For The Sake of the Call

20150329_103436Many of you know that I proclaim to be a writer. And to many of you, when that statement is made, you probably envision me sitting at a desk, building imaginary worlds and creating imaginary characters to fill those imaginary worlds. But to be honest, when I say that I am a writer, the statement means so much more than a simple proclamation of interest or career.

Many years ago, I was faced with the choice to either settle down in Arizona to pursue writing or to move to Seattle, Washington to pursue Bible college. Seattle seemed like the ‘right’ choice. I mistakenly thought all Christians were called to ministry within the church, and so how could wanting to pursue ministry along those lines be wrong? I mean, I had my tuition paid for, friends and family knew, accepted, and supported that I was leaving, and everything was set for me to go.

At the last minute, after realizing that God was actually giving me the choice of what path I wanted to journey down, I decided to stay in Arizona. That lone choice triggered an incredible adventure that has left me with no regrets. I went through what felt like a dozen 9-5 jobs, met and married my wife, Michal, and eventually pursued writing ‘full-time’.

In my younger years, I thought being an author was about sitting in a desk for hours a day, sketching out the drafts to many award-winning manuscripts. I would be written about in Poets and Writers magazine, I would hobnob with other well-known writers, and I would wear a custom-tailored blazer and stand in front of the freshman class of my old high school and talk about the success becoming a writer has given me.

Reality couldn’t have been further from my own delusions.

Writing for me isn’t just something I woke up one morning and decided to pursue. The very act of writing, the very act of creating, has been calling to me since before I was a teenager. It isn’t just a choice to craft grand stories. It’s the very thing – the very purpose – God birthed within me.

It’s my calling.

And what I didn’t realize years ago was that every calling – every dream that you pursue – will eventually require sacrifice. Personal, financial, relational…sacrifice. The sacrifice comes when you are faced with the choice to either continue pursuing your calling or to settle for something less, something easy, something comfortable.

The true sacrifice of my calling came when I sensed God’s voice ushering me out of the comfort of a 9-5 job and into the profession of writing full-time. I gave up the comfort and security of a weekly paycheck to pursue imaginary characters and far off worlds. There were times – many times – I felt foolish and guilty for doing such a thing. Over the course of a few years, sacrifice came calling time and time again when my wife and I faced financial difficulty after financial difficulty. Where were we going to get the money for groceries? The phone bill? Gas? Time and time again we faced these dilemmas, yet time and time again God came through for us.

Sacrifice came again, but in a different form, when we were faced with the decision to move to San Francisco to help start a church. The Bay Area is by far the most expensive area to live in within the United States, and we were already living pretty close to the poverty line in Arizona. Moving to the Bay Area meant moving away from nearly our entire family, including my dad who was having a litany of health issues. But we moved out of obedience to God. Little did we know that we weren’t moving for the church plant. We were moving into isolation and exile so God could do His perfect work in us as individuals and as a family unit.

WP_20140715_057It’s been two years since we moved here. Much has changed in me, my family, and in my writing. We’ve cut many unhealthy ties to friends and family. I’ve grown quite close to my grandfather who lives out here, and I’ve grown quite fond of California’s beautiful geography. My skills as a writer seem to have progressed, and now I’m getting ready to launch an online publishing company.

Months ago we sensed God calling us back to Arizona. My heart broke over the decision, and I fell into confusion many times regarding the act of moving back. I felt lost in a spiritual fog. I wanted badly to stay in California, but the constantly rising cost-of-living and the sheer amount of people here were driving us out. I didn’t want to leave, but then again I did. I didn’t know if God wanted us to leave, but then again I knew He did. I couldn’t get over my own doubts and insecurities.

Through my struggles, I contacted a friend to help me navigate the choppy waters. We talked, and the most important thing I garnered from our conversation was that I should go where God’s calling on my life could thrive the most.

What is God’s calling on my life? Writing? Yes. And now publishing? Yes, that too. These are the things I do not just for a ‘living’, but because I can’t not do them. I am compelled to do them. I am wired to do them. They are the things I was always meant to do. And in wanting them to succeed – in wanting myself to succeed – I have come to realize that I must move for various reasons:

Cost of Living –
The wages that come from being a published author and running an online publishing company do not scale to cost-of-living. That means if I make a dollar from either one of these, that dollar has the same worth whether I am in Arizona or California. However, a dozen eggs can cost $1.29 in Arizona, whereas a dozen eggs can cost $3.84 in the Bay Area. That dollar I just made will go significantly further in Arizona. That means I can pour more of that dollar back into my writing and the publishing company.

