. The death toll of this day reaches 2,390.

Please don't forget the sacrifice of the brave men and women who stood as our vanguard in the Pacific. They took the best shot our enemy could give, and within months the U.S. was taking the battle across the ocean.

I was privileged to visit the USS Arizona Memorial on our honeymoon in 1998. It was a honor to reflect on what Pearl Harbor represents for our country.

Here's an article on MSNBC discussing the living Pearl Harbor survivors reflecting on the 65th anniversary of the attacks. You can find a timeline of the day here. Breakpoint has a poignant commentary, with more links at the bottom of the page.

I, for one, will never forget.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Someone You Should Read

I haven't read any of John C. Wright's books yet, although I intend on rectifying that soon. But I have become a fan of his blog on Live Journal. He is a lawyer, philosopher, as well as an author. He used to be a devoted atheist, intent on exposing the deception of theists - and Christians in particular.

Funny thing happened though: He had an encounter with God.

Not just "god" as in some divine being, but the Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Spirit. While his mind was slowly being convinced of the reason behind Christianity, his spirit was confronted with the reality of who Love is.

Now he posts regularly on religion, rationality, and whatever else piques him (much like any good blogger!). Check out this post specifically, and keep an eye on his blog in general. You will find much to challenge your neurons. And admit it, we all need a little synaptic work-out at times, right?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Pastor Hank Rides Again

Yep, it's that time again. Make sure you check out today's post: Scenes & Beans: The Skiing Spirit. Pastor Hank of Kanner Lake gets all spiritual about skiing. Would you let me know what you think? Thanks.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Blog Tour - Landon Snow

This week's blog tour for the CFBA is Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum. This book is the third in the Landon Snow series by R.K. Mortenson. It is a series that is ideal for kids from 8-14, but is also something any age can enjoy. Kinda like Harry Potter: it's considered a kids book, but it has greater appeal than that.

Landon finds adventures in the library across from his grandparents' house in Button Up, Minnesota. This time he has his two younger sisters tagging along, as a stone boat monument becomes the real deal. The siblings sail to the Island of Arcanum in order to return the kidnapped animals back to Wonderwood.

The author himself has an interesting tale. R.K.Mortenson is an ordained minister with the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. He has been writing devotional and inspirational articles since 1995. He served as a navy chaplain in Florida, but recently accepted a pastorate in a similar place - North Dakota! Oh, and one other change. He and his wife, who already have two adoptive children, are expecting a baby boy in January. You can read more about Randy and his family in a great interview at Mom 2 Mom Connection. (Thanks to Becky Miller for the last link).

Randy got the idea for this series one late night, when flute music woke him from a sound sleep. As he stood at his window, trying to locate the source of the sound, he spied a library across the lawn. Suddenly, he envisioned an eleven-year-old sneaking out of his bed and stealing to the library in the dead of night...And thus Landon Snow was born.

This page at Barbour's site provides a few good links, two as recent as last week. The second link goes to an exclusive Landon Snow short at Clubhouse magazine.

Also, Valerie has a giveaway related to Landon Snow at her blog.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm a Lumberjack...

What would any sane person be doing when it is 14 degrees F outside on a late November evening? Why, marching through a snowy field looking for a Christmas tree!

I had thought about cutting a fresh tree down this year, as we had a nasty dry tree last year. Needles everywhere. After getting home today I heard that my friends were going to a place called "Chop N Shop". No joke. They were wondering if we wanted them to pick us up a tree, as we don't have a truck (almost a sin here in Idaho) and they often help us out with pick-up related duties.

Well, it's hard to have someone else pick out a Christmas tree for you, so we bundled up the crew and followed them out to the country. A retired gentleman was raising trees on his property. He was a little surprised to see us at night. He figured it was kinda hard to see out there, but gave us sharp instruments, told us to watch for stumps, and to have fun.

We tromped around a little bit, checking out contenders. No one fell and got impaled, which I take as a successful night. Finally we settled on a 6' spruce, and I did my best Monty Python imitation. The boys and Beccy skipped back to the van to be warm, while I laid on a blanket in this field in order to bring our Yuletide timber home.

It was a prosperous expedition, and I am ensconed at home all warmed up (though a mug of hot chocolate sounds nice.) The tree is in our front yard, as I'm too frazzled to set it up tonight. But I am confident we will have a nice fresh Christmas tree this year. Maybe I'll post a pic when it is up and decorated.

