Facing Blue

One of the things I’m most grateful for in my life is how personal God is with me. He loves me, spends time with me, and talks with me. When my character needs work, if I need something, or am not sure what to do, He is always faithful to coach, correct, guide, and provide.

I love this about God, but this is not the only reason my faith exists. I am also called to help others, for all of the goodness He pours into me to pour out to others, and not in passive ways.

There are three main sources that have been feeding into this for me recently.

The first is from the Bible Project. Recently on their podcast, they did a series on justice, laying out how the Bible views it and what, from a Biblical standpoint, it means. One of the things that most caught my attention was the “quartet of the vulnerable,” that is, widows, orphans, the poor, and foreigners. These are groups of people called out again and again in the Bible as those that God’s people need to be vigilantly watching out and caring for. I don’t have the time or expertise to explain more about that here, but if you have time, I highly recommend checking out the podcast or looking up some of their videos on YouTube.

The second source comes from research I’m doing for the book I’m working on now. I’ve mentioned this one before, but suffice to say one of the main characters has escaped from slavery, a topic that as a middle-class white person, I feel severely unequipped to approach. I am definitely the type of person who has avoided uncomfortable topics in the past, using emotional fragility, optimism, and a fear of being overwhelmed as an excuse, but doing research on this topic–and opening myself up to learning more about other areas of continuing injustice today–has definitely been eye-opening, both in calling out destructive habits and attitudes in myself (hiding being one of them) and in calling my attention to the seriousness of some of these issues even today.

The third source comes from my friend Alma. She was recently involved in a project called Facing Blue, an anti-sex-trafficking arts movement started as a result of a young woman’s murder. They recently put on a show–a mixture of music, poetry, video, and dance, and I was really challenged by what I saw, not only in gaining a greater awareness of the issue and how it affects my city but also in seeing many young artists use their skills for a purpose greater and more needed than I typically use mine.

So, what does all of this mean?

Well, I’m not entirely sure, but I can think of at least a few things.

First, it means no longer being complacent with just using my faith for me. The more I get to know God, the more clear it becomes to me that Christianity is not a passive faith. This certainly doesn’t mean using aggression, but it does mean confronting evil, naming it, and doing what I can to end it, in myself, and in the world around me. For example, calling out the dehumanizing effects of human trafficking or abuse, spending time with, valuing, and loving the vulnerable, and advocating for them when and where I can.

Second, it means not hiding from the world and doing research where necessary. As a genre fiction writer, it’s easy for me to hide behind fantasy, either as a human or in my work. It’s easy for me to say that I can just make up whatever I want or dismiss deep, recurring issues with a Trek-ian veneer of progress, but the longer I’ve written, the more I’ve come to realize that simply isn’t true. Human nature and its often disastrous effects are not something I can responsibly gloss over just because I’m not writing about a time and place common to Earth, and sometimes getting it right takes research and thought beyond what I’ve traditionally given.

Third, it means just being more aware of the world around me. It’s easy to get knotted up in myself, to put others after myself, and to ignore what’s hard. But that’s not how Jesus lived, and it’s not how I want to live either. It’s good to be grateful, but I also want to be generous and kind and compassionate to those in need. I want to use what God’s given me for more than just myself.

There are a few caveats I would like to point out, however.

First, I don’t think this is ultimately going to change what I write, at least on a nuts and bolts level. I think a trap I’ve fallen into before is thinking that the only way to use my writing for others is by one of the general “God-approved” categories I think of when I think of Christian writing, e.g. blogs, devotionals, poems, or heavily moralized fiction.

This, I will admit, is an unjust representation of what Christians actually write.

But more importantly, it’s a lie. One of the coolest parts of Facing Blue’s recent event is that it incorporated projects the artists involved were already working on. And I think the same can be said for what I work on now. I don’t have to cram a Jesus character into my writing somewhere, make sure each story confronts an issue, or make sure everyone gets saved in the end. I can just write what I normally do, well, better, more justly, more…truthfully to the characters and the world around them/us.

