Archive for September, 2013


I’m married to a man who despises going to the doctor.  So naturally he enjoys visiting my rota of physicians with me on what feels like a weekly basis.  When he wrenched his back a month ago he opted for the Gut It Out cure employed by all who hate doctors and doctor bills.     He was finally at wits’ end yesterday morning and I told him I’d book a doctor appointment.  He balked and so I suggested a chiropractor; I went to one for a weight-training injury about 15 years ago and it worked fine.   They hooked me up to a TENS unit, did x-rays, gave me a bit of a massage and cracked my back.   I figured the same thing would sort Husband just fine.

When we walked into this new chiropractic office–chosen for its high ratings and proximity to our house–I immediately felt off-center.   The walls were painted a soothing shade of moss-green, and relentlessly positive quotes were stenciled on every available wall.   People of various sizes and shapes filtered in to work with the ropes hanging from walls and to wiggle around on plastic balls placed on rows of chairs in front of a television where a man talked about how MegaSuperWellBody (or whatever the name of it was) cured him from his stage 3 melanoma.    There was a jar on the sign-in counter labled “drug freedom jar”, where you’re supposed to put your now unneeded pills.   Every bottle was strategically positioned within the jar to obscure the name of the medication it had contained, so I have no idea what drugs MSWB is supposed to release you from.

They gave us a tour of the office and showed us a “kids’ play area”, complete with toys on the floor and Veggie Tales painted on the wall.   The cheery woman giving the tour said they see “lots of families” and treat “babies so they don’t grow up with the same problems we have”.    All I could picture was the chiropractor cracking a baby’s spine and it was frankly upsetting.   After the tour–which included a wall of credentials, most of which were certificates of participation in seminars–we went into a room where Husband was asked to take off his shirt.  The assistant ran a device down the length of his back that looked something like a checkout scanner on wheels.   She said it sensed the “heat from his nerves” so they could see where the problems were.   When I asked how the device could differentiate between heat from nerves as opposed to heat from blood she said “that’s a good question.”    I repeated the question to the  doctor who said that it “reads deep, like an ultrasound, and the nerves are deeper than the blood.”  A speech was given about how a pinched nerve will shut down your organs and how the pain in Husband’s lower back was from a subluxation in his neck.    They then took X-rays.   Then the doctor said “I need to develop the X-rays, so I can be very specific during the adjustment.  I want to see you first thing tomorrow for a soft adjustment and we’ll go over your treatment plan.”     We left some amount lighter in our pocketbook, without any improvement at all.   They didn’t even hook him up to a TENS unit to relieve the pain.   Instead they dangled pain relief like a carrot.   “Come back tomorrow, pay another $45 and we’ll start helping you feel better.”

The whole thing got me to thinking that this is how many modern American congregations of Christian Sunday churches look to outsiders.    There’s a layer of friendly, upbeat, positive-think speak.   Underneath that is a threat of serious illness and a vague promise of relief.   Just keep coming back and giving money.    You’ll hit upon the cure eventually.

The metamorphosis that many American churches have undergone in the last thirty years has made them indistinguishable from other slickly marketed packages of hope.   I’m pretty sure this wasn’t where we were intended to go and I’m also pretty sure that this may be one reason that so many people don’t go to churches anymore.   The Hope doesn’t feel genuine.  The Grace feels like a gimmick.   And just as we left the chiropractor with no cure in sight these church experiences leave so many without having seen Christ.

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As lazy as it is to write a post recommending you read something else,  I’m going to do that today.   Because you all grant me the courtesy of your time and I owe you the favour of telling you when I’ve found a really wonderful thing to read.

I used to read mysteries compulsively.   They were the first genre I got sucked into (thank you, conglomerate-masqurading-as-Carolyn-Keene) and they’ve been the genre I’ve read the longest.  Since mystery and western are the two genres I don’t write they’re also the two genres I can best escape into when I’m working on a piece of fiction.  I did, however, get burned out on mysteries about four years ago and have read only a handful.

Until two weeks ago.

