The Friday Muse – Imprisoned

Today’s piece, Imprisoned, is derived from my desire to write something zombie related. I wrote this a little while ago and decided to dig it up for The Friday Muse. Looks like it might have potential to be a full-blown story. We’ll see…

The smell is the first thing to hit me. Not light. Not the pain in many of my extremities. But the smell. A combination of rotting flesh and burnt wood. I’m not sure what is causing that smell, but I’m almost certain it is what has woken me from the darkness.

At first, I am not able to open my eyes. I reach my right hand up to my eyelids and find them coated in a sticky substance of which I am certain is blood. I lick my fingers and apply sputum to my sealed eyes. When the blood is wiped away, I try to open them again. Slowly. Flickers of light sneak in through the darkness. As soon as my eyes are opened wide, I see the debris around me: large chunks of cement, metal bars, and small pockets of fire here and there.

My arms and legs are spotted in blood. I am able to stand, but my left leg is sore. I wonder if the cement debris collapsed on me at some point. I realize I am in a very small room – a prison cell, indicative of the bars in front of me.

What am I doing in a prison? What caused this damage?

On the other side of my cell door is a mob of beings that look human but are shuffling around in various directions, as if they are brain dead and inattentive. They flood the open area between my cell and the others. We must be in a barracks of some sort. Each individual is clothed in rags that look shredded and torn from whatever caused this damage. Most are male, but there are a few females in the bunch. Only a few. The skin of these strange beings is whiter than snow, and they each have a black stripe down the center of their face.

I spot one of them staring at me from the center of the crowd. His eyes are glazed in a pearl white. He makes a clicking sound with his tongue and the others suddenly turn their attention toward me. All of the males, anyway. The females keep shuffling around, oblivious to the world around them.

The ones that have noticed me shuffle to my cell door, grab hold of the bars, and began pulling on them. They are not strong enough to destroy this protective cage I am in. I glance around me and find a large chunk of cement which I lift into my hand. I see a set of keys sticking out of the lock of my cell door. I quickly grab them to keep them away from these strangers.

The grim realization suddenly hits me: I either stay in here – protected from whatever these beings are, or I open my cell door and fight through them to get out of this place.

How long until hunger sets in? How long until help arrives? Is there anyone left in this place who hasn’t been turned into one of these things?

I shove the key back into the cell door…

Pushing The Boundaries Of Christian Fiction

I posted this article on The Crossover Alliance website last week, and I think it bears repeating as this is a serious issue in regards to how Christian fiction has been written and the (sometimes) unspoken rules that govern its place in the market. To be honest, this is exactly why The Crossover Alliance publishing company exists – to publish Christian content that falls outside the lines that the Christian publishing houses have established over the years.

When you’re a child, you break the rules to test the boundaries of what is or isn’t allowed. You push those boundaries little by little, sometimes with an exploratory attitude, to see where the boundary lines have been placed. This educates you in what is permitted and at what point restrictions are set to disallow you from going any further.

Most good parents explain to the child why the boundaries have been placed. You can’t play in the street because there are cars that move through it. You can’t write on the walls with permanent marker because it doesn’t come off. You can’t hit Jimmy in the face with a rock because Jimmy’s dad will come after mommy and daddy with a lawsuit if it happens again.

Depending on what boundaries are set, it also reveals the reason for the boundaries. Are the boundaries set to enforce rules and control, or is there a deeper meaning, a deeper heart to the matter? Sure, we don’t want Jimmy’s dad coming after us with a lawsuit, but isn’t one of the deeper meanings for why we tell our kid not to hit Jimmy in the face with a rock is because we don’t want him to hurt others or become a bully?

I think frequently about how Jesus rebuked the Pharisees. The Pharisees enforced rules that God set up. But while God set these rules up with a deeper meaning in mind – holiness, purity, and obedience – the Pharisees turned the rules into an itinerary of tasks to be accomplished for exclusive membership into God’s holy club. Jesus disbanded these ideals because they weren’t true to the nature of why God set these rules in place.

It reminds me much of the Christian publishing industry. There are rules set in place – some strict, some reasonable. But do we know why they are there or why we follow them? Many Christian authors simply follow them because they don’t want to be chastised by the Christian marketplace or other Christian authors. They feel like a minority because the majority has gone along with these rules for so long and have integrated them into the entire Christian fiction writing process.

No cursing.

No sex.

No violence.

No gambling.