I also don’t think these new realizations need to (or should) change my calling. I think in the past, I’ve had some pretty narrow ideas of what “good Christians” do (either vocationally or with their free time), with disastrous results. Now, it feels more like a broadening of scope, or perhaps a sharpening of focus, rather than a change of direction. And while I don’t doubt there might be some additions or shifts in my daily life, I don’t think it means I have to drop everything and to be a missionary or spend all my free time volunteering. It could be as simple as shifting what I attend, listen to, or watch, or how I approach each.

Lastly, I don’t think it means despairing. In digging a little deeper into some of the research I’ve been doing, I have been grieved by some of what I’ve seen or found. The capacity for evil that humans (or the powers behind them) have is enormous, and when we give into it, on any level, it is a tragedy. That’s part of why I’ve tried shutting it out so much in the past. But in being willing to acknowledge some of this more, in participating in some of the grief my Father must feel, I must also remember that He is in charge and though He sees and feels and understands more of the despair, pain, and heartache that happens in this world than I ever could, He doesn’t give up hope and has promises yet to fulfill.

I’ve included the music video for Alma’s latest video “Hearsay,” featured at Facing Blue’s event, below. I think the lyrics are powerful and beautiful, and I encourage you to check it out. Her song “New Nation” is another great one that I think fits well.

Edit 2/28/2018: In thinking back on this post, I just wanted to make something clear about how I view Christian art, mainly in that I don’t think every piece of Christian art has to directly address some kind of issue or have some kind of great message or moral to be good art or “useful” to God, and in fact would say that’s a view I am categorically against. The main benefit or growth I expect to see from this in my writing is a more mature framework from which to approach what I choose to write, rather than shifting purposes, content, or goals, and I just wanted to make this clear to avoid feeding into any afore-mentioned ideas of what “good Christians” do or should write about, either in genre or purpose. Write freely and well, friends! Thank you!

So, how about you? Does any of this speak to you? When you’ve felt called to do more, how have you processed it and in what ways has it changed how you live? Any suggestions or tips as I continue to work this out?


Taking the pressure off

One of the ongoing topics of conversation God and I have is writing. What we want to do with it, what stories to tell, how, when, why, and so on and so forth.

Traditionally this has been a bit of a thorny subject, fear, the input of others, and misinterpretations being the main culprits behind its difficulty.

However, I have grown a lot in this area with time, and especially over the last couple of years. Most recently, in being able to make writing a much smaller deal.

Even when I was little, I wanted to be a writer. I had the inclination, the praise of teachers and parents, and I couldn’t imagine a better life than to tell stories for a living. As I grew older, my dreams evolved. Fame, fortune, book deals, etc. All of these could be mine. And best of all, I could do it all “for the Lord.” My stories would change the world, topple hearts, raise the dead. World famous by eighteen, I would be the next Rowling, the next Gaiman, God had called me there.

Now I could go on to explain how those dreams fell through (thank goodness), the journey that’s brought me to where I am today (thank goodness), but that’s not what I want to focus on in this post.

What I would rather focus on is one of the foundational misunderstandings I’ve had about my writing even from those seedling years. Mainly, that the content of my stories is the main contribution I can give to the world.

This is a trap and a lie, and it makes my writing worse.


See, when the best thing I can give this world is my writing, well, that’s a lot of pressure. It makes writing a paralyzing rather than joyful process, and the idea of publishing that work gets even worse. Couple that with the idea that the best way I can change the world (or worse, people) is my work, and things get even worse. Complicated characters become caricatures, explorations become morals, conversations become sermons, nothing I really want as an author.

More importantly and more tragic, I forget the most important thing that I really can do: love the people in front of me.

Writing is great. Stories are powerful. But to paraphrase the good old book, if I write the world’s best novel and have not love, well, what am I doing anyway?

