Archive for August, 2008

Busy Writing Day

Posted: August 22, 2008 in Praise Report

Well, this has been exciting for me. Got to go and spend a day at Canandaigua Lake with the family today. Took the laptop in lieu of a book, and in the hours under the sun, when I wasn’t in the water, I worked steadily on The Autographs (note the new title. I’ll explain in a minute). The net result is I finished chapter fourteen and made substantial progress on chapter fifteen, such that I am about a third done. I put in a little more than 1500 words today. Wow. If I did that consistently, I could write a complete novel in two and a half months (taking time off for weekends, of course) 😉

So, the new title: A few weeks ago, while driving south to visit Stony Brook State Park near Dansville, NY, I was thinking about the storyline behind Autograph. Essentially it has revolved around what happens when someone discovers the autograph of St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Most of the story takes place in Turkey (it’s kinda fun, if a little hard, to write about a place I’ve never been to. Thank God for Google). But I’ve wanted to develop the story more, see if it couldn’t take me to other places as well.

Then the epiphany. What if the scroll they discover in Turkey isn’t the autograph itself, but rather a map, or rather a letter or list of some kind that tells of the location of the autographs. The mythology behind this is drawn from 2 Timothy, where Paul tells Timothy, in verse 13, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.” I want to suggest Paul himself was compiling a canon, and the scrolls and parchments were the original autographs of what he and possibly some others had written.

Anyway, now I have my characters hopping all over Turkey, Syria, and possibly Lebanon, before coming back to the United States. It’s pretty exciting. Additionally, they’re taking on their own lives and beginning to do some rather unexpected stuff.

I’m feeling pretty good about this story. I’m looking forward to having the finished draft in my hands.

Writing Sins

Posted: August 19, 2008 in Uncategorized

I’ve just come from a rather tumultuous discussion over at the Absolute Writer’s forums concerning writing about sin in a Christian book, and I must confess I’m a little troubled by the approach to sin I must sometimes take in my writing, and how I must defend it (the approach, mind you, not the sin) to other believers.

A little theological clarity from me may be in order:

Ahem.

I am a conservative evangelical Christian. I am not a fundamentalist, but a conservative evangelical. I believe the Bible is inspired of God, and that only God gets to dictate what is and what ain’t sin.

I believe homosexuality, for example, is sinful, because the Bible says it is. Some people will try to coerce the Bible into saying something it doesn’t, or into not saying something it very clearly and (in the case of homosexuality) repeatedly does say. I choose this last sin precisely because I address it in both The Coppersmith and in one of my newest novels, St. Jude, which is excerpted
below.

But when it comes to writing, I believe honesty is the best policy. That being said, I want to write about homosexual characters in a way that depicts them as human beings, not a sinful straw men that I can set up only to knock down to prove some theological point. I want to write about sinful characters being, well, sinful. Sometimes quite comfortably and without any consequence in this world, because that’s how the world is.

Doesn’t make the sin right or okay. It just depicts it honestly.

In the case of The Coppersmith, I have a maniac running around killing pastors, and one of the pastors he kills is Episcopalian. Some Episcopalians have endorsed homosexuality as “normal,” as does the priest my maniac kills. Of course, The Coppersmith isn’t going to stand for his endorsement of sin, and so rightly condemns the belief, while at the same time being someone who himself is worthy of condemnation because of his intensely radical legalism.

This might give some people the impression that I endorse sin. Nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t endorse sin, I just depict it honestly (and no, I don’t go into detailed descriptions of people engaging in sinful acts).

I guess part of the problem, as I see it, in our cultural wars, is the whole us versus them approach the far right and far left are taking with each other.

I see the radical left declaring anyone who believes homosexuality is a sin a homophobic bigot on the same lines as a rascist or a Nazi.

I see the radical right holding up protest signs that say things like “God hates fags,” or protesting the funerals of American soldiers because they believe the war on terror is God’s judgment on the nation for gays.

It really drives me kinda nuts, you know? I’ve known homosexuals (not biblically, mind you). I’ve been friends with them. Do I believe they’re sinning? Yep. But I still have the responsibility to love them as Christ loves them. This, I believe, is sharing the Gospel with them. This creates opportunities for me to tell them about right and wrong and the cross without shoving it down their throats.

And the same can be said for any other sin our world endorses but which God’s word still says is sin. I believe that, by writing honestly about sinful characters, and by depicting them as human beings first, I can build a bridge of understanding between the non-believer and the Christian worldview. That is the motive behind my writing.

Excerpt from St. Jude

Posted: August 8, 2008 in Excerpts

All right, so here it is: the long-promised excerpt from St. Jude. To set up, this is a conversation between a lawyer, Justin Tower, and his wife over morning breakfast. I’ll let it roll from there…

“You care more about your paper than you do me.”

