Tag Archives: christian

Kickstarter reflection (or, part 4)

Did you miss me? I missed me. As I tell my students and writers conference attendees, there’s no real good reason for not writing. And while I don’t really consider this blog my “writing,” it is part of my writing process, something which helps keep my creative juices going.

Well, that…and reading. Reading a lot.

But it seems one thing or another has kept me from writing here. One of those things, I think, was wrapping up the Kickstarter segments. For pure transparency, I was a bit bummed we didn’t make it…and then afterwards, Joe had to move on to other projects, which effectively kills Citizens as is. That said, I DO have good news on other projects fronts, and I hope to be talking about two of them very soon!

But even though I finished the posts, I wanted to actually reflect a little on the campaign.

One of the telling things about running a Kickstarter campaign is that it becomes very clear where the “support” comes from. While you can get anonymous donors (I had a couple), most support and then get on board to help the campaigners get the word out. The supporters of Citizens did just that. There were some who I felt went above and beyond trying to help me and Joe make our goal—I saw multiple posts from them telling people to go check it out. Of course, I’m incredibly thankful for those people!

I think the biggest surprise to me from the entire thing was the overwhelming lack of support from the Christian community. Most of you here know that about me. I don’t blog a lot about my faith…I try to live it more than talk about it—though sometimes I do. Of course, you know too, that I fail a lot on “being” a Christian. I guess that’s just part of my path. But after my “religious conversion,” I tried to immerse myself in the “Christian creative community.” As a new believer, I wanted to be a part of it. I bought books, comics, movies, and music that I didn’t know existed. Most of it really bad, but I wanted to support it so that I could see it improve. Sad to learn it’s a one way street.

Will I do another kickstarter? Yeah, I’m pretty sure I will. In fact, I’m already thinking of them. One KEY factor is that the art is going to have to be mostly done so that the delivery date is closer. That, and I’m going to push harder for earlier pledges. So if you pledged to Citizens, I’ll be coming to you again asking you to support the next one. If the project looks interesting to you, I’ll ask that you pledge early–because it helps generate heat on the KS campaign.

Okay…now back to writing…and grading. Lots of grading.

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Faith is more than just believing

I’m going to wax poetic about faith, Christians and Christianity in this blog…so if those things bother you, just come back next time, maybe I’ll write something to interest you then.

One of the things I’ve come to believe about faith is that it is more than just believing; it is an acting on belief in something many think un-provable. You may wonder what’s happened to cause this thought process. I’m glad you asked.

Having spent most of my life claiming to be a “Christian” only later realizing that I was just talking out of the side of my mouth, it has really started to bother me seeing so many people making the same claim I did for so long. Sounds hypocritical? Well, I’m not condemning those people, I’m just saying I think we’ve got a problem…and it may be that the traditional “what we have here is a failure to communicate” is, in fact, so true.

Before going on, let me demonstrate. I’m a black man. Can’t you tell that by my picture above? “What?” you say? “You’re so white you’re Swedish!” Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m trying to say. People may say they’re a Christian with their mouth, but when you look at them, you can clearly see it is not true! Meaning, there is nothing in their life to demonstrate they are a follower of Christ, which is what the term “Christian” means.

Let me put it like this: I have always “believed” in God, but I haven’t always acted upon that belief. I believed that He existed, but I never really made an effort to learn about what that belief meant. It wasn’t too terribly long ago when I realized the cliché “even Satan believes in God” was an incredibly profound statement. If we accept simple belief in God as the key to being a Christian, then it would be hard to deny that Satan is also a Christian because he obviously “believes” in God, right? I mean, if they are both real—as I believe they are—then that truth means they “believe” in the existence of the other. And since I don’t think anyone reading this is willing to accept that Satan is a “Christian,” it has to be something more than just belief, right?

