To Boldly Go for 50 Years!

My father was obsessed with television sets. During the football season, he would have three televisions going at the same time and be listening to a game on his transistor radio. This was long before cable when we could get only three channels way out in the sticks of Blanchard, Louisiana. In 1965, he did something unthinkable. You’ve got to understand our financial situation back then. My mother had a job — not a common thing to have both parents working in 1965. She drove a school bus and my father worked at the post office. We weren’t rich at all. We lived in the country and raised most of our food in my father’s garden. To give you an idea of how poor we were, one year I wanted the newest toy sensation, Creepy Crawlers. You purchased the box and it it was a small “oven” that heated up metal molds with shapes of various insects. The set came with gooey plastic in a bottle you could squirt into the molds in various color combinations. Then, you put the molds in the oven and pressed the timer. In minutes, the opaque colorful liquid would harden into a translucent rubbery substance. You peeled your creepy crawlers out of the mold and you had instant vermin!

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I wanted this for Christmas so bad. My mother and father pooled some money and bought me an expansion pack instead. Four molds and three bottles of goo. But, no oven! The expansion pack was much cheaper than the whole box. So, here I was on Christmas morning holding my little metal molds over the fire in the fireplace to make my creepy crawlers. Over and over, the things would catch on fire! It’s a wonder I didn’t suffer third degree burns!

Back to 1965. My father came home from Sears and Roebuck store with a huge cardboard box in the back of his old green truck. Much to my mother’s dismay, he had spent a pot load of money on something new. Something big! He and my brother loaded the box into the living room and my father revealed a huge console television. But, it wasn’t just any huge television (Only 24 inches screen — a baby compared to today’s monsters) it was a COLOR television!

Over the next few months I was stunned and amazed at the color images that flickered across the screen. Not all shows were in color. Certainly, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color was! My favorite show at the time was still in black and white — Lost in Space. I was a science fiction fanatic and couldn’t wait each week to hear those famous words uttered by the robot, “Danger, Will Robinson!”

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In the late summer of 1966, one of my mother’s new TV Guides arrived in the mail. For her, it was a little bit of Hollywood glamour in the red clay and pine hills of northern Louisiana. She loved to do the crossword puzzle which featured the names of famous movie and television stars. This TV Guide carried the image of two men dressed in gold and blue tunics with the title of a new show underneath. “Star Trek”. Star Trek? What was this? A new science fiction show in color! I read about the show set on the starship Enterprise with its leader, Captain Kirk and his alien first Officer Mr. Spock. Mr. Spock? Wasn’t that a famous children’s doctor?

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On a cool September night, September 8, 1966 at the age of 11 I had finished my supper and was settling down on our couch in front of new color television. My mother and father were off doing something around the house. I guess I’m fortunate there were no Westerns on that night or I would have never seen this new show. The screen came to life with vibrant color — reds and golds and blues and exotic planet sets that blew my mind. I watched as this doctor, “Bones” McCoy showed up in coruscating sparks of light along with his Captain Kirk on a lonely planet to meet his long lost girlfriend who had married an extraterrestrial archeologist. The opening of the show was so ordinary and yet so exotic as if it was perfectly normal for someone to “beam” down from a starship onto the surface of an alien planet. There were no silly sayings or rambling robots. This was pure drama, straight to the heart of real characters. In later years, this paradigm shift would be responsible for me leaving behind the childish comic books of DC for the more mature comes of Marvel. I was enthralled, gripped, captured by the story that unfolded before me. The red shirt ensign getting the life sucked out of him by the beautiful woman who was Dr. McCoy’s love. How could SHE be a monster? She looked so normal and so beautiful! And, then the big reveal. At the end of the show when McCoy’s girlfriend is killing his Captain and we see the thing for what it really was! Oh my! I ran and hid behind the couch. I was traumatized but captivated. I could not believe my eyes. This was the most amazing show in the history of shows!

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. It’s five mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before!” Then that fantastic fanfare with the warbling vocals almost alien in tone. To this day, it gives me a thrill.

I never missed an episode of Star Trek. I wrote a letter to stop its cancellation. Dr. McCoy would become my role model when I decided to become a doctor. I can say that my life was deeply affected by Star Trek. The three main characters for me represented the three aspects of our personality. Mr. Spock was the cold, calculating intellect, the superego. Captain Kirk was the visceral, go from the gut leaders the id; and Bones was the humanity, the heart that brought the two extremes together. My love for science grew out of Star Trek. My desire to be “just a plain old country doctor” came out of my love for the character of Dr. McCoy.

