On New Year's Day 2006, I announced an indefinite hiatus for this site, and I am happy to say that, with the exception of a blogiversary/reading log post, I have kept that resolution.
Of course, I have continued blogging at a couple of other sites, but the planned break for Mysterium Tremendum had an actual purpose behind it. Unfortunately, that purpose -- to break from lit-blogging until I could call myself a published novelist -- has not been realized. So the hiatus will continue.
I'd also love to say that I spent the last year polishing off my latest novel, Echo Island, but it stalled at about 100 pages in late summer when my church reached a crisis point (in which our elders fired our pastor) and I found myself trying to blog through the mess (an effort that is ongoing at BCC is Broken). It started simply as a way to keep our community updated on news and information and gradually became . . . well, a ministry. And as more and more folks continued to express appreciation -- and more importantly, edification -- for my writing, I committed to persevering there. BCC is Broken, and the real life contributions and interactions that bloomed out of it, basically consumed the part of me that would have been spent on a novel over the last few months.
Looking forward now, I do plan on resuming writing. I can't not do it. If only because I'd rather my agent not forget who the heck I am. But also because I'm a writer -- a writer of fiction -- and writers write.
I don't imagine for a second making time for this calling of mine will be easy. Beginning the first week of February, my church is launching a new supplemental worship service for the 18-30something crowd called Element, and I will be its speaker. I've already begun studying and writing for our first series, which will be on Paul's epistle to the Philippians.
I cannot say on this anniversary of my original Down to Business hiatus that my schedule is now free and clear. But I also cannot say I'm disappointed. Great things happen when stuff gets broken. Or so I've learned.
Another thing I've started to do around this time of year, since I'm usually in Houston for the holidays, receiving books as gifts and able to stock up at my favorite bookstore, is list my holiday haul. I am bringing home to add to my library:
Lost Boy, Lost Girl by Peter Straub
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Professor of Desire by Philip Roth
Deception by Philip Roth
Bech at Bay by John Updike
Bech is Back by John Updike
Brazil by John Updike
Cell by Stephen King
The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
The Method and Message of Jesus' Teachings by Robert Stein
Two Views on Women in Ministry from Zondervan's Counterpoints series
The Last Things edited by Carl Braaten and Robert Jenson
The Gospel According to Tony Soprano by Chris Seay
Revelation: New Century Bible Commentary by G.R. Beasley-Murray
Epistle to the Philippians by Karl Barth
Understanding Scripture by Berkeley Mickelsen and Alvera Mickelsen
The Law and its Fulfillments: A Pauline Theology of Law by Thomas Schreiner
The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan
Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century by Karl Barth
Dictionary of the Presbyterian and Reformed Tradition in America edited by D.G. Hart
The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce
Jesus in the Gospels: A Biblical Christology by Rudolf Schnackenburg
The Gospel of Matthew by Rudolf Schnackenburg
Jesus in America: A History by Richard Wightman Fox
Early Christian Heresies by Joan O'Grady
Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People by E.P. Sanders
What Jesus Demands from the World by John Piper
The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus' Essential Teachings on Discipleship by Dallas Willard
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N.T. Wright
Those last three I'm itchin' to dig into.
I hope 2006 has been a good year for you, finding you brimming with God's grace and peace. I wish I could say it was an easy year for me, but I am coming out of it in love with my God and having found Him so faithful.
Here's to a great 2007 to you and yours. May we all find the coming year full of our faithfulness to a God who loves us all out of proportion.
On New Year's Day 2006, I announced an indefinite hiatus for this site, and I am happy to say that, with the exception of a blogiversary/reading log post, I have kept that resolution.