Time –
Everyone’s time is valuable, and even moreso if you have children. I’m able to work from home each day because my wife works full time and I care for our three-year-old. It takes a lot to juggle watching my son, keeping our home clean, writing, marketing, and building an online business from the ground up. This doesn’t take into account family and down time.

Living here in the Bay Area, my wife’s commute to work is sometimes ridiculous, eating away 2 – 3 hours most days. Some of that time is taken out of my own schedule because we share one vehicle. That is valuable time that could be spent on a million other things. In Arizona, her commute is a half hour, maybe forty minutes for the day.

Spiritual Environment –
Yes, we originally moved to the Bay Area to participate in a church plant. That fell through before the doors of the church officially opened. I realized that my calling wasn’t to start a church, but to keep writing. As many Christians know, the Bay Area – and San Francisco in particular – is a spiritual battleground. That fact alone makes it difficult to find a happy, healthy church to plug into. It’s not to say there aren’t any, they’re just few and far between. And the ones I have found are either ill-equipped to handle large families, or they are a forty-five minute commute.

This also isn’t to say that just because there isn’t a church to plug into is reason enough to leave the Bay Area. If that was the case, none of the churches in the Bay Area would exist. I’m coming at this from the viewpoint of someone who has the calling to write, not church plant, and in that regard I need to focus on writing in terms of career and my family in terms of a good church to throw roots down into.

Arizona on the other hand – at least for me, personally – has a wealth of healthy churches that are all family friendly and within miles of one another. This makes it much easier to plug in and get the family integrated in a healthy, loving community of believers.

These three reasons alone have pushed me to realize that Arizona is the place that would benefit me, my family, and the calling God has placed upon me the most. The talents and resources I am given should not be wasted, and so it’s time to move to a place where their value can be stretched further.

But this move – as with all things connected to my calling – will require sacrifice. I have to leave my grandfather, which is the biggest drawback. I have to leave this beautiful weather and beautiful geography and return to the desert and to the heat. And, I have to return to the place where there are many relationships I just don’t want to be around.

20150328_070603But thanks to my time out here, I’m stronger now. I’m more outspoken. I’m less shy, and more confident in myself as a person and in my skills. Our family unit is stronger. Our faith is stronger. In fact, when I stop and take inventory of my time out here, I realize that my time out here – in exile, in isolation – has prepared me for my return to Arizona.

It’s funny how God works things out…

The Friday Muse – Violet Dawn

The Friday Muse (Cropped)For those of you who have read my Black Earth novels, you’ll know Violet Dawn from some of the quotes at the beginning of the books, and some of the artwork found throughout the series. She’s an enigmatic character that I have yet to explore fully, but this little snippet gives me the chance to start the journey into her background.

Violet Dawn
Donald Respy, a male reporter for the Violent Underground newspaper, took a seat on the red leather couch, afraid to touch anything in her apartment. Violet Dawn was known to be a germaphobe, and she hadn’t set the rules for her place when he first arrived at her apartment to do his interview with her for the newspaper. Instead, upon answering the door, she left him in her foyer and went straight back to the canvas she was currently painting: a lonely daisy, the flower rising tall above the blades of grass surrounding it. Behind the daisy was a field of trampled flowers of many varieties and colors. Violet was in the midst of painting one of the crushed flowers, a violet.

How appropriate, Donald thought. “So, how did you come to be a painter?”

“Artist,” she corrected as she dipped her brush in some purple paint set to the side of her easel. “I am an artist.”

“But aren’t painters artists?”

“Not all painters are artists. You are only an artist if you bleed all over your work.”

Donald scribbled her quote on his notepad, unsure if he should ask a follow-up question. “So, how did you come to be an artist?”

Paint (Resized)“I took a risk one day. Remember that movie, The Matrix? Remember when Neo takes the red pill?”

“Yes.”

“That was a risk that Neo took to find the truth in everything. One day, I slit my wrist – figuratively – and bled my anger, my love, and all the emotions I felt in between upon the canvas. That’s the day I became an artist.”

Donald began scribbling down her quote, and stopped for a moment to study her figure. She wore blue jeans and a red blouse, and her figure was that of a perfect hourglass. Donald wasn’t sure how old she was – she never, ever gave her age in any of her interviews – but he could easily guess she was in her thirties. The white smock she wore over her blouse had a large black oak tree embroidered on it. Her sneakers were Sketchers.

“Your stare is burning a hole into my right butt cheek,” she said, dropping her paint brush on the edge of the easel before turning to him. Her bright red hair came out from behind her head in all directions, like a long cluster of fiber optic cable. Donald was certain his cheeks had turned the same shade.