He feigned hurt. “That’s not true! How could you think such a thing?”

“It is true.” She ran a finger by her nose, as if wiping a tear.

And so it began. The best advice he gave his clients was this: you’re innocent. Don’t let them make you feel guilty. He practiced it diligently.

“No, Muffin. You know I could never love anything the way I love you.” He held onto the paper.

“That’s not saying much.”

A touch! A palpable touch, he thought. But it was humor. And it was best he quit while he still had the chance. “Well, there you may have a point.” He folded the paper and set it down.

She smiled slightly, obviously not too proud of her victory. “I was saying the Ferguson’s have invited us to dinner on the fifteenth.”

“Oh, Mary. Not the Ferguson’s!”

“Well why not? We hardly see them anymore.”

“Well that’s because John Ferguson always hits me up for advice about his ongoing lawsuit. I told him months ago he should’ve settled out of court.”

“They’ve had a rough time of it.”

“I know. Everyone knows. They’ve made sure of that.”

She took a sip of her coffee. “I’m sure it’s just his way of making conversation.”

“I’m sure it’s just his way of hitting me up for free legal advice. Perhaps I should take up tort. Then we can go to their house for dinner and bill him for it all at once.”

She threw a napkin at him. “You’re incorrigible!”

He didn’t answer. Marilyn watched him pick up the folded newspaper slowly, frowning. He stared down at the article. It was just a small item, barely an announcement.

CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER RELEASED. Wellsleyville, NY. Convicted Sex Offender Jude Potter has been released, according to a statement issued by the New York State Department of Correctional Services. Mr. Potter completed an eight year prison sentence on Thursday. When asked about Mr. Potter’s whereabouts a spokesman for the Department of Corrections declined comment, saying only, “Mr. Potter has been informed of his responsibility to register as a Level II sex offender.”

“What is it, dear?” Marilyn asked.

He said nothing, but tipped up the headline so she could read it. Her eyes flared. She twisted the napkin she held into her fist and glared at him. He shook his head. “It’s not him.”

She released the napkin and fumbled with her coffee before spilling a few drops onto the linen table cloth. The liquid soaked into the white and stained it dark. He set the paper down and came over behind her.

“It never ends.” She glanced up at him and patted his hand. He bent down and kissed her forehead.

“I know.” He sat down next to her. “I’d take it all back if I could.” She said nothing. Both glanced up as their son entered the room.

“Hey Sport,” Justin said. “Good morning.” He quickly folded the newspaper article and set it face down on the table. Marilyn glanced warily at her husband, then met her son’s eyes.

“Mornin’.” Sean Tower leaned over and kissed his mom, and snuck a slice of bacon from her plate.

“I saw that.”

Sean slipped the bacon into his mouth and took a seat between his parents. He helped himself to some of the eggs and pancakes in the center of the table.

“So,” said Justin, “what’s on the docket for today?”

Sean dropped a pat of butter on his pancake and smeared it in. “Don’t know. Thought I’d wing it.”

“Don’t you have practice today?”

“Yeah. I wanted to talk to you ‘bout that.” He dabbed his pancake in the syrup. “I’m—I’m thinking about dropping out.”

Both parents exchanged glances. Justin said, “Why would you want to do that? You love football.”

“I dunno. I’m just not into it.”

“Well, what about going for scholarships? We talked about this. Football can open a lot of doors for you, Sport.”

“I don’t know if I want to go through those doors, though.”

“Well—I still think you should keep your options open. You’re still seventeen, Sean. You’ll think differently when you’re twenty.”

“Dad—”

“Keep the football. Finish out the season. And then we can talk about it over the summer.”

“What’s to talk about? You’re gonna force me to do it.”

“Sean—” Marilyn chided.

“I don’t want to! Why can’t I do what I want to do? It’s my own life!”

A muffled rendition of George Michael’s I Want Your Sex rang from his coat pocket. He reached in and muted the cell phone. “I gotta go.”

“Who was that?”

“Nobody.” He pushed away from the table.

“Was that that Thomas character?”

“What if it was?”

“I don’t like the look of him.”

“You don’t know him. You don’t even know him, and already you judge him. Why? ‘Cause I like to hang out with him? You already control what I do. You gonna control who I hang out with now?”

“Just sit down.” Justin’s voice was firm. Sean shoved another piece of bacon in his mouth and pushed past his father.

“Sean!”

Sean shrugged him off.

“Sean!” He called after him. “You’d better be at practice today!”

There was no answer but the slamming of the front door. Deflated, Justin sank back into his chair. He ran a hand over his mouth. “We’re losing him, Mary. We’re losing him and it’s all my fault.”

“It’s not your fault. He doesn’t blame you, and I don’t either.”

