I'm a pastor and writer in the greater Chicago area. When not preaching about Christ's call to offer compassion, justice and acceptance to all people, I write stories about robots, aliens, and eldrich horrors from the dawn of time.
Some people seem to think that's an odd combination. Go figure. :)
It seems that I can talk about this after all. I'm helping work on the story 'bible' for Moonstone's upcoming anthology of Green Hornet stories.
The Green Hornet was a huge favorite of mine when I was 5, and the memory has stuck with me through all the ensuing years. I was a sucker for superheroes but he was more than just another masked hero. He had (IMO) better gadgets than Batman, and his car, the Black Beauty was at least as cool as the Batmobile. I also really liked his assistant, Kato, who had amazing fighting skills. It wasn't until years later that I learned Kato had been played by the then-unknown Bruce Lee!
I'm working on something but I can't say what it is yet.
Maybe I could give you clues...(this is probably a bad idea)
It's something for Moonstone, who have previously done anthologies for licensed characters like Zorro, the Phantom, and Kolchack, the Night Stalker.
No, it's not Zorro, the Phantom, and Kolchack, the Night Stalker. No, I can't tell you who it is. No, it's not an anthology about Darby O'Gill and the little people. Yes, I do remember that a young Sean Connery was in that movie. No, it's not a cross-over about 007 and the Little People (where do you come up with this stuff?) Yes, it has to do with a licensed character. Yes, it was a favorite character from when I was young. Yes, they did have fictional characters way back then! How old do yuo think I am, anyway? (Darned kids these days!) No, I can't tell you who it is. No, it's not Batfink. This is a much more serious character than Batfink. No, it's not Anna Karinina! Yes, I know that Tolstoy is more serious than Batfink, but that doesn't automatically mean... Let's just say this character is in the middle ground between Batfink and Anna Karinina. No, it's not a tragic Russian heroine who poses as an animated crimefghter. That's really not what I meant. Aaaaaaah! You're driving me crazy with these incessant quesitons.
Okay, if you won't leave me alone I'll tell you. it's
I've been reading the novel that's been such a runaway best-seller for the last couple of days. If I get the time I hope to finish it tonight or tomorrow. It's the story of a man whose life is shattered when his young daughter is taken from him in an act of terrible violence and cruelty. Several years later he returns to the shack where he believes she was murdered and encounters God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all in human form.
The book deals with a question as old as faith. If God is all good, and all powerful, how can there be such terrible suffering in the world? So far, I've been impressed with the novel, which doesn't fall back on facile doctrines or easy answers of any kind. Author William Paul Young shows us a God who isn't offended by honest questions, doubt, or even anger. His version of God (who the protagonist, Mack, sees as a large black woman) is more interested in offering a steady, compassionate presence than easy answers or miraculous fixes.
I was pleased and surprised to see some theological sophistication in the book. The author has clearly studied some wonderful sources in preparing this. But more importantly--much more importantly--what he is giving us in the book is something that is very sincere and real to him. The God we encounter in these pages seems to be the God Mr. Young has encountered in his faith, the one who has helped him through his moments of loss. I think the authenticity of his vision, and the sincerity of his faith are what people find so convincing.
I have to say that I struggled with he first few chapters as he sets up the back-story to the encounter with God. Mr. Young's prose is clumsy and made for slow going. He commits many errors of style and a few of grammar, and he's terrible about telling us about things rather than showing them happen.
Most of the problems evaporate when we come to the sections with God in them. And, even in the early chapters it's easy to forgive him his literary sins. You get a real sense of the author in the book, and come to like him a lot. This isn't an elegant book from a literary point of view, but it intelligent, wise, honest, and deeply compassionate.
I've still got about 80 pages to go so I suppose he could still blow it, but I don't think he will. I have faith that it will stay wise and genuine right through to the end.
My other cat, Squeak, decided to offer her kind assistance to me tonight. I was working on my laptop in the living room as I watched the episodes of LOST and DEAD LIKE ME I'd recorded.
Quick note: DEAD LIKE ME is wonderful! I never saw this one when it was on, but it's a sharp, darkly hilarious look at the unlife of a young woman who becomes a Grim Reaper after she is killed by a falling piece of space junk (a toilet seat from a Russian space station).
Anyway, I was lying on my stomach, typing away as I watched the shows (it's sad, but that's the only way I watch TV anymore) when Squeak came to see me. She is an affectionate kitty, but is a little like the princess whose sleep was disturbed by a single pea. She will sit in your lap and purr contentedly but a sudden noise, a shift in position, or even the tensing of muscles to indicate I'm thinking of shifting position is enough to end lap-time. She will leap away, then, to demonstrate that she wasn't really startled she will casually stroll away.