She simply grinned and motioned to the painting.  “Done.”

He nodded. “Very nice.”

“Oh, I wasn’t asking your opinion,” she said. “I’m just stating a fact. I’m done. Well, not completely done.” She picked up a piece of white paper and set it on the edge of the easel underneath the painting. “This will be the caption that goes with the picture.”

Donald set his notepad on the surface of the glass coffee table and stood to get a closer look at the canvas. “And the flowers were trampled under their feet,” he read. “All of them were. But the daisy rose above the others and stood tall, carving a way through the valley to the Mountain of God. Violet Dawn.”

She nodded. “I have to get the proper plating for the caption, but other than that, I’m done.”

“What does that caption mean?”

She shrugged. “How am I supposed to know?”

“Because you wrote it.”

“I did. Artists are simply conduits, Mr. Respy. Conduits to the emotions around us. Conduits to the darkness and light in this world. Conduits to the spiritual realm. Just because I painted this painting, and just because I wrote that quote, doesn’t mean I understand what any of it really means. It’s left open for interpretation. Open for examination.” She took a step toward him, leaning in near his face so close he thought – with a delighted expectancy – that she might kiss him. “The real meaning behind the painting is the meaning you apply to it. What does this painting mean to you?”

Daisy (Resized)He stepped back, giving himself room to examine her artwork more closely. “It’s a daisy that has lasted some chaotic event. Maybe some global disaster. Or maybe some kid came by and trampled all of the flowers and missed the daisy because his mother yelled for him to come home.”

Violet crossed her arms and nodded. “I can see that. What else?”

“Nothing more. I don’t know what the Mountain of God is supposed to refer to in your caption.”

“It could be anything that means something to you spiritually. Or it could be an actual mountain that God has appointed as His own.”

Donald picked up his notepad and pencil from the coffee table. “Ms. Dawn, where exactly do you get your inspiration from?”

“No more questions, Mr. Respy. You know all you need to know about me by viewing my work. Like I said before, I bleed all of myself into my work. Everything you want to know about me is on that canvas.”

The Friday Muse – Roaming V

The Friday Muse (Cropped)Sorry for the hiatus on The Friday Muse pieces, but I’ve been pretty busy with projects and the such. Today’s piece is something I sketched out about nine months ago. It’s connected to my Expired Reality series, but even I’m not sure if it’s before the series or after. Anyway, enjoy!

Roaming V
A purple silhouette in the shape of the female form. Flat, without any identifying details, much like a blank cardboard cutout. That was all the woman was to Dellaray, even though it was known that the woman was so much more than a mere cutout or silhouette. She was a hologram. She was an A.I. – Artificial Intelligence – although the ‘Artificial’ part wasn’t as true as it once was. Verspe was more than a computer program, more than a robot. She had gained an awareness. She had gained a spirit, although Dellaray knew not of how she had accomplished such a feat.

“Your blood pressure is rising,” Verspe stated in her usual monotone female voice. “As a result, your breathing has increased, and your perspiration levels have risen dramatically.”

Campfire (Resized)I move the thick stick into the makeshift campfire, stoking the flame in hopes of keeping the heat in our cave until morning. The downpour outside the mouth of our dwelling space threatens to flood us out if the water level reaches the cave entrance which is three feet above the ground level of the forest. The rainwater was at nearly two feet when I last checked a half hour ago.

I have never seen it rain so much before.

Verspe moves her glowing projection close to the fire. Her figure fades in and out depending on what angle I look at her from. The firelight is doing a good job of washing her out. I know she is a mere hologram, but sometimes she personifies a human being better than some friends I have.

“You are worried of the rainwater,” Verspe says.

I stoke the fire some more before setting my stick on the ground and pulling the front of my thick denim coat shut to seal out the cold wind that is sneaking its way into our space. “Yes.”

“At this rate, the rainwater will begin to flood the cave in approximately – ”

I wave my hand at her to shut her up. “Zip it, robot girl. Okay? I have enough on my mind right now, I don’t need your depressing statistics. Just…just let me rest for a bit.”

“You would rather die in your sleep?”

“It’s the best way to go,” I whisper as I stare into the fire. “You don’t have to worry about death though, do you? You’re some fucked up artificial intelligence that isn’t really even here.”

“I am here. I am just not embodied in a form that you approve of.”

“Tell me, robot girl, is there anything we can do about the rainwater? Is there higher shelter somewhere?”

“There is, but it is unwise to pursue it.”

