Archive for April, 2011

First off, yes, I know it’s a yarp title. But it was either that or “Don’t Wed On Me” and THAT one looks like I might just be writing about someone’s bladder control problem.

I’ve whinged and carped about this wedding for two weeks now over on Facebook and I couldn’t believe myself when, around 4:00 yesterday I started to feel like maybe I wanted to watch the thing anyway. I’ve been really homesick for London, though, and as pretentious as that sounds it’s a real thing to anyone whose ever been bitten by The Great Smoke Bug. A couple of days ago a friend posted her pictures of the West End theatres to Facebook and I tried my level best to pull a Tom Riddle’s Diary and fall into them. Didn’t work, so I girded my loins, set my TiVo and admitted my shame.

There was vacillation this morning but the pain that normally has me up at that time of dight (4:00am…what would you call that?) won over cozy bed and truculence and so I watched it. To be specific I watched the ceremony. It was weird because I turned on the TV just as it started and then went back to bed right before the big Balcony scene.*/**

I couldn’t watch without comparing the experience to waking up early in the summer of 1981 and watching Diana marry Charles on our Faux wood console TV with the grainy antenna reception of Channel 21. I was 11 that day and so enchanted by the thought of princesses and eternal love and romance that I’d written a pile of poems dedicated to Diana, had my hair cut like her and lobbied to name our new puppy after her. (“Lady” outlived not only my interest in the Princess but also their marriage.)

Today I was torn between the jaded woman who had seen just how much of True Love can be manufactured to sell commercials and the wife who believes that sacramental covenant marriage is one of God’s greatest gifts and blessings. As I told my friend Jenni yesterday, I like the idea that her little girls will get a taste of romance that may encourage them to cherish a marital relationship. So I went into it a bit less cynical than normal.

Three things happened.

One, the anchorwoman said that Kate was “following tradition” going to send her bouquet BACK TO THE ABBEY TOMORROW to be laid on the tomb of the unknown warrior. When Elizabeth the Queen Mother did that unexpectedly it was a mark of respect for her fallen brother and her fallen countrymen and signified that she was first and foremost an Englishwoman. And she knelt at the tomb on the way out of the church to place her own bouquet. Shipping back after all the photos are taken and you’re good and done with it is an empty gesture robbed of any significance.

Two, the minster’s address talked about “reverence for the earth” with Jesus Christ as sort of a school fight song. It was Christian-y enough for a church but worldly enough for a crowd of hip young people. Then he prayed for Kate to be “amiable” as a wife. It all seemed token-spiritual. I was suddenly glad of the deeply religious ceremony we had, where we were clearly bonded to Christ as the center of our marriage.

But the thing that made me tear up and wish I had a flag to wave was when they concluded the ceremony by singing “God Save The Queen.” Maybe it’s Chernow’s Washington colouring my perspective, or maybe it’s that lifelong crush on Abraham Lincoln. Or maybe, just maybe it’s my blood running too thickly libertarian. But as they sang that song I recited the Gettysburg address out loud. And as romantic as the idea of a huge wedding in Westminster abbey was to the 11 year old back in Indiana, that idea of a nation conceived in LIBERTY and dedicated to the proposition that All Are Created Equal, springing to life out of the minds of Locke and Mill and Paine and Jefferson and the ground consecrated by the blood of those who believed in a government of, by and for the people…that idea made my heart sing.

*Boo Hiss to Comcast/Xfinity for not having got the BBC America HD channel up and running for this. I had to watch the thing on E! Online where two women wouldn’t shut up about the dress. It was white and long. Beyond that anything else is too much inside dressball for me.

** Unless someone is belting out an aria about the country not crying for them I am done with Balcony Scenes.

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Make ready all those spec fic submission docs youve been saving for a rainy day.

Maybe Marcher Lord is having a wider impact than we first presumed.

Thanks, Aunt B. for passing the word along.

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I promise you I’m generally non-violent. I admit that I have been known to throw things at the TV when someone tries to sound smart by saying “That’s between you and I.” I also freely admit to hollering loudly when someone talks about a governmental solution to a social problem. Pretty much anything about “the War On Drugs” will make me surly for awhile and I kind of had to stop watching House M.D. what with their “all people who take pain meds will become addicts” nonsense.

But it has been a LONG time–a very long time–since I have wanted to get into a car and drive to a person’s house and just smack them around. But now I find myself wanting to do that alot.

Because everyone is talking about Amanda Hocking. And talking about her like she’s the new standard for writers and publishing. Like everyone who puts an e-published novel on Amazon.com is going to need to by an armoured car to haul their money away. Like publishing houses, editors, book distributers and retail book buyers are now nothing more than vestigial pinkies on the hand that brings good reading to the public.

