Posted in Writing

Poem: You

You flatter me with words
And with high conversation
I laugh and play along
And yet I feel nothing

They all say I should want you
And it’s a great match
They say I’m too picky
And to give love a chance

But my heart doesn’t flutter
And my face doesn’t flush
I don’t bat my eyelids
Or call you all night

And in my spare thoughts
You barely enter at all
I feel a little guilty
This cat’s game—so it seems

Am I leading you on?
Or am I just that hard to get?

Posted in Writing

Novel Scene: The Ethics of Christian Music

**So, I finished my first novel, The Divine Romance of Ethan Grey, in February 2014. I began to shop it around for agents, and was told it was a good concept, but the manuscript needed work. I began massive editing and got to where I couldn’t see the forest for the trees anymore. So, I put it away for about a year.

Today, I finally brought it back out, and I am reading it with fresh eyes. I ran across this scene, and I thought I’d put out it here. This is a good representation of what the heart of the book is. I’ve posted deleted scenes before, so if you don’t remember the characters/plot synopsis, they are here. 

In this scene, the band is performing at a youth group, and they are having a church dinner before the show. **

Excerpt: The Divine Romance of Ethan Grey 

Dinner was cheap pizza with chips and soda served in a backroom. Chattering teenagers filled the room and Switchfoot played overhead, while the rumble of foosball echoed from an open doorway.

Keely, Chris and Derek, quickly becoming the “teen trio,” commanded a rowdy group gathered around someone’s laptop.
Josh and Erin sat with their plates and whispered in a quiet corner.

Ethan watched the tension in Josh’s body language and wanted to laugh. Been there, man. Been there. He saw Adam fix a plate, and then slip out the door on the phone. He kept forgetting Adam was married. He made his own plate, and scanned the room for Alli. Where was she?

He shot her a text and joined Phil and the youth pastor, Jay in a deep conversation. Phil had known Jay back in his YWAM days, and had booked this show after reconnecting with him on Facebook. When Ethan sat, they greeted him warmly and then continued.

“What I’m wondering is,” Jay was saying, “why Christian music? Why not the secular market?”

Phil rubbed his hands together and smiled uncomfortably. Ethan smirked inside. How many times had he had wanted to ask that question he could not count.

“I only ask because I wonder about the theology of Christian music,” Jay continued. “Christian music was started by hippies who believed Jesus was coming back literally any day. They wanted to spread the message through the most influential medium of their time—music. Now, it’s a billion dollar industry complete with record companies and celebrities. And, I wonder if God is even pleased by it. Theologically, should we be separating ourselves out like that?”

“Well,” Phil said taking a sip of soda from a foam cup. “I think there’s room and function for both. I do believe that Christians need to be active in the mainstream conversations going on in our culture. I think the lack of it is why we have such a void right now. I wonder, now, if a Christian in popular culture can even be heard. And, that’s certainly a battle worth fighting. But, I think for us, that’s not our fight. I think there is a role to provide entertainment that is God-centered. For us, we want to create good music, coming from an explicitly Christian worldview, that encourages and uplifts Christians. After all, if no one preaches to the choir, will there be a choir left?”

Jay stroked his chin as he thought about that. “What do you think about the state of Christian music?”

Phil cleared his throat. “That’s a loaded question. And I think a lot of people have a lot of opinions about it. Christian music has grown light years in the last decade or so. I think artistically we’ve reached the same place as mainstream music.”

“Right,” Jay said perking up. “But it’s lost a lot of aggressiveness. We keep it simple and non-offensive. But Christ was offensive. The gospel is offensive. I listen to Christian radio and I think, ‘We’ve lost something.’ I’d like to see Christian music get back its cajones, man. That’s what’s going to speak to people. That’s what’s going to draw people in.”

Phil sighed and a sad look came over his face. “We’re in the middle of a culture war,” he said softly. “We can’t afford to be offensive.”

Jay shook his head. “But isn’t that the time to be offensive?”

Phil sat up straighter. “We don’t have to offend people to get them to accept Christ. The Bible says it’s his kindness that leads us to repentance.”

