Monday, February 03, 2014

Every New Beginning Comes from Some Other Beginning's End

Hey, everyone! So yeah, it's been a while since I've haunted this corner of cyberspace. There's a lot of dust, ghosts, memories...

Sorry, I won't try to be poetic anymore.

I just wanted to stop by an encourage all of you to head over to the new version of the Least Read Blog. It's part of my newly relaunched website,

Thanks, everyone, for helping me carve out this niche for myself. I hope to see you all in the new place too!

Friday, June 07, 2013

FFF Part VIII --- The Aftermath

Okay, it's been over a month since I did one of these. Sorry about that. Let's get caught up and then keep going, because believe it or not, I wasn't quite done yet. If you want to get caught up in what's going on in this extended "treatment" of a found footage horror film, you can read up on it.

WHERE WE LEFT OFF:  The current parish priest in Garretsburg explained how his predecessor was basically nuts in believing there was a cult in the woods. But then Father Anderson shows up at their motel. He starts to tell them about what's happening, when he has a coughing fit and keels over. At the same time, the footage started to break down, going awash in noise and static.


The camera cuts to a shot of a police car and an ambulance in the motel parking lot. We see the legs of a bunch of people in uniform, along with some EMTs pushing a stretcher into their vehicle.

We can overhear a little bit of the conversation between the cops and the college students:

"So what were you doing when Anderson had this . . . fit?" a deputy asks.

"Just talking to him," Staci said.

"For this 'project' of yours?" another asks.

"Yes," Staci admits, but her voice is hesitant.

"Did you happen to catch the conversation on camera?"

Staci starts to answer, but Ray jumps in, "No, Leon couldn't get the camera started. Then, when Father Anderson had his fit, he dropped it."

A foot steps down in front of the camera, blocking the lens.

The camera then cuts to Leon turning it on again. He faces the camera and explains the situation: "So the cops just left with Father Anderson's body. The EMTs are thinking he had some sort of stroke or a heart attack or something."

"Why'd you lie to them about the camera?" Staci asks off-camera.

Leon swings the camera around to show Staci, Bethany, and Ray in the motel room. Ray is up and pacing.

"Don't you realize what would have happened if we told them we had it on?" Ray asks. "They would have confiscated the camera immediately and we'd have lost everything. Then they probably would have run us out of town. But now they think that we don't have any evidence of what happened."

"'What happened?'" Bethany asks. "You think they murdered him?"

Ray nods. "Of course. Isn't it obvious? He comes back in town to finally talk about what happened with the kid, and next thing you know, he's dead. A little too convenient, don't you think?"

Bethany rises and starts packing her things. "Then that's it. I'm out of here. I don't want to stay here any longer."

"I agree with Bethany," Leon said. "A school project is one thing, but I didn't sign on to investigate a murder!"

Ray turned around. "Now hold on. Let's not chicken out yet! This is just starting to get interesting."

"Don't you get it, Ray?" Bethany's voice is almost a hysterical shriek. "If they killed the father, they could kill us next!"

"Besides, with Father Anderson gone, what else do we have?" Leon asks.

"Not gonna happen, babe. We're fine. Look, let's at least check the camera's footage and see if there's anything that might explain what happened. The least we can do is turn over the footage to the FBI, right?"

Everyone looks to Staci. She turns to Leon. "Dump the footage. Let's see what we have."

So what do they have? We'll find out next week. (I promise!)

Saturday, June 01, 2013


Oh, boy, it has been a while since I've been on here, hasn't it? I've let a lot of stuff slide (sorry, Freaky Fun Friday readers! I promise, the last installment was not the end of that series!).

I blame Reus.

Okay, so it's really my fault. I'm not good at keeping myself motivated, especially when there's a video game to distract me. And Reus (don't ask me how to pronounce it) is an incredible distraction.

The premise is simple: you're a living planet. You are in direct control of four giants (Ocean, Forest, Rock, and Swamp). You use them to create different biomes and place resources (animal, plant, and mineral).

