Archive for December, 2010

Writing Goals 2011

As the end of the year draws near, now’s a great opportunity to take stock of the year that was even as we look ahead to the new year. I’m a goal oriented person and as a function of trying to remain hungry and ambitious (since I know if I don’t stay that way, I won’t make any forward progress in my career as a writer), I like to set goals. I prefer to set goals rather than make resolutions. Resolutions are cheap promises that I’m prone to breaking at my earliest convenience. Goals are something to work toward.

Your goals should be measurable, meaningful, and attainable.  I don’t set benchmarks like “write X hours per day” because that’s not the way I write.  But I do measure myself by number of completed projects.  And because this is the internet, my goals for last year will remain forever.  So let’s see how well I did:

So my goals for next year? I need to do any revisions required for King Maker and King’s Justice as well as write King’s War. Currently, I have eight stories out and about searching for homes. I’d like to write a half dozen more. I have other novels I hope to write (one a collaboration, one an expansion on a short story). I’d still like to revise that screenplay. I have two novellas percolating in the back of my head). And I’d like to make a comic book pitch.

On the Complete Fail side of the ledger, I blew working on the screenplay, novellas, comic book pitch, and novelization of my short story.  And I fell short of my goal of a half dozen new short stories having completed only three, though one has already sold:  I Can Transform You (co-written with Jason Sizemore), The Cracker Trap, In Receipt of Fern Seed, The Problem of Trystan (sold to the anthology Hot and Steamy:  Tales of Steampunk Romance).

I try to keep a dozen short stories “out there” in search of homes.  Currently I’m at ten.

I also am not a slave to my goals.  It’s best to always allow for the unexpected and have the flexibility to grab opportunities when they come up.  Thus the ghost writing projects that I completed as well as work on the Leverage RPG.

For 2011, I want to challenge myself a little more to continue to capitalize on whatever career momentum I may be experiencing. I’m not the most disciplined of writers, so without realistic goals, I’d probably sit around and do nothing but blog and play being a writer on the Internet. So I plan to write half a dozen short stories, write my creative non-fiction take on the book of Hosea (co-written with Danny Carroll), write a book on urban ministry (with Bob Schultz), write a postapocalyptic novel (with Wrath James White), and finish Pimp My Airship:  The Novel.

I don’t include stories I take off the shelf, dust off, and attempt to breathe new life into or blogging/reviews in my goal list.  Those things just happen as I get inspired and typically happen when I’m taking breaks from other projects.  I also want to read more.  I may have only read seven books this year, and all of those were research for stories.

We make our own luck by being prepared when opportunities arise.  And writers finish things.  It’s the only way to reach our goals.

In short, my goal for 2011:  Plant ass in chair and write.

Some of my Highlight Blogs of 2010

By way of explaining my lack of blogs of late, I tend to take a blog sabbatical this time of year and pick up sometime in January.  But I do have a tradition of compiling a list of blogs you may have missed during the year.  Not including reviews which garner a good chunk of traffic (such as Legend of the Guardian, Inception, Wolverine and the X-Men, and House M.D.  (Part I and Part II)), here are either my favorites or the ones which get the most traffic:

Shame On Us – weirdly enough, other than a few review blogs, this was the most read and most landed on blog of mine.

Road to Mo*Con VI – my single highest read blog.  And I was just announcing one of the topics of conversation for next year’s Mo*Con.

After a stint of vagabond spiritualitysermon exhaustion, and church shopping (part I and part II), the Broaddus family settled on a new church home.  Right out the box I wrote Our Church Stinks and My Pastor Irritates the Crap Out of Me (which the church leadership absolutely loved).

Why do you people still need all that Black Stuff – I try to avoid getting sucked into discussions going on on the internet, but sometimes I just can’t resist commenting.

PC Challenges of being an Editor – it’s really not that hard to have an inclusive, diverse looking Table of Contents when putting together an anthology.

The Artist and the Church – finding our way as artists with our love/hate relationship with (and from) the church.

What would Republican Jesus Do – this is me not wading into political discussions…

On the writing career front, we have The 40 Year Old Virgin (Writer), The Crossroads, and A Time for Career Selfishness.

