Marley was dead, Jesus was born

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Merry Christmas everyone!

I absolutely love, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This little book is written by a true word smith a master of story and it’s short.

I love the story, a classic tale of the changing of a human heart, but the absolutely best, most entertaining part is the first page and a half. I loved it so much that I memorized it. Dickens has this lovely moment where he wonders about the actual dead-ness of door-nails. To the point that he proposes that Coffin-nails might actually be deader. To this day my family can not let the phrase Dead as a Door-nail slid without goading me into repeating it.

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” Isn’t that a great opening line? Within that first page and a half Dickens reminds the reader exactly five times that Marley is dead.

“(1)Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.. . .  (2)Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know of my own knowledge what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. . . You will therefore allow me to repeat emphatically that (3)Marley was as dead as a door-nail. (4)Scrooge knew he was dead. Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? . . . (5)There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”

Marley was not a figment of Scrooge’s imagination, he did not fake his death, time travel, get caught in a extra dimensional limbo, or get stuck in the teleporter for fifty years. He was dead. He was a ghost. This story is about life and death and afterlife.

Chilling.

How many other stories could benefit from persistent reminders?

Dickens own example is Hamlet. “If we were not perfectly convinced That Hamlet’s father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, . . . literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.”

I know right! The Shakespeare nerd in me smiles at this reference. How little would the play Hamlet have mattered if we hadn’t known for sure that his father the king was dead? You must admit Shakespeare really liked the whole missing person restored plot a lot. If the king had only been missing then how could Prince Hamlet have placed any stock in the words of a wandering spirit?

What about the story of the first Christmas?

Jesus was born, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

There is no doubt that Mary was a virgin. This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.

The Shepherds knew he was God. Of course they. How could it be otherwise? ( What with the angels telling them and all.)

On his first page Dickens gives us a life lesson and a lesson in writing:

Make sure your reader, and everyone you meet, understands what they are in for.

Dickens wanted to make sure that everyone knew there would be no trick ending, fantastical revelations, and most of all, no doubt that Marley was dead.

If Dickens could state five times that Marley was dead, then Christian’s shouldn’t be afraid to state that Jesus was born, at least five times. Then five times state that he died. Then Five times state that he rose again.

Again I say Merry Christmas, and to quote Tiny Tim: “God bless us everyone.”

 

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To the Realm of Makers and Back Again

I am back from another year of Realm Makers, the only place to go if you are a Christian, fantasy and science fiction writer.

But, before I tell you more I’m going to update you on my last post. The Escape anthology contest is over and I can now tell you which story was mine.

I wrote the one titled “Raised in Captivity.” It was number eight on the list. I did not win the readers choice award but thank you to anyone who voted for mine. “Raised in Captivity” will still be published in the anthology so it’s all good. The publishing industry is not for the impatient, however, as the anthology publication date is almost a year from now.

The conference was last weekend, August 7 & 8, 2015, in St. Louis, Mo on the UMSL (University of Missouri at St. Louis) campus. This is the same place it was held in 2013.

The Keynote speaker was Robert Liparulo author of the Dreamhouse Kings series. He gave inspired talks. The first one was about the need to, stop worrying about what others think, and to stop doubting that you’re good enough. The second one was the opposite, GO was the message. Go start writing, go do what you need to do.

I did not have time for any sightseeing this year because the conference tried something new, an extra workshop on Thursday afternoon. The Irresistible Novel: by Jeff Gerke. In this class he talked about the brain chemistry of the reader and literally how to make your writing addictive. All this to plug his new book, of the same title; which naturally, sold out. I loved it, Jeff Gerke is an engaging speaker, and he writes exactly how he talks. Every author should have a collection of his books.

Beyond that though, this Early Bird class really helped to extend the Conference experience. It felt like three days instead of two and a half.

This year continued the tradition of the Splickety critique pre-party. During which I was mortified when my submission was read aloud. Some of the feedback was helpful, but 500 words isn’t really enough to get a good critque.