Any time I read (or hear) the name “Amanda Hocking” I feel my blood pressure begin to creep up. That same bp spikes and bursts the mercury whenever someone suggests that I “just” self-publish my books.

As though big, thick books about the history of pharmacology and the devolution of the role of the woman in the provision of health care* are going to fly off the shelves at the same rate as a trilogy of Young Adult novels about a girl who finds out she’s a troll.

I haven’t read her books beyond a free sample here and there, but I’ve been watching her slowly take over the Best-seller lists at Amazon. As best as I can tell they’re okay for what they are, but more successful for being in the right place at the right time. A lightning in a bottle phenomenon born of strategic list placement through ebook giveaways and ultra-low prices. (When every other book on the Bestseller list is $15, your $.99 book will sell like hotcakes to the folks who want to try out the new Kindle their daughter-in-law got them for Christmas.) That doesn’t mean that Hocking is the model for The Way We Do Things Now.

Truth be told, the vast majority of self-published stuff for the Kindle is completely, utterly vomit-inducing dreck of the first order. No, I’m not holding back. One such read actually had the characters’ names changing throughout. The author had apparently decided to change names, but not all the find-and-replaces seemed to work, so every few paragraphs Lisa inexplicably became Lori, and then was back to Lisa. That’s rough-draft level stuff which is insulting. And that is the bulk of what’s floating around out there passing for books. While I’ve got several friends and acquaintances who’ve self-pubbed some fine works, it’s still a numbers game. A person can find quality self-pubs; I’ve done so by scrounging blogs and fora looking for word of mouth.

The kinds of things that are a PUBLISHER’S JOB.

So while I find this whole idea of grow-your-own book charming in a sort of hippie commune way, I am in no sense eager to lose the freedom I used to enjoy of being able to see a book for sale in the store and know that it had at least been vetted by someone who likes to read and was probably also proofread. It’s the difference between bow-hunting and grocery shopping. Call me lazy, but shrink-wrapped fiction is still more appealing.

*yes, it sounds dull when I describe it that way. But the book IS a ripping yarn, if the people who are begging me to get more written so they can “see what happens next” are any sort of guide. I don’t dare describe it accurately until it’s finished, however. Because then I feel locked into a business model instead of feeling free to tell a story.

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Hi there. I’m Kate and I’m writing the blog entry today. Most of the others have tsken turns from time to time but since today we couldnt decide who was going to get to make the post Ive put all the others in time-out and am just doing this myself. I’m the friendly peacemaker who likes to get along. I’m gregarious and nonconfrontational, except where the others are concerned. I keep them in line, or at least try to.

Katherine is the serious one. She writes about her relationship with God and analyses books, movies, tv shows…pretty much anything. She wanted to do a post about how people’s reactions to Rob Bell’s alleged universalism says more about them than it does about God or Bell.

Kathy wouldn’t let her write that post. Kathy is always concerned with what her parents and siblings think. She wants everyone to be proud of her, not angry and certainly not not-speaking-to us. Kathy wanted to write a post about her parents’ dog.

Coble was having none of it. Coble is the streetwise, battle-scarred libertarian who has made it through confrontations with Senators, Congresspeople and various former Vice Presidents during her time as a political aficionado. Coble has almost brought us to the brink of ruin once or twice by speaking her mind. She was going to try it again today by writing something about Tennessee’s Don’t Say Gay bill. Of course you can probably guess why Kathy stopped her.

There was going to be no post at all, then. We were just going to fight amongst ourself and let people mistakenly think we were making fun of the Bed Intruder guy, even though we genuinely like him. But then I reminded us about our sortofvow to keep blogging. Katherine piped up, pointing out that as a Mennonite we don’t swear or vow except in marriage. She reminded us that ecery time Coble has gotten us in hot water with the law we’ve had to affirm out testimony as opposed to solemnly swearing. Kathy then said that, to be fair, Coble has never gotten us in any legal trouble by doing wrong–only by doing right. Ad it’s not like we were arrested or anything. We just keep having to testify at hearings. To which Coble snapped bakc at Katherine that it was HER FREAKING EIDETIC MEMORY that kept putting us in theplace where we had something to testify about to begin with. Then Kathy started whimpering and saying “don’t say ‘freaking’, it’s a fake swear like gosh and crap and fart and mom and dad will be mad.” Katherine started in on the difference between cultural discomfort words and actual swearing and why she was okay with one and not the other. Coble just kept shouting “Freaking frakking crapweiler” at Kathy and it degenerated further from there.

So I am here to fulfill our daily obligation and STILL have no idea what to write about.

