March 29, 2009

WRITING ADVICE: Avoiding Lin Oliver’s Wisdom Once Again and Showcasing Instead, My Great Query Blunder…

About two weeks ago, I emailed a query to a very popular agent.

It’s the second time I sent him something. The first time, I mailed a very professional, brief query. After reading the first five pages, he requested the next 30 pages – though he later “stood aside” regretfully and politely.

For the following year, I followed his column and read his advice, gleaning lots of good information from him. He was the agent I wanted to represent my work from then on. After writing a young adult novel, revising it and polishing it, I figured it was ready.

I felt like I knew this agent. I knew he had a great sense of humor, was warm, helpful and kind-hearted. I felt like we were FRIENDS because I knew so much about him.

He on the other hand, knew absolutely NOTHING about me. His profile has been hit nearly 37,000 times. He’s been quoted, his blog has won multiple awards and he has 1070 followers on eBlogger. My opening sentence must have sounded like a pick-up line to him. It sounded like I was a dear friend writing a quick note to a pal rather than what it was SUPPOSED be – a business letter between total strangers.

I learned a lesson here – the internet is NOT your friend. I mean, we warn kids about the dangers of stalkers. We throw up firewalls right and left because people are out to take our money. And yet just because I read this agent's blog, I thought I knew him. And I didn’t – and far worse, he didn’t know me from an internet stalker. The moral of the story here is, unfortunately, also one of the agent’s rules:

“Way casual…doesn’t bode well for book…”

Wanna know what I wrote? Wanna know how I may have blown a chance to be represented by this popular agent? In the interest of helping others not make the same mistake that I did, I’ll give it to you here. Please be kind…and don’t make the mistake I made. YOU make sure you write a professional query letter!

Here’s how I started it:

“Dear _______ ________,
Excepting our wives, you and I would make a perfect couple. But more on that later...”

I am so embarrassed. If this agent ever takes the chance to look at my stuff again, I will be truly blessed. If he doesn’t, I will only have gotten what I deserved.

March 22, 2009

A SLICE OF PIE: Jesus -- 21st Century Superhero?

(Sorry, sorry, sorry! Mid-semester finals, family happenings and life conspired to make this late. Usually it's up before dawn! Enjoy and comment!)

When I first came up with the idea for this essay, I had just watched, HANCOCK, one of actor Will Smith’s recent movies. In it, Hancock, who appears to be a superhero is actually the last of several gods and goddesses, angels. “Immortals” as Mary Embrey calls herself and her linked husband, Hancock.

While it might not be a new idea, I’ve often wondered if Jesus might have taken the guise of a superhero had He come to Earth in the early part of the 21st Century.

I’m sure some would argue that he would have been just a normal, average, everyday person. I don’t disagree. After his birth and a few other events that fulfilled Scripture (though some argue that He didn’t fulfill any of them, others that the Scriptures were edited to contain Him, others still that He didn’t even exist (though He is recorded in the Roman records of the time and His life and that of the early church is written by the Greek Eusebius)), He pretty much stayed under the radar until He was 33. Then suddenly, He was a super.

So if He had come today, would He have appeared in tights – or black leather, as spandex superheroes seem to be out of fashion now? Would He have saved humanity from itself? Would He have found Osama bin Laden – better yet, would He have caught and grounded the planes BEFORE they hit the Twin Towers? Would he have picked up Harris and Klebold before they massacred twelve students and a teacher at Columbine? Would He have intercepted the Enola Gay before it delivered its cargo to Hiroshima?

Those are all good questions and ones I leave for you to ponder – or argue, or for me to take up in a later PIE. But for now, I will suggest that Jesus Carpenter would have done none of the above.

He came to save us from ourselves, not in a physical way as the Jews of the time expected so that we could live a few extra years; but He came to save us from our sins so that we might live FOREVER.


If THAT ain’t super, I don’t know what is.

March 19, 2009


(This guest spot today is provided with the permission of my son, Josh, who is in his last eight weeks of paramedic Core training.)

I would never leave the Core. Ever.

I have been hit, punched, kicked, puked on and peed on.