In 2008, I had the pleasure of meeting Leonard Nimoy at Book Expo America. I snapped a picture of him but did not have the privilege of getting a picture with him, but I did shake his hand and thank him for the character of Spock that so shaped and influenced my life. I missed out on seeing William Shatner during that trip and unfortunately, DeForest Kelley who played Dr. McCoy had passed away a few years before.

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Fifty years have come and gone. I’ve sat through every movie, every animated episode, every spin off. In 1996, I took my son, Sean, to Pasadena California for the 30 year celebration of Star Trek and met many of the stars of Next Generation and Voyager. He dressed in a Star Trek costume that year.

So, to honor Star Trek and its fifty year anniversary, I spent a lot of money and went to Dallas FanExpo in June to meet William Shatner. What a pleasure and a joy to actually meet Captain James Tiberius Kirk. Here is the photo I had made with Willam Shatner and notice the tee shirt I’m wearing.

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Here’s to another 50 years of “boldly going where no man has gone before!”

A Day With the Doctor (And Clara and Missy, too.)

IMG_1491 A day at Dallas FanExpo is like a day on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy crossed with any Marvel or DC movie and a lot of comic book characters thrown in. Thank goodness the Dallas Convention Center is as large as the Death Star. It can hold us all!

Friday was a day to remember; a moment frozen in wonder and excitement; a day we will never forget! Sarah Sutton cosplayed (that means dressed up in a costume and pretended to be a character for those of you still living in the 20th century) River Song; Casey cosplayed the Eleventh Doctor; and I WAS the War Doctor. If you don’t know those characters then the rest of this post may not mean as much. All three are from our favorite television experience, Doctor Who.

We spent from noon to 2 PM getting ready to go into the huge, and I really mean ginormous, exhibit hall. With forethought and careful planning, I had brought my father’s scooter with us. Let’s just say by 3 PM I had run the battery down going back and forth from one end of the hall to the other getting in line to exchange tickets and picking up special event tickets. Thankfully, I had purchased a VIP pass to the convention and was able to go to the front of every line. Money well spent. Not to mention getting to hang out in the VIP lounge in the peace and quiet away from the crowd any time of the day with snacks and water provided.

IMG_0002After procuring a large, and by that I mean it really was bigger on the inside, Star Trek themed bag, we went on a short shopping spree and then back to the Lounge to catch our breath. IMG_0001Next, photo op with Freema Agyeman, who portrayed Martha Jones, the Tenth Doctor’s companion after Rose Tyler. Silly me, thinking she might recognize me as the War Doctor, an incarnation of the Doctor coming after she left the show, I said, “I don’t believe we’ve worked together.” She gave me a puzzled look and replied. “I don’t think so.” Snap, flash, move on!

P-PWG-7T2-C8ROur big event for the evening was the “Evening with Doctor Who”. I purchased Gold Tickets for Casey and me. For Sarah, a silver ticket, but not to worry. Shhhh! We saved her a seat on the second row and she got to sit with the Golden Ticket people! Just don’t tell anyone at the convention.

This was the most anticipated event of the day! And, man, we were NOT disappointed. We had seen Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and Michelle Gomez from a distance earlier that day as they arrived for autograph sessions. It was surreal seeing them in real life. Very surreal. Now, here we were not 20 feet away from the stage as they were introduced. And, true to her character, Michelle came out wearing a set of cat ears! Yes, furry cat ears.

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IMG_1501Jenna came out second wearing an ensemble that would have worked for any of her appearances on the show. Capaldi appeared wearing a dark gray blazer over dark slacks and a dark gray tee shirt with the Texas Star on it (black, of course — the man does like his dark colors).

The next hour and fifteen minutes were filled with laughter and tears and was just the most delightful evening in my memory. These people were so kind and grateful to the fans and so open and accommodating to questions. No pretentious. No arrogance. Very humble and grateful.

The questions were legion and I’ll try and give some of them justice. Let’s see. If Missy could pick any room in the TARDIS to design, it would be a huge, black leather Gucci purse filled with tea and biscuits (that’s cookies for us Yanks). Her favorite villain of all time? Well, she said, not me, Hillary Clinton. Her most awkward moment? During Dark Water, having to kiss the Doctor while holding Clara’s hand! AWKWARD!

Jenna’s favorite Doctor (besides Peter) David Tennant. Her favorite episode was the Snowmen because it was so much like a fairy tale with the spiral staircase and the TARDIS in the clouds.