But the giants aren't alone on the planet. There are these pesky things called "humans," and they have a mind of their own. They'll settle anywhere they can find resources and start building special projects. It's up to you to provide the humans what they need so they can build those projects. But at the same time, you also have to keep them in line because, if you don't, they'll turn on you and attack the giants. And you only have 30, 60, or 120 minutes to get as much done as you can.

I've found Reus to be mind-bogglingly addictive, and part of the reason why is the nature of the game. It's a stripped down god-game (think old school Populous) with heavy puzzle elements. Every resource you can place can interact with the stuff next to it. For example, if you place certain animals near minerals, they'll provide more food. Or if you put certain minerals next to plants, those minerals will provide more gold. Part of the challenge is to find the best interaction to help bolster what the humans are up to. And you want the humans to build those projects. Pretty much every time they do, they provide your giants with an "ambassador" that unlocks special powers, allowing the giants to upgrade the resources, leading to more and better interactions that allow the humans to build more and more impressive projects.

Ah, those humans. Love 'em and hate 'em in this game. There literally is no good way to control them (aside from being really careful where you place the resources). They'll sometimes pick odd projects (one of my swamp villages kept trying to build a "Geologist" project, which requires mountains. They were nowhere near a mountain. I finally had to have my Rock Giant destroy the village). And if you give them too many resources too quickly, they'll get greedy. Greed is bad. Greed leads to the villages attacking each other and eventually, the giants.

Not only that, but the game sets unofficial "goals" for each playthrough. For example, one of the goals I'm trying to meet right now is to create a game where all of the villages create 2,000 food together. Meeting those goals unlocks more resources to use in the game (something you also receive the first time the humans build a particular type of project).

Not everything is hunky-dory with this game, however. Figuring everything out is kind of tricky. The game links to a wiki that I've found really helpful, but a lot of what a player does is trial-and-error. That's not necessarily bad, but you have to be careful not to lock yourself into one way of playing.

Also, there are stability issues that have been maddening for me. A few times, my giants have frozen in place and won't take orders. I found an easy fix for that one, but the most recent has really upset me. The game will randomly crash at the same point, over and over. For example, last night, I finally managed to complete some projects that had been eluding me. I had only 15 minutes left in my game. And then it all crashed. I tried reloading from the auto-save, only to have it crash again. And again. And again. Needless to say, I had some unpleasant thoughts about the game.

But that shouldn't stop you from checking out this great game. It's available from a variety of sources and it's only about ten bucks. Well worth the money, believe me!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt Stop #25

Welcome to the 2013 Summer Scavenger Hunt! This hunt has 32 stops and runs 5/17-5/19/13. If you make the loop, reading unique content from 31 different authors, and fill out the Rafflecopter form at Stop #32, you'll be in the running for an iPad Mini (loaded with all our books), or one of two runner-up prizes---all 31 of our new releases in paperback.

Some authors are offering additional prizes, so be sure to read each post thoroughly to be in the running for everything that's available. The contest is open internationally too!

If you've JUST discovered the hunt, I recommend you start at Stop #1, found at But you can also begin here, and keep rolling. Just be aware that if you win, you need to email Lisa Bergren (within 24 hours) the COMPLETED phrase in the correct order (which you construct by gathering clues at each stop). If Lisa doesn't hear back from you with the correct phrase within the time limit, she will move on to the next winner that Rafflecopter draws. Ready? Here we go...

Meet Jill Williamson

Jill Williamson is my personal hero when it comes to writing, and she's a great friend. I first discovered her work when Marcher Lord Press published her Blood of Kings trilogy (By Darkness HidTo Darkness Fled, From Darkness Won). Then I met her at an American Fiction Christian Writers conference, where she pitched my debut novel, Failstate, to her agent, Amanda Luedeke. Simply put, Jill is awesomeness personified!

Haven't heard of Jill before? Here's her official bio:

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens and lives in Oregon with her husband, two children, and a whole lot of deer. Visit Jill online at, where adventure comes to life.

