Thursday, August 31, 2006

Star Trek gets the 'Lucas' treatment

I'm not sure how I feel about this: The original Star Trek episodes have been digitally remastered, with updated CGI effects not available 40 years ago. (I'm one who still loves the original of Star Wars, warts and all.) I'm not sure if Gene Roddenberry will be rolling over in his grave or not. The good side of this is that the series is being released in syndication again. (via)

Reading Relentless

Last night I started reading Relentless, by Infuze founder and editor-in-chief Robin Parrish. Oh my goodness -- the title says it all. From the opening sentence you're pulled into the story and it doesn't let up (at least it hasn't yet and I'm a third of the way through the book). One of the reasons I don't read a lot of thrillers is that they've become so formulaic and unsatisfying. But Relentless has a lot going for it that lifts it out of the genre's typical rut. There's a sense of the epic here, a sense of forces larger than life at work. Like a good comic book, the action is sharply drawn. The hero (Grant Borrows) is an ordinary guy who is suddenly thrown into a circumstance he can't understand. While this has been done a lot, the character is fleshed out well, as are most of the other characters. And the story is propelled non-stop from the start. Again, this could be a weakness, but so far the pace works for me. I'll have more to say when I finish the book -- for now I'll just say I'm liking this a lot.

On another subject: A couple of days ago I posted about being honest Christians. Then, yesterday I read this great interview with Dan Haseltine (Jars of Clay frontman) at Christian Music Today. He talks about the band's new album and his efforts to be more honest about who he is and about his struggles and temptations. This is excellent. And here's a related thought. One of Haseltine's points is that being honest with those around you allows for accountability. And I realized that maybe one reason we aren't really honest with each other about how our faith life is going is that we don't really want to be held accountable. We're really encouraging people at church to be involved with small groups, which I believe in. As our church grows (we're running close to 400 every Sunday, split between two services) it becomes harder for the pastoral staff to really minister to everybody. The body needs to take care of itself and small groups can be an effective way to nurture and disciple people. But there are always people who don't want to be involved in small groups and I wonder if this avoidance of accountability is part of it. I don't have any hard evidence for this, it's just a thought.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tuesday ramblings, mini-rant

Here's some things of interest:

The guitar wizard that millions have watched on You Tube playing a rocked out arrangement of Pachelbel's Canon has been revealed.

Here's another pretty nifty bit of guitar playing. (via)

How's your U.S. geography? This nifty little flash game will test it. You even get praise for getting it right. (also via)

Scot McKnight has been writing about the rise of neo-fundamentalism here and here.

My brother asks what causes people to turn away from their faith. Last week this post at the Thinklings also generated a lot of discussion about 'dark nights of the soul.' Be sure to read the comments. I think the church has erred in not encouraging honesty and transparency when it comes to difficult times in the Christian walk. For too long we've taught that being a Christian is a happy, peaceful life. Well, guess what. It's not. But it can be full of joy and the 'peace that passes all understanding.' But Jesus says he gives his peace, which is not the world's idea of peace. And probably not the modern church's idea of peace, either. We set our brothers and sisters in Christ up for failure if we teach them any differently. OK, rant over. We now return to your regularly scheduled blog.

(edited 8/30/06 to fix Scot McKnight's name)

A new column and thoughts on our awesome God

I've posted my new Notes from the Windowsill column: A Garden of Righteousness.

Here's the introduction:
In recent weeks, the pastors of our church have preached some sermons about living for God's glory and being instruments of renewal in our community. One of Pastor David McCowan's jumping off points for his sermons based on Joel 2 and Ezekiel 37 was the book Red Moon Rising, about the 24-7 prayer movement. So I wanted to write a column that was relevant to those messages. The Sunday after I turned this in, Pastor David preached from Isaiah 61 -- I didn't know he was going to do that, and he already had his message planned before I wrote my column. God is cool.
By the way, I've started reading Red Moon Rising -- this is an amazing book and one everyone should read. I haven't gotten very far, but the story of what God is doing in unexpected places is amazing. But then, that's our God.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sidebar updates

If you look closely, you'll see that I took a little time this afternoon to reorganize my blogroll and update some links in the sidebar. I've added the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, since Bonnie Calhoun has set up a nifty new Web site. I've added links to my most recent stories, Confessions of a Christian Mom and The Man Who Kept a Dragon in the Basement. I've also added links to Dick Staub's blog and Relief Journal. Dick Staub writes regularly about faith and the arts and Relief is a new journal for Christian expression.