...and I'm okay.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The ONLY Gift Guide You Need

Dave Barry's annual Gift Guide is here! (May need a free registration to Miami Herald)

Armed for Battle

1 Chronicles 12:33
Men of Zebulun, experienced soldiers prepared for battle with every type of weapon, to help David with undivided loyalty - 50,000.

The context of the above verse is when men armed for battle came to David when he was at Hebron after Saul died, to turn the kingdom over to him.

When reading that in my quiet time recently, it struck me about the aspect of being prepared for battle with every type of weapon. In the Christian life, we have spiritual warfare in our lives. We need to know about this, and understand how to battle for the Lord in this aspect.

But I think Christians ought to aspire to be like the men of Zebulun. I was in a church once where the pastor disparaged using the mind. He felt that it got in the way of the Spirit, that we couldn't be really used of God if we did anything with our minds.

I had a hard time with that then, and have become convinced since then that he was wrong to say that. Now I know how the Word says that our hearts our wicked and we can't even know them ourselves. But He does give us minds to reason and to know Him. He is a God who reveals Himself so He can be known, at least to a degree.

I'm saying all this to ask, what weapons should we be able to fight with? I think that it can be summed up in one term: Biblical worldview. If we understand a Biblical worldview, how the Bible deals with life. From art to justice to helping the poor, we can understand Biblical principles to use as a framework for whatever we come up against in our culture. We shouldn't live in a Christian cocoon, but understand the ideas that are being presented in our world and see how the Bible applies to them. No, the Bible doesn't discuss every idea out there, but it does provide a framework to analyze any situation we can find ourselves in.

Warriors of worldview can go into any aspect of society: politics, academics, entertainment, literature, science, education. We can help shape the ideas of our times, which would be better than always reacting after the philosophies are out there.

If we can make the most of every opportunity and be prepared in season and out of season, we can stand and fight the battles in our world today. We know our battles are not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. This means we need to fight the spiritual battles in the heavenlies, but we also need to stand against the ideas that are counter to what God reveals in His word. We don't fight the battle against the people, the proponents. But we speak with knowledge and with power, like Paul. Then we will be like the men of Zebulun, "prepared for battle with every type of weapon".

Friday, November 24, 2006

Blog Tour - Calm, Cool, and Adjusted

For this week's blog tour, enter "Christian chick lit" in Google and one of the first names you'll come up with is Kristin Billerbeck. She's been highlighted on NBC's Today show discussing the fad of "Bridget Jones going to church".

Not that I'm afraid to tackle chick lit, but I was in the midst of a lot of reading already. I've pulled in a guest reviewer this week: my lovely wife! So, in her words:

"Calm, Cool, and Adjusted is the third book in the Spa Girls series. I didn't have the benefit of reading the first two, but I didn't notice anything I missed out on by not reading them. It is focused on Poppy Clayton, a Christian chiropracter and health nut. Her office is next to a plastic surgeon, which cuts against everything she stands for. Her social life is going to change because the last of the Spa Girls is getting married. Is she going to be single and nutty, or will she accept that the perfect mate may not have the best alignment?

It was a quick read, light and fun. I laughed out loud at several points (Verified by her husband - J). The book was refreshing from the typical CBA romance novels I usually read. It had a good storyline. I enjoyed it a lot, but some of the characterization of the main character seemed a little overdone to further the plot. "

I read the first chapter, and found the writing engaging as well. I don't think I'd have a problem sitting down and digging in to this when I had the chance. If chick lit is your thing, check out CCA.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Cooking with the Joyners Part 2

As newlyweds, a couple is always nervous about cooking their first Thanksgiving dinner. Eight years ago my wife and I thought we were in the clear, going to her mother's house for dinner. However, we received a bit of a surprise.

Beccy is a teacher, and had been hired to be the fill-in teacher for a local 5th grade, as the regular teacher had a medical leave for the year. Bec was playing catch-up with the traditions and way things were done. In mid-November she found out that the 5th grade teachers always did a Thanksgiving spread for the kids, and she was responsible for a turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

Since people thought we might starve when we married (a reference to our perceived culinary prowess), this was a daunting task. Also, Beccy was swamped with other responsibilities since it was her first year.

So we read up on how to cook a turkey from and tried to get things going. She got the turkey in the oven, but it was in the afternoon. We had decided it would be too hard to try and do it in the morning of the feast, as we'd have to get up so early. The turkey was going to be a while - coming out of the oven around 11 pm or later.

Beccy had other things to do in the morning, so I sent her off to bed, while I stayed up for the turkey and gravy detail. I had carved the turkey for my mom before, but I had never done gravy. So I pour the juices into the pan and I'm stirring it. Boy, it just doesn't seem like it wants to thicken at all. Better add some flour, right? I dump some in, not mindful of doing things a little at a time.

