We're not born blind, none of us. But at some point in our lives, we choose to cover our eyes. We cover our eyes with something thick and clinging. It adheres to us and melds with our skin. It makes us blind, and so we live our lives without truth or reality.
Sometimes, we decide to pull that cover off. And it's a struggle, a fight, a battle. If we succeed in tearing that blinding cover away, it takes skin off with it. We cry. We bleed. And then we have to heal. That takes time. And there are scars.
That's why learning to trust hurts so much.
We struggle all our lives to see.
Friday, November 26, 2010
We're not born blind, none of us. But at some point in our lives, we choose to cover our eyes. We cover our eyes with something thick and clinging. It adheres to us and melds with our skin. It makes us blind, and so we live our lives without truth or reality.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
...and pretty much everything I feel is important about it, I'm talking about on Twitter, Facebook, and Unstressed Syllables (search for nanowrimo to find my articles). But, to update in briefest fashion: I'm having a blast, I'm ahead of schedule, my demon zombies are being just as hideous as they should be, my main character is being perfectly snarky, and my first villain is on-scene and in fine fettle.
I'll be blogging NaNoWriMo periodically throughout the month, so keep tuning in -- but check FB, Twitter, and UnSyl for everything current. In the meantime, I leave you with the following quotes I noted at the NaNoWriMo 2010 Kickoff Party:
"It’s funny, because I think I’m eating cheese, but I’m really drinking coffee."
"I don’t consider myself a squeamish housewife."
"That won’t make your readers want to stab you in the face."
"I’m actually a bard. They don’t have a level for me yet."
"There are penises in this book."
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Privacy is dead. The world has traded secrecy for Hathor: a surveillance database that offers the public convenience and pleasure, as well as a drastic reduction in crime. Hathor's all-seeing eye quickly finds those who dare to break the law, watching them every step of the way.
But...what if Hathor doesn't see all? What if there's someone out there who knows how to hide and walk unseen? What if there are lots of someones?
Katie Pratt works for the Ghost Targets division of the FBI -- tasked with tracking down these elusive "ghosts" in the system. On her first case, she finds a mote in Hathor's eye: a blacked-out murder, a killer who has gotten away without a trace. A ghost for her to track.
But as she goes deeper, Katie finds something even more alarming. A single unresolved murder is bad enough...but the blackout is spreading. Hathor's blindness is getting worse. If Katie can't find the murderer and stop the blackout, her elusive ghost might destroy the system...and all of modern society with it.
Aaron's novel Gods Tomorrow grabbed me with the first sentence and didn't let me go until the last one. You've heard me talk about this before, how Aaron is a born storyteller who knows exactly how to hook a reader. Not only that, he has spent decades sharpening that natural talent through practice, practice, practice, education, trial and error, more practice, and an admirable ability to accept constructive critique with humility and grace.
What I'm trying to say is, the guy knows what he's doing -- and it shines in the story.
His main character, Katie Pratt, is strong, engaging, and sometimes endearingly unsure of herself. In Chapter One, she takes an elevator ride up to the floor of her new job, and by the time she steps out of the elevator, the reader knows her fears. But in spite of them, she keeps at her task from start to finish and doesn't flinch when all you-know-what breaks loose. Like her creator, the girl knows her stuff -- and she's gonna use it to do her job, no matter what the consequences.
The novel's concept -- privacy rotting in its grave, all human action and interaction recorded by Hathor's all-seeing eye -- provides an almost scary marker pointing toward a very believable possible future. Think about where cell phones, smartphones, GPSs, and satellite tracking are headed. The future is almost *now*.
Aaron's envisioned, not-so-distant future is somewhat Orwellian (Big Egyptian Sister is watching you?), but far more accessible, if that makes any sense. Without disparaging his own story, the author himself calls it a "beach read," and I agree: You could read this for fun in your free time and just enjoy it for the sheer, non-stop adventure of it all...or, so choosing, you could let your mind consider the deeper implications -- both for the world at large and for yourself personally.
Glowing recommendation? Ha! I give it a supernova. The movie is gonna be CRAMAZING.
Gods Tomorrow is available for purchase in paperback as well as digital format. There's a paperback at Amazon, and an e-Book for the Kindle. There are copies available for the Barnes & Noble Nook, and for the iPad through Lulu.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
...but you know what? I don't care. ;o)
"The kingdom of God is the rule of God. ...The kingdom doesn't set out to destroy human authority in this age (John 18:36). Instead, it destroys the powers and principalities in the spiritual realm through God's authority.
"The kingdom doesn't seek to change the political order of things through fleshly effort. It rather makes changes in the spiritual order that affect the lives of men and women at a deeper current. As citizens of the kingdom, our allegiance is not to the political parties of this earth, but to the politics of Jesus. For He alone is our Lord and our King.
"Therefore, the kingdom works quietly and secretly among men and women (Matt. 4:26-28). It's not a religious, political, or military power that cannot be resisted. It abhors violence, hatred, and injustice."
"From Eternity To Here"
Earthly citizenship means nothing. Possessing a passport from a certain country does, indeed, make a person part of that country's rich history. It might even make that person part of a lineage of sacrifice and courage. But in the grand scheme of God's eternity, earthly citizenship means nothing more than a set of certain conveniences (or inconveniences, as it were). And God does not favor one human kingdom over another, because every human kingdom is composed of the same thing: humans, every one of whom is of equal value to God.
Spiritual citizenship is the only citizenship that matters.
Allegiance means utmost loyalty and devotion. When I think of pledging allegiance to something, I picture a vassal kneeling before his liegelord, swearing fealty and giving his oath to sacrifice possessions, lifeblood, and very self for that liegelord. Pledging allegiance is an oath that binds the heart and the soul. It is neither given nor received lightly.
For this reason, I pledge my allegiance to Jesus Christ and to no one and nothing else. He is my only Lord, and I want no citizenship but the one he offers.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I need to blog more.
The truth of that statement shines with appalling clarity.
Which sounds like a line from a poem containing bad philosophy.
It might have originated with the Benadryl I took about an hour ago because I'm having some kind of bizarre allergy attack that manifests itself in tiny, stinging blisters all over my face. This has happened several times already this year, and it's driving me insane. At first, I thought it was an allergy to blueberries--but I haven't had those in six months. I have yet to identify a common denominator in these blistering (hahaha) attacks. In the meantime, I'm eating Benadryl for the first time in about eleven years.
