I’m Back With a Tour of the Mythic Kind

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Hello, my friends! It’s been awhile, yes? I was busy getting #3 finished (due out November), thinking about reigniting the blog when someone from my clan of speculative fiction writers organized this tour. One of the most fascinating parts of writing speculative fiction (some with faith-based themes) is encountering fellow book lovers who ask, “fantasy (or science fiction, paranormal, etc) stories written by Christians? Can you do that? Is that a thing?”

You bet your parting-of-the-Red Sea it is.

C.O. Bonham is my guest today, talking about her short story contribution “Recalled.”

 

Rewriting “Recalled.”

My short story contribution to Mythic Orbit’s volume two has an interesting history.

The Left Behind craze was well underway before I ever decided to write a thing. But the series concluded while I was in high school. I had read it and loved it and we were doing an end times bible study in Sunday school.

Now for the sketchy part. I can not remember who said it. It may have been a person at my church, it might have been someone on TV or radio. I know that someone said, “Thanks to Left Behind clarifying Revelation, we can safely assume that Star Trek will never happen.” That is not an exact quote by the way.

Whoever said it, it instantly got my gears turning. “Recalled from the Red Planet was going to be an epic novel of the tribulation set on Mars. It would rival Left Behind’s number one best seller status, because everything is better on Mars.

I wrote three chapters. Three really bad chapters. Every line of Dialog was followed by, “he said.” Or worse, “he said excitedly.” Three chapters leading up to the Anti Christ arriving on Mars to take over the planet.

Right, as soon as I realized that he would never leave Earth, how this man (named Six in three different languages) could easily force Mars to come to him, I gave up. It sat on my computer for years. Survived a computer crash and a file purge, until 2017 when Travis Perry began accepting submissions for a Christian speculative fiction anthology called Mythic Orbits 2.

I was scrolling through my files looking for something to submit. I saw that old file. Opened it. Read it. Cringed. I thought, “this will never be a novel. But it could be a short story.”

I deleted a lot. Rewrote everything. Cut, added, and edited. Submitted.

Travis tore it in half. He wanted me to cut almost half the words. After I had already cut the plot to the bones. I didn’t think I could do it. I had already cut the love interest to two paragraphs. Then it hit me. This was not the same story I had started in high school. They were going back to Earth. And Once on Earth, it was just Left Behind all over again.

Love interest? Gone. Cleverly named Anti-Christ? Gone. Impassioned speeches? Ineffective in a world with one possible outcome. The return and triumph of Jesus Christ.

In the end, Revelation did not prevent Star Trek. It is the reason Star Trek failed.

C.O. Bonham is the pen name for a commonly misspelled first name. When she isn’t writing stories of her own she is busy reading stories by others. She loves stories of all sorts but really likes the ones that are weird, or outside the norm. A home school graduate with a degree in creative writing, her goal is to create stories that make people think, feel, and have fun.

Get Mythic Orbits 2016 HERE

Get Mythic Orbits Volume 2 HERE

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Good Tuesday to you, friends!

Spring is creeping inside Arizona, which I’m LOVING! For those of you still battling winter in the east, I’m thinking about you, and hoping some blossoms and warmth are headed your way.
Right now, I’m in the middle of spring break with the family which has presented a very good picture of reality for me. I need to finish my book before the minions are out of school for the summer. So I’ll be taking a bit of time off from the blog before summer blasts me with a lot of heat and noise.
Aaaannd…I’ll finally be working on a long overdue newsletter for those of you who have signed up. For quick updates, check in on my facebook page, otherwise–I’ll see you at the completion of my first draft of ILLUME.
Loves and hugs!

Monster Hunting

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Who is this monster everyone keeps talking about? I mean, it shoots up our schools, it ravages our kids with staggeringly high rates of depression and anxiety, and it has families running for cover.
I found myself ridiculed the other day when discussing the monster. My crime? I send my kids straight into battle aka public (charter) school. Before you read on or move on, this is not a public school vs. home school blog. It’s about our mission field.