Mysterium Tremendum is three years old today. I figured an update is in order, despite the fact I haven't exactly been a recluse since my January 1st hiatus resolution. I am semi-proud of the fact I have kept my commitment not to post here until I can call myself a published author, but it's not like I haven't cheated on this, my original solo blog, with Thinklings, Shizuka Blog, Cinema Veritas, and -- added this year to my roster of time-consuming compulsions -- The Boar's Head Tavern and a site started as a ministry to my church, BCC is Broken. A writer's gotta write, right? And a writer who blogs has gotta blog, especially when it's the difference between slaving in solitude for months to produce a book your agent may or may not think is "marketable" for enough publishers to see and working for an hour on a blog post lots of people will see immediately and provide instant feedback on. Of course, only one of those efforts pays money too, so there's a trade off. ;-) But the instant gratification of blogging has proven too much for me to call it quits completely.
I have been frequently tempted to post in this space. I've had lots of ideas that, despite my numerous online outlets, would make me think, "Ah, that'd be perfect for MT!" Mostly personal theological ruminations of the non-devotional sort and reflections on the literary world. But I am honest about being a small fish in a big pond. Why, just yesterday Mark Bertrand wrote a piece that made we wish I'd written it, then realize I couldn't have done it any better anyway or from a more visible platform or higher place of authority. So, go read his stuff -- all of it. It's better than 2/3 of all the lit-blogs put together.
I suppose you want an update. And I suppose that's sorta what this is. I am popping in on Mysterium Tremendum's third birthday to say, "Nope, still not published." I finished Black Dog Man late last summer, turned it into my agent, and grumbled for months as it suffered limited exposure. Seems it was too long. (667 manuscript pages, if you're keeping score, which is long for evangelical fiction, but short for those Harold Potter books fifth graders seem to consume like candy.) Also, it seems as though a couple of folks who managed not to balk at the length -- and let's be honest, that wouldn't have been as huge of an issue if I wasn't a first-time author -- didn't like that the action scenes had a, you know, story around them. I never hid the fact that BDM is a literary thriller, and my proposal makes it quite clear it's not a genre action/adventure piece. Most "real" people, who don't have to worry about selling the thing ;-), really got the book. Their reviews mean so much and tell me that I accomplished what I hoped to accomplish thematically and spiritually with the story. Phil Wade of Brandywine Books even put it on his Best Of list. But out of the increasingly vast array of evangelical fiction publishers, only 6 or 7 editors actually had their hands on Black Dog Man. Disappointing, to say the least. But I have shelved the novel optimistically, believing that I can eventually earn the right to present to an editor the story I want to tell.
The only publication I've seen in the interim is a little review piece in the debut issue of the new quarterly The Critical. Last fall I began my current project, tentatively titled Echo Island, which merges the ancient Greek underworld myth (with twists of Dante and J.J. Abrams) with a more postmodern meta-fictional â€œreveal.â€ Itâ€™s sort of like Purgatorio meets â€œThe Twilight Zoneâ€ as imagined by C.S. Lewis and Paul Auster and Charlie Kaufman. I'm hoping this third effort of mine will be my breakthrough debut.
And that's "where I am right now." ;-)
One thing I've started doing on these MT blogiversaries is share my reading list for the past 12 months. (You can read the 2003-2004 list and the 2004-2005 list too.) This year I've decided to honor Dan's request that I actually rate the selections. My scale runs 0 (terrible) to 5 (near perfect). Here's what I've read since last September:
Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood (2)
Beyond the Red Notebook: Essays on Paul Auster edited by Dennis Barone (3)
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury (3)
The Eleventh Draft: Craft and the Writing Life from the Iowa Writersâ€™ Workshop edited by Frank Conroy (3)
On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner (4)
The Modern Library Writerâ€™s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction by Stephen Koch (5)
â€œOn Storiesâ€ and Other Essays on Literature by C.S. Lewis (re-read) (5)
Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer by Peter Turchi (4)
The Spirit of Writing edited by Mark Robert Waldman (2)
Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson (re-read) (3)
The Hand of God by Alistair Begg (3)
The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions edited by Arthur Bennett (5)
Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (re-read) (5)
Love and Respect by Emmerson Eggerichs (3)
Dining with the Devil: The Megachurch Movement Flirts with Modernity by Os Guinness (3)
I Cherish You by Willard Harley (2)
The Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney (3)