So far, it's served only to make me slightly loopy. The itching and stinging and blistering continue.
In other news, NaNoWriMo approacheth apace. It's 7 weeks and 1 day away, and I am already crazy excited. I'll be working on the third book in what I'm calling my "demons trilogy." The first two novels are Colors of Deception and Shadows After Midnight, each written from the point-of-view of a different character. For this third novel, I already know who the POV character will be, and I've already written the first scene in my head. I want sooooooooo badly just to type it all out already...but if I do, it won't count toward the requisite 50k. And I want it to count.
I also want it to be November 1st ***NOW***.
To continue the stream of Benadrylled consciousness:
Aaron wants me to paint the cover art for his fantasy novel.
Bryan wants me to paint a mashup of Firefly and Star Wars.
I painted the first of three self-portraits not for public consumption.
Over the last few months, I've written some incredibly bad poetry and one really good poem.
Over the last 8 months, I have completely changed what I once wbelieved about publishing and copyright.
Over the last 9 months, I have changed much of what I once believed about "church" and "worship," and it has been incredibly liberating.
I almost typed "liverating" instead, which would have been unfortunate, because I loathe liver.
I like my own liver, though. It serves me well. But I love -- I really love -- my pancreas.
I'm glad Weird Al wrote a song about his pancreas instead of his prostate, because that would just be awkward.
I just decided that Bendaryl is my friend. You hear that, Benadryl people? I totally endorse your product. You read it here first!
I have a lot of really cramazing friends and family. They all restore my faith in the inherent worth of humanity, and the mere fact of their existence bolsters my faith in God.
I have become a Tweeter.
I talk to people in movies as though they could hear me.
There are a lot of really kooky people on the Internet; I like to think I'm not one of them
I think the Benadryl is winning. More later.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
So many books, so little time. I'm terribly behind on my books comments -- and those of you who enjoy reading these reviews might be a bit disappointed in this one. I've put off reviewing for so long, I've amassed quite a list of finished reads, and I don't have time to review each of them as thoroughly as I'd like. So, my apologies for the following superficial remarks... ;o)
"The Walking Dead, Vols. 5-8" by Robert Kirkman et al.
--continuing the story of Rick and his friends, all trying to survive the zombie apocalypse, the collapse of civilization, and their own degeneration into savagery
--addresses the question of how zombified we humans can be, even when we're not really zombies
--plot takes some turns I don't like; Kirkman is definitely not nice to his characters
--> increases UPDA value
--This graphic novel series is being turned into film; it will premier on AMC in October, and I am trying to figure out how I'm gonna watch it without cable. ;o)
--highly recommend to genre fans
"Hannibal Rising" by Thomas Harris
--fascinating tale of how Hannibal Lecter became the charming, highly intelligent cannibal that he is
--totally believable, totally sympathetic main character
--fascinating historical fiction
--reminded me again of how brilliant Anthony Hopkins is
--highly recommend to genre and Lecter fans
"Dragon's Blood" by Jane Yolen
--fun YA fantasy about a boy and his dragon
--I read this in high school, kept it for years with the idea of reading it again, finally got around to it when I wondered if I should keep keeping it -- and decided that yes, it's keep-around-able.
--recommend to YA fantasy fans
"Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, Books 1-3" by Dean Koontz, Kevin J. Anderson, and Ed Gorman
--I wrote lots of nice things about this series here.
--great read from some incredibly talented people
--terrific take on the Frankenstein legend
"The Descent" and "Deeper" by Jeff Long
--premise: Hell is a real place, a globe-spanning, subterranean cave system inhabited by a race of creatures who've inspired all of our myths and fantasies about Satan and his domain -- a race of sub-humans who just might be our ancestors.
--totally fascinating story of what happens when modern humanity tries to invade that underground realm
--both novels = highly UPDA
"The Snow Queen" by Joan D. Vinge
--an otherworldly sci-fi fantasy of Summer pitted against Winter, love against hate, good(?) against evil(?)
--what I call classic sci-fi: concerned with telling an epic sci-fi yarn, not with courting the common denominator of reader expectation
--hard to get through at some points, but still a satisfying story
--recommend to sci-fi buffs
"NorseCODE" by Greg van Eekhout
--modern fantasy based on Norse mythology
--not generally my area of interest (I'm more a Greek pantheon sort of girl), but I did enjoy the Valkyries
--a couple of vivid main characters, quite a few cookie-cutters in the supporting cast
--enjoyable to see how the author wove elements of myth into everyday modern life
--neither recommend nor un-recommend ;o)
"Fledgling" by Octavia Butler
--Sorry, fellow Twilight fans.....but this is the most original vampire story I've ever read. ;o)
--Warning: typical Twilight fans probably won't enjoy this.
--I won't tell any details, because I don't want to give anything away. Just trust me: You've never read a vampire story like this.
--very adult themes
--highly recommend to genre fans
"Beauty" by Sheri S. Tepper
--a fairy tale incorporating Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, the frog prince, and a host of others -- a tale spanning a millennium...or 100 years, depending on your point of view ;o)
--fun read, kind of hard to get through in a couple of places (mostly when the author waxes political)
--a light-hearted read with several strangely dark, gritty moments
--recommend to genre fans (maybe)
"The Light of Eidon" by Karen Hancock
--high fantasy tale of a religiously devoted young man given over to slavery by his brothers, fighting his way to fame in a gladiator-style arena, and saving a nation -- all while coming to a true brand faith he never even dreamed of
--a good read, although I got frustrated with the MC several times because he refused to see what was right in front of the reader's eyes
--> not a conceptual problem but a writer problem; the author dropped too many hints too early on
--still, I enjoyed the story enough to be open for sequels if there are such
Book Count To-Date: 47.5
"Reimagining Church" by Frank Viola
If a book like "Pagan Christianity?" (PC?) has a sequel, then this is it. If PC? is the book that de-constructs a person's previously conceived thoughts on the condition/origin of what is considered, in our modern world, The Church, then "Reimagining Church" presents concepts that aid in re-construction.
