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(pronounced Ko-Hane)
Dan is the Bram Stoker-nominated author of Plague of Darkness, Solomon’s Grave, and the critically-acclaimed Margaret's Ark. Writing as G. Daniel Gunn, he released Destroyer of Worlds and the novella (written with L.L.Soares) Nightmare in Greasepaint (Samhain Publishing),. His short stories have appeared in Cemetery Dance, Shroud Magazine, Apex Digest and many more. He and his family live in New England.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Top 10 Movies of 2019 With Extra Stuff as Always

Yep, well, here we are, time to look back at a very eventful 2019, beginning on this Eve of 2020 with my picks for favorite moves if the past year.

As a number of my fellow writers/reviewers slowly circle the wagon on a possible new Movie Review Site (more as this develops), some of them have also posted their picks for favorite 2019 movies. You can find them (and this list will expand as they publish them) at:

Philip Perron (coming soon)

When I looked back on how many movies released this year I've managed to see  I was shocked (39, to be exact), not to mention movies from earlier years I got caught up on (25+). This year's was a slightly less-eclectic-than-usual but overall enjoyable one. There are still a large number of movies on my To Be Watched list I haven't had a chance to see, such as KNIVES OUT, LITTLE WOMEN, THE AERONAUTS, GEMINI MAN, ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP and THE LIGHTHOUSE, to name only a few. As I get a chance to see these I might just alter my list below a wee bit.

To wit: my TOP 10 (which are actually 11), counting down as usual from 10:

10 (tie): AD ASTRA: I really wanted to see this even after catching echoes of negativity around it. The concept was intriguing and I went into with only half a trailer's knowledge of the plot. Seriously, though, science fiction and Brad Pitt? Two of my favorite movie ingredients. I really liked this film, though I understand why an average viewer might not enjoy it. It's slow, very introspective and there are some plot points near the climax that shake believability a tad, but it is beautifully written, acted and filmed. The effects are gorgeous, with no sound in the vacuum of space which is always a plus. One of the more underrated films of 2019. Worth checking out, as long as you're not expecting one of the many STAR WARS entries.

10 (tie): ANIARA: I give this Swedish language science fiction gem shared space with AD ASTRA because, though the sets and effects might be lower budget, it is still fascinating to watch and it tries as hard, if not more, to impact the viewer. I could list it here for it's earnestness, alone. A highly populated ship enroute to a colony on Mars has an incident and veers off course. Without the ability to steer the crew and passengers must face an extended - if not permanent - life in space unless a solution can be found. Alternative existential and heart warming - it's mostly existential - a wondrous view into the what-if's of the average human's response to the isolation of deep space.

9: ROCKETMAN: It had to follow the near-perfect rock bio-pic BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018) and so was destined its runty little sibling, and yes there are similarities in the storyline because the life of a huge rock star is a predictable one (rising star, drugs, over-inflated ego, crash and burn, repentance - the story of life I suppose). ROCKETMAN rises above the sameness by telling John's story more as a Broadway musical. The cast breaks into song mid-scene with extras in the background becoming dancers, a tinge of fantasy melded into the story of misfit and musical prodigy Reginald Dwight and his lifelong friendship with another misfit and music prodigy Bernie Taupin. Fun to watch and great music. And Taron Egerton became John, no question.

8: JOKER: Oddly enough, for such a brilliant film, this almost ended up in my honorable mentions as I was shuffling the list, mostly because it's so - damn - dark. Joaquin Phoenix was brilliant as usual in the title role of a mentally disturbed young man who, when he is taken off his government issued meds, struggles to hold his thinning world together for himself, his mother and his lifelong dream of being a comedian. Wonderful camerawork and directing, we are drawn deeper into this world. I left wondering if this was an origin story for the famous Batman baddie at all, or the result of deeper and deeper delusion on the part of a sad, lost man named Arthur Fleck.

