Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Asking Batgirl for a Date - Part 3

The harrowing (sort of) conclusion to my story, "Asking Batgirl for a Date." See part 1 and part 2 first!

I think the crowds followed her in. I could barely get a glance at her between bratty kids and haggard moms. Vampire girl just stayed at the cash register and glowered. Frank kept stocking new merchandise, so Batgirl and I did the customer service and clean up.

I tried to act nonchalant, but the leggings starting to chafe made it harder each minute. I'd bide my time, find the right moment. Hopefully one without a wedgie.

The right moment would be after my buddy Goose left.

He bobbed a head above the crowds. I couldn't miss him. I didn't need him here.

“Dude, what's with the...”

“Don't! Just, don't go there.”

“Okay man, chill. So how's the working man?”

“You know,” I looked at the last item I'd picked up. “Gotta keep up with the bloody chainsaws.”

“Dude, who's that superchick over there?”

What was her name? I can't believe my nerd breakout cut her off from giving it to me. Brilliant.

“You think I'm going to tell you? You'll just blab about some embarrassing moment.”

Goose thought about it. “Like the time you choked on the communion wafer at church?”

“Exactly. Now go look for a costume. The manager doesn't seem to like me talking.” And if I'm going to be talking, I want it to be with her.

“Okay, I'll let you get back to...” he looked at my get-up one more time, “work.”

I heard him muttering something about a pirate hook hand on his way to the food court. Finally, I could work my way over to Batgirl. I had to at least get her name! Now, where was she?

I turned around and saw her in the Star Wars section as an unhappy looking patron turned from her and stomped toward the monster manager.

I had a bad feeling about this.

Two rambunctious kids dueled with lightsabers by me. I chased away the padawans and took the toy weapons over toward Batgirl as the woman returned with our boss.

“This is the rude girl. I can't believe what she said to me!”

Frank's green lips frowned. “What did you tell her?”

Bat's eyes filled her mask holes. “She asked me where our Star Wars stuff was, and when I brought her here, she wanted to know the sizes we had in the Slave Leia outfits.”

The woman cut her off. “She said I was too fat for it, to not bother with trying it.”

The image of this lady in a metal bikini shivered my spine.

“I didn't say that! I suggested that it might not fit and recommended an alternative.”

“It came across that I was fat. My boyfriend wanted me in the slave outfit, not Leia's stupid white gown. Now our Halloween will be ruined!”

The discontented customer wailed loudly at this, as Batgirl looked dumbfounded at the accusation. Frankenstein stood with an expectant glare. I thought he was going to blow his fake bolts off.

“Do you have something to say?”

“I'm sorry she's upset, but I didn't mean to insult her. I was trying to help.”

“You know this is the second complaint I've had this week.”

“That lady was going to let her little boy be Freddy Krueger! All I said was I didn't think that was a good idea.”

My hands shook the lightsabers as I watched the back and forth. I couldn't believe the scene developing.

“If you're going to insult my customers, maybe you don't need to work here.”

Her bottom lip trembled a little as she responded. “Mr. Stein, I am not trying to insult anyone, but I am not going to lie about things. I have to be true to who I am.”

Was his name really Stein?

Not important. Frank huffed at her strong words for a moment, struggling for an answer. The wanna-be Leia goaded him. “If this type of miscreant is working here, I'll take my business elsewhere.”

“I'm afraid you'll have to be true somewhere else. Get your things, clock out, and go home. You're fired.”

Her jaw dropped. “But Mr. Stein, I don't have a ride until the mall closes today. Can't we all calm down and talk about this?”

“No, I can't lose business in this economy. You'll have to find somewhere in the mall to wait, I guess.”

“Dressed like this?” she asked with a quivering voice.

“Not my problem.”

She burst into full blown tears walking to the back room for her things. I didn't realize I was standing there slack-jawed, but Frankenstein turned his anger toward me. “I don't think this concerns you. Get back to work.”

I turned to put the sabers back when Batgirl came out of the back, still crying. She had her mask off, but even with red, puffy eyes she still radiated a beauty and a strength. I couldn't believe Frankenstein was such a monster.

My chance with this angel was walking out the door. A split-second decision.

“Wait up...Batgirl! I'll give you a ride home.”

Frank glowered at me. “If you leave, don't bother coming back.”

She looked at me, hopeful.

The game?

Or the girl?

“Let me get my jacket.”

I ran to the break room and back out as fast as I could manage in my outfit. Frankenstein stomped a boot as I ran past, shouting that I must not have needed the money that badly.
No, I just had a new priority. Goodbye football game.