“Why is that? The wind is cold, but I can deal with it if the shelter isn’t far from here.”

“Sarppers.”

I shudder at the name. “You never told me there were Sarppers close by.”

“You never asked.”

“You shit-for-brains!” I stand to my feet and kick dirt into the fire. A few moments later, the source of my warmth is put out, but the glowing purple freak next to me is not. “Extinguish yourself or go dark or whatever the hell you do when you turn yourself off.”

“I cannot turn myself off. It is against my programming. The Anaishan Sentry Unified Sector does not allow a Roaming V to shut down. Ever. I must monitor your health and well-being until you are safely in the custody of the proper authorities.”

“Monitoring my health and well-being is much different than doing something to protect my health and well-being. If I had known Sarppers were nearby, I wouldn’t have picked this cave.”

“They are twenty yards to the west. It is very possible they know nothing of your presence here.”

“That’s reassuring.”

Forest (Resized)The rain stops. The wind stops. I draw near to the mouth of the cave and look out into the thick forest beyond. All I can make out is a massive turtle shell the size of a one-story house. The shell glows red, which tells me that my time is already up. I won’t have the opportunity to run, to hide, to flee.

“You have received your death sentence, Dellaray Realia,” Verspe says. I have a few moments to realize what has happened, that Verspe led me out here to execute me. Nobody will ever know that’s why I was led out here. I thought she was leading me to civilization so that I could be tried by a civil court. Instead, I realize I have been led into a trap meant to execute me in the vilest way without the Anaishan Sentry Unified Sector causing a public outcry.

Warmth fills my britches as I lose control of my bowels. It has begun. My nose suddenly bleeds, and my head feels like a stone is inflating within my tiny skull. Before everything blacks out, I hear the pulsing groan emanating from the turtle shell, a sound that I should have been prepared for. And then all at once, I collapse unto death.

My Kickstarter Campaign Is Now Live!

Kickstarter LogoAfter months of work, I’m proud to say my Kickstarter campaign is live! This campaign is to raise funds to cover the costs associated with publishing a full year’s fiction catalog through my new publishing company, The Crossover Alliance. Check out the Kickstarter page for more details and to see some of the awesome rewards you can snag by pledging to this cause –

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2054728317/the-crossover-alliance-first-year-fiction-catalog

And check out the official Kickstarter video –

Goodbye, California

20150328_074843 (Resized)It’s been two years since my family and I made a ridiculous leap of faith and moved to the Bay Area.

To be honest, it feels like ten.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t lost and confused when we first moved out here. Our initial reason for moving was to help start a church plant in the heart of San Francisco. For our family, that fell through months after we moved here. From that point on, it was an overly challenging and incredibly emotional ordeal to find our place out here and to figure out where this place fit in with God’s plan for our lives.

Two years later, and I find myself not really wanting to leave California. This has been a testing grounds of sorts. It’s been my desert of wandering. I’ve been put through trial after trial, each designed to knock a bit more of the rough edges off and polish this vessel. It hasn’t been easy. In fact, this two-year period has been the hardest of my entire life. I’ve had to learn how to control my emotions, how not to hesitate so much, how to speak up more, and most important of all, I’ve had to learn how to be myself.

See, when you’re young, you know who you are. You may not know it at that time, but later in life, you’ll realize that the real you was formed in your youth. Your likes, your dislikes, your passions – they all develop when you’re a snot-nosed kid in junior high and high school. It’s when we’re thrust into the ‘real world’ that things get ugly, and that ugliness, that harshness of the world, knocks you around a bit, bruises you, makes you bleed. By the time the world is done with you, you can’t remember who you are or what you’re doing.

Sometimes you need to recalibrate. And sometimes, that recalibration is the reason God sends you somewhere far from friends and family, and allows you to face the challenges that will change you for better or worse.

This time here in California was my recalibration.

I’m returning to Arizona at the end of the month. I will wave a bittersweet goodbye to the state nearest to my heart. I’ll shed some tears, no doubt. But I’ll be returning to Arizona so much more different than when I left. And that’s definitely a good thing.

My Upcoming Kickstarter Campaign

I’ve been hidden in the shadows as of late because I’ve been working on a lot of projects, the main one being the Kickstarter campaign I will be launching next week on the 7th. My campaign will seek to raise money to cover expenses for the first year’s catalog for the new publishing company I am in the process of launching – The Crossover Alliance.

