a new hope (in the quiet, not in silence)

What a deceptive title.

One, because this post has nothing to do with Star Wars, at least not directly.
Two, because the hope I’m thinking of isn’t new in the conventional sense.

It’s more of a renewable hope. Or a continually-renewed hope.

I sit here in the final minutes of 2016 (it’s literally 5 minutes ’til midnight), typing on my laptop while the TV regales me with the blatherings of announcers, the poor enunciations of music artists, and the weird ramblings of a woman with green glitter lipstick worthy of Panem’s Capitol. I think of the illusory and foundationally meaningless construct of calendars and years’-ends. We humans get in such a tizzy at this time every year, never mind that flipping a calendar page from one month to the next or one year to the next has absolutely no connection to actual, tangible change.

I set my laptop aside to check windows for fireworks as 2017 A.D. rolls through the door.

The fireworks are audible from inside my living room, but I can’t see them from any of the windows. A quick call to my parents — one I make every year on January 1st at approximately 00:05am — sends love reverberating through the atmosphere. A good start to the new iteration of this particular human construct.

My husband went to bed at 22:35 (that’s 10:35pm); my four-year-old daughter trundled off to sleep at her usual time of 20:00. None of our friends were partying this year.

No one texts me.

This is probably the first time in 20 years that I’ve rung in the “new year” completely alone.

Shouldn’t this make me melancholy? I don’t know if it should (don’t should on me!), but it doesn’t. It’s kind of cozy, really. Until the timer turned them off a few minutes ago, the Christmas tree lights splashed a warm glow across my typing fingers; I’ve turned off the TV, so all is quiet, if not silence; I can hear my husband snoring, my clock ticking, my fridge chuckling. Sporadic fireworks still grace the night behind me, on the other side of the window.

I don’t type in silence, but I type in the quiet.

Ah. There’s the first ambulance siren of the year.

Peace. Peace for this year. Grace and mercy to those who aren’t starting 2017 in peace.

The clock is ticking.

The cat is sleeping under the darkened Christmas tree.

The year 2016 A.D. held so much grief.

Deaths of people I’ve long admired from great distances.
Death of confidence in the basic decency of humanity.
Death to idealism and optimism and other beneficent -isms — all of which are intimately connected with fellow humans-being.

I still like to think of myself as Eternal Optimist Woman, even though that belief has been sorely tried this year. I think the EOW has disintegrated into ash for the time being; I can only hope that, like the phoenix, she will rise from the ashes again.

She’s done it before.

And there’s that word again.

Hope.

I’ve pondered again and again whether or not I should wax political about the goings-on in the United States of America in 2016. And if I decided to wax that way, just what could or would or should (!) I say? But the emotional energy required take for such a blopgost (yes, blopgost) would be an expense I cannot afford.

The Babadook still lives in my basement*. He demands my intensive self-care, which includes not feeding my strength into something that won’t benefit anyone.

(*If this reference makes no sense to you, I recommend watching the movie The Babadook, which is basically a metaphor for depression.)

I will say this, since it relates to hope: I don’t hope for anything Good to come from the USA’s current president-elect. “I hope for no hope from him…poor clown,” as Amalthea told Molly Grue. (Although I know I’m doing Schmendrick an injustice; still, allow me my nerdy references, would you?) He has proven himself ridicule-worthy, dangerously unbalanced, selfish, self-absorbed, greedy, incapable of empathy, ableist, racist, misogynist, bigoted, prejudiced, childish, fiendish, and just plain gross.

If I were to put him into a novel, readers would mock me for writing such a parody of a villain. He’s so much Chaotic Evil as to be unbelievable. No one would read him.

(“He lied in every word, that hoary [emotional-]cripple with malicious eyes….”)

I cannot describe to you how much it cost me to write the preceding two paragraphs. I feel completely exhausted.

But.

The point is, I have no hope for the next year regarding the president-elect of the USA, his cabinet, his advisors, his family, his decisions, his intentions, his cronies, his sycophants. I have so little hope regarding any of those, it has passed zero and dropped squarely onto the negative side of the axis. And on the negative side, my hope moves ever more rapidly away from zero.

