Archive for July, 2010

Weekly Round Up – 07-31-10

General:

In the self-promotion department, Jason Sanford gives a great review of Dark Faith for SF Signal.

Racialicious:

SENATOR JIM WEBB ARUGES AGAINST AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, SAYS IT DOES NOT BENEFIT BLACKS – “In Jim Webb’s latest op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (titled “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege“), he turns the traditional narrative for ending affirmative action on its head. “

MYSPACE AND FACEBOOK: HOW RACIST LANGUAGE FRAMES SOCIAL MEDIA (AND WHY YOU SHOULD CARE) – I’m still not convinced that I should care, but the intersection of social media, race, and class interests me.

Spiritual:

Top church blogs by minority leaders.

Anne Rice has quit Christianity, however, Anne Rice Hasn’t Betrayed You.

Imagine a World 3 – “Imagine a world where the worst of offenders or the least conforming or the most offensive — in other words, sinners — are restored to the table of fellowship.”
Evangelicalism’s Radical Diversity 4 – “Do you think inerrancy is an important term? … Inerrancy believes the Bible is without error. The term has always defined fundamentalism … Yet, Wilkens and Thorsen contend there are three meanings: 1. Absolute inerrancy (Chicago Statement, Carl Henry, JI Packer); 2. Limited inerrancy — where the Bible is true when it comes to matters of faith and practice and salvation (Daniel Fuller). 3. Inerrancy of purpose — where God’s intent with Scripture is what is inerrant. God’s intent is true (Clark Pinnock, Jack Rogers).”

Writing:

The Con Game – J.C. Hay’s blog post on some of the struggles of doing conventions.  Surely no one can relate to this line:  “To be honest, I don’t do the conference thing well. Like a lot of writers, I suffer from terrible Imposter Syndrome when I meet other people who practice my craft. “

Authors Guild Statement on the Wylie Agency’s New Epublishing Venture – “One of last week’s major publishing news items was super-agent Andrew Wylie‘s announcement that he is establishing a brand-new digital publishing venture, Odyssey Editions, to publish his clients’ backlists.” So far, three major publishers have expressed their displeasure with Wylie.

Local:

Please join The Latino/a Youth Collective (LYC) and FIRME on Saturday, July 31, 2010 from 2 – 4 p.m. to celebrate the culmination of Campecine Youth Academy (CYA).  Youth will share their summer experience through film, testimonios and music.  Audience participants will view youth produced Issue-Mations and Varriomentaries on social issues including gender roles, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, sexual identity and more!  Light refreshments will be served.   CYA is a program that trains youth in action research utilizing new media technology.  The program employed 38 youth for 20 hours a week and engaged students in a process called Youth Participatory Action Research, a process that engages young people in (1) identifying a community issue of concern to them, and (2) investigating its causes and potential solutions through the use of advanced media technology and inquiry methods. Youth then use the results for education and community action.   This is a free event open to the public.

Matt Forbeck lets us know a few highlights for GenCon – “The fine folks at Reactor 88 Studios have lined up an afterparty following their big event at Gen Con: Reactor 88 Studios: Behind the Scenes. With luck, we should have a rough-cut of the InSpectres proof-of-concept to show there. In that, you’ll see me in all my gory-zombie goodness.”

The 48 Hour Film Project – The 48 Hour Film Project is a wild and sleepless weekend in which you and a team make a movie — write, shoot, edit and score it — in just 48 hours. On Friday night, you get a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre, all to include in your movie. 48 hours later, the movie must be complete. Then it will show at a local theater, usually in the next week.  The Indianapolis location of the 48 Hour Film Project, produced by Big Car for the second year, returns July 30-Aug. 1. And online registration is now open. Just visit the Indianapolis 48HFP website – http://www.48hourfilm.com/indianapolis – for more information and to reserve your spot in this year’s competition.

Book Club artist reception – already looking ahead to next month’s First Friday.   The Harrison Center and Herron Art Library of the IUPUI University Library are pleased to present Book Club, our third annual book arts exhibit. This year’s exhibit will feature work by Hector del Campo, Bruce Campbell, Gatis Cirulis, Tehniyet Hussain, David Johnson, Ashley Judd, Brooke Merry, Elizabeth Nelson, Katya Reka, Lori Scott, Kevin Steele and Sarah Strong as well as a sampling from the Herron Art Library’s permanent collection. Returning this year to present are Bill and Vicki Stewart of Vamp & Tramp Booksellers, LLC.

Countdown to GenCon

As part of the fiscal reality of being a writer, I can’t always make it to the cons I would like to.  Not that I’m bitter at all about having to have missed Readercon, Necon, and San Diego Comic Con, with no bitterness exacerbated by all of my friends who were at those events tweeting non-stop.  My convention schedule this year has been largely restricted to conventions I can drive to.  I still have a couple of conventions left for the year, including Context, and World Fantasy.  But GenCon’s up next.