The gravy seizes up like cement.

Ack! What was I to do? It's almost midnight, so I can't call anyone. I thought it was going to be the worst gravy ever. I added some water and got it to the point where you didn't need a knife to serve it, and put it away for the night.

I finish carving up the turkey after midnight, watching Star Trek: TNG on syndication (amazing the details you remember when you're tired and frazzled). I didn't realize Thanksgiving was so much work - and all we were doing was turkey, potatoes, and gravy.

Turns out the teachers raved about our gravy and potatoes, so that turned out alright. The kids weren't too interested in turkey, so we had some leftovers. And we gained new appreciation for what our mothers went through on Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Time Wasters, Part I

Here's a little link that is simple, yet a fun time-waster: Line Rider. Draw a quick line, and watch the sledder take your slope for a ride. Of course, you can get some Funniest Videos like rides as well! This kept my boys and I amused for a good part of the afternoon. The boys think the sledder is a penguin; who am I to judge?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Scoop - Interview with Rene Gutteridge

As I've gushed through the week, I happened to really like Scoop. If you're up for a read with great characters, a bunch of laughs, and coffee breaks, then you need to check out this book.

If what I've said has intrigued you, then check out what Rene Gutteridge herself has to say. She was kind enough to conduct an email interview with me, so her answers are below!

1. Scoop is the third book you're releasing this year, according to your website. How do you manage such production?

Carefully! And sometimes not all that well! It's usually just two a year. I took on a special project to write the novelization of a motion picture, The Ultimate Gift, coming out in March.

2. How did you come up with the concept for the Occupational Hazards series?

It started with an idea to a series of books on undercover officers, but then I decided, why not explore other occupations, too? So I decided to create an entirely new series. It's been fun to pick the occupations.

3. Can you give a hint on the next book in this series? It's Mack, isn't it?

It is! And she goes into undercover work. I'm completing the rewrites right now. It's called Snitch. The third book, Skid, will be about transatlantic pilots and crew. I just came back from Atlanta where I spent several days researching for that novel.

4. I loved the humor in the book. I don't always see a lot of that in the novels I read. Is there a "method to the madness" on putting humor in a book? How do you test to make sure it is, in fact, funny?

Good question! I don't know if there is an actual method. Madness is a requirement. Comedy is very subjective, so I think that is the real challenge. To write comedy you have to be an observer of people. Comedy writers are often times the quietest people in the room because they're constantly studying people. To test if it's funny? Well, my standard is that if I'm not laughing, nobody else will either. My years in drama ministry really helped me cultivate my comedy writing. I would write comedy sketches and saw immediate reaction from the audience, so I learned what worked and what didn't.

5a. Have you found it hard to switch from comedy to suspense in your writing?

It's actually harder, for me anyway, to switch from suspense to comedy. Comedy takes way more of my brain power and concentration, and I have to be in the right frame of mind. But I do like to put a lot of humor in my suspense books too. It's just that it doesn't have to be on every page. However, suspense does require a lot more attention to plot.

5b. Also, some authors feel they need to stick with a "brand". What do you think about that?

I think it's a good idea. I think the idea is to find something that you're good at and do it. I happen to really love writing both suspense and comedy, and my diversity most likely comes from my studies in screenwriting, where genre really isn't as important as it is in literature. It's difficult to build a brand while writing different genres, and if I writer wants to do that, he or she should be prepared to do a lot of extra work. Or wait until you're a bestseller and then you can write what you want!

6. I specifically loved the part where Ray was with his Christian singles group discussing an outreach. It seemed you were able to tweak some ways the church does things without authenticity. Do you find humor is a better vehicle for bringing out these issues?

Sure! We are all better able to hear something if it's fed to us with humor. If we can laugh at ourselves, that is when we are most likely to see, and accept, our flaws. I think humor is a powerful device, which is why I use it so much. It can bring out the truth in a much less painful way.

7. A lot of people who read the blog tour are aspiring writers. Any tips for them (besides buying all your books to study the wondrous prose)?

Ha! Well, my advice is to write as much as you can, and save up money for a big writers conference. Writers conferences are incredibly valuable. I encourage writers to do one or two. But don't get caught up in feeling like you have to do them all the time. Most of your free time needs to be spent cultivating your craft, which means setting down all the books you're reading on the craft and actually start writing. Finish what you start. Write one entire book before starting something else.

