Thursday, October 31, 2013

Black Speculative Fiction Month posts on Suspensemysteryhorrorandthrillersinblack

Thanks a bunch for joining in on the fun!


1 Oct The Importance of Black Speculative Fiction by Balogun Ojetade

2 Oct The Laroarian Conflict by A. Jarrell Hayes

3 Oct Iniko by Alicia McCalla

4 Oct The Constant Tower by Carole McDonnell

7 Oct Between Dusk and Dawn by Lynn Emery

8 Oct Taurus Moon Relic Hunter by D K Gaston

9 Oct The Other Realm by Deatri King-Bey

10 Oct The Serpent Cult by Howard Night

11 Oct Sin Eaters-Devotion Book One by Kai Leakes

14 Oct The Seedbearing Prince: Part I by DaVaun Sanders

15 Oct Spell by Janell

16 Oct

17 Oct Woman of the Woods by Milton Davis

18 Oct

21 Oct Masoth The Journey Beyond by Ehav Ever

22 Oct Hayward's Reach by Thaddeus Howze

23 Oct Order of the Seers (Book I in the Order of the Seers Trilogy) by Cerece Rennie Murphy

24 Oct

25 Oct  The Switch II: Clockwork by Valjeanne Jeffers

28 Oct The Temptation of John Haynes by Shawn James

29 Oct Mamaluke Bath  by Andrew Asibong

30 Oct
31 Oct

My halloween post --yeah, another post about the hi-jacking of the possible

In my last post I talked about natural supernaturalism and magical realism and I kinda mentioned the hi-jacking of reality but didn't really get into it.

But since it's Halloween, I figured...why not?

So once again I say, those who believe in a rationalistic closed universe have hijacked the possible away from us. I for one have no problem believing there was a time when the universe didn't have to prove how incredibly supernatural and magical it all is. People saw the magical, accepted it, and didn't have the need to train their minds not to see it.

So yeah, an example of modern reality-hijacking and impossibility-thinking: The various medical books have described "hallucinations" of seeing the deceased person speaking to us is part of the mind's way of dealing with death. Okay, I didn't see hallucinations of my mother when she died but I know folks who have seen their dead children return to say goodbye or who have seen their parents after death. Now, because reality --and those in charge of how we see reality-- have decided this is all hallucinatory...then folks are trained to believe their minds re playing tricks on them. Because, after all, something impossible can't be happening to them.

So now it's Halloween. A creepy holiday definitely, and one that celebrates mostly death, dying, and killing things. Easter, which celebrates life and resurrection is not so famous among other cultures as our Halloween is.  Because although Halloween celebrates death, it also celebrates and tries to reclaim the impossible. Nature abhors a vacuum. You pull the magical and the mystical and the numinous and the unexplainable from the human possible of reality and the magical must make itself known.

I remember reading of a kid who murdered someone just to see if God would stop him, just to see if the human conscience really had power over self, just to see if ghosts and demons would haunt him. Sad old world that people have to go to such extremes to see if something other than reality exists. And of course it's all about faith isn't it? If one has trained a kid not to see God, not to see the numinous power in conscience, not to see the magic of retribution in the world, not to see ghosts....then even if God were standing in front of him telling him not to do it..he would not see God. Because the kid's eyes have been trained not to see. He would only think it was all an hallucintion.

And then there is the other side of the mysterious and the magical -- miracles. When you have folks saying miracles don't exist or saying that flowers are magical...they demean the word. They fall into the hijacker's hand, they raid the glories of the possible.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Travelling Fantasy Blog Tour: Fantasy and What It Means to be Human

From the beginning of time (and perhaps before time began) the question has always existed: what does it mean to be human?

Humanity lives/exists within a prescribed setting which limits knowledge, age, joy, the body, sexuality, tribe, power, authority, dominion, physical movement, movement in time.

As a writer of Christian fiction I grew up with the story of Adam and Eve which is the first encounter most Christians have with the question of What does it mean to be human. In that story, man is created but not yet settled into a specific kind of being. (And in the Christian mythos, man will not find his true "self" and "being" until the end of time when time is no more.

Adam and Eve are beings who do not die. Yet they are not really immortal. They're in a strange nexus of creation where they are like god with (some) dominion and some knowledge. But they lack something, something God apparently thinks is not particularly important. They do not understand right and wrong.
They have consciousness but are without law or conscience. They have a blissful ignorance of evil and cannot judge/blame either themselves, others, God, or the world. For them, it is a world which is neither immoral or moral.

Despite God's desire that they remain outside of the realm of guilt or consciousness of evil, God did make them moral beings. Their one morality: the freedom to obey or not to obey. They are aware of one thing that they lack: they do not fully understand the ramifications of evil: disease, death, cruelty, hunger, toil, meaninglessness, and the thousand ills flesh is heir to. This knowledge of death is what separates them from God, what makes them less than God.