Thank God — literally — that the Reality which gives me hope is no human construct or human system.

When I was 19, my atheist friend said to me, “Courtney, I don’t care if you believe in God or not — but if you’re going to believe, you have to be able to tell me why.”

I had no answer for him then.

Nowadays, I have answers squooshing out of my ears, but that’s another tale and shall be told another time. 😉

My thought tonight is that because of my faith and in spite of the Chaotic Evil that has created a safe place for so many other evils to reveal themselves, I still have hope.

A renewable hope.

A continually-renewed hope.

What if we humans had a leader who cared? Who empathized? Who accepted us all, every one? Who wanted to build something beautiful and glorious and beneficial, instead of promising dread and fear and harm? What if we had a leader who actually did represent us and count us in and protect us and serve us and live for us and die for us? What if we had a leader truly “for the people” and “by the people”?

What if we humans had a leader truly made of Love?

I know of so many people who profess to follow this man named Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One (that’s what mashiach–“Messiah” and “Christ” mean) — and yet, they are so terrified of someone misleading “their country,” they actually believe that a human construct could “close the doors” of their churches.

(Fellow believers, how could you vote Chaotic Evil when you claim to follow the Perfect Lawfree Good, which never restricts freedom?)

The Good News is that no matter what any man-made system decides or does, the house being built by this Jesus of Nazareth will never close.

After all, He is a carpenter. He knows how to build a house with uncloseable doors.

But it’s not about the closing of doors. It’s about the closing of minds, the closing of hearts, the tearing-down of the differently-opinioned, the shutting-down of empathy, the removal of “with” from compassion (which leaves only passion, and of an undirected, malignant sort).

(Compassion, in case you didn’t know, means “suffering-with”; to have compassion on someone means to enter into their suffering, to become part of it and to make it part of you.)

And this closing off and shutting down is coming from those who profess to own the One who personifie(d)s opening up, feeling with, suffering with, building up, welcoming in.

My so-called fellow Jesus-followers rejected his example and his indwelling Lifespirit.

That, in my very subjective view, is the real tragedy of 2016 A.D., for it leads to the suffering of humanity, most especially including the impoverished and the unbelieving.
In regard to so-called Jesus-followers, this felt more like 1016 A.D.

They have forgotten their hope.

They have forgotten that their hope can be “new every morning”

(great is thy faithfulness).

Jesus the Anointed One, Son of God Most High and Head of His Body (the collective of Different Ones [definition of “saints”] in this world) — He is building a house.

His house has nothing to do with physical buildings ornamented with made-up names and stained-glass windows.

His house encompasses the universe itself.

He will build that house with or without those followers of his who happen to name themselves “American” (for you can be sure that *he* didn’t name them that). He will build his house with the people on the street corners, the ones who actually hear his words and listen to them and respond (Matthew 22). He doesn’t care where these people came from; they listen, and they come to him, and he loves them and takes them in.

They take his Hope and they eat it. They chew it. They swallow it whole.

And his Hope has no relation whatsoever to the construct of human politics or calendars.

In the vastness of the universe and the multi-directional eternity of history, human politics are less than a footnote. I’m not sure they’re even mentioned between the covers of the entire book.

I have hope.

Because I’m a stone in a wall that’s going to last forever. I am a stone in Reality.

That Reality behooves and encourages and enables me to feel-with and suffer-with those who feel deeply and suffer. And it’s the kind of suffering-with that leads to action. Compassion leads to getting my hands “dirty.”

I’m okay with that.

His hands were “dirtier” than mine ever can be.

I didn’t intend for this blopgost to turn into such a revelation about my beliefs. I wanted to keep it simple, really. But it just seemed like the words wanted to come out exactly as they did.

There goes the second set of sirens of the New Year.

No one wants to read a sermon first thing on January 1st (at least, I don’t know of anyone who does.)

Also, I’m tired and starting to fade toward sleep. And starting to type in my sleep; I’ve already had to delete two sentences because they made no sense. 😉 So I’ll wrap this up. There really should be some more thoughts here, but I don’t have any.