Personally, I'm in awe at the amount of detail and forethought that Jill puts into worldbuilding. It's not an easy trick, creating a new reality from scratch. When Jill does it, you can tell that she's put a lot of hard work and effort into it. And today, she's going to "pull back the curtain," so to speak, and show us how she does it. So, without further ado:

Creating the Future by Jill Williamson

Ever read a book that transports you to the future? That was the challenge I faced when working on my latest novel Captives, which is a dystopian story that takes place in the year 2088. I needed to create a futuristic storyworld that felt real. Here's how I did it.

1. I drew a map.

Maps always get my imagination going. Captives takes place in the future in what was once the ski resort of Mount Crested Butte, Colorado. So, I started with an actual map of the ski resort and added my futurist city. This way I was able to meld the past with my imaginary future. Lots of cool story ideas came from this map. Click on it to zoom in.

 2. I wrote a history for a controlling government that's hiding a secret.

Dystopian novels are cautionary tales in that they take fears from our real world and make them a fictional reality. I had a head start in this area because I already knew what I wanted my storyworld to be like. And it was all Beth Moore's fault! Want to know why? Check this out: 

Once I knew I was writing a futuristic Babylon, I wrote a history of how the Safe Lands came to be such a place. The important thing to remember when creating any fictional government, as dastardly as they might seem, they really do believe they are doing the right thing for the survival of their people. If they're just plain evil for no reason, the story won't feel as realistic.

3. I created technology.

This took some work, and I thank my Facebook followers for helping me brainstorm. Glass can project any image in The Safe Lands, as can human skin. I created SimTags, which are microchips that people can get embedded into their skin to create SimArt, which are virtual tattoos. Also, since everyone is sick, they use personal vaporizers (which are like electronic cigarettes) to take their meds or any other substance like stimulants or candy.

It was pretty fun to make up this stuff, and the combination of it all helped bring the storyworld to life. Check out the official book trailer my publisher made to see what I mean.

Jill's new book, Captives, is simply awesome. Young people have been kidnapped from their homes and taken to an ironically named city, the Safe Lands. But those lands are anything but safe. Can the victims make it home again? Or will the Safe Lands be the end of the road? (I've already read it and loved it!) It is available at bookstores or online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors, and at a bookstore near you.

Captives The Safe Lands


Write down this clue: through
Have it written down? Great! Now head on over to Jill Williamson's website for your next clue!

But wait! For stopping by, I have a special bonus for you!

A few years back, some friends of mine (the folks of Tangled Blue) recorded a  special song, On What Has Now Been Sown, for the release of my first book, Failstate. Well, I'd like to share that song with you. Just click here and fill out the form, and you'll get your free music. It's really, really fun group and I highly suggest you check them out.

Thanks for stopping by!

Star Trek Into Darkness

Hoo boy. Here we go. Earlier today, I sat down to watch Star Trek Into Darkness, and now I'm trying to process exactly what it is I saw.

Let's start with the plot. Captain James Kirk and company are back. Kirk is hoping that he'll be selected to head up a certain five year mission, one that will take him into deep space and go where no one has ever gone before. Only there's a problem. Actually, more than one. At first, the fly in the ointment is Kirk himself. He still hasn't learned how to follow the rules, much to the chagrin of his first officer, Mr. Spock. An adventure on a primitive planet threatens to derail Kirk's dreams.

But then things really go awry when a man named John Harrison attacks a Starfleet archive. But then he makes things personal for Kirk when he attacks Starfleet's leadership directly. Kirk volunteers to go after Harrison. But that's a problem. Harrison should be far out of their reach. By going after him, Kirk is committing his crew to delve into darkness and they'll all be fortunate to emerge unscathed.

I had a really fun time watching this movie. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto embody their characters to the fullest (Quinto especially; it's eerie). Those two are definitely the heart and soul of the movie and they are more than capable of carrying the franchise forward. The action sequences were great, the plot had plenty of twists and turns, and there were more than a few subtle nods inserted for the fans (I caught two in quick succession that made me smile, two shout outs to DS9 and Enterprise).