Changing people is not my job. Writing words to unlock people’s hearts in just the right way is not my job. Loving people as I encounter them and writing with excellence, those two things are my job.

And believe me, that’s plenty.

Are there any areas in your life where you’ve piled on too much pressure? How has that affected that area of your life? Have you gained freedom by taking certain things less seriously or gained something else by pressing in a little more? Tell me in the comments below and if you want more content like this, feel free to follow my blog or social media accounts using the links in the sidebar. Thanks for reading!

Squad goals, 2018


A couple years back, my cousin tried explaining “squads” to me. I’m certainly not someone who prides herself on being hip to the latest trends, so it was great to hear her point of view.

And while I certainly don’t have a group of only four or so friends who all give each other nicknames, I have recently been reflecting on the importance of community. God’s been overturning a lot of things in my heart about this subject over the past year, and I’ve been reaping a lot of rewards as a result.

So for anyone who’s looking to plug in a little more (or is afraid to), here are some tactics that have been helping me on the way.

First, I’ve been doing things that make me nervous. So far this has mostly consisted of going to events that would normally trigger some nerves and trying to be more vulnerable on a deeper level with my friends. I don’t go to everything, which is fine, but I have been trying to push myself and have been astonished by the results.

Secondly, I’m working on letting go of the lies I’ve believed about myself in the past. The biggest knot of these has mostly consisted of various iterations of not being good enough, the idea of being some kind of novelty or outsider the most common variations. When I believe those things about myself, I hide from people, God, and myself. When I choose to let them go, to believe what God says about me, I’m free to love not only myself, but those around me, to let go of things like resentment and comparison to pick up joy instead. All of those things are necessary for me to really be free to connect.

Third, I’ve been trying to have more grace for myself. For me, this means not needing to go to everything (and being more discerning about what I do go to), trying to see myself as I see others (awesome, not terrible, and not consuming nearly as much negative mental space as they think), recognizing my behavior (and what causes it), and recognizing progress. I’ve come a long way even in just the past few months, which brings me to point four, which is…

Being grateful. For progress, for friends and family, for the God who makes it all spin. God has blessed me so richly this last year with old and new friendships, and I have learned and grown so much from them already. I am consistently blown away by God’s generosity and blessing in this area of my life, the character, love, and grace these people demonstrate in my life, and I want to work harder not just to be the best I can be for these people, but to be open, honest, and vulnerable with them, too.

I think that’s what God wants for me as well.

So, even though it’s a little scary sometimes, I want to and am going to put up that fight, and am incredibly thankful for all of the people in my life, old or new, that have been and are helping me to get there. Thanks guys. Love you, boos.

Have you ever had difficulty finding a community? Have you ever been afraid to try? What are some of your experiences with this part of your life and what have you learned? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content from me, feel free to follow me or the blog, links on the sidebar!


Rediscovering process

Hey all,

For Christmas this year, it happened to work out that I was able to take off the whole week with a few extra days added on for New Years and weekends. I was feeling pretty peopled out at the time and running inches ahead of schedule for writer’s group, holidays being what they are (delightful, much needed, and very busy), so I was pretty excited to block off most of that time just for me, family, and my writing.

What I was not expecting was to rediscover the process of writing and why I love it so much.

Let me back up.

I love writing. I always have. I love the sound of words together, the way they look on a page, and the idea of telling stories that people love and follow and are changed by has been a dream of mine for ages.

And back when I was in high school and just out of it, there was almost nothing I loved more than the simple process of writing itself. I remember spending hours working on my books, working until my brain turned to jelly, thinking “this is what I was meant to do” whenever I put words to page.

There was frustration in there too, of course, there always is, but the pleasure I got out of just doing it, writing, editing, whatever, was so fulfilling.

Except, somewhere along the way, I feel like I lost that joy. Somewhere in those years, disappointment and frustration took over the contentment of growth, of process, of putting letters in rows in blank spaces.