I know I’m late to the party, but I’ve discovered Ann Cleeves via Doctor Who of all things. *  Her work is a breath of fresh air in the cozy mystery genre and I’ve enjoyed the Vera Stanhope novel available to me very much.  I hope that more become available stateside as the show catches on via Netflix. 

But the Vera Stanhope mysteries aren’t the books I’m begging you to read.  Yes, they’re fine things.  But the real work of literary art is the Shetland Island Series.

Brilliant writing, compulsive reading.  I can NOT put these books down.  Let me put it this way….when you have to tear yourself away from a book to go into Disney World you KNOW it’s a good book.   And there are FOUR of them.  (Five in Britain, and five eventually here.)

Please read them.  Please.

If you have a Kindle you can get the first three in a bargain bundle.









*Her mysteries featuring Vera Stanhope are now serialised on ITV and produced by Elaine Collins who is the wife of the newest Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi.

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Two weeks ago I was all excited about getting contacts and then reading glasses because now I was gonna be the super sexy librarian me I’ve always dreamed of being, sitting and reading thoughtful tomes with cat’s-eye horn rims perched on my nose or clipped to my shirt collar.   As soon as I found one that suited me I was going to get a sparkly, baubled chain that let me droop my readers against my breasts.  This way I’d look either like an older schoolmarm or a person having a very public affair with a flamboyant invisible man.

There is only one problem with this scenario.

It turns out that I am reading all of the time.  I even walk from room to room with my nose in a book.

This is not a new development, understand.   I’m just very aware of it now that reading has the foreplay of clipping this heavy things to my face.

And there is the second dilemma…the heavy things on my face.   My vision has been so bad for so long (almost 10 years now) that the reading glasses make my vision quite a bit closer to what it used to be prior to getting the serious contacts.   Given that I’m used to knocking around this blurry house I know so well it often fails to occur to me that I should take the glasses off.   Besides, do you know what 35 years of conditioning will do to a person?  Can you possibly understand how ingrained the concept of “Weight On Face=Better Able To See” is in my mind?   The idea of taking OFF the glasses to see BETTER is just weird.   Far weirder than the idea of having an affair with a flamboyant invisible man.

I know I’m due for bifocals, most likely, but I rather like the concept of contacts plus reading glasses.  I’m loathe to give it up, honestly.   But there IS a problem.  On vacation I was trying to practice.  I wore the readers at the tip of my nose in that “I must be constantly able to focus  on The Written Word, yet able to look at you earnestly” pose that Bill Clinton  and Bryant Gumbel pull off so well.*  The problem with this is that it makes me dreadfully motion sick.  I can’t ride in the backseat of a car or watch shaky-cam movies.  And apparently this little trick is the equivalent of riding in the backseat of a car while watching a shaky-cam movie and reading in Hebrew.   I think having an airsick bag strapped to my front would make the whole stab at earnest dignity significantly less compelling.    

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go back upstairs with my face stuck in a book.


*I saw Gumbel doing it in an interview with some red bull plane jumping out of guy in the airport (why they chose to air that in the airport I have no idea).  I can’t find a decent picture.  Yet he does it masterfully.

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Fall is one of my starting points.   I don’t really do the January 1 thing, but I’m so programmed by the school year that I DO do a “new year, new start” every fall.   Throughout the summer I have been pondering something, and this is where many of you come in.

This year I will begin working as a part-time reader.

What Does That Mean? 

I will offer my services as a beta-reader, a proof-reader and a researcher.

I have been doing these things in an unstructured manner for friends and acquaintances and colleagues upon request.  I’m now prepared to offer my services on a structured basis, committing three hours a day, five days a week.

  • Beta Reader–This is where I read a whole or part of a work and give you feedback  about what I think works, what I think doesn’t work and what possible changes might make the story more saleable.
  • Proof-Reader–This is where I read to check for spelling errors, grammatical errors, continuity errors.   I do this reflexively when I beta-read, but I don’t always give notes on proofing changes when a book is in beta stage.
  • Researcher–If you are writing a book and you don’t care to do the research, I will do it for you.   Say you want to know what type of poison would be best to kill a horse without a trace.   I will track that information down and give you a brief report.