But  third agency enters the picture and challenges them to be like God. The agency tempts them with knowledge of evil, law, conscience, guilt. The humans take a wager upon themselves. It is possible that humans can understand evil and not fall into guilt.  Their first response to eyes opened to evil: shame. Shme about what? Shame in their comparison to  perfect God. Thus humanity falls from its own perfection as it aimed for God's perfection.

There is so much in this story, myth, history. And all fantasy stories echo it. All these elements are found in fantasy: Humans who wish to put side emotions and become, robots who wish to be humans, humans locked way from Eden, humans betrayed by a God, humans betraying their gods, humans casting off their gods, intrusive deceiving godlike figures, humans battling death, humans defying death, humans conquering time, humans failing a task, humans striving, humans ignorant of evil, humans being dominated by the world, humans dominating the world. All the echoes are found in fantasy stories and will apparently continue until the end of time.

Other discussions on fantasy and what it means to be human can be found here

Monday, October 28, 2013

Natural Supernaturalism, Magical Realism, and the hi-jacking of the possible

So yeah...I'm working on Onion.

Okay, natural superalism is what I'm iming for. Magical realism. This is generally not done in a lot of Christian fiction because many Christians have been taught to think of supernatural and magical things (which happen on a frequent basis) as rare or demonic. I've managed to do natural supernaturalism in Wind Follower and Constant Tower. But heck one can get away with magic in an epic fantasy novel. To try it in a contemporary world is a hard row to hoe. I want to try it though. I want to see how much I can get away with. So, my aim: expanding genre-bending in American evangelical Christian fiction.

Pentecostal Fiction often uses the open universe when writing apocalyptic fiction.  Mainstream Christian fiction uses it when a prayer gets answered ...and even then the supernatural is a rare non-normal thing. For the most part most American evangelical Christian Fiction has a Baptist closed world leglistic view where grace and the miracle-working-God-in-us charismatic grace is rarely seen.

American Christian evangelical Fiction is pretty unimaginative when it comes to playing with literary form, and often when they try to go outside the box/push the envelope they are so lacking in their knowledge of the dimensions of the box or the outside of the envelope that they just create a muddle. There really is nothing more embarrassing than the typical evangelical American christian artist "going outside the box."

The realms of the unseen are rarely dealt with in a normal kind of way. The rationalistic world has basically defined and hijacked the definition of the possible. And American Christians who aren't really charismatic (and remember, we Charismatics are in all denominations so I'm not picking on denominations per se)  also tend to see as things the non-Christian world sees it. So writings about healings, miraculous translations from point  to point B, non-human parasitic forces (demons), unseen realms, words of knowledge, etc, etc, etc..will just cause mainstream Christians to roll their eyes...or to think the writer is a nut.

So how to write a good story that has normal Charismatic stuff? In addition, I want to write about normal normal charismtic urban kids. These kids are not the perfect little kids one sees in some christian books. They're real. They think guys are hot. They are praying one minute and seeing angels the next and lusting after guys the other. What to do? Can I pull it off without making it hokey?

Jesus, are you listening? You gotta help me. Thanks, Lord.

Off to write other stuff now though. Gotta get the bottleneck stuff outta the way: the review of Alan Jacob's Book of Common Prayer: A history and Larrimore'sBok of Job: A history (both of which I've already reviewed for Examiner and both by Univ of Princeton Press) but I want to write another review for both of them on blogcritics as well. Gotta also post my review of Dark Girls by Bill Duke. And a book on how to be a vegan (ain't gonna happen, too much for me to commit to. Even down to not wearing leather shoes.) A coupla other books as well. Am also working on a book called "A Fool's Journey through the Book of Proverbs" and a book called "Scapegoats and sacred cows of Bible Study." Also gott write about three short stories. Then...I gotta commit to Onion.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fractured Legacy by Skye Callahan

Can Kaylyn figure out how to stop a spirit that has been looking for her since she was a child?

Available October 22

Fractured Legacy

by Skye Callahan
Fractured Legacy

Kaylyn Anderson's fascination with abandoned places and dark creatures kindled her work as a paranormal investigator. But when dreams begin to distort reality, she questions what is real and pulls away from everyone she trusts. The opportunity to investigate the Teague Hotel--a long-abandoned landmark that has always piqued her curiosity--provides a chance to redeem herself. Unraveling the hotel's secrets won't be easy, but Kaylyn soon finds herself the target of a dark entity that has been trapped in the building for decades.

If Kaylyn stands any chance of defeating the spirit, she'll have to accept that her fears are real and convince fellow investigators that she hasn't lost her mind.

Buy your copy on Amazon

Read the first 3 chapters on Wattpad

Follow along with the Release Tour for interviews, excerpts, reviews, and a chance to win a signed paperback (US), bookmarks and Fractured Legacy swag in the Rafflecopter giveaway.