It has always struck me as odd that GenCon is off of many writer’s radar when it comes to convention planning.  I’ll have to admit, despite the convention being here in Indianapolis for many years, up until recently, I, too, thought of it as just “the gamer’s convention.”  I had a couple of friends who regularly attended the convention, and I’d meet them to hang out and gradually I got to understand it as much more than a gamers convention.

For a start, part of making a living as a professional writer means being open to (and constantly looking for) all sorts of opportunities.  Video game writing, media tie in work, role-playing game writing, many of these options we might have considered but had no idea how to break into them.  Or begin making the right contacts.  GenCon’s the place.

For writers, there is a huge writers track of programming.  The convention is wall-to-wall panels addressing so many different aspects of writing topics.  Each year I’ve gotten a little bit more involved: from pestering my friends, to hanging out on author’s row, to now being on a couple of panels that week:

Thursday 10:00 a.m. – Plotstorming from Character
Brad Beaulieu, Paul Genesse, Kelly Swails, Maurice Broaddus

Thursday 11:00 a.m. – Writing Support

Elizabeth Vaughan, Jean Rabe, Steven Saus, Maurice Broaddus

Friday 10:00 a.m. – Crafting the Love Scene

Elizabeth Vaughan, Paul Genesse, Linda Baker, Maurice Broaddus*

Friday 11:00 a.m. – Setting is King

Chris Pierson, Paul Genesse, Bob Farnsworth, Gregory Wilson, Maurice Broaddus
Then there’s the people themselves.  For one thing, science fiction and fantasy writers, this is your target audience.**  These are the people buying your wares.

GenCon’s a great little convention guaranteed to entertain, if nothing else, for the sheer spectacle of it all.  And I mean little in the sense of thousands and thousands of people locking up downtown Indianapolis.

*Because when you think of the perfectly crafted love scene, you think Maurice Broaddus

**Don’t get me wrong, by Day 4 of the convention, you’ll be wishing your demographic bathed more often.

Alpha and Omega – A Review

With Hollywood’s recent obsession with slapping 3-D onto everything, we’re past the point of saying that converting any old 2-D movie cheapens the 3-D experience.  It’s already been reduced to little more than a marketing tool.  We still need a crop of movies willing to take the technology, or rather, movie makers willing to use the technology, to regularly add the kind of sense of depth putting the audience more “in” the movie rather than have stuff fly “out” at an audience.  Otherwise, whatever power and promise that came from James Cameron’s Avatar will be relegated to quick cash grabs, a cheap ploy to wring dollars from the most mediocre of movies.   Case in point, Alpha and Omega.

In Jasper Park (Canada) two packs of wolves have one valley to live in.  Each pack has two classes among them:  Alphas (hunters/leaders) and Omegas (fun loving jokesters).  Kate (Hayden Panettiere), the daughter of leader and heir apparent to leadership has her duty to unite the pack bys marrying her counterpart among the eastern pack, Garth (Chris Carmack).  Garth, an otherwise strong, proud, an alpha’s alpha, is prone to howling dysfunction.  Complicating this scenario is Humphrey (Justin Long), an Omega from Kate’s western pack who is desperately in love with Kate.  He and his merry band of Omegas are the main comic relief trying to sustain the movie.  These star-crossed wolves inadvertently get relocated to Idaho and have to get back to Jasper before the whole East Coast/West Coast tensions erupt into something bloody.

Alpha and Omega
didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be.  While it may aim to be this generation’s Lady and the Tramp, it is a jumbled mess which feels likes it drags on well past its fairly short running time.

“All I ask was for you to follow the customs.” –Tony

All of the parents keep citing the “law of the pack” as their raison d’etre for everything.  Their goal to unite the pack might be forced to work under the law, however, it seemed more that they were trapped by the rules that define the pack and needed a new covenant, a new paradigm or way of looking at things.

The Bible is one story with two covenants. The Old Testament (Covenant) was the story of God saving the world through a specific people, the story of the nation of Israel. In Christ, we have the fulfillment of the story. The New Testament (Covenant) was the climax and conclusion, if you will, to that story. Jesus fulfills the story–without undermining the necessity and vitality of the Old Testament–bringing the story to its ultimate end. We are all adopted/grafted into the story of Israel. So what we have is essentially two acts of the same story.

“I am a stickler for tradition, but this one I don’t understand.” –Paddy (Eric Price)

While her father, Winston (Danny Glover) represented the law, through Kate, a child of destiny, a sacrifice on her part is required to unite the pack.  She ends up wounded for their transgressions, which allows them to form a new pack, adopting in all kinds.  The Mosaic laws were about defining a people, a nation. That was their point and their focus. In Christ, we have freedom and equality from class structures.