I've also rearranged the blogroll. Bloglines lets you do a lot more manipulation than it used to (either that, or I just finally figured it out), so it was easy to group things into categories. I think it's pretty self-explanatory. Daily Rounds are the blogs I read every day, almost without fail. Friends are, well, friends. Strange, Wonderful, Whatever are the ones I'm not exactly sure how to classify. Let me add just a note about the Faith, Art, Writing category. Some of these are indeed about the intersection of faith and art or faith and writing, but some are just more about faith and some are more about writing. Just in case you're wondering why Storyteller's Unplugged, for example, is in the same category as the Charis Connection.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Why we write

This is from an entry by horror writer Richard Steinberg at Storytellers Unplugged, Aug. 18, 2006. He tells the story of his mother, who died one year ago on that date, and how she encouraged his writing, even in his darkest hours; and how he encouraged her to begin writing late in life. It's a wonderful, heart-rending story of love and loss. And here is what he says about what he did late the night she died, and why:

... And then, without knowing why, I went into my office and continued working on what would become my nineteenth novel.

These are the first words I wrote that night:

"Some looked for proof of God in a cloudless starry night. Others in the flashing eyes of small children at play. Maybe a majority of people in the world saw God in the fact that, despite everything the world could and did throw at them, they still woke up in the morning and carried on despite the odds."

Because, in the end, I am a writer. A fictioneer prowling the high seas of apostasy, doubt, and inhumanity. A night rider marauding through the literary stacks shouting in a rage, whispering in a prayer, using all the tools, all the technique, whatever talents or natural instincts I possess to tell you a tale that will make your world a little, well . . . if nothing else, a little different than it was.

And I am all of that, because of a potentially brilliant writer who died a year ago today . . . my mother, Gloria Steinberg.

I apologize if I've gone on too long here, and if this essay isn't exactly what you're used to here at STORYTELLERS. I hope that some of you can find at least some lessons within it to help you as a writer.

Having lived it, I can promise you that there were lessons within it that I learned.

"There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are simple things, and because it takes a man's life to know them, the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave," Ernest Hemingway

And so I share with you all, gentle readers, the rich heritage my mother left to me:

There's nothing I can add to that, except Amen.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Artists and creativity

Last week, Mick Silva posted a provocative essay about being original. Now he's done a follow-up. And Suz has posted a response at The Master's Artist. There's a lot of food for thought here, whether you agree with Mick or not. It seems to me he gets to the heart of what it means to be creative for God. And, actually, it seems to me that Suz says much the same thing, only in a different way. Who we are and what we do comes from God.

In a similar vein, Infuze has posted an interview with a man named Erik Lokkesmoe, who (to quote the Infuze intro): "[is the] founder of Brewing Culture, a non-profit organization that is leading the front lines of bridging the cultural gap between the church and culture." This is a must-read for anyone interested in art and culture.

One of the things Lokkesmoe talks about in the interview is how art can be descriptive -- can show the condition of the world even while showing the hope we have, too. But one of the problems with much of Christian culture is that we have a hard time doing that honestly. And when an artist does show the world honestly, we feel compelled to warn people to proceed with caution. Christian Music Today gives 4-star review to new albums by Bruce Cockburn and The Lost Dogs, but throws in caveats about the language these artists use in some of their songs. I suppose the reviewers feel responsible for making sure that someone easily offended should know up front that there might be some gritty-ness in these albums, but I wonder what would be so bad about someone unsuspectingly listening to Cockburn or The Lost Dogs and discovering some truth about the world and how we are to live in it. Should we always steer people away from challenging art because we're afraid they'll be offended? Just a thought.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Monday news & views

The nest is getting emptier. I spent Friday moving child No. 5 (Tim) into his dorm at K-State. I think it went pretty well. Joel and I came back down Sunday to bring him a few things he forgot or decided he wanted after all, so I met his roommate (who wasn't there yet Friday). Tim's first class was at 7:30 this morning -- I'm assuming he made it, but I will not call him to ask him. I didn't do that with the others, but they were all farther away. It may be a little harder with him on the same campus as me. The pic at left is from graduation Sunday.