I’m sure working on Machine for so long was a key part of my mistake. Putting so much time and effort into something that just isn’t going to work is a sure fire way to lose some of your spark.

But there’s another element to this, one that I think is perhaps even more profound.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before on this blog, partnering work and faith has often been a struggle for me. Whether running from God because I didn’t want him to make my work boring (a lie), running from God because I didn’t think my work was good or Christian enough (another lie), or any of the myriad other reasons I’ve had for not wanting to let Him come alongside and help or guide, it’s never been particularly easy for me to join my passions and dreams with God (or at least who I thought God is or wanted).

He’s working with Me daily on that, but that’s a whole other world of posts.

For now, I’d like to focus in on a specific problem I think I’ve had, which is mainly the idea that if I’m truly writing what God wants me to write, He’ll somehow just give me the words. And I don’t mean that in the sense of general guidance or sparks of inspiration, I know and have seen Him work with me in these ways. I think mentally, at least until recently, I just had a more verbatim sense of His help. Like if I was really listening hard enough, God would just tell me what to write down.

Or, worse, if I was really listening hard enough/doing what He wanted me to do enough, everything would just fall into place and I’d have been published by now.

And there’s nothing wrong with saying He could, and I believe in some cases, He might or does. It’s certainly seemed that way with many of the people I’ve seen around me that I’ll admit, frankly I’ve been jealous of (certainly wrongfully so).

But as evidenced by, well, to my understanding, the entire Bible, that’s simply not how God works most of the time. More often than not, He works through process.

You wouldn’t tell an athlete that if they’re following God’s will they don’t have to work out. You wouldn’t tell a politician if it’s God’s will they don’t have to campaign. And while there’s certainly an element of blessing and divine intervention that can and does come into our lives when we partner with God, that doesn’t mean we still don’t have our part.

That’s something I rediscovered on my vacation.

Spending time with my work, writing it, rewriting it, sensing what works by feel and error rather than hope, it was something that, between my busy schedule and misunderstandings of God, I had forgotten. I’d lost my sense of adventure, of courage and growth with my writing, and with it, I’d lost my joy.

I don’t often give myself very much grace. It’s another area in which I believe God is helping me to grow. I believe that writing, and the process, is a part of this, and I hope it helps you too.

So if you’re feeling frustrated with your writing, wishing it would just be good already, just remember, it’s a process, and that’s part of what makes it worthwhile.

Tom Cruise, bringing it home.

What are some areas in your life where you’ve had to go through process, creatively or otherwise? Have you found more joy or pride in the end product because of it? Where do you think you could continue to grow? Let me know in the comments below and if you want more posts from me, feel free to follow me on the blog or on social media!

Meeting Miss Eyna



I have recently discovered the value of the character sheet.

Have I done them before?


Have I done them well?

Ehhhhhh. Hubris, thy name is young writer.

But enough of these one-line paragraphs. Let’s get into the meat of this post, starting with a little background.

The first draft of Machine was finished in late 2009. Back then, I was still in high school and confident that I’d be breaking out onto the world stage of writing within the next year or two. I had a charming hero, his enigmatic love interest, and his angsty, tortured partner to stir up conflict. What more could a novel need?

Well, as it turns out, a lot. Like a world that had more than glancing work put into its creation, a focused plot that had been thoroughly checked for holes and, as we’ll focus on in this post, characters that had been fleshed out, the worst offender (or perhaps victim) of this last one being Eyna (said love interest), who up until a couple months ago, didn’t even have a last name.

Why was she so bad, you might ask? What made her so flimsy when viewed with a critical eye? Well, as it happens, the very same mystery that I so loved to give her.

“You don’t need to know that,” I’d complain whenever readers asked a question (sorry Mom).

“She just does,” was my battle cry.