About the Author: Skye Callahan

Skye Callahan was born and raised in Ohio and has seen enough unbelievable stuff to feed a lifetime of paranormal stories. When not writing or working at the dayjob, she hangs out with her ethnomusicologist husband and pet ferrets, reads, and takes long walks through the cemetery.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Pearl of Great Price and the Good Samaritan

I so dislike Facebook Bible Studies and social media Bible discussions. Because no matter what happens, there is always really limited (note, I do not say "crappy") exegesis and analysis on the verse being discussed. And the limitation often reflects American Christianity.

For instance, someone mentioned the Good Samaritan parable on FB today. And everyone starts posting about this and that...but in the long run it's still the parable understood from the white privileged kind of view. Which is NOT invalid but which is...because it is white privilege or ven black

As a minority I had to step in nd put in my two cents. The other aspects of the good samaritan parable is pretty much usually forgotten:

For instance:

A) helping people who are prejudiced against you,
B  ) that the understanding of another's pain and seeing the other person as a human beyond their externals C) that the people who are outwardly religious often are not loving in their hearts (and either do just up to the limit the law requires or find a way to legally not do the right thing --like going over to the other side)
D) knowing that we ourselves have been helped by people we have been prejudiced against. People like talking about giving and if christians are so saintly and do-gooders...but we also have received much from people we are prejudiced against and from people who we think God would not love.

We as Christians like to think about how helpful we re but we don't want to consider how much we have been helped. As long as we go around thinking of ourselves as good samaritans, we are seeing ourselves as people who are not wounded, who have not been helped and had our wounds bound up. We are also in the position of folks having been good neighbor to us. If we consider the good smaitan from both angles, then all our self-praise at being good samaritans get modified by humility...hopefully.

I remember hearing what the Chinese Church interpretation of the Pearl of Great Price is. They say Jesus was the man digging in his garden and we are the pearl he found and he gave up all he had -- his life-- because the pearl was so precious to him. The rest of the Christian world interprets the parables in so many ways but we American Christians have our narrow little interpretations. Even when we think we are outside the box, we are pretty well ensconced in it. nd you can always understand the effect of an american missionary because then the non-white church and the non-american church just starts taking our interpretation of things.

American analysis of the parables are often focused on the legalistic aspects. Doing, doing. We should be good and do.Or, look at us: We were good nd found tghe kingdom and gave up all for it. It is still self. And is still full of the old righteousness mentality. Get the focus off us. We like to think we have given up  a lot and everything to follow the kingdom. Why can't we also think tht the parable is about both sides of love. Jesus giving all for that great pearl (us) and us -- realizing how valuable we are ..and how costly... can now respond to that love and also give up the little we "think" we have.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Nature of Love: a theology by Thomas Oord

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Chalice Press (April 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0827208286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0827208285

  • Here's the blurb:
    God is love. Consequently, shouldn t love exist at the center of Christian theology? When love is at the center, theology is understood differently than it has typically been understood.

    Some theologians have placed faith at the center, others God s sovereignty, still others-the Church, but Dr. Oord places the emphasis on love. God s love for us, revealed in Christ, in the Church, and in creation, and our love for God and others as ourselves must be afforded its rightful place.

    Beginning with the foundation of love is what differentiates the Christian faith from others...a loving God. Dr. Oord defines love as:

    To love is to act intentionally, in sympathetic/empathetic response to God and others, to promote overall well-being. 

    Is this not what has defined Christians throughout history?

    Thomas Jay Oord is a professor at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. He is a theologian, philosopher, scholar of multidisciplinary studies, and the author or editor of a dozen books. 

    Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian, philosopher, and scholar of multi-disciplinary studies. He is the author or editor of about twenty books, and he is professor at Northwest Nazarene University, in Nampa, Idaho. Oord is known for his contributions to research on love, altruism, open and relational theology, issues in science and religion, Wesleyan/Holiness/Church of the Nazarene thought, New Evangelical theology, and postmodernism. He is or has been president of several scholarly societies. Oord blogs frequently at his website:

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    Fantasy stories, escapism wishfulfillment

    I generally don't mind fantasy stories that are escapist stories but there is a kind of escapist story that so reeks of wish-fulfillment that it is embarrasing to read. It feels as if the author is leaking her neurosis all over the reader.

    Okay, I have no real problem with an author's neurosis per se. What I have a problem with is the leaking of it. I want an author who will grab her neurosis by the throat, wrestle it to the ground, and look it in the eye.

    I want honesty. I want escapism but true escapism. One has looked into the eye of the minotaur of one's fantasy and one has escaped stronger and more clear-eyed.

    So there is pulp fiction and there are escapist fluff romances. Not for me. Not for me. When I look at stuff like that I feel as if I'm reading un-self-conscious masturbatory fantasy. Again, note: I have no problem with being made to look at someone's masturbatory fantasy. But I want to think the author is examining the fantasy, facing its implication, and in general preserving the fantasy cake and destroying it as well.

