Thursday, December 20, 2007

How to be Humble without being a Wimp

Here's a good definition of humility from the Chavad people...

It's the sense of, "Yes I know who I am, what I can do and what I can't. But I stand in the presence of something much larger than my little self, so much larger that there isn't any room left for any vestige of my own ego. Something before which a thousand universes are less than dust and from which all things extend. Something which is infinite, transcendent and yet pervades all things."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sheep Comics

I was pointed to this on Len Hjarmalson's blog. I reminds me of some of my own takes on sheep and chickens. The sheep in these cartoons says some of the same things a lot of us are trying to say... anyway, happy reading

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Consuming Jesus

Scot McKnight is reading through Paul Metzger's book, Consuming Jesus, and doing a discussion of it on his blog. It's about how consumerism has invaded the western church. Metzger sees that as the root of inherant racism and classism (why whites only go to white churches, blacks go to black chruches, people only fellowship with people their own social class etc.). Basically, it's because the chuch has swallowed the consumerist lie, that everyone is entitled to what they want. Keep the customer satisfied, at all costs, even if it means trashing the costs of discipleship. He sees the born again experience as being the answer -- the vital ingredients being regeneration, repentance and reconciliation.

From this blog: a loud "Amen!"

Friday, November 16, 2007

Eetoo - the rough draft

I've completed the rough draft. At the moment, my two most faithful readers are reading it, my dad and my aunt.

It' s cross genre science fiction (space opera) / historical fiction. Has anyone ever heard of that?

I suppose one could cite various stories about time travel, perhaps a few episodes of Dr. Who, or Star Treck, or one T.V. program I saw once in which the characters specialised in going to various points of history and made sure things happened the way they should; i.e. that Sparticus started his revolution, etc. as though these things wouldn't have happened without help. Of course, everyone they met throughout history spoke English with an American Midwest accent.

Eetoo isn't about time travel, though. The whole story takes place in the first century, where humans have been living since the (fictitious) Nephteshi empire (predating the rise of Egypt) removed itself to a new planet using a technology that enabled space travel and exploration.

In the story, Eetoo and a friend find their way to Earth at time that's pivital for both Earth's and galactic human history. He doesn't altar the course of Earth's history (as many a sci fi author has done), but what he finds affects the course of humanity living in space.

First century Jewish and Christian history is something has been a pet subject for study of for 16 years now, since I started writing my first (as yet unpublished) novel, The Emissary. I think I sufficiently understand all the factors affecting the times, the Messianic expectation, the various groups like the Pharisees (Beit Hillel, Beit Shammai, etc), the state of the High Priestly system, the Essenes, the intense hardships cause Roman imperialism and local corruption etc. to make it a real to life story. It owes a lot to what's called "Jesus Study".

Also, I've poured in my understanding of culture and linguistics, some from study and some from experience. Eetoo's culture is partly based on Karen (an tribal group stradling the Thai Myanmar border). There are other cultures there as well. I think I've portrayed all the cultures so there won't be such a clash between those living in space and the Greco/Jewish culture of Palistine and Egypt.

I might be tempted later to post a future draft on my website for a limited time.

Friday, September 28, 2007


I had told myself I don't have time to be starting on a new novel. I have ideas for several more, and when ideas come, I simply open up a file containing my plot outlines and ideas, and add them in. I even had opening chapters for three of them. One of them had been getting so full that I started writing a second chapter, then a third, and now, of course, I'm hopelessly in the middle of a Space Opera type SF narrative.

The setting is actually in the past, about first century, but it takes place in space. The premis is that an ancient civiliation predating the Egyptian rise to being a world power, discovered technologies that enabled space travel, and even relocating their nation, topsoil and vegitation to a new planet.

The narrative shifts constantly between two viewpoints: Eetoo, always written in present tense first person, and that of Heptosh (later in the novel, by a different charracter), who gives a third person viewpoint with the understanding of the technologies and other factors involved (which Eetoo can't do as he's the member of a primative tribe.

