Saturday, May 26, 2007


(Warning: Long Post Ahead)
I was listening to This American Life's podcast for this week -- about road trips -- and in one of the stories this couple talked about a feeling of malaise they experienced at one time in their relationship. That's a good word, malaise. I think it describes something I've been feeling lately. Here's how the dictionary defines malaise: a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify.

Now before you suggest I consider medication, let me say that there's nothing majorly wrong with me. I'm generally happy, functional and no weirder than usual. But I've felt somewhat unsettled and restless lately and I'm not sure why. Because, as I just said, I'm fine. Life is no more stressful than usual and I even have had several kinds of good things happen: John graduated from college, I have a story coming in Coach's Midnight Diner, I finished another story and submitted it to another magazine, and there's been another bit of good news that is not writing related that I might blog about in a few weeks.

I also happen to think that these unsettled times can be worthwhile -- most of the time I'm not motivated to make changes when everything is going smoothly and I feel that all is right and settled in the world. Sometimes the unsettled feeling is God nudging me, sometimes not. I'm not sure which this is right now. I am inclined to think that this feeling is related to a need for more creativity in my life -- specifically writing. Yes, I just said I finished a story and submitted it somewhere this week, but it's a story I've been working on since before Christmas and I had it mostly finished several weeks ago.

Then there's the whole what-genre-do-I-write issue. I've written mysteries and fantasy and science-fiction -- whatever genre, though, they're all character-driven. But I wonder if I need to focus my efforts in one direction. I think I have a dread of being pigeonholed into one type of story. Or, maybe I just over-analyze everything.

I'm not comfortable talking about having a "calling" to write. I believe God gave me a talent and I should use it for him. I'm happy when I write, I have stories I want to tell -- maybe they're even stories other people might want to read. But if I'm going to do this, I need to develop some discipline and that's always a hard thing for me. Coach Culbertson (of Coach's Midnight Diner and the Relief Writer's Network) is doing something called NaNo Spring Training in a couple of weeks -- 10,000 words in 7 days. This seems like a good way to kick off a summer of writing. And maybe a summer of writing will be a good start to more disciplined writing in the future.

Friday, May 25, 2007

In time for the first weekend of summer ...

Here's my Notes from the Windowsill Column for June: What I Learned from Summer Vacations

Happy Birthday, Jim!

Today is my youngest brother's birthday. (Jim is the one on the left. My other brother, Tim is on the right and I'm in the middle, though I am actually the oldest.) He's a worship pastor and dad and fellow Tolkien nut. He's also been a bit of a surrogate dad (or at least a really cool uncle) for my daughter Megan, who has lived within an hour of him for the last six years.

I could probably tell some embarrassing stories about now, but he has three sons, so I will just point out that what goes around comes around.

So, happy birthday Jim! Have a great day.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Commendable linkage

Absent thoughts of my own, let me share some of the excellent thoughts of others:

Blogger extraordinaire Scot McKnight has some good advice for would-be (and current) bloggers. What's even better, he practices what he preaches.

Folks at Faith in Fiction are still discussing the Daily Sacrament contest. I didn't enter because I just couldn't seem to come up with a story that didn't feel forced. But some excellent writers did enter. The winner and runner-up stories (by Don Hoesel and Angie Poole) will be published in Relief, Issue 3. But as a taste of what was submitted, Dave Long published (April 27) a few "stories of merit" at Faith in Fiction and now at least one person has also posted the story she submitted: Jeanne Damoff posted her beautiful story "What's Left of Destiny" at The Master's Artist today. If this is representative of the quality of stories that didn't win, I wouldn't have stood a chance, anyway.

I've been playing around with the blog again. On the right you'll see a set of links to my most recent bookmarks in I don't know if I'll leave it that way or not, but it's one way of seeing what I'm currently impressed by. (Be sure and check out the Internet Monk post, Grace is as Dangerous as Ever. Awesome.) What I really need is 3 columns, but I haven't figured out how to get that, yet. I have no CSS skills whatsoever.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A special FIRST post: Tribulation House

Chris Well is founder of FIRST. He is an acclaimed novelist and award–winning magazine editor and has previously written the “laugh–out–loud Christian thrillers” Deliver Us from Evelyn and Forgiving Solomon Long(one of Booklist’s Top 10 Christian Novels of 2005). He has also contributed to 7ball, Infuze, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Chris and his wife live in Tennessee, where he is hard at work on his next novel.



I might as well just tell you right now, I killed Reverend Daniel Glory. Back there at the church, in his study.

But this is my story. Don't let anyone tell you different. My dad always said we all write our own story. Of course, I guess that's why it worked out so well for him.

Why did I kill Reverend Daniel Glory? Sure, it was an accident. More or less. At least, I think it was.

I don't know, we were arguing about the Rapture and it kind of got out of hand and then I just --

Wait. Wait. I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.

This all started about three months ago, when Reverend Daniel Glory told us we needed to do our Tribulation House earlier than --

Oh. Wait.

Okay, I guess this actually started last year when Marvin Dobbs left the church. Our church. The Last Church of God's Imminent Will.

