Challenge Accepted!

A friend posted this to my private Facebook wall: 

She then challenged me to actually write such books. 

Well, I won’t write books… but I will attempt some short stories! Once I wrap up this “phase” of Barrelbottom, I’ll start posting some of these! 

(Incidentally, I didn’t post this last week… because I didn’t get around to posting. The stories are written; I’ll just post them next week on the “old” schedule of Monday-Wednesday-Friday.)  

I invite you to come along on this challenge. Can you write GOOD stories with the titles offered here? Good luck! 



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

How Christian should my artistic expression be?

I don’t often spend a lot of time reading Relevant, the trendy online magazine for the modern day Christian. It’s not that I have anything against what the magazine is trying to accomplish, it’s just that I am completely burned out by the word “Relevant” when it applies to faith.

But never mind me and the strange things that turn me off. Last week there was a worthwhile article about artistic expression and the Christian: “Why Christians Should Create.”  The author, a fellow by the name of Zachary Perkins, follows the basic idea that when Christian artists – be they painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, whatever – create something as an expression of their deeply held beliefs, they should not be afraid to be fully expressive. That is, they should not be bound by a making their art fit a certain predefined style in order to be properly “Christian.” For example, a painter may find Cubism to be his preferred style, and Perkins would argue that he should not attempt to adopt an Impressionist style just to be more clearly Christian.

Continue reading


This year I tried valiantly to work my way through the famed NaNoWriMo of November. But alas! It was not to be! I came well short of the 50K word goal, clocking in at a scant 30K. Oh, the humiliation! Oh, the shame! I didn’t even have the excuse that Jon had, starting late! I started on time, and for a while I was clipping along at a decent rate! I even had one day where I went more than 5k words!

But the pressures of life and ministry and work and all that business got in the way, and eventually I realized it was hopeless. I would not be able to complete in time. I don’t get to obtain from NaNoWriMo a fancy digital certificate to post on my facebook wall and blog and access to the neat winner’s poster (that I would have to pay for…) or the neat winner’s shirt (that I would have to pay for…).

But wait! Does that mean all is lost? No, seekers, there is a silver lining! Becuase 30K words is actually a significant portion of a story that has been growing in my head all month long. And now that I’m into December, my life actually settles down a little, at least for a while.

The cool thing is that during November I was pretty disciplined when it came to avoiding time wasters during my free time. I knew that I could either sit and mess around on Facebook or play some silly video game, or I could write. Since I had a goal I wanted to stretch for, I focused on the writing. It isn’t that I didn’t play any little games or that I spent no time on Facebook, but I was a lot more disciplined. And I have found that after a month of that, I kind of want to keep it the way it is. I want to spend more time writing. It is a good habit, and it feels good.

So…. why am I sitting here blogging about it? Should I be writing? Yes! I am setting a new goal for myself, which is to actually finish this story – well, finish the first “book” of the story, because that’s how it is shaping out – by the end of December. Excelsior! Onward and upward! See ya!