“Remind us all to have fun.” –Winston

Though earnest, Alpha and Omega has a forced sense of fun and uses a juvenile crassness to cover his flaws.  It’s dull, without any interesting characters or anything approaching very crisp dialogue.  This not compelling, not funny, ode to mediocrity ends up being a more lackluster Barnyard than an attempt at a How to Train Your Dragon.  Filmmakers need to remember that, like any bandwagon or trend, too many bad examples of movies in 3D can kill the industry.

Weekly Round Up – 07/24/10

In the self-promotion department, T.J. McIntyre gives a great review of Dark Faith in his July book reviews.

General:

On Lacking All Conviction – “Taking it all in, it must be said that the landscape is as follows: We have an administration that will contort itself to defend a movement whose convention speakers call for the reinstatement of the tools of segregation. That same administration will swiftly jettison an appointee, herself the victim of homegrown terrorism, for echoing the kind of message of redemption and personal responsibility that has become the president’s hallmark on race.”  Speaking of which, there this A Peak into the Conservative Imagination: Ms. Sherrod’s Speech Was Most Certainly Not About Transcending Racism

Racialicious:

Ninjas Say What? – watch it, thank/yell at me later.

WWII hero Vernon Baker fought fascism over there, racism at home – With the death last week of Medal of Honor recipient Vernon J. Baker, who was 90, the time has come to heed his final commands: You don’t have to remember him as a hero, the retired Army lieutenant told me during a visit to Washington in 1997; just don’t forget the sacrifices made by African American soldiers during World War II.

Black parents … white baby – O genetics can be a fickle beast.

Since I’m in an against the grain mood, here’s an interesting piece on the question Is NAACP blind to Farrakhan & Co.? The Nation of Islam is built on racism and lies

Spiritual:

Super Heroes vs. the Westboro Baptist Church – ftr, if you find yourself on the same side of Fred Phelps, it makes you re-think your place in life.  Luckily, I’m already on record for not having to apologize for the idiots who claim to be on “my team”.

Credit Card Usury and the Christian Response – an interview with Paul Jesep on his book about the call for Christians to engage in stopping Credit Card Usury as a justice issue.

Are Christians Really….? 6 – “When it comes to measures of love and compassion, Christians do well compared to society. They are neighborly, forgiving, and care for the poor. Church attendance increases the numbers for each. But, Christians, esp Evangelicals, don’t do well when it comes to accepting minorities, — racial and sexual — as well as the rest of society.”

Evangelicalism’s Radical Diversity 2 – “What this book shows to me is that evangelicals have done a poor job educating the public and culture what it really believes, and instead have allowed a minority viewpoint to become the defining term. Here are some of their claims:  1. Prior to the 19th Century virtually no Christian thinker believed in the “rapture” theory … 2. Today the majority of Christian in the world do not believe this”

Open Mic: Short-Term Mission Trips – “According to Warren Cole Smith in his book, A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church (full review to come later this weekend), short-term mission trips may be more of a problem than a productive way of doing the work of Christ’s Kingdom.”  I know I’ve already shared some of my issues with mission trips.

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral Step by Step (by T) 2 – “Our questions on Tradition are these:  Who makes up your community? Who are “your people?”  Think along both descriptive and prescriptive lines; what groups, cultures, traditions (in and out of church) actually shape your theology, and who should, or who do you want to shape it?”

Writing:

Jay Lake and Tobias Buckell discuss mid-career advice.  When you first start writing, you ask certain questions and read blogs for certain kinds of information.  As you start covering some serious career ground, you find yourself asking different questions, with less information out there.

Reports of blogging’s death have been greatly exaggerated – how do we know?  Because Cory Doctorow tells us so.  Which is a good thing, cause I put in a lot of time here.

Amazon snags exclusive deal for e-editions – Amazon snags 2-year exclusive deal with Wylie Agency for e-editions of 20th century novels.  On the flip side, here’s What Amazon didn’t say about e-books.
Nathan Bransford gives us the Top 10 Myths About Our E-book Future.

Victoria Strauss tells us about The Importance of Self-Editing.

An interview with Nnedi Okorafor.

Local:

Ceramic Dreams, a Painting Pottery Studio & Gift Gallery Boutique, is celebrating its FIVE-Year Anniversary on Saturday, July 24, 2010 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The celebration is taking place at the “54th & Monon Shops” (1134 E. 54th St., Studio G) with FREE hot dogs, FREE anniversary cake, FREE giveaways, specials on painting pottery, specials on glass fusing, and sales in the gift shop.

Ethnic restaurants serve up a world of flavor – A great article on the 38th street corridor’s world flavors.  Hope the photo gallery doesn’t make you too hungry.

Matt Forbeck lets us know a few highlights for GenCon – “The fine folks at Reactor 88 Studios have lined up an afterparty following their big event at Gen Con: Reactor 88 Studios: Behind the Scenes. With luck, we should have a rough-cut of the InSpectres proof-of-concept to show there. In that, you’ll see me in all my gory-zombie goodness.”