No mentions of luck.

No divorce.

No inappropriate slang.

No aliens.

No magic.

No kidding.

The list goes on and on. Of course, common sense tells us that most of these are in place to prevent us from sinning. If I write a curse word, it’s the same as cursing. If we write about sex, it’s the same as engaging in sexual acts. If we write about gambling, we are…gambling? Wait…now that I wrote that out, I realize how ridiculous it sounds. I mean, just because I am recording an act of sin, does that mean I myself am sinning? More importantly, when I write out these things, am I causing others to sin?

Well, this is definitely something to think about.

Is the act of recording a sin, a sin itself? I mean, the Bible recorded many acts of sin. But why did the Bible do that? It’s supposed to be holy. It records acts of sin to show the need for a savior, right? Isn’t that the heart of the matter, to contrast our inability to remain pure and holy against a God who is consistently and perfectly pure and holy?

That begs the question, why would it be okay to break these rules of Christian publishing? Why would it be okay to write about sex and divorce and violence? Is it to revel in these things, or is it to reveal a deeper truth?

We all struggle with these things, with these ‘edgy’ topics. These things make up life in a broken world. So what good does it do to ignore them, to pretend they don’t exist in our ‘real’ worlds of fiction? So much of the Christian fiction publishing in major markets have one-dimensional characters who live in these strange utopias where sin doesn’t exist, and if it does, it has no real bite. It’s watered-down sin. And the struggles these poor characters endure are brushed over with a rose tint and packed neatly in a perfectly square box before being fed to the masses.

Businessman screaming in megaphone on laptop

And anyone who pushes against those boundaries, who tries to write against that grain, is systematically shut down, their voice silenced by a community of Pharisees who miss the true meaning, the real heart of Christian fiction: to reveal truth and to contrast true evil with true grace. These Pharisees are found in the Christian marketplace, which follows the strict set of rules and usually exiles those who have fiction that doesn’t adhere to the membership qualifications. But it’s also the Christian community itself which have bought the lie that this kind of content is detrimental to a Christian walk.

This kind of content is why we have a Christian walk. It’s the struggle against sin, which is why Christ died on the Cross.

Maybe it’s time to try our hand at pushing against the boundaries again. Push against them until they move closer to the heart of the matter. But how do we push against these boundaries?

By engaging in a different kind of Christian fiction.

The Crossover Alliance is here for three reasons:

1.)    To change the Christian publishing industry—drastically.

2.)    To rally around—and build a community of—authors and readers who want more from their Christian fiction

3.)    To reveal God’s truth through compelling, unhindered fiction.

No, this doesn’t mean we are pushing the boundaries just to push the boundaries. We’re pushing them to reveal to the rest of the industry, to the authors and readers, to the world, that Christian fiction can be more.

Winning Camp NaNoWriMo

So, I won Camp NaNoWriMo.

I think.

It’s hard to tell when it comes to the camp version of the National Novel Writing Month. It’s more lenient in its design. While NaNoWriMo is very rigid with its 50,000 word-in-a-month-no-editing-no-backtracking-no-previous-work goal, Camp NaNo lets you edit previously written manuscripts, set your own word count, and pretty much flex your writing muscle with self-imposed milestones.

I’ve only been participating in Camp NaNo for the last few years now, and each one that I do I end up using to work on a novel I originally wrote for NaNoWriMo. This year I decided to resurrect an 11-year-old manuscript that I originally wrote for NaNoWriMo 2005. Dark Horizons is supposed to be the third installment in my Expired Reality series, but this thing has been in limbo and through revisions so many times that I unintentionally gave up on it while I hashed out my Black Earth series.

Strangely enough, both series are connected, making writing Dark Horizons more difficult. The more I wrote of the Black Earth series, the more Dark Horizons changed (as it takes place well after the events of the Black Earth series), so revising is all I’ve been doing every time I look at it.

And Camp NaNoWriMo has been no exception.

The good thing is, my Black Earth series is set in stone (finished), and I now have a set outline to follow for the next couple books in the ER series. Camp NaNo was incredibly helpful this year as it forced me to write out an ‘official’ outline for the book, hash out some character backgrounds that connect to the Black Earth series, and actually make use of Scrivener – which I am finally using to write my manuscripts.

All in all, I consider it a win. I may not have hit a 50,000 word milestone, but I managed to resurrect and repair an 11-year-old manuscript.