I've also been reading. I went to the library Sunday afternoon while I was in town and checked out some good books, including Relentless by Robin Parrish. I also saw Waking Lazarus, by T.L. Hines on the new books shelf. It's neat to see books by authors I know a little (or at least know something about). But the book I started reading is called The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, by Lewis Buzbee. It's subtitled "a memoir, a history," and that aptly describes this little book. He describes his path to being a book lover (as well as bookseller and writer) along with some of the history of bookmaking and bookselling. It's fascinating and highly readable.

One of the subjects Buzbee talks about is how important it is for children to have books. He's not a literary snob -- in fact I suspect he's around my age because he, too, has fond memories of My Weekly Reader and the Weekly Reader book orders. He makes it clear that children should be encouraged to read, even if it's Nancy Drew or the Babysitter's Club. But he also makes it clear that for many kids, probably around the time they enter their teens, they have a transformative reading experience. For Buzbee, it was The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This was the book that completely pulled him in and opened his eyes to the larger world. For me, I think it was Jane Eyre. I read it when I was 13 and was enthralled. I'd always been a voracious reader, but Jane Eyre captured my imagination in a new way. But here's the point I want to make, and I think Buzbee implies this: If I hadn't already been a reader, I never would have read Jane Eyre. I think my daughter Julia went from The Babysitter's Club one year to Great Expectations the next. At least it seemed that way. What was your formative book?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A (reading) spree

I finished Nick Hornby's The Polysyllabic Spree this week. (Actually, I started it this week, too.) I saw it on Julia's bookshelf when we were there Sunday and started reading it then. It's a very funny and good little book about books, and reading books, and not reading books; and somewhat indirectly, about the life of a writer. These essays first appeared in the Believer magazine. Nick Hornby buys a lot of books and reads a lot of them, but not all. That's somewhat comforting.

Knowing what kind of books a person reads tells you something about that person, but not too much. More important, Hornby's lists of books read illustrate the value of eclectic tastes. He praises a biography of the poet Robert Lowell, David Copperfield (the novel, not the illusionist), a nonfiction book about baseball and one about raising autistic children, and Mystic River, among others. And he freely admits to giving up on boring books, no matter how well-recommended. The result is a series of essays that are fun to read and are the proof that a good writer needs to be a reader.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Weird Google blogging

By the way, you will notice that these posts have no titles (except for this little color title I put on, but it's not in the regular title bar). That's because Goggle is working out bugs with their new Blogger Beta and I can't seem to get to the Dashboard for normal posting. So I'm posting from Journaler, which works fine, but doesn't post titles. I looked at the info this morning for Blogger Beta and it looks pretty nice, but they're still working out some bugs so I thought I'd wait, but I can't seem to log in correctly on my old Blogger account. Apparently, that's a bug, too. There is a part of me that resists switching right now because you can't undo it and I don't want to be forced to.

Update: OK, I finally got to my dashboard in a sort of roundabout way -- through the Google homepage (the one that lists all the google services) and then clicking on Blogger. So I added the title to this post. Very strange. Definitely waiting to switch.
Mark Bertrand has posted his review of the new ESV Journaling Bible. I still want one. My birthday is one month from today and any family members reading this (and I know you are) can find it for less than $20 on Amazon.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Overcome the alienation

I listen to the Kindlings Muse podcast and yesterday, in part 3 of an interview with Paul Elie about his book about Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, Elie said an interesting thing. He was talking about an approach to the world that all these writers have in common:
The tradition these writers belong to constantly urges us out of ourselves, to
rotate out of ourselves, and thereby overcome the alienation.