8. One last question: pants or plotting? (For those that don't understand writer lingo, "pants" is someone writing "by the seat of their pants", just winging it. Plotters carefully outline everything.)

Pants. Most definitely.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Review - Scoop: The Best Book of 2006

Yeah, the title is meant to get your attention! I'm continuing the blog tour on Scoop today, because I enjoyed the book so much. I want it to get its full due. If you are looking for a synopsis, yesterday's post on it has the plot line for you. Today, I not only want to review it, but dissect it a little to look at some good writing.

This book delighted me in several ways. The blurb on the cover from Kristin Billerbeck mentioned the book making her "laugh out loud". I can testify to the fact that this book is FUNNY. As a medical professional, watching Hugo Talley's inner debate whether his Blue Pill was the right one for him, or if the Purple Pill would be better, was hilarious. It is a perfect example of how Rene can capture the absurdity of a situation, whether it be the preoccupation with physical perfection, how Christians have a hard time figuring out how to be "real", or plain ol' romance. When Ray the reporter is wondering how to turn an offer of prayer into a pickup line, the book is priceless.

The main character is Hayden Hazard, but after the first chapter, you wouldn't know it by the point of view (POV) in the book. Except the first and last chapter, the book is written through another character's POV. We only see Hayden when they encounter her, and we only get her external actions and speech. I thought it was very well handled how she portrayed Hayden, and had her drive the story, without having her the POV character. Many books take a break from the main POV for a chapter or so hear and there, which can serve to give a different view of the protagonist. But I've never seen this technique. Hayden moves through the Channel 7 News universe appearing as a secondary character, but always manages to turn the events as needed. We see Hayden's true humility, servanthood, and conviction, without thinking she's a fanatic (despite other characters' thoughts to the contrary). I think a high compliment is this: Hayden is someone I'd love to meet in real life. How many books can we say that about a character?

The writing is also very tight throughout the book. I didn't notice unnecessary scenes or dialogue. It seemed that everything added up in the end. The plot isn't the stand-out aspect of the book in my opinion. It is an entertaining one, and keeps the reader moving toward the climax in anticipation. However, I enjoyed the journey with the characters so much, I didn't really worry about what was happening in the plot. Don't get me wrong - this isn't a bad thing! It speaks of the great characterization in the book.

These are the major reasons why I enjoyed the book so much. Like I said yesterday, Scoop is the best book I've read so far this year. I eagerly anticipate the next book in the Occupational Hazards series. My next post for the Scoop tour will be an interview with Rene Gutteridge, so check back!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Calling All Nations - Live CD

Just saw on the Calling All Nations website that there's a live CD of the event that is now available here.

From the site:

Calling All Nations on July 15th 2006, was a truly historic gathering. The youth of the world and the young at heart were called to come and worship in the great and strategic city of Berlin. 25,000 people from more than 42 nations came.

Also, an amazing global team of worship leaders and musicians came together to serve the event. This was a unique day and the album is one you won't want to miss.

Worship leaders include: Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Brian Doerksen, Delirious?, Andrea & Albert Frey, Reuben Morgan, Noel Richards, Dave Bilbrough, yfriday, Broken Walls, Psalm Drummers, onehundredhours, Lothar Kosse & David Ruis. 20 outstanding tracks on this album.

I'm still waiting for the DVD, but I will be getting this as well. It was an awesome event, and would be a great addition to any worship collection. Hey, I might even being in the choir for one of Brian Doerksen's songs! Whooo!

Blog Tour - Scoop

In looking back, I've been part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance since June. I've read a number of great books so far, and I've read extra novels seeing as I still have extra time on my hands.

This week, the blog tour is highlighting the book I consider the best one I've read so far this year.

Scoop is written by Rene Gutteridge. She's written numerous other books, including suspense and the "Boo" series. I was given a choice of a few books to read, and Scoop seemed quite intriguing just from its back cover blurb and the very favorable review from Publisher's Weekly listed on her Amazon link.

I was NOT disappointed.

Scoop is the first of a new series: The Occupational Hazards. This family of seven kids was homeschooled by their parents while participating in the family clown company. Until the tragic hot-tubbing accident that claimed the parents. Now the Hazards are out of the clown business, trying to find their own way in the world with God's help.

Channel 7 News is also trying to find its way. From a pill-popping executive producer to the conscience-stricken reporter to the sagging (literally) long-time female anchor, Channel 7 languishes at the bottom of the news ratings. Sweeps week is approaching, and producer Hugo Talley is trying to keep the whole thing from falling apart.