There were a few blogs on poverty, which has inspired a project I’m working on:  A Day of Day Street with Outreach Inc (part I and part II), This is not a Soup Kitchen, Helping the Homeless, and Poor People are Not Grateful.

The Seduction and Toxicity of Victimhood.  AND The Private Lives of Writers and the Blurred Lines of Ministry.

Superman for All Seasons – A Review

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artists: Tim Sale

Publisher: DC

Superman for All Seasons takes us back to a different age, the Smallville world of Midwest values and sensibilities.  The book is filled with a sense of nostalgia that’s both tender and poignant, carrying a real emotional punch.  This is the hallmark of Loeb and Sale, evoking the humanity of their characters in books like Daredevil: Yellow, Spider-Man: Blue, and Hulk: Gray.

“It’s not nearly as hard as learning you have limitations as it is learning how to work with  them.” –Pa Kent

Each character in their own way reflect the idea of what it must be like for Superman to come to terms with who he is and why he does what he does.  Inadvertently, they speak as much about their  own woundedness and expectations—how they see him, see themselves, measure themselves against him—as they do him.

“You may be able to do things nobody else can do but that doesn’t make it any less hard to be who you want to be.” –Lana Lang

And, “super” or not, Superman/Clark Kent struggles with the very essence of his humanity:

-he looks for a place to belong, to call home

-he struggles with loneliness

-he bears the unspoken weight of never being able to do enough and be an example for everyone

“Being the most powerful man in the world means nothing if you are all alone.” –Lex Luthor

To draw Biblical allusions, I’m reminded of the concept known as “the Messianic Consciousness.”  Not all scholars believe this theory, but the principle works like this: Jesus gradually grew into his knowledge and role as the Messiah. The same idea is at work here.  Not only do we see Clark Kent coming to terms with his body and powers, and the responsibility of being different/having special gifts; but we also see him wrestle with what he is to do with those gifts.  The burden of the fact that being multi-gifted means that we are that much more obligated to use those gifts.  To whom more is given, more is expected.

“These are choices each of us makes, not only to do good, but to inspire good in others.” –Lana Lang

Superman for All Seasons is not filled with the typical action slam bam that fills many superhero comics.  Tim Sale’s art captures the essence of Superman, both his humanity and the icon.  The story is told in seasons, each season representing a character’s point of view:  Pa Kent (Spring), Lois Lane (Summer), Lex Luthor (Fall), and Lana Lang (Winter).  If Lori Lemaris had narrated spring, we’d have completed the L.L. initialed associates of Superman theme.  But Superman for All Seasons has always had the feel of a special book.   One that should be appreciated for its simple yet profound storytelling and its elegant art.

Freedom Fighters #3 – A Review

“American Nightmare Part Three”

Written by JIMMY PALMIOTTI & JUSTIN GRAY
Art by TRAVIS MOORE & TREVOR SCOTT
Cover by DAVE JOHNSON

Published by DC Comics

Price: $2.99

Previously:  The vice president has been kidnapped.  In exchange for her liberty, the Freedom Fighters have been dispatched to gather a number of artifacts said to be part of a doomsday weapon built by the Confederacy during the Civil War.  The first artifact was located in Devil’s Tower, which also happened to house four ancient elemental demons called the Renegades.  Having accidentally released the Renegades, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters fought to contain the demons.  Not only did they fail, but they also paid a terrible price.

I remember loving the All Star Squadron when I was a wee lad and that’s the book I couldn’t help thinking of as I read Freedom Fighters.  But I read All Star Squadron from the beginning and couldn’t imagine what it would be like to drop into the middle of the book, into a sprawling cast of characters I was unfamiliar with, and try to navigate through the story.

The big problem with the Freedom Fighters is that as characters, the reader can’t tell them apart.  They might as well all be wearing the same scanty wardrobe, because they have little to distinguish their personalities.  What’s worse, none of them seem especially likeable.  With all of the griping and jerkiness displayed, one could easily use words rhyming with “sassbowls” and “richy” to describe them.  Although, it’s easy to imagine that on teams of super powered individuals, most of the people might not be graduates of Miss Manner and may not know how to play well with others.  They tend to need a large personality/model to keep them in line (Superman, Captain America, and apparently Uncle Sam, who is absent in this issue).  It also could be that the writers haven’t found their stride with the characters.  The characters haven’t been fleshed out enough to have achieved their individual voices.