If you’ve been in this business any amount of time, you can tell that this was not a good approach. And consistently, readers knew. Sure I had ways to explain it away, ways of thinking about her that made sense to me, but looking back now, I realize that they were simply romantic notions of what I wanted her to be, nothing nearly so sturdy as to support a human life. And, even if a reader isn’t supposed to know something, the author should, and needs to know (sorry, Mom). I’ll give you that one for free.

Which brings me to now, where, as with most things Machine related, I’ve really started to put in the work, starting with, for Eyna, a character sheet.

I use a modified version of the Epiguide one found here, and it’s been really useful so far. Some of its most noticeable benefits have included:

  • Forcing me to create backstory in areas I wouldn’t normally consider
  • Forcing me to nail down the key backstory elements I do consider, including timelines, events, and effects
  • Helping me understand why characters are the way they are through past events, family, and habits

This has been particularly useful as I consider my rewrite. For example, in the old version of Machine, Eyna secretly does return Rick’s affections, a fact that doesn’t become apparent until later in the book. It is for this reason that she chooses to go along with the group as they head out on their adventure.

Now, knowing a little bit more about her (and after feedback), I’m not sure that still makes sense. I’ll probably have to come up with an entirely different reason for her to join the group. Maybe she won’t even have known Rick before at all. But, because I’ll be working from a character sheet, with a character instead of some fluffy photoshop piece, I’ll actually know why she goes with, she’ll have real reasons, and my book will be stronger as a result.

And, as a bonus, making character sheets is simply fun.

Working with my modified version of the above guide (mine having just a few added questions specific to my genre/book/plot tracking purposes), it takes a little more than an hour to complete one sheet, allowing that I might skip a couple questions here or there to finish later. By the end of that hour, I’m usually pretty mentally tired (I think the most I’ve been able to do in one go was one and a half sheets, and that with a bit of a soup brain at the end), but I’ve learned loads about my characters that I didn’t know before.

For example, Eyna, my formerly enigmatic love interest, loves chemistry.

Axle, the grumpy antagonist within the group, likes crosswords.

Thade likes sculpting. Fel enjoys fashion. Noss has a father that she worries about a bit much.

All of these things have been surprises. None of them would have come up within the course of the book itself.

Doing character sheets is a blast, and it will give you a better book (to say nothing of more fodder to pull from as you’re looking to make your plot sing). If you’re a pantser like me, you should make them at least after your first draft, and, if you’re a plotter, probably before.

So hello, Miss Eyna. It’s been a pleasure to meet you.

How do you approach character development in your work or organize your other creative projects? Have you ever had experience with characters suddenly changing or growing as a result? What did you learn? Tell me in the comments below, and if you liked this post, feel free to follow my blog or any of my other pages using the links above. Happy New Year!

Gratitude for a good year

Hi all,

Originally I was going to write a post on my regretting not being good enough for Jesus and him reminding me progress is okay. I felt I was being a little hard on myself even writing it, gave it some time, and decided, well, I’d rather not share it at all. Suffice to say the moral was summed up in the first sentence I listed above.

So, what would I like to talk about instead?

Well, as my title suggests, gratitude.

Next Friday, the 22nd, it will have been a year since I graduated from my DTS. A few weeks after that and it will be a year since I got home.

And what a year it’s been.

God has provided so much for me. I’ve made so many new friends this year, plugged in with people my age, found a new job that I really enjoy with people I really like, and processed through a lot. I’ve found freedom, joy, and a re-commitment to some of my passions, found others who share similar passions, and learned a lot about what my path with God looks like. I’ve matured, forgiven, read, written, and learned so much, both at my new job, with old things I thought I knew, and about life in general.

It’s been such a blessing.

Thank you, God, family, and friends. It’s been a beautiful year.

Grateful year

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

So, how was your year? What are you grateful for? Let me know in the comments below!

With Jesus there is no unless

Today I wanted to talk to you about a topic that God has been working on with me lately. That topic is the word “unless.”