If PC? takes away hope, then RC gives it back again.
As I've said before, PC? repeated some information I already knew and filled in some gaps in my understanding of church history. Not only that, it reinforced quite a few beliefs I have held for years (pretty much since I grew old enough and mature enough to recognize interpersonal and hierarchical problems in the churches I've had personal experience with). It has also helped me remove some non-Christo-centric filters with which I've been viewing scripture, Christianity, and my fellow Christians for most of my life.
I'm still processing. I'm still trying to drop all filters and view things through one single filter: Jesus Christ. He -- and yes, I mean his words and teachings, but mostly I mean his Person -- is the only filter I need. He is the only filter I want. And until I get rid of every single filter except for him, I will not be able to see other people the way he sees them.
Anyway. PC? made me aware of my desperate need to drop all filters except the filter of Christ. "Reimagining Church" is one of many tools God has given me to help in this process. It's helping me see the church -- everything she is and does -- through the single filter of Jesus Christ.
And that's all I can really say about it. If you want to know more, you should read these books for yourself. I don't have the words.
Book Count To-Date: 31.5
So, yesterday I was cleaning out the litterboxes and having a hard time of it because Merry wouldn't just leave me to it.
Merry, if you don't already know, is the kitten we (read: I, against the husband's better judgment) rescued from the dim, despairing reaches of our parking lot in June. We estimate that she is now 4-5 months old -- and, as I've described elsewhere, she is a tiny automaton with fur, powered by a boundless energy source and stuck in a redundant play-eat-sleep loop.
Pippin, our five-year-old tabby, remains unimpressed with the new addition, but they both seem to enjoy chasing each other.
Anyway, as soon as I started cleaning out the litterboxes yesterday, up bounded the little automaton to investigate what I was about. As I scooped unmentionable stinkiness into a plastic trash bag, she craned her neck over the edge of one litterbox to sniff.
"I'm working here," I told her.
Ignoring me in all-too-familiar cat fashion, Merry came closer and stuck her head into the sack containing the stinkiness.
"That won't smell good," I warned.
Unconcerned, Merry investigated the contents another moment or two.
"I really don't need your help," I said.
Merry withdrew her head from the sack, clambered into the larger of the two litterboxes, and promptly pooped in it.
"I am trying to work here!!!"
But, alas, my protests were for naught. The kitten finished her toilet, made a few half-hearted scratches that didn't half cover up the mess, and raced away to find the older kitty and torment her with some game or other.
Leaving me, of course, with a fresh mess to clean up.
And that's when I thought, "This must be how God feels."
Not that I'm setting myself up as God over my cats. (Anyone who knows cats and/or God knows what a laughable prospect that would be.) I'm more like the kitten. Actually, I think we're all more like the kitten.
God cares for us. He cuddles us and feeds us and gives us a place to sleep. He talks to us and listens to us when we cry. He puts special things into our lives simply for the sheer joy of seeing us happy. He loves watching us be what we're created to be.
And he cleans up our messes all the time.
And more often than not, we humans get in his way while he's doing it.
We don't leave well enough alone. We make a mess of our lives -- and maybe we ask him to help clean it up; maybe we don't. Either way, God steps in to do what's necessary to clean up the mess...
...but we don't trust him to do it. We come back to it to see what he's doing with it. We poke and nudge and prod: Are you doing this right? We try to cover it up, even though there's really no hiding it. We stick our noses into what he's already cleaned up -- even as he tells us he doesn't need our help and warns us that we probably don't want to smell this.
And sometimes, instead of letting him finish his work, we clamber back into the situation and mess it up all over again.
Pippin, our adult cat, also gets curious when I clean out the litterboxes. She watches me carry the plastic sack to the kitty cubby; she might even jump up into the cubby so as to get a closer look. But she sits back, watching. She doesn't stick her nose into what I've already cleaned, and she certainly doesn't climb into the box to do business in it while I'm trying to work. She knows that if she just lets me finish, she'll have a nice, fresh box and won't have to smell messes again for awhile.
That, of course, is where the effectiveness of the metaphor ends: A litterbox is *meant* to be messed up over and over again. A human life, however, is not designed for continual ruin. God wants to clean up our lives for us -- and then be there to help us keep them clean.
I want to mature so I can learn to sit back and let him do it.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Former President of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, 1983.
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing had happened."
Saturday, July 24, 2010
"The servant...asks Rebekah's parents' permission to take her to Abraham's son. Her family agrees to let her go, but they want her to remain with them for ten days before she leaves.
"Here is the servant's reply to this proposal: 'Hinder me not.' In other words, 'Don't quench me. She either comes now or she doesn't come at all.' The parents turn the question over to Rebekah... Her response is shocking: 'Yes, I will go.'
"Notice that it was those closest to Rebekah who were the ones who sought to hinder her the most. The same is true for you. When the Holy Spirit of God says to you, 'Come, follow Me all the way,' the choice becomes yours. But expect to be hindered.
"...What is the call to the bride of Christ at this hour? It is this: Will you leave that which is comfortable to you? Will you leave that which is familiar to you? Will you leave Chaldea so that you can enjoy the riches of Isaac? Will you allow the Spirit of God to take you to a place that you've never before seen?"
"From Eternity To Here"
I find myself answering these questions: "Yes, yes, and yes."
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
"The Looking Glass Wars: Seeing Redd" by Frank Beddor
--story of how Queen Alyss defends her realm, Wonderland, against her evil, usurping aunt, Redd Heart
I still haven’t read any of Lewis Carroll’s originals, so I have no idea how this story would fit into his Wonderland universe.
If you want vivid descriptions and intricate world-building, this novel is for you.
If you want characters that don’t seem like superficial caricatures, this novel is not for you.
*sigh* I’m actually really sad not to have much good to say about this book. Based on the jacket blurb and the incredible cover art, I was excited to read it. But I just didn’t enjoy this one very much. (Insert tired adage here.) For one thing, I couldn’t decide if this was supposed to be children’s literature – in which case the lack of deeper character development might make sense – or some form of fantastical literary fiction – in which case it was sorely lacking in depth. And the action sequences, which could have been fast-paced and exciting, dripped slow as molasses down their every page because of overly detailed enumeration of every single movement of every single character involved. Oy.
