New Look

I started back to blogging with good intentions, but they seem to have fallen short.

Well, that’s okay.  Today’s a new day.

I am going to finish up the series on the Five Room Dungeon Model soon, no worries.  But before I do that, I wanted to debut my new blogging theme.  Likey?

I do.

The only thing I have left to do is to change that top image.  Somehow, a bunch of munchy, crunchy carrots just doesn’t say “Serious Self-Publisher.”

Feel free to check the updated About page.  I made it considerably shorter in keeping with the short attention spans most people have these days.

Let me know what you think in the comments.  If you have a suggestion for a better top picture, leave that in comments as well.  Thanks!

Master Splinter’s Unexplored Backstory

Hollywood has an obsession with happy endings.  And here, I’ve posted about how the film industry often glosses over horrid consequences of the characters’ actions to achieve a happy ending.

This glossing over horrid consequences isn’t limited to endings.  And it isn’t limited to Hollywood.  As it turns out, the comic book industry employs it too.

My daughter loves the newly rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.  As a matter of nostalgia, I’ve picked up the original comic book run, now collected in graphic novel format.  Some elements are changed, because the comic book was intended for a much more mature audience than my 5-year old daughter.

Among the changes is that Splinter is Hamato Yoshi.  Yoshi is covered in the ooze and mutates into a rat.

In the comic book, the backstory is more complicated.  Yoshi was a member of an infamous band of ninja thieves and assassins know as The Foot.  Yoshi had a pet rat named Splinter, and the little rat would mimic his master’s movements and through that learned the secrets of ninjitsu.  Splinter tells us that Yoshi was known as The Foot’s finest warrior.

The comic never again mentions any of that, bringing to focus the next part.  Yoshi main rival was fellow Foot Clan member Oroku Nagi.  Nagi and Yoshi competed in everything, but their most bitter rivalry was over Tang Shin.  Shin only loved Yoshi, but Nagi kept trying to win her hand.  Eventually, Nagi threatened Shin with death if she didn’t love him, and Yoshi killed Nagi for it.

Rather than face an honorable death by his own hand for killing a fellow member of the Clan, Yoshi and Shin fled to America.  Nagi was survived by his younger brother, Oroku Saki.  Saki vowed vengeance and trained hard.  Eventually, he was selected to head the New York branch of The Foot, and there he sought out his brother’s killer.

Saki murdered Shin, and staged the scene to surprise Yoshi when he returned home.  Without a word, he cut Yoshi down.  During the fight, Splinter’s cage was broken and the rat ran free.

You know the rest… he found the turtles, got covered in ooze, they grew up… blah, blah, blah.

I want to seize on three facts:

  1. The Foot Clan is an evil band of assassins.
  2. Hamato Yoshi was a member of The Foot.
  3. Yoshi was the finest warrior of the Clan.

Do we understand what is left unexplored in every iteration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Either the sensei of the TMNT or the master of the TMNT’s sensei is a cold-blooded killer.

And that puts the first issue of TMNT in perspective.  After telling the tale of the turtles’ mutation, Splinter reveals that his only purpose in training them was vengeance.  He tasks the turtles with finding and killing Oroku Saki, who now calls himself the Shredder.

So, unlike most iterations, the comic book has the turtles on the offensive.  They seek out Shredder and kill him at the end of the issue, under Splinter’s orders.  Most iterations have the turtles stumble on to The Foot’s activities in New York City and gradually learn that the mysterious head of it, Shredder, is the old enemy of Splinter: Oroku Saki.

While most iterations have Splinter/Yoshi a member of The Foot and The Foot a gang of assassins and thieves, they gloss over the fact that as “the finest” warrior of The Foot Splinter/Yoshi would most certainly be involved in such activities.

That should keep TMNT fans awake at night…

Soul Screamers: Awesome and Getting Better

Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers series started out awesome, and keeps getting better.  A recap, for those of you unfamiliar with it, with as few spoilers as possible: Continue reading “Soul Screamers: Awesome and Getting Better”

I Hate Topic Sentences

I read a lot on how to improve my writing skills., because I love to write and I want to be a professional writer.  I want to publish works of Christian philosophy, as well as mainstream fiction and screenplays.  I need to know how to improve my writing if I’m going to actually sell it.  Not that I’m bad; I think I’m pretty darn good.  I just want to be better!

I believe writing is part gift from God, part skill.  The gift that the Lord has given you can be built on and refined.  So, if writing skill was on a scale of 1 to 100 (with 100 being the best possible writer, and 1 being my brother-in-law Chris), and if God has blessed you in his eternal decree with a 22, then you are not stuck there.  You can develop to a 30.  Or a 45.  Or even a 79 or maybe even a 90!