    As a black person, I've seen many manuscripts by black writers. Some of them are very Conanesque...they hail back to a mythic time when Blacks were a great empire. Some are revenge fantasies....they are about black vampires hating --eating-- white victimizers. On the whole, when I read stuff like this ..I don't feel empowered, I feel pity for the writer. Revenge fantasies like power fantasies just make me cringe.

    But not neurosis.

    At first one might think that a writer searching deeply and honestly into her fantasy (for all to see) would be embarrasing for the reader and for the writer. But that's not what happens. What happens is that we also want these truths to hit us. We know ourselves...we know we have indulged in fantasies very like the authors. We feel normal because we now see that someone has shared our fantasy. But something goes sour if we see our fantasies in the simplistic fictive dream. IT doesn't heal the self. It feels empty. Let's not just keep our childlike Christmas concept of our fantasy, all shiny and juvenile. We have to make this fantasy grow into adulthood, an adult saner understanding of the truth of the fantasy.  We have to recover from this fantasy while at the same time honoring it. To hold to the fantasy without examining it is to stay in the rut that created the fantasy. We want to see and understand elements of the fantasy that we have not seen. The fantasy gets old if it's not challenged. At the same time, the fantasy must still be redeemed in a valid way.

    Everyone who has read my stories or seen my status on facebook KNOW that I have a thing for Asian men, for passive men, for pretty men. I wrote stories about them, about them loving dark women who don't love themselves. And yet. . . .I like to think that I have used my neurotic fantasies elegantly and I have searched deeply into them. I have never -- to my best ability-- brought my unregurgitated fantasies for the world to see.

    Just my 0.02 cents

    So much to see, so little time


    BEVERLY HILLS, CA -- A record 76 countries have submitted films for
    consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 86th Academy
    Awards*®*.  Moldova and Saudi Arabia are first-time entrants; Montenegro is
    submitting for the first time as an independent country.

    The following countries have submitted these films for the 2014 Oscars. And many am I gonna try to see? 

    Afghanistan, "Wajma -- An Afghan Love Story," Barmak Akram, director;
    Albania, "Agon," Robert Budina, director;
    Argentina, "The German Doctor," Lucía Puenzo, director;
    Australia, "The Rocket," Kim Mordaunt, director;
    Austria, "The Wall," Julian Pölsler, director;
    Azerbaijan, "Steppe Man," Shamil Aliyev, director;
    Bangladesh, "Television," Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, director;
    Belgium, "The Broken Circle Breakdown," Felix van Groeningen, director;
    Bosnia and Herzegovina, "An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker," Danis
    Tanovic, director;
    Brazil, "Neighboring Sounds," Kleber Mendonça Filho, director;
    Bulgaria, "The Color of the Chameleon," Emil Hristov, director;
    Cambodia, "The Missing Picture," Rithy Panh, director;
    Canada, "Gabrielle," Louise Archambault, director;
    Chad, "GriGris," Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, director;
    Chile, "Gloria," Sebastián Lelio, director;
    China, "Back to 1942," Feng Xiaogang, director;
    Colombia, "La Playa DC," Juan Andrés Arango, director;
    Croatia, "Halima's Path," Arsen Anton Ostojic, director;
    Czech Republic, "The Don Juans," Jiri Menzel, director;
    Denmark, "The Hunt," Thomas Vinterberg, director;
    Dominican Republic, "Quien Manda?" Ronni Castillo, director;
    Ecuador, "The Porcelain Horse," Javier Andrade, director;
    Egypt, "Winter of Discontent," Ibrahim El Batout, director;
    Estonia, "Free Range," Veiko Ounpuu, director;
    Finland, "Disciple," Ulrika Bengts, director;
    France, "Renoir," Gilles Bourdos, director;
    Georgia, "In Bloom," Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross, directors;
    Germany, "Two Lives," Georg Maas, director;
    Greece, "Boy Eating the Bird's Food," Ektoras Lygizos, director;
    Hong Kong, "The Grandmaster," Wong Kar-wai, director;
    Hungary, "The Notebook," Janos Szasz, director;
    Iceland, "Of Horses and Men," Benedikt Erlingsson, director;
    India, "The Good Road," Gyan Correa, director;
    Indonesia, "Sang Kiai," Rako Prijanto, director;
    Iran, "The Past," Asghar Farhadi, director;
    Israel, "Bethlehem," Yuval Adler, director;
    Italy, "The Great Beauty," Paolo Sorrentino, director;
    Japan, "The Great Passage," Ishii Yuya, director;
    Kazakhstan, "Shal," Yermek Tursunov, director;
    Latvia, "Mother, I Love You," Janis Nords, director;
    Lebanon, "Blind Intersections," Lara Saba, director;
    Lithuania, "Conversations on Serious Topics," Giedre Beinoriute, director;
    Luxembourg, "Blind Spot," Christophe Wagner, director;
    Mexico, "Heli," Amat Escalante, director;
    Moldova, "All God's Children," Adrian Popovici, director;
    Montenegro, "Ace of Spades - Bad Destiny," Drasko Djurovic, director;
    Morocco, "Horses of God," Nabil Ayouch, director;
    Nepal, "Soongava: Dance of the Orchids," Subarna Thapa, director;
    Netherlands, "Borgman," Alex van Warmerdam, director;
    New Zealand, "White Lies," Dana Rotberg, director;
    Norway, "I Am Yours," Iram Haq, director;
    Pakistan, "Zinda Bhaag," Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi, directors;
    Palestine, "Omar," Hany Abu-Assad, director;
    Peru, "The Cleaner," Adrian Saba, director;
    Philippines, "Transit," Hannah Espia, director;
    Poland, "Walesa. Man of Hope," Andrzej Wajda, director;
    Portugal, "Lines of Wellington," Valeria Sarmiento, director;
    Romania, "Child's Pose," Calin Peter Netzer, director;
    Russia, "Stalingrad," Fedor Bondarchuk, director;
    Saudi Arabia, "Wadjda," Haifaa Al Mansour, director;
    Serbia, "Circles," Srdan Golubovic, director;
    Singapore, "Ilo Ilo," Anthony Chen, director;
    Slovak Republic, "My Dog Killer," Mira Fornay, director;
    Slovenia, "Class Enemy," Rok Bicek, director;
    South Africa, "Four Corners," Ian Gabriel, director;
    South Korea, "Juvenile Offender," Kang Yi-kwan, director;
    Spain, "15 Years Plus a Day," Gracia Querejeta, director;
    Sweden, "Eat Sleep Die," Gabriela Pichler, director;
    Switzerland, "More than Honey," Markus Imhoof, director;
    Taiwan, "Soul," Chung Mong-Hong, director;
    Thailand, "Countdown," Nattawut Poonpiriya, director;
    Turkey, "The Butterfly's Dream," Yilmaz Erdogan, director;
    Ukraine, "Paradjanov," Serge Avedikian and Olena Fetisova, directors;
    United Kingdom, "Metro Manila," Sean Ellis, director;
    Uruguay, "Anina," Alfredo Soderguit, director;
    Venezuela, "Breach in the Silence," Luis Alejandro Rodríguez and Andrés
    Eduardo Rodríguez, directors.