“I don’t mean offending people to get them saved. But, I mean not being so…milquestoasty-lukewarm-inspirational-market ‘let’s just love everybody,’ kinda stuff. That’s not what changes people. It just makes them feel loved in their sin, and still miserable because they’re bound up in lies and deception. When we understand that the enemy has lied to us and is stealing from us, we’re going to get mad, and we’re going to fight back. We need to prepare this generation to be end-time warriors. This is the martyr generation!”

Phil sighed. “Look, Jay, you and I go way back. We were radicals back in those days.”

Jay laughed. “Man, we were crazy.”

Phil continued. “But, I don’t have the same kind of fight I did in my twenties. I don’t know that…” his voice trailed off and he toyed with his plate. “I don’t know that I have the martyr in me anymore. I’ve got kids.”

Jay slammed the table. “Exactly. You’ve got something to protect. You’ve got everything to lose.”

Phil nodded. “I hear what you’re saying. But ultimately, that school of thought is based on a culture of fear. That’s what I don’t believe God is pleased with.”

Jay shook his head and said sadly. “I feel like I don’t even know you anymore.”

Jay got up and walked away and Phil sighed. He leaned his chin onto his fingers.

“He’s intense,” Ethan commented.

“Yeah,” Phil said. “I used to be that way.”

“What happened?”

Phil shook his head.“I grew up,” he said, a wistful note of regret in his voice.

He rose from the table and gathered the band for prayer in the office.

Posted in Writing

Poem: Phoning it In

Phoning it In

Tonight I am phoning it in
A mind on hold
A day unlived
I’m not giving you everything
I’m not giving you anything

I don’t hear my own voice
Recite the pleasantries that I don’t mean
Nor do I notice
My own warm smiles,
Flashed so canned, cheap, and rehearsed
And I don’t see you, standing…
….Right in front of me

Tonight I am phoning it in
But if you could touch my heart
So tender beneath this plated glass

You’d find I’m not so thick and bulletproof
Instead you’d find a well so deep
You’d get lost inside…
….If I’d only let you

But tonight I am phoning it in
And I only wish you’d push
Because I miss you
On this island…
… of my own making

Posted in Writing

What Oscar Wilde and Tim LaHaye Taught Me About Life

When I was sixteen I got my first job. I worked at a small independent Christian bookstore, nestled neatly in a strip center of our little town. With the owners, managers, backroom people, part-timers and all, the staff probably numbered twenty.

I loved it there. The movie You’ve Got Mail came out that year, and we would joke about how we were Meg Ryan’s Shop Around the Corner. (As life would have it, several years later, a big chain Christian retailer did end up moving in down the freeway and putting them out of business. Isn’t that how it always goes?!)

Gushing about being a CCM fanatic had gotten me through the door. But now I was encountering a whole new aspect of Christian culture that had nothing to do with Toby McKeehan or Peter Furler. At this time in the late nineties, a VERY popular series was coming out, one book at a time. Every other customer was asking about it and about every six months, we would have midnight release parties for the new book.

I decided to find out about this new series. It was, after all, part of my job. So, I bought every book, and binge-read the entire franchise. As a tool of Christian propaganda, they were wonderful. But, as art…well, they were quite lacking. By this time, I already knew I was destined to be a writer, so didn’t I need to know about the market?

Then, one day, I sat down in my eleventh grade English class to write an essay. I felt like that scene in Austin Powers when he realizes he’s lost his mojo. I read over the first few paragraphs in shock. The same bland cliché-ridden style I had been reading, was now coming out of my fingers. I crumpled the page, and shoved it deep into my backpack and started over. Page after page, I couldn’t write. It was all…awful. And I knew who was to blame.

I went home, gathered all of those books, and promptly threw them in the trash. I would only read classic for about a decade after that. Which, turned out to be just as harmful.

As much as they are excellent art, classics are sophisticated, multi-faceted pieces designed to comment on life, philosophy and the human condition. Most of us are encumbered with the munitae of daily life, and not inclined to think at that intense level at all times.

