Triune Artistry

Before there was time, there was God, existing in perfect unity as three distinct persons, a mystery no mortal mind can understand. In perfect harmony they wove the foundations of the earth, established the great expanse of the universe, designed all creatures great and small, and fashioned their most wondrous creation – man. The picture painted by Scripture is that of the three working together to bring forth all that is.

It is a humbling notion that this great Triune Artist would allow man, now fallen, to reflect his own creative quality and participate in the process of art. But in so doing, God expresses the beauty of his creation through the artist (or poet or wordsmith or sculptor, whatever you like; and all too often, he does so unknowing who works in him), and the viewer, in turn, gains a greater understanding of God’s creation through the artist’s work. In a way, this process reflect the Triune nature of God, for without the viewer, the art lacks purpose; without the artist, the art lacks form; without God, the art lacks meaning. The three work together to bring forth beauty.

The Secret Power Behind Storytelling

People ask where I get my ideas. Sometimes I can say, sometimes I can’t. I can say where I learned storytelling, though.

I learned it from role playing.

This article mentions how many authors got their start through role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. It’s pretty nifty.

I got involved in role playing relatively late in life – most people seem to start in high school or a little before. I also got involved through a very unorthodox person: my at-the-time girlfriend! Usually it’s the boys dragging the women to the sessions!

But from the very first session I played, I was caught. I remember getting up and acting out a sword fight I had against another player while the other players were stuck in the muck fighting off a horde of zombies. It was dramatic. It was fun. It was instantly addictive in a good way. That dungeon master knew how to put together a fun story.

And then I tried to run a campaign.

And failed miserably.

Well, I don’t know if I failed miserably, but it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. So many story ideas! But… I ran it all wrong. I tried for a second time… and that one just disintegrated.

And then a friend lent me a book: Dungeon Master Secrets 3.0. And that next year, my friends were kind enough to allow me to try again in a very different setting. Instead of Dungeons and Dragons I ran Mage: The Ascension. It was a modern-day setting using magic in very creative ways.

And… it worked.

Role playing taught me how to construct a good story. It taught me how to use characters well. How to interact with the players to create an engaging narrative.

So, for that old girlfriend, thank you for inviting me. For that DM, thank you for letting me play that first time. The experience quite literally changed my life.

And now, though I get to role play rarely, I still tell stories, and it’s so much fun. And the stories are richer for my time as a role player.

Finding Inspiration in Fireworks

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Almost everyone watches fireworks. A beautiful display of danger high above us.  Being the good ole American that I am, I went to see some fireworks too. While I was watching, I decided to come up with adjectives to describe the fireworks differently. It’s a fun writing exercise that can be done anywhere! Here’s a few of my favorite ones.

1. The back of Chris Hemsworth’s head (the actor who plays Thor)

2. A ping-pong ball in a tutu

3. Pixie dust in an exploding bomb

4. Hydrangea bushes

5. Dreadlocks

6. Medusa’s head of snakes

7. The Hydra: a spark dies out, replaced by three more

8. A rose

9. A cheerleader’s pom-pom

10. A bow tie

11. A person puking

12. Saturn (rings and all!) and other planets

I know. You guys reading this post are cracking yourselves up with my insanity. Go ahead. Then create your own insanity. It’s a cool place to be!

Looking at every day objects and trying to creatively express their nature is a good brain teaser. It can help bring more details into your writing because you have more cool ways of expressing those details. I certainly need help with that! People like Tolkien though…a complete different story.

I hope that whoever reads this post will find an inspiration to write more from around them. Maybe even shove some time in their busy schedules to write a story!

Happy 4th to all! Woo America!

Hiatuses Happen

I made it! By my count, I’ve posted three times a week for seven weeks in a row. My original goal with Barrelbottom was to post three times a week for six weeks. I initially failed. A second attempt and I’ve done it!

…though the story obviously isn’t done.

I’m going to go on hiatus for a few weeks; I suspect a month, maybe a bit more. I know I will return, at latest, Monday, August 4th. Why am I breaking my streak?

First, the last few weeks I’ve scrambled to get posts out on time. I want to spend a few weeks without the pressure of posting and still hopefully building up a nice pad of done posts.

Second, for a large chunk of July, I’m simply out of town on vacation. I’m expecting to do a lot of writing while I’m gone, but I don’t to pressure myself into posting, or even writing Barrelbottom if I feel like writing something different.

Third, the last post ended on an appropriate cliffhanger-ish type thing. When I return, the next season will barrel forward with the metaplot and we’ll start pulling characters together. It’s time. It’s more appropriate to pause now before we tackle the next leg of the journey.