Anyway, I'll past in the opening two scenes below:

Eetoo’s story: This is the third time I've seen a light moving about in the sky.
The first time, I told Uncle Oo Paw about it. He said it was only a shooting
star. I thought it was too slow for that, but I figured maybe he was right and
my mind was playing tricks on me. The second time was a week ago. I knew it was
definitely too slow to be a shooting star. I didn't tell anyone though. They
wouldn't believe me.
Now I know it isn't a shooting star. Shooting stars don't stop and go back the way they came. But they'd probably say I was lying. They already say that knowing how to read the ancient writing makes my head too cloudy.
They just don't take me very seriously -- even though I've had my manhood ceremony. I'm supposed to be a man. I'm what they call 'thirteen years old'. A 'year' is the amount of time it takes for the earth to go around the sun, plus three tenths of that. Our ancestors once lived in a place where the earth went around the sun in exactly one year. It got cold during part of the year, and hot during another, so it was easy to tell when a year went by. Also, they had a big round light in the sky that would change into something real thin, and round only on one side, and then back again. It did that twelve times in a year. That must have been weird to look at! Even though we don't live there any more, we still count time like that. It's the way of the Fathers, they say.
That really bright star there is part of something called the 'Zodiac'. Where our ancestors lived, they could see the whole thing. That star was the faintest. Here, it's one of the clearest, but it's the only star from the Zodiac that we can see. I know all that from reading the Writings. I just don't get it. If our ancestors came from the stars, how did we get here? Venerable Too Da says, 'In ships.'
Couldn't that light I've been seeing be a ship?
Venerable Too Da is different from the others. He take me seriously,
probably because he can read, and knows it isn't bad for you. He taught me to
read. He wanted to make me the next Keeper of the Writings. Noo Paw and Noo Maw wouldn't have it though. They wanted their son, Noo, to be, even though I'm a
better student than him. I can read all the tablets now, and I can understand
them too. Noo doesn't even know the whole Nepteshi alphabet yet. He fools around
too much. He only knows some of the pictographs, and even then, he says them in
Fa-ti-shi that we speak every day. That upsets Venerable Too Da no end.
Ha ha! I remember when Ni and I spelled out some Fa-ti-shi words using the
Nephteshi phonetic letters. We thought t was the funniest thing, but Venerable
Too Da got real upset. 'It's a sacred language,' he said. He would have given us
a beating, but he said we were young and didn't know what we were doing. He let
us off with a warning.
Then I asked Uncle Oo Paw why we don't make up some new letters to use for Fa-ti-shi. He just got real uptight, and said that reading and writing things in our own language would make people think more than what's good for them. Then he started scolding me for being too cloudy headed from too much reading of Nephteshi. He's glad they picked Noo to be the next Keeper of the Writings and not me.
Venerable Too Da's afraid he won't live long enough to teach Noo properly. He says maybe I could teach him more if only Noo weren't such a proud little brat. He couldn't understand why the village elders picked Noo and not me.
I think it's because Noo Paw and Noo Maw have such a big flock of sheep and a big house, and I'm only an orphan.
Ni could have been it as well, but he got sucked down the whirlpool. We never even found his body again.
Ni and I did everything together; we fished together, did
traditional wrestling together with Mo Paw, studied the ancient text with
Venerable Too Da.
Venerable Too Da has always been good to me though. He took
care of my Paw and Maw's flock of sheep after they died, and then gave them to
me at my man-hood ceremony. That way, I can at least maintain our family name as a sheep owning family. I could be a village elder one day!
The sheep look like they're doing okay. I think they're all asleep now. I should get some sleep too. It'll be a long trip back to the village tomorrow.
There's that light again...