Not everyone is called to the same mission field. As far as schooling goes, sometimes we have the liberty to orchestrate our kid’s education, sometimes we have little choice, but right now as parents argue on social media about the “right” way to protect our kids and to give them the best education, there are young feet walking within the mouths of the monsters’ jaws.
My two are there. Yes, they’ve dealt with bullies, they’ve had classmates whose families couldn’t afford to feed them all three meals, they’ve dealt with the privileged (interpret that as you will), played with kids who go home to single parents, etc. Many of these kids are pretty great, and their teachers are as well– teachers who care—and they receive a very well-rounded education, better than I could give them which is one reason why they attend school away from home.
A few years ago, a former student almost shot up their school. Thankfully, some brave people were proactive in stopping it before it happened. Is this terrifying? Of course.
They also get exposed to all those things the rest of us did: bad language, topics way to mature for their ages, poor examples. Yes, I send them into this, but they don’t go in alone.
Recently, my daughter told a friend about Jesus. Yes, right inside the monster’s playground, she said the J word. When she learns of a classmate’s hardship or family troubles, she prays for them (the power of prayer, friends). Where would this help be without kids of faith to know who/what to specifically pray for?
My son reminds others that Jesus still heals. And he’s shown forgiveness—maybe more than some kids would see if all parents of faith decided to do a mass extraction of their children.
When my kids make their own mistakes, they see the effects, and get the opportunity to learn from them firsthand. Christians screw up plenty, I know, that’s why we love the Great Forgiver.
Just to be clear, this is not a billboard against homeschooling—because there are certainly good reasons for choosing that direction—this is just a message for those who deny support to those called in the other direction.
So yes, some will criticize this viewpoint, regardless. But who would rather they got on their knees and prayed for our youth? Parents send their kids into this battleground every day. Thank goodness. Public school is not a thing to hide from—it’s a mission field. Parents—our kids can’t easily band together when they see us constantly fighting over our differences of opinions. Distraction is dangerous.
Bless those praying from home, and those still walking the halls.

Here’s a little tidbit from the generation who constantly receives criticism.

Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck. We are the generation with the highest ever percentage of fatherless homes…We’re looking for mentors who are authentically invested in our lives and our future. If we don’t have real people who actually care about us, why not just listen to a sermon from the couch?Sam Eaton

 

Who lives in Arizona? Fancy a trip to Tuscon this weekend? I’ll be at the Tuscon Festival of Books on March 10th, 2:30-4:30, in the Indie Pavilion on the U of A campus. I’ll be signing copies of WAKE, WILD, and I might just be doing a giveaway of ILLUME, the third book in the City of Light Series due out this fall.

D is for Door

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I believe the ugliest battle scars are from junior high. As my daughter quickly approaches the years of doom, I reflect more and more on what I can teach her from my time doing time.
I sat in the back of the class. The very far back, for the students who weren’t members of the honor roll (okay—once—accidentally), gifted (as a professional writer, I protest their definition of gifted), or any genre of student the teachers wrote down as shining star, but the last row of kids who identified with other things beside your general pile of academics. The artist, the athlete, the HSPs (which wasn’t a known thing at the time), or the rebel at heart.
How does a free spirit like myself (and my daughter) find her rhythm behind so many normals?
Thank the Maker of the Heavens for Mrs. T. She taught 7th grade, and music, and a particle of art. Her heart was undeniably in music class, and she taught us how to shake up our world with good things like jazz. I shined up my flute nice and pretty for 16 or so bars of music, to be refreshingly unique. She didn’t have the patience to teach us traditionally. In fact, I was poor at reading music because of it. But what a blessing, because I’m a hands-on learner, and I could memorize the soul out of a piece music, leaving my energy for the art of it, which was where I found myself–outside the lines of what you would normally find in a stack of homework (Parents: please think twice before complaining about a nontraditional teacher).