    Wednesday, October 09, 2013

    Reviews hits and misses

    So I'm reviewing again. Which means: I get all these emails offering books, DVD's, music CD's to review. Reviews range from secular to religious to secular books about religious books. So much to choose from. Which is often a problem.

    When choosing to accept an item to review, one can:
    1) Choose an item then utterly regret the choice when it arrives
    2) Choose an item and looooooooove one's choice
    3) Not choose an item and utterly regret it when a trusted friend reviews it.

    If I regret choosing a particular book (because we reviewers actually WANT to like a book), then I can simply not finish reading it, finish reading it but not review it, review it in as kind a manner as I can (because I don't want to upset a fellow writer), or totally slam the book and the author.

    If I choose a book I really like, I write a review. Generally, the greater it is, the harder it is for me to show how wonderfully great it is. Don't know why.

    If I don't choose a book and later I discover how great it is, then I kinda stew.

    So there I was on facebook a few months ago when Mirta --a good online friend-- told me about the book SIFTED. She loved it. I remember SIFTED being on the list sent to me from the Christian publisher. Now, looking on amazon, I see several books entited SIFTED. I don't even know which one Mirta is praising. I may ask her but now ---urg!!!!-- i'll have to buy it. Which is a real bother to a reviewer///at least this reviewer.

    Okay, you may ask, why didn't you take the book then when it was offered to you?
    Because -- generally-- I roll my eyes at Christian expository/devotional/exhortation/teaching books. BECAUSE they often seem pretty distant to my situation or written in a shallow way or...well...let me just say that most Christian fiction and non-fiction strike me as deeply shallow. Apparently prejudiced old me missed a good one. So annoying.

    Which leaves me all alone with my lonesome to figure out what all SIFTED means. Yes, the Holy Spirit, my mind, and discussions with friends is all I'll have to go on as I try to figure out this verse:

    31And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:32But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. Luke 22:31-32

    I have to figure out the difference between God's sifting and Satan's sifting.

    I suspect there are more verses with "sifting" in the Bible...which aren't translated as "sift" in the KJV.

    For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. Amos 9:9

    There are probably some folks out there who will say there is a difference between God sifting as corn and Satan sifting as wheat..but since "corn" seems to be an interjection done by the KJV translators I can't really go there.

    This sifting of Peter comes after Peter's great confession: You are the Son of God, the Messiah. So is that when Satan chooses to sift us? When we're sure of our own righteousness? Peter was awfully sure of himself: "I will never leave you!"