Breaking The Rules

The first half of my life, I lived via conventional rules. The rules my parents set, the rules the church set, the rules society set. Most of these rules – I thought – were put in place to protect me, discipline me, and to teach me the right and ‘proper’ way to go.

But as I grew older, as I matured in my life and in my faith, I realized that some of these rules were arbitrary. Needless. Stumbling blocks to a full life.

Some, I realized, were put in place because the generation that came before put them in place. Because the generation before them and the generation before them put them in place.

Some, I realized, were put in place because of fear. Fear of what might happen if those rules weren’t put in place and adhered to. Safety rails, so to say. Guards.

And some…some were put in place to hinder. They were put in place to make sure I adhered to society or my family’s way of thinking, to the path that they wanted me to take.

Many rules seem to just be there, and most of the time people don’t question them. They don’t ask why those rules are there, they don’t ask who created the rules, or under what spirit the rules were created.

In my own life, I noticed that some of the rules regard my family and the way my family has always been. Some regard my thinking in terms of friendship and loyalty. Some regard my own personal boundaries, and the way I should be treated as opposed to the way people think I ought to be treated.

In general, most of these rules have to do with life and with living. They have to do with lifestyle, how we function in society, and how we function in groups such as friendship and family.

But there are a few rules I’ve come across that have to do specifically with writing. I write Christian fiction, and the amount of rules that govern this particular marketplace can be overwhelming. I was always taught that Christian fiction was supposed to be as holy as God Himself. No cursing, no sex, no violence, no horror, no science fiction, no magic, no superheroes, no this, no that, no everything, no anything…

What’s strange, is that breaking the rules of Christian fiction came naturally to me. I started writing a science fiction story about the end of the world that eventually turned into my Black Earth series. Aliens, demons, magic, science fiction, fantasy, sex, cursing, violence, time travel…all things that have been frowned on before in the Christian fiction marketplace. But I wrote about them because that’s what I wanted to write about. I took those things and fused them with my faith, and with what I know about God, and wrote the stories that came naturally to me.

My biggest fear (at the time) was what my own mother would think of what I had written. I didn’t really worry too much about the marketplace rules that were set into place to prevent ‘Christians’ like me from publishing fiction like this. I just wrote what I wrote because it came naturally to me, not thinking that the Christian fiction marketplace was penned in by a ten-foot tall fence topped with barbed wire, and anyone who wanted to venture beyond it would have to call their work ‘secular’ and would be exiled from the Christian community of writers.

It’s strange to think that breaking the rules – these rules in particular – would come naturally. Of course, we have a sinful nature that naturally wants to rebel against things we shouldn’t. But I think there’s good rebellion too, when we know things aren’t happening the way they should. That’s why revolutions are started. You feel that natural inclination that something isn’t right, that the rules are not right. That’s why industries are changed, that’s why new things and new ways of doing things are birthed. That’s when fences are taken down, that’s when boundaries are shifted.

A lot of the time, others created the rules, but it’s our fault for leaving them in place in our lives. Are there some rules in your own life you know should be broken? Do you ever question why they are there or who put them there? Maybe it’s time to do some housecleaning and ask yourself why these fences, these boundary lines, are where they are and tear down or push out the ones that don’t belong.

The Friday Muse – Dark Horizons

Well, I spent over four hours at the coffee shop last night working on my Camp NaNoWriMo Project. The third volume in my Expired Reality series – Dark Horizons – has been a draft for literally 11 years now. Yeah. Figured it was time to continue that series. And yes, I’m still working on Red Crane, but Dark Horizons is a much bigger project to finish, so most of my writing time will be spent working on it.

That being said, I’d like to share a few paragraphs from the novel so far. I would imagine very few of you have read any of my Expired Reality novels (or novella), but I can say this third volume seems to have a darker feel to it than the previous volumes. Probably because of all that has happened to my characters up to this point.

If you do want to check out the series, just visit my page and start with Endangered Memories (the first book in the series) or Drather’s Story (a novella prequel).

Here’s the very first paragraph of the book so far. It is from David Corbin’s point of view. He is the main protagonist of the series.

Winter snow had been falling for some time now, surrounding the Bridges Gap apartment complex in a blinding white blanket. Cold air seeping in through the open front door froze David Corbin’s soul in place, numbing him to the terrible events that had occurred over the last couple of days. He welcomed the chill, welcomed the shutdown of his emotions, his thoughts, his sense of things. It was all he could do to survive – to close himself out from the rest of the world while he attempted to regain his focus, much like a computer’s hard drive is rebooted to restart its convoluted programs.