IF that is the case, then what is it? Well, as Christians, we’re always looking at, pointing to and asking what would Jesus do, and so on and so forth. So I think that’s where we have to look, right? (A lot of this line of thinking, I feel, was brought on by my reading of CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity—wow! Great read!)

So, the main thing Jesus told his disciples was…follow me. I mean there are a lot of things he also said and probably people a lot smarter than me could list them all off in quick succession. But this goes back to my original thought: “faith” is more than just believing. If we claim to have faith, then the world needs to see us act on that faith, else it’s just words.

Words are powerful—I’m the first one to believe that! But action speaks louder than words.

Just sayin’.

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Writing excuses

I wrote the other day that all stories have a point, etc. and that those points generally reflect—intentionally or unintentionally—the views/opinions of the author. One of the things that has constantly given me both frequent chuckles and frequent confusion is when “Christian writers” try not to be Christian.

I’m still learning my way around the Christian fiction market, having only become a believer in 2000 but before I go on, let me be very clear in that I don’t think that every person who claims to be Christian must write Christian material. I think it’s probably a logical step in the progress (I want to see the new Pilgrim’s Progress movie! Anyone seen it?) of a believer, but I don’t think it’s a necessity.

However, I do find it funny to hear Christian writers try to get out from any responsibility as a writer. “It’s not me writing the graphic sex scene or cussing, it’s the characters.” This is just laughable. As the writer/author, the responsibility for all material falls on us. We have it within our power to change the words we do not like.

Writers have a responsibility to their audience not just to give them good reading material, but to be the writer they claim to be. Thus, if a writer claims to be “Christian,” then that writer owes it to his audience to write material that reflects that.

“Oh!” we’ve heard them say, “but that’s the way they really talk on the street.” So. So what?

When Jesus spoke with tax collectors, prostitutes and drunks, he didn’t participate in their activities—he pointed out their errors and told them—quite bluntly—to STOP it!

One of the most recent waves of excuses for overstepping the bounds in “Christian writing” is when the writers claim they don’t write “Christian fiction,” but they are a Christian who writes fiction. I do understand the point they’re attempting to make, but the only person they’re really trying to convince of their “rightness” is themselves…well, and maybe their editor who’s sitting on the same fence.

Or those who want to disguise their message and call it “allegory” and then point to the masters Tolkien and Lewis. The first question I always want to ask them is why they are ashamed of their Christianity. I’m reminded of the song pre-schoolers learn about hiding their lights under bushels. J

One of the things I like about the Bible and its depiction of believers is that there is no middle-ground. You’re either in…or you’re out. Smarter Bible thumpers than me can quickly find the passage which suggests God spits out the luke-warm believer.

And I know that, I, for one, do not want to be Godly spit!

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Should Southern Christians sing this?

With the Fourth of July holiday still fresh on our minds, residents are beginning to recover from the celebrations and annual festivities. Some things we do, we don’t know why… “we’ve just always done it that way.” Did you know, though, the city of Vicksburg, Miss., did not celebrate the fourth for over 80 years? S’true. July 4 is the day it surrendered to U.S. troops under the command of General Grant.

As always on the fourth, patriotic tunes flood the airwaves and churches. I contend that one popular tune, however, shouldn’t be sung in our churches as it is certainly not “Christian” and is definitely not patriotic for Southerners (Northerners might consider it patriotic). Which song you say?

The Battle Hymn of the Republic began as the camp-meeting song “Say Brothers, Will You Meet Us on Canaan’s Happy Shore.” It became a popular Union army ballad when members of the 12th Mass. Infantry wrote new words and renamed it “John Brown’s Body.” The song was not about the famous terrorist John Brown who attacked Harper’s Ferry and assorted places in Kansas, but one of the men in the 12th. Over time, it did grow to mean the famous John Brown.

Julia Ward Howe, who is given credit for writing the song, visited a Union camp, heard the song, and then rewrote the lyrics the next day.

