Back at it.

worst-apology-everBeen a while here. The last three months have been crammed with work deadlines, disability/health issues, the birth of grandchild number 4, writing-related adjustments, plus the usual Real Life grind, and in all that, writing and blogging were put on the back burner on Low. Real low.

I apologize to any of you who glanced this way for new work or posts. Certainly don’t mean to disappoint folks who are kind enough to spend time here or with my work. Apologies to Dave Alderman in specific: my promised read and review fell off the edge of my world. (There be dragons) It’s next in my reading queue.

I’ve managed to beat back the tangle and started in again. After all, forward is the only direction we’ve got. More stuff coming soon.

I am sincere here, but this was too funny not to post.

Have a good day.

false-apology-cards-tony-carrillo-f-minus-comics

 

 

From the glass studio

The winner of The Barrow Lover Celtic Stained Glass Giveaway sent me this picture. Apparently it was a perfect fit for one of their bathroom windows. Bit of Irish luck, that is.

celtic3 - Copy

That in mind, here are some shots of recent projects. There’s a large door panel that integrated salvage from a smashed antique piece in the new one. A door panel with roses. A Cape Cod waterview. Two simple Victorian pieces for a guest bath and a Mission-style piece for a front foyer.

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Now… Back to writing about demonic possession, jihadists, Sci Fi Spec Ops teams, and crazed djinns in a shattered post-apocalyptic fantasy world.

Have a good weekend. Hope all your shopping is done.

 

Opening Lines

I started a file of opening lines; a compilation of those random phrases, sentences, even paragraphs that pop up in my head like an infestation of mangy, unrelated, prairie dogs from the profusion of dank, dark holes and scurrilous burrows worming the plains of my imagination.

But instead of my prose, I present the previous five winning entries of the prestigious Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. (he’s the ‘dark and stormy night’ guy)

Have a great day and feel free to leave your own ‘Opening Line’ in the comments.

 

2015

Seeing how the victim’s body, or what remained of it, was wedged between the grill of the Peterbilt 389 and the bumper of the 2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT, officer “Dirk” Dirksen wondered why reporters always used the phrase “sandwiched” to describe such a scene since there was nothing appetizing about it, but still, he thought, they might have a point because some of this would probably end up on the front of his shirt.
Joel Phillips, West Trenton, NJ

2014

When the dead moose floated into view the famished crew cheered – this had to mean land! – but Captain Walgrove, flinty-eyed and clear headed thanks to the starvation cleanse in progress, gave fateful orders to remain on the original course and await the appearance of a second and confirming moose. — Elizabeth (Betsy) Dorfman, Bainbridge Island, WA

2013

She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination. — Chris Wieloch, Brookfield, WI

2012 (personal fave)

As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting. — Cathy Bryant, Manchester, England

2011

Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories. — Sue Fondrie, Oshkosh, WI

Thoughts on the Conventions of Genre and Faith

 

” Those French have a different word for everything.”

– Steve Martin as huffy ‘Merican tourist

 

***

I’ve come to accept the fact – but not really comprehend – there are people who don’t read. Like, at all. It’s an exertion, painful on the same level as a marathon or a colonoscopy. And of those who do read as a past-time, there are some who don’t read fiction, especially speculative fiction. My brother for example sees no value in the Lord of the Rings, which to him is a bunch of short people and pretend creatures running around a make-believe land after a stupid piece of jewelry.

So… yeah.

(we are related – I checked.)

Sure you’ve got those dark suit, bowl-cut, body odor, Bible-quoters who hold any entertainment to be vain, carnal, and worldly.  “It’s all going to burn, brother.”  (real-life quote example, that)  Like the poor, they will always be with you, so leave them alone to mutter and scowl in the corner. In general though, I think fiction like poetry has lots of folk who don’t ‘get it’. Lack of or poor prior experience, too intellectually lazy, or some other reason. Other folks simply aren’t wired that way. They’re eminently practical. Fiction is just not their thing, and I’m OK with that too.