Heptosh scanned the surface once more, this time at an altitude from which he could make out individual features. It was night on this side of the planet so his activity shouldn't raise any undue alarm from the inhabitants. They'd mistake him for a shooting star.
At least those on this side of the mountain divide. They were mostly primitive tribesmen. Here and there, he could pick out shepherds minding their sheep, or a caravan camped out for the night. These were harmless, but it wouldn't be good to interrupt their peaceful existence by suddenly appearing to them out of the sky.
It was those on the other side he was worried about. They were a more advanced
civilisation. At least they used to be.
If they were as they used to be, they'd present no problem either. The Klodi were a friendly nation, and there had been many happy interactions between them and the Toki human population. Then, there was some sort of struggle. The Klodi had sent out a warning not to enter their solar system until they had got their problem sorted out. They didn't say exactly what the trouble was, so the sector council issued a restriction, and waited. Then they went silent. That was many years ago.
Now, the restriction had expired. There was still silence.
Heptosh was here on a scouting mission.
So far, he had determined, the Famtishi half of the planet was safe. Civilisation was carrying on as it always had. Heptosh had spend the last several weeks making observations of life on the ground -- nothing to worry about here.
The worrisome bit was, what was on the other side of the divide?
Heptosh would fly at a low level across Famtishi territory towards the mountain range and sort of creep over in stealth mode below the range of their scanners.
He viewed the countryside below through his night viewing screen. He'd make his approach over an uninhabited bit of landscape.
What would he find on the other side?
He hoped very much it wouldn't be the Bionics.
They hadn't been detected in this sector of the galaxy as yet, but there were those little signs that made them wonder.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Scientific Science Fiction

The blogsite Website at the End of the Universe has an entry providing links to lists of science fiction novels that apply real science to their stories. There's also a link to an Outer Space Science Textbook for science fiction writers to check their accuracy. How close to real science a science fiction novel should adhire is still an open question with opinions on both sides. As for myself, I'm not a scientist, but I still like to write, and I only hope my ideas are interesting enough to merit forgivness on the part of realists. In a way, science fiction is simply a sub-branch of fantasy.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Pepe accepted for publication

I've been offered a contract for my manuscript of Pepe. That is very good new for me, as it will mean I can soon update my resume to include a published work.

The publisher is an online company called Writer's Exchange. They sell their books on Reader's Eden.

I think I said something about online publishers a few entries ago. I won't be getting a big advance up front like the big New York companies give. It will be for electronic media rights only, unless I later exercise the option of POD (see my previous blog entry for what that means). As I said then, e-publishing is beginning to come into its own as a viable venue for becoming an established author. Some on-line books verge on being best-sellers in their own right. For authors looking for a place to publish their first novel, I'd recomend it. One online publisher I looked at warned that they accept only about 30% of their submissions. I thought "Wow! That's high!" A typical New York publisher, even one that accepts individual submissions, the rate is more like .1%. At that rate, one could have the best manuscript that was ever written and spend ones whole life fruitlessly trying to break in to the publishing field.

I don't expect to generate a big enough income to quit my day job very soon. However, that would be a blessing, as that would enable us to branch out into other types of ministry that are out of reach at this moment.

Anyway, keep your eyes on this spot for further news...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Post Science Fiction?

I think I've found my genre. Michael Moorcock's blog of 18, June, talking about pre-generic prototypes for various genres, in which he suggests Jonathan Swift's third book of Gulliver's Travels as a possible candidate, suddenly starts talking about post-genre:
... Ah, and what of the post-generic form? Assuming that post-generic modes
must not necessarily (or invariably) lead to postmodernism, what might a
post-generic mode look like? Post-science fiction? Post-swords and
I would propose that in the case of Science Fiction, a post genre novel would simply treat the futuristic type technological backdrop as simply that. The story isn't specifically about the high tech device that saves the day, but about the same things that make any other story work, be it self sacrifice, intense love, brawn and wit, whatever. However, the rule of the genre is, the sci fi backdrop must be necessary to the story, so that the plot couldn't possibly happen in any other setting. In other words, you can't simply rewrite Romeo and Juliet with exactly the same plot Shakespeare used. but set it in an interplanetary setting, using light sabres instead of swards.

