Archive for October, 2011

Batman R.I.P. – A Review

Written By:  Grant Morrison

Art By:  Tony Daniel

Cover By:  Alex Ross

Publisher:  DC Comics

Price:  $24.99 (Deluxe Edition)

If there’s one thing you’ll never be able to fault Grant Morrison for it is having small ideas.  From Animal Man to JLA to Doom Patrol to New X-Men, he has brought a freshness and a revitalizing eye to even the most worn of books.  Every time you want to ask “what could he possibly bring to or do new with that book?” he answers the challenge.  This includes Batman, a character he’s no stranger to (see Batman:  Arkham Asylum or Batman Incorporated).

Batman R.I.P. was a sprawling epic storyline which set the internet ablaze with speculation.  We had the mysterious Black Glove, especially the identity of Dr. Hurt, as they sought to systematically destroy everything Batman stood for.  They wanted to take him apart at a fundamental level and reduce him to nothing.

“The superior man thinks of evil that will come and guards against it.” –The Book of Changes

Batman thinks of everything.  That’s pretty much the conceit of Batman.  What makes him great is that he’s human, he’s a master detective, and he’s the ultimate chess player.  Being fully human, he has pushed both his body and his mind to their furthest capabilities.  It’s what he demands of himself in order to pursue his mission.  But all of that devotion comes at a cost.

“I found something in the dark, inside. A shape … a scar on my consciousness.  As if something had been hidden there.” –Bruce Wayne

There has always been something not quite right about Batman, or more properly stated, something has always been fundamentally wrong/broken with Bruce Wayne.  In the face of tragedy, not many people decide to devote themselves to mastering all forms of martial arts, discipling under the world’s greatest detectives, and then dressing up as a bat.  His singular focus very much sees its reflection in both Harvey Dent (Two-Face) and the Joker for a very real reason:  he’s only on this side of the edge of sanity.  But he knows who he is and what his mission is.  In Batman R.I.P. he has to withstand an assault on his very identity.

“Have you ever tried to do only good and found things just get worse?  Could I have been, even unconsciously, my own worst enemy?” –Bruce Wayne

Like many of us, Bruce Wayne lives within a series of walls.  He has endured the thogal, a meditative ritual that simulates death, in order to experience every eventuality and to kill all traces of fear and doubt.  In other words, to create another wall.  Our walls can take a variety of forms. We construct a life where we re-define what love is to match how we are treated that ultimately end up with us going into ourselves. Exalting our intellect, control emotions, living in/retreating to our imaginations, whatever it takes to cut ourselves off from having to deal with others (and the potential pain they bring). Living with the fear that if we expose ourselves, show people who we really are, they will no longer like or outright abandon us.  We grow pretty comfortable being safe and unknown.  Batman gave his wall—his innermost defense, his ultimate self-protection—a name:  The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh.

And his wall is always there waiting to swallow him up should he lower his guard.  Inadvertantly, he has opened himself up to spiritual attack, a pure source of evil, as he has reached the limits of reason and found the devil waiting.

All walls impact the relationships around.  The thing about walls is that you can’t live behind walls and love as you should. Feel loved like we should. People can’t experience you loving them from inside your walls.  Batman has systematically driven away all of the closest people to him, not allowing them into his heart to love them well.  (And this doesn’t even count the Joker, who claims to have “been driven literally insane trying to get him to loosen up”).

One of Bruce Wayne’s greatest fear is the image of those he loves most and hold closest betraying him.  The greatest hurt is relational hurt.  So much so that it’s this very vulnerability his enemies seek to exploit, as Jezebel Jet tries to arrange things so that “you’ll never love anyone!  You’ll never trust any woman ever again.”

“No one knows that my ugliness is all inside…mine is the twisted soul of a monster, maitre.  In order to give expression to the honest beast within, I am compelled to an elaborate process of disguise.  Inside, I am broken, perverse, grotesque and violent.” –Le Bossu, the image of self-loathing of Dr. Guy Dax

What Le Bossu/Dr. Guy Dax doesn’t realize is that walls are about control. Faith and control don’t exist well together. Control asks “what do I need to do to make this situation work?” Faith asks “God, what you going to do make this work and how do I get involved with that?” We don’t see ourselves as God sees us, but rather, we come to believe a lie about ourselves. That we’re worthless, broken, and twisted in our soul; Villains in God’s story rather than created in His image. We leave out the fact that brokenness can be redeemed. When loved well, we’re taught about God.