On the plus side, this issue was the opposite extreme of an in-between issue.  There was a lot going on:  the elemental rampage, the loss of Uncle Sam, the team regrouping, conspiracy theories abounding, and a new villain introduced.  With so many moving parts and new subplots, it’s easy to see how some things slipped through the cracks.  Like the Human Bomb being mentioned as missing then suddenly being there (someone needs to No-Prize that).  Also, some teamwork would have been nice, since this team is supposed to be established.  Also, one member dispatches the Renegades single-handed with her basic power that she somehow didn’t think to use.

“I’m starting to think we’re in over our heads.” –Human Bomb

The only thing that stuck out was the idea of conspiracy theories to explain away seemingly disconnected events.  We have made idols of safety and control in our lives.  We seek a context of understanding for that which makes no sense. A lot of what horror attempts to do is make sense of evil. Evil is irrational and uncontrollable; true acts of evil are so irrational that conspiracy theories make sense.   We don’t like the feeling of helplessness that life often leaves us.

Freedom Fighters has problems with its pacing at turns being scattershot in its action and direction, and like a Michael Bay movie, not allowing a scene to play out before cutting to the next. The team dynamics still need to be figured out and the people behind the masks need to be revealed (as we learn nothing about them from their lame quips and clichés.  It’s a book still in its design phase, probably given birth a little prematurely.

Flash #6 – A Review

Written by:  Geoff Johns

Art by:  Francis Manapul

Published by:  DC Comics

Price:  $2.99

Fact #1:  My introduction to the Flash came with the post-Crisis on Infinite Earth, Mike Baron and Jackson Guice’s Wally West variety.  I became an even a bigger fan of Mark Waid’s defining run.  So I was never much of a Barry Allen guy.

Fact #2:  Geoff Johns is the DC equivalent of Marvel’s Brian Michael Bendis.  The publisher’s defining voice, who seems to have his hand in everything, and like the aforementioned Mark Waid (or Kurt Busiek for that matter), can deliver the classic super hero tale, infusing them with the essence of what we love about super HEROES.

With those two facts in mind, the dialogue and action sequences flow nicely together in this issue.  We get a real sense of fluid movement without rows of talking heads filling us in on the plot.  Every time I randomly pick up an issue of the Flash, he seems to be up against a variation of his rogues gallery.  They always felt kind of like it takes six lame villains to create a legitimate threat.  On the whole, Johns handles the time travel elements adeptly (Fact #3:  I’m always leery of time travel stories because we’re usually left with plot holes one could park motor homes in by the end) and almost succeeds in making us believe the Tops convoluted motivations and plan.  Almost.  Cause there do seem to be a few less convoluted ways the Top could have handled things.  Also less than successful was John’s handling of the falsely imprisoned kid.  Everything was wrapped up with a tidy boy and comes off a little too intentional about tugging at heartstrings.  Yet, all things considered, these are nits we can live with.

“You remember what you always tell me about the past?  It’s just that … the past.  And you’re always focused what’s ahead.” –Iris

I was struck by the laudable idea behind the time police and their mission to eliminate crime by going back in time and stopping it.  Yet, I also couldn’t help but think about how much we learn and our formed by our regrets and tragedies.  How this life is hard and waving a magic wand, as much as we may want to sometimes to erase our adversity and pain, ultimately wouldn’t teach us how to navigate that part of the human experience.

It brings to mind a quote from Danny DeVito’s character in the movie The Big Kahuna who put it this way: “I’m saying you’ve already done plenty of things to regret, you just don’t know what they are. It’s when you discover them, when you see the folly in something you’ve done, and you wish that you had it do over, but you know you can’t, because it’s too late. So you pick that thing up, and carry it with you to remind you that life goes on, the world will spin without you, you really don’t matter in the end. Then you will gain character, because honesty will reach out from inside and tattoo itself across your face.”

Rather than erase events so that they never happened, it seems more “human” to learn from them, repair where we can, and continue to join in God’s mission to bring restoration and reconciliation.  Everything else feels like a shortcut wherein we learn nothing.