There’s definitely a dark, cold tone to the novel here in the beginning. It picks up right where the end of the second book in the series, Lost Birth, leaves off. I don’t want to say what happens for fear of spoiling it for most of you, but needless to say, there’s definitely some heavy themes running through this series by this point.

Here’s a paragraph from the second chapter. This one is from the point of view of one of my other major characters, Veronica Amorou – best friend to David Corbin.

A flash of memory suddenly blinded her eyes, transporting her to the moments when Agent Parks pummeled her face with his fists. The sound of bone crunching echoed through her skull and she suddenly felt as if she was going to lose her balance. She steadied herself on the toilet, bracing her arms between the walls of the stall. Although she had never been one to fear much in her life, Veronica felt fear rise in her like raw sewage when she thought of Parks. He was evil – the very definition of it. His hands had made short work of her face, but Turquoise’s healing machine – restorator – had fixed most of it.

And here’s a paragraph from the third chapter. This one is from Carrie Green’s point of view. She is David’s love interest here in the beginning of the series, and she is also the second major protagonist.

Carrie stared at the strange black swirls forming on her arm and hoped with all of her heart that David would show up soon. They – the other wedges with her – called the strange substance rack matter. It was something planted inside her body back in the Complex that Alex ran, and it’s purpose was to tear her mind and soul apart. To destroy her from within, so Legion – some strange alien entity that was now here on Anaisha – could use her as its mindless puppet.

Fans of my Black Earth series will immediately recognize the reference to Legion. I’m keeping quiet about that for the moment.

Anyway, there’s a sneak peek at what I’ve been working on this week in regards to my writing projects. We’ll see how much more I can get done with this (and Red Crane) before next Friday’s Muse.

The Other Side

I hate seeing others give up on things. I don’t just mean giving up on a project or even a tough relationship. I mean giving up on the dreams that God gives a person.

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately in different circles on how most people never reach ‘the other side’. The other side being the end fulfillment of a promise God has given them.

The Israelites were promised the land of milk and honey, and a journey that should have taken them 11 days took them 40 years to accomplish. 11 days, and they wandered for 40 years. All because they didn’t trust God completely, because all they wanted to do was complain, because they just didn’t care to listen. They didn’t get that God was already doing so much in their lives, and they wanted the Promised Land without going through the discipline to obtain it.

I think there are a good percentage of us that are the same way. God gives us a promise, a dream, a goal in this life, and at first we go after it with such fervor. It’s a little like a new relationship, where the butterflies are in our stomach, where everything about the dream feels new and alive and exciting.

Then the fervor starts to die out, then the real commitment and the telltale signs of sacrifice start to make themselves visible, and in place of the excitement and the butterflies, panic takes up residence.

How did we get here? This isn’t where God said I’d be going. Then we mumble and complain. God lets circumstances build up to sandpaper our negative attributes from our personalities and the doubt from our faith, but we struggle against the discipline and only sink deeper into despair. God won’t come through on His promise, we think. We were mistaken, God wasn’t really promising us this or that. It was wishful thinking on our part. Just our imaginations at work.

Once our own self-doubt is set up, then the fun really starts. Certain individuals in our circle of friends and family rise up to show us the very folly of our ways. “God didn’t tell you that,” they say. “You were mistaken. Go back to your 9-5 job, go back to the man or woman who doesn’t love you, go back to the pitiful life you were living before God breathed life into your veins, breathed the impossible into your imagination.”

These haters, these naysayers, are usually those who were called to better roads but decided they didn’t want to get the hem of their gowns dirty with the terrain. It was too much work for them, too much discipline and dependence on God.

And to top it all off, the circumstances come in shortly after we’ve been berated by ourselves and our next of kin. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong, the very law of Murphy himself. A whirlwind of chaos spins us off our feet and drops us somewhere we don’t recognize, somewhere unfamiliar. We wonder if God is even awake up there in his heavenly realm, we wonder if we aren’t going just a little bit crazy thinking God would come through on the dreams and desires he placed within us.

Portrait of beautiful female teenager praying

We forget everything God promised us. We forget the whispers to our spirit. We forget the subtle signs, we forget the words that were spoken into our lives by the friends and family who are actually in tune with God’s nature. We forget all of the confirmation. We forget all of it and allow panic and doubt and fear to anchor our hearts and mind.