“Your sins have been found out.” –Dr Hurt

In a lot of ways, the journey of Batman is the journey of woundedness, as he keeps trying to do things his way, finding a measure of healing in dealing with his own pain by helping others.  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.  Real love risks and offers redemption. Real love can’t operate from a place of fear. Real love can’t operate from behind walls. And loving people well is the point of why we’re here.

Batman R.I.P., read as a whole in a single volume, is a harrowing tale of madness.  Dark, complex and engrossing, it winds and unfolds in unexpected ways designed to keep the reader guessing.  Whenever a story actually gets to explore the question who is crazier:  The Batman or The Joker, you know you are in for a royal ride.  It’s not an easy read and doesn’t have the easy payoff one may want from comics, but it’s well worth the effort.  It’s the kind of book that can only gain appreciation over time.

Knights of Breton Court – The Big Themes

I’m a huge fan of George Pelecanos.

I’m a huge fan of crime novels period, with George Pelecanos and Elmore Leonard being two of my favorite authors, and so it should surprise no one that my urban fantasy series, the Knights of Breton Court, has the pace and feel more of a crime novel that the Arthurian legend creeps into.  However, let me back up.

A friend of mine was over at the house raving about the series (it is a little known fact that once you’ve declared yourself a fan of my work, I’m likely to invite you over to my house and fix you dinner).  Now, keep in mind, the way the publishing industry works, I haven’t (re-)visited these stories in a couple of years.  So it was pretty cool listen to him dissect the work, relate to the characters (I always take “did you live on my block?  Cause I know these people” as the height of compliments), and revel in Arthurian geekery as he got all of the legends of the knights of the round table that I wove into the story.

And just as, as a writer, I’m vain enough to believe that the words I put onto page demand to be read—especially as book three, King’s War, has just been released—I wanted to talk about the “big idea” behind each of the books.  Or at least some of the things rolling around in my head as I was writing them.

With King Maker, I explored the Jungian idea that we have shadow selves, in this case, the “we” being Indianapolis and the idea that even cities have shadows.  So on one level, it’s what makes it easy to “believe” that there is this magical underbelly to our everyday reality.  One that’s always there yet we never both to look for it or acknowledge it, filled with plant elementals, senile mages, trolls, fairies, and all manner of beasties.    At the same time, this magical shadow city serves as a kind of metaphor for another kind of shadow.  A very real world one:  homelessness.

With King Maker we are introduced to a world of outsiders, people who are typically “voiceless” in our society:  the homeless, drug addicts, gang members, prisoners, and the poor.  The powerless, the invisible, the “least of these” … and we peek into their world, see their faces, and hear their stories.  Sometimes through poor choices, sometimes due to circumstances beyond their control, they struggle to maintain their dignity, humanity, lives.  As they face fear, loss, spiritual hardships, and their very survival, King rises up.

(I won’t lie, I worried about whether this would be criticized for being poverty/pathology porn.  And despite the story casting a spotlight on Indianapolis, the tourist board may not like the aspects of the city I chose to highlight.)

In King’s Justice, since the “king’s justice” is the time of relative peace in the kingdom, we have time to explore the brokenness that both the heroes and villains operate out of.  That there may not be good and bad people as much as people united by a common pain or brokenness, struggling through life who make different choices.   That maybe the only thing that separates “heroes” and “villains” is whether they can come together in their woundedness and surround themselves with people who accept them another where they are, how they are, then build them up, affirm them, and encourage them to wholeness.  But if they continue to act out of their own efforts and “strength”, going it alone, they end up  driving people out of their lives.

As King’s Justice culminates in “the great sin”, an act of betrayal blows up the knight’s community and  mission, King’s War picks up with the long journey of redemption.  Personally, my favorite scenes were when I was writing about Lott’s  attempts at self-punishment and (failed attempts at) reconciliation.  He was mired in his wallowing in his brokenness, with an attitude of “You want to point to me as a villain, fine, I’ll be a villain.”  But that’s the guilt and shame talking.  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.  This is what the search for the Holy Grail means to me.