I’m too tired.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everypony!

Peace.

valentine nuttiness

Happy Valentine’s Day, inklings.

I say that a bit tongue-in-cheek. The husband and I do cards and sort-of flowers: He brings them home, gives them to me, and then they live in the bathroom behind closed doors because Pippin thinks they’re her salad. Some years we go out on a Valentine’s date, but it doesn’t always work out. Especially since there’s now a kiddo involved. 😉

Me, I can’t quite get past the origins of Valentine’s Day, which have nothing to do with romance and everything to do with death. Even so, I still like to have fun with it. So, in the spirit of that, here are some of my poetic Valentine’s Day tweets from this morning. Just goofy stuff, but I hope they give you a chuckle. Some feature favorite movie and TV characters!

Courtney’s Twitter-Ode to Romance

Roses are red
Violets aren’t blue
I think you’re cute
Here, have a gnu

Roses are red
Cat noses pink
Cats don’t care about
Valentines, I think

Roses in bed
Breakfast in vases
Makes for the very
Oddest of cases

Roses blood-red
Spiders can bite
Here’s to delicious
Halloween frights

Wait, what?

Noses are red
Fingers are cold
This winter weather
Is getting so old

Except here in Oklahoma, where we’re having spring temps

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Just like your fingers
I chopped up for stew

Roses are red
Star Wars is cool
Scrappy young Rey
Ain’t nobody’s fool

Roses are red
Star Trek is neat
Riker likes Troi
So he turns on the heat

Roses are red
Thor wants “ANOTHER!”
Gets dirty looks
From Loki, his brother

Except SPOILER ALERT Loki is actually a frost giant

Roses are red
Dean loves him some pie
Winchesters go hunting
And monsters will die

[Dean randomly dies in the shower again]

Roses are red
USA has no luck
#Election2016
Already sucks

Roses are red
#amwriting is fun
But I need time away
Out in the sun

preferably in Maui

Roses are red
My final decision:
Netflix has ruined me
For normal television

TAH-DAH. 😉

If you enjoyed that and want more, I got really into the characters part of it all and wrote a Valentine Ode to Villains. Since Valentine’s Day has upon it the stain of death and evil and whatnot. 😉

Stains of Grace: More Music to Demon By

Novel Noveling Status Update

Oh, my dearest inklings: Stains of Grace is so, so very close to publication, I CAN TASTE ITS DONENESS.

“But alas!” you’re thinking. “Wherefore doth this much-desired tome not yet appear upon ye olde Amazon sales page?!?”

The answer, my dears, to that unhappy question is that (1) your author is pregnant and tired and (as of this writing) sleepless, and she therefore can’t write and edit and finalize as fast as she thought she could; and (2) the head of her indie publisher just yesterday completed his Master’s in Professional Writing and has been frantic to finish his studies.

We do apologize, loves. Sometimes, life just happens.

3:00pm Addendum:

Now, I am not just tasting the novel’s doneness. I HAVE CHEWED AND SWALLOWED ITS DONENESS. Stains of Grace is officially in the hands of the publisher, y’all. BANGERANG.

I CANNOT WAIT FOR YOU TO READ THIS BOOK.

So. With that out of the way, let’s move on. I anticipate our uploading the novel file to Amazon within the next 24 hours. After that, the Kindle version of Stains will hopefully go live — meaning that you can have the e-version of the book in your lovely, eager hands — no later than Monday!

In the Meantime…

You might, perhaps, recall the time I told you about the music I’ve listened to while writing the Demons of Saltmarch series. (If you don’t recall, just click on that link and check it out.) That post covered the playlists for Colors of Deception (Saltmarch #1) and Shadows after Midnight (Saltmarch #2).