“Hello Batgirl.”

Any feedback? I'm open to any comments!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Asking Batgirl for a Date - Part 2

Here is part 2 of my short story, "Asking Batgirl for a Date." Part 1 was posted yesterday. Enjoy!


I pulled into the Grand View Mall, wishing for a handicap permit to dash in with the least amount of people staring and laughing. Instead I wandered up and down the aisles for ten minutes, looking for a close spot. No such luck. I swear this grandma pulled a “Tokyo Drift” move on me to hustle me out of the best spot left.

I parked at the end of a row.

Should I walk cool and confident or sprint in and draw more attention? I ended up with an awkward jog, then slow, speed up, slow down, that only magnified my loser status. I know Granny Speed Racer even pointed me out.

At least I was finally here. Yeah, people snickered walking by me, and I still felt like a freak, but it made sense when I walked into the Boo House, the temporary Halloween store. Where the required uniform was some type of costume.

The source of my embarrassment.

Being penniless, I didn't have money to buy something in the store, even with my 5% discount. The manager, (dressed as the Hulk), needed me the next day, leaving no time to hit a thrift store. I sped home, hoping the deep dark recesses of storage would hide a cool surprise.

Rather than a cruel disguise.

Dad had an ensemble wardrobe of polos and khakis, so he was no help. The younger siblings had mini Star Wars stuff. The Force was not with them. But good ol' Mom and her theatre days...
My boss (now as Frankenstein) showed me the break room. Time to doff my jacket, revealing the rest of my gruesome ensemble. I put on my pointy hat, adjusted my belt and dagger, and prepared to brave the crowds.

The game better be worth it.

Frankenstein showed me the cash register and gave a quick tour. Fake weapons there, masks behind the counter. Blood, gore, and makeup on aisle 13. Except – they were all aisle 13. Lots of goodies to make any Halloween creepy or goofy.

The first half hour passed uneventfully. I seemed to blend in – no one laughed in my face at least. I wondered for the hundredth time how women could stand wearing tights. Or superheroes for that matter. I felt so exposed.

I kept busy cleaning up after kids trying out the props and leaving swords and guns everywhere. Helped me learn the layout quickly. Besides Franky, another employee stood by the cash register filing her nails. Blood red nails. I didn't think they were fake, and I wondered if she only looked like a vampire today or if she dressed that way all the time. She fit in here at least.

I bent over to pick up a dismembered hand when I heard a musical voice behind me. “Let me guess, you're looking for your shadow.”

Not my best side showing. I wheeled up and around.

Holy fireworks Batman!

I mean, Batgirl. I faced an angel in black vinyl. Her blonde hair cascaded onto her cape, while pools of azure peered out from her mask. Her spiky-heeled boots elevated her petite frame to almost eye-level with me. I felt a huge grin spread on my face as I noted her soft cherry-scented lips smiling at me.

I wanted to say something witty and charming. I think I stared dumbly and drooled.

She giggled. I melted.

“I hope you're the new guy. If you dress like that all the time, I'm in trouble.”

“Why would you be in trouble?”

“Because you look better in tights than me!” She laughed again as my face flashed crimson at record speed. Gotta recover.

“So you're, uh, Batgirl?”

She glanced around slyly. “Smart AND a snappy dresser. Frank knows how to pick 'em.”

Breathe. Stay cool. “Are you Stephanie then?”

Now she looked puzzled. “I'm not Stephanie. My name is...”

“Oh, my mistake. Since you're blonde, I thought you were the new Batgirl, Stephanie Brown. Of course, the original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, was a redhead. But I'm sure you knew that.”

Another confused look. “Actually I didn't know that. I just thought it was cute.”

Way to go, geek! “Oh, you're very cute. You don't even need red hair, and, um...”

Mayday. Going down in flames here.

She grinned. “I'd better go check in. Catch you later in Neverland.”

She headed for the back, her skirt sashaying all the way. I wanted to gaze at her forever, but I caught an irate Frankenstein in my peripheral vision. Time to get to work.

Tomorrow, the conclusion!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Asking Batgirl for a Date - Part 1

So this is a blog that deals in large part with fiction and writing. You may ask, "Does this dude ever do more than talk about writing?"

Sometimes I do.

I do have a major work-in-progress, but with four kids and life in general, I can't say that I'm going strong. I seem to write in spurts, which I know is not the disciplined writer's life. A friend recently gave me some motivation though, so I hope to make some real progress this winter.