Another new feature this year was the addition of a third track of classes. Though I like having options I will always miss that first year with only one track, everyone went to the same classes and you didn’t have to worry about missing anything. This year featured three main tracks: World building, Editing, and Marketing. In addition to the main tracks there were also electives that also ran in groups of three and ranged in topics from book cover design to dealing with magic in Christian fantasy.

I feel like Editing is where I am in my writing Journey so I chose this course. David Farland was an entertaining speaker, who was very informed on his topic. He even threw in a lecture on what to do when your book is optioned for a movie. However, his anecdotal teaching style made it hard for me to take notes. This is a course where I think I will benefit from purchasing recordings. (Yes recordings are new this year too.) Also I missed a lot of his talk because I was busy attending mentoring appointments.

The highlight, for me at least, was meeting Donita K Paul the author of The Dragonkeeper Chronicles. I love her books so much, that I spent most of my one on one meeting with her, being star struck. I understand that the mentors set aside time in their schedules to talk to me about my writing, but it’s hard for me to talk about my writing, even with people I’m close to. Put me in front of someone I admire and whose own work has been a big part of my life, I freeze up.

One option I am glad I took advantage of was the opportunity to have a mentor critique the opening of my novel. It was an extra fee but worth every penny to be able to sit down with someone who already had feedback for me. I selected L.B. Graham for my mentor, and I would recommend him to anyone looking to do this next year. He is easy to talk with and his critiques were all very constructive, not to mention, absolutely right.

Every year there is a costume/ awards diner on Friday night. This year I dressed up as a Hogwarts student. I had to stand up front when they announced the winners of the anthology contest. You can imagine how uncomfortable I felt.

Saturday night there was a game room in addition to a Nerf war. I chose the game room. It’s easier to talk over games anyway. This was also the night I went around trying to get the rest of my books signed.

My Realm Makers tradition is to always buy more books than I can afford but never as many as I actually want. Sometimes I just have to say maybe next year to a certain book, or author. But yeah, if the Author is there, why not get it signed? In previous years actual book signings had been held. But this year was a giant game of stalk the author.

Thoughts on the conference experience:

After three years you’d think this would be easy for me, but I am very introverted, and I get crowd anxiety. So the first year was great for me, it was small and easy to navigate. The second year was also good, more people but still manageable. This year, attendance exploded. I am happy for the conference but I felt overwhelmed most of the time. Thank you to everyone who was ok with standing in out of the way corners with me.

I always feel torn, I enjoy the experience and I learn a lot, but honestly I feel better after I get home and start reading all the books I bought. I also like the after conference motivation. I have all this feedback to work with, and ideas to try. The hard part is keeping that drive going. I started my novel after the first conference. I finished the first draft after the second one. ( They were less than a year apart, so it’s not as bad as you might think.) After this one I am going to try for a presentable second maybe third draft before next year. My goal is a book to sell at conference five. Ok, maybe conference six.

In the Beginning, there was human cloning

Eve was Adam’s clone. Think about it, it really does make sense.

So here’s Adam. He’s perfect. He has all perfect chromosomes, perfect genes, no mutations, no disease, no defects at all. Everything needed to father the entire human race. He just needs one thing. A woman.

The Bible has two accounts of the Creation. In chapter one we get a very fast summery of what was created on each day. This is what it says about humans:

    So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.             Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

 Nothing about cloning you say? Well lucky for me chapter two is more detailed:

    So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and       then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he       brought her to the man. Genesis 2:21-22 (NIV)

 Eve was created from Adam’s flesh. A new biological entity was formed from a single set of genetic information. A clone.

“But Eve is female” you say, “if she was a clone there would have been two Adams.”

Not so. The only difference between men and women is a small piece of information called the Y chromosome. Men have it Women don’t.

Everyone has X Chromosomes. Men have XY, Women have XX. Some people have Turner’s Syndrome in which they only have one X chromosome. These people are noticeably female. Sadly this syndrome is marked by heart problems and infertility. Interestingly there is no syndrome in which someone has only a Y chromosome. It’s X or nothing.