Since you dears have all been so patient with me as I’ve scrambled to get Stains ready for you, I decided to go ahead and share its playlist with you. So here we go…

Stains of Grace Playlist

“The Strangest Party” by INXS (Anne)
“Girlfriend by” Phoenix (Peter)
“Devil Inside” by INXS
“Lights Out” by Breaking Benjamin (Polednitsa)
“Prodigal” by Porcupine Tree
“Papercut” by Linkin Park (Anne)
“I Don’t Care” by Apocalyptica (Anne)
“Burn for You” by INXS
“Suicide Blonde” by INXS (Dante)
“Living Dead Girl” by Rob Zombie
“I Will Not Bow” by Breaking Benjamin
“Afterglow” by INXS

As with the previous post, I’ve included characters’ names in parentheses. Each song has a particular meaning for that character — so, if you can’t stand the tease and you’re not afraid of a few teensy spoilers, you can look up the lyrics and get a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of each named character.

You’ll notice that I didn’t include names for some of the songs. That’s because I didn’t want to provide you with *too* many potential spoilers. If you want to know what characters belong with these songs, you’ll just have to read the book and see if you can figure out who goes with what. If you’re really brave, you can pay close attention to the fact that the playlist follows the chronology of the story. ; )

All right, sweeties, I’m off to grab a snack and see if I can go back to sleep. It’s 5:15am, I’ve been awake since 2:30, and I think it’s time to attempt this voluntary unconsciousness thing again.

Oh, and if you just can’t stand the wait, and the playlist isn’t enough to keep you busy, pop over here for a reminder of how the Demons of Saltmarch started. It involves a vacuum cleaner.

G’night! (I hope.)

P.S. May the Fourth be with you.

10 Things I’d Rather Do Than Fight a Zombie Elf

 

  

 This post is brought to you by the letter “Z” and was inspired by Consortium Books‘ upcoming short story e-zine, Consortium of Worlds, Vol. 1 (in which you can read my zombie elf short story “Dead Reconning”). 

  
 

10 Things I’d Rather Do Than Fight a Zombie Elf

In random order:

  1. Fight a living elf
  2. Make out with a non-sparkling vampire
    We all know how that would end, and it doesn’t involve vampiric vegetarianism.
  3. Take afternoon tea with Gothmog (“Elephant Man” orc in LoTR film The Return of the King)
    Talk about one lump or two. Have you seen that guy’s face?!
  4. Engage in a Worst Poetry Contest with a Vogon
    Internal hemorrhaging, anyone?
  5. Listen to Rebecca Black’s “Friday” until my ears bleed
  6. Work out to Richard Simmons’s Disco Sweat
  7. Play hide-and-seek with Darth Vader
    “The stupidity is strong with this one.”
  8. Clean the cats’ litterboxes
  9. Catch a dragon by the toe
    If he hollers, you’re dead. Because he breathes fire and all.
  10. Try to write a novel without any coffee

_________________

What about you? What would you rather do than fight an undead zombie elf?

Zombie Courtney created with “George A. Romero’s App of the Dead” app for iPhone.

33 Questions for My Readers

You mustn’t always believe what I say. Questions tempt you to tell lies, particularly when there is no answer.

–Pablo Picasso

Okay, my dear inklings. This one was inspired by Michael Martine, Remarkablogger, who apparently keeps a tiny camera tucked into the the folds of my brain and blogs answers to my questions before I know I have questions.

Without further ado or adon’t: I have questions for you, my dears. Pick a few and share your thoughts in the comments. Or answer all the questions, if you dare. Or ask some of your own. Who knows what might happen if you people start talking to each other as well as to me? ; )

Mac or PC?

WordPress or Blogger?

Disqus or Livefyre?

Facebook or Twitter?

Blog or e-zine?

Chicken or the egg?

Novels or short stories?

Poetry or journal?

Paper or plastic?

Tea or coffee?

Cream or sugar?

IHOP or Denny’s?

Restaurant or home-cooked?

Faith or religion?

Values or beliefs?

Parachuting or deep-sea diving?

iPhone or Android?

Data or Spock?

Kirk or Picard?

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Klingons or Wookiees?

Jack Bauer or Chuck Norris?

Bauer or MacGyver?

MacGyver or Jones?

Early bird or night owl?

Dogs or cats?

Oceans or mountains?

Jungle or desert?

Speaking or listening?

Silence or sound?

Stillness or movement?

Inward or outward?

Questions or answers?

And, above all: WHY?