Still, in some places, the lack of depth seemed intentional. Maybe even satirical. Maybe the whole novel is a single sarcastic remark on a genre, and I just didn’t get it.
Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Dodgson, makes an appearance in the story. I liked that a lot.
There are sequels. I won’t be reading.
"The Walking Dead, Vols. 3 & 4" by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore
--continuing the zombie apocalypse survival adventures of Rick and his friends
Read my initial review of this series.
Recommend! If you enjoy graphic novels, or if you like zombies, sociology, and/or psychology, you'll enjoy this series. (Caveat: adult content.)
"The Fifth Child" by Doris Lessing
--contemporary story of Harriet and David, who meet, get married, and have a picture-perfect life in spite of naysaying friends and relatives – until Harriet gets pregnant with their fifth child, and all hell breaks loose
--totally fascinating look at the sociology of family relationships
But this is anything but a textbook. Characters are brilliantly deep, and Lessing conveys that depth with an intense efficiency that’s enviable and almost scary.
--multiple genres in this one: lit fic, sci-fi, fantasy...seems like the only one missing is metafiction
UPDA* – I loved everything about this book, and I read the whole thing in less than three hours. (Granted, this is novella-length, but still.)
"A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K. Dick
In the near future (written from a 1977 perspective), Fred is an undercover agent addicted to a drug that splits users' personalities. He's assigned to narc on a druggie named Bob Arctor -- who just happens to be Fred's other personality.
I've always had a soft spot in my heart for anything about dissociative identities (aka multiple personalities), so this was right up my alley. Not to mention it's a great look at how a sci-fi writer in 1977 imagined the future. Amusingly, he thought we would still be using tape decks.
--also fascinating look into the mind of a drug addict: outlook on life, processing of daily input, relationships, disconnects, and unusual associations
--vivid characters, unexpected plot twists, lots of effective teasing of the reader, a refreshingly economical writing style
--a little too much rambling in some of the dialogue; I skimmed a few places
This novel was made into a movie starring Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder. I plan to watch it soon. Should be interesting!
--recommend, but this is a gritty one and not for the faint of heart
2010 Book Count To-Date: 30.5.
*UPDA = UnPutDownAble
"The Fairies of Nutfolk Wood" by Barb Bentler Ullman
--fun, heart-warming story of Willa, who finds new friends both great and small as she struggles to get through her parents' divorce
Minus the family struggles part, this story is what we all dreamed about when we were kids: finding life-changing magic in our own back yards.
--great story for kids who want fun, or even for kids who are dealing with the same problems Willa faces
"The Traveler" by John Twelve Hawks
--multiple-POV story of Maya, born into the mercenary clan known as Harlequins, whose task is to protect dimension-crossing Travelers against a nefarious organization known as the Tabula
--set in present day, but feels sci-fi
--interesting plot, vivid characters
For some reason, I had a terribly hard time connecting with this novel. Even though Maya’s struggle to protect her Traveler was a hard one and caused her to grow as a character, I caught myself thinking several times, “Huh. I just don’t care.” Part of this, I’m sure, stemmed from the fact that as a Harlequin, Maya can’t afford to let herself become emotionally involved with anyone or anything. The purpose for her detachment is to keep emotions from clouding her judgment. I get that. Unfortunately, the side effect was that *I* remained detached from the story from start to finish and had to force myself to keep reading from chapter to chapter.
There’s a sequel, but I don’t plan on reading it.
--still, a fascinating premise; I really did enjoy the sections written from the Traveler’s POV; and the descriptions of other dimensions were pleasantly reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra novels.
"Kushiel's Dart" by Jacqueline Carey
Cursed from birth by her god and sold into slavery as a child, Phèdre tries to find her place in the schemes of her own increasingly large circle of acquaintances and friends.
Phèdre ends up a key player in politics. Her choices and her character development lead her to save her whole country from invasion.
Wait. This sounds familiar. Where have I read this story before? Oh, yes. I basically already reviewed it.
No, I'm not accusing Carey of plagiarism. Far from it. Had I read her novel five years from now, I wouldn't have been irritated that the basic plot is the same as Adams's (i.e. sex slave rises to become savior of her country). But the Adams read was just a year ago. Carey's story made me feel as though I were reading the same book again.
BUT. Carey is a brilliant storyteller and a master worldbuilder. Oh my, she's good. In this story, she takes European history -- particularly church history -- of the past 2000 years and infuses it with magic. Literally. Fallen angels and demigods all over the place, and a country that's located where our world's France is, but it's not France. People worship "Elua," and there are "Yeshuites." Not to mention "Tiberians." Carey weaves pieces of real-world history into a lush, vivid fantasy story that's breathtaking.
That said, I won't be reading the sequels. As with Adams's novel, this story was packed with way too much gratuitous sex for my taste. I guess that's kind of unavoidable, when your main character is a sex slave. But it made me hunger for a fantasy heroine who doesn't have to sell her body in order to save her world.
Read at your own risk.
"Flawed, Book One: Empath" by Rebecca J. Campbell
--story of Jade, struggling to turn her special disability into a truly more-than-human advantage -- while she's on a collision course with a particularly gifted psychopath
Yes, I'm being intentionally vague. ;o) I know the author, and this is an unpublished work, so I don't want to give anything away! But it's a well-written story with vivid, fun, interesting characters -- and a unique, gripping premise that I think is going to pack quite the punch once it's all polished. I wish *my* first novel had been this fascinating and had shown this high a skill level.
Shoot, I wish my third and fourth novels had been this skilled and interesting!
Recommend. OH yes. :o)
2010 Book-Count To-Date: 26.5.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
--a happysad story of a soldier, John, who meets the girl he never even dreamed about, then loses her when he's sent to fight in the Middle East
--very much a "dear John" story, natch
--WAY better than my last Sparks read
There's romance, there's excellent dialogue, there's believable tension and conflict, there's character development that makes you smile even as it makes your heart ache.
If you're not a Sparks fan, you might actually enjoy this one.