Howe was married to Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, a well-known radical abolitionist and a financial supporter of the abolitionist-terrorist John Brown. Most historians believe Howe was likely one of the “Secret Six” financial contributors of John Brown.

The Howes were devout Unitarians. As such, Julia denied the divinity of Jesus and did not believe in the Holy Trinity—elements, which I’m betting most Southern clergy will say are crucial to the “Christian” faith.

In fact, many Christian hymnals have removed her third verse because it doesn’t line up with most Christian beliefs. It reads as such: I have read the fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel As ye deal with My comtempters, so with you My grace shall deal Let the hero born of woman crush the serpent with his heel Since God is marching on.

“Burnished rows of steel” is a reference to bayonets, and the “serpent” is a reference to the South (The Union plan to split the Confederate States was actually called the “Anaconda Plan”).

Yet, Howe’s tune is heralded as a “Christian” tune and sung in churches throughout the U.S.

Further, the double meaning behind Howe’s lyrics is the conquest and utter destruction of Southerners. Howe was not inspired to write the lyrics after a revival meeting, but after a tour of a Federal camp.

Her lyrics, used as an inspirational battle tune even during The War, are about “Lord” Lincoln using his armies to vent out his vengeance on the South, proving not that God was on the side of the North, but as Voltaire put it, “God is always on the side of the big battalions.”

As Americans, we wouldn’t revel in the destruction and death of over 2000 killed at Pearl Harbor. We wouldn’t sing, “The Japs bombed Pearl Harbor and they killed 2000 men, they sunk the Arizona and the Utah went down too. He has loosed the fateful lightning of His kamikaze plan, God’s truth is marching on.” Yet, in essence, that is what every Southerner is doing when they sing the Battle Hymn. I had two grandfathers serve in WW2 and I couldn’t sing the above. I had grandfathers serve in the Confederate army and I can’t sing Howe’s version either.

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Terminal 9 by Rushford and James

Terminal 9 is another one of those books I found under those alluring words “book sale.” It didn’t exactly one of those covers that yelled “buy me,” but it did have one of those price/sale stickers that said that. It is actually the third book in a series, though reading the first two aren’t required to read this one. Co-written by Patricia H. Rushford and Harrison James, the 334 pages aren’t exactly page turners, but it wasn’t a complete waste of my time like one or two I’ve read in the past.

Part of the problem is that we see every…single…thing…that happens during and after the death of the victim. There are very few scenes of real drama, suspense or action. Yes, the plot moves along…well, it crawls along. And it isn’t that the characters aren’t interesting, it is simply a case of the editor failing to tell the writer, “you gotta cut some of this, it’s too long.”

An old man in a wheelchair is run over by a train near his house. All sorts of suspects, including the railroad company that wants to buy his riverfront land. The lead detective is Mac McAllister, who’s just been assigned a new partner…a female who happens to be a former romantic interest of his. We learn, through several agonizing scenes, that they’re both still interested in each other, but want to keep the relationship “professional.”

I think one of the things I learned while editing comic scripts/stories is that the lead characters should be characters of action…not inaction. The lead characters should be the ones doing the doing…not having the doing done to or for them. Terminal 9 read as if someone were simply pointing the way around to all the things that happened. It felt more like someone merely relaying facts of a story to me…when it should draw me in, get me involved and make me actually care about what happened. With the exception of Mac, we don’t really learn much about the other characters, and that’s too bad because there are sketches of some really interesting characters.

It would be hard for me to suggest this book to you for a retail cover price of $14…but if you can find it on the sale table like I did, it’s better than the latest book featuring Fabio on the cover. J

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The Best of Evil by Eric Wilson

Eric Wilson’s The Best of Evil was a very pleasant surprising find. As mentioned in this space before, I’m a real sucker for any place that has a sign containing the words “book” and “sale.” That’s exactly how I spotted Wilson’s book (and a few others that I’ll probably mention here in the coming weeks). 