So in King’s War, I ask the question “what does reconciliation look like?”  What does it mean to realize the sin you’ve committed—hurting not only yourself but also your community—the pain you’ve caused, the public waves of repercussions of what was thought of as a private sin, and to seek to make things right when you feel like you can’t forgive yourself or repay the hurt?  What does it look like for a community rocked by scandal to walk into the difficult places and enter into the process of forgiveness?  What does it look like to move forward, live, and pursue the mission you were called to do in wholeness?

This was where my head was while writing the books.  Toss in the legends of the Green Knight, Red Knight, and Black Knight (in each of the books, respectively), Tristan and Isolde, trolls, zombies, a dragon, elven assassins, Red Caps, griffins, gangstas, and thug life and this isn’t your father’s King Arthur tale.  But it is mine.  I hope you enjoy it (though my wife wants me to make sure to say that it doesn’t guarantee me inviting you over and cooking a meal).

Crime After Crime – A Review

Heartland Film Festival October 13 – 22, 2011

“Justice Delayed…?”

Crime After Crime is the unflinching and harrowing documentary of Deborah Peagler, a woman convicted of the murder of her boyfriend, Oliver Wilson.  Right from the beginning, the film concedes that this isn’t the tale of someone unjustly accused, because she did indeed participate in the slaying of Wilson.  The injustice, however, revolves around her sentence.

The evidence of her domestic abuse was not allowed to be introduced at trial.  Under today’s laws, she’d have served a maximum of 6 years.  By the time the documentary begins, she had served twenty years.  The battered women’s movement was in its infancy at the time of her conviction, but in 2002, a new law went on the California books.  Domestic violence survivors had the chance to present new evidence

“Until you’ve walked in my shoes, you don’t know.” –Joyce

Oliver Wilson was the latest legacy of (self-)hate, as his  father and uncle molested his sister.  That was the model of manhood presented to him to emulate.  He turned around and pimped out Deborah, systematically abusing her, from her sophomore through senior years of high school.  Constraining and controlling every aspect of her life like any other pimp, he had calloused his soul to not allow himself to have human empathy.

Deborah had two daughters:  Tikisha (with a man before Oliver) and Natasha (whom Oliver was the father).  She was beaten with a bullwhip, not allowed to have friends over or even open the door.  She suffered countless occasions of abuse and humiliation.  But while the police were fairly impotent, unable to keep Oliver in jail more than over night, he was not above street law.  Deborah’s mother, Joyce, suggested that Deborah get a couple of Crips members to get Oliver to leave her alone.   Their beating of him eventually killed him.  Deborah was convicted of a murder for hire.

Enter The Habeas Project, which has as its mission to reopen cases and present evidence of abuse.  This was how pro-bono attorney Joshua Safran and co-counsel Nadia Costa came into her life.   As an Orthodox Jew, Joshua finds inspiration in the traditional Hebrew prayer of matir asurim (literally “free the captives”), thus having an obligation to fight for people’s freedom.

“Abuse doesn’t just happen in South Central.” –Nadia

Joshua’s connection to abuse began when he was nine years old and witnessed his mother beaten too many times by a refugee on the run whom she fell in love with.  Her abuse filled Joshua with shame, fear, panic, and powerlessness.  Nadia, too, had her own history of abuse which she didn’t want to share.   Through their work, they had a chance to heal their wounds as well as Deborah’s.

There is a power to putting our feelings to words through prayer, sharing our stories of woundedness, and finding healing as we push one another forward.  Being a wounded healer means allowing others to enter our lives, connecting their story with yours … without having any idea where this will lead or what it will look like. We can only hope that life on the other side of the journey to wholeness—the journey our of our dark places—will be a much better place.

Wounded stories become opportunities in people’s lives. Moments of confession, to reflect on and live out our faith, and to build community if we’re bold enough to wade into another’s pain and story. To do so means we have to move outside of our own preoccupations and agendas and needs and worries. It means a withdrawal of self to allow room for another. It may mean allowing them room to vent, cry, be angry, be silent, rest; in short, to be a safe place.

