A Midnight Surprise

Hi! Mr. Nature here, this time with a startling encounter.

Now I know some of you who live in normal parts of the country are going to wonder why I’m making such a big deal of this. Well, this is the central Jersey suburbs. Democrats rule here, and the natural world is always in their crosshairs. We here don’t expect to see much wildlife.

So there I was, outside in my chair, enjoying a last pipe before bedtime, when I heard a rustling of the leaves in a nearby tree. It sounded like squirrels, but they’re not up so late. Could it be a possum?

Then I heard the sound of claws on bark, and down the tree-trunk, face-first (a cat would climb down tail-first), shinnied a great big raccoon. He climbed up the adjacent tree, whose branches overhang my chair. I know it’s silly to be afraid of a raccoon, but I kept thinking “rabies, maybe?”, so I got up and moved back a few steps.

The raccoon tight-roped out on a branch and looked me in the eye. He messed around in that tree for several minutes before climbing back down. He paused to treat me to another staring contest, then turned and ambled off into the night.

Yeah, OK, sure, it’s not a leopard or something. But it’s been over 30 years since I’ve seen a raccoon in this neighborhood, so I was a bit excited. (I’d just watched some X Files, but I’m sure that had no influence on my state of mind.) Again I thought of the world of Bell Mountain, where long-gone animals turn up as a sign from God.

We could use a sign, these days. But then Jesus Christ Himself is our sign, and God will not detract from His Son. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. I Corinthians 1:22-24

There’s nothing a raccoon can tell us that the Holy Spirit hasn’t already tried to tell us.


Teen Suspended from School for Saying ‘Bless You’

Some of you have already sent your children back to school–public school, that is. You really do need to ask yourselves, “What have I done?”

Here is the latest of thousands of isolated incidents from all over the country: a high school girl in Dyer County, Alabama, was suspended because she said “Bless you” when a classmate sneezed ( http://www.momdot.com/in-school-suspension-for-saying-bless-you-after-a-sneeze-for-real/ ).

Saying “Bless you” after a sneeze is hardly the Sermon on the Mount. But to the wacko from the teachers’ union who was in charge of that class, “Bless you” is forbidden. “We will not have Godly speaking in my class!” said this tormented soul.

You don’t have to live in a blue state for your kids to get a blue state education. The teachers’ unions control public education in all 50 states.

What is it with schoolteachers anymore? Last school year, one of them called police because a kid was playing hangman. Now we’ve got one flying off the handle because a kid said “Bless you.” Who can guess what the reaction would have been to “Gesundheit”?

How do they come up with such a steady supply of kooks to put in front of classrooms? Do you have to prove you’re abnormal, before they’ll give you a teaching certificate?

But the bigger question is to Christian parents who insist on sending their children to these schools: What do you think you’re doing?

Meanwhile, I wish I had a nickle for every time I heard some polyp on the Left snarling about “you Christians trying to impose your beliefs on everyone!” That’s projection. These are facts:

Atheists get to impose their beliefs on everybody else (and so do militant homosexuals).

Christians don’t. Not ever.

And it all starts in the public schools–done on purpose, by the teachers’ unions.


“The Siren Song of Treason” a Review of The Palace by Robert Knight

The Palace, by Lee Duigon, Storehouse Press, Vallecito, California, 321-page large paperback

Reviewed by Robert Knight

If you take Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, place it in a post-modern world of donkey carts, add magical characters and unexplained mysteries, and, most importantly, put God at the center, you have Lee Duigon’s latest fantasy novel.

As with the first five books of his Bell Mountain series, The Palace can stand on its own for new readers, since Mr. Duigon deftly folds in background.

Evil once again masquerades as good, with usurpers to the throne of the kingdom of Obann offering to appease a neighboring tyrant named the Thunder King, whose face no one has seen.

One of the more fascinating aspects of human nature is when traitors attempt to rationalize treason. Mr. Duigon does a wonderful job baring their souls, illustrating the temptation to which we are all vulnerable – excusing our own sin.

Continue reading


Stella Awards

THE STELLA AWARDS – A SALUTE TO OUR LEGAL SYSTEM!

 

STELLA  AWARDS:

It’s time again for the annual ‘Stella Awards’! For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald’s in New Mexico , where she purchased coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right? That’s right; these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head. So keep your head scratcher handy.