Still, I wanted to offer proof that I do write. Recently I had a silly little encounter inspire a goofy short story. Nothing too deep or profound, except a desire to make someone smile. Without further ado, I give you part one of "Asking Batgirl for a Date."


I must have been desperate.

Even though no one could see my green tights and pointy shoes in the beat-up minivan, I still felt like dying every time I passed a car. My jacket camouflaged my upper body, but I knew how dorky I looked underneath.

My cousin Matt was so excited when he called three weeks ago. “Dude, I won tickets to the San Diego/Dallas game at the new Cowboys Stadium in December. Dad said I could take you if you can get down here.”

No way!

I'd been a Cowboys fan since I was five years old, and I'd been waiting to see a game there as long as I can remember. After twelve years, I wasn't going to miss this game.

Then reality landed.

My folks would let me go, but there was no money in the budget for a plane ticket. If I could earn the money, then it was a deal.

Too bad I'd blown all my summer lawn mowing money on a new MP3 player. I guess I could listen to the game...

No big. I'd get a job. Fall meant no more lawn jobs, but I'd do anything for the cash.

If there was anything.

I hit every place in town over the next two and a half weeks. No one was hiring, at least not a teenager. With the bad economy, too many people hunted for a paycheck.

Time ticked away. Halftime to the game, and I had nothing. I considered panhandling, but “Will work for a ticket to Dallas” probably wasn't the best tactic.

Trudging through the mall after another rejection, I stumbled across a new store needing help. Their busy season loomed, and the manager wanted me to start right away.


Except for the uniform.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CSFF Tour - Haunt of Jackals Review

So the payoff day for my part in the blog tour - what did I think of the book Haunt of Jackals by Eric Wilson?

The book starts off with a rush of action in Romania as Gina Lazarescu is fleeing from a battle with some Collectors, the Undead freed from an ancient Jerusalem cemetery. Having struck their leader a fatal blow, she has to survive the wrath of his follower.

The mysterious Cal Nichols and teen orphan Dov Amit are also engaged in a conflict with a Collector who has taken on a bear as a temporary host. Cal has to protect Dov as he is one of the Nistarim, 36 hidden ones who bear the burdens of the world. If he were to fall without someone to take his place, it could usher in the Final Vengeance.

As Gina, Cal, and Dov face their foes, other Collectors are on the move, doing their part to try and bring down the human race, in order to inflict some revenge on the Almighty who banished them into the Separation from physical sense, the reason they take on human hosts.

If Gina survives, will she be able to fulfill her destiny? How will she heal from her years of wounds. Could there really be power in Nazarene blood, as Cal has claimed?

As Cal maneuvers to protect Gina and Dov, what will happen as his greatest adversary seeks to complete his work in bringing about the destruction of the Nistarim?


There are things that Eric Wilson gets right. When the heroes are in conflict, there is real danger. He keeps the suspense high on whether they will survive or fall. Not every sympathetic character makes it. Gina is a strong protagonist with a complex background. She's not perfect. She is strong but has doubts. She tries to do what is right but struggles. She continues to be the strongest part of the novel. Cal Nichols is also a very good character, and there are interesting insights about him after being so mysterious in the first book, Field of Blood.

Eric does a lot of research for his novels, and his settings are usually rich with detail and vivid description. The deserts of Israel contrast with the wooded wildness of Transylvania and tranquil small-town Oregon. He throws in some intriguing plot points that intersect with history. Some of them pay off, while others are too much of a stretch with the complex interaction of mythology he has created for this series.

There's also a lot of spiritual themes weaved into the story that speak poignantly into today's world. The way anger, bitterness, or lust can intwine us in thorns that bind us may not be literal as in Jackals, but it is a powerful revelation nonetheless. Many people may be taken aback by the idea of "Christian vampires." One thing Wilson does is not make them sympathetic. The creatures are evil, and he never shows them in a light that plays down their terrible ways. The battle of good and evil is portrayed in vivid terms in the book, but this battle is a good metaphor for the spiritual and emotional battles of life today.

Unfortunately, the book is almost too ambitious to hold up everything he tries. The plot is exciting and driving in the first third or half, but the last section of the book is an underwhelming build-up for the third book, with some minor drama at the end to try and keep the suspense factor continuing. The classic "second act" in a trilogy is The Empire Strikes Back, where there are major obstacles for the heroes to overcome for the third, while being dealt blows that leave them very vunerable. Haunt has the bad guys joining forces in the end and the good guys hiding out. The third book (Valley of Bones, coming in 2010) should have a good climax, but this book was left wanting in the process.