“None of us are free as long as one of us is chained.” –Deborah

Working for her freedom was an often bleak process best likened to an uphill marathon.  But along this journey of the pursuit of justice, Deborah experienced forgiveness: by Oliver’s family and herself.

“Crime after crime” refers to the systematic injustice Deborah faced, having fulfilled the true length of her sentence decades previous.  From a crooked District Attorney’s office, to the deaf courts, to an uncaring prison system, the powers of the state aligned and arrayed against her.  As singer Speech (from Arrested Development) mentions, such a trial could break a person, and certainly it could change their view on God.

Crime After Crime points out that our justice system is broken, but it also points to the fact that we still long for a sense of justice.  We have a sense pretty early on of what’s fair and what’s not, like a dream written onto our hearts. We know there’s something like justice, but we can’t seem to get there.  Just like we have a love/hate relationship with the law. We are fascinated by its machinations. The practice of law rarely makes sense, yet we are slaves to it; which is why we’re left in admiration for the Team Deborah Peaglers of the world and their strength of conviction to fight for justice.

With over 120,000 woman imprisoned in the California prison system, frighteningly few of them have been freed since the new law went into effect (not to mention that California is the only state with such a law).  But the most shocking statistic is that 80% of them are survivors of domestic violence, rape, or abuse. There could be thousands of Debbies.

Crime After Crime has numerous twists and turns (mostly obstacles) of the legal system as it explores the story of hope and perseverance of Deborah Peagler.  One that oddly turns on Arnold Schwarzenegger.   Director, Yoav Potash, never conceals his moral outrage over the situation, which played nicely against the dignified presence of Deborah Peagler and her nearly stoic lawyers. Gut-wrenching and inspiring, the movie grabs you by the hand and drags you perilously close to the darkness of humanity’s heart and then reminds you that there is love and hope in the world.

www.crimeaftercrime.com

Bleed With Me – Sparks Redux

I am now holding in my hands a copy of my limited edition hardcover novella, Bleed With Me (Delirium Books/DarkFuse)*.  Not too long ago, I was on my fellow Angry Robot author’s, Kaaron Warren**, blog discussing what sparked the idea for that novella.  There were just two things I wanted to add to what inspired it.

I only quietly admit that I don’t read much horror.  And I’m even more loathe to admit when I read an author and my only response is to drop everything I’m doing to see if I can do something that good.

Nate Southard’s Just Like Hell had that effect on me (This is the original cover/the edition I read.  It’s just been re-issued by Deadite Press).  When I read this, I just kept flipping through the pages resisting the urge to fly down to his house to high five him.  The whole story was a punch in the gut and I immediately wanted to write something which would … punch someone in the gut.  This in no way plays into why Nate is a guest of honor at next year’s Mo*Con.

The second thing was that the working title for the novella was “Folie a Deux”***, which is why part of  the marketing copy reads:

A folie a deux. It can be a symptom of the greatest kind of love. Or the greatest horror. Because what can be a greater horror than when one person refuses to let go?

However, I ended up naming the novella after one of my favorite Brian Keene essays “Bleed With Me”  (which was included in his Running With the Devil limited edition collection).  It’s about what artists have to do for the sake of their art, which is essentially to bleed for others. Our pain, our hearts, our souls laid bare in order to convey the truth of art. Put another way, it is the vulnerability and transparency of the artist that is the source for the best art experience (and points to how our wounds can become sources of healing).  I thought it was very apropos considering the theme of my novella.

I can’t wait to hear what you think.  Especially if it punches you in the gut.

*It’s a part of their limited edition hardcover novella series.  Also up now, Chris Fulbright & (so prolific I can’t stand her)Angeline Hawkes’ Black Mercy Falls.

**Who, by the way, I had a chance to meet in person at Readercon.  She is absolutely wonderful through and through.  Just being in her presence compelled me to buy her book.

***It is a known fact that I suck at working titles.  After the Black Camelot incident, I at least know enough to not let my friends know the working title of my projects.

