Cross Fudginating

My latest post on the Southern Author’s Blog, A Good Blog is Hard to Find:

“My biggest problem is my brother, Farley Drexel Hatcher. He’s two-and-a-half years old. Everybody calls him Fudge.”

That was all it took.  Twenty words.  Three sentences.  And from that point on, I knew I wanted to have books in my life, and that someday I would write books that made people feel the way I felt at that moment.  It wasn’t so much that Judy Blume had launched into the introduction of a character I would fall in love with, nor was it that I knew, right then and there, that no book would ever be as thoroughly awesome as Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.  Rather, it was that it took less than five seconds to accomplish it.  It was that my life’s path could be so irrevocably altered in the span of a breath.  I might have only been seven, but I knew that was a power I wanted to have.  To have and to master.  Jedi style.

This was my face when I read the line, as it happened.

I began to pour through books, looking for more examples of this power to influence, this directional wind vane of literary might.  I wanted to know if this was a gift that was solitary, handed but to the great mastery of Judy Blume, or if there was a community pool of creation that all authors could simply dip into when they were ready.  When they reached that point in the book, wherever it might have been, where they could lean back in the chair, crack their knuckles, say, “This is about as good a spot as there can be!” and dip into that basin of beautiful phrasing, and monumental simplicity.

Turns out that doesn’t exist, just in case you were wondering.  I looked.  Ponce de Leon had nothing on that search.

Which meant, quite simply, that it was a matter of skill, rather than fortune.  That was good.  After all, I could learn skill.  It’s much harder to learn fortune.  Most often, you’re kind of left standing out in the open, your arms wide, waiting for something pleasant to hit you.  Which is a funny thought, because I’ve never been hit by anything pleasantly.  It usually hurts.  Quite a lot.  So, I snapped out a pencil, grabbed a notepad, threw away the broken bits of the pencil that didn’t care for the “fortunate” hit it took while waiting to be grabbed, gently picked up another pencil, and began writing.  I wrote a story about a young boy, walking his way to a Little League baseball game.  He was nervous, distracted, lost in thought about how the game would play out, and what his ultimate hand in it would be.  He hoped his team won.  It was the championship, after all.  As luck would have it, though, he was so engrossed in thought, that he stepped in a hole, and twisted his ankle.  It was tragic.  It was catastrophic.  It likely meant he would have to sit the game out, if he could even make it to the field.  Somehow, our young hero found the strength to hobble his way, and then the courage to take the field late in the game, when his team needed a hero.  He got the hit that won the game.  All was well.  My pencil, and I, were very happy with what we had created.  I was a writer.

Of course, it didn’t have a Fudg-errific line, or series of lines, but it was mine.  It was breathtaking.  It was, well, it was horrible mostly, but it was the beginning of a great career, I was sure of it.

I discovered, some time later, that not only can this power be utilized in the story, but it can also kick you in the seat of the pants as soon as you open the book.  Kate DiCamillio demonstrated this, as well as any writer can, in her book, Because of Winn Dixie. Behold:

“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer, my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes, and I came back with a dog.”

It was this opening that educated me fully on the power, and importance, of an opening sentence.  In the beginning, just wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  Hence, when the day finally arrived that some crazy person boldly decided to pay actual money to put my work into print, they did so even after I threw everything I had into my first sentence, and managed, in that moment, to completely miss the point.  Instead I re-created the opening line of a rather old joke.

When the Anti-Christ and Satan entered the bar, nobody took notice.”

That was it.  There it was.  My Fudgey Winn Dixie moment.  It wasn’t horrible.  But it wasn’t Judy Blume.  It wasn’t anywhere in the pool of really cool things that authors write when their brains are on fire.  It was…good, but not necessarily great.  So, I kept at it.  I keep at it still, I should say.  And I continue to tell myself that I can do this.  I can write that memorable, life-altering line.  I can change lives with twenty words, and five seconds.

Or I could try stand-up.

You should always keep your options open.  Just don’t stand out in the middle of everything and wait for them to hit you.  That hurts.

Touched by the Long hand of God

You’ve all heard this one already, so I’m not going to tread over ground that’s already been flown around the world, massaged, and molested.  But the facts are the facts (at least the facts that are being reported): Eddie Long, Pastor of the Atlanta-based mega-church, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple teenage boys.  The charges imply that Long coerced the young boys into sexual relationships, and…this is where I just add, yadda yadda yadda, because what more is there to say?  Then I say, “Of course, these are simply allegations, and Justice is Blind, and ants can’t carry celery, and stuff,” which is meant to pacify you into believing that I haven’t already prejudged the pervert.