This year has been a big year of growth for me. I’ve had a lot of processing to do, and a lot of it has been regarding issues/experiences that have been very close to my heart. There have been people this year that I’ve had to fight to forgive, situations where I’ve felt angry (both at others and myself), and worse, times when I’ve felt (wrongly) justified in that anger. I’ve had to do a lot of digging to figure out the whys behind a lot of those feelings and experiences, some of it unpleasant, some painful, all of it revealing and leading to more goodness, forgiveness, and grace.

Thankfully God has been gracious throughout all of this (as always), both in helping me to forgive and in forgiving me.

Which brings me to my main point, the lesson I’ve been learning: that with Jesus, there is no unless, which is both a great and terrible thing.

For example, the Bible doesn’t say, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life unless they struggle with addiction, lied last Tuesday, or don’t wish their mother a happy birthday.”

There is no sin that can keep you away from God if you’re willing to repent and ask forgiveness (and by the way, no, I don’t think not wishing someone happy birthday is a sin).

But by the same token, the Bible also doesn’t say, “Love your neighbor as yourself unless they made you angry on Facebook, come from a different ethnic background or class, or aren’t making the decisions that you think they should were you in their shoes.”

Jesus is very clear on these. Forgive your enemies, love your neighbor, care for the orphan and widow. There are no stipulations on these, no caveats that make you or me special when we try to plead our case.

And I’m not saying that you can’t or won’t struggle to do it. Lord knows this last year has been a case study in the same for me.

However, having seen the immense damage that comes in through these justifications, both in my relationships with others, my relationship with God, and my relationship with myself, I will say that fighting to follow his commands, putting aside my own opinions on who deserves what and when, is worth the fight. God’s discipline is a mercy, and the longer we fight it, the harder things will be, the blinder we will become to the wickedness in our hearts.

More often than not, the very thing that can stir me up to a rage in others is the very thing I do in return. For example, settings conditions on love, shutting out others, being judgmental or passive-aggressive. And even when I don’t see myself doing the same things (or at least haven’t figured it out yet), these situations still reveal other things in me of equal evil. Resentment, condemnation, wishing for others to fail. All of these are deep, hurtful problems I’ve found and the damage they cause can be and has been catastrophic.

And yet, God doesn’t say unless. He stays, He loves, He convicts, and He coaches, His kindness leading me to repentance.

God has forgiven me of more than I could ever imagine. He sees the true condition of my heart, sees the mirrored problems I don’t, sees the wounds I dig in myself and others. His forgiveness is a scandal.

And if He can do that for me, for someone who does the same things I loathe in others, how could I not do the same? How could my response, my worship, be anything less than to extend that same forgiveness to others, to love, to care?

God calls us to love, to do these things for everyone, no matter the circumstances, no matter the condition.

This Christmas season, the time for celebration, family, and friends, it’s time we stop adding “unless.”

So, have you ever struggled with this? When have you made excuses and what was the result? Do you have strategies that help keep you on track to avoid problems like these? Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below and if you’d like more content from me, feel free to subscribe and follow at any of the links in the sidebar.

Recommendation roundup, audiophiles and artistry

Hey guys,

It’s that time of year again. Not a specific time I’ve set up beforehand (like I probably should) but, as the title suggests, that time of year where I’ve been finding tons of cool new stuff to share with all of you!

So without further ado and in no particular order, let’s go!

Chet Baker

I first heard about Chet Baker probably five years or more ago when I was trying to get into jazz. It’s a tricky genre because it can veer from amazing to obnoxious on a dime for me, and in the slew of recommendations, I think poor Chet got lost in the shuffle. In trying to get back into jazz (again), I decided to look him up again, and man, am I glad I did.

The perfect mesh of boyish optimism, charm, and melancholy for me, I find him intensely romantic (in the same way I find bachelor detectives and cozy sweaters and fall romantic, not in the usual sense). Extra bonus, look at the album cover for this delightfully passive-aggressive love song. Magical.