But as much as I enjoyed this movie, I'm still a little frustrated by it, but before I get into why, I need to trot out my old friend again...

Okay. I've seen this particular plot point spoiled in numerous places (I'm looking at you, imdb and Entertainment Weekly), but let's talk about who John Harrison really is. Yes, it's a front and yes, if you're a Trekkie, you're going to know who this guy is. When I heard who Benedict Cumberbatch was really playing, I about went through the roof.

My first objection had to do with the continuity of the larger Star Trek universe. Yes, I know these movies are set in an alternate reality, but even still, I had a hard time wrapping my mind about how Harrison could really be . . . him. I'm sorry, even with Godzilla warning people off, I'm still not going to say the name. Thankfully, this objection was answered somewhat handily. They came up with a good "in story" reason and I accept their little tweak to the storyline. It works.

But my larger objection is that, in some ways, this is a retread. By resurrecting a classic Trek villain, we're just covering old ground again. Now, in some ways, I get it. This new movie series is a reboot and that makes everything fair game. But at the same time, I kind of wish we could have seen something a little newer. That's all.

Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of fun. I can't wait to see what's coming next.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Wordcount Wednesday

I'm just going to say this now: I hate the flu. Despise it. I got nailed with it twice this past week. It took me out of commission for two days and then again this past weekend. As a result, I've been having some trouble bouncing back. I still managed to do some writing, but again, not enough.

As of right now, Failstate #3 is at 53,087 words. That's only 4,180 more than last week. I'll have to step it up some more if I can.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Son of Truth

Rowen Mar and Caleb Tala are back in Son of Truth by Morgan Busse, a book that helps set up what can only be an epic confrontation in the final chapters.

When we last left them, Rowen had wiped out the invading Temanin army, thus saving the White City from destruction. But she also confronted and awakened something in the Temanin assassin, Caleb Tala.

Now both Rowen and Caleb have new challenges to face. Rowen, for example, has received a call for help from the distant city of Thyra. In the last book, an evil called the Shadonae has overrun the city and its Monastery, sending the soon-to-be scribe named Nierne to seek help from the Eldarans. Since Rowen is the last living Eldaran (that she knows of), she agrees to go with Nierne and fight this force of evil, even if it does mean leaving the rugged Lore Palancar behind. But the journey is not easy and takes and unexpected turn. Rowen must sacrifice something great to save her companions, something that might change her life forever.

Caleb, in the meantime, must come to grips with the fact that he's a changed man. He's no longer the ruthless assassin he once was. His experience with Rowen has revealed a completely different world to him, one that he barely understands. Maybe Nierne could help him understand his role, but Nierne is a constant reminder of the man he used to be, one that he's not comfortable remembering.

I really enjoyed this book. I think it's little surprise that Morgan is a 2013 Christy finalist for Daughter of Light. She is an extremely skilled writer and I loved losing myself in this world once again. Morgan has created some fantastic characters and concepts.

My one gripe (and it's a small one!) is that this book is more of a bridge than a complete tale in itself. It's obvious that there's another story to come. That's not a problem per se, but I wished that the book had it's own self-contained tale.

That didn't truly diminish my enjoyment, though. I can't wait to see how this epic tale concludes!

Friday, May 03, 2013

FFF Part VII --- A Dead End?

WHERE WE LEFT OFF: Staci and Leon struck out when they tried to interview the locals. Ray, surprisingly, uncovered a pattern: approximately every three years, someone goes missing from town. The disappearances are explained different ways. Not only that, but the local Catholic priest resigned after one of the disappearances. He claimed they were the work of a cult in the nearby woods. The gang decided to interview the local priest to find out what happened.


The next morning, Staci, Leon, Bethany, and Ray head over to the local Catholic parish and ask to speak with the priest. Eventually a middle-aged man who introduces himself as Father Collins comes out. He seems friendly if a bit wary when he sees the camera. Staci quickly explains that they're shooting a documentary, that they have all of the permits, and they just had a few questions for him. Would he mind sitting down and chatting with them? Father Collins seems unsure, but he agrees.