Squeak has an impressive stroll. She is a fluffy black cat and her hindquarters resemble nothing so much as an old-fashioned set of women's ruffled bloomers. When she walks away you know that you have been well and justly snubbed.
Anyway (tonight seems to be tangent night) as I lay there, I felt Squeak climb up on the back of my thighs. I lay very still while she spent a considerable period of time pacing around to judge the perfect spot to settle. I thought she was going to curl up in the small of my back, as she has sometimes before, but she chose the higher ground slightly to the south.
I lay still and stopped typing for the next half-hour, enjoying the weightless warmth of her tiny body. I could feel her purr but never heard it. That is a peculiarity of hers, when she purrs it is so quietly that you can only feel it. It's as if she wants the purr to be for you and you alone. Moments of closeness like that are rare for her, and I treasure them when they come.
I just signed up for this service. It's a free download for audio conversation with anyone on the planet, free. The only catch is that they have to also be on scype...and have a computer...and speak a language I understand...and want to talk to me. But aside from that I can talk to anyone on the planet for free! How cool is that?
If all else fails, the headset is one more thing to sit on the desktop and amuse Mayan. :)
I received my nicest letter ever today telling me why a story I've submitted will not see print. I'd sent a story to "Tales of the Gun" sometime back on the recommendation of a friend who thought it was what they were looking for. It turns out she was right, they really liked the story. Unfortunately, they have not received enough quality submissions to allow them to move ahead with he project.
It's a shame on several levels. First, because my story needs a new potential home (and this one has really made the rounds). Secong because I really liked the sound of the 'zine these folks were putting together. Mention that you want to publish stories like Manly Wade Wellman used to write and you've got my respect.
I have two cats, Mayan and Squeak. I sometimes refer to them as black but, if you see them lying in a patch of sunlight, you notice that there is actually a complex mix of brown and black in their fur. They are able to diaappear into the shadows, but this also lets them seem almost invisible lying in a patch of brown leaves.
Anyway, Squeak tends it ignore me when I am on the computer. Such things as writing are beneath her notice when there are better ways to spend her time, such as sleeping on the end of the sofa, washing herself, sleeping under the coffee table, chasing Mayan, sleeping on the china cabinet, letting Mayan chase her, sleeping under the kitchen table...you probably get the idea.
Mayan, on the other hand likes writing. More precisely, he likes spending time with me when I'm writing. He usually announces his presence by meowing. If that fails to get more then a 'hello' and a quick head scratch he will, very gently, sink his claws into the back of my calf. He's gotten good at startling me without ever breaking the skin.
He's learning that I have a low tolerance for this and he will be shut out of the room if he persists too long, so the next step is to hop up on the desk and talk to me. His favorite place to stand is directly in front of the screen. When I move him to the side he has several options. He may perch sphinx-like on the desk, and watch me with unconcealed disapproval. Alternatively, he may amuse himself by sliding various objects to the edge and watch them fall (the game is so interesting that he can play for hours).
He has discovered that the most comfortable place to lie is directly on top of my mouse (the irony of a cat on my mouse hasn't escaped me). He curls up on the hard lump of plastic with boneless grace and purrs contentedly. His face looks so innocent as if he's saying, "Hey, I'm just a cat looking for a place to nap. I couldn't possibly understand how this is interfering with you, could I?"
Sometimes he will even help me type. I have to say that, as smart as Mayan is, his writing is not very sophisticated, and contains many errors. Still, there is a certain elegance to a sentence like, ;loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo';
Mayan's favorite place to nap is in my chair. He waits until I'm leaning forward to make his move, and manages to slide into the very narrow space between my back and the back of the chair. He snuggles down until he is as tightly wedged in as possible and begins to purr. I welcome these moments and reach pack to pet him before resuming my work. He gets the closeness he wants so much, and I get a lot more done. I also find his warmth of him against the small of my back, and the drone of his purr soothing.
It's not efficient to have a writing buddy like mine, but it can be very nice. :)
I haven't played since college, but this "What Dungeons and Dragons Character are You?" quiz looked fun. It turns out that I am (more-or-less) Gandalf, which works for me. :-)
I Am A: Lawful Good Human Wizard (6th Level)
Alignment: Lawful Good A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion. However, lawful good can be a dangerous alignment because it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.