Peter’s favorite villain, Dracula. Specifically, Gary Oldman’s Dracula. Whose idea was it to play the guitar? His. Whose idea was it to come in on a tank? I think it was his. Whose idea were the sonic sunglasses? Moffat’s. He said toy companies all over the world groaned when he put on the sonic sunglasses but “Ray-Ban sent me a whole pile of them.” And, he said he would wear sunglasses any time of the day or night.

At one little boy’s request, he did the voice of the Daleks in a terrifying and lengthy monologue. It was awesome. They start shooting in two weeks! His favorite doctors were the first four — the classic Doctors and the dark clothing he prefers as the Doctor were based on One and Two. Although, he acknowledged, “the only reason they wore black and white is because the show was on a black and white television”. But, he went on to praise all of the actors who portrayed the Doctor, some of whom were given poor scripts and little money and he credits their acting skills with making the best of a bad situation and keeping Doctor Who alive for so long. He really was so gracious and thankful for the entire enterprise.

When asked how they felt about fan created media, Capaldi praised it saying it informed them of what the fans expected and wanted out of Doctor Who and made everyone in the business realize how special Doctor Who is to the world. Jenna mentioned the title sequence from series 9 coming from a fan. And, there was so much more.

IMG_1507IMG_1505After the session, Casey and I were whisked away to a photo op. She told Jenna how inspiring her portrayal of Clara had been. I walked straight up to Capaldi and said, “I’m looking for the Doctor” a line from “The Day of the Doctor”. Michelle Gomez said, “He’s right there.” and pointed to Capaldi. Capaldi took my hand, shook it and said, “Wonderful wardrobe.” Jenna tapped me on the shoulder and said, “We’ve met.” Then we posed for the photo. Snap, flash, move on!

IMG_1503Later, at the autograph session Casey thanked Jenna again for being an inspiration to her and to her friend, Sierra. I told Michelle, “You must be so tired.” She smiled, “Honey, we love it. We’ll sleep next week.” I told Peter Capaldi, “Thank you for coming. We love the Doctor here in America. And, you have made the show so special.” He smiled at me and said, “I just wish we had more time. It’s too short, too short.” Move on!

What a fantastic day! And, Saturday, we meet Arthur Darville, also known as Rory and, of course, the Time Master, Captain Rip Hunter.

Bruce meets William Shatner!

They call him the Shat!

I am in Dallas at FanExpo, a massive comic con with over 50000 attendees. Thursday night I had the opportunity to spend an “intimate evening” with William Shatner. I decided to bite the bullet and purchase a ticket to this special event for my upcoming birthday. I’ll soon be 61! 61!!!

But after listening to William Shatner for an hour, who at the age of 85, is more active than I could imagine, I’ve decided 61 is very, very young!

IMG_1474.JPGThis year is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and to celebrate that milestone, William Shatner is appearing at this event. I lined up about an hour before the event with about 15 other people. We entered a good sized conference room and there were eight couches in two rows along the front of the room with about six rows of folding chairs behind them. I got the last couch seat.

We were soon informed we would all line up and trek, get it, trek, down the convention center to the photo area for our photo op with William Shatner. After this, we would return to our room and our seats and he would come and speak to us for about 45 minutes then sign autographs. Ordinarily, a photo op is $100 and an autograph $100 so the evening was a bargain!

I was wearing a shirt with a picture of the original Dr. McCoy and the quote, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor not a . . .” Followed by four choices. When I finally walked into the photo booth, I was amazed at how good he looks for a man of 85. He appeared very healthy. He smiled at me and liked my tee shirt. I paused, had my photo snapped and then was whisked out of the booth.

IMG_1478.JPGHe arrived in the room after the photo op and instead of sitting in the appointed chair, hitched himself up on the table on which he would be signing autographs. He immediately talked about how he had never been invited to a typical “Hollywood” party with a rowdy bunch of “naked women”. He said he preferred an intimate get together such as ours and would like to answer a few questions.

IMG_1486.JPGThe first question was about how he and Leonard Nimoy met. He talked about Nimoy and their first work together on the Man from UNCLE and how he had no recollection. Then, he talked about working with Nimoy on Star Trek. He went on to discuss how deeply he missed Leonard Nimoy, his best friend. He talked about the day Nimoy died on a Friday and his funeral would be on Sunday morning. He said he was committed to a Red Cross event in Boston and would have to decide what to do. He then went on to talk about how quickly people are forgotten and how the pain from loss fades over time. But, Leonard Nimoy would not be forgotten. And, he talked about how Leonard would understand the importance of doing something that would make the world a better place such as helping to raise millions of dollars for Red Cross.