The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight (5)
The Reign of Grace by Scotty Smith (3)
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas (re-read) (5)
Left Behind in a Megachurch World by Ruth Tucker (3)
As For Me and My House: Crafting Your Marriage to Last by Walter Wangerin (4)
Rumors of Another World by Philip Yancey (2)
Evangelical Theology: An Introduction by Karl Barth (4)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Witness to Jesus Christ: Selected Writings by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ed. by John de Gruchy (4)
Listening to the Spirit in the Text by Gordon Fee (4)
A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of Christ-Centered Worship by Michael Horton (3)
God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton (3)
Testaments of Love: A Study of Love in the Bible by Leon Morris (3)
Calvin and the Atonement by Robert A. Peterson, Sr. (3)
Eschatological Rationality by Gerhard Sauter (3)
The Theology of the First Christians by Walter Schmithals (2)
Enjoying God Forever: Reflections on the Westminster Confession by Paul Smith (3)
After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity by Miroslav Volf (3)
The Pauline Eschatology by Geerhardus Vos (4)
The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture by N.T. Wright (3)
The Historical Figure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders (4)
The History of the Christ: The Foundation of New Testament Theology by Adolf Schlatter (4)
Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom by Ben Witherington III (4)
Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship by N.T. Wright (re-read) (5)
The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster (4)
Oracle Night by Paul Auster (re-read) (4)
The Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum (3)
Herzog by Saul Bellow (4)
Mall by Eric Bogosian (2)
The Final Solution by Michael Chabon (3)
Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov (5)
Purgatorio by Dante (re-read) (5)
Americana by Don DeLillo (4)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (3)
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow (3)
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (5)
You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers (3)
Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner (re-read) (4)
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (5)
Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene (3)
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (4)
The Pugilist at Rest: Stories by Thom Jones (3)
The Colorado Kid by Stephen King (4)
Insomnia by Stephen King (1)
Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub (2)
â€œJason and the Argonautsâ€ by Charles Kingsley (3)
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (3)
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (re-read) (4)
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (4)
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (3)
The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy (audio book read by Brad Pitt) (4)
The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov (3)
Life: A Userâ€™s Manual by Georges Perec (2)
Joe College by Tom Perrotta (2)
Little Children by Tom Perrotta (4)
Operation Shylock by Philip Roth (3)
The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy (re-read) (5)
A Month of Sundays by John Updike (3)
Rabbit, Run by John Updike (4)
Rabbit Redux by John Updike (5)
Rabbit is Rich by John Updike (4)
Rogerâ€™s Version by John Updike (3)
As you can see, I discovered John Updike this year. ;-)
But the best novel I read, my now favorite novel, is Greene's The End of the Affair.
If you're the nosy sort, please know that despite the inactive posting in this space, my reading list in the left sidebar is always up to date.
That's all I got. If nothing "big" happens between now and then, I guess I'll see you next September. (Or in the next few minutes on another blog. ;-)
I resolve in the new year to give up blogging.
Yeah, I know I do this all the time. But not this, really. I'm closing Mysterium Tremendum and Shizuka Blog (I'm not taking the sites offline. Just not going to be present on them) and going effectively AWOL on Thinklings. I still have obligations to Cinema Veritas, which I will continue to honor (posting at least once a week, the occasional review).
Just something I need to do until I get this writing career thingy somewhat begun. There's been some good feedback so far on the shopping of Black Dog Man, and if it goes the way of publication, I'd like to have a jump on my next couple of projects. I've also got a couple of job opportunities I'm going to be pursuing (writerly things I can do from home but that are actually paying gigs), so between giving the best go at being a novelist I've attempted thus far, doing some actual salaried work, the whole househusband thing, and (probably) returning to teaching at church, this "hobby" that's become a time consuming "job" has to go.
It's been great, folks. Love you all.
(Oh yeah -- Congratulations, Jen and Beau!)
She's so awesome that, when relatives who drew my name for the Christmas gift exchange wanted to buy me some cigars, they asked her what kind to get, and she knew!