“I blame me. I should never have taken that case.”

“You couldn’t have known. Justin Tower, you are the best defense attorney in the county. Warren Meeks asked you for a favor.”

“I should have turned him down.”

“You were doing your job.”

“My job was to be Sean’s father. And I failed to protect him.”

She was silent for a moment.

“I’m sure this will all work out. He’s just confused right now.”

He stared after his son, his heart aching to chase him down and make it right, but knowing it would only make things worse. “I know,” he said.

Sean flung himself out of the house, feeling the eyes of his parents bore a hole in his back. Why did he have to say anything? Why not just keep his trap shut and head down? Why? Three steps off the porch he turned and pushed his way up the sidewalk. He doubted he could move much faster without breaking into a run.

A familiar face peered back at him from a lithe figure leaning against a tree. A grin spread over his face, and he did break into a run.

“Thomas,” he said. He chugged up next to him.

Tom peered at him from half-lidded eyes. “Hey,” he said. He wore a light shirt under the dark leather jacket Sean had picked out for him last Christmas. It still fit him like a glove. Sean traced the curve of his torso with his eyes, following it down to the blue jeans and worn loafers. He felt overdressed in his varsity jacket, khakis and blue oxford.

“You look good.”

Tom answered by flicking his tongue over his upper teeth and winking. Sean’s pulse quickened. “Come on.”

Tom tossed his head, throwing his reddish bangs out of his eyes. “What? No kiss?”

Sean glanced back nervously. “Not here. ‘Rents.”

Tom snorted. “’kay. I’ll try not to take that personally.” He pushed away from the tree and joined Sean on the sidewalk, letting his left hand fall to where Sean could take it when he felt safe.

Not that he ever would.

Computer Crash!

Posted: August 7, 2008 in Ramblings

Oh, this has been a fun week! It started on Tuesday morning, when my laptop began freezing up, then refused to boot up entirely. Mercifully, God resurrected it one last time – enough for me to suck all of My Documents onto the hard drive of my server downstairs – before it crashed and burned for good.

So now I’m writing this on the new church laptop, a rebuilt Acer model I bought for $325. Can’t beat the price, but it’s been fun reinstalling Windows and all my programs. Up until late last night I didn’t even have a sound card driver installed (which is scary, given that we rely on computer generated music for our church on Sundays. No worship leader yet. Got to go MIDI.).

Anyway, I’m still getting used to the new machine, and this is on top of needing to start a new teaching series based on the book of Judges. The weird thing is this computer has one of the new wide screens, which is great, I guess, for video, but still makes everything look kinda squished.

At least I was able to save all the documents. And find all my disks to install needed programs (touch and go there. I almost didn’t find the wireless network driver, which would mean no internet, no network, no nothin’!).

Ah well. Gotta love the computer age!

Back to Work!

Posted: August 5, 2008 in Praise Report, Ramblings

It has been a busy past week and a half. In addition to now recording our Sunday messages and being able to upload them to the church website, as well as uploading a weekly blog entry on the site, I’ve also been gearing up for a new series we’re doing called The Justice League – a series of character studies from the book of Judges. I’ll play off of similarities between some of the more famous Marvel and DC Comics superheroes (no, I’m not going to distinguish between who belongs in which universe. All you comic-book purists can just deal with it!) and some of the more famous Judges from that period of Israel’s history.

Additionally, I finally have a job interview! It’s a bit less than what I was making at the paper, but assuming I’m hired, I can supplement our income by delivering papers or some other side job until we’re able to pay bills through writing and/or church work. At least it’s a foot in the door.

And at last, the real reason I’ve been somewhat absent from my blog and from the forums… (drumroll)… I’m writing! Woohoo!

At this point I am actively working on both St. Jude and Autograph, which I’m enjoying immensely. I’ve done some more work on the screenplay, but it isn’t holding my attention right now the way these two novels are. St. Jude is delightfully dark and moody, and Autograph is fast-paced and fun – kinda like Indiana Jones meets The DaVinci Code. Yes, when it comes time to sell the book, I’ll have to find some other comparison. No agent wants to hear a writer say, “My book is the next DaVinci Code.” I’ve heard that a number of times already.

I don’t have any earthshaking expectations for Autograph. I’m mostly writing it ’cause it’s fun. Yes, it deals with forgiveness and even biblical archaeology, but it doesn’t have a larger point to make other than a fun road trip. It’s mind candy.

St. Jude, of course, is all about making a point. It’s a sermon on grace, without being a sermon, of course. I’ll post an excerpt for y’all to take a look at in the near future. As always, feel free to comment on it.

But since the day is short, and since I don’t have much of this unexpected vacation left, I’m going to sign off for now and get back to work! Later!