This struck me as elemental to what I'd like to do with some of my stories. I'm working with a main character who is an outsider in many ways, but he's fighting that sense of alienation he often feels. I hadn't really found a way to articulate that until now.

There's more to the interview -- it's a good one.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday news and views

A few things to ponder this weekend:

Athol Dickson, author of River Rising, posted some good thoughts about spending time on one's craft at the Charis Connection.

In a similar vein, Dick Staub wrote about serving with excellence.

Hughes is back and he's talking about inspiration. And Mark writes about how we convey a sense of place at The Master's Artist.

You can still win free stuff when your order Deliver Us from Evelyn.

Brad Boydston leaves for Guam tomorrow, where he'll be teaching at Pacific Islands Bible College. I'm sure he'll appreciate prayers as he travels.

It's somewhat cooler, here. Yay! Have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Celebrating Well

Chris Well, that is. To be more specific, Deliver Us From Evelyn hit No. 1 on the Technorati most talked about books list. Very cool. Just in case things change by the time you read this, and because I am less than adept at the screen shot business, here's a screenshot Chris Mikesell posted. Congratulations Mr. Well (I know too many guys named Chris) -- and happy birthday.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I've been reviewed!

Tangent Online reviews short fiction, of the speculative variety. Among the publications they regularly include is Dragons, Knights and Angels. Recently they reviewed Chris' award-winning story so I was curious to see if they would look at the issue where The Man Who Kept a Dragon in the Basement appeared. Well, they did. The reviewer said, and I quote:
“The Man Who Kept a Dragon in the Basement” by Linda Gilmore was a delight to read. Flawless presentation and a tastefully comedic style make this story my favorite in this issue.

Whoo-hoo! There's a little more, so go check it out yourself.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Help Chris Well celebrate his 40th birthday ...

by buying his book. As I mentioned last week, tomorrow is Chris Well's 40th birthday and he's got presents to give away. Just go to Amazon between 6 p.m. today and noon Aug. 10 (extended shopping hours -- how about that!) and order Deliver Us From Evelyn. Then e-mail your confirmation code to for some nifty free stuff.

But wait, there's more. Chris has two (that's right two) prize packages -- $144 worth of books from his publisher, Harvest House -- to give away. When you send the e-mail with the confirmation code to Chris, mention that I sent you and we'll both be entered in the drawing for the books. If you win, I win. If I win, you win. Pretty cool, huh.

Even if you have read the book, Evelyn makes a good gift. You could even make it a pair by buying Forgiving Solomon Long. And if you haven't read either of these, why not?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Monday news and views

I watched V for Vendetta this weekend. It's a very good movie and I am in awe of Hugo Weaving's ability as an actor. He brought the character of V to life, even though he played behind a mask the whole movie. Amazing. This is a thought-provoking story, maybe a little heavy-handed, but still good. It's the kind of movie that stays with you. And if you think it's just another comic book adventure story full of fights and gore, think again. There is surprisingly little gore, though there are a couple of nifty explosions, and the action is as much psychological as physical. Definitely worth renting.

I've read some interesting things today that relate to my continuing effort to figure out what it means to be a Christian writer. This discussion at Faith in Fiction is relevant, as is this column by Dick Staub. I think that being a Christian writer (or artist of any sort) means different things to different people. But I think, for me, being a Christian writer is more about using the gifts God has given me to be the best writer I can be than about writing with a specific evangelical agenda, or ministry. While you're out and about the blogosphere, read the iMonk's commentary on Christians and the culture war. It's relevant (at least for me) to this whole issue.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday news and views

We had a brief respite from the heat, but it's coming back. I'm reminded of a few days I spent out in Phillipsburg (in Western Kansas) a few years ago, also in early August -- it was about 107 every day.

I would like to point you to The Master's Artist today: Mark has good thoughts about Questions You Can't Answer Yet.