The 48 Hour Film Project – The 48 Hour Film Project is a wild and sleepless weekend in which you and a team make a movie — write, shoot, edit and score it — in just 48 hours. On Friday night, you get a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre, all to include in your movie. 48 hours later, the movie must be complete. Then it will show at a local theater, usually in the next week.  The Indianapolis location of the 48 Hour Film Project, produced by Big Car for the second year, returns July 30-Aug. 1. And online registration is now open. Just visit the Indianapolis 48HFP website – http://www.48hourfilm.com/indianapolis – for more information and to reserve your spot in this year’s competition.

Book Club artist reception – already looking ahead to next month’s First Friday.   The Harrison Center and Herron Art Library of the IUPUI University Library are pleased to present Book Club, our third annual book arts exhibit. This year’s exhibit will feature work by Hector del Campo, Bruce Campbell, Gatis Cirulis, Tehniyet Hussain, David Johnson, Ashley Judd, Brooke Merry, Elizabeth Nelson, Katya Reka, Lori Scott, Kevin Steele and Sarah Strong as well as a sampling from the Herron Art Library’s permanent collection. Returning this year to present are Bill and Vicki Stewart of Vamp & Tramp Booksellers, LLC.

The PC Challenges of Being an Editor

So even as I neglect my own blog for the next week or so as I write furiously on my novel, I find myself finding a new way to procrastinate by making time to blog for Jeff.   Here’s the opening bit:

Not too long ago there was a bit of a dust up regarding the anti-racist, anti-fascist anthology Never Again, put together by a couple of U.K. editors.  [Technically, I do have dual citizenship (which only is a problem come World Cup time when England plays the U.S.).  And “editor” is one of the hats I wear (along with “writer” and “person of color”), so let’s see what kind of trouble I can get into.]  As with most internet dustups, I simply made some popcorn, watch the ever-so-polite drama unfold and then went about my business.  However, in discussing why there were no people of color, one of the editors made this remark:   “Would you have preferred us to target and include writers on the basis of their skin colour, not their writing?”

Make with the clicky-clicky to read the whole thing.

Burning Out

“And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel; They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks, discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!” –Psalms 84:5-6

Last week I had two very interesting experiences at the churches I attend.  (To play quick catch up, we attend two churches:  Common Ground on Sunday mornings, a place where we can just go and be “anonymous”; and The Crossing on Sunday evenings, where we call our church home.)  The week before, the assistant pastor of The Crossing gave a “sermon” which was basically a confession that neither he nor the head pastor was in a good place, people really irritated them, they had nothing to offer, and that he essentially drew the short straw to have to speak at all.  The community rallied around them to pray for them and figure out ways to better support them.  The following Sunday at Common Ground, the pastor confessed that he had “no word” for the people.  Yeah, he had studied and prepared something, but it felt like empty words and he didn’t want to have to perform for people.

It’s hard for anyone to be transparent.  To fully be who they are, faults and foibles out for public display and consumption.  Party because we don’t want to risk appearing like we don’t have our act together and partly because we know that people aren’t fully comfortable dealing with or accepting people in their rawness.  It’s especially hard for pastors, a path fraught with greater trepidation as that would mean they would have to live against people’s ideas of how pastors are supposed to be.  They are pressed into a place as performer/ear tickler, administrator, care taker, teacher, with all those gifts in  equal measurement.  I’ve known some great teachers who are lousy care takers and great care takers who are lousy administrators, none of whom are given permission to be transparent and admit that they can’t do what people expect them to.

Back to the two pastors, both were able to be who they are—free to be broken, free to be real, free to be honest—because they trusted the communities they were a part of (and helped shape).  They were able to let go of that sense of control and let go of other people’s ideas of how they should be.  As pastors, or simply as people of God, there is a tacit pressure to having to appear fixed and perfect, only admitting to “safe” sins, like pride (or maybe anger or maybe slander/gossip … anything you know that just about everyone struggles with).

Do you know that there is about a two year burnout rate on most ministry workers?  Pastors, volunteers, any full time laborer, they have the heart of wanting to pour themselves into people, but rarely take into account how much ministry drains the “soul’s battery”.  It’s a high wire act with no net, putting ministry above everything else.  I know I’ve been in that place of burnout before, emotionally drained, physically running on fumes, spiritually exhausted, because I didn’t take the time to allow myself to recharge.  Pride plays a part in this, as we think we’re the only ones who can do the work, just as we also feel guilty when we’re not “doing”.  Either way, we get so busy putting out fires that no one’s doing any fire prevention.  We get so down, so wiped out, that we have nothing left for others.  Nor did others come around, surround, support and protect (because we all know the rule that 20% of the people do 80% of the work, yet we seem pretty content to ride those servant leaders til they burnout).  So we end up pushing ourselves beyond our limits, operating out of our own woundedness, until it catches up with you.