    So is sifting as wheat the same as separating the chaff from the wheat? And what is the difference between God purifying us and separating us from our chaff? Satan is about the law and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil....but Jesus is about the tree of life. Satan is concerned with seeing how we fully follow the law, and how we deal with our own righteousness. Jesus is concerned with us leaving off our righteousness and accepting Jesus' righteousness. so????

    You see....all this I would know if I had just believed Christian publishers actually could be depended on to write good spiritual books.

    And then there is the "after you are converted"....what is that supposed to mean? Apparently, one can repent from one's sins and become a disciple and even an apostle doing all kinds of miracles with the twelve, the other seventy, the one who followeth not us, with Jesus...and yet not be converted yet? Is this converted from one's own righteousness? Or converted from one's ways of looking at the world?

    Yep... I would know all this if I had gotten the book. Sooooo annoying. 

    Tuesday, October 08, 2013

    Him and His Ugly Will

    One of the main themes in my novel, The Constant Tower, is the way wills battle each other, how powerful people impose their wills on those less powerful, and how weak people have nothing but their wills.

    Folks talk about the human will a lot. The will to survive, the self-will we must break, the strength of will. And really many novels are about the will of the protag (what the protagonist wills) versus the wills of others. We see the good protag and we hope that his goals and all he wills will come true. And we hope all the baddie's will will not come true or that the baddie will relent in his wilfulness.

    The Constant Tower, among other things, is about will, willing, holding to one's will. Oh, there are other thematic elements but the most important for me was how a father and husband has a will and how children and wives have their wills stomped on. To be unable to have one's own will is to be pulled along by the tide of another's will, or to be pulled in another's wake, or to be suddenly smashed and tossed by a large wave.

    My main protagonist in TheConstant Tower is a king -- a man of will, of course because the default of all kings is their power. He is also a husband and a father. He has the good of his family/clan at heart. This is the worst kind of wilfulness -- the wilfulness of a benevoloent tyrant.

    Because most stories take the will of the protags or antagonists for granted, we don't often ponder the idea of the will.

    Someone with a great will is willful because he believes his way is the right way. He has gathered information that proves his way is the right way. Also, his ego might be involved. He simply cannot let others see him relent. To relent is to admit failure to both himself and to others. Admitting failure to himself implies he has made the wrong move and he is perhaps deeply deeply deeply wrong in all his convictions. Admitting failure to others implies others are more knowledgeable about life, others, the world than he is. So much is involved in holding to one's wilfulness that giving up on what wills is tantamount to death.

    In Japanese dramas and films, there are often moments when someone has to apologize --bend and kneel-- before his enemy. This bending of the knee is so tantamount to the breaking of the will that the kneeler is crushed beyond words. Tears, clenched fists, brokenness, shame, loss of face, vengeance, suicide -- all are possible addenda to such scenes. This often happens in Korean dramas but not to such a horrifying degree. When someone in a J-drama demands someone apologize, well we viewers know all hell is gonna break loose or all hope is lost because the apology is a way of saying that wilfulness has been broken.

    I'm always amazed at how demanding some folks get in these dramas: The good guy or the bad guy DEMANDS that his enemy kneel and apologize. The demand is relentless. Apologize (KNEEL, GROVEL) or I will not forgive. Apologize or I will not help your company. Apologize and bend your will visibly to mine....or I will not forget this slight. It's your will or my own.

    I totally understand not giving in to an enemy. And I totally understand wanting one's enemy to say, "I'm sorry." But I just don't get why the visual representation that implies the breaking of the enemy's will is so dang important. To me it's like the line in the story that goes: "I may be kneeling but inside my heart I am standing up." For me, being made to appear as if my will is broken (by the act of kneeling) is still not really my will being actually broken.

    Okay, so this leads to kneeling in prayer.

    We Christians kneel all the time in prayer.  We ask God to forgive us for our sins. We tell God He is the true and only power in life. We say we are nothing. We say we are giving up our will. Yet, really...are we? Aren't we still truly wilful people? Religious people who do all kinds of genuflecting and bowing and kow-towing to God can be incredibly attached to their ugly ugly relentless will. 

    Monday, October 07, 2013

    Even feminists sometimes dream of rescuers

    I am so not the perfect feminist.

    Okay, feminism and everything else.
    Feminist and not so much
    Unprejudiced and not so much
    Christian-like and not so much

    Seriously, it is that RARE person who is totally feminist, totally unprejudice, totally Christlike in their behavior.

    My novel, The Constant Tower, is pretty feminist in its own way. The villain NAHAS is representative of fathers and husbands who lead their family, running over their family's wills and happiness, in his quest for what he considers right. He's not a bad guy...except for that pesky ugly wilfulness of his. And that's kinda how I dealt with feminism. I really do think men/pastors/male leaders DO run rough-shod over folks (usually wives, women in the church, secretaries) and are very much benevolent tyrants.

