Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas News

The holiday season finds us ensconced in N. Ireland, in a nice house with a big back yard, in N. Belfast, which is now fully furnished; Abie is in school; and Pontip has begun her role as a staff member of YWAM Belfast. Her work will begin in earnest when the DTS starts in mid-January. I'm still job hunting, but we are now receiving benefits that will keep us going until I start work.

Thanks to some fellow YWAMmers living not far from us, we found a nice integrated school. Both of their kids go there and they give Abie a lift as well. Their youngest, Eilice, is in Abie's class.

Much to Abie's delight, God saw fit not to back me up when I told him it doesn't actually snow much in Ireland! We've had an early snow. The picture below was taken today in front of our house. He's also made new friends of some of our neighbour kids who happened to be out throwing snowballs.

We'll be spending Christmas day with my cousins, along with their family, and my dad. They've been a great help in getting us situated.

Here's wishing everyone a very blessed Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Review of R.C.Baze's Overseer's Island

Another book review:

If there's anything you need to remember, it's that Chuck Baze's Overseer's Island is a fantasy novel. Our hero, Jack Murphy is an alcoholic living in a cheap hotel room. He washes dishes at the local greasy spoon for minimum wage.

The wizened wizard of this fantasy is his neighbour, Carl Langum, who talks like your grandpa, and takes a swig of Jack's bourbon whenever he enters the room. Chuck Baze's fellow Texans should find it refreshing that he doesn't speak with the noble but quaint language of Gandolf, Merlin, or Professor Dumbledore.

But the story is obviously not set in Texas in something-something "Year of our Lord", but somewhere on the "Bastenian Continent" in a year designated, A.S. -- presumably "After Secession". That's when the "Free States" seceded from the "Trilov Monarchy". The popular religion isn't Bible Belt Christianity, but that handed down from the "Gima Priests".

But the characters are definately Texan. When Carl knocks on Jacks door first thing in the morning of the day all the action begins, Jack says, "Jesus, Carl, I thought it was someone important!" Where the expression, "Jesus" came from, or the Irishness of Jack's Surname, is one of the mysteries of the Bastenian Continent.

That isn't a criticism of Chuck Baze's novel, simply an observation. If Tolkein could import actual medieval European culture into Middle Earth, why can't Baze do the same with Texan culture? All he wants is a character that many potential readers will relate to. It's about a down-and-outer who's sunk about as low as one can. Baze paints him using the cultural symbols that we know only too well. He's your high-school career councillor's worst case scenario.

So, back to the story: There's a good reason he's an alcoholic. His dreams have driven him to drink. The realness and repetitiveness of them convince him that they are memories of previous incarnations. In each one, he remembers himself being murdered. The horror of it, many times per night, makes him dread going to sleep.

Carl Langum's excuse for showing interest is his screams during the night, but really, he knows exactly what's happening. Every one of Jack's lives for the last thousand or so years have indeed been shortened, in each case, by the same person. It's someone whose sole purpose for existing is to track him down and kill him before he can fulfil his mission.

But what is that mission? That's the question that still puzzles' Carl. They can only find out when the two go to the Overseers' Island. How they get there? If I told you, that would be a spoiler.
Carl, as I said, is the wizened wizard of this fantasy. He's a Calta Brici, one who knows how to derive telekinetic powers from Ley Lines and Nexus Points. I Googled "Calta Brici" and "Ley Lines". While I found plenty of material on the latter, I think that "Calta Brici" is a Chuck Baze invention. The various Calta Brici characters in the story insist that the art isn't magical, rather it's based on gravitational and magnetic forces that run through the Ley Lines and are especially strong around Nexus Points, where the lines intersect.

Carl knows all about that, and he also knows that the popular religion of "Gima" doesn't tell the whole story of the earth's beginnings. The real story begins with the "Overseers", who are 13 very special people, not quite gods, but not human either. They were assigned as the guardians and teachers of humanity. Only one of them was given the power to administer death, either to humans or his fellow Overseers, as a last resort in administering discipline. However, that power went to his head. He is Shaitiman, the Destroyer, who thinks he's a god.

Shaitiman has only one fear. That is Jack Murphy, or Cassimus, as he was in his original incarnation. The narrative is that of Jack's quest to find out why he is so feared, and once having found out, how to remember what he needs to know from all his past incarnations to complete his mission.