Reason one hundred and one!
I got it!
The latest book by my favorite contemporary novelist came out this week, and I picked it up just today. Can't wait to dig in.
I'm not really back, but every year I list the media I acquire over the holidays. So here it is:
The Letter to Philemon: Eerdmans Critical Commentary by Markus Barth and Helmut Blanke
Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views edited by James K. Beillby
Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg
The Doctrine of Revelation: A Narrative Interpretation by Gabriel Fackre
The Letter to Philemon: Anchor Bible Commentary by Joseph Fitzmyer
Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster
The Story of Christianity by Justo L. Gonzalez
The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight
The Sovereignty of God by Arthur Pink
The Last Word by N.T. Wright
Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood
The Eleventh Draft: Craft and the Writing Life from the Iowa Writers' Workshop edited by Frank Conroy
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Mall by Eric Bogosian
Werewolves in the Their Youth: Stories by Michael Chabon
Americana by Don DeLillo
Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
The Twenty-Seventh City by Jonathan Franzen
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Queen of the South by Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Great American Novel by Philip Roth
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
Rabbit, Run by John Updike
Rabbit Redux by John Updike
Old School by Tobias Wolff
Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 4
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Big Lebowski
A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay
Thanks to friends, family, and my semi-annual trip to Half-Price Books in Houston, my shelf runneth over.
I hate to do this, but I have to. Going on break again. At least until we're in Houston for the holidays.
I've given myself (and more importantly, my agent) a deadline for this book, and the thing ain't gonna write itself. It's not that blogging takes up all that much time; it just takes up too much "writing time." And focus.
Like I said, I hate to do this, especially since I'm presently engaged in a couple of conversations at Thinklings that are not just interesting, but also (I think) important. But . . . priorities.
I have to write this thing.
So goodbye for a little while.
we shall have to think up signs,
sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan
on the double page
of day and paper.
Tomorrow, we shall have to invent,
the reality of this world.
-- Octavio Paz, "January First"
Peter Turchi's Maps of the Imagination is great reading.
It occurred to me yesterday while reading it that the book I'm writing now exemplifies the idea of simultaneously creating and following a map perfectly. My story currently involves four boys exploring their relatively small Pacific Northwest island town, trying to solve the mystery of where everybody went. As I've only visited the Pacific Northwest twice, and both times only briefly, I am creating the landscape both from bad memory and unhelpful research texts. There is also a very real sense of my gradual creation of the island being a character itself. (I'd elaborate on that, but I don't want to give too much away. Suffice it to say, I'm not "merely" describing a setting.)
I've already discovered that this story, which involves a small cast of characters confined to one setting in as close to a plot-driven story as I've ever gotten, is actually harder to craft than Black Dog Man, which included many characters and multiple settings in various countries and was driven as much by ideas as it was characters. In theory, BDM should be much more complicated to write than my new story. For some reason it is not turning out that way.
I suspect this is how the "Lost" writers feel, making up the story as they go along, creating new jams to get their characters out of and inventing new riddles without solutions in mind, all the while making it seem to the viewer as if they know exactly where they're going. This story has been harder to write than I thought it would -- I thought shorter length and more straightforward plot would equal "easier to write." But it's been tough.
Writing this story -- writing any story, really -- is like exploring a land for the first time while simultaneously serving as a tour guide.
Although I still can't get used to seeing my fuzzy mug leering at me so largely every time I bring it up, my official authorial website is now launched. There's still some tweakin' and fiddlin' to do, but I trust it is the seed of what will one day be a stylish, interactive online pitstop for my readers. For now it's just my humongous, freaky face distracting from some basic info.
Thanks so much to Bill, who does so much with so little (and for nothing but lame thank you's like this). All that's cool about the site is his; all that's lame (including my almost-smirk) is mine.