-- Or maybe 'post -' would imply breaking that rule as well? Maybe if what was previously written about as science fiction, suddenly appears to be reality in the very near future, one could get away with that and call it "Post Science Fiction". William Gibson has written some stories that I would class Post Science Fiction, but has been called "cyberpunk". He writes about the culture that is presently immersed in high tech, but setting their technology just slightly into the future by about 10 years. I don't think he breaks the rule regarding the link between plot and high tech setting though.

I think Pepe would fit into that genre.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Charles Dicken's Satire

I read this bit in Charles Dickens' preface to his 1847 edition of Pickwick Papers:

Lest there be any wellintentioned persons who do not perceive the difference (as some such could not when Old Mortality was newly published) between religion and the cant of religion, piety and their pretence of piety, a humble reverence for the great truths of Scripture and an audacious and offensive obtrusion of its letter and not its spirit in the commonest dissensions and meanest of affairs of life, to the extraordinary confusion of ignorant minds, let them understand that it is always the latter, and never the former, which is satirized here. Further, that the latter is here satirized as being, according to all experience, inconsistent with the former, impossible of union with it, and one of the most evil and mischievous falsehoods existent in society -- whether it establish it head-quarters, for the time being, in Exeter Hall or Ebenezer Chapel or both. It may appear unnecessary to offer a word of observation on so plain a head. But it is never out of season to protest against that coarse familiarity with sacred things which is busy on the lip and idle in the heart, or against the confounding of Christianity with any class of person who, in the words of Swift, have just enough religion to make them hate, and not enough to make them love, one another.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Silent Comix

I've now completed my Silent Comix page.

It started with an idea for teaching my private English students. I penciled some drawings in a comic strip format, but without any captions or dialogue, so my students could look at the pictures and then tell me the story in English. Later, I inked over the pencil drawings, and later sill, scanned them in. I've finally got them formatted for the Internet, and they can be viewed here.

They're good for teaching English, for illiterates, or for those too lazy to plow through a lot of text. I think they're good stories, worthy of any comic book. My favourite is the series on Cornelius the Genius.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Online Publishing

Just to add to my last blog, what I said about Internet publishers deserves more comment.

A few years ago, when I published The Story of St. Catrick, ebook publishers weren't something you could take all that seriously. Especially, what they call subsidy publishers, like the company where I published Catrick.

A subsidy publisher is one where the author pays a fee, and the publisher does just whatever the auther pays them to do. Unless you're absolutely sure that you have something that will sell, that doesn't need editing for grammer and style errors, and you have a budget to pour into marketing, I'd advise going with a publisher that doesn't charge a fee, but is picky as to what they'll publish -- in other words, they more often than not, send you a polite email saying your manuscript doesn't fit into their publishing agenda. When they do accept you, they take a personal interest in whether it sells or not. It doesn't just sit there, like Catrick did.

'More often than not' is a far better ratio than 999,999 times out of a million, which is more like what you get from standard 'New York' publishers. By 'New York', I don't mean they're necessarily situated in that great city, but that they are a standard paper-only publisher that has to print about a thousand copies of their first editions, and therefore must be absolutely sure that your book is going to sell a big enough persentage of that for them to make it profitible. New York has more than its share of those types, and the top ten lists are done from there.

In a few short years, times have changed. More authors are now making a sizable income from books published on-line. Some best sellers are in the ebook cattigory.

A side product of the downloadable book file (in PDF format or whatever) is P.O.D., or Publishing on Demand. Some publishers do it for you, some rely on a third party to do it. The company where I did Catrick also happens to do POD for other publishers, including one that is now deciding on my Pepe manuscript. POD is where they use ultra modern printer-copiers and desk size book binding machines to print only as many books as have been ordered, be it one, ten or 100. They don't have to pay storage cost, and they have less to loose if your book doesn't sell at all.