Reincarnation isn't really a part of the world-view of Overseer's Island. Everyone else enters the "afterlife" on dying, but only two people have been destined to endless rebirths, Jack Murphy/Cassimus and the one sent by Shaitiman to hunt him down.

In the course of the story, Jack begins to remember. At first, he surprises himself by speaking out about things he didn't remember learning, but he's learned it, none-the-less. His endless reincarnations have given him valuable experience which he must learn to tap into.

One of these is the art of the Calta Brici. Cassimus had it, but Jack Murphy has lost it. It's not something he must learn, but remember.

Author Chuck Baze, very skilfully, renders the process of recapturing the lost art in a believable way. There are also other things that return. Jack Murphy, the down-and-outer, was too far out of it to have a love life. Cassimus, however, had a lover, a ravishingly beautiful woman. Jack has no memory of her, but soon, begins to remember missing her in subsequent lives -- I'll stop there, or I'll spoil it. But Chuck Baze does it beautifully.

Things like Calta Brici, military strategy, swordsmanship, interpersonal relationships, as well as the overall plot, are Chuck's strong points. Relationships are something that's lacking in many a Fantasy or Science Fiction story, but not in this one. Whether it's a growing love between Jack Murphy and the aforementioned lady, the deep friendship between him and Carl Langum, or the father that Jack never had, but finds in the one he had as Cassimus; the reader will find a warm safe haven.

If only the characters didn't talk so much. Much of the action is dialogue driven, which is good. However, it sometimes feels like the characters, in explaining their perceptions, don't know when to stop, and keep it up well after the reader has already got the point. Perhaps in a later edition this can be adjusted -- or at least, in the sequel...

It's a great story, and the ending does seem to hint at a sequel, probably a whole series. I think that once having read Overseer's Island, the reader will be looking forward to getting their hands on the next one.

Get the book at Readers Eden, the same place that publishes Pepe

Thursday, October 08, 2009

More Poetry

My 7th grade English teacher told me there's a difference between poems and rhymes. She assessed the few lines I showed her as the latter. I suppose today's offering also classifies as the same:

I've finally finished a long one that I began about six years ago. It's a parody of Mother Goose. If you enjoy the occasional silly but amusing rhyme, you may enjoy the adventures of jack horner and jill moffet

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pepe Haiku

What if, instead of chapter titles, one used haiku? I bounced that idea off my publisher as Pepe was being prepared for publication, but she didn't want to do it.

Anyway, I did have a whole set of haiku ready to use, and even had one file of my Pepe manuscript with the haiku in place. I've decided to post them on my Author's Den Page, for anyone who's interested.

There's a lot about poverty, slum life and homeless children there.

Here's one I actually made up in front of the creative writing class I was teaching for summer school over a year ago:

the boy with no shoes
now you see him, now you don't
my wallet -- it's gone!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Scot McKnight reviews Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle

Scot McKnight has a good review of a short story by J.R.R.Tokien, Leaf, by Niggle. I remember reading that book as a teen, not long after reading the Trilogy. I had recently thought that I would like to get my hands on it once again, as I remember that it dealt with issues of the present life, and how it affects the after life.

Anyway, Scot McKnight highlights some issues in which Tolkien demonstrates that the Christian belief is in stark contrast to that of Neo Platonism. That Greek philosophy held that this life is unimportant in comparison to the after life. In Leaf, by Niggle, the protagonist finds that his life long endeavour is only a prelude to what's to come.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Story of Saint Catrick -- published at Smashwords

I've made a discovery which I think will be useful to myself and many other authors out there.

The book review I did in my last post was for a book that has been published online at Smashwords. I wanted to post the review on his authors page, and in doing so, I was required to open an account. Later, I realised that my Smashwords account entitles me to publish any of my other (unpublished) novels as well, for the low low price of... -- free!

I had never heard of that before. Either a publisher has to accept your manuscript (with the idea that he/she can sell it), or you have to pay them (as in the case of a subsidy publisher). The reason you pay them is that they put out a lot of work in formatting your manuscript for sale.