“You gave him his future back.  And to him, that future is rife with potential.” –Iris

This issue also seems like it will be one of those issues where collectors come back and scour for clues as hints about the Road to Flashpoint, 2011’s big event, are doled out.  We know that something bad is on the horizon, and something about time travel has been planted in Barry Allen’s head.  Did I mention that Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato art kicks major butt and every page explodes?

Brightest Day #15 – A Review

“Whatever happened to the Manhunter from Mars?”

Writers: Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi

Artists: Patrick Gleason and Scott Clark

Publisher: DC

Price:  $2.99

Once dead, twelve heroes and villains were resurrected by a white light expelled from deep within the center of the earth.  The reason behind their rebirth remains a mystery.  But it will not be a mystery for long.  This is the Brightest day.

This issue focuses on the Martian Manhunter who is completely under the control of D’Kay D’Razz and finds himself in that story perennial, living out his dream alternate life.  Twenty-five years in the future, J’onn is surrounded by his fellow Justice League members as he is being honored by the entire Martian population for finally bringing peace.  This peace is shattered as his friends are brutally murdered one by one.  Employing his detective skills, he saves Superman even as his subconscious fights against the delusion.

“There is always someone who celebrates the victory of fear.  There is always someone who wants to shut off the light by destroying the good within us. The good among us.” –Martian Manhunter

The whole theme of the issue revolves around the idea of resurrection to new life.  For the longest time, the Martian Manhunter lived with the memory of having buried his race and being the last of his people (giving him a bit of a bond with Kal-El, Superman, in terms of being the last of his people).  So for most of his life, he saw things and operated from his old wound.  His identity was that of the last son of Mars and he struggles with the shift of being the first son of Mars.

Letting go of the past and accepting our new identity in Christ may be one of the toughest things we do in our spiritual journeys.  We tend to continue to see ourselves in terms of our sin and failures rather than in the grace and forgiveness that has been bestowed upon us.  We so often hear about God’s divine love and acceptance, how nothing can separate us from His love, but do we believe that?  Most times, we really don’t.  To think that God knows me in the deepest possible way, loves me unconditionally, celebrates who I am, and wants me to grow into who I am, that’s the kind of love we can hardly fathom.

It’s a matter of getting our identity straight.  We are known by God.  We are loved by God.  Yet we don’t always believe that and don’t always see how it plays out in our lives.  When our faith can’t get traction in our lives, we become stuck.  We misplace our identity, things get shifted, then our priorities change.  We want comfort, personal happiness, and the right relationship with that special someone rather than being a living billboard for God’s glory and love.  We end up not living up to our potential like we should, thus we need to keep being reminded of our true identity:  we’re children of God, known for exactly who we are, and loved anyway!

And He identifies with our humanity.  Christ’s example on the cross left him exposed for everyone to see.  Naked for people to mock, spit upon, and pour their own self-contempt on Him.  Yet Jesus willingly embraced it and came through the other side.  His wounded place exposes shame for what it is.  Exposed, trusting and with boldness, we’re free and ready to love others in our weakness.  To live out of that reality of His example.  We put our faith where it’s supposed to be and take on our true identity.

“But no matter what you are, there’s only one simple question you have to ask yourself that really means anything and that is:  Did I do more good than bad?” –Batman

In the end, though, nothing happens.  We have a story that might entertain for an issue, as much as any It’s a Wonderful Life riffs might, if you’re happy with “it was all a dream” type stories.  And then there’s the art.  With eight inkers, there is a lot of incongruity, to put it generously, to the artwork.  Some characters were drawn poorly, though if we were to continue the generosity, this may have been a hint that something was up.  Otherwise, it feels like a filler issue for the actual Brightest Day storyline and when we’re in the throes of a major crossover event, for what comics cost, filler is frowned upon.

Batwoman #0 – A Review

“Beyond Shadow”

Written by:  J.H. Williams III, W. Hayden Blackman

Art by:  J.H. Williams III, Amy Reeder, Richard Friend

Published by:  DC Comics

Cover Price:  $2.99

Continuing their attempts to diversify their cast of characters, DC gave us Batwoman, a prominent, female, lesbian superhero.  But in the hands of Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III during her run in Detective Comics, this was more than tokenism or identity grandstanding or a publicity stunt.  Now J.H. Williams III takes her to her own series, co-written  with W. Haden Blackman, and with artists Amy Reeder and Richard Friend.