Another drawback is the description being overdone at times. Wilson can paint some visual word images, but he can overdo the narrative. There is too much "thinking" by both good and bad guys that slows things down and makes the book too dense. Sometimes it seems all the research and knowledge he has pours out in excess. The plot becomes uneven at times due to TMI.

Overall, Eric Wilson is attempting an ambitious speculative story tied into Biblical themes and settings. There are strong elements that make the story an interesting read, but other aspects bog it down and keep it from its full potential. As far as the whole premise - I am usually pretty accepting from a theological standpoint with what the author is presenting to see if it can work. I am willing to allow some leeway in how things are interpreted. Some may find the mixing of demons (the Collectors) with a legend of Jewish mysticism being applied to verses in the Gospels too far to go for a story. I think it provides an interesting platform to share some profound truths regarding the battle we all face. I hope Eric can hit the home run with the third book.

Bottom line: Make sure you read Field of Blood first because there was too much established there to step into Haunt of Jackals. I still got lost at times due to reading Blood last year. It is an interesting premise with some definite points of suspense and near-horror that get the blood pumping, with some overly dense plotting and description that slows down other areas. If the premise makes you curious, I recommend it. If you're not into vampires or are sensitive to some blood and gore, it would be a book to pass one.

The whole idea of vampires and other supernatural archtypes in Christian fiction is an interesting point of discussion. I welcome thought on this book or the subject, and we can keep the dialogue going after the tour. Let me know what you think, and check out the other posts that are listed at Becky Miller's opening post of the tour.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CSFF Tour - Haunt of Jackals Day 2

Yesterday's post gave a background to Eric Wilson's Jerusalem Undead series, Field of Blood and Haunt of Jackals. Today I want to highlight what people are saying about Wilson's books in particular and vampires in Christian fiction in general.

I've posted a couple of times on the topic of vampires in Christian fiction (by this term I mean fiction produced by the CBA, which focuses on the evangelical Christian market for the most part). There was some good discussion in the comments, so don't miss those.

Anytime you want a lively discussion on issues in Christian fiction, don't forget to look to Mike Duran, who caused a little stir with his Novel Journey post, "What's More Dangerous, Amish Heroines or Christian Vampires?" Again, don't miss out on a stirring debate in the comments. Don't forget about his classic "The Good Vampire" post either. He considers the possibility of "Stoker's Dracula as Christian Fiction." Finally, he discusses his take on "Christian Horror," which would certainly involve vampires (and it mentions Mr. Wilson).

For a different perspective, I ran across the site VampChix, where apparently they are fans of shortening and misspelling words. Or perhaps they are females who like vampires. In any case, they interview Eric Wilson himself, which is interesting to see him explain his series to a "non-Christian" audience.

There's many other posts I could find if I had the time. I know there's a few other books with a Christian outlook to hit this subject, such as Never Ceese or Shade. I hope I've provided some food for thought here. I'd be interested in other people's thoughts on the issue of Christian fiction and vampires, or if you know of other links worth investigating. Tomorrow I plan my review of Haunt of Jackals. See you there.

Monday, October 19, 2009

CSFF Tour - Haunt of Jackals

The Undead are here.

At the CSFF blog tour, at least. The book of the month for the CSFF is Haunt of Jackals, by Eric Wilson. The Jerusalem Undead trilogy and its first book, Field of Blood, is a far cry from another Wilson book-the novelization of the movie Fireproof. Suspense and the battle between heaven and hell is an Eric Wilson trademark, and that's what a reader will find in this series.

Since we're starting in the middle of a series here, there's bound to be some confusion. Wilson builds an elaborate background for this tale, with a lot of characters and a lot of theology mixed with speculation. Today's post will explain some of the setting for the books.

The Jerusalem Undead series has been referred to as a "Christian vampire" tale. It doesn't deal in classic vampires, and they certainly won't sparkle in the sunlight.

Collectors: These are spirits who had rebelled. Separated from physical senses and pleasure, they can only interact with this world if they are in hosts, whether human or other forms. A special cluster of Collectors forms when the blood of Judas Iscariot ("the man from Kerioth") soaks a field outside of Jerusalem, the Akeldama or "Field of Blood", and seeps into a family's ossuary cavern.

The remains of two human families, the house of Ariston and the house of Eros, are reaminated when these spirits are able to access the remains. Due to the special evil of Judas, they are more powerful than other Collectors. They feed on human blood, but they won't die if they don't get it. They can also grow literal thorns in humans that can be harvested, keeping their victims in bondage and using them as pawns. Since "the life is in the blood," memories can be found in drinking it.