The Mother of all humanity can’t have a Y chromosome, and she can’t populate a planet with Turner’s syndrome either. What’s a creator to do?

Remember those perfect chromosomes that Adam has. His X Chromosome is as perfect as an X Chromosome will ever be. Perfect enough that Eve can have two of them. God just made the Universe; cloning an extra chromosome is nothing.

It mind blowing to realize that every person on the planet is descended, not just from two people, but from one set of Genetic information. The great Geneticist knew what he was doing, because Adam had a truly diverse set of Genes.

I am in no way condoning human cloning. Our genes are not perfect anymore. Plus once God made Eve, reproduction became a viable option. God is the ultimate scientist, science was his creation after all, the best we can do is study his work and try to learn from it. Repeating his work is too far beyond us

Blood is Blood, DNA not Required

Sorry for the long wait, but random thoughts come rather sporadically. So to motivate myself I started with a prompt:

 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. (Exodus 7:20) NIV

I remember as a young Sunday school student listening to the story of the ten plagues and wondering, “When the Nile turned to blood whose DNA did it have?” When I asked this foolish question aloud, I got a foolish answer. “It must have been God’s DNA.”

This answer may have sufficed, save for a funny fact that I learned while reading Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. I have since confirmed it and now know that human red blood cells have no nucleus. They do not contain DNA. Blood is just blood. It’s the white blood cells and platelets in our blood that allows scientists to collect DNA from a blood sample. This is also why oral swabs are used when a comparison test is preformed. More nuclei to pull DNA from.

It is entirely possible that God turned the Nile river into a river of pure hemoglobin. Thus making it a true river of blood.

But there is the possibility that it wasn’t human blood, it could have been reptile blood or fish blood. There are those who theorize that it wasn’t even blood but rather red algae. To that I say, no. Ancient men might not have had microscopes and computers, but everyone who has ever scraped a knee or bit their tongue knows blood. The smell of the iron, the texture, the color, the way it flows. The thing is all humans have blood. Human blood would have been recognized and understood. They would have known it as human blood. Human blood would have had the most impact for the purpose God intended.

Naturally I can’t expect everyone to be a cellular biologist, but it seems to me that a better understanding of science could go a long way to helping keep the faith strong in this scientific world we live in.

Instead of, “It was God’s DNA.” How about this answer, “It didn’t need to have DNA, because it wasn’t in a body, so there wouldn’t have been any white blood cells for defense or any platelets to induce clotting. So you see it was just red blood cells.” Or the even more simple answer, “Lets look it up,” naturally smart phones were not in production back then but my outdated encyclopedia from that era still has the correct answer.

The point of all this? Well if you were or know of someone who started off strong in the faith and found yourself tempted away by scientific logic, think for a minute. Maybe it wasn’t your faith that was wrong, maybe it’s your science. God is the creator of all. That means he’s the creator of Science too.

The Mortal Deity

Merry Christmas readers,

This year I want to muse on what makes Christmas so important.

Yes Jesus was born. But think about that – he was born.

Here is what separates Christianity from the many gods and mythologies of our past. None of them were both God and Man. True there are myths of demigods, but those are the offspring of gods and humans. Jesus is the one true creator, God incarnated in flesh.

Odin never went through puberty. Zeus never had to deal with paper cuts or sprained ankles. Jupiter never had to hold boards in the carpentry shop when he’d rather be at the temple arguing philosophy with the teachers.

Can’t you just imagine a gangly teenage Jesus popping a zit saying, “Seriously, ugh puberty, what was I thinking?”

Standing up to a bully, listening to the taunt, “Make me Carpenter’s kid.”

Jesus standing his ground, the power of creation flashing behind his eyes, saying, “I could, but never forget that I won’t.”

Or watching the blood well up after pulling a splinter, the enormity of what he was doing suddenly coming to him and thinking, it’s not time for this to spill yet.