If it didn’t work, then maybe you should eat more celery.

There are many issues at play here, not the least of which is the idea that a professed man of God, who has marched against homosexuality, is accused of homosexual acts with underage boys.  I can’t gloss that one over.  There’s also the fact that we have, in Pastor Eddie Long, a man who has accumulated vast amounts of wealth, and assets, from people who are offering their very wallet’s end, simply to give unto the God they believe in.  This man, who has been quoted as saying, You’ve got to put me on a different scale than the little black preacher sitting over there that’s supposed to be just getting by because the people are suffering,” has bilked these people of their meager earnings, and has done so with a sense of purpose and divine right that even the one he supposedly speaks on behalf of–that Jesus fella–did not.

Jesus wore sandals.  Just sayin’.

Eddie Long also offered up a quote that completely justified Anointed, for which I am eternally grateful. Behold:

“We’re not just a church, we’re an international corporation.”

Ah…it just smells like redemption.  I may have missed the boat.  The Christ Corporation should have replaced Timmy Christ with a handsy black preacher-man.  Oh, well.  There’s more writing yet to be had.

Is there anyone else that finds this a little creepy, in retrospect?

But, for me, the real issue is that Bishop Pastor Molester Man Eddie Long has now–whether guilty or not–joined the long line of evangelists, who preach, and thrive financially from, the supposed Word of God that they cannot possibly, or are not capable of, believing in themselves. And in doing so, he has further alienated Christianity from those who are either agnostic, atheist, or simply wavering in between.  Yes, I’ve heard countless times already that he is but one voice amongst millions.  But he is one very prominent, and visible, one.  Much like Falwell, or Graham, or Hagee, or Mr. Toothy Shine, Joel O’steen.  He is the Tom Brady, the Barry Bonds, the Kobe Bryant, or any member of Congress, of Christianity.  He is to be held at a higher standard, whether he–or you–likes it or not.  Such is our culture.  And when you have something as virulent as religion, especially one that loves to jam itself into your personal space in order to share a message you might not have even asked for, you get emotional reactions that ultimately define lives.

We look to those who have succeeded, as possible glimpses of what we can be.  Likewise, we also look at those who have succeeded, where we believe they should not have, and scrutinize their acts, analyze their words, and fill the webber-nuts up with blogs, updates, and posts about how much we disagree with them.  This is natural.  This is human.  And this is what Eddie Long, and his misbehaving band of Christians, has done: He is the nail in coffin for many, many, people who were on the fence about Prince Jeebus.  He has removed any desire that they might have had to possibly give Christianity a chance.  If they were in the back seat of the car, listening to the debate up front, they opened the door and jumped.  Is this right?  Is this fair to the entirety of a religion?  Well, hell no, but it’s reality.  Unfair stuff happens all the time.  I think that might have been omitted from the Bible, but I’m sure God would like you to know.  Shit happens, and we have to deal with it.

Christianity has to deal with this.  I don’t.  It just gives me more to write about.  And what Christians around the world should take from this simple statement, is this: Back off.  Let people find their way.  Let go of the notion that you are some holy crusade to bring people to God (and it’s important to note that the word, ‘crusade,’ has some links to The Crusades that you might want to be familiar with).  And for God’s sake–no really, He’s getting a little miffed–quit giving life to mega-church evangelical poopyheads (that was for you B).  You want people to respect you as a faith, and look to you for guidance, and perhaps even walk alongside you?  Then don’t feed the pandas.  They will eat you.

I remember watching this movie and thinking, “This is why religion sucks.”  The video’s a little wonky at first, but evens out.  For some reason, I can’t seem to find a better one.  Hmmmmm.

Mah Birfday

Today is my birthday, or, as some have called it, the anniversary of my birth.  I don’t really care how you spin it, as long as it involves cake.

It needs to involve pizza, if at all possible, as well, though a good run through at a Hibachi joint will serve as a nice substitute, if necessary (and it’s generally superfineok with me if it is).

So, what, pray tell, do I want for my birthday?  Well, I did find seasons two and three of Six Feet Under on sale, so that’s an easy Win.  I was gifted the first two seasons of Dexter, so that’s Win number two.  Hibachi?  Check.  Cake? Check…and, check, actually (Win, Win).  Tasty Coffee? Archer Farms Fudge Brownie, with Bailey’s Irish Creamer (not Bailey’s itself I am sad to say), check, and Win.  75, ooo 7th Day Adventists? Chec…wait, what?