If you are a Sparks fan, you're gonna love it. :o)
"Good Faith" by Jane Smiley
I wish I could remember what this novel is about, but I can't. I think I made it into the third chapter before I was so bored that I gave up. The main character, whose name I can't recall, works in real estate. Smiley spent a lot of time describing the ins and outs of the real estate business. I just kept thinking, "Let's get to the story." Even the burgeoning torrid love affair couldn't keep me hooked. I skipped to the end, found out that guy does not get girl, and that told me everything I felt the need to know.
This one's responsible for the .5 in my Book Count, because I'm not going to pick it up again.
"Life of Pi" by Yann Martel
This is not a boy-and-his-dog story. This is a boy-and-his-tiger story. More specifically: boy and his untamed tiger in a lifeboat, accompanied by a zebra, an orangutan, and a hyena.
This is one of the best books I have ever read.
--story of Pi Patel, who is born in India; adopts Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam all at the same time; and has to rely on his much-encompassing faith (and his wits) to survive when his family takes a ship to Canada and the ship sinks
--faith, hope, love, endurance, survival, creativity, coming-of-age, and more-than-meets-the-reader's-eye
--stunning in the best of ways
"No One Noticed The Cat" by Anne McCaffrey
--easy-to-read fantasy (novella, I think) in which Prince Jamas must use all his resources to protect his country, his beloved, and himself from the schemes of the evil neighboring queen
His greatest resource, much to the disbelief and consternation of many, is the Niffy the cat, whom Jamas inherits from his deceased father's deceased advisor.
--fun, witty, fast-paced, sarcastic, UPDA
2010 Book Count To-Date: 22.5.
*UPDA = UnPutDownAble
Monday, May 24, 2010
No matter how you slice it, modern church practices have their roots in pagan culture (mostly Greek and Roman) and not in the vibrant life of Christ that indwells his Body. For the last 1800 years, humanity has decapitated the Body, leaving the Head safely in heaven so that we needn't be much concerned with His attempts to direct the functioning of his members. Our traditions call for only a select few members to function; a few "mouths" turn the rest of the Body into one giant Ear. Thanks to our traditions, few other types of organs are even possible within the assembly. Our traditions nullify His Life. We have created church practices that are, for the most part, sterile, cold, efficient, arm's-length and, quite frankly, boring.
Christ doesn't want us to "go to church." Christ wants us to BE the church: an organism of many members, *all* of whom function (instead of passively spectating), an organism directed by Him in every aspect of its life.
Why don't some people "do church"? In my opinion, it's because they aren't able or aren't being allowed to function. Because the every-member functioning of the Body has been inhibited or outright forbidden for nearly two millennia, these people (my past self included) don't even know that they're meant to be able to function.
I'll just say it: They've been brain-washed--by others who have themselves been brain-washed--into believing that "mutual edification" (see Hebrews) means showing up at a church building, listening to a sermon, singing a few songs, and chatting amiably afterward before someone decides it's time for everyone to leave so the building can be locked up.
The Christocentric definition of "church" includes so much more than an efficient, convenient "worship service" and friendly, superficial conversation on a Sunday. "Church" means Body, and that means Life: the Life of Christ, continuously, day-by-day, minute-by-minute, in an active, vibrant community in which the members are completely and irrevocably interwoven with each other. And until we rediscover how to live this Life, until we start plumbing the depths and riches of the fullness of Christ, more and more of us are going to stop wanting to "do church."
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Heads up, friends, fellow bloggers, lurkers, various, and sundry! Somebody has written something just for you, and I'm here today to share that good news with you. Sha-ZAM!
There's a lot of advice out there on the Internet these days (I suppose you've noticed), especially concerning writing, selling said writing, and marketing said writing. Specifically, folks are telling other folks to Blog! Collect posts into an e-Book! Sell the e-Book and watch the dough come rolling in, no pun intended!
*ahem* Sorry. I got a bit carried away there for a second.
But that's 'cause there's an exciting new product available...a product telling you HOW to put together an e-Book and get it out there to a reading public. See, there's a lot of advice being flung about with cyberspace abandon--and yet very little practical help to get you on that glorious e-Book path to satisfying accomplishment.
And that's where my friend Aaron enters the picture. Aaron is this hard-working, hugely brilliant guy who has bent his considerable writing talents toward offering the exact kind of help all you wannabe e-Bookers need. His most recent creation, "How to Build an e-Book" gives you a step-by-step process from start to finish. In this, his own e-Book, Aaron answers your questions, details your e-Booking process, and even soothes your doubts about your own ability to do this thing. "How to Build an e-Book" is exactly what it promises to be, and more.
I'm not just talking out of loyalty to a good friendship. I've read Aaron's book--and though I never had interest in writing an e-Book of my own, the fun process he outlines and the challenge he presents convince me it would be worth my while to try this myself! Plus, reading Aaron's work is just a great time in general, because he's a skilled wordsmith with a great sense of humor and a quirky personality that shows through in every line of his writing.
Details and purchasing info are here. What's way cool is that Aaron is offering a launch-week discount code, SYLLABLES, which is good for 25% off any purchases! The code expires on Sunday night (May 9th), so git it while the gittin's 25% off!
If you're still wondering if this might be for you, I recommend Aaron's blog post, in which he describes the genesis of his project and what "How to Build an e-Book" can do for you.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
This is my To-Read shelf.
The plan is to get through all of these books before the year is out--as well as whatever books I add to it as I go along. So far, I don't think I'm progressing very well. Just fyi.
"The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd
--story of 14-year-old Lily, who helps her surrogate-mother housekeeper escape from racist authorities while embarking on a quest to discover the truth behind her real mother's death
--Lily finds refuge at an apiary, which totally made me fall in love with bees.
--fascinating characters, fascinating world-building (did I mention the apiary?), and fascinating (not to mention infuriating) look at racism in the South of 1964
--I will never, ever understand how any human can possibly consider him/herself superior to another just because of a difference in skin color. If it weren't so tragic, and if it didn't lead to so many horrors in this world, it would be laughable.
I'll say it plainly: If you think you're better than someone else just because your skin is a different color, you're an idiot.
*ahem* But back to the book.
--love, hate, redemption, family, tragedy, grief, recovery, humor, compassion....it's all in there
--I was in love with this novel from start to finish. I wrote an article on it here: What I Learned About Writing This Week from Sue Monk Kidd. Read. I promise you won't regret it. ;o)
--back to the book again: HIGHLY recommend!