Some of you know that The Crossover Alliance originated as an online community I built to bring together readers and writers of edgy Christian speculative fiction. It quickly transformed into a standalone website, and now it’s moving on to become an online publishing company. I am really excited to be able to help authors who are writing in this overlooked genre get published, and I can’t wait to share more with all of you about the evolution of the company in upcoming posts.

In the meantime, please check out the Kickstarter video (above) that I put together using GoAnimate.com, and stay tuned for more about this exciting venture.

The Friday Muse – Mercy Springs

The Friday Muse (Cropped)

I’m still busy working on publishing company stuff, so I don’t have any new tidbits from my current work-in-progress, Salt & Lyte. However, I do have a piece to share with you all that I originally had up on my old blog some time ago. Today’s Friday Muse was written because I wanted to explore some of the space/time continuum anomalies that occur in my Black Earth series – such as the appearance of the Mercy Springs Elementary School in the middle of California, mentioned in the second novel in the series, The Broken Daisy. Enjoy!

Mercy Springs

“What do you make of the anomaly,” Hendricks asked her.

Sybil shrugged. “I can’t really make heads or tails of it with what little information we have.”

“I have a theory,” Hendricks said as he took a seat at his desk.

Sybil tied her long brown hair back into a ponytail and held it together with a rubber band. “I really don’t care for theories.”

“I know. But you might want to hear me out on this one.”

Sybil took a seat in the chair opposite Hendricks’ desk. The thick leather made a loud noise as she settled into it. “Fine, let’s hear it.”

Hendricks leaned forward in his chair and rested his elbows on the desk. “Okay, Nathan Pierce and his friends made contact with a school called Mercy Springs Elementary.”

“Correct.”

“Now, we have no record of there being a city named Mercy Springs in California.”

“I already know all of this, Hendricks. Get to the point.”

“What if Mercy Springs Elementary School is from another reality?”

Sybil straightened up in her seat. “You mean like the Black Doors?”

He nodded and stroked his beard. “Yeah, I do mean like the Black Doors.”

“But how would it have appeared in California? How did Nathan Pierce, Heather Rhodes, and Cynthia Ruin come into contact with a school from another reality? The Black Doors are small. And you’re talking about an entire school.”

Hendricks sighed. “I know it’s a lot to take in, but my theory is that the school appeared without the assistance of a Black Door. Mercy Springs Elementary came through a time rift. I know, it sounds very science fictiony, but I believe that’s what happened. After we went through the files from the Vector organization, I found detailed reports of a woman – Jennifer Glass – who could move through time involuntarily. That was until a young man named Griffin helped perfect the ring that now allows her to move through time and space at will.”

“Jennifer Glass is an enemy of our organization, Hendricks.”

He nodded and waved her comment away as if it were a fly in the room. “I know, I know. The Time Protection Society has been hunting Jennifer for years. Blah, blah, blah. But listen, I’m convinced that her journeys through time and space have actually been damaging the space/time continuum. Her very presence has been causing rifts in our reality – and subsequently other realities – and I think that Mercy Springs snuck in through one of these rifts. In fact, I have reason to believe that the entire city of Mercy Springs was caught up in the rift and was transported somewhere else…some other reality.

“I think these rifts have been interfering with the Seer device. They have to be. The Seer device – from what I’ve been told – can only search out events along the current timeline. But what if outside sources – the rifts – bring in anomalies that the Seer device cannot compensate for? It would mean that the TPS is moving on commands that are not made in sound judgment.”

Sybil stood to her feet. “I’ve heard enough. This is why I don’t like theorizing with you, Hendricks. You take it too far. Unless you have proof of one of these rifts that Jennifer Glass supposedly created, then I would suggest you keep your mouth shut and just do what Redford Raleigh wants you to do. Don’t ask questions, don’t push your agenda. Just believe that the Seer device works and that we are to follow all instructions given to us based on what the Seer device reveals.”

Hendricks shook his head. “No. No, I’m not going to just go with the flow around here anymore. I’m tired of taking orders without any context. We don’t even know where the Seer device came from, Sybil, nor do we know how Redford knows so much about time travel and the future. Aren’t you the least bit curious to know why none of us have ever been allowed to see the Seer device?”

“Stop,” she said. “Just stop now before they decide to silence you for your insubordination.”

“Nobody really knows why Macayle Harper defected. I’d like to know the reason for that decision. Don’t you?”

Sybil reached behind her and pulled the Glock pistol from her back pocket. Before Hendricks could protest, she fired a bullet straight between his eyes, splattering blood and brain matter across the leather chair.

“Sorry, Hendricks. But those who know too much don’t need to be a part of this organization. Just like Macayle Harper.”

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