Nistarim: Jewish tradition says there are 36 righteous ones who, in humility and anonymity, carry the burdens of the world while staying God's hand. In the Christian Bible, we are told that saints came up out of the tombs after Jesus' death and resurrection. What happened to these people? Could they still be among us, hidden and immortal? Could they, in fact, be the Nistarim, "the Concealed Ones"? These stand against evil such as the Collectors, but if the Nistarim can be destroyed, will it usher in the Judgment?

Gina Lazarescu: We meet this Romanian girl as she is about to turn 12, the age of adulthood according to Judaism. She is central to the story as there are connections between her and both groups. As she grows, will she learn to take her place in this epic struggle, or fall under the weight of the burdens she carries?

Cal Nichols: This man is a mystery, with an unknown connection to Gina and the Nistarim. Is he there to watch over her, or will he be her undoing?

The story veers from Israel to Romania and the United States and back. It is a dense story packed with intrigue and mystery. Check back tomorrow for more on the idea of "Christian vampire" stories, and see my fellow tourmates below for their take on Eric Wilson and his books.

Brandon Barr
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
KM Wilsher---

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cover Art

Cover art for a book can make or break the success of it. If it fits the tone of the book and communicates that special "read me" to the customer. I've picked up many books just by the attraction to the front of the book.

I just received a book that I'll be reviewing later for the CFBA: Eternity Falls by Kirk Outerbridge. It is listed as "A Rick Macey Cyberthriller," and it is published by Marcher Lord Press. I've blogged about MLP before, when the independent publisher first launched. It is a unique venture in Christian fiction, and I wanted to highlight it again by noting the cover.

The cover of this book is so professional-looking. I didn't realize when I requested the book it was from MLP. Seeing it on the table when I got home from work, I looked it over with anticipation. Then I noted the MLP logo on the back. This is not the cover for a typical independent publisher. It truly is top-notch. Obviously I haven't read a word, since it just arrived, but I think the cover matches the description of the back-copy perfectly.

I'm looking forward to this book, and I'll have a review in November. I wanted to highlight the professional job Marcher Lord Press and Jeff Gerke is doing with the novels being produced. Keep your eye on this publisher - it seems he is doing something special.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Land of Smiles

I can't believe that it was almost 18 years ago that I spent 2 months in Thailand with Youth With a Mission. It was an amazing time of formation for me, being fresh out of high school. I changed from a wide-eyed Idaho boy to a wide-eyed Idaho boy with a sense that there is a big world out there that needed Jesus. The Thai people were incredible to be around, and I've never forgotten the experience.

A couple from our outreach team showed true sacrificial love by staying behind in Thailand on a long-term commitment. In that time they've just become the directors of YWAM Thailand. Thanks to Facebook, I've been in a little contact with them, and I'm so excited how far they've come in their ministry to Thailand. God has kept me State-side for the time being, but that doesn't mean I can't support them from afar.

Thailand is about 95% Buddhist, although for them it is very much a cultural identity. To be Thai is to be Buddhist, it is said. However, there is a strong mix of ancestor worship and spiritism as well. There is a sizeable Muslim population in the south, with some occasional breakouts of violence, and few Christians. Thailand has been a hard place for missions for a long time.

It is known for its beauty and its corruption. Thailand immediately conjures up images of beaches, the tsunami of 2004, and human trafficking and red light districts. There have been frequent governmental upheavals. It is know as the "Land of Smiles" because the people are very friendly and hospitable, but it belies a deep need under the surface.

My YWAM friends have called for 40 days of prayer for Thailand. It started at the beginning of this month, but it is never too late to pray. I'm asking for my friends and interested people to remember Thailand in your prayers for the next month or so. God can speak prayer needs to your heart. If you are still wondering about how to pray, a suggestion would be to pray through the Seven Spheres of Influence that shape a society:


I was also referred to Bless Thailand, where they are slowly translating a prayer guide into English. If you've been to another country, you know that it sticks with you. I want the Father's heart for Thailand, and I hope the people there will open their hearts to the love He has for them in this season.

Thanks for praying! Bless you.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Help Out an Author (or Two)

Hey gang, for those of you interested in quality fantasy fiction, check out the new book Curse of the Spider King by Christopher Hopper and Wayne Thomas Batson. They are encouraging people to pre-order the book today to create an online buzz for it (better than an alcoholic buzz, right?) by having it jump the Amazon rankings. If you do it today, you can get freebies from the dynamic duo mentioned about. Here's Christopher's blog post about it, and here's the direct link to Amazon. It's a good price by pre-ordering too!

I ordered mine - where's yours?