Another question led him into a long discussion of the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek. Story. Characters. He talked about how Star Wars was a “ride” and Star Trek was more story and character development. He then talked about story originating from a bunch of us “sitting around a campfire talking about how one of them stabbed a dinosaur in the eye” and Story was born. He then said in 10000 years we will be talking about UFOs and how we will tell the story of being probed “by a purple alien and having its baby”.

He was then asked if J. J. Abrams offered him a role in the original Star Trek reboot. He said he met with J. J. and read the script and it “was awful”. I realized he had given him another script other than the one that was shot. He told J. J. he would only be interested in a role if it “made an impact on the story and wasn’t just a cameo”. When he found out Leonard Nimoy was in the movie he called him and told him “Your realize that you are old and when you go back in time, you will still be old!”

He then talked more about Star Trek versus Star Wars and said that the first seven movies he was in made about $100 million and cost about $30 million to produce. And then, the next generation movies were supposed to make more money and they didn’t. I think where he was headed with this discussion was the idea that Star Trek works better as a television show because it can concentrate on story and character development. Star Wars is “a ride” and J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies were “rides”.

The last question was “Do you regret not taking a role you were offered.” He then talked about his past four weeks. He traveled all over the world doing various events and appearances and I don’t know how a man his age could do this! It was incredible. He ended up by talking about flying to Dallas Wednesday night for this event. He said he has had the opportunity to make a difference in the world like “ripples going out and coming back” and he wouldn’t trade any of that for a big movie role.

He said he has his immediate family in Los Angeles and has everyone over for Sunday dinner so he couldn’t be happier or healthier. He talked about feeling the pressure of time and how quickly life can be gone but he wanted to continue to live and make a difference as long as his health would let him.

A few short notes of some things he said. He talked about his appearance on the original Twilight Zone and the “little furry monster” on the wing. He talked about how in the “old days” in Hollywood a movie would have 10000 extras. How did you feed them? All those people “today are computer generated”. He mentioned his horse riding events and how he was a top championship horse rider and his events for charity raises lots of money.

He told an amusing story about flying to Dallas and having a bad cough. He was sitting beside “a little Asian girl” who had no idea he was Captain Kirk because she probably only knows Chris Pine and she thought “I might be dying”. At this point, he started coughing quite a bit and waxed profound about phlegm. “You’ll never forget tonight. See how intimate we are. We can talk about my phlegm.”

IMG_1490.JPGWe then lined up and he signed and personalized autographs. I had a Star Trek Manga that came out in 2008 with a collectible poster of the illustrated version of the original cast. He signed it for me and once again said he liked my tee shirt.

I packed up my stuff and walked back to the room through a misting rain. Tomorrow, Doctor Who!!!!

Still Writing?!?

I have been lost in my day job.

The past six months have been rather immersive for me. Due to changes in my medical practice, I have been unable to work on my upcoming books, social media, publishing, etc. It’s been tough.

I have received some very encouraging emails from those of you who have purchased “The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone”. I am working on expanding my publishing offerings. And, I hope to have an official book launch here in Shreveport for “The 10th Demon” sometime in June — only six months late!

Just to give you an update on my writing. I am half way through “The 9th Demon: A Wicked Numinosity” and, honestly, the story I had planned for this book would not have worked without recent advances in nanotechnology and virtual reality. I started the book about seven years ago but only in recent months has new technology allowed me to make the story believable and possible in our world.

I am also revising a new project. “Death By Darwyn” (There’s a reason Darwyn has a “y”) was a book I originally presented to Realms way back in 2009. They optioned a first refusal and it has been sitting on the shelf. This past November, I finished the rough draft as part of NanoWriMo. I recently had another inspiration that allowed me to finish the story. It is a legal thriller and here is the synopsis:

Ruth Branson is a junior partner in a major law firm in Dallas, Texas. Bryan Nicholas and Ruth are up for the same position as full partner. When a prominent scientist is brutally murdered, Ruth is given the impossible task of defending the murderer, Dr. Frank Miller. Nicholas must prosecute. Whoever wins the case becomes the next partner. The problem is Dr. Miller was caught red handed holding the claw of a recreation of the dinosaur “Annieraptor” after ripping the heart out of his boss, Dr. Wallace Darwyn. As the trial unfolds, the issues of God versus evolution surface as Nicholas tries to depict Miller as a religious fanatic. Joining the legal team is the mysterious Jonathan Steel in the capacity of lead investigator. Can Ruth find the real killer before Miller is convicted of first degree murder? Can she resolve her own confusion about the existence of God?