However, Mark Coker, the proprietor of Smashwords, has come up with a nifty computer program that will take a Word document (in .doc or .rtf format) and automatically distill it as a whole bunch of files for various e-book readers, including PDF, Kindle, Palm Pilot, Sony and (I think) all the ones Pepe is in. That costs him nothing, therefore, it costs me nothing. This has taken the e-book industry a step further.

Anyway, I decided to republish Catrick. It's now up at Smashwords. It's no longer free, but you can read the first 50% as a free sample before downloading the whole thing for US$2.00.

You can click here for Catrick and my Author's Profile.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review: Absence of Faith, by Anthony Samuel Policastro

A narrative that incorporates elements of a mystery, disaster, medical thriller -- even, at times, a romance novel; I found Absence of Faith a good read.

Dr. Carson, while at the wheel, goes into a trance -- or is it death? It seems like he's descending into hell, is torn limb from limb by a demon dog, subject to intense fire, and meets the devil. He is heroically rescued by his wife from the river, but his vital signs fail. He awakens in the morgue.

His return to life is explainable as it's happened before in medical history. What mystifies the doctors is that his skin is burned all over as though he'd really been burning in hell.

Other people in the small religious community begin to have the same experience. It's dubbed the Hell Fire Syndrome.

Dr. Carson manages to hold to the view that it's no more than a rare unknown disease. For the local community, good religious folks who believe in heaven for the righteous, it has other implications. Mass hysteria is one of the results. But that's not all. There are the Satanists who take maximum advantage of the situation -- or are they the cause?

Has Satan won the ultimate battle between good and evil? Is it a curse? Is it a medical phenomenon? That's the mystery. At the end of the roller-coaster ride, Policastro brings it to a satisfying finish.

As a mystery and a thriller, it pleases. You've got your money's worth. No worries there.

After following Dr. Carson, his wife and medical colleagues for several chapters, we meet Kyle and Chantress. Kyle's introduction is a vivid display of textual special effects. Through a spirit medium, he learns deep dark secrets about himself that promise an interesting story.

Chantress is an old hand in New Age and Occult, whereas Kyle, despite the role he's to play, is a newbie. Chantress explains at great length, the difference between Satanism (the dark side), and New Age, or the light side. She considers herself the latter. With Kyle in toe she separates herself from the other, starts a new group and invites a few like minded friends along.

During some of the passages it seems as though the author has a lot to get off his chest and it behoves his characters to accommodate him. Examples: Chantress' explanation as to the reasons people choose to get into Satanism or New Age, later, Dr. Stoke's goes on about the value of religion in society, then there's an entire Sunday sermon, quoted verbatim. At times, I didn't know whether the book was pushing New Age, Occult, or Christianity.

The intimate scenes between Kyle and Chantress told me it definitely wasn't the latter. It's not a book you'd recommend to the youth of your local church. In this respect, it seemed like a romance novel (to me anyway). It goes from blissful love, to betrayal, to the kind of emotion that can only happen when a dream, once-in-a-lifetime relationship has gone horribly wrong.

That's not a spoiler. The medium, at the beginning, will have already told you that would happen.

The book feels authentic in many ways: as a medical thriller; the social turmoil in the small community; though I think the Satanists, as depicted here, are probably an urban myth. Certain sources that we used to rely on for this, such as The Satan Seller, have been discredited as fraudulent. (Covens and witches do exist -- as Wiccans, worshipping the goddess Diana, not the Biblical Satan. They’d probably choose to identify with Chantress in our narrative rather than the dark side).

However, like gun slingers of the wild west and KGB agents in Venice, they make a good story, and Anthony Samuel Policastro has played his hand well.

Robby Charters

Book Proffesionals

I've joined a new Authors' group. To join, I had to agree to read four books by other authors on the group, and write a review of them. Hopefully, that means that Pepe will be also be reviewed four times.

My next post will be the first review I've written. Books reviewed here won't necessarily fit into the theme of this website, but as a more-or-less professional service. At least, the review itself should tell you if you ought to like them or not.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Gospel of the Kingdom -- Jesus Creed

Scot McKnight has been talking about the Gospel of the Kingdom as presented in Luke's two books. (his Gospel, and Acts of the Apostles). He pinpoints many things that could correct our perception of the gospel message.

Forinstance, Campus Crusade's 4 Spiritual Laws and other similar bullet-point presentations, are not theologically wrong, just not the whole story. We're not giving the broader picture, only what applies to me, and, "how can I get to heaven?"

