Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Girl porn. 'Nuf said.

Haven't been writing much lately.  Not as much as I should have.  Not on this book, anyway.

I got a dozen chapters written in a potential sequel this week.  Really cool stuff.  Action, double-crosses, revenge, big robots, and in the end an entire building gets melted to slag!  I love it!  Though, in the timeline it would run parallel to book 3.  Therefore, of course, that doesn't put food on the table -- at least not for a long while.

Also, a gal and I are hammering out a ghost writing deal for a Christian romance novel.  Okay, not really my forte, but the deal is that she takes care the high-level plot and I do the grunt work, filling in the middle.  I probably won't get title billing, but you guys who follow this blog will be in-the-know.

Insider goodies:  Love it!

Normally, I'm not a fan of romance as a genre.  Okay, I'll just be blunt and say it:  Romance is pretty much "girl porn".  The only difference between that, and Playboy, is that "there are no pictures".  So what?  So even though the content is 10x as hardcore, the one is considered dirty... just because it is visual?  I know I visualize every story I read, so... does that distinction even make sense, anyway!??

<breathes into paper bag>

<makes (empty) vow to switch to decaf>

But anyway, that's why I like the plot behind this deal so much.  The story is neat idea that starts out like a Nicholas Sparks plotline, but then pulls a fast-one and shakes things up, leading the reader to question event the very definition of "romance".

I think there are a lot of people addicted to this genre that need to hear this story!

Plus there are cool classic cars in it.  So what's not to love?

I'll keep you posted.  I promise.

And I'll try to focus on the task at hand more.  I (sort of) promise. ;)

Live YOUR adventure!
-E.L. Fletcher

Friday, November 20, 2015

NaNoWriMo - Life's Story & Monomyth (Part III)

This is the third part in my series concerning "monomyth", or "The Hero's Journey".
If you don't know what that is or if you want to apply it to writing, see Part I.
In Part II, I took a look at the motivation of the designer(s) of monomyth and asked the question, "Is Jesus a storybook hero?"  (Surprising answer:  No!  In fact, He messes up the whole thing!)

But now, finally, we get to the part where I tie "The Hero's Journey" back to my most favoritest phrase, "Live YOUR adventure!"

First, in review, here's my handy refined version of "The Hero's Journey" for reference:

I suppose the first thing to notice is the universal concept of "a perfect world".
Yet, equally universally, the world as it is doesn't jive with that, does it?  There's a discrepancy there, which cannot be denied.  If for some reason you don't believe that, just pick up a newspaper.

Even though the notion of a fallen world is so easy to see, many worldviews really don't make sense with it.  For instance, isn't it strange how even those people who maintain that this world is all there is, still get upset with all the evil, pain, and death going on?

For a third time I bring up the word "universal"... because it's true!  Even without ever reading Genesis chapter 3, we know that the world is fallen, just naturally.

The next phase of the game is where a hero arises.  Though seeing that there is a problem with things may be so obvious to all, the call and ability to do something about it is not.

Most would look at a given problem and say, "It's not my problem to fix."  but the tricky part is those who do try and "fix" it (note my use of quotes), without really having any idea what "fixed" even is!

I call this the Babel effect.  (In fact, I talk about it in the book.)  The pattern is that just like the Tower of Babel, when man tries to achieve Utopia on his own, disaster, death, murder, invariably follow.  It seems counter-intuitive, but historically, fact!

The problem is you can't get back to Eden apart from God, and when you try...  the curse is that He lets you go ahead and see exactly what your efforts get you.

You can "change" the world all right on your own, but how can you change it for the good, if you don't even know what "good" is?   No, to rise up a true hero, you first need to know the battle you're fighting.  You need to be on God's side, and understand His righteous standard as set forth in His Holy Word, the Bible!  Only then do you have a clear definition of "good".

(Anything less than that, is situational ethics, at best.  Hence the Babel effect.)

If all you want to be is a warrior, please spare us all and stop now.  The world needs a righteous warrior, or none at all!

The next step on the journey is training and there's another surprising thing about this step as well.   The problem is not so much that people skip this step, but rather they begin to see the magnitude of the struggles coming up in the next stage, and they say "I can't handle that!  I need to prepare more."

Maybe, but in a lot of ways this is an excuse to not have to step out and face the unknown.  The amount of training is usually quite minimal, and a lot of what a person needs to be "ready", is on-the-job training that can only be taught by the experience itself.