So, rather than enjoying reading, I began to see it as a chore in style and artistic study. While I would want to read that pink, flowery chick-lit novel with the stilettos on the cover, I couldn’t. I must joylessly wade through The Iliad. Obviously, as with most chores, reading was done infrequently or not at all. In my snobbery, I missed out on some really great lighter reading.

Further, reading influences your style, but does not define it. So, when I would sit down to write, if my fingers didn’t produce the layered wit and cynicism of Oscar Wilde or the wispy, poetic meanderings of Jane Austen, I would get discouraged and overwhelmed. I’d decide the piece wasn’t good enough, and I needed to work more on the concept more before I moved on it. Or I would edit the first few pages for weeks until I got bored of the whole piece.

I missed out on some really great practice because I was too scared to write less than perfect pieces. Not only that, the resulting lack of productivity, was a blow to my confidence as a writer. And when I did write, my writing sounded like an average college girl trying to sound like Hemingway.

I did however, find pleasure in haunting bookstores, sort of like a ghost of literary future. I wouldn’t read anything, heaven’s no! But, being around the shiny covers, made me think writerly thoughts. Or so I told myself.  One day, I decided to pick up a book that caught my eye. Anna Karenina could wait. I think it was Stephen Colbert or something. It was funny. Enjoyable.And, light aired, with a bit of bite.

I began to make it my Sunday afternoon ritual. I would go down to the bookstore, and sit in the comfy chairs, find anything interesting, and just read. Slowly, my rules about classics started to fade. As they did, I found that the style coming out of today’s writers, was relaxed, conversational and….attainable.

I didn’t have to be Charles Dickens to be a good writer. All the professional standards in the modern world, had nominated these people as “good writers,” and I was perfectly capable of writing at that level. I just needed to do it. And so, began a new phase of my life. “Just shut up and do it,” became my writer’s motto.

After all, Oscar Wilde started out writing product reviews for a local newspaper. And, Stephen King was working as a school janitor when he came up with the idea for his first bestseller, Carrie. Why shouldn’t I just write for the joy of writing, and then let success follow where it may?

I just needed to stop talking and start doing. And that is what Tim LaHaye and Oscar Wilde, centuries about, taught me about life.

Posted in Writing

Fiction: Death in the Phoenix’s Nest

**This is a scene from a short story/novella I wrote back in 2008. The story is about a shy art student who married an Australian musician to give him a green card. He then becomes extremely wealthy, and they live together in a loveless marriage, both resentfully indebted to one another. A fun idea, but I had just begun my eternal love affair with Oscar Wilde, so much of the writing is embarrassingly pretentious. Not to mention, the story has enough plot holes to fill the Grand Canyon. But, there are some parts of it I like. I never published it anywhere, so I thought I’d put a scene out here. 

In this scene, they have just met, and he is trying to  get her to fall for him, so that he can pull off his proposal in a few weeks. **

Excerpt: Death in the Phoenix’s Nest 

The rain beat down on the glass-walled apartment, the roar creating an intimate cocoon of sound. Orphan drops tapped on the window like long pointy fingers, and ricocheted off creating a fine mist resembling fog. Lightning illuminated the night sky and then flashed back into darkness.

Mandy and Phoenix lounged on the leather couch lingering over conversation and wine, both flowing freely. She noticed a thin leather volume on the end table. She curiously picked it up.

“Shakespeare?” She observed, intrigued.

“I’ve been reading a lot of Shakespeare lately,” he answered. He took a sip of wine, swirled his glass and leaned back into the couch.

“Exquisite literature,” he continued, “I wish I could write lyrics that beautifully. But, even if I could, you can’t sell that kind of music. It’s too…showy.”

She flipped through it, noticing highlighted and annotated passages. She passed over pages of complex sonnets, and fell on an obscure piece.

The Phoenix and the Turtle,” she read, skimming the verses.

“That’s an excellent piece,” he remarked. He set down his wine glass and stroked his chin thoughtfully. “One of my favorites, really. It’s about two lovers who die to themselves to achieve a metaphysically intoxicating love.”