Race: Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.
Class: Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.
Thanks to the good folks at the PIT a revised and improved version of "Closing Time at Galaxy Video" is off to Escape Pod. It would be a great market to break into and I'd love to hear how they would adapt this to podcast.
This one was a stinker for some reason, probably because it features a vampire on-stage for the first time ever and I had a hard time figuring out what the guy should be like. I'm still ambiguous about this one, though I think there's some good stuff in it.
The Chinese New Year reminded me of a series of books to recommend. It's a series by Barry Hughart which combines Chinese history, Chinese myth, mystery stories, and a gently whimsical sense of humor. The series of about Master Li Kao, an aged but brilliant scholar/detective and his assistant, the muscular Number Ten Ox.
I've only read BRIDGE OF BIRDS, but there are two other novels in the series, THE STORY OF THE STONE, and EIGHT SKILLED GENTLEMEN. The Year of the Ox seems like the perfect time to catch up with the rest of the series.
And my ox-luck seems to be started already. I see that the SF channel is doing a marathon of Doctor Who tomorrow. It looks like they're all of the Martha Jones that I hadn't seen. Once I see them, I'll be completely caught-up on the series.
I never knew that Chicago had a Chinatown until I moved here. It's not as big, or as famous as those in New York or San Francisco, but is a wonderful place. I rushed to my car after church and headed there. Sadly, the parade started at 1:00 pm. so I only made it for the tail end. The good part is that the thing I wanted to see the most (the lion-dancers) didn't end with the parade.
There's a tradition I'm not familiar with that I saw a lot of today. Many business owners will hang a bunch of lettuce, sometimes with oranges, in front of their place of business. One of the lions will come up (there seem to be four lions, each a different color, another tradition I am not familiar with) and "eat" the offering. A moment later it will "spit out" the lettuce, now shredded, and the oranges, now quartered. The lion will also do an elaborate dance which seems to involve a lot of bowing to the business and the customers. I'm guessing it's all about blessing the merchants with prosperity and good luck for the coming year. Since that's the whole focus of the Chinese New Year, it seems like a pretty safe guess.
It's the beginning of the Year of the Ox, and I was born in the Year of the Ox. That's extra good luck for me, if you believe in such things. I hope it works out because 2008 was a stinker as years go (and I've got some friends who I hope a little of my Ox-luck rubs off on too.
My birth year has always seemed kind of appropriate. The ox is supposed to be kind, patient and deliberate. That fits pretty well, plus it works physically too. I stand out in most places, but in Chinatown I'm as conspicuous as an ox in a herd of deer. On the one hand, it was nice during the parade, because I could see things pretty well over everybody's heads. In the crowded, tiny stores, not so much. I stayed on my best behavior, smiling a lot and trying not to knock things over. The motto of Chinatown, repeated in just about every store I visited was:
"Lovely to look at, delightful to hold, but if you break it, consider it sold."
I spent some time looking for a cricket cage as a favor for a friend. There was a time when cricket-fighting was a big deal in China (or so I've read) and the insect gladiators were housed in beautiful little cages of carved wood, bamboo, ivory or jade. Sadly, the few merchants who knew what I was talking about said that they used to carry the cages, but not any longer.
As the crowds faded into the late afternoon I started looking for a place to eat. There's a great, enclosed plaza a block over from the main tourist drag and I headed that way. As one point, when I was about the only person on the street a small, plump grandmotherly woman with her hair in a tightly curled perm stuck her head out of the door of a shop and called me over.
"You want massage?"
I politely declined, and it wasn't until I started walking away that the suspicious part of my brain kicked in. What kind of massage did the little storefront have to offer? Yikes!
Dinner was hot-sour soup and orange chicken. I also sampled a glass of plum wine. It was too sweet, especially with the chicken, but the name has had me curious for a long time. On the way back to the lot I was accosted by two college aged girls who said they were in a bad situation because the friend who was supposed to give them a ride home had stood them up. If I could give them money for train fare, they would mail it back to me as soon as they got home.
I had a little recording go off in my head, my ex-wife scolding me for believing stories like this, and for giving money to total strangers. She's more practical about such things than I am, and was always telling that I was asking for trouble.
I gave the girls $15 and told them there was no need to repay it. I had mixed motives there, if they were on the up and up, the kind act is its own reward. If they were crooks, they don't have my address. I was kind of proud to have combined altruism and paranoia so neatly. :-)
All in all, a great day, and (I hope) an auspicious start for the Year of the Ox.