Monday, December 28, 2009

CSFF Tour - Digital Dragon Magazine

Do you have a hankering for hearty tales? Do you fear a lack of family values in your fantasy fiction? Well, look no further.

The CSFF (Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy) tour is having as our last feature for 2009 The Digital Dragon Magazine. The tour is a little discombobulated this month, as our fearless leader, Becky Miller, has a busted computer, so we don't have our typical list of participants. However, that doesn't take away from a quality feature.

Digital Dragon Magazine has a specific mission:
To seek out quality, family-friendly speculative and fantasy fiction, to find new talent in these genres and present that talent to a new, growing audience.

It started in June of 2009, with monthly issues featuring short stories, reviews, author interviews, and discussions about speculative fiction. The Vault page shows the quality art submissions they have had for their covers. Pretty impressive visuals for a brand new project.

I'd like to specifically highlight some stories from my comrades in the CSFF Tour.

Angel Wings by Fred Warren was developed from a flash fiction story he wrote. It is a poignant look at the future and some things, like teenagers, that won't change much in the future.

The Seeker by Brandon Barr is an imaginative tale of an intergalactic creature that is picked up in camouflage form by a young school girl. Her empathy brings provides the way to healing for our mysterious seeker.

Second Site by Grace Bridges uses a little word play and an unexpected twist when a problem student visits his professor.

I haven't read all that Digital Dragon has to offer, but many of the features that are easy reads that provoke some thought into life. The stories have little weaknesses, but overall they are entertaining enough, and perhaps important in the Digital Age, short enough to capture our short attention spans. The site specializes in stories less than 1500 words, so it is more of a fiction morsel to snack on rather than a full meal deal.

Usually I end with a list of participants. Like I said, I don't have an official list, but I'm posting the "usual subjects" where you have a fair chance of finding more on Digital Dragon Magazine. Since it is during the holidays there might not be as much as usual, but I know that Fred Warren has a couple of posts on it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

O Holy Night

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Writing Software

I've had a few suggestions for writing software in the past. When we did the tour for Curse of the Spider King, the authors Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper recommended Scrivener, but apparently that is only available for the Mac.

Back to the drawing board for me.

Now Randy Ingermanson has release a software version of his famous "Snowflake" method of writing a book, titled aptly enough, "Snowflake Pro" . He ran a promotion for it on his Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine (the ezine is free if you want to check it out), and I couldn't resist.

If you click on the Snowflake Pro link, you can see how it looks. The basic method is starting with a simple overview statement of your novel idea, and slowly expanding it, like a snowflake fractal. It helps you expand the summary statement into a summary paragraph, and further on until you supposedly have a great outline ready to be filled in.

I have Randy's Fiction 101 lecture and have read his Snowflake method before. It seemed logical, but I had trouble sitting down and doing it. So far the Snowflake Pro is making it easy to do so. It includes audio clips from Randy as well as text notes. It has helped me get some dull coals fired back up again, and I'm hopeful it will help me plot out further so I can really attack the story this winter. The software is simple to download and install, and with the help features, it is pretty intuitive so far.

Does anyone else know about writing software and have recommendations? I will post more about Snowflake Pro as I use it more, but for now it seems quite helpful. I'm sure there's a ton of products out there, so if anyone has experience with them, I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Last Minute Christmas Gifts?

I'd like to provide the Spoiled for the Ordinary 2nd annual Alternative Gift Giving Guide. If you're having trouble finding the perfect something for a loved one, maybe it is because they don't need anything!

Instead of buying another unwanted trinket, consider donating on behalf of others and benefit those who really need it.

International Justice Mission - an organization providing justice, rescue, and rehabilitation for victims of the slave trade and sex trafficking.

World Vision - providing food and medical care around the world for years. One of the most respected charities out there.

Wonderfully Made Jewelry - do double duty! Find a beautiful jewelry piece for someone, made by rescued victims of trafficking. The jewelry may seem a little expensive, but it is not coming at the expense of sweat-shop labor.

Angel Tree by Prison Fellowship - Angel Tree provides presents to the children of prisoners, and is a way of showing hope to both the prisoner (who often feels guilty about not being able to provied for their kids) and the family left at home. Prison Fellowship offers many outreaches and services to prisoners all year.

Mercy Ships - these ships travel the world to offer medical, dental, and community development services to some of the poorest of all.

There are other worthy organizations out there, but most of these I've had experience with, and I know there is good return on your investment.

Be a blessing this Christmas season, and God bless you!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Blog Redux - A Modern Love Story

I'm off to enjoy the Winter Wonder Slam tour with Tobymac and Relient k tonight. Since 12/8 is a special day for me, here's a post from December 2006 that highlights why:


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.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Christmas Thoughts

Psalm 82:3-4

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.