It takes work.  It takes time.  And if you are willing (as I am) to invest some of both, then you can improve your writing skills as I have.

To that end, I read books like The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White or On Writing Well by William Zinsser.  And I read books specific to style, like Screenplay by Syd Field or (more recently) The Novelist’s Essential Guide to Creating Plot by J. Madison Davis.

I’m also new to the idea of syndicating writing, which I’m doing with free e-zine articles on sites like GoArticles or ArticleBase.  That has increased traffic at Josiah Concept Ministries by quite a bit–when I started I had an Alexa traffic rating of around 7.8 million, which I built to 753,861 in a few months.  Quite an increase, going from an average of 20 hits per day to 100+ with regularity!

Since I’m new to that style of marketing, I subscribed to a free e-zine on how to write for e-zines.  Yes, I know that’s a bit like buying a DVD explaining how to hook up a DVD player, but it has worked quite well for me.

One thing that is common to the technical books on writing and the how-to e-zine in discussing paragraphs is that they should have a topic sentence that summarizes the paragraph, detail sentences that support the topic sentence, and a concluding sentence that restates the topic sentence.

Each and every paragraph.

Boring!

My paragraphs have a topics and supporting details, and each expands only a single point.  But, they don’t have a clear topic sentence, several details with transitions between (First, …; Second, …; Next ….; etc.), with a concluding sentence that restates the original topic sentence.  I try to keep my writing more flowing and interesting than that.

I think every writer does.

And, as you’ve undoubtedly noticed, many of my paragraphs are one sentence.  I did that purposely in this post to highlight the absurdity of making every paragraph fit to the structure I described.  Moreover, single-sentence paragraphs work well with the style of writing that e-zines need — journalistic.  Most newspaper and magazine articles use one or two sentence paragraphs to keep the piece flowing quickly.  Often, there’s no need to expand something if a single sentence can cover it.

So, why do the how-to books and e-zines cover the “ideal paragraph” in a way few writers actually write?  Because that’s how an ideal paragraph is structured: introduction, detail expansion, wrap-up.  Or, beginning, middle, end.  Same way an article is structured!

You have to know the rules before you can try to break them.  That’s part of building the writing skill that God gave you.  So the how-tos teach you the rules.  Then, you (the writer) get to decide how (or if) to break them.

An example from fiction might do.  John Gardner’s first James Bond adventure, License Renewed, was a straight James Bond story.  It featured a villain, Anton Murik, who sought to cause a horrid disaster for his own gain.  There was a girl who knew too much, Mary Jane Mashkin, who slept with Bond and gave him the information he needed, later dying for it.  A sultry love interest, Lavender Peacock, who got to sleep with Bond next, finish out the story and have sex with him in the final scene.  A burly sidekick, Caber, who was immune to pain and Bond had to fight while the world begins to burn — which is high drama, since Caber had bested Bond in each of their last meetings.  And of course, two car chases, gadgets, the self-introduction “My name is Bond. James Bond,” and the ordering of a “vodka martini, shaken, not stirred” from a disinterested bartender.

Everything that happens in every 007 movie.

Gardner started changing things up in For Special Services, with the “Bond girl” being old friend Felix’s daughter (so Bond didn’t sleep with her, for fear of betraying his friend; unfortunately, the daughter had long dreamed of sex with Bond).  The villain was a female and the sidekick was originally thought to be the villain (which means The World is Not Enough was far behind the novels).

Gardner started with a straight 007 formula story, License Renewed, to learn the ropes before he started mixing things up in For Special Services.  That’s why how-to books and articles teach you the standard paragraph format first.  When you know the rules, then you can break them.

Pastor Dad

First off, before I forget, I have a post scheduled to appear on Wednesday on Josiah Concept Ministries analyzing the atheist argument that religion is inherited from parents and culture so it can’t be true. The final word count was 666. Omen? I hope not.

Recently, I had been reflecting on how I’m doing as a father. I think that I spend enough time with the kids; after all, I’m now taking care of them on Mondays and Wednesdays since we can no longer afford full-time child care. I’m looking at the book Geek Dad perhaps later on as we determine the permanence of the Monday/Wednesday situation. That will hopefully help me with some more activities for the kids, as I really don’t want us to sit around and watch TV everyday. That gets old quick.

Ashleigh always wants to play with me. She’s genuinely excited when I come home from work. She’s always waiting for me when I come in the door. She’s as proud of who I am as I am of who she is; she is quick to introduce me to everyone as her daddy.