The primary seduction, though, is that to which the reader submits. We're not quite 25 pages into the book when Louis describes to the boy his first "kill," his first human victim, a runaway slave. "Killing is no ordinary act," the vampire tells the boy:
It is the experience of another's life for certain, and often the experience of the loss of that life through the blood, slowly. It is again and again the experience of that loss of my own life, which I experienced when I sucked the blood from Lestat's wrist and felt his heart pound with my heart. It is again and again a celebration of that experience; because for vampires that is the ultimate experience.
Now it is possible to read this with detachment, noting that the language is sometimes powerful (that "slowly" is masterful), sometimes maddeningly slipshod (as in the slack concluding clause: "because for vampires that is the ultimate experience"). It is possible to read it without endorsing the claim, implicit here, that we are being told something profound about human sexuality. But if, thus warned, we continue to read as the boy continues to listen, thenÃ¢â‚¬â€the logic of Rice's narrative suggestsÃ¢â‚¬â€it is because we long to be vampires too. I finished the novel with the sense of moral contamination that some books leave us with.
Which doesn't mean thatÃ¢â‚¬â€in this book or in the novels that followedÃ¢â‚¬â€Rice simply argues that killing is OK if that's your inclination. What the books suggest instead is rather murky. On the one hand, Rice celebrates the free spirit, rejecting the Catholicism in which she was raised and all its stricturesÃ¢â‚¬â€and so also the claims of any moral absolutes. (As Ramsland puts it in [The Anne Rice Reader], "To her mind, writing about pure abstractions like the traditional notions of good and evil hinders real understanding.") And yet Ramsland quotes her as saying, "I do not think I could go on if I didn't believe in goodness."
In short, there was a profound contradiction at the heart of Rice's work. And so I concluded [a] review in 1997 by recalling Simone WeilÃ¢â‚¬â€"Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating"Ã¢â‚¬â€and wondering if, having taken imaginary evil to its limits, Rice might be poised to taste the intoxicating waters of grace.
Matt Self is retiring from journalism, and he offers some humorous reflections on his life as a professional writer.
One of the tips included is:
If you want to write a book but can't come up with ideas, pretend there's yardwork waiting for you and a wife who thinks it needs to be done immediately.
I got news for Matt: As a novelist and someone with household duties and a wife who expects their completion, it's pretty easy to avoid both and watch "The Cosby Show."
Good stuff there, though, and I wish Matt all the best as a real estage mogul. He's been a constant voice of encouragement in the blogosphere, and he deserves lots of success.
Macy for some reason has gotten into making signs (crayon, typing paper, scotch tape) and posting them around the house.
On the storage closet door in the dining room: DON'T DIG IN
On the door to the basement: I'M ANGRY - DON'T COME IN
On the door to the guest bedroom: I LOVE YOU
A notice for bloggers/readers from the Houston area.
Bill on Tolkien and the Great War.
After reading a Christian review of the new Pride and Prejudice movie, the Elfin one says evangelicals have a problem with nostalgia:
We think too highly of the past. We lean too heavily upon history as a direct social model for the present day. Thus, I believe, our inaccurate reminiscences are keeping us from being morally coherent and intellectually relevant in the modern world . . .
Via Phil, John Derbyshire on C.S. Lewis:
Lewis, if anyone wants my opinion, was a very odd bird. Not the least odd thing about him was that for all his Anglicanism, tweed jackets, steam trains, nautical obsessions, bossy governesses, horrible schools, neglectful parents, and lack of interest in food and sex, he is more read and admired in the U.S.A. than in England.
Lars Walker (Best Novelist BloggerÃ¢â€žÂ¢) writes, for the third time in two weeks I believe, on hats. Hey, I just think it's admirable he hasn't mentioned food in a while, despite the latest hat post including a paragraph about a cold that is begging for a reference to chicken noodle soup.
(Update: Scratch that. "Baked oatmeal" gets a shout-out in his latest post.)
Discoshaman highlights a "found" Paris Review interview with T.S. Eliot.
Lots of great stuff from the writers at Charis Connection recently.
Like Angela Hunt on fingernails (seriously), Patricia Hickman on peripheral characters, and Brandilyn Collins's reprint of an anonymous editor's comments on art vs. commerce.