I knew I was different. I didn’t know the science of it, but something inside me said to not let myself be pulled into the rows of traditionalists, because that’s wasn’t the beat my heart was tuned for. I was also a Jesus follower—despite the protestations of the kids who thought that meant perfectionism or goody-two-shoes, what it meant for me was undeniably Wild. Messy, outside the lines, grab the world by the paintbrush, Wild ( If you’re raising your brows at this, remember, the Bible is not G rated, friends. Not even close. Nor is anyone’s life).
Honestly, it was a long season of feeling lost before I realized my life didn’t revolve around the worldview of the traditional educational system.
Throughout the years, a lot of my teachers tried to shake the different out of me. Many students tried to shake the Jesus out of me. A few of my friend’s parents even tried to shake the skinny out of me by attempting to feed me copious amounts of food—so I would look more normal, I guess—but God doesn’t allow us us stand out without a reason. And He doesn’t let you walk through life without purpose, even when you feel like a Jackson Pollack in a sea of Michelangelo’s. But the last thing I want my daughter to do is to follow the crowd. The crowd strives for normal out of fear of what each other think. But, truthfully, we’re ALL different….why on earth are we all so afraid?!
The Wild DNA runs deep. How many of you have wondered at your differences and looked to history’s legacy?
The ancient church of Philadelphia, surrounded by a sea of pagan temples, was out of place, too, but the members didn’t let the world shake the purpose out of them. Even with the widespread persecution. They even had a Teacher give them a special bit of encouragement:
“I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” Rev. 3:8
Alasehir (ancient Philadelphia) endured a devastating earthquake in A.D. 17…historians say the Philadelphians rebuilt their sanctuary (the church of St. John) several times due to tremors, unwilling to give up. And the open door? John wrote of “a great door for effective work, (1 Corinthians 16:9)” God opened for him. Scholars believe this was for mission work to the far eastern parts of Asia.

What do we see here? John didn’t let his opposition–whether man or earthquake–shake the art out of him. And his efforts survived the chaos of time…God rewarded the Phildelphian’s faith with a visual representation of their perseverance. Out of the few ruins of ancient Philadelphia, guess which one is the most prominent? You can view John’s church here.

Happy Tuesday, Friends. Don’t watch the crowd…look for the door.

The Story Behind the Sweat

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Scales can be jerks. You can work and work, burning off everything you ate and more, only to stand on the scale and look down, a drop of sweat sliding down your nose, plopping over a big, fat number.
What? Your face gets hot…your heart starts pumping fast again. You step back and look in the mirror. Eh? You go home, shower and pull on your favorite pair of jeans. Tight. Too tight. Okay, maybe that one area is better, but…what the heck? You go to the bathroom and stand on your scale because the one at the gym, and your pants must be taunting you, right?
But, no. To the mirror again, you notice the seams pulling, the stitches near to popping and realize you won’t be able to replace them for several more paychecks.
What’s to show for all that hard work? Slow and sure, your fist comes up and you shake it at God a little.
You work so hard. So. Hard. At the gym, at your office, in the classroom—whatever this is for you, but the results look nothing like you expected.
Does the effort mean nothing after all?
What’s the point?
You eye the couch, the TV, the Netflix remote, but something calls you. A whisper flutters from above. At the mirror again, something does look different. Your jeans are tight, yes, but you look better in them. Your short-sleeve shirt is digging into your arms, but look—what was too soft is now firm.
You bend down to pick up that darn box you don’t have room for, and move it out of the way to get a better look. Wow, that was easier.
So much easier. Maybe God draws your eyes to the mirror again and says, “Yes. There’s more of you.”
“What? There’s supposed to be less. I worked for it. Isn’t that what you led me to do?”
Maybe He answers, “But you’re not supposed to believe for less. Don’t aim for less. You were made for more.”
“But my pants. The scale. This isn’t at all what I expected. What’s going to happen?”
“Better things, as long as you keep your eyes on Me, and not your scale.”
So you take a breath, and keep going.
Happy perseverance day. Every day.