I mean, how many books on hang-gliding do you need to read to make you "ready"?  It doesn't make sense.  Find somebody who knows what he's doing and go jump off a cliff together.

Then the fight.  Oh how we long for it -- and fear it.  (I talked earlier about the dichotomy of longing for adventure, yet craving security.)  Not much to say here, but the struggle is hard, and it does leave scars.  Yet even the worst fatal outcome is better than living under a "what if" the rest of your life.

Also, time to point out that the cliche "failure is not an option" -- is DEAD WRONG!!!  Notice in the journey diagram that setbacks - even multiple and severe ones - are an expected part of the process.

Of course, this all feeds back into the "learning" on-the-job thing as well -- like the famous quote from Thomas Edison, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Finally, the reward/victory.  There is a problem here as well.  Some people let any praise and recognition go to their head.  Me, I'm the opposite.  I don't know how to handle praise.

"That was so awesome!", says somebody.
"Um... Thanks?  I guess...", says I, awkwardly, thinking self-doubting things like, "Did they really like it, or are they just trying to be nice?"

But even if you can digest it better than me, there is also the very real possibility of allowing the amount of praise you do (or don't) get to define your worth as a person.  Once again, the only real way out of that pitfall is a correct understanding of our place and status in the universe (ala Scripture).  Achievement, or even failure, does not alter our eternal reward, nor our status as adopted children of God... up to, and including being considered royal heirs in His kingdom!

Could you get a big head about this?  Perhaps, but for the fact that He did it all and He gave it to us as a free gift.  Not only that, but go back to the beginning.  He has called you, He has sent you on the quest, He has equipped you for the task, and and He walked with you through it!

Here's an interesting memory verse for you:
Faithful is He that calleth you; He also will do it
- 1 Thessalonians 5:24
God was the one, from beginning to end!  Therefore, when we cross that finish line, we need to remember to give credit where credit is due.

Finally, that brings us back to, "the world as it should be".  This is the most straightforward part of life's journey to answer.  In the Bible, there are four chapters of a perfect world:  The first two, and the last two.  We are living somewhere in between, and that's just the reality of the situation.  The restoration of the world to utopia is nothing that man can achieve.  Rather, it is something that we hope for, watch for, wait for, and look forward to personally experiencing one day.

 And that, my friends is the grand adventure we are a part of!

So, where are you?  Have you just begun to follow God and discern good and evil?  (That's great!)  Are you looking for a need and watching for a quest?  Are you bogged down in preparation, thinking you're not up to the task?  Are you in the midst of the battle?  (That's where I am.)  Have you suffered a major setback?  Or are you struggling with giving God the glory and reward that the victory provides?

No matter what stage you are at, let me admonish you once more, as we take that hero's journey together...

Live YOUR adventure!
-E.L. Fletcher

As I take another trip through this chart, I really have to say I'm not the first person to do so.  Take a look at all the Christian allegories:

The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkenson (More on that in a later article.)
C.S. Lewis', Narnia
Chuck Black's Knight books (Like in the mini review I did last week)
The Giant Killer, by A.L.O.E.
and most famous of all...
Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan [link to free download]
They are all doing essentially the same thing:  Namely, drawing a parallel between the classical story flow, like in the image above, and how it mirrors reality.  I'm doing nothing different here, besides being more explicit and less entertaining about it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Not Part 3.

I know, I know, you guys were expecting part 3 of my "Hero's Journey" series.  I have it about 3/4 of the way written, and it will be here soon, but I decided to do a status update for tonight instead.

I still have one major review to get back before calling things "done" but I think I've completed all the major rework for the story.  Now there's a lot more backstory for the main protagonist as well as highlighting her gift/curse.  I did drag it in as a "deathbed" confession though.  Is that too cheezy?  I dunno.  Maybe I need to run it by my agent.  Also I'm still not sure if the new epilogue is too much of a stretch.

 Or am I just second guessing things too much now?

Anyway.  Assuming all that stuff is fine though, it's just a matter of getting whatever other changes from the final reviewer in and then doing a sanity pass through the whole thing.

Then there's a big release party... much excitement... and then nobody buys a single copy... and I stagger off into the shadows a broken down old wannabe.
(Not that I'm experiencing any self-consciousness or self-doubt here, of course.)

But in other news, I did get some glass installed in the house finally, and that nasty sensor replaced in the Jeep!
Unfortunately it now wants me to feed it an even nastier sensor.