Mick Silva posted some very good suggestions about how to pitch a novel at a writer's conference: ACFW Dos and Don'ts. I really wish I could go to that conference, but it is not to be -- at least not this year. I'll hang onto these tips for future reference, though.

I'm listening to some good music -- a singer/songwriter named Josh Woodward. He releases his music with a Creative Commons license and it's free to download (though I'm sure he'd appreciate your support). He's got some good songs. (I found the link via The Best Media is Free, which I found via BoingBoing.)

OK, here's one more thing. Chip Scanlon, of the Poynter Institute, is blogging. He calls it The Mechanic & the Muse: an owner's manual for writers -- and it's just that. He's posted a good entry about narrative brevity. As he says, we can learn a lot from songwriters.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Heat wave, shmeat wave

Allow me a moment to whine (and yes, I'll have a little cheese). Why is it that it's only a heat wave to the national media when it's in California or the east coast? Is there nothing in between? Has it not been 100 and more pretty consistently for the last two weeks in the Midwest? (And by Midwest, I mean places in the actual middle of the country -- Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri. Not Ohio.) OK, I saw coverage of the heat in Chicago. But what about Kansas City? What about Wichita? What about Manhattan, Kansas, and the surrounding towns? I live in one of those surrounding towns. When I called time and temperature at 6:07 a.m. today it was 90 degrees. Yes, that's not a typo. 90 degrees. But, it's Kansas and it's August -- what do you expect? The truth is, hardly anyone in the actual Midwest has died in this heat wave, which is good, but apparently that's not news. Can you see the headline? Two Million Kansans Survive Heat Wave.

I'm not unsympathetic to people who are actually suffering in the heat. I just think news coverage is a little inconsistent. I'll shut up and be nice now.

First Day: Full Tilt

It is August 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:
Creston Mapes

Creston Mapes' first book, Dark Star: Confessions of a Rock Idol, has been selected by the Romance Writers of America (RWA) as a finalist for its 2006 Inspirational Readers Choice awards in the category of long, contemporary novel. Awards will presented this summer in Atlanta at the Marriott Marquis hotel.

Full Tilt, the second book in the Rock Star Chronicles, is racking up a number of fine reviews, many stating that its story/writing has surpassed the quality of that in Dark Star. His third novel, a psychological thriller based in Las Vegas, is due out in 2007.

As he has for 20 years, Creston resides in the Atlanta metropolitan area with his hometown sweetheart and four marvelous children. He loves reading, painting, morning walks with his dog, family outings, watching hockey, going on dates with his wife, meeting friends for coffee, and spending time in God's Word. Read Creston's Complete Bio

Rock Star Chronicles, Book 2

Full Tilt

a novel

by Creston Mapes


Black night. Familiar backstreets. Windows down. Cold air. Cruisin’ free.

Top of the world.

This was what it was about, baby. Lit on meth and movin’ at what seemed like the speed of light.

Lords of the night.

Over to Fender’s Body Shop on autopilot. Hands drumming on the dash and seats to the beat of the night and the pulse of the blood pounding through their veins.

Down the slope.


Past the dimly lit customer entrance and around back of the shop the Yukon swung and jerked to a stop. One, two, three of them exited the SUV and glided through the gate that was cracked open.

Wesley Lester was last to pass through the high chain-link fence. He slowed to peer at the snow-covered wreckage way out back of the shop, much of which had sat unchanged, like an eerie sculpture, for months beneath a haze of dim yellow lights. Dozens of mangled cars and pickups, SUVs, a hearse, vans, and an old school bus sat like jagged headstones in a haunted cemetery, some piled one on top of the other.

Several hundred yards away, in the vicinity of the far lamppost, David Lester’s black Camaro lay still and sinister. Wesley’s little brother and two teenage friends had perished in that car with David at the wheel. Seventeen years old. Too dang young to die.

After having rushed to the surreal scene of the wreck in nearby White Plains a year ago, Wesley had never ventured back to reexamine the remnants of his little brother’s car—or the totaled Chrysler that carried an elderly couple from Scarsdale, also pronounced dead at the scene.