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I wrote the book to give Jonathan Steel a minor role in hopes that readers who like legal thrillers might read the book and then want to learn more about Steel in my “Chronicles of Jonathan Steel” series.

So, keep in touch. I hope both books will be available by late summer, early fall. Thank you again for your support.

The First Domino Falls!

Be careful what you ask for.

I was wandering through Barnes & Noble about four weeks ago. I stood in the Christian fiction section and recalled a time when my first two books sat on the shelf along with books by authors such as Tosca Lee and Ted Dekker. For a moment, I imagined myself as a bestselling author whose books would stay on the shelf for more than a few weeks before they would wind up in the $3 pile at Half Price Books. I was pretty down. Depressed. Discouraged. I wrote about this in my last post and made a decision to back off from writing.

Something happened that day. Something that would change everything for me. But, first, let me take a moment to share one of my personal philosophies. My inspiration for writing comes from God. Period. No contest. No argument. And, I have discovered that I can very easily wander off the path God has chosen for me and get all wrapped up in the dream of being Ted Dekker or Tosca Lee or any of my favorite Christian writers.

And, then, God humbles me. Over. And over. And over. And, in the humbling I stop and remind myself what I have chosen to ask God every morning when I wake up. It is simply, “God, what is the one thing you want me to do today as part of your work for my life. Let me know what that thing is and not waver from the purpose you have for my life.” Wandering away from God’s purpose for my life is what got me into so much trouble 20 years ago when I descended into a horrific and paralyzing depression. (See conqueringdepression.com for more on that!).

Back to the book store. I have always maintained there is no experience you can reproduce online that rivals that of wandering through a bookstore. Surrounded by the look, the feel, and, yes, the smell of books can’t be replicated on the keyboard and screen. It’s impossible to wander aimlessly through Amazon’s almost infinite collection of “books”. And that is why, in my dreary mood that day, I paid a visit to my local bookstore chain. It was the first time in months and now I stood forlorn and depressed in the section where my four fiction books should have been featured along with others written by Christian authors who have a story to tell to the world. And, I asked myself if it had all been an empty dream; a squandered opportunity because I wanted to be published for my own satisfaction, not to fulfill God’s work in my life.

I turned away from the fiction and glanced at a small, turquoise book on the top shelf behind me. “Switch On Your Brain” by Caroline Leaf. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I see a book there is a quality, an instantaneous attraction to it that defies human explanation. I glanced away and then looked at it again. It called to me. I picked up the book and read the back. Something about it clicked. I now know this was a divine appointment. I didn’t see it at the time. I added it to my small pile of books and checked out. I placed the book on my desk along with three other books I had purchased on improving my writing.

During the next week or so, I opened one of those writing books on Christian Fiction by Jeff Gerke. The opening few pages asked a very important question. “Why do you want to be published?” His answer was simple. Fame. Money. Glory. Immortality. I have an entire lecture on the three types of writers: those who can’t not write; those who want to be published; and those for whom writing is a “job”. And, all three are vastly different. When you sign that contract with a publisher, your writing moves beyond a hobby to a business. And, then the job becomes work! I had to stop and really ask myself why I wanted to continue to write and be published. The answer, I had to remind myself, lay in the paragraphs above. If God did not honor my writing, then I was wasting His time and mine doing the wrong thing! And so, I prayed once again for direction. “God, if you want me to continue to write, help me know what you want me to write and show me your will.”

This past weekend, while on call for my radiology practice, I picked up the “Switch on Your Brain” book and decided to read the first chapter. An hour later, I was halfway through the book. What happened that afternoon was like someone pushing over the first domino. You see, about a dozen things happened in one week that had nothing to do with each other when viewed separately. But, putting them together I began to see an undeniable push toward a complete rewrite of “The 9th Demon: A Wicked Numinosity”. Suddenly, information and ideas fell into my lap. Ideas circling in my brain actually gelled. And, three different separate conversations with people about totally unrelated subjects suddenly converged into the final conclusion that I HAD to write this book!

Monday night of this past week, I shared all of this with my wife, Sherry. She is my anchor, my reality check. After I laid out all of the “coincidences” of the past month, she nodded in agreement. “Yes, you need to write again.” Today, I started over with the book and it is coming fast and furious. And, the central theme of this book is so timely! I hope to share more with you in the coming weeks. But, right now, I have to write! Here I go!