However, the non-subsidy companys are still picky, because they edit your book for you, they design a cover, and they market it, which still requires an investment on their part. The fact that they are picky also means that the book buyer can be sure that the books listed will be of a standard quality, and not the rants of some half literate crack-pot as they might find in a subsidy list.

As an author, you do, after all, want a market full of confident buyers.

The biggest obstacle you'll probably find is that a publisher is presently closed to submissions. They'll open again when their present pile of manuscripts get low enough to where they feel they can realisticly tell you they'll look at yours within the next six months to a year. They might say on their site when they expect to open.

The length of time that they take to review your manuscript is the other obstacle, but that's also the case with 'New York' publishers.

Anyway, here are some links. This one is for some articles about the state of internet publishing. Here's another one by author Piers Anthony, author of Zanth, with a list of both subsidy and non subsidy publishers. He comments on each one, giving negative views on some, forwarding his readers comments, and tells you which are subsidy publishers.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Blogsite, school, novels, etc.

I suppose it's about time for a new blog entry, even if I don't have anything profound to say that's going to blow the bloggusphere away. If I don't say something, then the next post below, entitled 'new look' is going to look funny on top with such an ancient date stuck on.

Speaking of 'new look', note the picture of me I've posted, which appears near the bottom of the page in the 'about me' section.

At this very moment, I'm sitting in the computer room of the school as I write. My four year old son has started school now. I hope he picks up Thai quickly. This is the best school for him in that it's bi-lingual. He can learn his Thai without forgetting his English.

I'm still trying to publish my novels. At least I have three on the market, which increases my chances of getting one published. I have all of them listed here. Also, I'm going with the internet publishers, which now seem to have a better future than they did before.

Monday, February 12, 2007

New Look

I've done a bit of revamping. The people have added the option of labels, so I've added those. Also, I've expanded the archives to include some of my favourites from my earlier blogsite. I found I could force older entries by changing the date option, so some of the entries now predate my move to Blogspot. Some of these are also on the list at the top in the right hand panel. Some of them were published as articles on the Next Wave ezine.

Happy surfing...

Friday, February 02, 2007

It's "Love Your Local Atheist" week

On both Scott McKnight's blogsite and Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert, who doesn't believe in a creator -- ha ha, pun intended)', there have been some interesting discussions on atheism. I've put in a comment on both. I'll list them below, but first, here's an interesting one I found on Scott Adams' blog.

Wow - painful posts. I'll try to be brief.

It isn't irrational to look at evidence and make a decision based on what you can observe and trying to think clearly about that.

You have to understand that an orthodox Christian point of view believes that this is too small a way to look at the world as a whole.

Logic, math, philosophy, scientific method, etc... are all things made up by some guy (or a groups of guys over time). That shouldn't diminish them in any way, they are smart and useful and good.

But if you really take the assumption of religious faith seriously for just a second, of course God is bigger than those things - how could a small man-made thing ever adequately define or explain Him?

That would be like taking a square inch of a Van Gogh and saying that there wasn't any evidence for good painting.

With a narrowly defined course of inquiry, of course you'll reach that conclusion. And it would be a rational one.

The bigger question is - is rationality the only measure? Is rationality the best measure?

I mean, if no religious person believes that the scientific method is the way to find God - then why are you confused that they don't buy your logical and scientifically correct arguments? You've lost before you've started. And vice versa.

You have to have an atheist that isn't threatened by considering things outside of the provable, and a believer who isn't threatened by someone who will tend to demand proof :)

It is such a non-starter to not accept the premise of the opposing camp and then start beating on each other.

It seems to me that the only way to have a conversation that isn't the nauseous restating of your already owned notion... is to agree on a premise that you can both live with. Then go from there.

Now, here are the comments I made, first the one I posted on Scott McKnight's blog, which was a disscussion of Dawkin's recent book. The question being posed was this: So - is Dawkins right, is Christianity hopelessly irrational? If not what is the correct approach to development of a rational, unified, and Christian worldview?:

If faith is what we believe simply because we’ve been taught it, then there is a point to Dawkin’s thesis.