On the way toward the huge body shop, Wesley shivered at the chill of the New York winter—a feeling his little brother would never experience again. Grinding his teeth, Wesley ran several yards, bashing the already dented door of a white Beamer. Spinning away, he welcomed the sense of release, thrust his dead brother out of his jumpy mind, and followed the others.

Brubaker led the way through the employee entrance, slamming open the heavy steel door against the outside of the fabricated beige metal building. "Ah, smell that?" he said, not looking back. "Good ol’ Bondo. Be high all day if you worked in here."

Wesley cruised in last, leaving the door wide open and purposefully taking a giant whiff of the pungent air that reeked of metal and plastic dust.

Like mice, the three figures zigzagged through a maze of half-repaired vehicles toward an area that glowed white, back in the far corner of the building.

As they drew closer to the dancing light and long shadows, hard-driving music mixed with the static sound of a welder. A dark blue ’65 Mustang sat up on a hydraulic lift, and beneath it—behind a welding hood—stood Tony Badino.

Brubaker and Wesley came to a standstill, fascinated by the sparks that rained down on Tony’s dirty, charcoal coveralls and scuffed brown work boots; the kid stopped between them, equally entranced.

Tony must have seen them but went on welding like a macho man, his brawny legs braced apart, tool belt hanging low around his lean waist, broad shoulders and triceps locked in place as he hoisted the blazing welder.

Brubaker was like a four-year-old. Constant motion. Bobbing his head, singing unintelligibly, rubbing his face and arms, and repeatedly peering back toward the door and out the dirty windows. His paranoia was enough to make anybody start seeing things. The kid in the middle watched spellbound as Tony melded metal to metal.

In the scalding flame, Wesley remembered his brother, curly haired and anxious, slapping a twenty-dollar bill into his hand for a teener—one-sixteenth of an ounce of some of the best crank Wesley had ever come across. Then he flashed back to David’s demolished Camaro hours later—what was left of the engine, parts of the car scattered along Post Road, still smoking.

Once again Wesley was slapped in the face by the fact that he was the one who had poisoned his brother’s bloodstream the day he drove to his death.

No. No. No!

It wasn’t the meth that killed his brother. It was the years of Everett Lester’s tainted music that had contaminated David’s mind. It was Everett’s empty promises and repeated letdowns that had sent David longing for the grave and a so-called better life on the Other Side. And Everett would burn for it; uncle or no uncle, he would pay. Because Wesley was hearing the voice again.

Wesley actually jerked when Tony snapped back the flame, lowered the welder in his right hand, and flipped the dark visor up with the other.

"Boys." He eyed the dazed kid in the middle.

"This is the dude we told you about, from Yonkers," Brubaker yelled proudly above the music, rubbing at the insides of his elbows with his wrists. "Needs an ounce."

Tony extinguished the pilot on the welder, lowered it to the concrete floor by its cord, then walked over to the stereo and turned it off.

"Slow down, Brubaker." Tony shook off his big, stiff gloves and removed the hood to reveal a tough face with small, pronounced features and a glistening scalp covered only by what looked like about two weeks’ worth of brown hair.

Reaching inside the front waist pocket of his coveralls, Tony pulled out a silver Zippo and a pack of Marlboros. Tapping one out, he stuffed it in the side of his little mouth and lit it with a grimy hand. As he took a long drag and snatched the cigarette away with his left hand, Wesley noticed a small tattoo of an upside-down cross on the inside of his wrist.

Tony was one creepy dude. Knew what he wanted. Had kind of a fiendish aura about him. People were naturally scared of the guy. Maybe that’s why Wesley liked running with Tony, because it was risky and unpredictable. That gave him a rush. And it didn’t hurt that Tony always had the best jenny crank on the street.

Grabbing a hanger light from the frame of the Mustang, Tony walked beneath his work, inspecting the length of the exhaust system.

"How do you know Lester and Brubaker?" He tapped the muffler, cig in hand.

"Uh…a friend introduced me to Wesley at a party," the middle kid said.