“Hey girl, wanna come hang out with my dope sweater in my crazy chair? My trumpet can come too.” Love it.

Edict Zero – FIS

My favorite recommendation for this round, Edict Zero – FIS is a sci-fi audio drama, and it is AMAZING. For one thing, the production quality is off the charts. Secondly, the writing itself is incredible. The world is rich and complicated with details paced at just the right speed, the characters are charming, deep and diverse, and the exposition (one of the easiest downfalls for audio dramas) is handled beautifully.

The story follows a team of five federal agents as they seek to unravel the mystery behind an explosion at a nightclub on New Year’s Eve, 2415. According to their site: “The story is cyberpunk, being a mix of science fiction, law enforcement procedural, crime, suspense/mystery, and dark fantasy. Listeners have made comparisons to Bladerunner, The X Files, Fringe, Lexx, The Prisoner, Twin Peaks, Millenium, The Matrix, Tron, and a diversity of shows.”

Naturally, it’s the kind of thing I would adore, and I do.

As they’ll warn you at the start, there are some violence/language issues to be aware of if that’s a trigger for you, but if you really want to sink your teeth into something meaty, smart, and beautifully crafted, I can’t recommend this enough (oh that the production schedule was more reliable/that they had a larger backlog for me to devour).

Extra bonus: Special Agent Nick Garrett, who is rapidly becoming one of my all-time favorite characters across well, any form of media.

You can find them on iTunes or here: https://edictzero.wordpress.com/

We are So Bad at Adventuring

In discovering my new love for audio dramas, I also managed to stumble across this quirky one following the adventures of Thornwick and Bob, a would-be wizard and a spearman determined to find their way to The Road in order to reach the Big Battle (at least in season 1).

A bit of a guilty pleasure given how deplorable the main characters can be, if it weren’t so witty I probably wouldn’t have listened as far as I have, but it is a fun one to work to. The second season has been a little shaky so far in some of the back and forth development of the characters and it does fall into the exposition through straight up explaining things trap (a fact of which they’re aware and make fun of at least), but it’s still a fun show. You can find more about it at http://www.terribleadventurers.com/.

Audio drama runner-ups

Because I usually binge find things that I enjoy, I’ve also scrounged up the following audio drama podcasts.

It’s About Time is a podcast about Charlie and Steve, two normal guys who get hired at a time travel agency, hijinks sure to ensue. It’s light, charming and clever, and the theme song (a longer version available on the first episode) is so catchy and fun, it cheers me up whenever I hear it.

Deadly Manners, a Clue-style podcast about a dinner party gone horribly wrong features some big name talent such as Lavar Burton and Kristen Bell and has production quality to match. Though it hasn’t gotten very far yet, what it does have so far is great, Olivia and the Fortune Teller being my favorite.

The Once and Future Nerd is a podcast about three average high schoolers who get magically transported to your classic high fantasy world. I haven’t listened to more than a couple episodes, but have liked what I’ve heard thus far. There is a fair amount of bad language in it, so if that’s not your jam, I would skip this one (it’s the main reason I haven’t listened to more myself), but the narrator has a Monty-Pythonesque wit that I really enjoy.

We’re Alive is a zombie apocalypse survival podcast with great production quality and a thus far enjoyable story. I’m not crazy for zombie stories most of the time (surprise!), which has probably kept me from listening to more, but what I have heard has been of really high quality with distinct characters and some nice tension. They also handle exposition well and have a backlog that will be sure to keep me satiated for quite some time.

The Girl from the Other Side

This one is a manga series by Nagabe (art credit for below as well). A dark fairy tale along the lines of Over the Garden Wall, the story follows a little girl abandoned in the woods and her “cursed” Teacher. The girl, Shiva, is the epitome of innocence, and the tenderness of Teacher could melt a robot’s heart. First suggested to me on Amazon, I was delighted to find that three of the books were available so far, of which I have read two. Though some of the imagery is probably a little creepy, the story and heart of the series is so sweet I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. The art style is unique and beautifully inked (though I will admit sometimes it’s a little hard to distinguish because of how much black is used with Teacher and the other cursed beings that crop up). If you like that mix of eerie and sweet, you’ll love this.


