Assemble! …For What Purpose?

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Moving to West Virginia and living high in the mountains this last year has been a great challenge for me in many ways. I’ve been grateful for my wife and my in-laws who, after a bit of a rocky start, have been a great help for me in acclimating myself.

For example, the roads up here made me seasick for the longest time. The altitude got me because I was used to a much lower elevation. I was kinda prepared for the small town/wild living environment. It’s like living in Northern Wisconsin or the UP, but with mountains instead of lakes and bigger grades on the roads. Winters are nicer though, and the altitude helps with the summer.

…BUT… there’s been something spiritual gnawing at me. Not just work worries or Covidiocy inspired anxiety. No. It’s something spiritual and deep and unrelenting.

Why did God bring me down to this place? I felt, and still feel, like something is on the verge of bursting out in this place. A good, productive, and decent thing is hiding just under the surface, but is being held in check by apathy and hopelessness that I find rather disturbing. For months, I wasn’t sure what was going on or what I was sensing. I saw needs for improvements to the area, but was told that’s the way it always was. I hate that answer now.

My father joked that maybe God sent me down here to be a community organizer of some sort. To which I told him to ‘bite his tongue’. We laughed, but as the weeks rolled on, I started worrying that he may have been speaking something much more prophetic. I started worrying if this was not God speaking something through him. I don’t want to be a community organizer. It’s associated with so many people that have done the world great harm in the name of “the greater good”.

So that happened and I kept pondering.

I also have begun going to my wife’s church, and well… that’s been a bit more of a culture shock to all parties involved. The Darling Bride has said that I’m like a big boulder dropped into a small pond. Her assessment hasn’t been wrong. These wonderful people sure haven’t been able to make out whether I’m fish or fowl at times. I keep telling them I’m not going to ever be a Baptist, let alone a bad Baptist, but I’m Christian and fiercely faithful, even if it’s anti-denominational apostolic in nature compared to theirs. (Although “recovering Lutheran” is another good description for it.)

It’s also not been that easy for me either. I get all itchy and discombobulated with the cultural/religious aspects of the church. Sunday School in my experience was for the children, not the adults. The idea of “Three to Thrive” every week leaves me squirming. And of course the mantra “You need to be in church every time the doors are open” really chaps my ass (to borrow a phrase from Mike Rowe). If you’ve read my books, there’s a lot of Brother Finn in me, just as much as Reimar. But, God has continued to pester me and bid me keep going in spite of it.

So I kept praying and struggling with God as to why here? Why this place? What am I supposed to be doing for Him!? In His inimitable fashion and timing, God waited 6 months before revealing the title question.

But first some context. (I heard your facepalms from here.)

My church is shrinking. Dying really. But it has a chance to rebound, so don’t think I’m all gloom and doom here. There is a spiritual dryness going on that is something familiar to me. It is a drifting away that killed my childhood church (which was torn down recently after standing as a centerpiece for the city of Appleton, Wisconsin’s downtown for over a century) by lack of membership. The youth leaves, and the old die off till the remainder blow away.

But they’re fighting! Fighting hard to figure out how to bring people back and bring in the youth. So many fled because of COVID and are not coming back to the church. They stay at home and watch online instead. The heads of the church are hollering we need to get people in the pews! Only then will we grow! Special singers and preachers come in, discussions are held about a new youth ministry… But really, there is no growth. “Do not forsake the assembly!” they cry. “Do not forsake the assembly!”

And that’s when I heard it. “For what purpose?” came the whispered question.

We are assembling, but why? What mighty cause was the church taking up? What projects were happening under their watch? How were they leading the community? For what purpose was this body of Christ called together to serve the Lord? I’ve come to realize that a community needs a purpose to exist. Sitting in pews and listening to sermons 3 times a week and singing badly to hymns is not a draw, it’s rote. I talked to the deacons to ask what sort of projects were going on in the community right now? We’ve hosted missions groups, but what else are we as the church body doing? The answer was “nothing”. That’s when I realized the depth of what God was pointing out to me. The church I went to had no purpose for being anymore.

I asked my wife when the last call came in announcing another member died when the last wedding was before ours? Almost a decade. So again, I had pestering me, “Assemble for what purpose?”

My church and community right now may be a valley of dry bones, but there is something wonderful and big here just below the surface waiting to burst forth like a fresh spring from the rock. All it needs is for Moses to obey and touch the rock with his staff. (No I’m not making such grandiose assumptions about myself, but the metaphor is accurate. Someone must take their staff and touch the rock.) So we’re back to that whispered question which in the weeks since has become even more strident. Militant even.

“ASSEMBLE FOR WHAT PURPOSE!?”

We must all be asking ourselves this same question as we struggle against the rising tide of Mass Formation Psychosis (COVidiocy) that is sweeping the world. We are swamped with fear porn of the pandemic, of war drums, of supply chain shortages and economic collapse. We have a world where there is serious talk as well as government action taking place regarding the unvaxxed. They are being turned into the new pariahs… lepers of the modern world in a fashion not seen since 1930’s Berlin. To be shunned, hated and removed… if not exterminated by those who have been seduced by the new germophobic global world order siren song.

We, as individuals, or even church bodies can’t fight against such things. These are the powers and principalities contending for the shape of the world. We can only live in what is done and our only weapon there is prayer. Pray for His protection, guidance and providence.

But as we pray, we must start doing something to give ourselves more purpose. A Martha to balance out our Mary. Small things to help prepare for the trials and tribulations to come. We must ask ourselves in our churches this very same question. If we are not to forsake the body, and all seems to be dry bones or dying on the vine, what can we do to reverse this? How can we regain a practical purpose? What is it in the world you and I can control? How can we use this to make our worlds, and by extension our neighbor’s world a better place?

If we are not a light unto the world how can we lead out of darkness? What happens to salt that loses its savor? The Church in general as much as my church must find purpose. Now some are probably thriving, but many are most likely struggling. Many are suffering in the pews wondering why they’re even there. Always sick, never healing.