Church is supposed to be a safe place, an unusual community of people—In their glory and their ugliness—an expression of the authentic movement of God and love.  When it stops being a safe place, people leave.  So my question becomes how do you love someone through burnout (and in turn, how does someone allow themselves to be loved through burnout)?  I have no answer, because it’s a delicate, interconnected dance.

Being transparent. Back to my two pastors, their authenticity allowed their respective communities to do their job.  After all, we’re called to submit to one another despite our (American) top-down business model we apply to church leadership.  The community ministers to one another:  community to pastor as well as pastor to community, aching for one another during times of hurt.

Being in authentic relationship. It’s easy to do the Christian thing or, for that matter, the pastor thing.  It’s easy to go through the motions and put on the right airs and behaviors and not allow anyone to push in on your life.  It’s easy to fall into the lie/trap that you have to go through this alone.  That we’re meant to be these lone wolf super heroes, individuals who are defined by their ability to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.  Yet the reality is that we are relational creatures and sometimes we need the power of relationship to carry us through dark times.   Sometimes this means surrounding yourself with people who can speak into your life and love you enough to push back on you when you are living out of balance.  And we can’t just wait for the invitation to walk alongside someone, but rather be emboldened to “enter into their cave.”  Some relationships are not only worth staying with but become forged by folks walking alongside one another even when you don’t know where you’re going.

Being a good listener. Sometimes we just need to vent.  Sometimes we just need to feel heard.  Sometimes we don’t need people trying to fix us.  Not pulling the “God” thing (aka, throw a verse or a platitude at us).  We just need a good listening ears, people to just sit in silence with us.  Not giving us unasked for advice.  At the same time, we need to have ears that hear, because sometimes our friends DO have words for us and can speak into our lives in special ways because they do both know and love us.

Being people of thanksgiving. Because we are naturally people of short memories and notoriously unappreciative, we tend to dwell in the weeds of life rather than rejoice in the good.  What I’m talking about isn’t simply a matter of painting a happy face on things, but rather living out our gratefulness in a real way.  Creating our own “stones of remembrance” from where we are able to recount the goodness of God and how He has carried us through in the past.

We may often find ourselves in a spiritual desert. It’s a trap we fall into as we try to do things on our own strength and efforts.  We don’t often enough leave room to draw our strength and energy from Him, to take refuge in His presence and minister from that place.  While we long for the days of refreshment, we need to also be continuing to recharge our “soul batteries”.  We live in hope.

“God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!”  –Psalm 84:7

To Tour or not to Tour

me: I think I may write about how much of a book tour is living out the “writer’s life fantasy” vs how much of it is effective marketing.
Elvis: How about “how much of the book tour is not going from tv show to tv show and 4 star hotel to 4 star hotel, but instead is driving a lot of interstate miles to sit at a table in a bookstore and watch people go stampeding past you to look for the new Twilight novel”

Sometimes in our pursuit of publication, we fall in love with parts of our dreams.  We develop these romantic notions of what the writing life is like.  Imagine ourselves writing in a coffee shop, sipping our chai while writing the Great American Novel.  We dream of getting an agent, getting a big book deal. We dream of book tours and signings with lines going out the door; of setting up tables with banners, stacks of our books, and a special pen to sign with.  We dream of advances and royalties large enough to live on (if not necessarily of Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or James Patterson proportions).

Sometimes we short circuit the dream, accepting counterfeits that allow us to go through the motions of the dream (falling for vanity presses or being poorly published) or don’t fully think through aspects of the dream.  Right now, my big issue is whether or not to tour.

Keep in mind, the first thing I have to do is justify to my wife and kids why they will be without me more.  After all, they’ve had to deal with my absence while writing the book.  Once I typed “the end” they expected to have their husband and father back.  Now I have to look them in the eyes and say “I’ll be back.  I just need to jaunt around the country to promote the book.”  And when I’m done, I will sit down and begin a new book, with a new round of absence.  So in this age of author web sites, platforms, social media, Second Life, and all manner of e-industry, is a book tour actually necessary?

I’ll fully admit, I am quite cognizant of the fact that as a newbie author, if I announce a signing, most folks aren’t going to know who I am.  I know the reality of such signings is that I will be sitting behind a table with a stack of unsold books and a stupid, yet welcoming, grin on my face.  And I can’t just whip out my notepad and begin writing my next novel, because I have to be constantly making nice nice with folks.  My dream cognizance also factors in my book envy should I be sitting next to Gary Braunbeck and Lucy Snyder, watching their long line of admirers while I twiddle my thumbs.

Seriously, this is what I think about.

So, what would I accomplish on my imaginary tour?  Unless I sell dozens of copies per event, I’m not going to make much back in terms of my royalty to cover my gas or time, much less being able to get something to eat afterwards.  On the actual productive side of things, I would sign available stock and treat the bookstore employees like the precious commodities they are.  They will be the ones doing the selling and (re-)ordering of my books.