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Don’t ask why I was looking up the stupid Bed Intruder song. (It involves Jill Jackson, Andrea Hultman, Jonnelle Rain, My husband, Liberty Coffeehouse, Christmas and Twilight New Moon.)

And it turns out that the original dude has just been arrested on a pot charge.

Leaving aside where I stand on things like pot charges, can I just say how much I love this guy? I am serious. Everyone thinks he’s subject for mockery, but I think he’s one of the few REAL people I’ve seen on TV in awhile. He doesn’t automatically shift into Sound Bite mode when the camera comes on. He’s just…him.

And he’s the gift who keeps on giving. Because this? Is golden…

Dodson spoke out on Twitter after the arrest, saying, “So just got out of jail off a weak charge…Got pulled over in my Benz and they got me…I never been in jail except that time in grade school.

Would that I were that good a writer! I mean, don’t YOU automatically want to know what happened IN GRADE SCHOOL?!?!?

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My antipathy for much of what passes as Christian fiction is well-documented, perhaps too much so. But I love God and I love books and it pains me that the one is so often poorly served by the other. So I suppose that explains what I’ve been doing hanging out over at Mike Duran’s blog and discussing what Christian fiction is, why it is the way it is and how we as writers who are Christians can either make it better or make better work in the mainstream.

It was through Mike’s blog that I met Patrick Todoroff, another writer. He’d written a book and was offering free copies to five people who would review it.

I took a free copy.

I also bought the Kindle version for $4.99. I bought it after finishing the book because I thought that anyone who writes a book like this OUGHT to be compensated.

The book is called Running Black, and is sort of like Neal Stephenson* meets William Gibson meets later James Rollins. It is, as I’ve seen Patrick say elsewhere, a ‘run and gun’ novel set in a dystopian future where corporations govern and corporate espionage seems to be the number one way to get things done.

As with many books of this type, there’s a core team of get ‘r’ done types called ESHU International that Todoroff is franchising into a series. (More on that in a minute.)*** Running Black is the seemingly straightforward story of what happens when ESHU Intl is sent to steal a revolutionary piece of nanotechnology and things go either very wrong or very right, depending on your point of view.

I knew I was in for an atypical Christian fiction read when the protagonist and first person narrator Jace says, three paragaphs into his part of the story “Christ, I needed some sleep.” Most people in Christian fiction don’t talk like that. BUT gun-toting mercs on a dangerous mission? Yeah, I’m sure some of them do. And that right there was how I knew that Todoroff was not writing the story for a presumed audience or to curry favour with a publisher. He was writing a story that he thought would be fun to tell. And those are the stories that are the most fun to read.

I did have fun reading it, very much fun. All in all I’d say I’m giving the book four out of five stars. I’m taking one star off because I still had a few issues with some of the characters. Because the book IS a Christian book (I guess…)** that means there were religious Christian characters who were ex-members of ESHU international. I know why Todoroff wanted them in the story because they have a key part to play in the narrative. But they seemed to be the most stilted of his characters and the ones he had the hardest time trying to make believable. Understandably so. Another reviewer on Amazon said they seemed hypocritical, but to me that was VERY believable…how many Christians have you met who aren’t struggling with reconciling their old ways to their new ones? Still, their dialog felt stilted to me, and some of the things they were able to procure seemed just too convenient.

I also had the story spoiled for me by one of the author’s own blog posts (shame on you!) and that made it pretty hard to read in spots, knowing as I did what was coming. I think that may also have affected my rating, so I’m wavering between 4 and 4.5 stars.

*You’d think I could spell his name correctly since I’ve got one of his books LITERALLY two feet from my face. I always ALWAYS spell it wrong. At least this time I didn’t Google it and remembered to look up and slightly to the right instead.

**Is it a Christian book? In one aspect I definitely think it is, as there are Christian characters who present a gospel message that I think MAY be a bit too heavy-handed to market the book as a straight-up thriller with Christian characters. But overall the book makes a definite escape from the ghetto of bonnets and bodices that typify Christian Fiction in the early 21st Century. And I didn’t feel like Todoroff’s characters were any more “preachy” about their religion than Dennis Lehane’s are about alcoholism and South Boston. Far less so, actually.

***The series thing always gets me in Christian fiction. As I’ve said a billion and one times, the Christian publishers are overly fond of chopping up one novel’s worth of story into a “series” of large-print, double-spaced overpriced novels. Todoroff is instead opting to go with the Gentleman’s method of creating a series in that he is franchising leads across multiple adventures. THAT is respectable and plays fair with one’s paying customers.

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Saving your virginity for the wedding night is a huge deal to many Christians.

But just now I think I may have reached my limit with the Wait Until Marriage discussions.