What Do I Charge?

Same as always.  I don’t charge for these services at present.  There may come a day when that changes, but for now I know many writers are in an economic crunch as it is.   I don’t want to make money off of someone who hasn’t made money yet.

Why Am I Doing This?

My present circumstance prevents me from having traditional employment.  It has also prevented me from doing volunteer work.  I used to volunteer for the Nashville Public Library and wanted  to volunteer for Nashville Literacy but am unable to go out to meetings and teaching assignments.    I’ve decided that as I’ve been doing this for awhile now anyway, I may as well turn it into a volunteer job of sorts.

What Will I Read?

  • Non-fiction–all types except: Sports biography, Fictionalised Memoir without disclaimer, Recovery Memoirs
  • Historical fiction
  • Category Romance (NO EROTICA)
  • Epic Fantasy
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Young Adult
  • Women’s Fiction

How Do I Contact You?

by email: k.coble@comcast.net

via Facebook: Facebook.com/mycropht

Are you writing your own work?

I am indeed still working on my own fiction.  If you wish to use my services I will sign a non-disclosure agreement along with a standard contract about privacy and your copyright to your work.    I do reserve the right to refuse to read any stories that are too similar to my own in premise so that there will be no conflict.

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It’s a common thing for me to read fellow Christian authors who write works for Christian publishers to lament the placement of their books.

“My book is just as good as anything in General Market.”

“It’s not fair that we lose sales because we are stuck in the Christian Fiction ghetto!”

“I write to minister to people.  That doesn’t happen if my books aren’t in the sections where people go.”

A couple of days ago a Christian fantasy author appealed to his FB audience for ideas on how to get the recent release in their trilogy shelved in General Fantasy.   That was honestly the first time in all the years I’ve been witness to these laments that I asked the myself the question “why should they be?”

With a very few exceptions (all of them being authors from Splashdown Books), every book I’ve read from a faith-based publisher feels like that’s where it came from.   Even the very best of them (eg. Patrick Carr’s Casting Of Stones) reads like a book that comes from a Christian publisher.   Is this a bad thing?  No.  In fact, I’d be pretty sore if I bought a book from one of my favourite mainstream publishers (Bell Bridge Books) that didn’t have the feel of a book that came from their brand.   If I picked up a Tor book that felt like a Harlequin book I’d hit the roof.   If I went to Olive Garden and all they had on the menu that day was German food I’d pitch a fit, even though I love German food.    So how would I feel if I pulled a book off the Fantasy shelf at Barnes and Noble and ended up reading an evangelical polemic?  I’d be not happy.

I know they just want to be broadly marketed when they mention reshelving, but I can’t help feel in some instances that there is also the matter of it being deceptive, of wanting to trick readers into reading something “good for them”.    And of course the very idea that your book is a “good for people” type of thing takes a little bit of arrogance.

Anyone who places their book with a faith-driven publisher at this stage of the game knows how it works.  You know going into it that there are guidelines about the content.   Why can’t you also face the fact that there are retail markets that will be largely closed?   It’s just one of the costs of doing business.


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Two weeks ago a lot of people began taking their kids for the first day of school.   There were many pictures on Facebook and Instagram of smiling youngsters on front porches holding signs that looked like a much more homey form of mug shot.  Instead of reading “Cook County 528936” they said “Ephraim’s First Day Of School 2013”.   It was touching, but it also made me wonder.

How many parents walked Ephraim and Ernestine into class for the first time, holding them anxiously by their little hands, and greeted a smiling young girl?    “Thank you, Mrs. Gutsglory!  I know that we’re going to have the most fun today!  I have lots of great stories to tell and I’ll even sing a couple of songs that have a cute dance moves!”

Sure, she’s only twelve.  But she looks like such a nice girl, and the school’s always been a fantastic place.  Mom and dad went there as kids, after all.