So, I have an idea. Here in the ArkLaTex about six years ago we had an event featuring local authors. I’d like to consider something like that again. If you are a local Christian writer, would you like to have a weekend event where we get together and have some presentations about publishing, marketing, editing, etc.? Would you like to have a venue where you could feature and sell your books? It’s just an idea, right now. But, if you are interested or if you know someone who might be interested, drop me an email or a comment.

Hitting “Pause”

These are discouraging days indeed.

Since 2001, I have authored six books, technically 8 in all. Four of these books are fiction and two of them were originally self published then published by a major traditional publishing house. The other two non-fiction books continue to sell. They are about depression. And, depression is certainly rampant in today’s culture.

Being published has been a dream I have pursued for the last forty years. I have achieved that dream and, yet, I have made practically no money from my writing. The publishing world has changed. Kindle and ebooks rewrote the playbook and major publisher are still trying to figure out to stay alive and avoid the fate of your local bookstores and national book store chains.

I cannot continue to write books without making at least some money to justify the time it takes to produce a book. A novel is at least two years in the making. I had hoped that one day I could leave my day job and write full time. Like thousands of authors like myself, the reality of today’s publishing world has hit home particularly hard. Good authors with powerful stories and important messages are being silenced by the reality around them.

So, here it is. I’m taking a break from writing. My Jonathan Steel Chronicles has come to a satisfying stopping point with the fourth book. My original plan was to have three sets of a “quadrilogy” with each set of four books unveiling more of his growing story of spiritual warfare. The story has only just begun but reality has made me pause. I want to thank my faithful readers for purchasing the first four books. I am hoping that in the coming year as I evalutate my writing future, I may find the time and energy away from my increasingly demanding medical job (thank you Obamacare for allowing me the privilege to work four times harder for less and less income!) to continue the story. I hope I will have that opportunity and frankly, I have turned to the Lord’s will for the future of writing.

I will continue to promote my depression book, “Hope Again” as the reward from that book is far from monetary. Mark Sutton and I receive emails every week from someone who found our book and believed it “saved” their life. This kind of success surpasses any other form or renumeration. Please continue to encourage anyone you know who is depressed to check out our book on www.conqueringdepression.com.

I will continue to post on this website and blog in the future. I still have much to say about this hopeless, helpless culture that is becoming increasingly hostile to the Christian faith. Thank you again for all of your support.

Bruce Hennigan

A Christmas “Story”

“You saved my life.”

I’ve heard these words before. Usually, they come from a total stranger through an email or a letter; someone who has picked up “Hope Again” and the LifeFilters and found them an answer to a desperate prayer for help. Let me be honest. I NEVER take such a statement lightly. Every time someone expresses this to me or to Mark Sutton, I am equally shocked and humbled.

This past Sunday, I shared a story with my family at our annual Hennigan Family Christmas Party. I won’t detail the story. Just know that the point of that story was to share with my family how a seemingly painful and potentially fatal encounter in my childhood served as the source for something I did later in life that had a profound influence on the lives of others. In this case, four veterans of World War II and an elderly woman who had lived in bitterness for years because of anger over losing her brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor. In both cases, a simple scene in one of my plays echoing that event in my childhood had the unexpected consequence of bringing these people profound peace and reconciliation.

Read the rest of this entry

“The Shock of Night” Book Review Day 1

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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Coherence

I just love it when a plan comes together!

If you take all of the world building and character development we see in Patrick W. Carr’s “The Shock of Night” and judged them solely on their merits, it would be enough to make this book a thrilling fantasy. But, the real magic of a great author is in making all of those moving parts work together seamlessly in one cohesive whole that takes the reader by surprise and pulls him/her into the narrative.

My favorite writers have the uncanny ability to make me want more. They give me just enough of the story to entice to me to step into the dark forest. They show just enough of the superficial qualities of the character to make we want to know more. They dangle the proverbial carrot and I follow it into wonderful goodness.

In “The Shock of Night” the story starts off obscurely with Elwin, a Servant, journeying to the kingdom of King Lairdir with a carefully hidden secret. As abruptly as we meet Elwin and his companion Robyn, we awaken with Lord Dura, the king’s reeve who is taken to the scene of the murder of a “churchman”. Here we learn that Lord Dura has his own tortured secrets to hide, but what are they? We find out he is fascinated with what lies beyond death and desires to look into the eyes of the near dead. It is during this encounter with the dying Elwin he receives something that changes his life forever.