"The Walking Dead, Vols. 1 & 2" by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore
--story of Rick, his family, and a band of fellow survivors when the zombie apocalypse hits
--more about the survivors' struggles and psychological complexities of the survivors than about zombie goriness
--my latest foray into graphic novels, and I am enjoying muchly
--great tension throughout, exciting plot, excellent character development
--a scary look into how quickly humans (not the zombies!) degenerate and turn on each other when we're stripped of our luxuries
--recommend to anyone who enjoys horror, zombies, and/or psychology
"Treachery" and "The Fall of Gilead" by Stephen King, Richard Furth, Peter David, Jae Lee, Richard Isanove
--Volumes 3&4 of King's "Dark Tower" graphic novel series
--love the story, love the characters, love the art
--Jae Lee actually didn't work on Vol. 4, and I really hope they get him back for the rest of the series. The artwork just isn't quite as good without him.
--Dark Tower fans, you really oughta get in on this action, if it do ya.
--highly recommend to King fans, DT fans, graphic novel fans
"Taming Fire" by Aaron Pogue
--story of Daven, a kid with a shady? past who thinks he has finally found peace but instead is thrust into an adventure of self-discovery, magic, dragons, fair maidens, and power that changes the world (not to mention reality)
--my third Pogue novel, and I was not disappointed
--vivid epic-fantasy world, fresh take on magic (a fresh take which some of the characters despise!), and a main character who makes you love and cry and laugh with him
--Daven's magic is going to look oh so very awesome in the movie.
--highly recommend when you see it in bookstores!
2010 Book Count To-Date: 18.
Discovered the link under Aaron's name actually led to one of my posts instead of his About page at Unstressed Syllables. Oops! Fixed it.
Or: another one where i betray my general ignorance
Specifically because for someone with an English degree, I am sorely underedumacated in much classic literature and poetry.
Long story short, I--for the first time--have stumbled across Gnothi Seauton** by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and just from one read-through have become convinced that it might be one of the most significant poems ever written.
A few quotes:
"...take this fact unto thy soul,--
God dwells in thee.
It is no metaphor nor parable,
It is unknown to thousands, and to thee;
Yet there is God."
"This is the reason why thou dost recognize
Things now first revealed,
Because in thee resides
The Spirit that lives in all;
And thou canst learn the laws of nature
Because its author is latent in thy breast."
"The gospel has no revelation
Of peace and hope until there is response
From the deep chambers of thy mind thereto,-----
The rest is straw.
It can reveal no truth unknown before."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
in Gnothi Seauton
**gnothi seauton is Greek for "know yourself"
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The following thoughts were inspired by this, which I discovered by way of my new friend Carlos, whom I met through my former-acquaintance-turned-friend Aaron.
And that there, my dearies, is what we call 'networking.' But that's not what I'm writing about in this blopgost. What I'm writing about is communication overload.
How much is too much? How many is too many? Every day, most of us receive at least one electronic message--be it email, text message, or something relating to Facebook--that requires some sort of written follow-up. Some sort of written response. And some of us take an inordinate amount of time to make that necessary (I'm not saying 'required') response.
Why? Why is it so hard to hit 'reply' and type something? Why do we take so long to answer? One message per day isn't a lot, right?
What about 365 messages per year?
Some of you--and here I'm talking to my fellow old folks--will recall the days before email. No, really, such days did exist. They're dim and foggy in my memory, but I swear they really happened. In those days, the riotous heydays of my youth, I received about...oh, let's take a guess on the high side...20 hand- or type-written letters per year that required a hand- or type-written reply. Add to that various greeting cards for holidays and birthday, etc etc, and that number goes up to maybe 50. Maybe. Per year.
So, flash forward (and no, I'm not making a TV reference) to today. If I get one response-required message per day, I'm no longer at 50 per year, I'm at 365.
But I don't get one response-required message per day.
I get an average of 5.
That's 1825 messages per year. And each one requires a response. If I spend only half an hour answering each one, I will spend 38 twenty-four-hour days (24! Count dem! 24 hours! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ahhhhhhh!) out of every year doing nothing but answer messages. That's more than one month per year.
In the inbox of the email account Ed and I use jointly, there are currently 7576 emails. Of these, 667 are unread. I have no idea how many are unanswered. Most times, I feel like closing that account completely and starting from scratch. Except I know that eventually, the new account will look exactly the same, and I'll end up exactly where I am now with all this, which is:
angry with myself
and disappointed in myself, because I know some of those unanswered messages came from people who are disappointed in me for not answering.
I also have this continual, grand plan to answer all the comments I've received on this blog. Haven't been able to get that done, either--and every time I think about it, I feel a painful twinge in the center of my brain.
That twinge is one part irritation and three parts guilt.
At what point is it too much?
I'm so tired of communications-inspired guilt that I'm just tired.
I know 100% for sugar-torting certain I'm not alone in this. How do *you* handle the odious monster guilt blob masquerading as your inbox?
Saturday, March 20, 2010
"Cell" by Stephen King
--story of what would happen if Somebody (terrorists? aliens? kids too smart for their own good--and everybody else's?) hijacked cell phone systems and sent out a signal that drives any listener crazy instantly
--also the story of a father desperate to find his son in the midst of civilization's collapse
--fast-paced, freaky, unnerving
--made me look askance at my cell phone quite a few times
--recommend to King/horror fans
"The Shack" by William P. Young
--story of Mack, whose young daughter is murdered...and four years later, he gets a note from God, inviting him to visit the site of her death for a weekend
--turns the traditional view of God upside down
--questions everything we think we know about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
--MAKES YOU THINK
In my opinion, everyone should read this book. And I mean *everyone*, no matter what your beliefs about God and afterlife and currentlife. This novel dares to address the questions: Why do pain and suffering exist? Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Everyone asks these very valid questions at some point. This book doesn't claim to have all the answers...but it offers a perspective you won't get from the majority of Answerers in this world.
"Watchmen" by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
--graphic novel about what the world would be like if superheroes and their evil counterparts had really existed in different decades during the 20th century
--great art, gripping plot, gruesome bad guys
--lots of complex characterization in this one
I am eagerly anticipating getting my hands on the movie now!