BTW, FWIW, ETC, I've pretty much given up on Autozone as a source of parts.  If you can cope with the downtime for shipping, you can literally get the exact same part, brand and all, on Amazon for half the price!  (Not to mention many more options and customer reviews.)

While I'm on the subject, here's one more tip for anybody into, or getting into, car repair out there.  Check out the Schrodinger's Box youtube channel.  In particular, if computers, check engine lights, and error codes intimidate you, definitely watch his series on fuel trims.  It actually explains what the key gizmos do and what they are "thinking" when something goes awry.  HIGHLY recommend.

But that's enough for now.  Next time:  Part 3.

Live YOUR adventure!
-E.L. Fletcher

Thursday, November 5, 2015

NaNoWriMo - Jesus Christ, Anti-Monomyth - Part II

This is the second part on my series on "The Hero's Journey", or "Monomyth".
In the first installment I covered (my re-interpretation) of that, and how to use it to make an interesting story.

This time I want to discuss the classical model, it's fatal flaw, and why I felt the need to re-invent it.

The problem is, the traditional monomyth relies on a flawed foundational assumption, and like any building based on a bad foundation, this causes cracks to run through the entire structure.  The assumption those who designed monomyth are making is that they are trying to create one overall structure that covers not just stories, but all religions as well.  "Comparative mythology", they call it.

While, granted, some religious figures no doubt arose out of tales told around the campfire, others are clearly documented historical figures who actually lived and whose stories are even corroborated by outside sources.  (Lee Strobel is a good place to start.)

But why call this a 'foundational flaw'?  Also, why re-invent the wheel because of it?
The trouble is, upon making the assumption that all stories and all religions are created equal, they begin to stretch and tear away at an (otherwise, pretty good) model in order to make it fit.  It is equivalent, in both stubbornness and resulting damage, to the proverbial pounding of a square peg into a round hole.

This is why I made my own model.  A lot of it isn't anything new on my part, but merely scraping away the added dross and getting back down to what actually applies to story.

But what about the rest?  What about what's left?  Even if it does nothing for writing, is there still some value in drawing comparison between the life of Christ and The Hero's Journey?

I admit to even taking a wrong turn with this idea, myself.

When I first started down this road, I decided that, yes, Christ is going to be some sort of a base type for all these other stories because  Matthew 24:23-26 says,
"Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them."
Furthermore, in 1 John 2:18 he even states that, "many antichrists have already come"!

Forgeries are made to look like real bills, after all.

But, upon reading more about the Hero's Journey and actually doing the comparison, it turns out I was on the wrong path anyway.  In actual fact, viewing the historical events Jesus' life on Earth through the lens of a conquering hero is totally incorrect.

In fact, it may be even worse than 'incorrect'!

Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus to his death, was from a Jewish sect called the Zealots.  These people very much believed in the concept of a "hero".  The Messiah they were waiting for was going to be their champion.  He was going to be a mighty warrior and overthrow their oppressor, Rome.

Given this, many theologians speculate that Judas' betrayal of Jesus wasn't just simple greed, but that he also hoped that Jesus' capture would be the spark that would ignite a glorious revolution.

Read this next statement slowly.  Think about it, and let it sink in:
If you are thinking of Jesus as the monomyth hero, then you are following the exact same reasoning as Judas the betrayer!!
(Yeah, that really hit me between the eyes too.)

But the thing is, Jesus didn't overthrow Rome at all!  Never even hinted at it.
Is that so counter-monomyth?  I sure think it is!

Imagine:  Lex Luthor has taken over the city of Metropolis with the power of his nefarious new paralyze-o-beam.  Oh no!  Superman swoops into the scene, and when informed of the peoples' oppression, he says, "Yeah, whatever.  Let's talk about your personal sin problems instead."  Furthermore, "Render unto Lex Luthor, what is Lex Luthor's!" (Mark 12:13-17).

You'd be like, "What?  You call that 'saving the day'?"

This, by far, wasn't the only thing Jesus did that upset the picture of a prototypical monomyth hero.  Rather more like the exact opposite, in fact.  This is exactly the kind of taken-for-granted thought process that He liked to flip over on its head, time and time again.

Here are some examples of Jesus' most flagrant deviations off-script:

Instead of building a following, Jesus drove away raving fans by saying uncomfortable things like, "unless you drink my blood and eat my flesh...".