And that’s when most of us quit. We throw in the towel, we give up and go back to our humdrum lives, back to Egypt where we’d rather be in slavery eating the food of kings than die at the hands of Pharaoh’s army eating manna.

If we’re really listening at this point, we can hear God let out a great big sigh. A sigh of disappointment. We could have been so much more, we could have had so much more. So much more of Him, so much more of the dreams He had in store for us since before we were born.

Looking on those who gave up are those few who made it to the other side. Those who put their complete and utter faith in God and followed Him to the end of the road, and if required, off the cliff. How many of us have actually driven off the cliff (metaphorically of course) and found God’s hands along the edge waiting to catch us? Very few. The feeling is exhilarating indeed, but that’s not the point. The point is God will see us through. The Promised Land, our Promised Land, is the point where the dreams that are churning within us and the Godly fulfillment of those dreams and promises all collide with our reality .

I’m going to be one of those who makes it to the other side. It’s in view, out on the horizon, not too far now. There may be some broken bridges between here and there. There may be some dark skies. There may even be more pain and more sacrifice along the way. But these dreams – these promises – that God birthed within me are fueling me toward that finish line. I’ll see the fulfillment of them. I know I will.

And when I do, when I make it to the ‘other side’, I promise to send those who doubted me and/or God a postcard.

Are you chasing a dream? Don’t let anyone or anything (except God) stand in your way or prevent you from getting to the other side. When the chaos comes in to steal your peace, remember everything He told you in the quiet times.

The Friday Muse – First Draft of Red Crane is Done!

Spent some time at the local coffee shop last night. My good friend and I usually meet there Thursday nights to crank out a couple of hours of writing together, and I used last night to finish up the first draft of my short story, Red Crane.

The construct of the story consists of ten episodes – or chapters, I guess – and an epilogue. The word count right now is 11,526, and I plan to finish this and have it ready to publish sometime in the next month or two. I’m also working on my Camp NaNoWriMo project (the third novel in my Expired Reality series), so I have my plate pretty full right now when it comes to writing projects.

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I had a good friend of mine craft some paper cranes for me last week. I’ll be using them for the cover design for Red Crane. I really only need one, but I had him make me five in case I ruin four of them doing what I’m going to do with them – which is a secret for now.

Once I polish up a bit of the first draft, I’ll give everyone a proper teaser of the story. In the meantime, you can check out some of my older posts that have some of the early work I did on the story –

The Friday Muse – Red Crane

The Friday Muse – Detective Hale

The Friday Muse – More Red Crane

The Friday Muse – Camp NaNoWriMo Has Begun!

Well, today’s the day that Camp NaNoWriMo begins! I feel like I should be pulling my shorts up a flagpole or filling up some water balloons to throw over at the girls’ cabins. Instead, I’ll be filling my eyes with the brightness of my computer monitor as I toil over a manuscript that I actually wrote the partial draft to during NaNoWriMo…2005.

Yes, the project I was going to work on for Camp NaNo – MidLyte – will have to be put on the back burner. I realized that I have a series that has stalled over the course of the last few years because I can’t seem to bust out the third book in the series. I mean, I’ve had plans for this series that go beyond a dozen novels, but it’s taken me 11 years now just to get the third book done? I actually have two drafts of this manuscript, both over 50,000 words, both completely different.

So, for Camp NaNo, I decided to completely dissect these two manuscripts and hopefully salvage enough from both to finally put together a workable draft for Dark Horizons. My goal is to add at least 20,000 words to this thing in the long run, but I think Camp NaNo will be more about sifting through the two manuscripts and building a new one than it will be about writing new content.

We’ll see. Head over to my Camp page to keep tabs on my progress. And check out the first two novels (and novella) in my Expired Reality series.

Star Wars, The EU, and The Force Awakens

Before I start into this, I already know that I’m not going to be gaining a whole lot of fans by writing this. I’ve actually had this article sitting in my draft box for months now as I debated on even voicing my opinion on Abrams take on the Star Wars universe. There seems to be so many people who really loved the movie and are happy with the direction Disney is taking the franchise.

I do not share the sentiment.

I realize I’m probably a sliver of the 1% of the general population who didn’t actually care for the latest Star Wars movie. I’m also not happy with Disney destroying the Expanded Universe canon. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I dive into the ‘why’, I have to explain what Star Wars has meant for me over the years.