This is the pathway back to sanity and goodness. To give purpose to assembling as the Body of Christ.

Pray. And ask God to show you what His purpose is for you. Till then, find something you know will make your life and your neighbor’s better. Assembled together, with purpose, even if it’s as simple as having a meal together or picking up garbage from your neighborhood, or planting a vegetable garden to help stave off hunger for those who may be too poor to buy food thanks to inflation or job loss. In serving each other in Christ’s name, we gain purpose and reason that house by house, block by block, can save the world from insanity.

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They Gots This Depression Goin’ On… (Among Other Things)

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2022 had hardly begun when 2021 took a final shot at my wife and I, literally. Maybe I shouldn’t have given it the finger as it went out the door. And then this week…

I got a lovely email from the printer last week, and after a short investigation, I’m going to have to act on it. It seems that the cost for printing books is going up thanks to the second global great depression we have right now thanks to germophobicovidiocy caused shortages.

Unfortunately, it’s going up so much that it is forcing me to raise my prices on printed books to just keep pace. Mind you, my royalties are miniscule. I still make more per e-book downloaded than I do for these books which I shave off my profit margin to make sure I support local/small retailers allowing you lovely readers to order physical copies there.

I haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet, but it’s coming soon, and that means that the price on the back cover will not match because I don’t have the wherewithal at the moment to pay to have the books reset. Yes, to just change the barcode on the back costs me a set up fee. Six of them to be precise, and that’s not an expense I budgeted for, nor will any sales at the higher price cover it at the moment.

On a bit of positive news, I’m going to have details to announce of an upcoming podcast interview! I tape this week, and am not sure where I am in the podcast’s release schedule, but you’ll get more details once I know more.

And lastly…. Novella 3 for Tales from the Dream Nebula is now DONE! Yep, first draft in the can. It’s gone through some critiques and is now into my editorial passes. So far it’s been received by my early reader groups with great enthusiasm and excitement. That means although I’ve not released anything last year, I am setting up for rapid release starting (we hope) by sometime this Autumn 2022. If all things go well, we will also be looking at some interesting bonus extras to go with the releases! Gonna have to figure out how to set it up, and realizing that my website might have to change significantly in the not so distant future. Ugh, the business side of being an author. Hopefully I can keep things all together without getting too crazy.

…then again, isn’t crazy how things go, am I right?

Talk to y’all soon!

Ghostbusters: Afterlife – (With Spoilers) A Gushing Atypical View

I went on last Friday, and the above title should say it all. (Happy Thanksgiving BTW)

TL:DR if you don’t go see this movie in the cinema, you are not going to get more quality films like this. It serves as the bridge between what was, and what may come if you show some love for this franchise. So get your buns in seats, people. Buns in seats. See the bloody movie!!!!

I give it a 9/10 because of a few minor things I’d wish they’d had more of and missed opportunities, but that’s like asking for 3 cherries instead of 2 on top of an incredible sundae.

If you want your standard synopsis, this is not the review for you. This is about my experience with the film and my takeaways and why I felt it is a great accomplishment in filmmaking. Roll your eyes all you want, if you are so inclined at my gushing, but again… my personal thoughts/experiences. Just enjoy the squee and thoughts.

First, let me say I am on the trembling edge of being a superfan of this franchise. I will not see the 2016 version because the studio/director/cast make sure I knew what it was: a soulless woke remake with a political agenda first and no care for the fans of the original themes and less respect for the creation of those actors, writers and directors that made the franchise.

If you’re sick of being pandered to by people who see you as nothing more than a buck to pluck, this is your movie. These are your people. With one sentence, they expunge the blight that is GB2016 from the canon and do it with a more inclusive, diverse cast than it was with none of the typical “Look at how politically correct and relevant I am! Love me for checking the right boxes for social justicetm! If you don’t you’re a racist/sexist/homophobe nazi.” The same people who all the while sneer at you… the fan… as a rube to be cheated of your money and love. That alone gave it a lot of extra credibility with me as a fan.

In that regard, I am a purist. I’ve not played the 2009 game which was in spirit (hah!) the actual third movie, and heard very good things about it. Thus making Ghostbusters: Afterlife (G:A) the fourth of the franchise. BTW, there is some harkening back to the cartoon, “The REAL Ghostbusters” and the toy line with the appearance of the gunner’s seat, which is just a blast that even the characters squee over.

G:A has many good scares and leaves an anti-woke nip on the tongue. Just as much as it makes you laugh, you’ll clutch your popcorn. It’s messages are wholesome and affirmative. Evil’s clear and defined, good struggles and is wounded but ultimately victorious. (In another post I’ll toss some thoughts in for the spiritual side for my fellow Christians who wonder about this movie.)

The cast and director Jason Reitman have stated in interviews time and time again, this movie is about family. Particularly from what I saw, a family dealing with the loss of a loved one, and struggling with old wounds that must heal for the sake of the living. JR was uniquely placed as the only man capable of having the tools and the talent to save this franchise. He grew up surrounded by this franchise. (He even is the snotty kid in the birthday party laying into Winston and Ray in Ghostbusters II.) To him, as well as Akroyd, Murray, Ramis and Hudson, plus Weaver and Potts, this was a passion projects and work of love. It was sad that Rick Moranis could not come back, but he is retired from acting and firmly so. God bless you, Rick, you were missed, but we understand. You hear this from cast interviews on press junket all the time, but for the first time, I actually believed them. This gives the movie a heart you won’t find from other reboots/restarts/re-envisions that have come out.

What is this movie to me? Good hearted, in many ways wholesome, family entertainment like we used to get in the 1980’s. If it wasn’t for the fact that it is completely dependent on the original film, it would be the superior film.