He finds this isn't easy to do with a sneak attack on a reporter, a Botox accident, and a disappearing colleague. He's not even sure how to deal with his temp administrative assistant, a pleasant and lovely young lady who has a habit of being totally honest and of praying at really crazy times. Can Hayden Hazard help bring a little peace to the chaos that is Channel 7?

I'm going to save my review for tomorrow. Be sure to check back for my detailed look on why Scoop is my Favorite Book of 2006!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

CSFF Tour - Landon Snow

November 13-15 is the monthly Christian Sci-fi and fantasy blog tour. This month the highlight is R. K. Mortenson's latest book, Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum.

I've had the pleasure to get to "know" Randy through the Faith in Fiction discussion boards. It's not like we've had a lot of chat time on-line, but reading someone's "behind the scenes" posts I think gives a little insight into them. His Landon Snow series is on its third book now.

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot to share about it at them moment. I just received my copy of the book yesterday, so I can't really tell you about it.

However, I can point out that it is also on the docket for the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance in a few weeks (the OTHER blog tour group I belong to), so I will have more for you at that time.

Also, you have my fellow tour-mates to give more information this week. I'd like to point out specifically: Mirtika Schultz , Sherrie Hibbs, and Rebecca LuElla Miller, all who have specific discussions of the Island of Arcanum and can enlighten you further. I plan on checking out others in the links below, and I encourage y'all to do the same!

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Gene Curtis
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Katie Hart
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
Karen and at Karen¹s myspace
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Caleb Newell
John Otte
Cheryl Russel
Hannah Sandvig
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Chris Walley
Daniel I. Weaver

More Stranger Than Fiction

Infuze Magazine has an insightful review of Stranger Than Fiction. There's more info about the plot, no real spoilers. I'm just always careful to not reveal too much in my reviews.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

I went to see my brother this weekend to celebrate his birthday (oh, I'm sorry, his 20th anniversary of his 25th birthday). We decided to catch a movie, and despite having Will Ferrell in it, we chose Stranger Than Fiction.

I first became aware of this movie through Dave Long at Faith*in *Fiction. He linked to the trailer, and I began to anticipate this movie. I don't normally make opening weekends of movies unless it has the words "Star" and "Wars" in the title or is made by Pixar. I was glad that it worked out to go.

It's an all-star cast with the aforementioned Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Ferrell is Harold Crick, an IRS agent who counts each of his strokes while brushing his teeth, and lives an entirely predictable and boring life.

Until he hears the voice.

The voice is narrating what he's just done. The number of brushstrokes. Getting off the bus. Harold gets annoyed and yells at the sky to shut-up. But he doesn't get too concerned until the voice announces: "Little did he know," and mentions his imminent death.

This leaves Harold in a bit of a dilemma, and he ends up turning to literary professor Hoffman to help figure out the mystery. All the while, Emma Thomspon's author struggling with writer's block tries to find the best way to kill off Crick, with Queen Latifah as her assistant.

It was a very enjoyable movie, especially if you are of the writing persuasion. There were several laugh-out-loud moments, which I didn't really anticipate. I don't know that the romance sub-plot is very believable or plausible, but considering the whole movie's premise, that isn't a strong negative. Latifah was wasted in her role. Overall, I think it is well worth checking out. All you writers ought to appreciate it (although I hesitate to endorse it too much, as we are a notoriously picky crowd :D).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blog Tour - The Cubicle Next Door

This week's featured book is The Cubicle Next Door by Siri Mitchell. This looks to be an interesting set-up! Just imagine:

Imagine that you are an anonymous blogger, one who uses a silly name instead of your own, then imagine blogging about your work. Now imagine blogging about your cubicle mate of the opposite sex and calling him by an anonymous name.

I know some who have done just that.

But now imagine that your cubicle mate has discovered your blog and begins to read it out loud to you. EVERY MORNING.

The Cubicle Next Door is set in a civilian's view of working on a military post. That in itself is funny enough...then add that the main character is a tree hugging, anti-SUV lover, with a thing for Bollywood movies. (Her favorite it Bride & Prejudice.) Suddenly this civilian hippie is thrown into a cubicle next to an Air Force Pilot/Teacher who SUV. Can't you feel the love?

Also, The Cubicle Next Door has some wonderful moments of self discovery.

A delightful is an excerpt for you:
The Cubicle Next Doorby Siri L. Mitchell Released Aug 06
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
“So what do you think, Jackie?”

What do I think? Funny Joe should ask me that. He’s just finished reading my blog. He’s just quoted me to myself. Or is it myself to me? Do I sound surreal, as if I’m living in parallel universes?