The Josephine Manifesto

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While on duty at the retirement place a few nights ago, a resident called me to her apartment for help. Tethered to her oxygen machine, and lonely, she kept me in conversation for as long as I was able to be away from my post. She told me how much she liked my name because it reminded her of a dear friend, also named Sherry, who was kind, and had a resume most of us only dream about. As I was leaving, she said, “goodbye, Josephine.”
Sometimes the memory misfires.
You know what forgetfulness reminds me of? Many of our News Channels. I’m not a big fan of politics, and I get told over and over—every day—how to hate a certain President, and a certain party, and now even people who practice certain religions. It’s either the article about the wrong shoes a politician’s wife wore, or the too-fancy dress his daughter wore, or the certain religion they assume supports their nemesis with hateful ambition.

And many reactions from the accused “haters” are no better.

I could go on, but I’m going to be honest here—watching all this flim flam is kind of like watching my kids when they had toddler meltdowns.
“I don’t like the way my jacket feels on my shoulders.”–Son
“The cereal doesn’t feel right in my mouth.”–Daughter
“I can’t go to school if my toes touch my shoes in a weird spot.”—Son
“Son-or-Daughter, I love you so much, but I can’t help you if you don’t calm down and listen. You don’t have to like what I’m telling you, but you need to remember  what’s important.”—Me


E-v-e-n-t-u-a-l-l-y they calmed down. For the most part, my son’s an optimist, my daughter’s empathy (especially for an oncoming Mommy meltdown) is off the charts, and they’re both very intelligent. But sometimes, they’d get stuck on their frustration—and still do.
That happens when we focus on the unhelpful things, instead of doing our part to help find a solution.
Have a good week, Josephine.

Things I Learn From My Dog

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My dog can sense earthquakes in our neighboring state of California. Tail in-between legs, bark at the ready, she shifts into high alert as if every flap of wing or roar of an engine electrifies her. She’s protective, and determines to catch every single unsettling current until the threat is gone.
She runs laps. Not one or two, but intermittent laps around the yard in between dinner, TV time & bedtime stories. She’ll do this for one day, or several days, working until the earthquake passes. On nights like these, I can hear her dog door flapping throughout the night as she makes her rounds.
Finally, she’ll collapse and rest.
It reminds me of the days when my mind spins like a broken record, catching on all those ideas that jump track.
On into the night, a mish-mash of unfinished files to sort out.


So, the next morning, I don’t nap—I do like Bella does and I run. I go to the gym and hit the treadmill, then I pop on the elliptical. Finally, I take on the weight machines until I’m exhausted.
s-t-r-e-t-c-h
Now I can get to work. I pull the good ideas from my mind and sort them out on paper, or the computer screen. I work until I feel the tide shift. I don’t always see it, but I feel it. That’s the spot where faith thrives, in the unseen realm where I’m beyond my limits.
Then I can rest.
It’s not real rest until you’ve worked with everything you’ve got. Until you’ve unwrapped your God-given gifts and covered your space of the world with them. The outcome is not up to us, it’s up to God. Our job is to just do our thing.

Reach

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I went to elementary school in the 80’s when bullying was thought of as an elective. That meant if someone elected to pick on you and you complained to the teacher about it, you would be promptly reminded how close you were to the end of the day, and with that, the teacher turned away as if that small nugget of counseling was all they had to offer. I suppose it was.
Wuzzle was the nickname of the girl who tried to strong-arm me on the bus. She was stocky to my slight, bronzed to my pale, and thought I’d be an easy target on which to display her superiority.
But this was the country where cowboys could speak the language of artists, and ballerinas could be both feminine and beasts. There are fewer limits where there are fewer assumptions.