J. Mark Bertrand on The Lure of Genre.
Author/editor Terry Whalin reflects on the recent passing of Stan Berenstain, creator of the popular and enduring children's series The Berenstain Bears.
Finally . . . Lucy Pevensie, Warrior Princess?
Chris Cowan writes:
I just finished reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to my four-year-old son, Zachary.
When Father Christmas presents gifts to the children, he gives Peter a sword and shield. To Susan, he gives a bow and arrows and a horn. He then tells her, "You must use the bow only in great need, for I do not mean you to fight in the battle." Next, he gives Lucy a bottle and a dagger and says, "The dagger is to defend yourself at great need. For you also are not to be in the battle."
Lucy responds, "Why sir? I think---I don't know---but I think I could be brave enough." To which Father Christmas replies, "That is not the point. But battles are ugly when women fight."
During the battle at the end, Peter and Edmund---not Susan and Lucy---are the ones waging war against Aslan's enemies.
I have read good reports from Gene Veith that Douglas Gresham (C. S. Lewis's stepson) has sought to keep the movie faithful to the book. I cannot wait to see the film. But I will be thoroughly shocked if Lewis's vision wins out over contemporary feminism (particularly since I have seen clips of Susan wielding her bow). I hope I am wrong.
HT to Dale Courtney at the Boar's Head Tavern, who remarks:
I will be greatly surprised if Lucy and Susan aren't playing the role of Zena during the battle scene.
Peter Jackson deemed it necessary to rewrite Arwyn's role in his portrayal of Lord of the Rings. After all, egalitarianism and feminism require everyone be equal -- equal killing, equal time on stage, ...
For my readers: pay attention to the gift scene when you see the movie. Will Father Christmas say "battles are ugly when women fight"? I'll buy a round of drinks for the entire BHT if that line *is* in the movie!
Check out this photo-set demonstrating changes made from the 1963 edition of Richard Scarry's The Best Word Book Ever to the 1991 edition.
Some of the alterations seem pointless -- the removal of "F.D." from a fire engine, replacing the boy bunny brushing his teeth with a girl bunny.
Others may be indicative of Scarry's developed cultural awareness -- the little animal getting stopped by the police has black fur no longer, the parent pushing the baby stroller is now a father instead of a mother, a father joins a mother in the kitchen, the animal piloting the canoe is now a camper and not an
Indian Native American.
Some reflect changes in language style (call it political correctness, if you must) -- "fireman" becomes "fire fighter," "mailman" becomes "letter carrier.
Some commenters might be reading an unfortunate change in today's parent-child dynamic into this transformation, but the 1963 sentence "He comes promptly when he is called to breakfast" becomes in the 1991 edition "He goes to the kitchen to eat his breakfast."
Perhaps oddest of all, on the page depicting a fire rescue scene, a "brave hero" becomes simply "fire fighter," while the "beautiful screaming lady" he's rescuing becomes the much less interesting "cat in danger."
Plenty more, and all interesting.
I have a few "real" posts lined up (for all four blogs I write for, actually), but I am lacking the time and energy to get them posted. So in lieu of substance, Marla tagged me, and while I would normally ignore the compulsion, I shall comply.
Seven things to do before I die:
1. Publish a book that is a best seller
2. Publish a book that is critically acclaimed (if it were the same book as the best-seller, that'd be nice)
3. Share office space as a writer with my best friend Bird's photo studio
4. See all my kids as adults following Jesus
5. Be the first one picked for a basketball/football game once again
7. In the office space mentioned above, also create an open space for artists to come and work (kinda like a free Starbucks).
Seven things I cannot do:
1. Talk to strangers on the phone without getting nervous
2. Eat just one sunflower seed
3. Let someone's insult of a friend go unchallenged
4. Repair an automobile
5. Watch bad singers, either "live" or on television. I just get embarrassed for them, and it's excruciating.
6. Get interested in video games. (This sticks out to me mainly because so many men my age, married men with children included, seem to be addicted to playing video games.)