When all is said and done, I’ll probably take it easy, as in, I’m not going to live out of my car for three months traveling up and down the coast.  I will make a few appearances in my local book stores to do readings and signings.  Ditto when I go to conventions and I may mix in hitting a few local spots while I’m there; maybe even work in a couple stops with family vacations.  I’m just not convinced that full blown book tours are worth the effort.  What do you think?

Weekly Round Up – 07/17/10

In the self-promotion department, Kelli Dunlap doles out some love to her friends:  “Maurice Broaddus. Mo. I love the hell out of him, and want to slap him on a regular basis. His blog is poignant and/or professional, depending on the mood and whether or not he’s been to church in the last 24 hours. Sometimes, he forgets the internet is forever and goes a little deeper than he should. But we love him for it anyway. This one will make you think, no matter who you are, where you’re at, and should be read, loved and shared. Addicted to (Self-)Love.

General:

The Twilight Saga:  Eclipse – with LOLcats.  Do I need to say more?

How to keep someone with you forever – if you’ve ever been trapped in a bad relationship, a bad work situation, or a bad church, this blog breaks it down for you.  I also like the follow up post, Qualities That Keep You in a Sick System

Running a Successful Social Media Campaign – “There are many possible characteristics that can contribute to the success of your campaign. When you are involved with social media marketing for your business, you are creating a buzz about your offerings and more and more people will want to buy what you are selling.”

Mel Gibson’s mainstream Hollywood career is over — for real, this time – seriously, for real.

Racialicious:

Black Power’s Gonna Get You Sucka: Right-Wing Paranoia and the Rhetoric of Modern Racism – if this isn’t the blog post of the year when it comes to the language of race rhetoric, I don’t know what is.

Does Aaron McGruder Hate Black Women?–“The Lovely Ebony Brown,” Boondocks Season 3 Episode Reviewed – “Are the tensions that great, and the divides so huge, between black men and black women? As one of my colleagues emotionally and instinctively interjects when we try to have a reasonable conversation about black professional women and their marriage prospects, “are black women in fact mules?” Are they really that unloved, unwanted, and the least desirable of all women in American society?”

Spiritual:

Jerry is Groovy – “Brett McCracken, in his new and informative book, Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide , studies just this issue: how do we make Jesus hip and we make Christianity hip. It’s all about being relevant. No one wants the gospel to be irrelevant, and everyone wants Jesus to speak to our generation, so the tendency and the temptation is to sacrifice the real Jesus on the altar of relevance.”

The Miracles of Creation? – “No matter how we look at it the question of miracles is a key one as we consider faith, worldview and science. Certainly I have been asked many times on this blog how I can dismiss a miraculous creation (I don’t – but we’ll get to that), yet accept (apparently arbitrarily) the miracles performed by Jesus and, of course, the resurrection. Isn’t it all or nothing?  How can we pick and choose?”

Writing:

Show Me the (Urban Fantasy) Money – Damien G. Walter is looking for the best examples of Urban Fantasy.  If you’re unsure what Urban Fantasy is, Laura Anne Gilman gives you a primer on it.

Why I write: Laird Barron – I guess it would be unseemly for him to just say “I write to make the rest of you would be writers realize that you shouldn’t bother picking up pens and sullying blank pages with them.”

When Nalo Hopkinson starts breaking down story, drop what you’re doing and pay attention.

This.  Realms of Fantasy: Full Of Some Whitewashing You Don’t Care To Read About.

Harlan Ellison and Prince flee the internet, which somehow survives without them – Jason Sanford makes some great observations about the ability of artists to control their image in the Internet age.

The virtue of slowness – Jay Lake isn’t bragging about how fast he writes.  Still, if we band together, maybe our collective powers of jealousy will slow him down since he finds slowing down so helpful.

Living on a Writer’s Salary – 5 Money Tips for Writers – the first tip should be “marry someone rich or at least who has benefits.”

The 2009 Shirley Jackson Awards winners have been announced! This list pretty much forms my must-read list for the year.

Speaking of reading, go read Nate Southard’s That’s All Right (free fiction!).  And then go order Gary Braunbeck’s To Each Their Darkness (not free non-fiction, but if you order, it comes with free stuff).

Alethea Kontis, author, editor, and Princess, has a new book in stores today. Alpha Oops: H is for Halloween is a follow-up to her successful Alpha Oops. Like the previous volume, it is wonderfully illustrated by Bob Kolar.  You can read the Big Idea behind this book on John Scalzi’s Whatever.

Apex has *finally* merged it’s online store with the main site. You can find the store here.  Additionally, they now have a digital product delivery system, meaning they can sell eBooks via their shop. The price is $2.99. You can find links to their eBooks here. Finally, they’re having a store wide sale to promote the unveiling of the new store. You just need to enter NEWSTORE40 to receive 40% off your entire order (not good on pre-orders or merchandise).  Be sure to pick up your copies of Dark Faith.