Girl from the Other Side
He loves her so much. Entirely precious.

Anyway, that’s probably enough for recommendations for now. I’m sure if I find more I’ll let you know.

What about you? Anything you’re dying to tell the world about lately? It doesn’t have to be podcasts or books. Let me know in the comments below!


A change in perspective

Hey guys,

In continuing the fall theme of talking non-stop about my Machine rewrite, I want to talk to you all today about, well, as the title suggests, a change in perspective.

There’s a thing about most writers that might be a little surprising and/or creepy to non-writer folk. It’s that most of us like to see our characters suffer. Pretty much any kind of poisonous torture we can come up with, we’re probably going to pile it on.

There’re a few reasons for this of course. First, conflict drives story, so without problems, we don’t have anything to write about. Second, since we’re usually better at dealing with fake people than real ones, it’s sometimes part of how we cope with or process our emotions (or run our wheels when we’re bad at that).

Third, and perhaps most importantly if we’re in a healthy place, is because facing struggle is what makes a character grow.

Enter Cog, stage right.

Betrayed and ousted by his family for wanting to do the right thing, despised by those he now serves, partnered for life with a ninny, he’s gone through way more than almost any of my other characters and certainly suffered the most of my trying to ramp that up.

Which, in of itself, isn’t necessarily bad.

Nor will I say that in the coming days that suffering is necessarily going to be much less. Almost if not all of the things I’ve just listed are still going to be true come the rewrite.

But somewhere along the line I lost sight of that third reason, the real why behind his suffering.

It’s only now that I feel like I’m finally getting that back.

There are a lot of ways you can describe good writing, and often in ways that are very broad. For the purposes of this post, I’ll borrow from one of my favorite authors, N.D. Wilson, and split the categories into what he describes as “faithful” and “unfaithful,” or that which “honors Him and imitates Him and imitates His tastes, hates what He hates, loves what He loves” and that which tries to “vandalize His art or steal it or use it, appropriate it for some other purpose, profane Him in some way or borrow it and try to pretend like it’s not His.”

Me trying to twist Cog as much as I can like I have in the past, putting his identity in his pain (oh hey, just like I’ve done with myself before…go figure…) is unfaithful.

I’m not quite sure when I realized this. I’ve ruminated often on how entangled Rick and Cog are with me and my relationship with God (see, well, much of this blog), how important Machine has been to my spiritual walk. I even vaguely remember recognizing the connection between Cog’s identity in his suffering and mine, a thunderclap revelation that I was justifying his behavior because he had somehow “suffered enough to earn it.”

But having that view change in actionable ways, to get to how I think of him now, has been a much subtler transformation, and all I really know is that now things are different.

When I used to think about Cog, the first thing that would come to mind was him snarling. Some spiteful comment on his drawn back lips, walls up, ready to lash out at anyone fool enough to get close. As he always has been, he was the personification of me in late middle school, the one who deserves to bite because they’ve been burned before.

Now the first thing I think when I think of Cog is him laughing, smiling. I think about Rick looking over and smiling too, remembering how they used to be. I have dreams for him now, possibilities, a future and a hope. Will he get married? Have kids? Where will they go or what will they do? What will he be like as he gets older? What will he remember and think? Which opportunities will he take advantage of? Which will he let pass by?

I don’t want there to be spoilers here, but when I think about Cog now, the future is good. I can only hope when I get to the rewrite itself that that shines through.

What about you? Ever had your motivations for a project get twisted? In what ways have you positively changed and how did that affect either the outcome of or how you felt about a character or project? How would you define good writing and do you find the above categories helpful or not?