--highly recommend to graphic novel and sci-fi fans
"Blaze" by Richard Bachman
--story of a conman, brain-damaged by an abusive father, who tries one last big caper on his own after his clever partner dies
--heart-rending backstory shows how easy it is for a human being to fall into criminal life if he receives no compassion from others
--delicious hints of the SK-like paranormal throughout
2010 Book Count To-Date: 12.
This book really deserves a full review, but I don't feel like writing one right now. Yes, I'm being mentally and emotionally lazy. So shoot me. ;o) But this book has changed a lot about my thinking and my way of life, so it *will* come up all on its own in future blopgosts. I guar-on-TEE it.
--analysis of contemporary practices and paradigms of non-Catholic churches
--examination of the historical origins of these practices
--sources include secular history, church history, and scripture
The authors question whether or not a church that is run like a business can ever function as the living organism (read: body) God means it to be. Their answer is that it cannot, and I agree with them. They ask a lot of the questions I (and others I know) have been asking for years. Viola and Barna don't claim to know all the answers...but they at least challenge the pat traditional answers that so many of us have been offered for such a very long time.
I appreciate the authors' attitude throughout the book. They are blunt and unafraid to critique what they consider error--but they also caution that no one should feel free to use the information to bludgeon anybody. They encourage truth without fomenting rebellion, and I think that is priceless.
I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. If you're a believer, you'll benefit from some education in church history and from a challenge to your preconceived ideas. If you're not a believer, this book will answer some of the questions you've always had about why churches have maintained (and still maintain) certain questionable practices.
Don't read this if you don't want your beliefs challenged. Don't read this if you don't want to have doubts. Don't read this if you don't want to get out of your comfort zone.
Don't read this if you're afraid to pass a point of no return.
2010 Book Count To-Date: 8.
Monday, March 08, 2010
The kingdom of heaven is not a place.
The kingdom of heaven is the rulership of God.
Entering the kingdom of God, being a citizen of God's kingdom, means giving God control and rulership over your life. This manifests itself primarily in your relationships, which should be characterized by:
This is why being a citizen of the kingdom is the only citizenship that matters.
Being a citizen of the kingdom means having a loving, merciful, compassionate attitude (behavior, speech, thinking) toward others. It means treating others the way God treats them:
with mercy, love, and compassion;
not "playing favorites" between the "good" and the "evil";
sacrificing self for their needs;
and being radical about it.
The church is not the kingdom.
The kingdom is bigger than the church.
The church is the people who have chosen to live in God's rulership.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Yesterday's hype about searching for one's own name in an online dictionary (a practice now known as "urbaning," if you must know) made me get curious to Google my name again. (If you wanna read my other "Courtney" posts, do a search at the top of this page.) For your chuckling pleasure:
1. Courtney is a common given name, derived from an English surname.
2. Courtney is a rock musician and actress. I think we all saw that one coming.
3. Courtney is an award-winning author. YEAH BABY.
4. Courtney custom cycles. She'll cycle however you want, if you pay in her chocolate!
5. Courtney: drop-dead gorgeous. Oh, we are SO into humility these days. ;oD
6. Courtney is the prime example of why you should never do drugs, kids. Take heed, ye foolish, ye hapless and misguided!
7. Courtney: All Rights Reserved. Stop your infringing, and I mean it!
8. Courtney: I'm not a girl. Um. Except when I am.
9. Courtney, just entering the professional arena, is treated as a supercilious young starlet. And she has to look up words to define herself, too.
10. Courtney's house is a non-profit organization. That's for strawberry-torting sure. ;o)
Friday, January 29, 2010
"Under The Dome" by Stephen King
--novel answers the question "What would happen if a transparent, oxygen- and light-permeable, but otherwise impenetrable dome suddenly dropped down over a small town?"
--a lot of dead birds, for one thing
I love how King tells his tale. He uses omniscient narration to describe the grand scale of the event, then pares it down to individual viewpoints--almost like a reporter doing a few human interest stories against the backdrop of a larger disaster.
--BUT: A few times, I thought some of the characters were almost *too* vivid, as though they came close to being caricatures. I loathed the main antagonist, Jim Rennie--but he was almost too easy to hate, if you know what I mean.
--recommend to any King/horror/psychodrama fan
"The Gunslinger Born" and "The Long Road Home" by Stephen King, Peter David, Robin Furth, Jae Lee, and Richard Isanove
--first two in the graphic novel series based on King's Dark Tower
Just to clarify: The term "graphic novel" does not refer to "graphic sex" or "graphic violence." It means a story told basically in comic book form, but longer than a comic book and printed on more durable materials. A novel told through graphics, holla.
--totally fascinating to read/view these after having read King's novels
--GORGEOUS artwork...just paging through these makes my fingers itch to paint
--for King fans: These include tidbits of story we don't see in the original novels!!!
--my one complaint: They didn't draw Rhea ugly or creepy enough. ;o)
--highly recommend to King fans and graphic novel fans
"The Naming--The First Book of Pellinor" by Alison Croggon
--first novel in a fantasy series
--story of Maerad, a girl rescued out of slavery and starting to find that she has magical powers--and the enemy wants to make sure she never gets to use them
--excellent world-building; history, culture, language, arts, it's all there in the background before the story even starts
I keep thinking this is what Lord of the Rings might have been if a woman had written it--which, coming from me, is a compliment. ;o)
--highly recommend to any fantasy fan, especially young adult
In fact, this would be a great novel with which to get a young teen started on the fantasy genre.
"Odd Hours" by Dean Koontz
--fourth novel about Koontz's endearing character Odd Thomas, who sees ghosts and does what he can to help them move on into the afterlife; in this one, the dead (and the living) are helping him avert an impending, wide-spread disaster
I think my favorite part of this novel is the dialogue, especially Odd's dead-pan one-liners.
--a novel without clutter; Koontz keeps it simple without letting it slide into simplistic
--an open end! I see another Odd novel coming. :o)
--highly recommend to fans of paranormal and/or Koontz
"Elantris" by Brandon Sanderson
--Sanderson's first published novel
--fantasy epic, does *not* read like a first novel (I'm jealous.) ;o)
--story of Prince Raoden and his wife-to-be, Sarene, who fight to save their country and their religion from being overrun by a neighboring empire
This novel is proof that solid backstory is essential and can be offered to readers through tantalizing hints that add up to a coherent, fascinating whole.