Local:

Tomorrow’s the last day of the Indianapolis Black Expo with the IBE Praise & Worship Service Featuring Gospel Explosion at the Convention Center.  Hosted by United Kingdom Christian Church.  Special Guest Preacher: Bishop Eddie Long.  Special appearance by Donna Richardson-Joyner, Body Gospel Premiere.  Musical Performances: Trent Cory, Brian Courtney Wilson, Dr. Judith Christie McCalister, Malcom Williams, Lamar Campbell, Rodney Bryant, Nikki Fox from Kirk Franklin’s group, and a 200-voice Mass Choir. Time: Church Service 10:00 AM-12:00 PM Gospel Explosion Performances 12:00 PM-3:00 PM Cost: Free – doors open only from 8 AM-11 AM

Parking Lots and Empty lots and generic pharmacies… – a wonderful blog on the architecture and historical buildings around Indianapolis.

Ceramic Dreams, a Painting Pottery Studio & Gift Gallery Boutique, is celebrating its FIVE-Year Anniversary on Saturday, July 24, 2010 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The celebration is taking place at the “54th & Monon Shops” (1134 E. 54th St., Studio G) with FREE hot dogs, FREE anniversary cake, FREE giveaways, specials on painting pottery, specials on glass fusing, and sales in the gift shop.

The 48 Hour Film Project – The 48 Hour Film Project is a wild and sleepless weekend in which you and a team make a movie — write, shoot, edit and score it — in just 48 hours. On Friday night, you get a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre, all to include in your movie. 48 hours later, the movie must be complete. Then it will show at a local theater, usually in the next week.  The Indianapolis location of the 48 Hour Film Project, produced by Big Car for the second year, returns July 30-Aug. 1. And online registration is now open. Just visit the Indianapolis 48HFP website – http://www.48hourfilm.com/indianapolis – for more information and to reserve your spot in this year’s competition.

Book Club artist reception – already looking ahead to next month’s First Friday.   The Harrison Center and Herron Art Library of the IUPUI University Library are pleased to present Book Club, our third annual book arts exhibit. This year’s exhibit will feature work by Hector del Campo, Bruce Campbell, Gatis Cirulis, Tehniyet Hussain, David Johnson, Ashley Judd, Brooke Merry, Elizabeth Nelson, Katya Reka, Lori Scott, Kevin Steele and Sarah Strong as well as a sampling from the Herron Art Library’s permanent collection. Returning this year to present are Bill and Vicki Stewart of Vamp & Tramp Booksellers, LLC.


Inception – A Review

“Welcome Home”

The first time I tried to watch the movie Memento, it was late at night, I made it ten minutes into the movie, and I realized that I wasn’t awake enough to take it in.  The second time I watched the movie and loved it, though it took me a day to fully appreciate it as I chewed on it for quite a while.  The third time I watched the movie with a group of friends.  When the movie was done, the room was pin drop silent … until a lone voice piped up with “can someone explain to me what just happened?”

Inception is a high concept science fiction Memento with a $200M dollar budget.

Writer and director Christopher Nolan once again chooses to cleanse his creative palate, following up his latest entry in the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight, with a movie of considerable originality and sophistication.  Always a risky gamble in today’s Hollywood, especially when employing stars not as guaranteed to generate box office as they used to be.

At its heart, Inception is essentially a heist picture.  In this case, it’s corporate espionage led by Dom Cobb (DiCaprio), an “extractor” paid to invade people’s dreams in order to steal the ultimate intellectual properties:  their top-secret ideas. Cobb, being the best in his field, finds his job increasingly difficult as his is haunted by the memory of his late wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), who tends to pop up at the least convenient moments to shatter the dreamscape con jobs he has going on.

Because there’s “always one more job” in a heist movie, the actual plot of the movie involves wealthy businessman, Saito (Ken Watanabe), hiring Cobb and his crew to plant an idea rather than steal one—thus the title “inception”—that will lead to the break of his soon to be rival, Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy).

The movie isn’t flawless.  Because of the cerebral demands the movie places on the viewer, it spends nearly the first hour explaining the rules of the movie.  Because they have to explain what you’re going to see and the dialogue moves like stilted exposition.  Everything from how the dream sharing technology was originally designed for military application to how the more you change things, the more the mind (subconscious) converges on you to “dream time” vs “real time”.  Between the dreams within dream scenario and nested storylines, there is a lot to keep track of in this movie (at one point, four parallel stories).  The thing about fully imagined worlds is that they better pay off:  rules have to be applied consistently and logically dictate what has to happen. To be fair, you need the thorough grounding to navigate this world.