7. Give up blogging, apparently.
Seven things that attract me to my wife:
1. Her patience
2. Her cooking
3. Her playfulness
4. The way her inexplicable love for me is a daily living picture of grace
5. Her gift for mercy (which balances mine for prophecy)
6. Her sense of humor (and how it matches mine)
7. Seventh but not last . . . Holy cow, she's a total hottie who gets hottie-er every day! (I have this theory that her getting more beautiful every day is somehow, supernaturally and conversely proportionate to my incremental morphing into a fat guy. We exist in an effective counterbalance of homeliness (me) and gorgeousness (her). This is why I refuse to eat right and exercise. I'm doing it for her. ;-)
There's 100 more reasons why I love my wife here.
Seven things I say most often:
1. Stop that
2. Be sweet
3. I love you
5. Just a minute (or, "In a second," both of which are lies from the pit of hell)
6. Why did you do that?
Seven books (or series) I love:
1. The Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis
2. The Space Trilogy by Lewis
3. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
4. The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
5. Curious George by H.A. Rey
6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
7. The Bible, of course
Seven movies I would watch over and over again:
(Not to be confused with my all-time favorite movies. This list is not which movies I think are best, but which ones I could watch almost any time and more than once.)
1. The Cable Guy
2. The Goonies
3. Back to the Future
4. Bottle Rocket
5. Raising Arizona
6. Jerry Maguire
7. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Seven people I want to join in, too:
1. Kambei Shimada
2. Gorobei Katayama
4. Heihachi Hayashida
6. Katsushiro Okamoto
But you can do it if you want to.
A couple of photos of my babies.
Here they are being sweet:
And here's big sis catching some z's:
Art can be so exhausting.
A couple of Christmas decorating photos are up at The Thinklings.
The Thanksgiving hymn:
"We Gather Together"
We gather together
to ask the Lord's blessing;
he chastens and hastens
his will to make known.
The wicked oppressing
now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name,
he forgets not his own.
(All three verses here.)
Thanks to Sherry, I'm able to direct you to this great OpinionJournal article about the history of the Thanksgiving hymn. ("Wilder than wild / Who will tame me?" Love that!)
Hope you and yours have a great Thanksgiving week.
Remember that God loves you, blogosphere, and so do I.
I'll be back Monday.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign."
-- Revelation 11:17 (ESV)
I have sometimes lamented our contemporary loss of any sense of antiquity, grandeur, or nobility. I have argued that the trivialization of Bible stories in things like Veggie Tales represents a far greater tone deafness to the story as God told it than any gain it represents in knowledge of broad plot outlines, or in the inculcation of the moralistic "lessons."
As a reductio, I have sometimes used the absurd example of what would happen if radical contextualizing missionaries tried to reach out to Muslims by making a Veggie Tales rendition of the Koran. The unhappy result would be fatwas everywhere, and jihad in between. I have also tried to show how silly this would be if someone tried to do The Lord of the Rings as a Veggie Tale. Well, as I have noted in other contexts, these are difficult days to be a satirist. And they actually did it.
Darren's really gonna love this.
When I was about eleven years old, an advertisement for Vantage Press in the back of a magazine caught my eye. They were looking for authors! And I wanted to be an author! All I had to do was write for some free information (free!) and I could find out if I had what it took to be a published writer.
So I did, and in the packet of materials sent, I found a writing test. Part of it included finishing an already existing story. I think the one on my test was Mary Higgins Clark's Where Did All the Children Go?, or something like that, and I did my best to solve the mystery.
I returned the completed forms and, Voila!, Vantage Press decided I had what it took to become a published novelist. What dupes, I thought, that they couldn't tell I was only a kid. (I went to great effort to obscure my age.)
I talked over my publishing options with my dad. Now, my dad is not much of a reader. I hear tales he used to write things in his day, and I've seen one or two of the poems he wrote, but he's never had any aspirations of "real" writing. But he gave me some great advice that day that has always stuck with me. He said, "If you want to be a writer, you want people to pay you to write." It didn't come from a place of artistic integrity or a disdain for self-publishing as artistically undiscerning. It was just common sense and good advice. (I first followed it shortly thereafter when a "Poetry Anthology" magically selected my (totally crappy) poem for inclusion in its upcoming volume. All they needed was forty bucks to cover the cost of the book!)