    But at the same time, how feminist can I be if in my daydreams (when I am furious with my husband) I daydream of a rich young guy with a big house and who loves kids taking me away from my drab sad life to a wonderful world? Yes, I still want a man to take care of me...even in my daydreams. What a bummer!

    But also there is the whole "Am I prejudiced?" bit. I'm generally not prejudice. But there are moments when prejudice pops up. For instance, I am battling my anger with nasty gold-digging African guys who were asking me for money when I was on facebook. And I'm truly peeved at my illegal Ecuadorean neighbor who keeps coming into my yard to take stuff. Seriously, there is such a thing as asking! Why just walk in and take stuff? Sometimes I see stuff my stuff in their yard where they have placed it for all to I think..."oh, okay, they didn't exactly steal it. They took it without my permission." But sometimes stuff is just taken. There is nothing more annoying than to be sitting in one's living room in a towel writing when one hears --then sees-- some guy coming on one's front porch taking one's bicycle away. And it's stolen just like that but one is too undressed to race after the culprit. I don't think every Ecuadorean is a theif. One of the three churches I attend is made up of Ecuadoreans. But still, I must admit I am not flawlessly unprejudiced.

    And when it comes to religion. I'm not there yet. I don't have as much faith as I wish and I don't watch only G movies as a good Christian should. (Although I will admit I have definitely developed an aversion to certain kinds of indie movies.)

    So yeah, all this mental, spiritual, and behavioral idea of social perfection is a spectrum!!!!! I'm on the spectrum of all of them. I suppose we're supposed to reach the end of the spectrum by the time we die. From glory to glory and all that. But I doubt I will be perfectly anything by the time death calls. Just saying.

    Okay then...back to daydreaming of a rich Asian twenty-something guy to rescue me. YES, even feminists dream of rescuers. Imperfect feminists anyway. 

    Saturday, October 05, 2013

    Seeing ourselves in others

    So much going where to begin?

    One of the weekend k-dramas I'm watching is Wang Family. I'm really liking it. Because there are no chaebol princes, because it has working class folks. But the main reason I like it is because there's a character in it who is very very very like me.

    Seeing a character in a fictional piece --or seeing a real life person in an interview-- who reminds us of ourselves is rare. I suppose because (for the real life person) being transparent and honestly yourself involves so much risk. And we all as Americans and as humans know what is desirable, and what we should appear to be if we want to be liked or at least to seem normal. I suspect that's the same thing that happens in fiction. So many characters are given a kind of broad-swath of "recognizable" traits that is supposed to make us identify with them. But somehow the "girl who gives up her safe job to pursue her job of writing" in the Wang drama is not doing anything for me. Because she is so typical in movies and dramas and because she is so "everywoman."

    The character I like in Wang Family is Hobak. She is a character whose default is giving. She has to help everyone she sees. She thinks of herself last. She really has to fight against her tendency to give to her hard-earned money to her sister. She is a kind of Cinderella (before things get well) because she is so giving, and because she has a feeling that her life is an intrusion, that she was perhaps adopted. Nearly every good heroine shares her trait of generosity and selflessness. But she is so truly and deeply rendered when we see her fighting to hold on to her own money that she seems just on the verge of being not quite typical. And it's her atypicality that I like in addition to her goodness. Because, atypicality is so hard to portray in a communal art in such a way that some watchers will identify.

    Aristotle talks about Katharsis in literature. He defines this as the identification and fear when we see a character we recognize in a drama. A lot of stories aim for this but they rarely hit it (in my humble opinion.) Or at least, they rarely make me identify with the character in any deep personal "This is Carole" way.

    I've gotten a lot of insults on the internet. Well, of course, who hasn't? But I've gotten it from other places as well. Christians, Blacks, Whites, Atheists, writers, non-writers. The consensus is that I am somewhat too transparent or too obsessive or too immature and unworldly. Someone recently sent a message to me on facebook telling me I was too obsessive and I shared too much, cluttering up their feed. Well, yes, I am. I'll admit it. I suspect that comes from my trait of oversharing what I consider helpful to others, important that others should know. Information, odd news items, depressing news items, music, writing contests, videos.  Because I am so obsessive --and really I have no way to fight this obsession-- I thought it best to stop posting on facebook.

    But the hurt from the unasked for comment still stings. Yet again someone has told me I am not mature. Yet again, someone has told me I am odd and mentally unstable. Yet again I am faced with my problem of feeling that my entire life is an intrusion. Maybe it's all my childhood issues (growing up with relatives, growing up black in a white neighborhood, going to white churches and being black, my half Indian sister telling me my father hated me because I was too dark.) Maybe it was prenatal when my mother realized she was pregnant and unmarried. Maybe it's about being a Christian writer and having secular writer friends. Maybe it's all that and something else. Being a Christian in this world.