Here are the Stellas for year — 2013:

*SEVENTH PLACE *

Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texaswas awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.

Start scratching!

* SIXTH PLACE *

Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles ,California won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn’t notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor’s hubcaps.

Scratch some more…
Continue reading


Snow for Scotland?

Here in New Jersey, this is usually a hot and sticky season. I don’t know what mid-August is normally like in Scotland; but this year it’s cold and wet and snow is in the forecast ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2727734/Wet-cold-bank-holiday-way-forecasters-warn-two-weeks-bad-weather-ahead.html ). The last time it was this cold there, at this time of the year, was in 1919, according to the Weather Service.

Global Warming, eh?

My fear is that archeologists, a thousand or two thousand years from now, seeking for evidence that the fabled civilization of the 21st century actually existed, are going to find Al Gore or John Kerry inside a giant block of ice, with some kind of “Global Warming manifesto” (these monkeys always have a “manifesto”) clutched in their cold, dead fingers.

“Ah, so that’s what happened to them! Right up until the moment they were frozen, the rulers of that lost civilization insisted it was getting warmer!”

Snow in August? Just another sign of Global Warming! Ask any Democrat. Ask any fat-head.

Global Warming makes it cold,

Global Warming makes it hot.

Global Warming makes what is,

And also causes what is not.

I can’t tell you exactly what happens to people who are unfortunate enough to be governed by fools, thieves, liars, charlatans, and criminals… but I’m pretty sure it won’t be good.


I’ve Won Another Award!

Last year, in the Global Ebook Awards, I won a bronze medal for Bell Mountain.

I have just been informed that this year I’ve won a silver medal for The Cellar Beneath the Cellar (Book 2 of the series)!

Does that mean that next you’re I’ll win a gold medal for The Thunder King? Well, I can always hope.

I don’t have all the details yet, except for the fact that they considered many hundreds (or even thousands) of books in all sorts of different categories, and had 205 judges. That strikes me as a lot of judges.

If you haven’t read Cellar yet–well, what are you waiting for?


Harder to Believe in than Centaurs: ‘Dating Naked’

Yes, there is a new reality [sic] TV show called “Dating Naked,” and it really shows couples “dating” in the altogether ( http://www.vh1.com/shows/dating-naked ). Participants will be shipped off to a “primitive island resort, far from the masks of modern society…”  The tapes will be edited to block out certain details.

The purpose of shows like this is to allow the viewer to feel superior to the schlubs they watch humiliating themselves on television. People love to watch others making fools of themselves.

I dispute the charge that the purpose of “Dating Naked” is to provoke the viewer to lustful thoughts. It would be hard to imagine something less provocative. Maybe for these people, putting clothes back on would be a big turn-on. Maybe they do the whole thing backwards. Maybe they start with sex and finally finish up fully-clothed, introducing themselves.

Dating is one of those life experiences that makes you say, fervently, “Thank God I’m married!” I think I would almost rather go back to high school than go back to dating. It would be even worse if you had to do it naked at a “primitive island resort.” I don’t like that word, “primitive.” What does it mean? Lots of bugs everywhere? Lousy room service? Probably better not to know.

Can I please wake up now?


My Fantasy Tool Kit (2)

I read a lot of unpublished fantasy novels. People send them to me, hoping I can help. Most of the time, I can’t.

Believe it or not, most unreadable fantasies are bad because they’re unoriginal. That’s not something any editor can fix, so it’s best not to write an unoriginal novel in the first place.

(Yes, I know there are terrible, unoriginal fantasies that do get published. If you wish to imitate them, be my guest.)

It’s not easy to come up with something new and fresh and different. But you can start by avoiding stuff that’s already been done to death by everybody else–stock characters (like the incredibly clever thief, his brawny barbarian sidekick, and the invincible warrior woman) and stock situations in particular.

In fact, this is very difficult. Almost anything in imaginative fiction has already been imagined, and written about, by someone else.

Which brings us back to characters.

What makes 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea a classic and a favorite? The character of Captain Nemo! What makes The Chronicles of Narnia a continual delight? A whole cast of characters who are fun to read about, and so convincingly drawn by C.S Lewis that they can carry the most outlandish story without dropping it.