And, this new gift sends him into the arms of the Vigil, a group of gifted who have a secret themselves. It seems the Darkwater Forrest is growing and engulfing the surrounding land and from this Darkwater Forrest an evil is growing. And, we soon learn that the secret Lord Dura is hiding has to do with something horrific that happened to him, wait for it, in the Darkwater Forrest.

Let me stop there and not give any more of the story away. Just know that the story elements start out seeming to be not related but in time, Patrick W. Carr pulls these threads together and the story coheres, it holds together tightly and seamlessly.

I cannot recommend “The Shock of Night” highly enough. It is a joy to read, a journey to embark upon and a world built very smartly and fully. Enjoy!

Don’t forget to visit everyone’s book review and leave a comment!
The Shock Of Night — Amazon
Author Website — Patrick W. Carr

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Thomas Clayton Booher
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Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

If you are looking for great Christmas presents, there are four books now in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel and can be ordered from this website. If you know someone suffering from depression at this time of the year check out my book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” at conquering depression.com.

 

“The Shock of Night” Book Review Day 2

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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Correspondence

For me, the strength of a good fantasy tale lies in the ability to take me away from the mundane nature of everyday reality. Who wouldn’t want to fly through the air on a broomstick and play Quidditch? Or, cast a spell with a few choice words and teleport fro one place to another? As attractive as these prospects are the story loses its relevance if it is not rooted in reality. Without a foundation in what is NOT possible in our reality, we would not appreciate being able to experience the IMPOSSIBLE.

Patrick W. Carr creates a very viable, realistic alternate reality with the elements of the church as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. In a telling scene in “The Shock of Night”, the main character, Lord Dura is summoned to his king’s chambers. Being the king’s personal “reeve” he has unfettered access to the king. But, to his surprise, King Laidir is surrounded by representatives of two of the church’s factions. In a shocking development, the King is instructed to stop Lord Dura from investigating the murder of Elwin, an elderly Servant killed at the beginning of the novel. How can the church exercise this kind of control over a king? Is this a realistic development? Patrick W. Carr does a masterful job of creating a reality in which the church can exercise this kind of power. It is not unprecedented and our own history demonstrates the power of the Church to dictate how a ruler should conduct the state’s business. As the story progresses, the reader is drawn into this conflict and it is believable.

How about Aer’s “gifts”. Suppose in our reality, one could read another person’s mind merely by touching them? We’ve seen this kind of device used in many fantasy and science fiction novels. It is not an unusual device. But, in “The Shock of Night”, Lord Dura receives such a gift. Patrick W. Carr slowly introduces the reader to the “shock” of the reality of having this kind of gift. Rather than making such a gift sound like a wonderful skill, we see the power of such a gift and the drawbacks. In painstaking detail, Lord Dura is pulled into the power of his gift and not only is devastated by its strangeness, but is also damaged by the depth of the memories he does not expect to accompany such a gift. The reality of the double edge sword of such a gift is deftly demonstrated.

The beauty of a well told story is the correspondence of the story with enough of our own reality to give us relevance as readers and at the same time, create an alternate reality that is believable and sustained by the author. Patrick W. Carr has done this in a powerful and immersive tale that builds and builds toward a powerful face off between the forces of good and evil.

Tomorrow, I will finish my review and tie all of this together with a discussion of coherence.

Don’t forget to visit everyone’s book review and leave a comment!
The Shock Of Night — Amazon
Author Website — Patrick W. Carr

Participants Links:

Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Carol Bruce Collett
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rani Grant
Rebekah Gyger
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
 Nissa
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Robert Treskillard
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

If you are looking for great Christmas presents, there are four books now in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel and can be ordered from this website. If you know someone suffering from depression at this time of the year check out my book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” at conquering depression.com.

 

“The Shock of Night” Book Review Day 1

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

ShockOfNightCover-485x750@2x

I have not finished this book. Why? It is long, true. But, it is immersive. I’ve found myself going back and re-reading chapters after I have understood more about the world in which this story is told. Again, this is NOT a criticism. Rather, it is a reflection of a dense, multilayered, well developed world. At the heart of every science fiction and fantasy novel is world building.

I’ve read many novels in which there are weaknesses in the world framing the story. Such contrivances can torpedo a story, especially when “deus ex machina” swoops in to save the day. In my own writing, I’ve adopted some ideas from a surprising source.