A year ago last summer, Marvin left with some of the other families to start a new church, and he took his Armageddon House" multimedia show with him.

You do know about Armageddon House, right? Every Halloween for the past three or four years, Marvin and our team put together a special multimedia presentation explaining the Great Tribulation, which ends with the Battle of Armageddon.

Wait -- you don't know about the Great Tribulation? It's that seven-year period between the Rapture and the Triumphant Return of Jesus Christ, as described in the prophecies of Daniel and Ezekiel and the Apostles Paul and John. After the Lord Jesus takes His Bride home, there are going to be seven years of horrible judgment inflicted on those who are left b --

What? The murder of Reverend Glory? I'm getting to that.

Well, anyway, when Marvin left to form his little offshoot splinter group, we discovered he had actually trademarked the name "Armageddon House." Imagine that.

When the board at church met to discuss the matter, we considered doing Armageddon House anyway without him. Just reconstruct it from memory and copy or use materials from previous years. Use the same name, business as usual. Just ignore the cease-and-desist letter, let God and His angels work that out.

But we decided we didn't want to be associated with Armageddon House anymore. I mean, if Marvin and his new "fellowship" planned to stage their own Armageddon House, the risk of confusion in the marketplace was enough to rebuild ours as a brand-new event.

Which is how we ended up with Tribulation House. It was an opportunity for a new beginning. We went through a whole list of potential names -- I came up with Kingdom Come, but was voted down -- before we settled on Tribulation House.

We sat down and worked through the whole grid. Instead of imagining how to simply explain or show a picture of each bowl of wrath and each trumpet of judgment, we created an entire theatrical event.

Yeah, we could have set up the charts and graphs and the overhead projector. But today's audience, this last generation, they're kind of jaded about flannel graph presentations, know what I mean?

These kids today, with their Spongebob Squarepants and their American Bandstand and their Buffy The Vampire Slayer, they need the bells and whistles and the like.

The kids don't need a lot of explanation. They need a demonstration.

You see, that was the challenge, wasn't it? It's one thing to say "the moon was blackened" or "the waters turned to blood" or "men were stung by enormous flying scorpions" -- but how do you make it happen right here, right before their eyes?

In the end, we created Tribulation House: A full-sensory immersive interactive dramatic theatrical evangelistic event that simulates what it will actually be like to live through the events of the Great Tribulation. An entire full-service prophetic experience.

You'd be surprised how much of it we accomplished with sound and light. We developed the various rooms throughout the church basement. Some college kids created soundscapes for each event. We wrote up a full script for the actors; they played everything from people caught up in the events, to the world armies fighting the Most Holy, to the father of lies himself, bound and thrown into the pit for a millennium.

The murder of Reverend Daniel Glory? I'm getting to that.

So we were working out the blueprints for creating Tribulation House as a major theatrical evangelistic full-sensory ministry outreach. We had debated the merits of various slogans for the event -- the leading contenders were WE'LL SCARE THE HELL OUT OF YOU; GET RIGHT OR GET LEFT; and THE TIME IS CLOSER THAN YOU THINK. While the first slogan was a favorite of several board members, for its bracing, truthful stance, in the end we worried that the neighbors would misunderstand. So we went with the second slogan, for its simple, instructional message.

And I remember that our chief carpenter, Bill Broadstreet, was giving us his estimate for the physical construction to be done on the project. Suddenly, Reverend Daniel Glory burst in with some news.

"Friends!" There was a glow on the Reverend's face unlike we had seen before. The man stood there in the doorway to the church basement, leaning against the doorframe, wheezing to catch his breath. "Jesus is coming back!"

The room was silent. We all stared. At first, we wondered why he was saying this right then. After all, he preached on this topic every week. But then he dropped this bomb: "And I know when!"

Okay, that was a new one. Collectively, everyone in the room gasped. One of us, I don't even remember who it was, asked, "When, Reverend?"

"October 17."

Five months.

"5:51 a.m." Reverend Daniel Glory waved the papers clutched in his hand. Later, I would wonder what he was waving at us. His Bible study? His calculations? All I know is he grinned ear to ear and said, "The Rapture is going to happen at 5:51 a.m. on October 17."

Everyone around the meeting table reacted differently. Some were stunned into silence, others screamed with joy. One noisy woman loudly sobbed and clapped.

Reverend Daniel Glory came into room, face aglow with thrill and exhaustion, and dragged a chair from the wall over to our table. He sat, waiting until everyone was silent again. "I now have incontrovertible proof that the Rapture takes place this coming October."

I'm sure I grinned bigger than anyone in the room. "What reason do you have to say that?"

Reverend Daniel Glory looked at me and winked. "Why stop with one reason, boy? I got one hundred and seven of 'em!"

Of course, you know what this meant. We were going to have to step up the production of Tribulation House.

(I still can't believe it's not Kingdom Come.)

Chris Well’s laugh–out–loud Christian thrillers appeal to the millions of readers who gobble up the rollicking crime fiction of Janet Evanovich and Elmore Leonard. TRIBULATION HOUSE does not disappoint!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Coach's Midnight Diner announces authors

I've been sitting on this news for a couple of days, waiting for the official announcement, but now I can tell:

I'm in Coach's Midnight Diner! Whoo-hoo!