“You keep telling yourself what you know, but what do you believe?” –Mal

Inception explores a common theme of many of Christopher Nolan movies from The Prestige to Memento, the question of “What is real?”.  That there is a truth, an objectivity, and we want/need to get back to it.  Like most of Nolan’s movies, Inception is ultimately a character study following Cobb’s journey of guilt and letting go.

“I’ve come back for you to remind you of something you once knew.  That this world is not real … to take a leap of faith.”

There is an ever present danger for the characters that create and enter dreams:  once they experience it, reality won’t be enough for them.  It becomes easy to lose ones grasp on what’s real and what’s a dream.  And there is a great desire to want to live inside of the dream, a false self or sense of reality.  The characters can sense that things aren’t as they should be, that creation, the world around them and the people that inhabit it, aren’t as they should be. That they were created to be something else, yet somewhere along the line, things had gone awry.  They even carry small totems to help ground them in reality.  It’s little different than our situation.

“Do you want to take a leap of faith or become an old man filled with regret?” –Saito

An idea is like a virus, resilient and infectious.  A bad idea entered us:  to be our own dreams and dream makers; to build a world for ourselves.   Transformed us, our way of life, our way of prioritizing what is important, our ways of thinking and going about life.  The dream may change everything about them, become viral, spreads, invading our very systems, imbued into the very fabric of our social structures.  Nothing around us remained untouched by it.  Like Mal, we become locked in a dream, become stuck; locked in regrets, knowing that things need to change, but not knowing how.  Trapped, unable to change “that moment” (whatever regret that is), locking ourselves in prisons.  Lost, not knowing what’s real, yet thinking we’re certain.  Until all we’re left with is rage, fear, and insatiable desire seeking to be quenched which only eventuates in a spiral of death.

“I think I found a way home.” –Cobb

There is a hope for a cure for that way of life.  Truth is that idea that caused you to question.  A truth, like Mal, we’d once known but chose to forget.  Dreams always need an architect, someone who designs the dream.  Christ is the Liberator with a mission of liberation, to free us from the bonds of this world and its systems.  Possessed by one simple idea that changed everything, the good news is about accepting freedom and finding your true self.  Getting back to the real reality, it took forgiveness, embracing the freedom of leaving guilt and shame behind, before redemption could be found.  It was the only way Cobb could finally find his way home.

“We all yearn for reconciliation.” –Cobb

An ambitious, surreal thriller, Inception is loaded so full of ideas and dizzying special effects that it is a cinematic achievement of rare breed.  Filmed in so many different countries, it may remind some of a Bond movie (especially one particular ski sequence).  Though there are moments that could spark some “ending of Total Recall”-type arguments, Nolan doesn’t abandon his viewers and keeps it from descending into a heady mess.  The top-notch cast brings their A-game, making the movie both technically brilliant and emotionally human.  In short, Inception equals wow.  And your brain may hurt for a while afterwards.

Inhabiting the Space of Our Characters

I’m preoccupied and processing what might be a chicken and the egg thing:  do I write stories because of the things I am thinking about or am I thinking about this stuff because of the stories I’m writing.  I’ve mentioned (not TOO defensively, mind you) before how my blog IS a writer’s blog because it’s the blog of a writer, mostly just the thoughts of a writer more than “how to” tips from one.

I think the best writing comes from a certain emotional place; an emotional core or emotional honesty.   It’s what we imbue our characters with and what adds resonance to our stories.  So what I’m writing about here is what I’m typically working through in a story or project.  Or vice versa:  what I’m processing through emotionally is what makes a story.  Besides having to put up with our moods, the emotional frisson of creation, there is the schizophrenic aspect of life with a writer.  It’s bad enough that we spend so many hours jumping in and out of characters heads, lives, and points of view.

This is just something I’m once again fully realizing with my blogs and the topics I’m thinking about.  Let’s see, issues of poverty, addictions, homelessness, shame, broken relationships, being stuck, and relationships with God.  Right now I’m going back and forth between projects.  I’m helping out on a coffeetable book project for Outreach Inc; a collaborative project with Jason Sizemore about a dystopian future; a postapocalyptic novel with Wrath James White (thinking through the nature of God:  the god we construct in our mind and theologies vs. the God we experience and who defies our imagination and expectations); and the third novel in my Knights of Breton Court series, King’s War (writing about the despair and hopelessness of broken relationships and characters as they trying to find redemption and return to their mission).

This is all a part of writing what you know.  We read and write in part because we are relational beings moved by feeling.  We respond, in part, to the emotions of a story (you want to argue that it’s not a part of the draw to the Twilight series?).  I may not know exactly what a dystopian future may look like, but I do know my own emotions, what I’m working through, my history, and my story.  This is what makes your characters real and that’s what your readers connect with.  It doesn’t matter who you are, we all experience the same things. We experience joy, pain, longing, sadness, self-hate, self-love, jealousy, anger and so on. It’s our humanity, our common experience, that connects us.