The camera cuts to the interior of the church. Father Collins is seated in one of the pews and facing the camera. Staci is apparently standing just off screen. Father Collins asks where Ray and Bethany had gone. Staci assures him that they'll be respectful (although her tone makes it sound as if she isn't so sure).

They chat for a while, getting his background. He's been in Garretsburg for the last ten years since the former priest resigned. Staci immediately broaches the subject:

"We understand that the former priest resigned because a little boy went missing?"

Father Collins holds up a hand. "Now hold on. I know that it's become acceptable to assume that we priests are always involved in nefarious plots against little kids, but Father Anderson had nothing to do with his disappearance. He simply became overwhelmed and suffered a mental breakdown."

"No, we understand that. But didn't he claim that there was some sort of cult out in the woods?" Staci asks.

Father Collins snorts. "Ridiculous. Like I said, I've been here ten years and I haven't seen any evidence of a cult."

"So why did Father Anderson think there was one here?"

"Because of the little boy. His name was Tyler Engler and he belonged to our parish. Father Anderson was very close to the Engler family and he took the disappearance hard. When the sheriff ran out of leads, Father Anderson started his own 'investigation.' His only theory was the so-called cult."

"What evidence did he have?" Staci asks.

Father Collins laughs. "''Evidence' is too generous. 'Conjecture' and 'guesses' is even too strong. He spotted what he thought was a pattern and ran with it. Before too long, he was so worked up he just . . . snapped. Listen, I don't know what this school project is you're working on, but if it has anything to do with Father Anderson, you're only going to wind up disappointed."

The camera cuts to Staci and Leon waiting out in the parking lot afterwards. Ray and Bethany jog up to the car.

"Where were you two?" Staci demands. "If you two snuck off to---"

"Hey, come on, give us some credit," Ray says. "While you two were playing nice with Father Collins, we did some digging on our own. I distracted the parish secretary and Bethany found Father Anderson's contact number. Why ask his replacement when you can ask the real deal?"

Staci squeals and hugs Ray. But their celebration is cut short when Leon notices the sheriff's car parked down the block. They can't see if someone's in the front seat or not, but Leon suggests they get out of there.

The camera switches back on late at night in the motel room. Someone is pounding on the door. Staci turns to Leon and asks if he knows what's going on. The camera drops onto the bed (still pointed at the door, of course). Leon creeps over to the door and opens it.

Standing outside is a bedraggled looking middle-aged man. He seems twitchy and a little off. Leon demands to know who he is.

"What do you mean? You called me!" the man says.

Staci creeps around Leon. "Father Anderson?"

The man nods. "Who else? So are you here to reveal the truth? Is someone finally going to listen to me?"

"Come in," Staci says. She then pounds on the wall.

A second later, Ray and Bethany come into the room. Leon retrieves the camera and gets it pointed at Father Anderson.

"So what can you tell us about this 'cult?'" Staci asks.

Father Anderson collapses onto the bed and coughs. "I hear doubt in your voice, young lady. But I had to come anyway. For Tyler. His disappearance is my fault."

"Why do you say that?" Staci asks.

"Because I ignored the signs around me. Because I didn't pay attention to the evil that's boiling right under the surface." He coughs again.

"Let's jettison the poetry, okay?" Ray says.

Bethany elbows him.

"I don't blame anyone for being skeptical, but Garretsburg has been poisoned for a long time and no one knows." Another long cough. "No one but me."

"Why? What's going on here?" Staci asks.

"Do you know about the pattern?" Father Anderson asks.

"1,008 days," Ray says.

Father Anderson nods. "Three lunar years. Precisely. And the pattern is about to restart soon. That's why I came back when you called. That's why..."

He breaks down in a coughing fit. As he does, the footage goes blurry and begins to break down. It stutters and skips, odd screeching noises cutting through the frantic sounds of Staci and Leon. It's hard to tell what's happening exactly, but it looks as though Father Anderson is having some sort of seizure. He collapses off the bed before the footage goes to static and then nothing.

So what happened? You'll have to wait until next week to find out for sure!