This is the thought that keeps sticking in the back of my mind as the Miley Cyrus debate grinds on into its third week.   Tweets are passed around like bits of fossilized gossip, nuggets of wisdom saying things like “thanks, Miley, for forcing me to explain to my kids why they can’t buy your records anymore” and “I guess Miley can’t be our daughters’ role model anymore”   (Emphasis mine–KC)  Blogs and columns and water cooler conversations all say that Miley is a role model no more.

Why is a twelve year old stranger given the responsibility of teaching your children in the first place?

Any parent not mentally compromised in some way would turn and flee the classroom, progeny in tow, if a pre-teen girl greeted them as the classroom teacher.   If that same girl were the new teacher in Sunday School (or “Good Time Gospel Explosion” or “Kids Kreate Kristian Karma” or whatever we’re calling it now) the reaction would be equally vehement.

Yet few people seem to be thinking through what happens when they cast a little girl in a TV show.  It may be a terrific TV show that taps into shared secret longings.  It may seem like a fun, safe thing to watch.  All these years later as I read Confessions of a Prairie Bitch and Prairie Tale I feel no small sense of guilt for whatever part I played in the high pedestal from which Melissa Gilbert toppled.   I also notice how Alison Angrim’s book read as though written by someone in a much more centered place.   It now occurs to me that perhaps because she was reviled instead of idolised, the actress who played Nellie Oleson was able to grow up more freely, without having to kick against the pricks of false expectation and adoration.

So whose fault is it that Miley Cyrus has to rebel against a graven image?  Well, her parents, her own, the Disney Corporation–all share blame in this.  But frankly, so do those who  leave their children in that classroom and thereby leave that older child facing incredible pressures and the unwinnable game of Idolised Human.

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I realise that TV is bad for you and will keep you poor and is just all-around garbage with no redeeming value whatsoever. I realise this because that’s what people keep saying, in that way that people say things to make other people feel bad about how they live their own, grown, adult, free-person lives.

I grew up watching TV–all those horrible shows like Sesame Street and the Electric Company and the Waltons and Little House on the Prairie–and I still enjoy it.

The way I prefer to watch TV has caught on big time and I’m thrilled.   I learned to love binge-watching in the mid-90s when I worked second shift.  These were the days before TiVo, when you had to videotape the shows you wanted to see.  The VCR wasn’t always that reliable, especially when we lived halfway up a steep hill that was some sort of curse to the power lines.   When I  came home from work at 1:30am and wanted to unwind before bed I started to turn to watching videos.  I was happily married but I think it’s safe to say I was seeing Blockbuster on the side.    When I found the Prime Suspect videos my TV viewing habits were permanently altered.   I was a confirmed binge watcher.    For years I would return to the same few shows–From The Earth To The Moon; all three Prime SuspectsCrime Story.     I started saving shows on video to watch in chunks, because it was more fun to watch multiple episodes of one thing than one episode of multiple things.

My theory is that binge-watching is popular now because people crave family and need a place to belong.   Previous generations had church, synagogue , bowling leagues, clubs like Rotary and Junior League.   Those sorts of groups are not as popular now for a variety of reasons.  They require a commitment of time and money that most people don’t have.  They aren’t flexible and they take away from quality time with your human family.    But the “family” onboard Serenity or the TARDIS is there whenever you have the time to hang out with them.  They don’t have a dress code and don’t care if you eat or knit or play Tetris while they’re talking.     When we binge-watched our way through Stargate: Atlantis a couple of years ago my husband and I began feeling like Sheridan’s team were our buddies.  We had a real sense of loss once we finished all the episodes, and went through the same thing with Stargate: SG1.

So what are the best binge-watches?   I think it’s time for a list!   My top 10 Binge Watches are: (more…)

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Poker Face

The long entry I wrote about John McCain mocking the Senate Hearing on Syria is in the trash because I just don’t have anything to say beyond what I tweeted last night.

I’m so sorry that John McCain thinks three hours of senate hearings to determine the outcome of millions of lives is too dull to listen to.</p>&mdash; Katherine Coble (@mycropht)

So there’s that.