    I remember listening to an interview with Jamaica Kincaid, the great Antiguan writer in which she said something to the effect that her truest real personality is melancholy and she feels more comfortable when she's in it.

    That is me as well.

    Now, whether this is good or bad, I don't know. I don't know whether the essential me --as created by the stuff life has dealt me-- is the truest me I must seek to honor. Or the me I should try to escape and heal.

    I do laugh a lot when I'm among friends. But I also have a deep seated melancholy that seems to be my default.  Yesterday I quit facebook. Why? Because I'm at my default, in my clearest orientation, an isolationist. I don't feel any peace at all when I'm around people. But this aspect of myself is greatly conflicted by the other side of me that really likes hanging out with people. In addition, because of childhood issues, I have often felt myself to be an intrusive presence. I always feel as if people are tired of me and are tolerating me.

    So there I was in a book of Ecclesiastes state:  better to be in the house of isn't fair...why do good people suffer? Why is my life as it is? yadda yadda. And then it occurred to me. What do I really believe? The rubber had hit the road. Am I going to believe that the good people of the world suffer and that all the premises that my life rested on were utterly false?

    And in a sudden moment, it seemed as if the Holy Spirit challenged me: Do you believe the world works the way God says it works? Do you believe the Bible is true about how spiritual laws work? Do you believe you are like a tree planted by rivers of water because you read and meditate on God's word? Do you believe God answers prayers or rewards the good...not only in the next life but in this? Do you believe you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of theliving?

    And that moment I decided: I WILL BELIEVE. I will walk in hope and joy and hope in the truth of the words of the Biblical God. I will not let the words of certain negative or despairing or "sane" Christians affect me. I was born to believe that Jesus is all the AMEN of all God's promises.

    So this morning as I read Psalm 37, personalizing it for myself. I affirmed once again that God has made many wonderful promises to the poor and to the good and I was speaking them and believing them. (The Bible had opened to that psalm and it was so apropos, I felt as if God had opened the book to that page for me.) It felt odd but joyous to remind myself that God oversees my path and that the just are taken off.

    We are enjoined to be joyous and hopeful. But we are also asked to be sincere. So if I am obsessive, then let me be obsessive. My good friend Jessica whom I've known for about ten years now wrote a great blog post for me to heal my heart. 

    So, i am what i am. I cannot force myself to do what I must do. I can ask God to change me. But I must write from the weakness and the sorrow of the person I am. It is healing for me to see other characters like my odd self in dramas and in books. And I suspet it is healing for others to see themselves in me.

    I got this from my friend Rose-Marie who emailed me to comfort me.

    Carole, I relate to what you say. I think I still have a strong "melancholic" base although it has dissipated quite a bit as I have worked at looking at things a bit differently. I do think it
    enables good writing as long as it doesn't get too dark and we don't identify with it as our most essential person but simply a passing state. I write better from that place than from my "happy" place because it is more substantive and compassionate and keen but I also think that part of it is something we need to fight against. It takes over if not monitored by discipline and strong choice.
    Jesus was a Man of sorrows, but also a fully alive, and I think, joyful, Man. His sorrows were correctly placed, correct responses to that which is sorrowful to the heart of God.
    It would be sick to think that God is always happy when He has to watch all the evil and what it does to the world.  God, because of us, feels less than joy, and sadness, but also overcomes it within Himself as He knows that He can ultimately triumph over it.
    I think we struggle because it doesn't feel like we can triumph over it but even that thinking has to be adjusted because it is God who must overcome and we get to watch and have faith. The more our faith is rightly based, the more our melancholy will find its right place in the service of God and not ruling our existness.
    I am slowly becoming a more simple person, and more willing to let fear and sadness go as a kind of "haven't got time for the pain, haven't the need for the pain, not since I've known You. You showed me how, how to fill my heart with love, how to open up and
    drink in all t hat white light, coming down from the heavens....." i'm showing my age but love that song. :)
    I do think that there is that tension between "hell is being alone" (TS Eliot) and "hell is other people" (Sartre)"  -- I do think the world has gotten noisier and crazier and we must pick our battles with it and learn to retreat often. Especially if we know that melancholy over the state of our world is our weakness. 
    As for our essential selves, they are happy, childlike, yet wise beings. Not naïve but gentle and seasoned. Strong and weak, happy and appropriately sad, we must look at ourselves, and what we have blueprinted as our essential self, and ask, "Am I absolutely sure this is the best me that God had in mind?"
    I know the difference in my own life, know when I cross the line into something less, know at this point, that I can momentarily lose my way, or at least site of the path (which the thought of  definitely awakes the melancholy, instead of full of trust, so I must affirm that the path is quite nearby or indeed, I am still on it, when I feel my worst. It is a fight of faith.

    Ah, don't you love it that she quoted Carly Simon's song?

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