So as she tried to pin my arms down, I remembered how my ballet teacher told us that dancers were some of the strongest people in the world because we weren’t reliant on machines and steps to sculpt our muscles—we used what we had—our own bodies. Sometimes we forget the value of what we already have.
In ballet, you not only hold your arms up for the majority of the class, but you reach farther than you came in reaching, and use them to frame a story for the audience. What’s not obvious is the effort it takes just to hold your arms up for an hour, and the strength it takes to rise to your toes time and again.
With all the stretching, ballerinas’ muscles don’t bulk up as they would if built in the gym, so this way, they not only reach beyond their limits, but the work that goes into the dance doesn’t get lost to the story.
Wuzzle gave up after a good ten minutes. My arms couldn’t be pinned by an amateur elective-taker. Reality for those who judge without looking a little deeper. But our struggle wasn’t for nothing—we became friends after that, and chose to sit by each other on the bus from that day forward.
I try to remember that as I face struggles—what do I already have in me? Will I let myself reach a little farther…because with the spirit in me, I can. So can you.

Blessings for your Tuesday.

I’m offering a few of my books free for a few days–The first two in The City of Light series, YA dystopian fiction.

Go here for Wake

Go here for Wild

Gifted

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As a child, I had a love/hate relationship with Thrifty drug store. Mickey Mouse Band-Aids and ice cream? It was the feel-good place of the 80’s. But a high-pitched squeal that haunted every Thrifty-Drug store we visited in the west cut into my ice cream/Band-Aid therapy as soon as I walked in the door. It didn’t seem to bother anyone else, but to me, it quickly led to a headache and left my eardrums thrumming like the leftovers of a rock concert. The fluorescent lights, perhaps?
The ancient TV at home squealed too. But as long as I didn’t sit at a certain few spots in the room, I managed just fine.
Same thing with other sounds, only inconsistently, and smells. During P.E. class, basketball day left me nauseous when the gym filled (at least to my sensitive nose) with the stench of a fifteen or so sweaty basketballs. Some thought I was making it up for attention. Because shy kids do that.
Along with a list of other goodies, people like this are considered HSP or Highly Sensitive People. It’s not a disorder, it’s just a thing. I only recently learned this after discovering about another family member who is an HSP. I thought we were just quirky.
Today, of course, there’s a diagnosis for everything, and the word quirk has gone the way of outhouses. For example, researchers believe grammar-sticklers may actually have OCD.
So I start thinking about my family member and myself, and all those tests they can do with MRIs now—all those people who we thought just had “that way” about them are turning out to have nameable ways of walking through this world. Before you know it, we’ll all be diagnosed with something. But it got me to thinking: Many people with nameable quirks are gifted in some way. Are we looking at diagnoses all wrong?


Are we so focused on trying to be normal that we’re missing the big picture? Let’s walk through this:
We know that many great artists, academics, etc. have struggled with mental illnesses, disorders, syndromes and all sorts of diagnoses. And then there’s the fascinating Synesthesia.  Billy Joel, Tori Amos and Vladimir Nabokov are among the many creatives with this condition, as are several of my author acquaintances.
To further my study on this, I found a few videos of struggling people who give clear pictures of what it’s like to walk in their abnormal shoes. One was a Ted talk video of a woman with HSP who called it a gift even though her children had it so severely she had to pull them out of school. Why a gift?
Another is this short video where Frank Stevens, a man with Down Syndrome, defends his value to those who would prefer to end the lives of D.S. babies in utero for failing to be normal. They see him as low-functioning, but I’m sure you’ll see something else when you watch him speak. His achievements, knowledge and willingness to offer his disorder as a means to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s, but most of all, his general happiness that’s common with those with D. S. is extraordinary. That’s higher than many people hope to function.
To say normal (or undiagnosed) people don’t have problems would be a blatant lie. Anymore, fewer and fewer of us are found to be what’s considered normal. (Of course, God made sure it was documented long ago:

I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul. Ps. 139:14, VOICE)