For me, there’s more, but I don’t expect someone like Dawkin’s to readily accept it. I would point to Hebrews 11:1, using the litteral Greek terminology of “evidence” as being a legal term, and “substance” as being a scientific term. It’s something that is tangible, and those whose hearts have been been enlightened can see it, and it produces results when the the various factors are right (i.e. “with signs following” Mark 16…), but it’s found in a realm of reality that as yet seems to be out of reach of present day science.

I don’t doubt that if scientific research could be done using instruments that don’t just expand the five senses, but also the sixth sense, or else if quantum theory were expanded to something beyond a theory by enabling us to actually see sub-atomic activity etc. with absolute clarity, then faith would be fully contained within the realm of science. Humanity may never develope that level of skill. What we’re left with is something like a very subjective sixth sense, with a few pointers to be found in places such as scripture — a bit like “seeing through a glass darkly”.

An explanation like that is not enough to convince someone like Dawkins, but it’s enough to assure the likes of myself that what I’m following isn’t something hopelessly irrational.
...and here's the one I posted on the Scott Adams discussion:

I am of the opinion that the reason many theists won't allow atheists the benifit of the doubt that they are honestly atheists, is that some of us theists are still squirming and trying to convince ourselves that our theistic possition is the right one. The more evidence that the atheist's possition is untenable, the more secure we feel. Maybe we have too much to lose if we're proven wrong.

Real faith isn't just going along with something we've been taught all our lives, but, according to Hebrews 11:1, it's the "substance of things hoped for, and the evedince of the unseen." Once I decided I didn't have anything to lose anyway (and probably everything to gain if anyone did convince me of the "truth" of atheism), and rested on that, things became a lot easier.

What I've experienced is enough to convince me, but it may too subjective for someone like you. We might be looking with a different set of lenses, but we're also dealing with person. Proving the existance of a person (as opposed to a substance or a force) can be pretty tricky, especially when that person has a tendency to make himself scarse at times, responding only to those wearing the right set of lenses.

I believe that the way to engage an atheist in a discussion, as with anyone, be it a Moslem, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Nazi, etc., is with respect. That means, don't go in with the assumption that you know more what's going on in the atheist's mind then he/she does. Give him/her the benifit of a doubt that he/she actually is a genuine atheist. If you read just a few of the comments on Scott Adam's blog, you'll see that there are many types of atheists. For some, there's a fine line between atheism and agnosticism. Each has their own reason for calling him/herself an atheist. Also, don't go in claiming that atheism is a belief system that requires faith. Also, understand that the debate is probably not going to win anyone. Your love and respect will win more souls than your knowledge of science, etc.

For the same reason, I also believe one must never argue with a Moslem by referring to the Quran (unless you, yourself were once a Moslem), nor with a rabbi by using the Talmud or the Kaballa (unless you, yourself are Jewish). It's just not nice to try to show off the notion that you know more about the other's area of expertise than they do. It won't win them, rather drive them away.

On the other hand, if an atheist, a rabbi or a Moslem, or any other non-Christian comes at you using the Christian Bible, be gracious and answer him/her as best you can. It's a double standard, I know, but it's their soul we're interested in, not the fairness of the argument.

Friday, January 12, 2007


It's been a while since I blogged. A lot has happened.
Since the entry entitled "We Moved", I have landed a job as a school teacher at a bi-lingual school. I've been teaching there since the end of October.
We really have a lot to be thankful for. About a month and ten days after leaving my job as a software tester in Belfast, I stood in front of a class room full of primary school students and began my attempts to fill their heads with the English Language. The previous blog post, the Christmas Poem, was written for the Christmas program. Five of the best readers in second grade read it in parts while I accompanied them on the violin. It seemed to go over well.
We've also moved to a two bedroom condo in a nice quiet clean neighbourhood with very reasonable rent.
I've also updated the "About Me" blurb on the right.
I hope I'll start being a bit more consistent in my blog posts from now on.