Johnny English Reborn – A Review

British comedian Rowan Atkinson (Black Adder) revives his spoof spy character Johnny English, basically James Bond by way of Atkinson’s seminal Mr. Bean character.  MI-7 recalls English from a Tibetan monastery where he had retreated after an incident in Mozambique, bringing him back into action, following the structure of the latest iteration of James Bond movies.  In line with the Bond franchise, which replaced Bernard Lee with Judi Dench, MI-7 has a new boss, the playtime-is-over businesswoman Pegasus (Gillian Anderson).  The espionage agency has been privatized—a Toshiba sponsored spy agency was a rather clever bit of product integration (as opposed to some of the other more blatant intrusions)—and English is now a dinosaur in a new age.  With no more misogyny, sexism, or chauvinism*, he needs to prove his relevance to a new generation of agents.

Among the new MI-7 staff are behavioral psychologist Kate Sumner (Die Another Day’s Bond girl Rosamund Pike) and Ambrose (The Wire’s Dominic West), who is allowed to be the James Bond dinosaur ostensibly eschewed by the new MI-7.  English is teamed with junior Agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya), as he bumbles through a Bond film-styled plot to thwart the assassination of a Chinese premier, leaping from one locale to another.

“Open your heart English and you shall be reborn.” –Ting Wang (Togo Igawa)

The Christian hope, the entire premise of it, is in resurrection.  Without the resurrection, death wins.  All that we do and believe is futile.  Through the death and resurrection cycle, we are freed from sin and reborn as children of God. And the spiritual journey itself is one of death and resurrection:  as our old self and old way of doing things dies and we are reborn into new life and a new way of living.  We become followers of Christ, showing with our lives what we profess with our faith:  to become sharers in the mission of the Church to join in God’s mission of reconciliation.

“I prefer mortals.  Pure, maddening, complicated mortals.” –Kate Sumner

All in all, Johnny English Reborn was pretty thin, with Atkinson’s antics going into overdrive to cover for its deficiencies.  Filled with easy and obvious gags, the standard of humor is set within the first few moments of the film:  they might raise a smile, but the hard laughs are few and far between.  If the movie succeeds, it is based on the charm of Atkinson or recalled fondness for his characters and comedic style.  Basically, if the images accompanying this post amused you, then this is your movie.  If not, you’re in for a long film.

*Apparently parochialism with shades of racism is okay.  It was a little troubling to hear lines like “it’ll be good to have someone carry the bags” or “you clever boy” aimed at his protégé, Tucker, a young, African American agent who comes across as an insecure Kato to Atkinson’s bumbling Inspector Clouseau.

The Thing – A Review

John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) was a remake of the movie, The Thing from Another World (1951).  This version of The Thing credits John W. Campbell Jr’s novella Who Goes There? and wants to be the Rise of the Planet of the Apes to Carpenter’s work.  That is, ostensibly it’s a prequel (that revelation may be a spoiler, though in fact it has a way of managing to make the movie make even less sense upon reflection).

Like Invasion of the Body Snatchers—and arguably, Planet of the Apes—The Thing is a movie remade every generation or so.  As such, it usually is provides a bit of commentary on the age it was made in.  Set in 1982, there is plenty of Cold War mistrust to play on, though the sentiment is largely reversed with the not subtle underlying message of “the American’s are the real enemy”.  Which would be telling and interesting if we had any confidence that this was intentional, but this betrays a belief that this film was made in a haphazard way, s o let’s back up a bit to the idea of remakes of such iconic films.

The danger of such remakes, especially ones still relatively fresh in the cultural memory, is that they play on and are held up against memories and feelings attached to the original.  Which means from frame one, The Thing is waging a losing campaign.

“We have to trust this plan.  It’s our only hope of making it through this.” –Kate

The Thing has a terminal case of what can only be diagnosed as A.D.D. Horror.  The two chief symptoms of it as manifesting in this movie are 1) lack of characters and 2) lack of tension.  The Thing goes through the motions of trying to explain things, but ultimately says nothing.  What we have is that an alien vessel crashes on the Earth 100,000 years ago, it’s survivor goes out for a stroll (since there are no thermometers on their ship) then just chills, literally, until it’s dug up by an international collection of scientists.  This sophisticated alien, capable of building and flying an interstellar vessel, then runs through people like a box full of Scooby snacks.