I am!

The blog—my blog—is all about Joe. And other topics that make me want to scream. But the clever thing is, I’m anonymous. When I’m blogging.

I’m Jackie, Joe’s cubicle-mate when I’m not.

And that’s the problem.

Joe is asking Jackie (me) what I think about the Mystery Blogger (also me). And since I don’t want Joe to know the blog is all about me and what I think of him, I can’t tell him what I think about me.

My brain is starting to short circuit.

So if I can’t tell him what I think about me, I certainly can’t tell him what I think about him, so I’m going to have to pretend not to be me. Not me myself and not me The Cubicle Next Door Blogger—TCND to my fans.

I have fans!

If I were clever I’d say something like, “Look!” and point behind him and then duck out of the room when he turned around to look.

But there’s so much computer equipment stacked around my desk and so many cables snaking around the floor that I’d break my neck if I tried to run away. So that option is out.

I could try pretending I didn’t hear him. “What?”

“SUVs. So what do you think about them?”

But then we’d basically end up back where we started.

So how did I get myself into this mess?

It was all Joe’s fault.

Secrets of the Dead

I thought of this for my writing friends, although anyone can enjoy this show. I think my new favorite show is "Secrets of the Dead" on PBS. I've just watched the last 2 weeks, but it has been quite fascinating to see the things they go back over, trying to use evidence from the past to unravel a mystery.

This week dealt with a famous dogfight over Guadacanal during WWII. They pieced together part of a mystery: Why the American pilot didn't shoot down a Japanese ace when he had the chance.

I mention it to writers because it is the type of thing that can really spark your imagination. I won't talk about another episode I saw, because the ideas are mine, ALL MINE! MU-hahahhahaha...

Um, sorry about that. Anyway, check it out if you can get it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Job Interview

Just a note for any prayers out there y'all can spare. I have a job interview Monday morning, for a position I think would be a good fit. Thanks for the support gang!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election 2006

To those who could vote and did: You have my admiration and gratitude.

To those who didn't:

Yep, you read that right. Nothing.

Monday, November 06, 2006


I've been a bit helter-skelter with this blog over the last few weeks. Part of it are the blog tours that I've committed to, which I enjoy but take up my blogging time. I started a little series on Art and the Bible, which I haven't forgotten about and would like to continue.

I must confess that I've had problems with self-motivation and self discipline lately. You'd think, seeing as I'm still on that great job hunt, that I'd have all the time for getting things done, doing all the writing and blogging I want to do.

Unfortunately, I've dealt with some problems with being a little depressed at times over the last few weeks. I'm sitting at the computer, staring at the screen not really having interest in doing much of anything. I think this is pretty natural, dealing with a monotony of not having much to do.

Anyway, I don't know if anyone particularly cares, but I'm working on some self-improvement things that should translate to keeping up with blogging regularly. I'm notorious for needing a deadline to get stuff done. I just wanted to say that I'm still here, just trying to get my head together. Thanks for hanging with me on the journey.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

DKA Day 3, Continuing with Mir

Continuing the discussion about Dragons, Knights, and Angles Magazine with Mirtika Schultz, assistant editor and fangirl of Gerald Butler.

5. What types of stories is DKA looking for? I mean, what would have the best chance of getting published?

Something with a fresh twist and very good prose. We always look for those. We like stories of hope that offer an emotional and spiritual and not just cerebral experience. We want characters who aren't bits of cardboard pushed around to serve a doctrine, political stance, or scientific concept. Make us care about the characters.

I refer your readers to the contest-winning story by Chris Mikesell, "The Unfortunate Purgatory of Arthur MacArthur" for a look at solid, good prose with atmosphere and an interesting character. Plus, it has a hopeful, happy ending (of sorts). Is this a slipstream story? You decide.

I also refer you again to "Damage" by Jane LeBak, an angel story. (Angels, really, as there are more than one.) The twist here: the guardian angel is actually a fallen angel, and one who has critically damaged the fetus to which he is then tethered. Consequences and redemption ensue. And surprises.

We like humor, too. We've published some pieces with a chuckling spirit.

Ultimately, we don't want to be bored and we don't want crappy writing or flat characters. Beyond that, be creative.

6. What are DKA's plans in the future?

To stay afloat. No, really. We depend on volunteer workers and donations. (A good part of the budget comes from the volunteer staff.) If you want to support the CSF community, consider donating to DKA. It's easy. We take Paypal. (Jason's note: see the Paypal link on the left sidebar of DKA)

Besides the matter of survival, we hope to be able to offer higher pay rates. That depends on how much support we get.