"Last week."

"And Brubaker?"

"Met him a couple nights later."

"Been tweekin’?"

"Uh…when do you mean?" The kid’s eyes darted to Bru then Wesley.

"Tonight." Tony stopped and stared at him.

"Earlier today," Wesley interrupted. "Couple teeners."

Tony went back to inspecting his work. "That same stuff from the other day?"

"Yeah. Finished it off." Wesley coughed, feeling somewhat like a raw recruit reporting for duty before some high-ranking officer.

"This new cristy blows that stuff away." Tony glanced at the three visitors, his right eye twitching. "Just in from Pennsylvania. Keep you amped for days. I’ve been workin’ nonstop since yesterday—goin’ on, what? Thirty-five hours?"

Brubaker and the stranger nodded, swayed, and laughed. Wesley simply stared, promising himself he wouldn’t bow down to the grease monkey like everybody else.

"So you need an ounce." Tony held the light up close to the tailpipe.

"Yep," piped up the kid in the middle.

"Good old Wesley Lester. I can always count on him to bring me the finest clientele." Tony nodded toward Wesley. "Do you know who this guy is? Who brought you here tonight?"

The kid stared at Tony with hollowed eyes and shrugged.

"This is the great Everett Lester’s nephew. Bet you didn’t know that."

What the heck?

The kid turned to Wesley. "No way."

"Straight," said Tony. "You’re in the presence of the bloodline of one of rock ’n’ roll’s greatest legends."

"Dude," the kid exclaimed, "I saw one of their very last shows—at The Meadowlands. They played three and a half hours, at least."

"With Aerosmith," Tony chimed in. "I was there. Wesley was supposed to be there backstage, but Uncle Everett stood him up."

"That’s cold," Brubaker mumbled.

Silently, expressionlessly, Wesley agreed.

Tony smirked at Bru, but it went right over the head of the kid in the middle.

"I lived and breathed DeathStroke," the kid said. "Lester was so stoned out of his mind that last show, he could barely stand by the end. But they jammed their hearts out."

"And now he’s a Jesus freak." Tony’s eyes shifted to meet Wesley’s, but his head didn’t move.

Wesley met his glance without flinching. His nostrils flared and his temper cranked up like the flame on the welder. He searched Tony’s face for the reason he would be trying to push Wesley’s buttons.

The kid in the middle picked up on the friction.

Tony smirked, knelt down, and began banging his tools into the drawers of a tall red metal toolbox on wheels.

"What’s he like, anyway?" the kid barged ahead. "Everett Lester, I mean…"

Brubaker looked uneasy, twisting and bouncing slightly on his toes.

"He’s a loser, okay?" Wesley snapped, walking over to a workbench cluttered with jars of nuts and bolts and old tools. "Dude’s a lyin’ hypocrite. Dang waste of breath!"

"Where does he live?" the kid asked. "Does he still have a place in Manhattan?"

Wesley’s back was to the others. He fingered the tools without a word. I wonder if he’d shut up if I heaved this jar of bolts at his head.

Brubaker ran interference. "He has a farm near Bedford and a place in Kansas—where his wife’s from."

"Oh yeah, that chick who converted him," the kid said.

Tony slammed the middle drawer closed.

"That was some story. I heard she wrote to him ever since she was like a teenager—Jesus this and Jesus that. And finally it stuck…can you believe that? The guy went off the deep end!"

Tony stood, banging another drawer shut. "Some people hit you over the head again and again with that Jesus hype till you’re brainwashed. Seen it happen."

"Well, look at the guy," the kid said. "I mean…he’s changed! I saw him and his wife on Larry King Live and he, I mean, it’s like he’s a different person—"

"Let’s do this deal!" With three long strides and a commanding kick, Wesley booted a large piece of scrap metal twenty feet across the dusty white floor.

The corners of Tony’s mouth curved up into a quick smile as he raised an eyebrow at the kid in the middle, stomped out his cigarette, and walked over to an old white sink. Pushing up his sleeves, he rinsed his hands and squeezed a glob of gray goop into his palm from a bright orange bottle.