Not so for me. I remember walking into the Big Hall at GenCon 2000 and realizing I was part of a huge, weird, cool secret society. The Cult of Geek. It was as much a relief as revelation. Since then, transitioning from genre reader to genre writer, I’ve come to understand even more that Sci Fi, Fantasy, Horror… Spec-Fiction Genres are languages. They are distinctly different vocabularies from Normal; the jargon of real, day-to-day, life. In fact, I’ll go further and say Genres are separate countries, entire worlds even. Speak at length with a Hard Core Star Wars or Warhammer 40K Nerd and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Genres have evolution, histories, archetypes, symbols,  idioms, nuance…it’s incredible, and implicit to good genre-writing is a deft handling of those dynamics in manners that satisfy, even stretch and exceed the audience’s expectations. It’s hard to pull off, to be fluent, and not everyone will understand, but those that do, appreciate it. That is the mystery and magic of allegory, of parables. I think my first point here is that Discrimination – in the sense of a select audience – is perfectly OK.  Not everyone is going to enjoy, understand, or accept my work. It’s high time to stop being surprised.

The next hurdle I see is the challenge of approaching creative endeavor with an ideology, in my case a theological one. Don’t kid yourself: all art makes a statement  – overt or otherwise, religious or not –  because it springs from the mulch of the artist’s life. Having a defined worldview makes the challenge that much stranger because it either forms a strong foundation or  reduces it to propaganda. So not only does the fiction writer have to hone craft but they have to avoid capture. Sort of sculpting smoke while waltzing through a minefield. The wisps of imagination have to form an entertaining, yet credible make-believe world (a ‘lie that tells the truth’) without  shrinking or spoiling the medium.

I get that some people will scorn or be hostile to my faith. Getting your worldview shat on is part of the package. (part of Life, actually) The last thing I want though is my stories to be Terrariums for Pet Rocks: painfully, obviously contrived, tiny, artificial environments for my cherished doctrines.

So as I hammer away at my next novel, consider October’s Viable Paradise workshop, and view the recent Hugo dust-up in light of my own faith and artistic struggles, I’ve still of a mind to sink my roots deeper while growing wings. For me, it’s not an ‘Either/Or’ dilemma – it’s translation problem. God help me to learn the language and be an effective communicator.  An oracle, even.

 

 

 

Fish Happens

Decades ago while potty training our daughter, my wife walked into the living room to find a #2 on the floor near the coffee table. Said female child lurked furtively nearby.

“What’s this?” asked Mom, feigning surprise.

“Maybe it’s a fish,” daughter replied.

“A fish?!”

“Yes, a sleeping fish,” the little round face explained in all seriousness. Then she galloped away.

***

Apologies for lack of blog content lately. I’m determined not to flog dead horses or join the chorus of flat earth answers, and I certainly don’t want to add to the deafening volume of white noise in our frantic, hi-tech, social media connect society. I’ve been wracking my mind for something I think will genuinely contribute, for content. Life has been pressing in on all sides, rendering me a bit preoccupied and not a little disheveled.

On top of normal everyday chores, I’ve been slammed with glass work and glass work-related problems. (Other people’s lack of planning becomes my emergency) On top of that my friend’s sister just passed from a sudden brain aneurysm. On the highway with her two kids in the car. She was 43.

Fortunately, another adult in the passenger seat was able to steer the car safely to the side of the road. That and the fact she was an organ donor are the only two bright spots in this tragedy.

That kind of cold smack in the face on top of real-world business drops my post-apocalyptic fantasy story down a few notches. Even the wonderful opportunity of being accepted to this year’s Viable Paradise gets a perspective adjustment.

Love your friends and family while you can.

***

Writing/reading-wise, I’ve got three new recommends:

David Brook’s The Road to Character

Neal Stephenson’s Reamde

and the Toshiba CB35 Chromebook. (My new ‘take-anywhere’ writing tool/toy)

Have a good weekend.

Deus Ex Mankind Divided

I don’t know who’s writing the Deus Ex storylines, but I’d love to hang out in Montreal Eidos for a couple days, just to catch whatever nano-virus they’ve got. In my opinion, these folks nail it. For me, Deus Ex is the latest iteration of the cyberpunk genre. No contest.
Apparently there’s a bit of controversy over the theme/term ‘mechanical apartheid‘ in the upcoming game. I don’t mean to diminish that dark and difficult chapter of history, but is everyone in the fictional internal narrative/character/game dynamic required to be culturally sensitive/politically correct? Seems a sure formula for bland/homogenized characters and a sterilized story line. Not to mention flat out unrealistic.  Reminds me of certain portions of the evangelical market insisting fictional villains/scenes be de facto half-Christian. (“Bad words! Bad, bad words!”)

That’s another discussion though. Without further adieu, I present this play-through video, swiped from YouTube. Enjoy.