Next year, we will host our second fiction contest. Unlike this year's, we may have to charge an entry fee, a minimal one. We had hoped to offer it as a free contest, but funds are low and the reality is that for a good prize(es) to be given, a five or ten dollar entry fee may be required.

We're no different than any magazine with an ethical heart and a fannish soul: We aspire to offer higher quality stories and poems of wonder and magic and space. We pray and we work to improve the magazine. But the long-term depends a lot on what those of you out there do. If you support us and submit good work, we'll continue.

7. I help moderate a site for Star Wars related fanfiction ( We get some pretty crazy submissions sometimes. What is the most interesting (read: weird, unpublishable) story that you've come across in reading submissions?

We recently read a very strange and incomprehensible story with oodles of math and talk of dimensions. We declined it. Later on, we accepted another rather odd story by the same writer. I fought for that one. I like odd stories, as long as I see evidence of good craft and some character I can relate to or sympathize with or root for or be enthralled by. Good sci-fi concepts will nab me, too, but the execution is often lacking with science fiction, it seems.

Usually, our unpublishable stories and poems aren't that way due to weirdness. They are unpublishable due to poor execution: awkward prose, jarring metaphors, stilted dialogue, cliche plotlines, etc.

8. Do you have a favorite story you'd like to highlight here?

I really loved the ones I mentioned and recommended in a previous question. Those would be my top two.

Others your readers may enjoy: "Sorrow's Shroud" by Rachel Marks (Issue 30) got very good reader feedback and had a redemptive, hopeful ending. The Dragon Keepers, or How the Dragon Spits Fire by Candy Taylor Tutt in issue 31 has a Rudyard Kipling "voice" and is both amusing and rather charming. As a book-lover, I had a soft spot for Tyler McHenry, Middle-Aged Lover of Books by Wade Ogletree.

I wouldn't mind highlighting my poem about Lot's wife, "MONUMENT "in issue 34. A shameless plug, I know.


I like this quote from Johne Cook, former managing editor of DKA who wrote the vision statement:
To my way of thinking, dragons represent the mystical, the unknown world, dangerous and magical and huge beyond reckoning. Knights represent the horizontal, selfless but moral humans fighting the good fight with feeble flesh and faith. Angels represent the vertical, messengers of an almighty God, purveyors of Providence, proof of the unprovable, denizens of a supernatural spiritual reality.
I was watching the end of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers yesterday where Sam and Frodo were talking about the story that will be told of them someday. I felt an encouragement from the Lord, telling me "there are still stories of good and evil waiting to be told." I felt it was an encouragement for me to continue with my writing, but I think it applies to DKA as well. Our species needs hope, and it has been a tradition as far back as cave paintings: Telling of the exploits of our heroes to encourage us all. Sci-fi and fantasy seem to do this particularly well. I encourage everyone who reads this to check out DKA and support them if you feel so moved. We need a place for these "stories of good and evil" to reside.

And continue the journey with the other members of the blog tour below.

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Joleen Howell
Karen and at Karen¹s myspace
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Kevin Lucia
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Cheryl Russel
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Frank Creed
Christina Deanne
Lost Genre Guild
John Otte

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treat? Not!

From the incomparable Brad Stine:

Halloween makes no sense. The idea is that if you are tricked, you give out a treat. But it doesn't work because THEY ALL COME ON THE SAME DAY!

Kids: Trick or treat!!

Brad: Ah, but I knew you were coming, so I wasn't tricked. Hence, no treat.


What they should really do is come when you're not expecting it. Like May. At 2 in the morning.

Kids: Trick or treat!!

Brad: (Eyes wide) Well, you got me! Here's a pickle.

(Not necessarily word for word, but you get the idea. From his Put a Helmet On DVD.)

DKA Magazine - Interview with Mirtika

I'm still contributing to the CSFF blog tour featuring DKA Magazine (Dragons, Knights, and Angels). I've interviewed Mirtika Schultz, assistant editor of DKA, f*i*fer, and blog buddy about the nuts and bolts of DKA. Look for how you can submit a story for moolah and the latest space missionary saga!

1. How did you come to be involved with DKA?

I won The Sword Review's fiction contest in 2005, and that got me involved with the TSR site. DKA and TSR are sister publications, both thriving under the banner of Double-Edged Publishing. I had an active blog over at TSR for a while, and I posted in the forum. From my presence there, I was asked to be an editor. I said, "Sure." I hang out much less at TSR, even though I won their recent poetry contest. I spend most of my time and energy at DKA.