You'll find the following reconstruction on his most recent installment. You'll recognise the Campus Crusade version, but I believe this says it all:

God loves you and everyone else and has a plan for us: the kingdom community.

But you and everyone else have a sin problem that separates you and everyone else from God, from yourselves, from one another, and from the good world God made for you.

The good news is that Jesus lived for you, died for you, was raised for you, and sent the Spirit for you - so you all can live as the beloved community.

If you enter into Jesus' story, by repentance and faith, you can be reconnected to God, to yourself, to others, and to this world.

Those who are reconnected like this will live now as God's community and will find themselves eternally in union with God and communion with others.

Those who preach this gospel will not deconstruct the church. Instead, they will participate in what God is doing: constructing the kingdom community even now.

To get access to all the posts he done on this subject, use the Kingdom tag.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm a Redroom Author

Update on my previous post. I've now been approved as a Redroom author. I suppose, now I have to update the sidebar on this blogpage...

Monday, May 11, 2009

My new Redroom account

I've now got an account on Redroom, which is a site for authors and anyone interested in them. I've applied for status as an author, which they'll consider over the next couple of weeks. In the mean time, I've got a page, including a secondary blog site.

I found out about it through Derek Leman's blog. He's now a Redroom author.

Check it out, and visit a few authors...

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Story of St Catrick

For a limited time only, I'm posting this one as a free download. It requires some work before the publisher will look at it, so when I'm ready to submit it, I'll take it down again. The final released version will thus be different from this one. It's one I did several years ago, and represents some of my thoughts regarding ethnic reconciliation.

This was actually my first published novel. I did it through GreatUnPublished, a self publishing POD publisher, since taken over by Booksurge. I had to pay US$90 to get it done, which means it didn't matter how good it was. A lot of my friends liked it (at least, they said they did). My uncle, a Presbyterian minister like it very much.

Here's the blurb I used to have for it:

Maybe a bit like Wind in the Willows, except with a socio-political slant, it's about ethnic reconciliation, using animal species instead of human ethnic groups.

Catrick, a cat living in cat society, realises that the Maker didn't create animals to eat oneanother, but through the knowledge of the Maker animals will stop hurting each other. Catrick sets out to spread the knowledge of the Maker in the city of Catropolis where he lives, and begins to affect other cats, as well as rodents living in the various rodent ghettoes.

A species war is raging -- the rodents are fighting to free themselves from the shackles of cat-rule, and the cats generally assume they are the superior species. But as Catrick's message gains influence, it becomes a three way battle.

It seemed simple and straightforward at first, but neither Catrick nor his friend, David Mousecovitz realised what they are in for -- political agendas, prejudices, memories of past atrocities, fears, and countless reasons for not doing the obvious.

This might be about Northern Ireland, or it might be about Neo Nazis vs the Jews, or maybe blacks vs whites, or about Yugoslavia, Indonesia, or any one of countless focal points of cultural intolerance -- it's about what those who are truly committed to peace and reconciliation must be prepared to face.

Anyway, have a read ...

>>>note>>> as of 24, July, 2009, Catrick is no longer a free download. The above links will now take you to, where you can read 50% of the novel as a free sample, before downloading the whole thing for US$2.00.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Silent Comix

It's a series of feature length cartoons that I hope will amuse everyone including non-English speakers and illiterate people.

I got the idea as I was teaching English to private students several years ago. I scrawled the cartoons on A4 sheets of paper with a pencil, had the students look at the cartoon and tell me the story in English. It worked pretty well. Later, I inked them in, scanned them, and touched them up a bit. Here are some of my best ones. ESL teachers may find these useful.

Read and enjoy...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Marketing Pepe

The book has been released for close to a month now. That is no guarantee that people are buying it. On one hand, the publisher and the editor did a lot of work, first in selecting it, then in helping to further turn it into a marketable product. At least, I'm confident it's something people will buy if the right people told them to buy it. It's not just me, then, who thinks it's a good book. But it will require marketing. That's where I am now.

Since it is an ebook, the obvious place to do that is on the Internet. I've submitted it to a few reviewers, whom I hope will help. I'm also tweaking my web presence so that search engines find me via key words people will be likely to use. There are also banner exchange services, and the web rings.