Instead of obtaining greatness, He said things like, "the greatest among you is the servant of all".

Instead of being all clean and dashing, He got in trouble for having dinner with prostitutes and national traitors.

Instead of training people to fight back against injustice, He told them to turn the other cheek instead.
(Let the bad guy get away with it!??  Yup.)

Even He, Himself, instead of fighting back (even verbally), He went to his death willingly, "like a lamb to the slaughter"

Instead of telling people to fight the bad guys, He tells us that we are the bad guy!

Instead of calling people to train, try harder, and grow stronger, His message is that we could never be strong enough to win.

Instead of destroying the real villain, He, well, read it for yourself!
 "One will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:7-8 
What kind of a hero takes a bullet... for the bad guy!??
But that's exactly what He did.

And finally, instead of sending people off fighting their way up the ladder to earn the ultimate prize, He simply gives it away as a free gift to anyone who asks. (See also: yesterday's Shrek reference.)

 Freeze frame those last few ideas.  I want to get back to that next time when I take this thing full-circle and revisit how all this ties back to my motto...

Live YOUR adventure!
-E.L. Fletcher


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

NaNoWriMo - The Hero's Journey (Monomyth) - Part I

Since this is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) I thought I'd do a miniseries on "The Hero's Journey" or, monomyth.

In this post, I'll walk through what that is, and also give you my personal re-construction of it.

Later on I'll talk more about the foundational flaw of current "metamyth" thinking and why I felt the need to completely redo it.  Finally, I'll circle back on what all this means in terms of my catch-phrase, "Live YOUR adventure!"

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

First Snow of the Season

Aaaannd... it's snowing.
I guess that isn't too surprising.  I was just hoping I'd have a few more weeks of fair weather to get the outside projects under control.  But hey, what can you do?

Hello again, everybody.  Got some great writing done today.  I made some pretty significant progress on the re-write.  Both of those that have read it so far have responded, "yeah, I think that fits better".

Also, the other night I was sleeping fitfully and having bizarre dreams. (Which is unusual for me.  Normally, bed time?  Hit the "off" switch and I'm gone till morning.)

Anyway, one of the dreams was so interesting I woke up and wrote it down as fast as I could before I lost it.   I actually got a pretty complete outline down.

Unfortunately the story line is for a romance novel, which is not really along the adventure genre that I want the Fletcher name to be known for.

My DW has read it, and really liked the concept though.  It is a good story and an important one that should be told.  I'm just not sure what to do with it now.

I'll probably let it incubate on the shelf while I try to get the current projects completed.

Anyway, I think I'll cut off the blog entry with that.   After all, it's date night tonight, and I've got some hot pot-stickers and a even hotter gal waiting.

Live YOUR adventure!
-E.L. Fletcher

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sir Kendrick and the $35 Autozone Sensor

It's been a rough weekend.

Had a major unexpected setback in the deck project, constant rains have precluded the window repair, and on top of that we had a car break down.

I suppose I should be grateful that it isn't a total engine meltdown or some such catastrophe.  Still, I ripped down into it, replaced a $35 sensor that tested bad, and for some reason it's still throwing a check engine code.  (I don't mind computers in general, but once they wind up in cars, they're nobody's friend!)

I really don't want to deal with the other sensor, since it's ridiculously hard to get to.  Also, from the ends of the wire, it tests good.  I'm wondering if there's some reset button or something I'm missing.

But enough car talk.  (Believe me, I'd like to end the topic!  You have no idea how much!)

It's just hard some times.  Between slogging though the challenges of life, and probably getting way more news than I should, I admit I'm feeling a little discouraged.

If the Lord was a swashbuckler from a pirate movie, I'm thinking now would be a great time to swing in on a rope, whip out a cutlass, and save the day!

*sigh*  But, no.  We press wearily on.

But, hey, I finally got around to reading Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione by Chuck Black.  The allegory elements worked logically, but seemed a little interrupting and hard to bite off at times.  Overall, a really neat story, though!  More graphic than I expected.  The demonic knights were chillingly bad and tough, while the angelic knights were mysterious and cool as well.

I won't drop any spoilers, but the character Landor and his secret truly came as a shock.  It was downright delightful to read something that was so surprising, yet all the clues from the rest of the backstory fell together perfectly!

Well done Mr Black!

Live YOUR adventure!
-E.L. Fletcher