"You got the cash?" he asked the kid above the running water.

"Yeah, yeah." The kid dug almost frantically into his front pocket and pulled out a clump of folded bills.

"Count it, Wes," Tony ordered, still washing.

Wesley hesitated before snatching the wad and rifling quickly through the bills. "Fifteen hundred. It’s here."

Tony dried his hands with a dirty towel, wiped his face with it, and looked at himself in the smudged mirror above the sink. Then he found the kid’s reflection in the mirror. "You don’t know where this devil dust came from."

"Oh…d-definitely n-not." He smiled anxiously. "I don’t even know you. We never met, as far as I’m concerned. Nope. Never met."

Tony dropped the towel on the edge of the sink and walked to the tool chest. Lifting the top, he pulled out a Tech .22 assault pistol with his right hand and a good-sized bag of off-white, crystal-like powder with the other. Turning, he tossed the bag to the kid, who fumbled it awkwardly but mangled it at the last second before it escaped his hands. Embarrassing.

"You hear about the body that turned up in Canarsie other day? In the scrap yard?" Tony approached the kid, whose forehead was glistening with sweat.

Here we go. Wesley wished Tony hadn’t picked up the gun but, at the same time, found it strangely exciting.

"Uh…no." The kid eyed the piece. "No, I missed that."

"Well, don’t miss what I’m telling you." Tony’s voice grew vicious as he neared the kid’s face. "That guy had it comin’, okay? I know that for a fact."

The kid’s mouth was wide open, big eyes flashing, cheeks red as radishes.

"He was blabbin’ about where he got his rocket fuel."

"Listen, I…"

But before the kid could eke out another word, Tony lifted the modified Tech .22 sideways, shoulder-high, squinted, and blasted six rounds across the base of the metal wall beneath the workbench with one squeeze of the trigger.

Brubaker floundered back four feet as the smell of gunpowder hung in the air and the rattle of gunfire echoed in their ears.

The kid’s red face went ash white, and he looked as if he might lose his dinner.

Wesley kept a stone face, not wanting to show a trace of the fear that was making his hands shake.

"You know how many twenty-twos this mag carries?" Tony grabbed the fat magazine with his free hand.

The kid jerked his head in one rapid no.

"Twenty. And I got it rigged so I pull the trigger once and the thing can unload. You understand?"

The kid opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

"Word on the street is, the dude in Canarsie was a rat-squealing tell-all." Tony lightly tossed the Tech .22 in his right hand. "He got himself whacked for blabbing."

"Oh…don’t worry—"

"And the same will happen to you if you tell one soul where you got that cristy, you read?"

"Oh, hey, I read, I read. I’m not about to—"

"Now beat it!" Tony hoisted the weapon up to his shoulder and the kid scrambled an about-face, practically sprinting for the door with a blubbering Brubaker right on his heels.

Badino’s dark eyes locked in on Wesley, followed by the cock of his head and a smirk. "He ain’t gonna do no talkin’, now is he, Wes?"

Wesley watched the two figures scurry into the darkness. "No, I don’t believe so."

As Tony banged the Tech .22 back into the toolbox, two things occurred to Wesley: 1) He would love to see the bullets from that weapon rip through Everett Lester’s sickening, superspiritual flesh, and 2) if you ever wanted to commit a murder, Tony Badino was probably a very good person to know.


Excerpted from Full Tilt © 2006 by Creston Mapes, Inc. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

Published in association with the literary agency of Mark Sweeney & Associates, 28540 Altessa Way, Bonita Springs, Florida 34135

© 2006 by Creston Mapes, Inc.

International Standard Book Number: 1-59052-506-X

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from:

New American Standard BibleÒ Ó 1960, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Other Scripture quotations are from:

The Living Bible (tlb)Ó 1971. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.All rights reserved.

Multnomah is a trademark of Multnomah Publishers, Inc., and is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The colophon is a trademark of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

Printed in the United States of America


No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission.

For information:


06 07 08 09 10—10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0