“A metaphysically intoxicating love,” She repeated.

“Well, there’s really a bit of debate about the true meaning of piece. The lovers are birds that explode, and in their death, create love. Beautiful concept, very poetic, and very Shakespearean.”

She thirstily drank his words. She had relished thoughtful conversation in art school, where she had been quite adept. But the inanity of real life had weakened her critical mind, and now she worried she would disappoint him.

“I guess,” she ventured, “Both death and love are these consummate physical, emotional and spiritual experiences, by which one loses one’s self…it’s sort of abstract and poetic, but I get it.”

“Could be,” he shrugged. “But, I see it a bit more subtle. That these lovers die to themselves so completely and attain an unselfish love so pure, it is humanly divine.”

He flicked open a metal lighter and lit a cigarette.

“Do you smoke?” he offered her one.

She quietly took it. He absentmindedly lit it for her, still chewing on the Shakespeare piece.

“And it is only when we die to ourselves that we can truly love, anyway,” he continued, “So, when you think about it, the piece is a model for perfect love, I guess?”

She nodded.

“Perfect, unselfish love,” she repeated. “Do you believe that’s even possible?”

Long soft curves of smoke spiraled from his cigarette and disappeared. He inhaled, and looked at her thoughtfully.

“I don’t know,” he stared off pondering, “That’s a great question.”

Finally, he suddenly said, “Here, I’ll read to you, if you’d like.”

She smiled. “I’d love that.”

She slipped off her strappy heels, and curled against him on the couch, her bare feet caressing his black dress socks. She listened to the gentle rhythm of his voice, and the soft lilt of his lazy Australian accent against the rain.

Here the anthem doth commence;
Love and constancy is dead
Phoenix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence
So had they loved as love in twain
Had the essence but in one
Two distincts division none
Number there in love was slain.

He gently brushed her lips with his, both hypnotically succumbing to one another. He read on in a low titillating voice.

Posted in Writing

Excuse Me, Miss, Your Nerdiness is Showing

I have an obsession with offices, office furniture and office supplies. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, even though I don’t even use them. I love pens, and do my best thinking if when I am holding one in my fingers, cigarette style. Twirling it. Chewing on it. I love desk accessories, notepads, and organizational tools. So, today, I had a few minutes to kill, and I found myself wandering around Staples, dreaming of a fun office.

I always wanted a contempo styled minimalist room, with a sleek white table sporting a large screen Apple desktop.  I’d have some sort of egg style chair, and a sculpturally designed bookshelf with all manner of sophisticated books on philosophy and art. Which, given that in this dream world, I am wildly successful, I actually have time to read these things again.

My desk has some sort of adorable lamp from Ikea, a potted bamboo, along with a bust of Rodin’s Thinker, and an inspirational quote paperweight. One wall of the room is a bay window. From the second story (or third, or what the heck, the twenty-third), you can see the city or the lake or the mountains. The windows open into a patio where I take my coffee or tea.

The other walls are painted black with chalkboard paint, but they are bordered by white trim, so as not to be too gloomy. On these I scribble down all manner of notes, ideas, quotes, potential dialogue, or even song lyrics I have stuck in my head.

The carpet is a cream shag, and my bare toes sink to the bottom. Sunlight falls in cascades all around the room, and I open the windows to let in the spring air. At night, cozy lamplight sets the room into a peaceful oasis, a floating sanctuary above the ink darkness of the lake, or the buzz of the city below.

I spend my days in my office, scribbling on my walls, banging away at the keyboard, or scarfing down a midnight pizza delivery while I tirelessly buzz through my latest piece.

But, once the dream is over, I come down and realize, I don’t really even have an office. My desk is my lap, and my chair…well, wherever I park my booty. Which, today happens to be a leather chair in a corner of Starbucks. So, instead, I just give this office to various characters. I guess that’s good enough for now.

I suppose the fantasy office must be earned, in a sense. After all, if you can’t write on the back of a piece of cash register tape in between helping customers, you probably can’t write in your dream office either. Adversity builds character I guess. Oh, but that would be a nice office. One day…one day…