I've posted a new page just for Pepe: Like this blog page, it rewards visitors with a chance to download free stories, novellas, etc. I'll soon re post some of my comix somewhere to add to the list of freebies.

Now, the obvious question: How does someone who hates consumerism go about marketing a book? Would it be like a Communist or a Nazi using the democratic system to campaign for the abolition of democracy?

I do have to live with myself, but I think there is a sensible answer: That's to recognise that our whole culture has been so moulded by the forces of consumerism, that probably the only way to totally avoid it is to become Amish. We're affected by it in ways we don't realise. However, if we pinpoint what it is about consumerism that we don't like, that is ugly, that is displeasing to God, we can carefully avoid some of the pitfalls without going off to live in the hills, and maybe even sell a book in the process.

Yeshua praised the man in his "parable of the unjust steward" who used filthy mammon to make friends of this world, saying, "The sons of this world are wiser than the Sons of Light". Recent study shows that Yeshua's use of the term "sons of light" could have been a reference to the Essenes, who would have been every bit as anti-consumerist as the Amish.

To steer a straight course, there are two things we need to avoid, 1: hype, and 2: worldliness. Marketing has been with us for thousands of years. Yeshua wasn't against markets. He only cleared the Holy Temple of people who were doing it in the wrong place while ripping people off. Hype is ripping people off, because it's stretching the truth, which is in effect, lying. I don't have to lie to say I think Pepe is good quality reading material. The other thing to avoid is worldliness. Consumerism has all but made a religion of "loving the world", in direct opposition to the Kingdom of God.

So, the only other question is, how heavy to market my book without boring all my friends...?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Pepe Now Available

Here it is folks... Pepe is now a published novel -- electronically, that is. Click on the graphic at the right to buy and download your copy for USD4.95.

Half of my royalties will go to Father Joe's Mercy Centre. They appear in the story as Fr. Antonio and Mercy House. That would be about USD1.20 would go to help homeless children and AIDS victims, the other USD1.20 will help put food on our table.

Anyway, here's jacket cover blurb:

The year is 2040. We have people living on Mars, but haven't sorted out life on earth yet. To the boy washing windscreens at the traffic signal, it could just as well be 1940.

The boy is Pepe. He doesn't know who his real parents are. His 'grandma' dies in a slum fire, and he is left to fend for himself and his grandma's biological granddaughter, Po, whom he treats like a real sister. They live in an abandoned construction site with other homeless children. With help from a young computer hacker named Raul and a mystical old man named Atsuko, Pepe discovers his true identity.

The villain: General Don Juan Clemente, who seized power from the king ten years ago, and installed himself as president for life. The General has a degenerative disease that is paralysing him. However, his brain has been linked to a computer network that enables him to control the country and destroy any threat to his power. Right now, his biggest threat is the very existence of Pepe.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

coming VERY soon

Pepe is now in the process of being formatted for release. It should be any day now, that I replace this graphic at the right with one that says "Now Available".

The publisher prevailed on me for one last change. It's now set in 2040 and thereafter, not 2020. She thought 2020 was too early to expect the sea water to rise to the point where dikes were necessary to protect coastal farmland. It didn't matter to me whether it happened so soon -- actually it does matter! I hope it doesn't! -- but I also lament one bit where the general (who took over the country by force in 2002 (to be changed to 2042) has a campaign called "2020 - Cardovia's Year of Vision". However, I've been told now that opticians don't say 20-20 any more in reference to normal eye-sight.

As for keeping it in 2020, I suppose the only mistake would have been adding the prospect of global warming and rising seawater. I suppose it's not certain how soon they'll begin rising. It's just that I read Cosmos Magazine that the changes could be as early as 2020, so in a panic, I went to my manuscript and and added dikes to protect my beloved Cardovia from too much change.

The other technological advances described in Pepe are probably on target. We might have Binary to Neuro technology by then (linking computers directly to people's brains), which is one of the central high tech ideas in the book -- changing an already despotic head of state into the ultimate villain.

As far as missing it, I'd be in good company. I think William Gibson set his story, Virtual Light, in 2005. George Orwell was certainly off the mark for 1984 (aren't you glad?), and as for Arthor C. Clark's 2001 ...