From the opening credits when I heard the iconic piano trill, I personally was in a state of squee till the final “For Harold” at the end… and then for the mid and post credit scenes. STAY THE WHOLE MOVIE OR YOU MISS IMPORTANT DETAILS! There were at least 3 audio call backs in the credits alone which made me smile so wide it darn near bisected my head. My wife was laughing at me just as much as she was the film because of my reactions and bouncing in the seat.

By the time the film was over, I was crying happy tears as well as feeling the loss of both Egon Spangler and Harold Ramis. Something to note, this movie is a sign of healed wounds between Ramis and Murray as well as the rest of the cast who lost so many opportunities with each other due to the feud. It was a treat to see. In Harold’s memory, all things are made right again.

The opening sequence is the death of Egon being very heroic. It is terrifying in so many ways. Even more so, if you are a fan going in. You know what is going to happen and it’s unavoidable. You can smell it and dread the result the entire time, but it must come. It was handled beautifully, setting up the movie without a single word. I admit, it got me verklempt.

The new faces of Phoebe, Trevor and Callie… the estranged human detritus of Egon’s vanishing and death in mystery are on point if you want to be realistic. Through the movie, you see the wound of Egon’s departure. left because nobody understands why he left suddenly. (A point driven home with a sledgehammer later in the film by Ray Stantz in a conversation on the red phone.) They are fully realized and have their own story arcs to complete.

Granddaughter Phoebe’s is the anchor of the film, and she struggles with the awkwardness and social alienation brought about by being hyperintelligent, and an awkwardness that smells remarkably like a child knowing they have autism/aspberger’s and fighting hard to cope. Her awareness makes it touching. Older brother Trevor tries to help her because he sees how special she is, but is not equipped to help. In an attempt to connect, Phoebe cracks what I call “dad jokes” in an effort to connect with her peers. They’re real groaners and you love ’em. But one in particular had me howling for an inordinately long time. Watching Phoebe cracking these jokes in the face of Gozer leaves you both laughing and cringing in fear once again of what could possibly happen. Reitman utilizes Alfred Hitchock’s theory on suspense perfectly. You the audience know there’s a bomb under the table as the characters sit down for dinner and you’re praying they get out alive. That’s serious craft.

Podcast, a plucky boy who becomes Phoebe’s only friend at summer school (why they were in summer school was kinda fuzzy to me. I may have blinked or laughed to long to catch the reason) is a weird and endearing character. He’s a surrogate for the audience with trying to comprehend the mystery of what’s going on in Summerville. Podcast possesses such an innocent joy at all things new, seeing everything with unjaded eyes, is refreshing. He’s definitely a fun “Mini-Ray”, wearing Stantz’s old goggles for so much of the movie made me smile. (When he clicks the goggle’s polaroid and you watch the old picture shoot out the side which he uses to fan himself after the excitement of the proton pack’s first successful test, I just howled with laughter. Yeah, I’m that guy in the theater.) Because Podcast sees himself as a possible social media influencer, his silly commentary for his podcasts are wonderful. One part clueless, one part kid at play, one part marketer. You can’t help but love a kid brave enough to lick ectoplasm. The chemistry between him and Phoebe has spots of puppy love at its finest. My singular complaint about this character is you never learn his real name.

Callie Spangler’s damage from Egon’s estrangement is more subtly expressed at first, but builds. Callie embodies abandonment and her inability to relate to her father’s super-science brain and iconoclastic behavior has devastated her all the more. She was a typical girl in the shadow of a genius even his peers and friends couldn’t understand. Her mother (who is not Janine, and clearly there is some bad blood toward Egon, judging by Callie’s reaction, is out of the picture,) must have hated Egon as well for leaving. Because of the pain, she has expunged her father from her children’s lives. The lingering question of “why did he abandon me?” is essential to her character. One single line encapsulates her resentment and bitterness when going through the “Dirt Farmer’s house” (the name all the locals knew Egon by) saying “Huh. Not a single photo.” You see she believes that Egon forgot about everyone who loved him and never really cared. When Phoebe is on the trail of the ghost of her grandfather in the middle of the night, you see Callie in the background passed out drunk at the kitchen table after clearly struggling with what to do with their lives. I suspect this will resonate with many viewers who grew up in a split/divided home where a parent left. I can attest friends who had divorced parents exhibited many of the same traits to one degree or another. But when Callie finally learns the truth over what’s going on, and sees that all the pictures were in Egon’s secret lab (complete with firepole, because of course it has one) she sees how much he loved her, and how much attention he paid to her life. He just couldn’t afford to be there because Egon was literally saving the world on a daily basis while the planet was in blissful ignorance.

There’s a very touching scene between Phoebe and her mother Callie where the girl demands “Why didn’t you tell us our grandfather was Egon Spangler?” You see the wounds on both character and for a second you feel it with them. It makes their reconciliation at the end all the more powerful and will put you in tears if you’re a romantic so-and-so like me.

Trevor, has the most ordinary, and least interesting arc which helps make the film more real. As I thought about it, this is not because they didn’t know what to do with him, but lay in what furtive interests a 15 year old boy would have. Girls and cars. Possibly in the reverse order. He chases the cute girl at the local drive-in the instant they hit Summersville. Her name is Lucky (or is it a nickname?) is the unattainable girl. All the boys know it and mock Trevor for trying. He lies to get a job at the drive in, just to be near her. Which gives him entrance to her circle and connection to the greater story because of some teenage hijinx.

But it’s Oklahoma, so he needs a car to have independence. This ain’t NYC. One of the few places in the world you can live your life without owning a car. That means getting one of the junkers left by his grandfather’s working again, and of course that would be Ecto 1. He has no clue what an iconic vehicle he has thanks to his mother expunging all things Ghostbuster and Egon from his life. This is so grounded and real you wonder how he gets involved. It’s through Ecto 1 that Trevor becomes involved in the mystery and insanity that is growing around his sister, and ultimately to him being one of the team to stop Gozer.