Being born in 1979, I grew up with Star Wars. Not just Star Wars, but The Goonies, The Neverending Story, and Thundercats. I’m from that generation. You know, the generation that didn’t have asinine cartoons depicting yellow sponges in square pants to keep us entertained. The generation that didn’t rely on a blitzkrieg of special effects in our movies to keep our attention. The generation that appreciated story over flash-in-the-pan hi jinks.

Even though I was exposed to Star Wars early on in life, when my parents would show me the original movies and purchase me the old Star Wars toys – the ones that came with the silver collector coins in the packaging, my true love for Star Wars didn’t really start until my senior year of high school. It was around that time that Lucas came out with the special editions of the original Star Wars movies. I saw them each multiple times on the big screen, and they managed to spark in me a new interest in the Star Wars universe.

I started checking out Star Wars books from the school library. I blew through the Heir to the Empire trilogy. I beat Shadows of the Empire to death on my N64. I would sit and watch – every single morning before school – the lightsaber duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi, and the scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Boba Fett apprehends Han Solo and flies off in Slave 1.

More importantly to my own personal story, when I graduated high school I picked up the Han Solo trilogy and ate the books up – almost literally. The story of an orphan boy who has to try to fight and claw and find his way in the universe resonated with me on a very deep, very personal level. I read the books around the same time my parents were divorcing. The same time I was fighting to find my own way in this world. The series has become my absolute favorite book series of all time for this reason, and for the simple fact that it was such a well-written series that gave the back story to one of my favorite fictional characters.

Star Wars runs in my blood.

That being said, I wasn’t all that excited when Disney took over the franchise. More specifically, I wasn’t all that excited when Disney decided to shut down the Expanded Universe canon. One of the main things I adored about the Star Wars universe was the continuity. George Lucas was brilliant to make it a rule that everything had to fit within the canon of everything else. It lent a genuine legitimacy to the fictional universe. You knew when you read one book about a specific character that you weren’t wasting your time reading a ‘What If’. You were reading an actual bonafide piece of canon. This was something I always dreamed of emulating in my own fiction series – and something I will definitely continue to implement as my fiction series continues to grow.

So when the new movie was announced, my skepticism meter went through the roof. They place the movie about thirty years out from the end of Return of the Jedi. Han Solo is like a million years old, stormtroopers have free will, and the Rebel Alliance is back to where it was at the very beginning of A New Hope.

I eventually caved into the mass marketing and decided I would go see the movie the day after opening night. I went in with low expectations, high fanboyism, and even higher critical nature. Deep inside though, I wanted to love it. I really did. I wanted to be proven wrong about my assumption that Disney couldn’t do the Star Wars universe justice. Sure, back in my day, those who loved Star Wars were the nerds. We were in our own little club. Now it’s become a brand that Disney is milking like a cow with eighteen udders. But that didn’t necessarily mean that the movie would be bad.

In the end, I don’t think the movie was just bad in terms of it being a movie. It was bad all around. It didn’t feel like the Star Wars I’ve grown to love and adore. In fact, it felt like a sleight against the Star Wars franchise. Before you tell me that the movie selling billions worldwide is proof that this is a good movie, let me tell you that you are wrong. Just because something is popular, doesn’t make it art. It doesn’t make it edifying. And it doesn’t make it true to its roots.

A Star Wars synopsis:

The Rebel Alliance stands up to the oppressive Empire with the help of the minority Jedi. They destroy the first Death Star. The Empire is stupid enough to make another. The Rebel Alliance destroy that one too. They destroy the hands of power in the Empire – Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. Then the Rebel Alliance rebuilds the galaxy. Lo and behold, at the start of The Force Awakens, we’re back where we were years ago: The New Republic is in hiding, working on special plans to destroy the oppressive First Order (Empire/Nazi Regime). A lone ‘slave’ girl is stuck on a desert planet ala Anakin Skywalker. She bumps into a lonely droid with vital information ala Princess Leia and R2D2. Then she crosses paths with a stormtrooper with a conscience– because apparently stormtroopers aren’t all clones now, some of them are people taken from their homes as children and turned into brainwashed slaves.

The girl and the guy grab the Falcon and fly off for adventures in space.

I’m just kidding. There’s more to it than that, but I don’t have the energy to write it all out. The movie’s plot drained me of the desire to talk about it. It’s overused, overhyped, and underwhelming. I could see cloned chunks of Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 throughout the whole mess.