In honor of all that I am likely to do wrong over the next ten days, and because this is my damn blog, and I can write whatever I damn well please, I would like to say that there is no greater gift on my birthday, than this:

59th General Conference Session

(I have no idea who this guy is, but I hope I get to sell him a copy of my book)

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A General Conference Session is a unique occasion. There is no moment in the life of the Church which demonstrates so vividly–so tangibly–the extraordinary way God’s Spirit is moving among us. And so I’m delighted to invite your presence and participation at the 59th Session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, in Atlanta, Georgia, June 23 –July 3, 2010.
Now, I do have a job to protect, so I have some boundaries, but when you have someone tell you that you shouldn’t sell books on Vampires because it is an affront to God (sadly this wasn’t said to me, or I probably would have hissed, and bitten her), it evokes a certain need to speak your mind.  Of course, on the heels of my blog about Jesus slaying vampires, I’d say that, in relation to Vampires, the Christians have very little to be worried over.  I mean, zombies, or werewolves, or emo-goth-punk-hipsters of the FU I’m Texting Generation, are far more threatening at this point.  Frankly, I think the Second Coming is on delay while Jesus polishes his skills a la Neo and the Matrix, and catches up on South Park episodes involving the Goth Gang, but the next ten days may teach me otherwise.
Also–and as a serviceable farewell for the moment–I’d like to leave you with the opening paragraph of the worst book ever written, Apocalypse South, by Kyle Watson.  If you haven’t ever read this book, do it now.  Buy it used, and read it immediately.  This is complete, and unedited by these hands.  Frankly, it wasn’t edited by any hands and is the poster child of everything that is wrong with Print on Demand technology.
“A host of demons is hovering above the crust of the earth.  They are waiting on their leader to speak to them.  None of them are speaking words to one another, only hissing and snickering has come forth from the mouths on their evil angelic faces.  Their leader is dressed in a black robe wearing a gold colored breastplate, and his demon followers are dressed in brown robes with silver colored breastplates.  The leader starts to speak when a demon asks a question.
‘Satan, since we have lost the war in Heaven, what is our next plan?’
The Leader roars like a lion before he speaks.
‘How many times have I told you to call me Lucifer and don’t you ever again say that we have lost anything.  You hear me?” Lucifer says infuriated.
Ah…that’s better.
They say you can tell everything you need to know about a book from its first paragraph.  I gave you a couple of lines of dialogue to reinforce the point.  Now, go find a copy, and read it.  Then tell everyone you know.  I’m going to make a bestseller out of this guy yet.

Fluttering Your Way This October

I killed a man.

Well, actually I killed several people, but to keep to the point, I killed a man by the name of Timothy Webb.  I thought this would be enough to keep him forever out of MY life, but, alas, I was mistaken.  Apparently, God took quite a fancy to him, and his actions as Christ, and CEO, at The Christ Corporation, and decided to make him an angel.  He gave Timothy his metaphorical wings, granted him the gift of a Key that supposedly held the power of Jesus, patted him on the back, and sent him on his way.

His first act was to show up on the doorstep of MY imagination, and demand that I do something about it.  I just kind of stared at him, in terrible disbelief, and shrugged.  This did nothing to satisfy him, so he invited himself in, began rambling about being ill-equipped to be an angel, and something about Natasha–the maligned angel known as Satan in our world–recovering well from her temporary bout of humanity.  So, for the next few hours we sat, until it became apparent to ME that the only way I would get rid of Timothy would be to write another story for him.  I proposed the idea, made up a completely fabricated storyline, waived him on, and then proceeded to forge onward with a plot that, in no way resembled the idea I had discussed with Timothy.  From this was born, Flutter: An Epic of Mass Distraction.

It now has a release date: October 1, 2010.

What is Flutter?  Well, it’s more devil fiction than Anointed, has significantly more explosions, plenty of characters who don’t survive to see the end, and an angelic system of social networking that is eerily familiar to Twitter.  But that’s not much of a description.  Kind of leaves you wanting, I admit.  So, instead, I offer you a brief look at some of what I wrote for my publisher, when I turned over the reigns of my baby:

In my eyes, it carries the same voice, and some of the feel, but none of the story structure of Anointed.  I wanted to write something, on the heels of a book that was philosophical, and, at times, rambling, with something a little more adventurous, a little more off the wall, and a lot more explodey (I really like that word all of a sudden)…I have included references, or creatures, as follows: Quantum Leap, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Back to the Future, The Matrix, a dragon, a vampire (tee hee…I like him!), a bobsledding monkey, a wizard/piano duel , zombies, and a chocolate hot tub.  Ok, the last may not be fantasy in terms of the genre, but you find me anybody who doesn’t like everything listed before it, that isn’t as fond of the hot tub, and I’ll quit writing.  Oh, also, there’s a reference to swine flu, and to Google Buzz (which is mistakenly called Fuzz).  That, along with Natasha in a bikini, a porch made of cheese (it’s Gouda than you think!  Ugh…), a God who thinks he’s a child, a video game of explosive proportions, ugly angels, an escalator in the sky, a prison in Heaven, the rebirth of Jesus, and a very unfortunate moment for the masters of The Christ Corporation…there’s so much activity, and no break to sit in a restaurant to discuss the history of Satan, or in an office to discuss the history of Christ.  What I hope I have created is a book that you really just can’t put down, and one that makes you both want to read its predecessor, and anxiously await what is to come.

I like that I can be a complete tard when I write to her.  Granted, she published the first book, so it’s not like I’m going to fool her at this point.  It’s not quite back copy material (that bit you might read on the back of a book that summarizes the story), but it covers most of what I consider to be cool about Flutter.  I’ve been asked what this book is meant to lampoon, given the generalized lampoon of Christianity in Anointed, to which I say it’s predominantly a lampoon of social media, and how easily distracted the world has become by it, and to technology in general.  I’d like to think that I can wield this tale like a weapon, and waggle it in the face of all those who have fallen prey to its mighty grip, but, well, I’m one of them.  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, email, blogging, texting, computer games, anything and everything that occurs on the cell phone, and so forth–I’m there.  Or, at least, mostly there.  So are you, most likely.  Be warned: The angels know, and they’re about to do something rash.  Ish.  Rash-ish.  More in the vein of rash, but less rash than rash might be.  Kind of, severe, in that, “Don’t make me come down there,” kind of way.

So, I’ll keep it at that for now.  I hope to offer a few snippets in the coming weeks.  The first will likely be a scene that takes place in God’s Office, as He prepares for a trip to Earth, with the ever-present moan of the Holy Ghost guiding the way.

Until then, I need to go lock the door.  I’m sure Timothy wants to know what to do now.

A Villainous Life

Good day, and welcome to another session of, The Further Promotion of ME.  I–that would be ME–am your host for today’s festivities.  Thanks for stopping by.

Today we have a special treat in store for you.  Recently, I had the opportunity, during a break in scenes, to sit down and chat with the lead villain of MY most recent work, Flutter.  We discussed his motivations, his dreams, the true side to that demonic darling, Natasha, and whether or not the life of an angel is everything it’s cracked up to be.  His name is Morpheus, the angel of dreams, and God’s second-in-command.  The following is the transcript from the conversation.

(Morpheus enters, side-stage, dressed in a flowing white cloak, that seems to bury him in his nearly translucent pale skin.  He sparkles a gleaming smiled, offers me a wink of a blue eye, and sits, hands in a steeple in his lap.)

ME: Welcome, Morpheus.  It is a delight to have you, and a joy to talk with you.

Morpheus: I appreciate the opportunity, and thank you for inviting me.

ME:  Well, let’s just jump right into, shall we?  Who is Morpheus?  Aside from the character in the Matrix, of course. (I laugh, but Morpheus just stares cooly in MY direction)

Morpheus: Right.  Well, I like to think of myself as an architect of dreams–a conductor even, if that imagery is more apropos.  I am the keeper of the dreams of humanity, and the most prominent ear in God’s hierarchy of arch-angels.  It is a blessed existence, despite the obvious shortcomings of being immersed in the insanity of the sleeping human mind, yes?

ME: Um, yes.  I guess.  Anyway, I have to admit, Morpheus, that doesn’t sound very villainous.

Morpheus: (bristling) Oh, I never professed to be a villain, sir.  I might call that slander, in fact.  All that I do, I do for the glory of angel-kind.  I serve the interest of Heaven, and wish only to bring about a greater sense of pride in the angelic populace.

ME: But, in, Flutter, you orchestrate a rebellion, and propose a war on humanity.  Is that not the mark of villainy?

Morpheus: (he smiles broadly.  I can’t help but feel the reports of his ways are slightly misconstrued.) Is it?  I think not.  After all, what is a villain?  I, for what worth it may grant your opinion of me, am not a killer.  I am a dreamer.  I do not exercise might, but practice in the art of conversation.  It is not my way to simply sweep into a room, barricade the doors, and blast everyone to oblivion, should they fail to do as I ask.  No, sir.  I am a diplomat.  It is why God leans on my presence so in Heaven.  I have learned from the master.

ME: So, tell us about Flutter.  Not the book!  Forgive ME, I mean the device for which our story is named.  Where did it come from, and what is its purpose?