I have watched people older than you and younger than Mary die.

I have missed things that have come closer to killing people than I ever want to remember.

I have lost sleep, friends, weight, money and hope in ways I can never get back.

I have seen what happens when the twinkle of life disappears from someone’s eye.

But the sad part is that I would not give it up for the world.

I have never tried this hard, fallen this far or failed this much – ever. I never will again.

But in all this shit, I have learned who my real friends are, grown in ways people my age shouldn’t have to and learned the true value of life.

And to tell you the truth, I could never come back from what I’ve become.

The changes will last forever.

I think that if I fail, I’ll get up and try again because I could not imagine doing anything else.

The only way I’ll leave the Core is in failure – and then I will find the money and do it again because


I may be expendable, but what I do needs to be done and if I don’t do it, I will never feel complete.

March 15, 2009

SLICE OF PIE: Anne Rice – From Bloodsuckers to the Blood of the Lamb

I confess: I never read vampire novels. I never read DRACULA (I went to see the play…and I read FRANKENSTEIN: THE NEW PROMETHEUS). Vampires just don’t interest me. TWILIGHT makes me yawn (though I enjoyed this puppet version of TWILIGHT immensely: So maybe I’m not the expert you should be going to about the books and the movie.

But someone who made her living writing about “the undead”, who became one of the “most widely read authors in modern history”, who started the current vampire craze with her novel INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE in 1976 – and then found faith in Christ once again? This is something that interests me! Maybe it should interest all of us.

Working in a Barnes & Noble, I saw Anne Rice’s first “religious book” in 2005 and pretty much dismissed it. Again in 2008, another “religious book”. I figured her career had lapsed in the vampire business and she was taking a stab (pun intended) at the religious market the way Bob Dylan did during his “born-again period” ( ) at the end of the 70s. I ignored her books.

Later in 2008, CALLED OUT OF DARKNESS: A SPIRITUAL CONFESSION was released and while passing the display table on which it rested, I read the back cover, then the inside flap. I mentioned to my daughter, Mary that I wanted to read it. She bought it for me and on Christmas Day, I started it.

In the back of my journal, I keep a list of fascinating phrases gleaned from my reading. The one that struck me first: “…I wanted to stop this soft, endless drift toward ruin…” (CALLED OUT OF DARKNESS, p 80).

How often have I experienced this? Frequently. Not in the way Anne Rice did, but in the regular routine of daily life where nothing REALLY exciting happens. I get up, go to work, do my job, come home, eat, watch a bit of TV, check my email…then do the same thing the following day. I fail to do devotions in the morning; fail to pray when someone takes the Lord’s name in vain at work; listen to salacious gossip…without realizing that I too, am drifting toward ruin.

Herein lies the reason I recommend this autobiography of a faith journey to you – because not only does it tie together all the areas I try to hit with this blog: “Thoughts on Christianity, faith, science fiction [in this case fantasy!] and writing”; it does it well. You don’t have to read The Vampire Chronicles or see any of the three movies, two TV shows or the musical that came from her books to understand her struggles or connect with Rice’s journey back into faith in Christ.

We are all, always on a journey back into faith in Christ.

I have no plans to read the books. But this autobiography will take a place on a short shelf of books I need to re-read. I need to be reminded that even when the biggest stars drift, God can touch them to bring them Home again and with them come the smaller stars like me. I continue to pray, too that those who followed Lestat the Vampire will come to follow the Lord of the Universe!

Care to join me?

March 8, 2009

WRITING ADVICE: “We interrupt Lin Oliver’s Wisdom to Bring You These Thoughts From Guy”

I discovered something interesting recently: my writing here is considered “published”.

Did you know that?

I sure didn’t.

In a non-scientific survey of some editors, a friend of mine found out that two out of three of the editors he polled agree: Editor #1 “responded immediately, saying he considers posting a work online to be publication…‘if something has been made available to the public online, then I consider it published.’" Editor #2 “responded a week later, saying that posting a story on a public website ‘definitely constitutes prior publication and would normally disqualify the story" from being considered for publication.’” For those who absolutely MUST know who said what, I will direct you to the site I got the stats from – but I have published with one of the editors and respect one of them and hugely respect the other’s reputation. What they say to me goes.