And then the worst? Han Solo dies. Yeah. Felt like I got kicked in the nuts when that happened. Then, when I was trying to get off the floor, they kicked me in the ribs. Then they rolled me off an embankment and sent me down into a ravine filled with boiling acid.

Han_Solo_2That’s how I took Solo’s death. Don’t get me wrong – I was upset that he died. But I think I was moreso upset in how he died and why. One of the most iconic characters in the whole Star Wars universe, and they kill him by making him stupid. Look, I understand that Han was trying to save his son – the badass Kylo Ren. I’m actually from the camp that doesn’t think Kylo was a whiny baby. You have to understand the effects of the Force in order to understand that he was struggling with the dark side, which in turn heightened his anger and frustration and rage – hence, his temper tantrums.

Anyway, Han walks across a catwalk – ala Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back – and faces his son with no weapon in hand, gullible as can be. Yeah, I get that he was trying to reach his son’s heart and save him by giving himself as a sacrifice. But that was dumb. Solo isn’t dumb. If any of you have read any of the books that have Solo in them, you would know that Solo wasn’t dumb. And that was dumb.

So then we have to wait through five minutes of Kylo Ren hesitating on killing his father. Then he gives in, stabs his father, and then sends him down into the bottomless pit of an exploding Death Star planet. Solo is dead. By someone he hasn’t had any on-screen interaction with until three minutes before he dies? Sorry, the feels I do not have, aside from watching a beloved character take one in the chest and then fall into a bottomless exploding pit.

I won’t even go into the reasons why it makes no sense at all why Han and Leia are separated, why Han is now back to smuggling, and why Han would allow the Millennium Falcon to get stolen. I really don’t know who that character Harrison Ford was playing throughout the movie was, but it surely wasn’t the Han Solo that I grew up with.

Of course, many critics will argue that Han had to die to setup the new Star Wars series. In fact, many argue that the whole movie was just setup. There are a million other ways they could have set up the new iteration of the Star Wars franchise, but they picked a handful of things that just made no sense if you know the Star Wars universe and canon.

Another gripe I had with the movie was the Force. In the prequels (Episodes 1, 2, and 3), the Force is the obvious force that propels the characters into the situations they find themselves in. When Anakin destroyed the deflector shield generator through a haphazard calamity of ‘random’ events, I could tell it was the Force propelling him into those actions. He was the Chosen One, he was attuned to the Force, even if he didn’t know how to use it yet. I felt the same when Luke and Leia crossed paths – it wasn’t coincidence, it was the Force pulling them together for its own means.

But in The Force Awakens, when the planet is cracking in half and it just happens to crack in half when Rey and Kylo Ren are lightsaber dueling, allowing Kylo Ren to escape for another movie? What the crappers? That’s a little too deus ex machina for me. That didn’t feel like the Force. That felt like the writers wrote themselves into a corner and couldn’t find another way out.

Speaking of which, when did Rey learn how to use the force so quickly? One second she knows almost nothing about the Force, and the next she’s almost more adept at lightsaber dueling than Luke was when he ran into Obi Wan Kenobi? Please. Regardless if she really is Luke’s daughter – which many are speculating – and is strong in the Force, it doesn’t mean she knows how to use it. She receives almost no training at all during the movie, so I have no idea where she all of a sudden was able to Force persuade Stormtroopers and go toe-to-toe with a Sith.

It doesn’t make sense. As a movie. As a story. Regardless if this was Star Wars or some other science fiction film, things just don’t add up. I don’t know if it’s all the flashy lights and the multi-colored laser bolts flying across the screen, but everyone who gave this movie the highest form of praise I have seen in a very long time need to check their credentials at the door. Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, even if you weren’t all that interested in the EU, you have got to admit that this story falls apart when placed under any kind of speculation. Some of that is probably because Abrams went out of his way to make sure almost nothing was explained in the movie, leading to mystery and intrigue setups for the later movies – but instant disappointment for true fans.

I’ll go back to my original point. Disney did away with the EU and instituted their own version of canon. A new reality, if you will. But they also claim that they can use some of it as inspiration for the upcoming films and franchise. So…you claim it is not canon but may treat some of it like it is? Where does the credit go then? Disney? Or the authors who wrote the EU books and filled the EU universe with the lifeblood of the Star Wars franchise? Not to mention that it’s confusing as all poo – how then do we determine what books, games, and so forth are canon or part canon or –


Look, I know some – many – are using the argument that Disney took the EU and locked it in a room and threw the key away because it was too much of a restraint to the direction Disney wanted to go with the franchise they acquired.