Then there’s Gary Grooberson. Paul Rudd, when he got the part was so excited he couldn’t help but release the fact that he was cast in the movie. The actor’s personal reaction as a fan at seeing a genuine trap is a palpable. I love the fact that he connects with Phoebe first, and then Callie second. You can see that he has a certain amount of hero worship toward the Ghostbusters that rose tints his vision toward them, but at the same time makes him more sincere. He is the missing piece to their family, even if none of them realize it. The dialogue between him and Phoebe and Callie are some glittering jewels. Rudd also gets the joy of many call backs to Rick Moranis’ character Louis Tully, but also driving the stake through the heart of GB2016 with the singular line “There hasn’t been a ghost sighting for 30 years.” BAM! DONE! I cheered even though nobody else in the theater did because I doubt they realized what just hit the citadel of wokeness, and sank their agenda boat in one salvo. (P.S. this is why the critics are raging.) I will admit on his date with Callie, I got very scared when he started talking about fracking. I literally said “Oh, here we go” and gritted my teeth. But then Callie takes the piss out of it, which Gary detects and says “Are you that drunk or am I boring you?” Bye bye environazi narrative. We the audience were right along with Callie on that MEGO (Mine Eyes Glazeth Over) expression. The beauty there was that Reitman then uses this as a segue into how Callie can’t connect to Phoebe, but Gary can. That’s some good writing right there.

Lucky was the only character that I felt was more or less a prop. Not for the actress’ part. She does a stellar job in what she’s given. She is the “Love Interesttm“. I did like the fact that she was the police chief’s daughter too. She has a bit of street smarts but used for more comedic effect, despite being “third generation dump” stuck out in the middle of nowhere. I think a lot can be done with her moving forward, since any sequel now (which from what I understand is greenlit, and Sony wants to create the “Ghost Corps” cinematic universe) they will all be college age and can do so much more. Again, if Lucky is her nickname, give her a real name. Someone I did want to see a little more resolution to was why did the whole police department disappear when the ghosts started showing up? You don’t even get a hint of where they were or what they were doing as spooks invaded Summersville. Again, one of the rare rough spots that could have been solved with a 5-15 second shot of deputies or the sheriff trying to deal with the deluge of the supernatural.

The only other missed opportunity and waste of talent I’d give to J.K. Skinner as Ivo Shandor. Although I agree on one level with his fate, I’m going… “Dude! That’s J. K. Skinner, man! You gotta do something with that talent!” Oh well, back as a spirit next movie! Jason Reitman, are you paying attention?

Seeing the old faces come back… and some looked very old as 35 years will do… was heartwarming and touching. I wanted to see more of them, but alas, this wasn’t their movie alone anymore. The next generation must rise up.

This movie is also about sacrifice. And not just for loved ones, but for all mankind. Egon you learn felt a genuine care for all of humanity. Not the happy fluffy “We Are the World”, but in the right to exist and live according to our conscience. He sacrificed his entire life to save the world and forestall the apocalypse Gozer tried to inflict in 1984, and managed to do so till his death when his last gambit failed at the start of the movie. After Phoebe, Trevor and Podcast capture their first ghost, causing considerable damage to the community in the process they’re in jail, and Phoebe uses her one phonecall to contact Ray Stantz. When you hear him say “Egon Spangler can rot in hell, for all I care,” your heart hurts. But as the story unfolds and you learn what Egon had done because he couldn’t get them to see what he knew was coming and had to act, you realize these are metaphors for the rift between the three actors as well. When Phoebe tells Ray that Egon is dead and she is his granddaughter, the regret and pain in Ray’s eyes says it all. It’s a good scene, but I felt it is where Afterlife left the most cards on the table. You hear but don’t see Winston or Venkman, which would have been great to see a few minutes spent of “getting the band back together” with Ray going out and giving these moments a chance to shine. Even including Dana Barret (possibly Venkman?) as they convinced a reluctant Peter to come back for one last time, so to speak would have been brilliant.

I will add that it was great to see the original trio (and then Egon in spirit) coming back does feel a little Deus Ex Machina… but it is a rusty Machina, and Gozer has learned a trick or two and crossing the streams isn’t going to do it any more. Egon burnt that trick out keeping Gozer at bay. It would have been nice to see them get some mentor time with the kids, but I also get it. Pacing and they might dominate the scene too much. Sigh… such are the editing choices one must make for good storytelling.

Something else I want to point out is this movie addresses woke virtue signaling in a way it’s acolytes aren’t happy about. While the cult of woke use the “checkboxes” as a way to supposedly prove their virtue and superiority over the knuckle dragging orange man lovers, this movie checks the same boxes, without making it an issue.
Strong female lead? Phoebe. Check.
Racially diverse cast? Podcast is asian and Lucky is black. Check.
“Alphabet” people inclusion? Gozer is gender fluid non-binary. Check.

Snuck that last one in on you didn’t I? Yep. Gozer doesn’t need a gender and can be whatever it wants to be. BTW, that’s the proper singular pronoun for something that doesn’t line up with a male/female alignment, per the rules of the English language. “It”. If you have a problem, it’s with language (which you don’t have control over) not me.

So there you go. Not only does the movie fix canon, it shows how to do all the virtue signaling right without being obnoxious. No focus is put on this. It just “is what it is”. Focus on the story, not ticking boxes of pseudo offense based on an agenda in your head.

Ultimately, this is a great movie, but if watching some of my more trusted critics out there, I can see that my sentiment is not shared by people who aren’t fans of the original 1984 film. And even then, too many fellow watchers in the audience are not paying close attention. There’s so many details that slide by, that if you’re not attentive, you’ll miss them and it will diminish the experience. Add to that, the hatred for the fans by the “professional” critics working for major media outlets that seem to think all things not in direct service to their political agenda is therefore bad and want revenge for the public turning up its nose at GB2016… well… go and make up your own mind.