People need to be able to cope in this world, of course, and thank goodness there are wonderful resources to help.
But should we consider them less valuable? Because as we already know, people who aren’t diagnosed with something (yet) still have problems. So what is value?
Most people want to be happy—there are pills, therapy, articles, books, movies—you name it, that are all involved in making people happier. I believe God has approached this detail in those with Down Syndrome with excellence.
Perhaps when people like Rain Man, Einstein, and Frank Stephens step forward and pull their extraordinary gifts from places illogical, it scares those who can’t see past the quirks.
I believe the beautiful things that come out of our differences are the most valuable things of all, because they touch the very nature of God.
Whether or not more people are discovered to have disorders or nameable things than in the past, or more are just being diagnosed, I wouldn’t worry so much that there are more people with problems because there aren’t—there are just more people with gifts. Maybe God is opening our eyes to see that we all have them.

“You have to dare to be different if you’re ever going to dare to be great.”-Jeffrey Ford (Asberger’s Syndrome)

For My Daughter Someday

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About a month ago, One of my coworkers complimented me on my hair—and then he quickly apologized, mentioned the #metoo movement, and we both just ended up laughing over the absurd awkwardness of it all.

When the hashtag first took over social media, I did a silent cheer, hoping things will be better for my daughter. Maybe, like—I’m guessing—80-90% of women, she won’t have her own list of gropes and lewd suggestions to add to her file of memories she wished she could forget. With all that’s in me, I pray she’s not one of those with a traumatizing addition to her list.

I hope she feels confident with how she is, inside and out.

But I also hope she doesn’t listen to all those voices that say it’s all about her, or about getting revenge on men for the sins of their ancestors. That’s not a fight for civil rights–it’s just a fight. I hope she realizes that men and women think differently, interpret things differently, and that our differences are not something to scoff at, but to consider. This is not inequality—its science.

I hope men treat her well no matter how she presents herself—and they should—but I hope she doesn’t feel so powerful in her right to dress immodestly that she forgets these things:

*Dressing is an expression, just like words, tone, and how we use them. People will interpret it how its most obviously presented. It’s a language in its own right. Although, to be fair, everyone has their own boundaries (cultural, religious, etc.) when it comes to where they draw the line on attire. I hope she also remembers that some women dress scantily because they’ve been raised thinking their only value lies in their appearance. Putting one another down will solve nothing.

*Manipulation is wrong, no matter how it’s clothed.

*Just because men may promote her/open more doors for her/listen to her more often if she dresses to please their flesh does not mean that’s how she should achieve her goals. If she wants to work her way to the top, I hope she indeed does it using the amazing work ethic I hope she’ll have, because that of all things is how women will gain more respect in the workplace.

*If she has a friend struggling with alcohol addiction, I hope she would be considerate enough not to leave wine bottles out when they come over. The same goes for any addict—porn included. Recent MRI scans show the same brain activity for porn addicts as those who are drug/alcohol addicts. This could be anyone we run into, which, according to recent statistics is a staggering amount. Would dressing more modestly be more sensitive to those struggling with visual stimulation, or do we go the way culture is going and ignore the humanness of others?

* I hope she interprets women’s equality as fairness, and not power to humiliate men, (say if he compliments her on something appropriate like a new hair-do). If men feel like they have to tip-toe around women, something’s wrong. At the same time, if a man treats her like a thing, I hope she walks away from him as fast as her steel-spiked combat boots will allow.

I heard an interesting story on the radio about a young teen who found himself in the company of a provocatively dressed woman. When his parent (I can’t remember if it was mom or dad) asked him what he thought about the way she presented herself he said something like, “It attracts the male in me, but not the man in me.”

This is what I hope for my son and daughter as they grow, that they will be so wise as to recognize the difference.

And if my daughter calls me in frustration with trying to find balance in it all, and wants to throw in the towel, I will (in hopes that my mind has not completely fuzzed over by this time) remind her that she can’t love/respect herself without it spilling over to others. You just can’t separate the two. Maybe that’s where we’ll find peace in this whole thing.