Some people might think it’s blasphemy for me to humanize the savior so much but that is the point of Christmas. God humanizing himself is the reason for the season.

God the Creator in the form of his creation. He must have been a genius. Think about it, Jesus must have been able to look at a glass of water and know each of the individual oxygen and hydrogen atoms. He could look at the night sky and know the ages and the distances of the stars. He must have been spouting numbers all the time. Angles and measurements in the workshop, Distances and times while traveling.

Do you suppose that Man was created in the image of God because God knew that one day he would take on the Image of man?

That is what so many people forget. The religious are worried about the forgiveness of sins and spiritual blessings. The secular are worried about gifts, food and the trappings of this world. But Christmas is about both. The spiritual and the Human becoming one. So rejoice, be merry, and read your Bible. Merry Christmas—God was born.

NaNoWriMo Fail

My last post was about how I was going to rewrite my novel during National Novel writing month this past November. Well it’s now the third day of December and I only got 23,369 words written. The goal as you recall was a 50,000 word novel. I failed at just shy of half way.

It gets worse. I also said I was going to cheat. Of the 23,000 odd words, probably only four to five thousand are new writing, the rest are cannibalized from my first draft. I was cheating and I still couldn’t finish it.

My excuse: I work retail and this time of year I work a lot of hours, and when I get home I am worn out physically and emotionally drained from having holiday shoppers blaming me for them not making it to the store in time to get the last eighty dollar tablet or ninety dollar TV.

The truth: I think I may have fallen out of love with the story. I sit down to work on it and I get kind of overwhelmed with the idea of re-structuring a novel that took me so long to work on the first time around. And then I start thinking about what to change and my brain gets flooded with all of these what if’s and then I go through the plot and think well if I change event A then event B can’t happen as is. Which leads to the question of whether I really need event B in the story or if should cut A&B and just skip to event C.

I want to keep working on it, I really would hate for Julian Random to never be published. But maybe I need a break. I need to focus on some short story ideas I had and publish something. It’s been way too long since I’ve had a publishing credit. And I need to get paid this time. Especially since I just solved my biggest problem and quit my job.

NaNoWriMo

For the uninitiated, the really confusing title you just read stands for National Novel Writing Month. I have been contemplating whether I wanted to try this challenge to write a fifty thousand word novel in one month. I have never tried it before. But this might be the year.

Fifty thousand is a lot of words. I would need to write at least 1667 words a day. Almost a thousand words more than my current goal of whatever will fit on two double spaced pages a day. And with the holiday season officially started I will have to do it with forty hour work weeks on top of that. But I think I found a way to do it.

I am going to cheat.

You see I already think of myself as having written a novel. But in retrospect it might just be 300 pages of character development. The truth is I love reading, probably more than I love writing, and even I think my book is boring. So I want to use this challenge to rewrite my book. I want to tighten it up, add more action and define the plot better. And I want to do it in less than the year and a half it took me the first time around. The hardest part is behind me right?

Isn’t that why we have this huge fanfiction market? Because it’s easier to write with an established character than to make up your own. It is, it really is. I confess to being tempted by the siren call of Fan fiction. But I resisted because I realized that even if I had the best plot line ever I could never really know a character I didn’t create. As much as they tell you not to write yourself I think every author puts a piece of themselves into their characters.

So now I have all these characters that have a piece of me. I can write my own fan fiction with my characters and it should be awesome. That wasn’t the most narcissistic sentence ever right?

The best part is that if I get behind on the word count I can just cut and past from what I already have written. 300 pages it can’t all be bad writing, can it?

Anyway that’s the plan. Maybe I can count this post towards my first word count goal. If I can’t today’s word count is zero. Oh well I guess I have to decide what to keep from my current manuscript be cause at this rate I have a lot of cheating to do.

Feel free to leave a comment. Do you think this is a good strategy or is it as bad as cheating on a mid term?

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