That may be why I gush a bit about this movie, and see it as such an achievement, but if you’re not the target audience, or are “meh” about the property, you’re probably not going to care about it. The themes won’t hit, the sacrifice of Egon’s life because of his belief in his life’s work will mean little, and that will diminish your experience.

On the other hand, if you are like me, a fan of the franchise, love the characters this is the sequel you deserved and a chance to see a franchise relaunched in a positive way.

I ain’t afraid of no ghost

A September to Forget

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This September I had a close brush with death.

I’m not exaggerating this at all, but honest to goodness, sitting there going “you know what? I think I might die very soon!”

Me and my household caught COVID from my wife’s best friend, S. She caught it from work. Ultimately, no one is to blame. You may believe in the medical security theater of masks and social distancing. I do not. I’ve done my research and looked into these policies origins and found circular reference junk science at the root. You do what you feel to function in your life. Just don’t expect me to join in.

That said, COVID is dangerous, but not for the reasons you think. It tears up your red blood cells and hemoglobin, which forces the liver to try and extract those dangerous bits of cell and free radical iron, but it can’t do that very well. So the next line of defense against that is your lungs which quickly become inflamed and fill with liquid that THEN turns into the real killer: pneumonia or other lung infections. Of course it’s doing incredible damage to the alveoli in there too. So don’t think I’m downplaying the danger of COVID. I respect it and regard it like I would Meningitis or Measles or Pneumonia. Deadly if ignored, but easily dealt with, if you take care of your nutrition and get the proper therapeutics (therapeutics that are illegal in the US, but working miracles in a dozen other nations).

And no, don’t talk to me about the vaccines either. If you want to take it, you do that. I’ve done my research, and I don’t trust any of those companies to do me anything but find a way to cause harm. So, if you want that discussion, don’t. Please. You do what you need to feel safe and I won’t talk down to you for your choice.

But I survived. I’m into week 3 since I got infected and it’s been a very tough road with hospitalization and supplemental oxygen (I was down to 65 at times at my lowest and panting like a dog in heat. Normal is 96). My Dr. figures it will be another week or two before I’m more or less fully back to normal. At that point, I hope to get back to writing, working on the graphic novel, talking to artists and all that. It sucks that this cancelled my honeymoon, but whatcha gonna do but reschedule? So more to come soon.

Rest assured, I’m resting and being careful, lest there be some hidden damage caused by COVID like Myocarditis or blood clots. My Dr. has been very very good (even with the FDA and CDC refusing him access to proven drugs to cure the disease.) and moved quickly to keep me out of the ICU where our friend S. is.

Prayers for S. are greatly appreciated. She is still intubated and ventilated and her status has plateaued. We pray that she can overcome this and her previous health conditions, but it’s all in God’s hands. We are praying heartily that He shows his grace and mercy and takes all the glory unto Him in healing S, but if that is not His desire, we pray that He takes her home. After events in August, and the deliverance and spiritual warfare we were all involved with, I’m certain she will be glad to go home to Him, if He does not have more work for her in this world.

With a bit of a smirk and an eye roll I will say that there have been two silver linings from all this. #1, I am free of pitting edema in my left leg. This health problem has dogged me for over a decade, and its finally gone. Amazing. #2, I dropped 40lbs the hard way. That’s almost 6 inches on the waist, so that’s pretty fantastic too. I do NOT recommend the COVID diet where I couldn’t eat for 4-5 days. Don’t do it.

But I hope all is well with you all and the Lord’s blessing you mightily, as he has blessed me and my family. Major cheers to my wife who was my nursemaid through out all this. She was just wonderful and I cannot say enough good about her. I wouldn’t have made it without all she did.

Go well, God bless.

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There and Back Again: A Realm Makers 2021 Story

I’m back safe and/or sound, though the rumors of my soundness seem to be greatly exaggerated. I know several of you are wondering why I don’t post stuff before or during RM when I go, but that’s purely for safety reasons. So I save it all for now.

The Gateway Arch… and a train. I like trains.

I am so absolutely positively grateful to have been among my fellow Realmies again. I MISSED YOU GUYS SO MUCH! Awkward hugs and high fives all around.

Last day out the door with my darling bride.

The highlight in many ways was getting a chance to talk more than a couple times with Frank Piretti. I mean come on. As his keynote mentioned he felt like (and we all concurred) he is a professor emeritus of so many of us Christian authors out there. Particularly spec fic. I just wish I’d have gotten a picture with him, and not just with him talking to my wife at breakfast. (sorry, not sharing. too personal and private. Plus it’s a bad angle, for both.) So here’s a different candid shot. See if you can guess the author by their hands. LOL.. just kidding.

Playing Guillotine with Rob Story, Kat Vinson, Emily Haese (spelling?), Elizabeth Liberty Lewis, Kate Prater & and a quick round fill in by Megan Ward (I believe that was her last name).

The best moments from cons like this are often the candid ones not in classes and just by happenstance. You also never know who you’re going to touch and who will touch you back. The Clevandence sisters (apologies if misspelled) made my night at the book fair when I asked her what her favorite scene was in my first book, and I loved the writing of that same (grisly) scene too. It was a real highlight for me to talk like that.

For those who don’t know or realize, authors often love hearing back from their readers personally. Especially for us small indie authors. Too often we publish into the void, like every author and never know if we touched your lives. To hear when we do brings us all a spark of joy. Of course if we ticked you off, sigh, please extend us grace. We’re sensitive souls and may know the thing that ticked you off wasn’t our best efforts to. Kinda like a sports star who has a famous bad play regrets their mistake too. But still, it reminds us we’re not alone. We are touching others out there. So never be shy with your (positive) feedback, and be gentle (but honest) with us when we goof.