“It attacks its prey, copies it perfectly, then hides inside us.  Waiting.” –Kate

The whole enterprise proves a hollow endeavor as there is no real terror because there are no characters.  Which the exception of Dr. Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), armed with a flamethrower while channeling her best Ellen Ripley from the Aliens movie franchise, the characters exist to be alien chow.  Of special note was Oz’s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Jameson/“lone black guy in a horror movie”, whose only role seemed to be to constantly explore long dark hallways by himself.

“Someone here may not be themselves.” –Juliette (Kim Bubbs)

Again, none of this mattered because there’s no rhyme or reason to its killing.  The thing was described as a predator, and after 100,000 it might have been ready for dinner, but my two sons mid-growing spurt don’t eat as often as the thing does.  Which leads to the second symptom of A.D.D. horror:  lack of tension.  Proving that first time helmer, Matthijs van Heijningen, didn’t quite grasp what made John Carpenter’s The Thing work, the movie demonstrated no patience in allowing tension to build.  In Carpenter’s version, characters had to sit with the knowledge that an alien walked among them for long stretches.  In The Thing, it plays out pretty much the same way over and over, something like this:

“One of us is an alien.”

“I wonder who it is.”

Everyone barely has time to take a breath.  “Okay, it’s me.  ROAR!”

Adding to the repetitious nature of the film was the fact that the monster had the same tell for who it lurked in (hint: it’s always the one yelling “kill that one!” or “it’s him!”).  All of this reduces this classic of terror to little more than a generic horror film.

“It’s like a virus.” –Kate

As for any sort of spiritual connection, in a lot of ways “the thing” is reminiscent of how sin operates.  An Adam, in this case, something alien to the created order, introduces a sense that something is not right, that we’re not who we’re supposed to be.  Prowling about like a devouring lion, it spreads like a virus, leaving in its wake fear, paranoia, and ultimately bringing death.  The infection spreads, replicating almost like a conscious disease. Because of the introduction of sin, the created order is disrupted, neither humanity (once infected with sin) nor creation are as they are meant to be. There is disharmony between each person and themselves (their bodies are not their own, not doing what they know to be right), disharmony between each person with each other person, disharmony between humanity and creation (even the animals are different).  The center of the conscious, this sin that has lead to a cycle of death and depravity, has to be crushed.

“So what do we do now?” –Kate

The special effects are okay, though they beg the question “just because you can do an effect, should you do an effect?”  Because getting the effect right seemed to be the priority and they don’t even stand up compared to Rob Bottin’s f/x from three decades ago.  Where John Carpenter’s The Thing was wildly imaginative and inventive with a dark humor to it, this one is stripped of all of that, preying on our familiarity with Carpenter’s version to coast by.  Strictly a by the numbers horror with not much of a thrill ride to accompany it, The Thing, much like the alien itself, mimics its host in nearly every way, except capturing its soul.

A Guest Blog, Podcast, Interview, Reading and Zombie Walk

Because Brian Keene can get me to do random confessionals, I’m guest blogging over there on Why I’m not a Halloween Guy aka My First Halloween:

It was 1976 and my brother and I were freshly transplanted from London, England—where we were born—to the thriving metropolis that was Franklin, Indiana. The first thing we had vowed to do was lose our accents (as people kept coming up to us saying “speak English”, which at the time made little sense to us as ostensibly we all spoke English, until we realized that our accents marked us as somehow different. Then again, this was Franklin, Indiana.).

We were barely in this country for six months when Halloween rolled around.   [continue reading here]

It’s a part of my, uh, carefully crafted marketing campaign for King’s War which comes out later this month.  Speaking of King’s War, Angry Robot’s Man in New York caught up with me last week, and chatted about “the conclusion of [my] extraordinary Knights of Breton Court trilogy” and my future plans.  Click here to hear the podcast.

You don’t just have the option to hear me pontificate.  Jimmy Pudge also caught up with me for a discussion about the Knights of Breton Court as well as e-books.  You can read the interview here.