As it happens, I’d just come out of a dentist appointment with a new dentist here in Oxford. Brett and I both had checkups (both of us had a clean teeth bill of heath, thanks!) and were returning to my truck. This office is in a strip mall, the first time I’d ever seen one in such a location.

Needless to say, next door is a Christian book store. As I got in my truck to leave, I stuck the key in the ignition. Before I could turn it, those words-you know them-“Sale. Half off.”

So, I told Brett to stay put (I could actually see the books on the table from my truck), and went inside for a quick look. I ended buying about 5 books, all for $3-$5.

The Best of Evil is about Aramis Black, a young man who’s moved from somewhere out west to Nashville. Out west he had considerable drug and alcohol problems (don’t they all, “out west?” -that’s a joke) and so he moves in with his brother, a struggling young country musician.

Aramis, who has opened up his own coffee shop, is still pretty much struggling to find his way, when out of the blue (how come it’s always “blue”? Why can’t it be out of the red? Or orange, or brown?) a man is gunned down in his shop right before his very eyes.

One of the ingredients in this story that really drug me along is that Aramis is supposedly a descendant of Merriwether Lewis, of the famous Lewis and Clark. Wilson’s tale tells of murder and intrigue relating to the Lewis family and a secret the family has passed down since the famous Merriwether’s death/murder. In fact, Aramis, when only a child, witnesses the murder of his mother, a death which he blames on his uncle.

Aramis must discover this secret past, which every one of his family members seem to know, but refuse to tell him.

The book was published in 2006, so it isn’t very old. It contains a lot dialogue so it moves very fast-the pages turn quickly. You’ll make your way through the 335 pages in no time. I don’t know that I could recommend it at the original sticker price of $14, but certainly worth your time and money at half that.

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Shawn Hawk by Roger Elwood

My latest read is a book titled Shawn Hawk by author Roger Elwood. While I can’t say it’s the best book in the world, I enjoyed it more than Warren’s Wilderness…but not as much as Faulkner’s Unvanquished. The thing I will say is that it is a very fast read. I had the thing finished (about a hundred and twenty-five pages) in about two and a half hours. Generally, I don’t read books quite that fast, but I did this one.

 

If you look too long at the cover, it’s difficult to tell what the title is. The book is titled after the name of the main character and it is inscribed on the cover in exactly the same font as the author’s name. A little confusing and poor design by the publisher.

 

Maybe the reason I finished it so quickly was the simplicity of the work. After the opening 20 pages or so, Shawn is the only character on an alien planet. **I think I’m supposed to put “Spoiler Warning” here** I don’t worry too much about spoiling it as it’s not a new book. In fact, the publisher’s date on it is 1995. Anyway, in this story of the future, the earth is in such a bad shape that people are leaving it in droves. Technology has advanced to the point that individual families can now take a spaceship and head out to one of the multitude of colonies and/or worlds ripe for colonization. In the early pages, Shawn has left earth with only his mother and father on the ship with him.

 

Wouldn’t you know it, the ship crashes and Shawn becomes the only human on an alien world. Monkey Planet (Planet of the Apes) worked because the monkeys also talked and you could get their perspective and all that. The problem on this planet is that none of them can actually do much talking to him. They do find ways to communicate, especially a small tribe of monkey-like things, the entire tribe of which Shawn kills off by disease. Much like Americans did to the Indians when colonizing North America.

 

Elwood finds a nice way to work in belief in God, the one true God of Jesus Christ and not some “made-up” God that sounds an awful lot like ours. That was a nice touch and very refreshing to see in a science-fiction book.

 

There’s no indication that this book was intended for a younger audience, but I’d highly recommend it for a 12-15-ish age group. It moves along at a nice clip, is science fiction, and has Christianity firmly presented.

 

I found this book like I find a lot of the books I buy-on sale at the local Christian book store. I’m not certain I would have paid a “new” price for it, but if you can find it for $4 or less, buy it, read it, give it to an young teen.

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