Almost every time I mention disappointment with the publishing process, somone suggests self-publishing. At my last small group meeting, a well meaning guy said I should definitely self-publish, because it really is the modern way to authorial success. I promptly told him that not only isn't true, but that his perception is based on the two or three success stories we hear. (Christopher Paolini, anyone?)
No, the truth is, out of thousands and thousands of would-be writers opting for self-publishing (what used to be called in the days before spin "vanity presses") and only one or two find real success. The odds of authorial success through self-publishing are actually smaller than trying through traditional means. It's just that we hear about the success stories. But exceptions only prove the rule.
My main beef with self-publishing as a writer is the same as my beef with it as a reader. Because there is no real editorial filter between author and reader -- just someone making sure the author's check clears -- there is no confidence the book is good. Of course, there are plenty of bad novels printed by traditional publishers, but the fact that someone has put money behind a writer inspires more confidence than knowing someone has taken money from the writer.
I don't doubt that there are some talented writers who can't get published and have opted to self-publish. I have no way of really knowing who or where they are, since every self-published writer claims they are the talented one who has slipped through the cracks, and most folks like myself don't have the time to sort through the vast majority of vain scribblings to find the gems.
Editor Dave Long writes:
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m (very) wary of self-published books.
I want to be respectful here, because I know many of you have taken the self-published route (and I have a heard a large number of the success stories) but my first gut reaction whenever IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m pitched a self-published project is to make one of those leery Ã¢â‚¬Å“Mmmmm,Ã¢â‚¬? sounds that Marge Simpson often uses on Homer.
Self-publishing absolutely has its place. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ideal, I think, for niche non-fiction books for which there will be a targeted, sustained, but small audience. Health condition books are an example of this.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m less convinced of its efficacy for fiction. And IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m doubly hard to convince that a self-published book is likely to be republished by BHP.
The first reason is that by self-publishing I feel youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve already been turned down my multiple publishers and have decided to pursue this route. What are the chances that a book multiple other publishers have rejected will work for us?
The second reason is that most self-published works, when submitted, donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t look so hot. The editing is rough. The typesetting is basic and unimpressive. The covers are often uninspiring. You are quite likely better off submitting your story in manuscript form to me. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll feel fresher, like it has more potential.
Finally, this intractability of mine is getting worse not better. Unfair as it sounds, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not just battling to sell your own book, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re faced with the ghosts of all those rejected self-published novels that came before yours.
The only way I think self-publishing could really work for an author is if he or she already has a platform in place with which to market themselves, if he or she is a "name" already. So, if I were a semi-popular preacher or a traveling speaker of some sort, publishing my own work could be profitable. But for the typical writer, slogging away in the sacred solitude of art, for whom the writing is his voice and not just a supplement to it, traditional publishing is the way of the past, present, and future.
And for future reference -- No, I'm not interested in self-publishing. I'm sorry if my occasional complaints make me sound like I've given up. But I'm not at the end of my rope. I'm at the beginning. My first novel came very close to publication. My second book is currently being shopped. I'm only on my third book. Sometimes I like to whine, and I probably shouldn't, but it never means I'm finished trying or have reached a dead end.
Ask me again when I'm 50 and haven't gotten a book published. ;-)
Finally, here's copy from a small print ad for a self-published novel, presumably taken out by the author, as seen in Nov/Dec issue of Bookmarks magazine:
He dared to dream! And she did too! Together they wanted the world! But what they got was a broken rainbow!
Broken Rainbow blends elements of human drama and African American themes into descriptive character studies. By framing the narrative around settings, conversations, and with character inner thoughts, the reader is challenged to question his own place and responsibility to society and himself.
To Order Call . . .
Oh, so much I could say. But all I've got is No Comment! ;-)