In this issue, we are presented with beautiful and elegant artwork, as anyone who ever picked up an issue of Promethea might have expected.  Moreso, we’re given an overview of the complex nature of this character, as well as insight into Bruce Wayne as Batwoman in many ways reflects him.

Employing the device of having Bruce Wayne/Batman investigate the latest addition to the Batman family adopted during his absence, new readers learn about her as he does.  He investigates the methods and fighting techniques of the new Batwoman while at the same time tailing Kate Kane, her suspected alter ego.  The book uses Williams art to follow Batwoman stacked above Reeder’s art who follows the Kate sequences.  Such a juxtaposition is both dramatic and effective.

What also comes through is the strong grasp of the character William’s has.  She comes off as both memorable and unique, completely different from the rest of the Bat-familyl, and someone a reader wants to get to know better.

“More importantly, she has that one thing I can’t teach.  That hole inside her that can’t ever be filled…it gives her the drive to do this.” –Batman

The thing about both Batman and Batwoman is that they are fully human. That is, not being super-powered, it seems almost believable that any of us could be them with enough training and dedication. They are more relatable, their struggles mirror our struggles.  Many of us are haunted by our pasts, feeling like we can’t get past mistakes we’ve made and people we’ve hurt.  We have that hole.

All of the things that make them so dysfunctional, their woundedness is part of what makes them tick.    That hole, that woundedness, can take many forms and often people try to self-medicate that hole in a variety of ways, from addictions to, apparently, throwing on spandex and running across a city’s skyscapes.

There is also the core belief that we can’t live without the self-medication. Life shifts. Gaining and losing people, places, and things leaving feelings of resentment, anger, self-protection, and abandonment in its wake, losses remind us that all isn’t as it should be. They remind us that life is painful. How do we experience and react to that pain? Sometimes we numb ourselves, medicate, act out sexually. Old wounds, be they lies we’ve come to believe about ourselves or quietly trying to please a distant father (because his opinion of you has shaped who you are and how you are) need to be confronted. Expecting something from certain relationships that never materialized, disillusioned with losses. Each loss presents a choice: passage to anger, blame, depression, resentment or passage to a greater life and freedom. For them, their unspoken belief is that their woundedness becomes redeemed in their mission.

The thing is, brokenness can be redeemed. Real love risks and offers redemption and when loved well, we’re taught about God. In all of our brokenness and (self-) deception, in all of our brokenness and desperation, we can come before the Lord and be fully accepted.

The only problem with Batwoman #0 is that there is not enough of it.  Coming in at 16 pages, it’s not much of a book, with almost half of its content being previews for upcoming issues of the title and other Batman books.  Other than paying so much for so little, we do have a treat of a book and a promising journey with a fascinating character.

Apex Day, Black Quill Awards, and Stuff

I’ve been on a bit of a blog hiatus while wrapping up King’s War, the last book in the Knights of Breton Court trilogy.  Now that I’m exiting the writing cave, I can take a look around and catch up on a couple of things:

1)       I’ll be at a signing this Saturday in Lexington, Kentucky as a part of Apex Day, representing Orgy of Souls, Dark Faith, and King Maker.  The ceremonial guest of honor will be Gary A. Braunbeck (To Each Their Darkness and A Cracked and Broken Path). Other featured Apex authors scheduled to be in attendance Mari Adkins (Harlan County Horrors), Sara M. Harvey (The Labyrinth of the Dead and The Convent of the Pure), Jerry Gordon (Dark Faith) and Jason Sizemore. Other authors of note in attendance will be Lucy Snyder (Spellbent), Geoffrey Girard (Tales of Jersey Devil), and Stephen Zimmer (The Exodus Gate).

2)       Speaking of Dark Faith, it was nominated for a Black Quill award from Dark Scribe Magazine.  Readers vote on it, so make with the clicky-clicky.

3)       There are some auctions being held to support K.H. Koehler during some very difficult times. Her mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and endured a double mastectomy. So far, it has been successful, but lack of decent insurance and sick pay has left her dealing with staggering medical bills.

4)       Oh, our annual Broaddus family Christmas party was this past weekend.  We have a few pictures available, but allow me to assure you that none of the movies we make for the party’s entertainment will ever, and let me be clear EVER, hit online.