Fourth, the thing that derailed me last time was struggling with depression. I’ve felt that I’m “in the breath between storms” for a while now, and lately I’ve felt the first few raindrops hit. I’m going to give myself time to deal with this stormfront. Let’s not set up the writing for failure, shall we?

Fifth, this summer some amazing things are happening at my church, and I want to concentrate on them. God has been doing great things here – I take NO credit! – and I need to make sure I’m mentally free to focus as much as possible.

Sixth… really, do I need to go on?

But for now, the plan is to go on hiatus for Barrelbottom for at least a few weeks, but I will return to three-times-a-week posts August 4th at the latest, barring emergencies. I will likely post other things on the blog here in the meantime – if nothing else, book reviews, and my Bride’s and mine annual “book-hunting” getaway is in mid-July. I’m sure I’ll post to show off our trophies.

So, until then, read good!

Constipated Storytelling

At the beginning of this, about a month and a half ago, I wrote that my goal was to post three times a week for a minimum of six weeks.

Yeah. It didn’t happen.

There’s a lot of things going on that I could blame. First, I’m a pastor, and this is Lent – the buildup to the Festivals of Jesus’s death and resurrection. And this is a hella busy time for me. But I pulled this off with even more writing last year, so I really can’t blame that. (And honestly, my ministry in general was busier last year.)

I am getting paid for a few writing projects, and those take priority. Go figure. However, while those projects do take up time, I should still have time for pure “fun writing.”

Honestly, my non-writing comes down to two factors: I’m healthy, and I’m not healthy.

Let me explain. Continue reading

Systems in overload

Lately I have been doing a lot of writing. I have spent hours at my desk at work typing like a boss, and at home sitting on the couch on my laptop I am still going at it. But the stack of things that I need to work on writing keeps getting bigger.

Unfortunately, a major portion of what I’m writing doesn’t feel like it is all that interesting. Emails, proposals, updating Bible study materials (okay, that’s mostly interesting), and the like have consumed much of my writing time. I’ve been able to produce a handful of pieces for my ministry blog, and a few pieces for a separate ministry blog that I write for but don’t own. And I have actually managed to get in some creative writing here and there.

But I have a ton of projects waiting in the wings. To date, works in progress include four separate short stories, a devotional kit for Holy Week (editing my intern’s work on this one), a week-by-week devotional series for families based around Luther’s Small Catechism, a presentation on parenting, a proposal for a series of family education presentations next school year, and two novels. Yes, I am currently juggling two major story projects amidst the chaos, because my head would explode if I stuck to just one. Also, I have decided to up the pace on my ministry blog to three times a week.

All this is to say nothing of the ideas I have swimming in my head. I have all kinds of notions of short stories, novels, blog topics, and somewhere down the road I’d like to write a book about marriage. Those all seem so far off right now.

But I realized tonight how much I miss writing on this blog, reflecting on my life as a writer and the myriad ways I am using this talent (though the steady stream of rejections for my short stories is making me wonder how much talent there is…). In fact, I am writing this post more as a way to process than anything else. So, should I bite the bullet of insanity and recommit to a weekly posting on this blog? How long will that last?

Ah well. We shall see. I love the chaos of it all. I was in the sixth grade when I realized that I wanted to be a writer. The when and how and through what career has gone through its changes, though I’m very happy to be in the public ministry. I still find the written word the finest way by which I can express what is inside me.

Alright, ramble over. Time to get back to real life. Which is, in my case, a lot more writing.

Whither Fiction?

Wasn’t this blog about… um… Christians writing speculative fiction? Wasn’t this supposed to be about some people writing their speculative fiction that happened to be Christian? So, what happened to the fiction? What’s with all the reviews?

I’ve mentioned it before, but it appears I’m in the “READ MOAR” section of a cycle I run in. However, every review I write, I can feel a little pull… the time to write fiction again is coming, and it’s coming soon.

I’m going to try what I’ve done the last two Lenten seasons: Write a short daily fiction, simply exploring a world with no other goal than that. Just… explore the world. See where it takes me. In the end, maybe it’ll be a fully functional story. Or maybe it’ll just be a bunch of little stories. Who knows? The last two years I tried this it worked out well. I recently reread Nation of the Child and I’m still pretty proud, and Snow and Smoke turned out pretty well, all things considered.

I have no idea what’s coming this year… but I do know that the time is coming, and soon.

Let’s see where imagination takes us this year.

Maybe here? Who knows…