In the comments on a blog about YA fiction one woman said that the part she liked about Twilight was that Gary Glitter and Mary Sue Mcselfish waited until marriage to have sex*.

Pause and reflect.

“I’m glad that the young girl decided to forsake her immortal soul and marry the equally soulless and damned demonic creature so they could have sex within the sanctity of the marriage.”

Pause and reflect some more.

Now, when i read anything i dont impose my worldview on the story UNLESS the story purports to be about Christians. It seems silly to expect nonchristians to act like Christians, as silly as to expect Anne of Green Gables to speak flawless Mandarin at a convention on human trafficking. Totally different worlds. And since fiction is for exploring other worlds it’s very Accidental Touristy to expect those worlds to mirror my own.

So asking Disco Ball and The Golden Onion to hold off on the premarital sex is just…weird. But that’s Twilight for you. An attempt to reconcile the forbidden worlds of sex and danger with a cautiously conservative worldview.

*I’m STILL waiting for someone–anyone–ro explain to me how bloodless vampires can get an erection.

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I hadn’t wanted to write a post like this because usually when I read posts like this they’re always kind of snarky and I wanted to avoid the snark.

But I’ve been popping over to Facebook every now and again this evening and I’m struck by how today is Earth Day and Good Friday and an Intermediate Day of Passover. Yet most of the posts on Facebook were about Earth Day.

You know what I mean: “We’re celebrating Earth Day! Send us your tips for how to live Green!”

I maintain that if you live Holy, you also live Green. After all, “The Earth is the Lord’s and the Fullness thereof.” Because we love the Lord, we love and honour the creation God has placed around us. So I have no problem with Earth Day as a thing to do and talk about. But I am a little sad at all the ways people seem to think that worshipping the Creator is somehow LESS than worshipping the creation.

Why, exactly, is it odd to say that this earth was made by that God so we choose to worship the God? To honour the God?

I fully understand and respect that worshipping God is not a choice everyone has made. Your choices are your choices and I would not dishonour God’s gift of free will to take it from another. But, man! Worshipping God is NOT backward. Especially when compared against worshipping the creation.

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Two Good Fridays ago was quite possibly one of the ten worst days of my life.

I hesitate when I try to explain it, because if I were to say “my child died” every person with a human child will rush in to say it isn’t the same. And I’m sure for you it isn’t. In a way it isn’t for me either, because I know of no parent (who wants a psychologically stable son) who spends every waking minute with their child, who sleeps next to their child and who relies on their child for comfort and security. So when Casey left us it was more like losing child, best friend, guardian angel and not-scary clown all at once.

I had spent weeks watching him die, sleeping by him on the floor and comforting him while he screamed in pain. It hit me in that dark haze that his day of death was Good Friday and I realised then that God not only knew how hard it was for me but was sending me a message in neon. Several messages, actually.

Message One: I went through this. For you. Willingly.

Message Two: I love you, silly thing. As Casey was your dog, you are my dog. It would be nice if you could learn to love me as unquestioningly, smilingly and obediently as Casey loves you.

Message Three: Earthly death is not forever. Nor is earthly pain. Because I went through this. For you. Willingly.

Fast forward to four-thirty this morning. I was in a bout of what I call “the screamies”.(ETA: I finally looked this up. It has an actual name: allodynia.) It’s hard to describe, but it’s essentially a weird sort of horrible pain combined with all the nerve endings in my skin misfiring. Anything that isn’t completely smooth will cause me to scream in agony–so a quilt with knots in it or a blanket with microfiber feel to me similar to what pebbles feel like in the shoe of a normal person. On every inch of their body. Yes, it’s weird. Very weird. But in the middle of that weird pain it hit me that today was Good Friday.

So of course I went to that whole “focus on your pain and how it relates to the pain of Jesus during the crucifixion” place. There’s a Catholic doctrine for it with a name that I’ll have to look up in a minute. There are a lot of Catholics who induce pain ritualistically in order to practice this doctrine. Lucky me. I don’t need whips or hairshirts. Anyway, back to the story.

So I’m laying there thinking about all of this and then it occurs to me. God doesn’t experience time like we do. We’re always telling people that when we talk about things like the verses about predestination and once-saved-always-saved. God exists outside of time.

Does that mean, I wonder, if that while the man Jesus only had to put up with the pain of the cross for about a day, that the God Jesus knows that pain forever? Will always have that pain as part of being God? I bet it does. And that, right there, that blew my mind. Because down here we always make this big deal about how today is Friday–but Sunday’s coming. The Resurrection and OUR deliverence from death and pain. OURS. So in the back of my mind I’ve always felt good for Jesus because as bad as it was it only lasted for three days.

Nope. I’d bet that for the God who exists outside of time there is always the pain of the cross. For us. Willingly.

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