If your characters are right, the whole story will be right. Usually.

But we’re writing fantasy, and so everything has to be different from the reader’s everyday world. The kind of fantasy I like offers a fun mix of characters–some are like people you already know; some will be beyond your personal experience, like kings or cardinals, but still similar to persons you’ve heard of; and some are just way out there.

That’s what I’ve tried to do in my Bell Mountain books. The protagonists, Jack and Ellayne, are like a lot of kids you used to know. Villains, like Lord Reesh and Merffin Mord, will remind you of individuals you’ve seen in the news or read about in history. And then there are a few–Wytt the Omah, Helki the Rod (truly a wild man), or Ysbott the Snake–who are just plain off the scale.

Why do I do this? Two reasons.

It’s fun to write and fun to read.

Also, the down-to-earth characters anchor the reader in the story and help him to believe, while the weird characters give the story wings.

I could also talk about fantasy settings and other items in my tool kit; but again, it’s only a blog post, not a seminar–and I can always come back to it later, if you’re interested.


My Fantasy Tool Kit (1)

The hardest thing about writing fantasy is getting the reader to believe in the fantastic things that you’ve made up. The reader wants to believe in something far-out. Otherwise he wouldn’t be reading fantasy.

But still, how do you do it? How do you get someone to feel like he’s really been to Narnia, or heard the Ringwraiths howl as they were hunting him, or ridden with the green Tharks over the dead sea-bottoms of Mars?

It ain’t as easy as it looks.

Not that my work can be compared with any of the above: but according to most of my readers, I have done this successfully.

How?

You could write whole books on this subject, teach whole courses, and this is only a blog post. It’d take a lot of posts to answer the question. So let me just show you one item from my toolbox, which I think is the most important one:

Make your characters real.

If they’re people, even if they’re kings or heroes, make them so the reader can easily imagine interacting with them–and please lay off the stereotypes! Tolkien’s Aragorn, aka “Strider,” is both a hero and a king; but he also displays a full range of emotions like the rest of us. He gets tired, he gets lonely, happy, sad, or angry. Sometimes he makes a wrong decision. He’s everything he ought to be, but doesn’t come off like a plaster saint. As the story goes on, I root for him but sometimes worry about him, too: sometimes I fear he’s not going to make it.

Which is all to say, make your human characters human.

But what about characters who aren’t human? Well, that’s what makes it fantasy.

How do I write Wytt, the fierce little Omah in my Bell Mountain books? Readers tell me they not only believe in him, but love him. How do I do that?

Very carefully!

Wytt works because he conforms to a standard, purely imaginary but a standard nevertheless, of what an Omah is, what he will do or won’t do, how he will think or feel or react differently from any human being. Readers enjoy Wytt because he’s different–not like some of those “elves” or “dwarfs” you meet in a really bad fantasy novel that might as well be greeters at Wal-Mart, because there’s nothing on the inside that really makes them elves or dwarfs.

I know I need to say more on this subject, but I’m running out of space. I’ll come back to it later, if you’re interested.


Not-so-Famous Last Words

Most of us will never get the chance to utter truly famous last words, on a par with “God Himself couldn’t sink this ship” (the Titanic) or “We’ve got ‘em now, boys” (Custer to his troops at the Little Bighorn). For this we may give thanks.

Nevertheless, we’ve all said things that rank as not-so-famous last words. Here are a few I wish I’d never said.

*”Ah, c’mon–nobody could really be that stupid.” What a world of hurt this saying often introduces!

*”How bad can it be?” Have you ever said this about a movie, or a restaurant, and then found out, to your sorrow, just how bad it was capable of being?

*”What can it hurt?” Really, saying that is just asking for it.

*”Don’t bother to call the repairman, I’m sure I can fix it.”

*”They always set the freshness date several days ahead of when it actually goes bad.” Please don’t say that. Don’t even think it.

*”Look, it’s okay–the guy said we can show up whenever we want.”

*”I’ll show off how smart I am by voting for the third-party candidate.” I last said that in 1992. I promise never, ever to say it again.

Do you have any sayings you’d like to take back? Feel free to share!

PS: My wife would like to add this one, “You can’t miss it.”


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