--comes complete with a tortured, sympathetic antagonist (though I didn't like him at all until he started doubting himself)
--comes complete with incredible visual imagery that would be stunning in film (as in, LOTR stunning)
--convinces me that Sanderson is, indeed, quite capable of finishing out Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series
--recommend to any fantasy fan
"Heart-Shaped Box" by Joe Hill
--another one to make me jealous with a well-crafted first novel ;o)
--story of aging rocker Jude Coyne, who "buys" a ghost online...and then finds himself haunted and struggling for his life
Hill has created a main character I would love to meet--even though I have no doubt that Jude's appearance alone would scare me witless. ;o)
I appreciate and admire Hill for his female characters, who are strong despite (or because of?) their terrible weaknesses.
--contains a tribute to Hill's father, SK, at the end? (a door in the floor...)
--one complaint: I wish Hill had done more with the music. Yes, music plays a vital role in the story--keeping the vengeful ghost at bay--but I feel like Hill took it *almost* as far as it needed to go, but didn't quite get there. I guess I wanted music to be more directly involved with the story's climax.
--recommend to any horror/paranormal fan
2010 Book Count To-Date: 7.
Monday, January 04, 2010
"Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy
I understand why people call this McCarthy's masterpiece.
--gorgeous language, flowing style, highly believable characters
--what I enjoyed in "The Road," I also enjoyed in this novel
--presents a picture of the Old West that I suspect is far more accurate than the shoot-'em-up Westerns we've all become accustomed to courtesy of Louis L'Amour and John Wayne
The mindless, pointless violence of the book's characters made this a tough read for me. When I read a novel, I am THERE with the characters. When the novel is particularly well-crafted, I am not just there, I am IN the characters. But as a woman, I couldn't be in this novel or in any of its characters--because the violence done to every female character in the novel literally made me sick.
On the other hand, "Blood Meridian," like "Lord of the Flies," depicts very well the degeneracy of human beings who have no standards to guide them and no love among them. From that standpoint, the novel serves as an effective warning against letting ourselves careen out of civilization and forget the intrinsic worth of the individual and of humanity as a whole.
--recommend, but ONLY to McCarthy fans or to those with strong stomachs
"Matilda" by Roald Dahl
--story of a genius girl with special powers, fighting against injustice
What's not to like? ;oD
--engaging, charming, witty, and the best of Dahlian morbid
"'V' for Vendetta" by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
--my first graphic novel, I do believe
--another fight against injustice in a dystopian future
--completely fascinating because SPOILER!!!!!!! we never see the hero's face
--vivid characters, both in dialogue and in drawing
The artist in me was itching to learn these drawing techniques. :o)
"The 1977 Annual World's Best SF" edited by Donald A. Wollheim
--collection of sci-fi short stories by Brian Aldiss, John Varley, Michael Coney, Richard Cowper, Lester Del Rey, Isaac Asimov, Barrington Bayley, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., Damon Knight
--fun reads for the most part
--some chauvinistic depictions of women, which thankfully aren't as common to the genre now as they were in the '70s
--recommend to any sci-fi buff
Courtney's Total Count of Read Books for 2008: 46. Sadness! I'm five books short of my total count from 2008. I credit The Great Approximately Six-Week-Long Summer 2009 Reading Hiatus with this abysmally low grand total. I'd like to say I want to do better in 2010--but I'm not sure I have the power to shape that particular aspect of my reality. I might have too much writing to do. We shall see. ;o)
Courtney's Hidden Track of Unfinished Reads for 2009
"Ariel--Poems by Sylvia Plath"
--didn't finish because it got too depressing
--do intend to finish, but a poempiece at a time (instead of consuming it in big chunks the way I was doing)
"Like a Fish Understands a Tree" by Helen Collins
--didn't finish because I lost interest
--feel bad about not finishing, because this is a fellow NaNo-er who got her book published
--published by Paradigm, a consulting agency for disabilities (agency could use more highly skilled editors)
"Strengthening Your Marriage" by Wayne A. Mack
--didn't finish because the content was not new and was not written as well as other marriage books I've read
--don't intend to finish
Courtney's Plumped Count of Read Books for 2008: 49. Dude. ;o)
Sunday, January 03, 2010
...but it's just kinda happening, because I had this thought, and I wanted to record it.
I am sick and tired of not saying what I really think.
I am sick and tired of not saying what I really feel.
I am sick and tired of not saying what I really believe.
I am tired of worrying about what other people will think of me.
Oh, I talk a great game of not caring, not letting others' opinions determine the course of my actions, blah de blah blah blah.
But really, in my secret heart, I want you all to like me.
I hate being the recipient of criticism, disapproval, and--o, the horror--rejection.
If I speak the truth about something, and someone responds by chastising me, my heartrate shoots through the roof, and my desire to make it all okay again shoots through the stratosphere.
This is not a healthy reaction on my part.
I have boundary problems.
And I'm sick and tired of it.
I don't want to be the gutless one.
I don't want to cower when a stronger personality tells me I Have No Right To Say _____________.
I don't want to be afraid anymore.
In the religious denomination I grew up in, I was taught to keep my mouth shut about _____________--because expressing my rock-the-boat opinions might lead another person to trip over something and get hurt.
But what if that something isn't even really there?
What about the other person learning to take responsibility for looking at where they're putting their feet?
What if the thing they need most, in order to learn to walk better, is someone (like me?) who will holler at the top of their (my?) voice about the discrepancies and the dis-integrity?
I've been told that a lot of people in this world look up to me.
If that's true, I don't really know why they do that. I'm a continual screw-up--didn't you know?
And one of the ways in which I screw up is by keeping my mouth shut out of cowardice.
Yes, there is a time and a place for expressing my thoughts/feelings/beliefs about certain things. I need to choose wisely ( --> discern) when and in whose company to verbalize these things.
But if I'm staying quiet simply because I ***fear*** others' reactions...then that right there, O Friends and Neighbors, is Screwing Up In Grand Fashion.
Maybe this was the right blopgost to start the New Year with, after all.