Lastly, for those local to the Indianapolis area, I will be doing a reading at a meet up of the single’s group of St Luke’s United Methodist Church (100 86th Street West Indianapolis, IN) on Wednesday October 26th.  More on that as the date nears.  Also there is an upcoming Zombie Walk for charity:

Zombie Walk for Braaaiiins Hunger

Gamerz invites all zombies to walk, lurch, moan, and groan Saturday, October 29 to benefit Gleaners Food Bank.

Zombies will stagger out of Gamerz, collecting canned food donations from drop off points on State Rd 135, then shamble back to Gamerz for a day of Halloween-themed games and braaaiiins cupcakes.

When:  Saturday, October 29

-Zombies need to report by 10:00 a.m.; the walk begins at 10:15 a.m.

Why:  All collected canned goods will be donated to Gleaners Food Bank

Where:  Gamerz 1140 N. ST 135, Greenwood, IN

Come dressed as a zombie!  (Or just ready to shuffle and moan.)

For details call Gamerz at (317) 865-1500

Hole in the Soul – A Work in Progress [WIP]

You’ll always be my daddy

I’ll always be your son.

Here I am, a grown ass man, and I don’t know what that means.

I look to God and call Him Father,

But all that I know about fathers comes from you.

And I never knew you.

.

Oh, you were around while growing up.

You came through, ready to hang out, be my friend.

You always had jokes or a dirty magazine

Or a cigarette or a drink to share

–yeah, you were a Kools and Crown and Coke man.

My friends thought you were the coolest dad on the block

But the block had you more than we did.

And I wasn’t looking for a friend.

.

Daddy just lift me up.

All I ever wanted was for you to hold me and claim me as yours.

Daddy lift me up.

.

Bloodshot eyes, liquor on your breath

I swallow his thoughts of me and slowly starve

Fathers and sons full of mystery.  And his story.

How can he love someone like me.

I can hear the disappointment in his voice

Up on the auction block of my childhood.

I’m not that smart, not that funny, certainly not the life of the party like he was.

A depressed mess, too dark and left behind.

A hypocrite like me.  A sinner like me.  A me like me.

.

What I think when I think of God my Father

Is that He’s supposed to be distant

To come around when He feels like it

To make me laugh during the good times

But never around when times got hard.

He might peel me off a twenty

Maybe throw a blessing my way to make up for His absence.

But it wasn’t like I could count on Him.

Or know Him.

So now I’m not that anxious to get to know that Father.

To believe that He loves me for me

To believe that He considers me valuable simply because I’m me.

.

Daddy just lift me up.

All I ever wanted was for you to get to know me

and show that you actually like having me around

Daddy lift me up.

.

The idea of being daddy scares me.

A father’s fears consoling a little boy’s tears

I don’t know if I want that burden

Of revealing God to my own children

To be a reflection of our true Father

I don’t know if I have enough love to give

Or if I’m brave enough to let them into my heart

To know what love I have

To know and be known

To risk being a Daddy

I want to go to all of their recitals, knowing that they’ll suck

And cheer them anyway.

I want to be able to enter their world

Learn who they are and help shape them into the best them they can be.

I never want to be too tired to play catch or be there to talk

I never want to leave them with a hole where their Father should be.

.

A father’s lies.  A Father’s cries.

.

Shedding a Father’s tears.

Proud.

For who you are.  Who you can be.

.

Father just lift me up

All I ever wanted is to love and be loved the way I knew you would want me to

Perfect love drives out fear.

Father, lift me up.

Oh the Delight of Children…

I’ve been reading John Sower’s Fatherless Generation which has gotten me thinking a lot about fathers and sons.  Something that I’ve been thinking about is how much I enjoy my sons being … my sons.  Here’s what the last few weeks have looked like for me:

1.  There is a district wide emphasis on writing in my sons’ school system.  My oldest told me that his teacher wanted my help in teaching the kids writing.  So I said I could come in that Friday.  Well, he told his teacher that I was looking to volunteer in their classroom.  Well, of course, she wants all of the interested parents she can get.  So I get to class and once we figure out what my son has been up to, we have a conversation about writing in front of the class.  It was a huge hit.  So much so that the teacher of my youngest wanted me to do the same in their class.  As fun as those experiences were, the chief image I took home with me was how my sons both sat near me, beaming at me (without being too obvious that they were beaming, after all, they are two too cool for dad pre-teens), proud to be my sons and proud to call me dad.