This year, my darling bride got me to cosplay for the awards banquet. It was a spectacular time. She had a whole backstory about the 1950’s librarian who’s favorite hero came to life for her. The story evolved through the night and was quite quite cute. But I have several pictures I got with people I have a real soft spot for in my writing career. Some I can share.

I was very happy to be friends with two winners of the Realm Awards. Very proud of their achievements that night and had some great conversations with so many people.

All in all, going to Realm Makers was a wonderful reminder of the good things in life. This last 24 months since I was at RM in the flesh has been a rollercoaster. In many ways I’ve ended up in a far better place, but at times… just I’m reminded to be grateful for what I have.

Oh, and I have leftover paperbacks and a few hardcovers from the consignment store. I’m toying with doing something special with at least one set of the books, but am also considering selling a couple sets of autographed copies. What do y’all think about that? Of course, I’d have to figure out how to set up a store, paypal and all that. I dunno what options are available. We’ll see though. Of course, if you want to encourage me, let your thoughts be known in the poll below.

Okay, more soon when there’s stuff to say!

Illustrator Wanted!

I am looking to hire a professional comic artist for “Tales from the Dream Nebula”.

It is a raygun gothic, “nanopunk”, high adventure graphic novel series.

-Expected project size:

— Initial crowdsource pitch materials

— Character and set piece design

— Some marketing images for merch and stretch goals

— a short (up to 10 page) teaser

3 Graphic Novels are currently planned, ranging from 64-96 pages each.

Release of future graphic novels depending on success.

Look/Style

Art Deco/Art Nouveau/Streamline Moderne similar to old serials, but with modern comic sensibilities.

Must be able to draw visually exciting, high tech machinery, airships and technology.

Able to provide finished color art (pencil/Ink/Colors). Previous industry work experience highly preferred, but will consider the right up and coming artist.

If interested, you can connect with me through DM on Discord or my contact page here.

The Fertile Earth that is Post-Post-Modernism

“And then what happens?”

This is the question I’ve been hearing in my head a lot lately. When talking to other writers trying to get going with their first project, or more importantly, with my own work. It’s the question at the heart of every Stephen King novel (by his own admission during an interview) that drives him to completion. It’s driven me through every tabletop RPG I ever ran. If the characters have a lot of stuff, steal it/break it/lose it. If they are sitting around doing nothing, attack them. Basic D&D fare, but it keeps the players entertained and gives hooks to hang a plot on.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the little brushes I’ve had with Post-Modernist philosophy as I sit there watching the world burn around me in this soon to be Post-Covidiocy world with monetary collapses, market collapses, and the death of western civilization staring me right in the puss.

“And then what happens?”

As a spec fic author, this is really important when I start considering the future. How much of it will be Mad Max? How much “1984” or “Brazil”? Will it be “A Brave New World”? Anyone for “Soylant Green”? Or will it be all of it with a side of “Hunger Games”? My money’s on “A Brave New 1984 in Brazil while having Soylent Green for Tea with Mad Max”.

Photo by Artem Lysenko on Pexels.com

But it’s also got me thinking more deeply on the roots of creativity thanks to a video by “The Quartering” who talked about the new “Cruella” film being a female version of “Joker”. Mind you, I’ve seen the spoilers and went…. really? Not my cup of tea, but at least the fans seem to like it so who am I to criticize too severely (of course to laugh yourself silly, See the “Pitch Meeting” video on Youtube lampooning it… come to think of it, that’s really what got me into the question I’ve been facing lately.

BTW, all this pop culture jargonist mish-mash has been in service to my point today.

What all this spawned in my head lately was this: If Post-Modernist philosophy posits the smashing of the old symbols, semiotics and semantics in which to create new things out of the wreckage (think mashup music, crossover films, retellings, trope twisting and pop culture pile ups like “Ready Player One”… none of which am I criticizing because I LIKE much of these things) at what point are the symbols so broken down that they become the fertile soil for the creation of NEW ideas?

Yes, yes. Stop there now. I know “there’s nothing new under the sun”. This has all been done before. I, for one do not believe that history repeats itself, but lean more to the “but it does rhyme” school of thought. I’ll go so far as to say it will also riff and ad lib too. The broad tropes/genres/mediums will always exist to some degree for they speak to the human experience, but consider the evolution of how mankind reacts. How does it cycle through history? There’s always been horror stories for instance. But what was once cautionary fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm have evolved to slasher films and torture porn of today thanks to mankind’s memory and boredom for the familiar.

So, now that I’ve committed to using up my allotment of “Quotation Marks” for the month… I’ll sort of get to the point of what I’ve been pondering. When will we start seeing some new and “truly unique” creative endeavors in entertainment? When will it stop being a recycling of “Star Wars”, or a perversion of “Superman”? Is it possible to break free from the Pixar Formula? Will we finally be far enough removed from nostalgia porn to want to put something great and new that can thrive on the silver screen instead of just crappy imitations of the masters who came before? Are there any masters left or do we have to wait till we are sufficiently removed from them to finally have new ones show up on the scene again?

How many people know or have read great authors or playwrights from the Roman empire? Beyond Cicero that is, but that also belabors my point. There’s a good chance that the tens if not hundreds of thousands of artists who existed then, and may have created great works are lost to time. Destroyed by neglect or burned up in the destruction of institutions like the Great Library fire. Some may say that’s the same conundrum looked at by sci fi in dozens of books/shows/movies as they try to save mankind from becoming extinct. But that type of extinction seems to be central to existence in this world. Species go extinct. Houses rot away and are reclaimed by the land. We are just dust in the wind, and so are our ideas.

I look at my own work and wonder if it will stand the test of time? In 500 years, assuming the Rapture didn’t happen, will my books be remembered like “Pilgrim’s Progress”? Or even “The Chronicles of Narnia”? Now that would be the real achievement! The real blessing of God. At least in heaven I may know the true impact of my work. But on earth?