So the whole purpose of my writing here is in vain! It was supposed to be a way to “field test” my novels in the form of flash fiction pieces. If I’d known that they would be considered published by someone, I might not have done this.

On the other hand, the short pieces have allowed me to develop character in a way I’ve never done before. I understand Emerald and Pastor Jeremiah and Jalaya, the Blind Angel as I never could have understood them by just outlining them and then writing them. I’ve been able to play with ideas. The character interactions and most of the settings of HEIRS changed dramatically from when I began the book five or six years ago.

The practice has made me a more consistently fast writer and given me a harder grasp on plot and scene. Each piece is a complete story – which I never thought I could do. Yet they all fit into an overarching story line. Rather than “stringing together a bunch of flash fiction stories”, I can now begin to use them as a framework on which to grow a…heart: ( )

The question now remains, “Will I include the story as I’ve developed it?” The answer is, “Obviously!” I can’t abandon what’s happened in any of the series of flash fictions. But I may leave out some (RING SCOOP 17, for example) and include other things (the Puppeteer for another example).

The ideas are great, the plots are grand and the work has NOT been in vain!

Maybe you should try it?

March 1, 2009

SLICE OF PIE: Anti-Science, Cross-Political and the Reason Fantasy Novels Are Ascendant

My thesis is that because the majority of the English-speaking world has an extremely low opinion of science, Science Fiction novels, magazines and short stories have been far eclipsed by Fantasy novels, magazines and short stories. Of the 35 novels on the Locus Best-Seller List ( only TWO are science fiction.

Even the most easily recognized scientist had this to say: "All our lauded technological progress--our very civilization--is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal." ~Albert Einstein

Wikipedia defines it as an attitude:“Antiscience can refer both to the New Age and postmodernist movements associated with the political Left, and to socially conservative and fundamentalist movements associated with the political Right...The term 'scientism' derives from science studies and is a term spawned and used by sociologists and philosophers of science to describe the views, beliefs and behavior of many strong science devotees. It is sometimes also used in a pejorative sense, for individuals who seem to be 'fetishizing' science, or treating science in a similar way to a religion.”

England has the same problem: “Most Britons are antiscience”
A grim story indeed for those of us who read and write science fiction. But there MAY be a way of reversing this trend. In a recent article in the online magazines, columnist Chris Mooney of SLATE had this to say:

“The Bush science controversies were just one manifestation of a deeper and long-standing gulf between the science community and the broader American public, one with roots stretching back to our indigenous tradition of anti-intellectualism (as so famously described by historian Richard Hofstadter in his classic work from 1963) and Yankee distrust of expertise and authority. So this is certainly no time for complacency. Scientists, with the support of the administration, should now be setting out to win over the hearts and minds of the American public, creating a stronger edifice of trust and understanding to help ensure that conflict doesn't come raging back again… Another hurdle involves not the message but the medium: Newspaper science sections have shrunken or vanished across the nation; on television, real science news has long been struggling, and CNN has let go of its entire science and technology unit. The science blogosphere is, of course, booming—but as media scholars like Matthew Nisbet of American University have observed, the blogs are unlikely to reach very many citizens who aren't already science lovers. And what would be the effect if the blogs did get to a wider audience? The semi-finalists in the recent "Best Science Blog" of 2008 contest were a site that questions the reality of global warming and PZ Myers' Pharyngula—ground zero for a potent mix of pro-evolution advocacy and uncompromising criticism of religion. And so we find ourselves in a paradoxical situation. Science is more important than ever—something our new president fully recognizes. Yet for most Americans, science is probably becoming more distant, not less; it's harder to locate and identify, and it's often more aggressive toward their core beliefs. In this context, scientists certainly shouldn't retreat to their labs. Rather, they should reach out to the public like never before. There's a lot of work to do.”

As Science Fiction writers, we can work to help revive science in America. Those of you who, like me, are primarily SF writers and readers can join together to work and write harder than ever before!