If I seem excited, it's because I am. The list includes some really good writers and I'm pleased to be part of it. The Diner is coming from the folks who publish Relief and it will be out in July, I think. Yes, this will be an actual printed publication. Very cool.

And big congrats to Chris, who was one of the category winners (Jesus vs. Cthulu).

Friday, May 04, 2007

CFBA Tour: Tribulation House

This week's featured book is one I've been eagerly awaiting: Tribulation House, by Chris Well. I enjoyed his previous books (Forgiving Solomon Long and Deliver Us From Evelyn) and so far I'm not disappointed. (I haven't had a chance to finish it yet, but I'll post more about it then.) But what's it about?

Mark Hogan has it all. The job. The family. A position on the board at church. All he’s missing is a boat. Not just any boat—a 2008 Bayliner 192.

When Reverend Daniel Glory announces that the Rapture is taking place on October 17 at 5:51am, Hogan realizes his boat–buying days are numbered. So he does what any man in his situation would do—he borrows a load of money from the mob.

Not that there’s any risk involved: After all, when the Rapture comes, Hogan will be long gone. The mob will never find him.

But when Jesus fails to come back on schedule, Mark Hogan finds the mob is in no mood to discuss the finer points of end–times theology...

Chris Well’s laugh–out–loud Christian thrillers appeal to the millions of readers who gobble up the rollicking crime fiction of Janet Evanovich and Elmore Leonard. TRIBULATION HOUSE does not disappoint!
Comic-book loving Detective Charlie Pasch is back, as is Detective Tom Griggs. And the story is once again populated with a bunch of quirky, neurotic crooks who are just trying to do their jobs.

If you like fast-paced, sharp crime fiction, give this a read.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

If you love Jesus, leave a comment ... or not

I feel a rant coming on ...

I am often the recipient of e-mails that include some clever (though simplistic) statement of faith or conservative values that then request me to forward this to a select number (or all) of my friends and relatives as proof that I love Jesus or am willing to take a stand for my faith or whatever. Even when these things aren't theologically questionable, they feel like little more than electronic-age chain letters.

I got the following from a friend this morning:


God determines who walks into your's up to you to decide
who you let walk away, who you let stay, and who you refuse to let

I need this back. If you'll do this for me, I'll do it for
you....When there is nothing left but God, that is when you find
out that God is all you need.

Take 60 seconds and give this a shot! All you do is simply say the
following small prayer for the person who sent you this.

Father, God bless all my friends in whatever it is that You know
they may need this day! And may their life be full of your peace
prosperity and power as he/she seeks to have a closer relationship
with you.

There's nothing wrong with praying for people and lots of times I do that as God prompts me throughout the day. But besides the health/wealth gospel undertone to this, there's the whole putting-God-in-a-box aspect (do this and God will be sure to respond the way you want him to), and there's a rather disturbing element of "I'll pray for you if you pray for me." Yeah, the more I think about it, the more this one bugs me. But the person who sent it to me is a sweet, Godly lady and sometimes I wonder if I'm just being a spoil sport.

But here's another example: A week or so ago I got an e-mail (from the same person, who apparently forwards everything she receives) about where was God in the midst of school tragedies. I don't want to quote the whole thing, but it asked God where he was when ... and then it listed all the mass school killings in the last 10 years or so. The kicker, of course, is God's supposed reply -- he's not allowed in schools. There was more to it, all about how our liberal, godless society has stopped prayer in schools and our kids are morally bankrupt and so what do we expect. But the part that really jolted me was the part at the beginning, which is just so wrong theologically in so many ways. These kind of simplistic, knee-jerk responses to tragedy sound so trite and self-righteous. I'm sure that lots of people were praying at Virginia Tech on April 16 -- God was there. But we live in a world that still groans from the fall and is waiting for God's justice to be made manifest. There is evil in the world and as Christians we are called to respond in redemptive, grace-filled ways. Somehow, forwarding an e-mail like this doesn't seem like that kind of response.

And, just so you'll know, the worst mass school killing in the U.S. actually happened in an era when prayer was a regular part of the school day: In 1927 a disgruntled school board member blew up the school in Bath, Michigan.

So, I almost never forward anything -- I've broken so many chains I should probably be suffering all kinds of catastrophes. ;) But, I love Jesus, even if I don't forward your e-mail.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cool stuff

If you hop on over to the Wittenburg Door, and peruse the table of contents for the May/June issue, will see a piece called "Preacher's Kids Anonymous" by yours truly. Alas, it is not available online. I got my copies (and payment) last week and it was very exciting to see my name in the Table of Contents, as well as the actual article itself.

For anyone who reads the Faith in Fiction blog, and maybe even those of you who don't, Dave Long spoke recently at a Christian writer's conference in California. Someone has posted a bit of his talk about "the lonely writer" on YouTube and it's pretty good (but its not the whole talk). Check it out.

Visual DNA

If you want to get me to post something, tag me. Chris did, so here's something fun:

If anyone else wants to play, have it. But I do think I'll tag Megan.