You have nearly 40 years of world-building, character-building, plot-building to pull from for your story ideas and you have to throw it all in the trash, pretend it doesn’t exist, just so you can have creative control over the franchise? But you’ll still reuse parts of it that are convenient to your entertainment agenda and pretend you’re the one that came up with those parts?

20160129_191942Needless to say, I will not be one of those looking forward to seeing what Disney does with this franchise. My mission now? I’m scouring the used bookstores, Ebay, and yard sales to find every Star Wars book I can get my hands on that doesn’t have that horrid LEGENDS yellow stripe at the top of the cover, and read every single one of them – some of them for a second time in my life.

The Star Wars that came before will be the Star Wars I respect and acknowledge now.

Currently, I’m in the middle of Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void.

End of rant.


Finding My Voice

I haven’t really been…myself. On social media, that is. Ever, really. Sure, I’ve written some fiction pieces and shared those with you guys. I’ve talked about finally blogging about meatier stuff. I’ve put out an interesting article here or there. But none of that has really panned out, has it? I get the momentum going just enough and then I bail, leaving the boulder at the top of the hill.

I think my problem has been that my voice has been continually silenced. A lot has happened in my life in the last handful of years, and it seems that every time I’m about to move forward, speak my mind, and make my presence known online, something silences my voice. Something steals my spirit. Something throws shackles on my words and keeps them captive, so instead of becoming passionate I become passive.

What steals my voice? Different things. The out-of-state moves I’ve made. My grandfather passing. My family alienating me. Every time I feel that fire burn within me, something – or someone – throws water on it and extinguishes the flames before the forest of social media can be subjected to my words. I retreat to the shadows to lick my wounds, and thus vanish into obscurity.

I know many who share my dilemma. A great idea is about to be birthed, but then something occurs in this life and our idea shrinks and becomes less of a priority.

It doesn’t help that I’m also a natural introvert. Any other introverts in the room? No. Nobody is going to raise their hand? Is it because you’re too shy? Ha, ha.

1011793_10203390727270926_771589151549288878_nSome of you know what I’m talking about. We don’t want the spotlight on us. Me, I’d rather sit in a corner and write all day and then sit in a corner and game all night. It’s not that I don’t like people. I just…well, I’m an introvert. My energy is exhausted quicker when I interact with others. It’s just who I am. That’s why I am very picky about how often I meet up with friends or how much time I spend with family other than my wife and son.

Even though I’m an introvert though, I have plenty to say. I run a publishing company! I’m on the front lines of the shift occurring in Christian fiction. On top of that, I am an author who has written over a half dozen novels. I have a son who struggles with his club feet – as do I. I’m a work-from-home dad who had to adjust to being a work-from-home dad. And I’ve walked such an incredible path of faith and provision, it would be a crime for me not to share my experiences with the rest of the world.

Despite all of these topics and experiences that I have to speak about, I constantly feel a pressure against me trying to keep my mouth shut. I don’t want to offend, I don’t want to rock the boat. So much has been going on lately in the world, and so many people seem to be getting offended over the silliest things. I don’t really want to jump in the fray and paint a target on my back. I don’t want the tomatoes hitting me. I don’t want to get booed along with everyone else.

Or do I?

I mean, maybe I really do want to rock the boat, to wake people up, to make a difference in the world with my words and my presence.

We all have something to say, right? We all have experiences to share with the world.  Experiences that can help others who are struggling. We all have some tidbit – or fountain – of wisdom. We’ve learned from our past mistakes, so we can help others avoid those same pitfalls. And some of us can just spot the truth from a mile away. We know what the red herrings in this life are, we just need to point them out and call them out so others don’t become deceived by them.

Businessman screaming via megaphone to another man

I was bullied growing up. The bullies always made me think that my voice, my thoughts, my dreams didn’t count. That only theirs counted. That the loudest voice in the room is the one that mattered. You grow up thinking that your point of view- your thoughts on a matter – don’t really count in the sea of opinions, and then you meet these same types of bullies in your later years and they are still doing the same thing: making you feel like you, your perspective, your voice doesn’t count.

But my voice does count. I just need to use it.

Do you struggle with finding and using your voice in this noisy online world?