2.  Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been teaching them how to play Magic:  The Gathering.  They got free cards at GenCon.  They see me and my co-editor, Jerry Gordon, play every week have Dark Faith editorial meetings.  They see me go off to guys’ night every couple of weeks.  They want to be able to beat Uncle Brian at next year’s Mo*Con.   And they want to be able to play with me.  So we practiced with a few starter decks and they’ve now graduated to building their own decks.

The other night I had sent them off to bed and as I’m wont to do, I went back to peek in on them through the hole in their door (long story, but the managed to break their door handle.  FTR, this is completely unrelated to me showing them how to pick locks).  I stood there just enjoying them being who they were.  Boys taking after their father, getting to know him by sharing the stuff he’s into.  But more than that, just enjoying and loving them being … them.

And I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s how the Father sees us.  Children created in His image whom He loves and enjoys simply for who they are.  With the same longing of the Father, I want my sons to know me and have a relationship with me.  To be close to me.  To be able to reach out and not only know where I am, but have my attention.  I want to be present and real in their lives.  No father-shaped hole in their lives.  That they are loved, sure of who they are, with the confidence, and support to live into who they are and who/what they were created to be.

Addendum:  As of 3:45 p.m. of this writing, I find that they are a lot less delightful when they are fighting with one another, requiring me to separate them.  I wonder if the Father also thinks that life would be easier if they just got along, how it takes more effort to fight and be mean to one another, and that not every argument should end with them calling each other “a big turd.”

VP of Operations and Acquisitions of Apex

Yeah, I’ve been sucking at ye olde blog discipline.  I’ve had my head down wrapping up a non-fiction book project for Shepherd Community Church, gearing up for a gaming project for which non-disclosure agreements have been signed, and getting a short story whipped into shape.   Obviously this doesn’t include the work preparing for Dark Faith 2 or the chaos unleashed as I’ve taken on the Vice President of Operations and Acquisitions role for Apex Book Company.

First, to recap, as Jason Sizemore announced, I now oversee the operational aspects of all four Apex entities:  Apex Publications, Black Room Books, The Zombie Feed, and Apex Magazine.  Frankly, I’ve never understood (and been amazed by) how he has managed to keep all of the plates spinning as a one-man operation (between family, a full time job, and the many projects of Apex).  But Apex has grown to the point where one many simply couldn’t oversee it all and it needed more legs.  As one of the legs, I oversee aspects like promotion/publicity, acquisitions, keeping our volunteers engaged, interacting with the authors, internal communication, and all around keeping the trains running on time.  Since I refuse to refer to myself as the lube of any sort that keeps Apex running smoothly, I will think of the position as being Jason Sizemore’s professional friend.

I originally was his “consigliere”, advising him from the shadows (read:  we spent all day on gmail chat gossiping and talking).  He’d bounce ideas off me and generally vent; I’d pester him with any of assorted natterings and random pitches.  After I suggested (read:  I presented Jason with six pages worth of notes) a major overhaul of how Apex should operate (since, at the time, the Diamond distribution deal was in the offing), Jason responded like any good executive:  “those are great ideas.  You oversee them.”  So my consigliere position has been formalized and dragged into the light.

In my continual grab for power, one of my first edicts was demanding that Jason take a vacation.  Seriously.  I have diagnosed him with an acute case of “Keyman-itis”.  It’s a common affliction known to strike pastors and small business owners, where they believe that everything will fall apart without them, so they never take any time off.  As VP of Apex, I am one heartbeat away from absolute power, but with absolute power come absolute work, and I’ve got other stuff to do.  Which means I need Mr. Sizemore healthy and relatively sane.  So rather than deal with him burning out or the chaos that usually ensues when he’s near burning out, as of tomorrow, he’s taking a break.  Any emergencies can be addressed to me, though what I consider an emergency and what you may consider an emergency will probably differ.

Yes, the word “acquisitions” is in my title.  This does not mean that I want to hear your novel pitches while I’m trying to use the bathroom at a convention.  Seriously.