2. What is its purpose?

Our purpose is to provide a place for the publishing of Christian science fiction and fantasy short fiction and poetry. We want to offer the CSF community the best we can of the material that's submitted to us. We always hope to get better and better quality creative work to publish.

We also seek to nurture new talent. We offer critique and the chance for some writers to revise and improve. We sometimes publish student work that shows promise. The next generation of CSF writers needs to be encouraged.

I refer anyone who is curious about our "vision" to read the Vision Statement written by Johne Cook and available at Just click on "vision" in the sidebar.

3. If I want to submit, do I have to have a dragon, knight, or angel in the story?

No. In fact, we tend to be glutted on stories with those elements. We crave good science fiction. However, we always will publish good stories with those three titular elements. One of the best of our recent offerings is a pure angel story with a special plot twist called "Damage" by Jane LeBak. Coming up in December (maybe January, I forget) will be a more experimental, odd tale with a space missionary that features a human and a quantum computer.

As long as the story fits our Vision Statement and is not patently offensive to Christians or disrespectful of Christian doctrine, we're happy to look at it. We welcome submissions across the wide spectrum of fantasy and science fiction classifications.

What don't we want? We don't want stories that merely exist to preach. Give us good prose, good characterization, conflict, resolution--the usual craft elements. And don't use the elements in tired, trite ways. A knight off to kill a dragon, and not much more going on but angst and fiery breathing, well, that's a story that will bore us and earn a decline.

The level of religious "preaching" that we tolerate correlates precisely to the level of craft involved. Write a compelling story, and we are less likely to gag at sermonizing.

4. How many submissions does the site typically get in a week/month (whatever time frame you choose)?

I don't know. Honestly, Selena Thomason is the managing editor and the Keeper of the Numbers. Nothing is "usual." Some months we're swamped and can barely keep up. Last month was like that. Some months are dry and we start putting the word out that we need subs.

If you have something good that fits our Vision Statment, then I urge you to send it to us. This is one of our slower weeks, possibly due to so many CSF-ers gearing up for NaNoWriMo and the holidays.


Check back tomorrow for more questions with Mirtika. Be sure to check out the site and some of the others from the CSFF blog tour, listed below. And Mirtika has a special offer for any who comment at her blog Mirathon, and I will extend the same offer: Those who leave a comment saying "enter me in the review drawing" will win a chance to receive a free critique from Mir. She isn't just a pretty face, but she has judged a lot of writing competitions and has a keen eye for what makes a good story. She will critique a poem or the first five pages of a story. So leave your comments if that interests you!

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Joleen Howell
Karen and at Karen¹s myspace
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Kevin Lucia
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Cheryl Russel
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Frank Creed
Christina Deanne
Lost Genre Guild
John Otte

Monday, October 30, 2006

Blog Tour - Dragons, Knights, and Angels

I've been a supporter of a couple of blog tours. Today is the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy (CSFF) blog tour, brainchild of Becky Miller, highlighting the world of Christian speculative fiction to bring it more exposure. Ultimately, our purpose in discussing CSFF is to show there is a demand for it in the market, and enable that growth to happen.

One site that is working toward that goal is Dragons, Knights, and Angels. It is an online e-zine that highlights Christian spec fiction. I first heard about of it from a writer friend who happens to be a neo-pagan type, so it has become known to a degree outside of Christian circles. I am more familiar with it now due to blog buddies Mir and Chris Mikesell; Mir because she is an editor for the site, and Mikesell because one of his stories won their last fiction contest.

When I first got into writing, I didn't think much about sci-fi and fantasy as genres. My initial writing ideas didn't fit into those "niches". However, I decided to do the first CSFF blog tour just to get my little new blog a little exposure. But in doing so, I found that I always have enjoyed sci-fi and fantasy, it's just that I haven't really thought about it.

I'll bet that a lot of people out there think they don't like the sci-fi or fantasy, but if I mention movies like Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, or Star Wars, those same people would say they enjoyed them. So don't overlook sci-fi and fantasy as reading choices, because you may be surprised. And a good, FREE place to start reading some quality short stories to get into CSFF is at DKA.

Tomorrow I have a little interview with Mirtika, assistant editor of DKA to talk more about it. And the links below are my fellow tour-mates who will have their own unique spin on DKA, so check out a few of them as well, OK?

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Joleen Howell
Karen and at Karen¹s myspace
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Kevin Lucia
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Cheryl Russel
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Frank Creed
Christina Deanne
Lost Genre Guild
John Otte