I mean, consider one of the greatest films of all time that was on the verge of being forgotten till someone missed the deadline to renew the copyright and it lapsed into public domain: “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Thanks to that mistake, the movie was run almost non-stop at Christmas in the US because it was cheap and nobody wanted to work in the TV station on the holiday so it was discovered by a whole new generation of viewers, and was reborn without ever having changed. An artistic resurrection.

So what fertile soil is coming from the grinding down and emulsification of the symbols of western civilization as multi-culti-green-globalism tries to roll over everything? What new fronds will grow up from the digested mass media and symbols that once were considered holy and proud? Even my own “Tales From the Dream Nebula” is supping on small pieces and inspirations from dozens if not hundreds of sources, drawing itself a new vitality from the loam of creative history. Am I making something new and fresh, or am I making a mosaic out of the pieces of entertainment symbols as I dance in the graveyard garbage dump that is the current state of pop culture?

Early in my writing endeavors that I realized there was a chance my books would be my only bid for immortality in a world where there is no immortality. With no prospects for progeny, this was where I would grasp the mane of eternity and attempt to hang on as long as I could. But in the end, just like every artist that came before me, how long would it be before I was forgotten. Would it be the day after I died and my manuscripts were thrown into the trash? Would my tombstone wear away in the rain? The internet is not forever. It must have electricity and human desire to persevere… or would (as some would believe… not me) some A.I. rise up and delete all of man’s history in a microsecond? None of us know for sure, but we who create all hope to be the exception to the rule, and are re-discovered like “Beowulf” or never forgotten like Homer’s “Odyssey”.

So we circle back to the original question, but now standing on top of a giant societal “Butte Des Mortes” and cry out to any who will listen:

“And then what happens?”

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Road Trip! (& a Life Update)

I wasn’t sure this was going to happen. Really really wasn’t, but I put it on the altar for the Lord to make the decision.

This last week I got my answer. The City and County of St. Louis dropped their masking mandates and the hotel is being all mealy mouthed on following local ordinances. So I’m going back to Realm Makers! (Those of you on my Discord channel learned about this last week of course.)

So cue up the house sitter so the cats don’t get lonely-

Photo by Mustafa ezz on Pexels.com
Bwing us tweats, hooman.

-aaaaaaaaand it’s time to go hang out with my fellow Realmies in the flesh again! I’m so glad it’s back in St. Louis, even if it’s now an extra 3 hours of drive time for me. At least the first half of it is going to be very pretty coming out of the mountains.

I’m not sure if I’m going to do the consignment store this year. I could, and I have something I can get for the gift bag if I can find a printer in time. I really didn’t prepare because I didn’t expect to go. Oh well, even if I don’t bring anything since finances will be tighter this year, it is still going to be very much worth my while.

I guess what made me the most enthused about this year is that the guest of honor is Frank Piretti. His “This Present Darkness” was the book that made me realize that you could write about the spiritual warfare side of Christianity in a refreshing and interesting way that was an evolution of a pair of my all time favorite Christian books, “The Screwtape Letters” and “The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis. Seriously, if you’ve not read those two, check them out. Amazing stuff. Piretti took the concept and ran. If things are going berserk in your life and you have no idea why, I highly encourage you to read “This Present Darkness” too. It may make some personal sense to you.

As for my writing, I’ve been getting scolded for leaving Akiniwazisaga on the back burner too long in my alpha reader’s eyes, and I have another fan who’s been telling me to hurry up so she doesn’t run out of series to read. She doesn’t want to wait for the conclusion of the story. Thanks guys.

Lately the writing focus has continued on the third novella in the Tales From the Dream Nebula series. Making sure you all get your money’s worth out of it before I let it out the gate. The first two novellas have hit the editing stage, and once that’s complete, we look at doing the script for the graphic novels.

One big discussion that’s started up though has been merchandise. I’m curious to hear what others would love to see as merchandise to buy from Akiniwazisaga. Apparel is coming (yes I know I’ve said that for a while, but we’re finally getting ready to move on some of this. The easy answers are of course typical book merch like coffee mugs, posters and bookmarks. There’s been some talk of different things too (I personally want a life sized plush version of Bergamot, but oof, the cost of making custom toys. I don’t even want to think what it would take to make Popvinyl toys even. A much bigger fan base to be certain)

Anyway, I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on merch ideas they’d love to see associated with Akiniwazisaga or the characters.

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels.com

Long Lost Post: Casual Observance Becomes Insight

So as I was perusing my posts, I realized a post I never got out the door was sitting there for TWO YEARS now!  I feel bad about that, but as I read it over, it was a time capsule of sorts of how I felt in August 2018, you know… before the world went mad?But I realized that was a thought I wanted to express, but apparently just didn’t hit post.  So here’s a blast from the past that I think is potentially even more relevant in the age of the Wokestasi’s cancel jihad.  So, enjoy.

sea landscape water ocean

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Gosh… it’s been already 2 weeks since I went to Realm Makers Conference.  (If you want pictures… I need likes.  Come on, you know you want to see some cosplayers being super cool, yah?  Like my last post.)

Since then, a detail started nibbling at my mind in regards to writing in general.  Now, this is in no way a criticism to any writer, editor, publisher, agent… but it’s had a bit of an influence on me and my future with writing.

The shelves of the consignment store and merchant tables were full of excellent books.  That said, I realized as I flipped through the pages and read the blurbs on the covers something was missing for me as a reader: there were so few books written for me as an audience.  The protagonists were almost exclusively female, or minorities of some type, be they actual aliens or a sub-culture dealing with issues I could not even begin to relate to.  I felt lost in books that should be speaking to my love of literature.  I was at a conference devoted to Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy writers after all, and I did purchase a few that spoke to me.  Perhaps this is part of why I have returned to the classics like “The Comte De Monte Christo”, “Huckleberry Finn” and “Oliver Twist”.