There’s also the issue of purity that for some reason everyone is wittering about.   This happens a lot, and since I don’t watch the “news” I never really know what the igniting event is.  But the zeitgeist picks up a wave and rides it from Sidney to Siberia; “purity” and “introversion” are two hot topics that keep cropping up.

I don’t write about purity because I don’t have a daughter or a son whose sexuality is easier to discuss on the internet than directly with them.   I don’t have any girls from the local high school sniffing around my bronzed young progeny with their slutty selfies, nor do I have any hulking, drooling boys from church who can’t keep their leering eyes from straying to my dainty daughter’s naughty bits.

I do have the memory of a girl who liked very much the idea of sex and was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.   That girl got pulled aside by a male teacher at her Christian School and told to wear baggier clothes to hide her D cup breasts.  She was 13.  I wonder why that was appropriate, now that I think about it.    How come that teacher didn’t say “I’m a Nabakovian Creeper who cannot control myself so I’m going to blame this chronological CHILD for my problem”?  Maybe to a therapist or somebody.  No.  Instead it was all “Biblical modesty, etc.”     Keep in mind, of course, that I was a 13 year old girl in a Christian School with a dress code.  We had to wear modest clothes.  So it wasn’t like I was wearing those things that they blame for drooly mens drooling. (And even if I were it didn’t matter. It DOES NOT MATTER. Pederasty is not the fault of the child.)

When there were no sweaters baggy enough I ended up packing 30lbs on instead.   On purpose.  “Maybe this way they’ll stop looking.”   They never did.  Which ended up being a good thing, because my best friend decided that he liked looking and wanted to look forever.   He’s still around, at work at the moment.

Why am I babbling about this?   Because I wanted to write something today but I didn’t know what to write.  I want to participate in the conversation but I don’t have the traditional “My Child Is  A Sexy Student” entree into the thing.   All I have to legitimately discuss is my own experience.   It’s not that interesting, but it’s what I’ve got.   And it’s better than playing iPhone poker while the Middle East burns.


I should add that the paragraph about girls with slutty selfies and boys with drool is based on some popular viral blog posts that I’m not linking to because I don’t want to give them any more press.   I’m sure if you want to read them you can find them easily enough.

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I have different sets of friends.  It’s not that I’ve compartmentalised my life intentionally.  It’s just that some of my friends just read books.  Others write books.  Still others write Christian books.

When I’m talking with my “reader” friends and my “writer” friends about the books we read, we talk about plot structure, character, motivation, conflict, narrative presence, themes.   

When I’m viewing my Christian writer friends talk–because I’m more and more often avoiding the conversation since I already participated in it like fifty times already–they are talking about how much “swearing” and sexing they should show in their books.  

It’s stupid.   Flat out stupid and I’m tired of it.   It reminds me of going from the suite in my college dorm (where we talked about ideas and our reactions to the growing complexity of our lives) to a middle school girls’ bathroom where everyone is only worried about their hair, how they look and whether or not the fact that “he said ‘hi'” means he likes them.   


Looking up “dirty words” in the dictionary and giggling and then sanctimoniously discussing how they are too good to use them or too real not to.   

For what it’s worth, I’ve noticed the same attitude among Christians who don’t write.   This same “let’s stay in safe Middle School mode instead of moving forward into the complexity of life” attitude.   Is it because of the culture of church?   Why?   I don’t understand it and I’m perilously close to being tired of trying.   

We all read a book.  We had the opportunity to talk seriously about that book, how it impacted the genre and how it defined the publishing industry that is aimed at believers in Christ.   Instead we are   beating the dust of a horse that died and decomposed a decade ago.   

I’m disgusted and ashamed and really ready to shake the dust from my feet.  

Becky Miller wants us to keep trying Christian fiction.  I keep the faith with her and do try.   But if I have constructive criticism it’s a “trendy beatdown” of the genre.  And we leave all constructive criticism from customers aside while we go back to backcombing our bangs in a cloud of AquaNet.

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