Ravi Zacharias is an amazing speaker, preacher, and author whose efforts in the field of apologetics provides thinking Christians with tools to defend the truthfulness of the Christian faith. In his organization’s teaching series, “ASK” he talks about the concept of a worldview: a set of assumptions you have made through which you look at every choice you must make in life to shape your values and your spiritual condition as you live our your every day life. He then goes on to instruct us on how to test a worldview. It must have: logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. Finally, in testing a worldview it must have correspondence (that is corresponds to reality) and coherence (holds together).

I would like to focus on three key concepts of “world building” executed brilliantly in “The Shock of Night” by Patrick W. Carr. These three concepts are: Logical Consistency, Correspondence, and Coherence. I’ll talk about each topic on each of the three days of this book review.

Logical Consistency

In our postmodern, relativistic culture, logic tends to get lost in our daily thoughts. And yet, it is fundamental to our thought processes. We still look both ways before we cross the street! And, particularly in storytelling, logic is essential. Many fantasy novels utilize magic or metaphysical powers from some magical source. In “The Shock of Night”, Patrick W. Carr does a masterful job of creating a world of “gifts” given by “Aer”, the divine source of everything. These “gifts” are desired by different division of the “church”. The principle of “Tolerance” allows these competing factions within the church to present their argument for how “gifts” should be used by those few who are blessed enough to receive them. These “criers” present in the public square their opinions and this device serves to establish the logical foundation upon which everything in the story occurs.

The “Servants” say “The purpose of man is to serve others, placing them above himself. If every man looks to use his gift in his own interest, we will descend into selfish barbarity.”

The “Vanguard” say “I must take issue with my brother. While service is a noble goal, there will always be evil in this world. Unless we are bold in confronting the enemy’s malice, servanthood will only provide fuel for its excesses. The gifts of Are are given so that we might eradicate evil from the world.”

The “Absold” say “While I can sympathize with the desire to serve and to fight evil, as my brother and sister so eloquently express, I must disagree. Our principle purpose here is not dependent on what we do, but on what we are. We are all fallen. Only by extending forgiveness freely to each other, in imitation of Aer’s forgiveness for us, can we free ourselves from those internal chains that make us less than we are. Then you will see your gift shine forth.”

The “Merum” say “The strictures are these, You must not delve the deep places of the earth, you must no covet another’s gift, and above all you must honor Aer, Iosa, and Gaoithe in all.”

And then, there are those who say, “How many of you have waited on your knees with your prayers turning to ashes in your mouth, hoping that somehow your talent and work might be enough? . . . what are you hoping for? That someone will die unexpectedly or without an heir and somehow a gift will come to you? I speak for the Clast, and I’m here to ask you this: What right does some rich man’s family have to hoard their gifts from generation to generation and keep you poor?”

In this powerful scene in the public square, Patrick W. Carr has laid out the logical progression of how tension and strife over the possession of “gifts”, fueled by divisions within the church become the foundation for the drama that will unfold throughout the story.

Is this logical? Yes, in the realm of the Christian worldview it is. We know all about the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit given by God. We know how these gifts work with our God given talents and our life’s experienced skills and wisdom to serve as tools for God’s work. Here, in this story, this gifts become the “magic” abilities needed by the characters to give this wonderful fantasy a believable and logical foundation. It makes sense and it doesn’t have to rely some arbitrary change in rules to continue the story. Most of us can readily identify with different attitudes about spiritual gifts and how Christians should exist in a world increasingly hostile to our faith.

The main character, Lord Dura, serves as King Laidir’s “reeve” to investigate crimes in the kingdom. As Lord Dura investigates the violent death of an elderly Servant, he journeys to the House of Passing where the injured man has been taken to die. As the Servant dies, something happens to Lord Dura that alters his life forever. Does it have something to do with the Servant’s gift? Has Lord Dura, an ordinary man without the backing of wealth or position most gift possessors have, acquired a powerful gift? Who attacked the Servant and why?

Within this world of inter-church conflict and the struggle to hoard and acquire gifts a powerful story unfolds as a great evil has led to the death of this powerful Servant. Patrick W. Carr has used a powerful tool of worldview construction to build a deep, immersive world in which the story logically provides foundation for a powerful story!

Tomorrow, I will talk about Correspondence. Does this story and the world in which it takes place correspond to reality?

Don’t forget to visit everyone’s book review and leave a comment!
The Shock Of Night — Amazon
Author Website — Patrick W. Carr

Participants Links:

Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Carol Bruce Collett
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rani Grant
Rebekah Gyger
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
 Nissa
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Robert Treskillard
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

If you are looking for great Christmas presents, there are four books now in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel and can be ordered from this website. If you know someone suffering from depression at this time of the year check out my book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” at conquering depression.com.

 

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