Gabriel, in his own way, shows me love. He gets a big smile on his face when he sees me, and starts kicking his little feet. He likes when I hold him up high, and when I tickle him. I can make him smile real big even when he is in the middle of crying hard.

I take all of that as signs that the kids love me, and that I’m meeting their emotional and physical needs to whatever expectations they may have.

But I don’t think that I do enough spiritually for the children. I don’t read the Bible to them or pray with them. The only time I mention God at all is when we’re getting ready for church. I’m essentially sending the message to them the God is someone we only think about on Sundays. This isn’t so, and I know that isn’t true. I now need to teach the kids what is true.

Justin Hyde posted a great article on The Resurgence about pastoring the family. He said:

Husbands/dads, don’t clock-out on your way home; be ready to be present and engaged; don’t let your kids or wife expect to hear your formulaic: “I’m tired;” turn your phone off (I recently read something like this: “If you touched your wife as much as you touch your iPhone your marriage would be in a much better spot.”); cancel your cable TV; repent of your addiction to new projects, hobbies, and distractions.

This is good advice. There are many days when I come home and I just want to crash. But I should be ready instead to spend time with my kids. The advice on building a routine doesn’t apply to me, since I don’t have a 9 to 5 job. I will have to make as much time for praying together and Bible study with the kids as I can. This means some prep time on my part.

Through that article, I was able to download a copy of Mark Driscoll’s e-book, Pastor Dad. Good starts, both of them. But, I want to dig a little deeper. So I found some additional books on introducing the Bible to children:

To apply all of this, I will need to set aside some time each night to read and study the Bible with Ashleigh, Gabe, and Jody. Of course, Gabe’s not going to be able to participate just yet, but that will change later on. The reading will have to be short, because I know Ash is not going to sit for a long time and listen to me read. Then, we’ll have question and answer time. The key is to be interactive and engaging.

Then, we should have a family prayer where I ask each their intentions, and then offer praise and thanks for God and his blessings, along with the others’ intentions.

I want to make something like that as close to a nightly thing as possible. With my schedule, that’s not always going to happen, as I work late nights and closes occasionally (read: more often than not). But I will still be able to set aside some time to do all of this.

Getting Jody on board shouldn’t be a problem at all. Part of me thinks that she has been waiting for me to take the initiative in doing this, since it is the responsibility of the husband to teach his family in the ways of the Lord. I know she’ll be supportive, as a Proverbs 31 woman should: “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (vv 10-12). I know Jody fears the Lord: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (v 30).

She will help me, and help I will need always. I need to take more responsibility in the spiritual development of my own children, else I could lose them to the rising tide of skepticism. I know this tide all too well, fighting on the front lines as a Christian apologist. Up till now, I’ve been concerned about the spiritual welfare of complete strangers on the Internet. It is time to turn that concern to my own house, and channel at least some of the energy I’ve been using online into helping my children know the truth of Jesus, and help them place their faith in him who saves “to the uttermost all those who draw near to God through him” (Heb 7:25).

First Post

I don’t know what actually possessed me to write a Xanga post, but here it goes. . .

First, I find it incredibly amusing that when I type Xanga into Xanga’s editor, it flags the word as a spelling mistake.

Second, as I’m trying to format my entry, I notice that I’m moving the mouse right to where the controls would be in WordPress. If I do get back into writing Xanga posts, I’m going to have to watch that.

WordPress is also considered a spelling mistake by Xanga’s editor. Now that I understand. They wouldn’t want to give credit to the competition, after all.

Maybe I can just use Xanga to free write. After all, I should be able to do that every once in a while, just to focus my thoughts. None of my other blogs or websites allow me to just write about my thoughts. Josiah Concept Ministries is for things theological; the websites all counter specific books or websites. Of course, there is the drawback that these posts will be for an audience of none. No one that used to read Xanga from my family still does, and no one from my family still posts in their blogs. Therefore, no feedback on my thoughts.

Well, that’s not entirely true. After all, three girls did send me love notes on this site. Of course, they were all very similar (though not verbatim). And I suspect that they were actually spam, advertising unsavory websites that make you pay to see pictures of naked (or nearly-naked) women. Or maybe I’m just being cynical. And, I did get one invite from someone who wanted to be my friend. Though I think that may have been spam as well.

I declined that friend request. And as the reason, I selected “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” That amused me very much.

That is all for now. Perhaps I’ll write some more later. Or perhaps not. We shall see if I decide to keep a journal on top of all the other writing projects that I’m doing right now. Doing so would really help me focus my thoughts. But how often would I actually be able to write in the journal without disrupting the other writing projects?