As I tried to make sense of it all, I kept hearing a statement ringing in my head that several people had told me: “Boys don’t read”.  They are too busy or just not interested in sitting still to read.  Any number of reasons/excuses have been foisted about.  From video games to their active nature just keep them from sitting down and having a good read.

Then it hit me that there may be a second part to this equation as I considered all the books I perused and did not buy:

There are blessedly few books written FOR boys anymore!

Almost all the focus is on serving anyone but boys, and there is good reason for it too in regards to an economic sense.  Girls do read more so there is more money in it. They read earlier and spend more on books. Of course, stories traditionally written for boys have been gender swapped because some girls like a bit of adventure and daring-do too.

So now we get stories of Katniss Everdeen instead of Ender Wiggins.  Nancy Drew instead of the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift and his Electric Brain is replaced with Bella Swan and her Sparkly Relationship.  Yes, I partially mock and those books have every right to exist side by side on the shelf. May the best story win.  On the other hand, what if it isn’t an even playing field?  What if books for boys are being edged out of the market place for plausibly good reasons… but not really?

What if it’s more the case that boys aren’t reading because nobody’s writing anything they want to read?  Or worse, talk down to them in books they want to enjoy. Where is the next Johnny Quest?  Today we’d only get that if you made Johnny, Hadji’s sidekick and either made Dr. Quest be in a gay relationship with Race Bannon and Hadji would have to be his adopted daughter.  Sure there’s an audience, and any boy who grows/grew up in a traditional or typical American or western household… these are hard to relate.  At least that’s what seems to be en vogue for traditional publishers. I didn’t come from a culture of diversity and inclusion with more variety than a Christmas fruitcake. I came from a monoculture that saw other cultures as something to respect as having their place too. I’m a firm believer in the Great American Melting Pot of people united by a chosen common culture.

Even Christian publishers are pushing for “diversity and inclusion” over good story.  How diverse were the good old adventure pulps and sci fi?  They always pushed at the boundaries of society.  Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad.  They were products of their era after all.

But how many men remember nights as boys, hiding under the covers reading an exciting book well past their bedtime.  Just one more chapter! Waking up with a dead flashlight or their face stuck to a page they don’t remember reading?  I sure do and I wasn’t that big a reader till I was a teen. The thrill of amazing stories and exotic places

But I had stories I wanted to read!  Passionately!  I loved anthologies of short ghost stories and adventure and sci fi and all the other things that made me dream of bigger horizons than could be found in my life.  Stories that spoke to the problems of young boys like Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade from “Something Wicked This Way Comes”.  Books about girls coming to terms with their issues are now a dime a dozen, but how boys become men is now almost a taboo topic.

I feel there’s a need to speak to boys and men in literature again.  Tell the stories they crave of bravery and great feats of daring-do. They are under-served it seems, and I for one plan to start serving that audience.  For men who remember the boys they were and for boys who want more than just idle spectacle… and if girls or anyone else wants to join in the ride, come on board, and enjoy the adventure!

close up photo of person touching inscribed wall

Photo by Oziel Gómez on Pexels.com

Into the High Places… For Real

Well, the last few months have been crazy…

…Even for me.

Photo by Gianluca Grisenti on Pexels.com

For the last few months, not so productive. Yes I’ve gotten some editing done, but I’ve been distracted. More precisely, I’ve been a bit… twitterpated. Some have accused me of being besotted. It’s unfortunately sapped a lot of momentum from my writing. But twitterpation is a darn good reason to not write much.

That’s because there’s wedding bells in my very near future, and with it, I am relocating. Yes, I’m leaving this land of lakes, cheese and beer with a big “O yah! See yah lader, den!” as we who are fluent in Yooper would say. And with that, I’m headed to the mountains of West Virginia to live with my soon to be wife. I wish my departure from the Badger State wasn’t so convoluted, but with Covidiocy running rampant and civil liberties being obliterated by panicked sheeple driven by power mad wolves in politicians clothing… well. Let’s just say the timing could not have been more fortuitous.

So I’m off, and hopfully when the dust settles in… :::whistles low::: 30 days, I will be building a new routine. One that hopefully includes a LOT more writing. Here’s hoping!

So what’s been going on?

Ohhhhh… A little of this and that, but primarily, I am up to the 3rd draft of TWO novellas. Yes, the Dream Nebula is taking shape. There are a few big opportunities coming with that I may have mentioned, or hinted at. I can’t quite reveal yet, but I will say this… I’m looking for an artist skilled in not only doing character ship design, but also sequential art. So if you’re one of those types of people who’s an accomplished/previously published comic book artist and is looking for a project to work on next, get in touch. Not kidding. If your style is right for what I’m about to dig into, I want to talk with you!

(Yes I know I said I was starting the 3rd novella shortly… see the above distraction/twitterpation explanation. It’s still coming. We’ll just see about when.)

And due to current world events, I’ve been getting an idea for a set of short stories. The idea had bubbled in the back of my head off and on for a while, but maybe it’s time I try my hand at flash fiction. You know, short stories/scenes/vignettes in this world I have coming pecking at me.

So, let’s see… getting married, moving, novellas, ummm…. flash fiction ideas…. what am I forgetting?

AH! oh yeah. Akiniwazisaga. Good news. Thanks to my computer frying it’s cooling block last week, I had to get back on my backup “Wee Beastie” and use it while waiting for it to get fixed. When I did that, I found a LOT of information I thought I’d lost, including maps and many other things.

As for music, I’ll be posting some new stuff sooner or later here. I finally got some made into video format. Why Propellerhead Reason won’t directly export into that format is beyond me! Ugh! Just requires a little editing and we should be good to go.

So that’s the news from the land of the mad, and this Cheesehead is going into exile… or becoming an expatriate for good. Only time will tell. So till the next update which will be coming at a much higher elevation and farther south in the hollers and the hills… This version of the song fits my bittersweet but looking forward to a joyous future mood.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwpXjtK5m20