Morpheus: Well, I suppose there are some matters to which it would not behoove me to speak, yes?  But, allow me to simplify an answer for you, and your readers, so that there is some facet of understanding.  Flutter is a social networking system, not dissimilar from your, ‘Twitter.’  It operates under the same philosophy, as well as the same parameters.  You see, we angels do pay curious amounts of attention to you humans.  And, often, we find something of use in your actions, or your tools; and though we do not generally agree with your motives, we cannot deny ourselves useful means of banter, or activity, if it fits our needs.  Flutter is an example of that.  What better to unite the angelic populace, than a device–and its corresponding network–whose sole function is to gather thought, and opinion, as well as a good dose of cheek. (Morpheus winks, and I nearly giggle.)

ME: (once I compose MYSELF) Humans have found social networking to be a bit of a distraction.  Much in the same way that texting, or gaming, or cell phones themselves have left us in tricky, if not altogether perilous, situations.  What do you say to those who might suggest that angels will suffer the same fate? 

Morpheus: As with all luxuries, there is an acceptable level of distraction that comes hand in hand.  But, please do understand, that angels do not sleep.  We do not cook dinner.  We do not mow the lawn.  Our job is constant, with very little in the way of a break.  Just ask an angel the last time they took a vacation, and see the ire that brings! (again, the laugh, which is airy, yet hearty, and quite full)  So, why not?  We deserve to have a form of distraction, especially if that engenders a greater sense of community, and union in Heaven.

ME: It has been reported that many of the, ‘flaps,’ as you refer to them, have been somewhat anti-human. 

Morpheus:  Preposterous.  Is a mere reflection of question, or doubt, in something meant to imply a stance against it?  Of course not.  Are there angels who have a negative view of humanity?  Of course.  How could they not?  They are in servitude to them, day and night, and without celebration or fanfare from the Boss.  Amongst even humans, there is a constant chatter–on your Twitter, such as–of complaint toward employers, and the businesses they run.  Do they stand in opposition to them?  Are they considered anti-employer?  Heavens no.  That would be a ridiculous sentiment, yes?

ME: I suppose that’s a reasonable argument, given–

Morpheus: (interrupting ME with a polite gesture of a hand) Forgive me for the interruption, but I would prefer to discuss matters of great importance, rather than instigating a full-fledged debate on the loyalty of God’s populace of angels.  We serve.  It is what we do.  Humanity stands, still.  That should be enough to assuage the curiosity, yes?

ME: (I nod, buying time, while I flip through MY notes.) Let’s talk about Natasha.  Humanity sees her as a vile, corrupting force, and has denounced her in many, if not all, religious circles.  How does the angelic populace view the angel known to humans as, “Satan”?

Morpheus: (for the first time, he seems uncomfortable, distracted) It may be prudent to simply move on.  I do not profess to be Natasha’s publicist, though I am quite certain she could use one.

ME: But surely you can speak to the image portrayed?  If she is, in fact, a soul of great repute in Heaven, then wouldn’t it be fair–to better understand and appreciate all angels–to speak of the general opinion of her in Heaven?

Morpheus: (his feet twitch a bit, and he’s staring off, and muttering something silently.  When he looks MY way, he sighs, rolls his eyes, and relents.) Very well.  Natasha and I have been acquaintances for many millennia.  The angelic populace regard her…quite…highly (he says through gritted teeth), and with good reason.  That is all I wish to say on the matter.

ME: All right.  Well, then, let’s get to the big question: Will there be a war on humanity?

Morpheus: (leans in, smiles a devilish grin) Well, it would not be a prudent move for me to answer that, if in fact there is, now would it?

ME: So, you’re not denying it?

Morpheus: I’m not confirming it.  After all, if there were a war waged on humanity, it would be swift–more so if you were unaware of it beforehand.  I can tell you this, friend: There will not be a war waged on humanity, so long as angels have a reason not to act, or have not the means by which to carry it out.  Besides, how would we wage a war on humanity with God standing guard?

ME: So, if God were not, you’re saying that you would?

Morpheus: Trickery does not befit a man of your character.  I have answered your question.  I have nothing more to say on the matter.

ME: (I could do this for hours, but it’s clear to me that Morpheus is running low on desire, so I decide to leave the rabbits in the hat, in hopes that he will agree to come back another time.) Well, I know that you are quite busy, and are required for an upcoming scene, so I’ll wrap things up here with a final question.  Tell MY readers, in three words or less, what it is that Morpheus, angel of dreams, wants most.

Morpheus: (he thinks for a moment, flashes one more generous smile.) To surprise you.