7: SHAZAM!: This movie was AWESOME! With an exclamation point. Aside from perhaps ENDGAME (see #3 below), by far one of the best superhero movies of the year - if not the decade. Zachary Levi balances well the line between adult and empowered teenager. Asher Angel as the actual teenager Billy Batson held his own, with a strong cast of relative unknowns. Great for the entire family, with some gleefully dark moments both in the superhero and character stories. Strongly recommend this one.

6: THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM: finally saw this just the other day, a documentary from a couple living in the city with a dream of owning a farm and a dog who forces them to pursue it. The cinematography was eye-popping at times, and the story never dragged - from the arrival at a deader-than-dead plot of land in the California hills through their struggles to bring it all back to life, all the while sticking to their number one rule: do it all while keeping a balance with nature. Inspirational all the way through. It's a documentary about a farm and I teared up a couple of times.

5: A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Tom Hanks plays Mister Rogers. Seriously, do I need to say anything else? Fred Rogers is only a supporting character (though a major one) to the reporter on whose eventual article the movie was based. The reporter who has to interview Rogers for a fluff piece to try and save his career and, of course, learns a lot in the process about kindness and humanity. I expected to not be able to un-see Hanks as Hanks in the film, but of course he became the role. I was taken aback leaving the theater when I looked up an article about Fred Rogers, saw his picture and thought, 'Oh, right, THAT'S what he looks like.' Hanks had become him so well. Now, I didn't ball my eyes out as I had expected, but did tear up a couple of times. Yes, I cry at movies a lot.

4: MARVEL'S AVENGERS: ENDGAME: They had to end it big, and big they did. With every possible character in the 10-year Marvel cinematic universe coming together eventually to battle cinema's favorite bad guy, how could it not? How they did this was at least mostly believable, and enjoyable to watch. They skimmed over the whole issue of time paradoxes with humor and the concept of parallel universes (a theme which is going to be built on in future movies, as they had in the nineties with the comics - and unfortunately also nearly killed the comics by doing so). Only a fraction less enjoyable than INFINITY WAR, it was still brilliant and a worthy conclusion to the saga.

3: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD: Friggin' brilliant. Saw this in a late, late showing with some friends and maybe that added to it, but I liked this almost as much (almost) as Tarantino's magnum opus PULP FICTION (1994). Expertly filmed, armed with just enough humor and surprisingly little violence (until the end). There always seemed to be the lingering threat of violence woven throughout, but HOLLYWOOD was so much the writer/director being content and confident in his craft and wanting to tell a fable for his time. Great (if not somewhat obscure) music, too.

2: STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: How anyone can bash this final chapter of a forty-two year story arc is beyond me. But we geeks are a picky lot, no? I loved it. Abrams brings most of the story threads from episode 7 and 8 and all the way back to 1 in some cases, and ties them together with love of finesse. The storyline with the Sith: finally a view into the darkness of the dark side worthy of its name. Rey and Kylo? It worked for me, how it all turned out. Abrams and the writers removed any possible romance between Finn and Rose, yes! (that relationship was one of the few things I disliked about THE LAST JEDI (2017)). Some great moments in an enjoyable and exhausting Star Wars entry.

My favorite movie from 2019:

1: JOJO RABBIT: movies about Nazis scare me, always have. Movies about people who support the Nazis disturb me. JOJO RABBIT is about a young boy who is excited to join the Hitler Youth movement and has an imaginary friend: Hitler (played to comic, and frightening, perfection by writer/director Taika Watiti. Hitler is carefully crafted to always be from the boy's perspective, his inner struggles and desire for conformity. Funny, sometimes outright hilarious at times, all of us watching slowly, unavoidably, grew more and more frightened as we loved every character and the war stumbled to an end yet we couldn't breathe easier because one of the characters we love is a Jew hiding in the boy's house and this is Nazi Germany. The film balances the terror and violence with needed humor so well. On top of all this, it co-stars Sam Rockwell, who is one of the best actors on the screen today.

Honorable Mentions: YESTERDAY (funny, touching and original, with great music), DOCTOR SLEEP (a very worthy sequel to the film and book, balancing both), GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (fun and great effects), CAPTAIN MARVEL (I actually liked this movie better the second time around, well done origin with a slightly weak ending), TOY STORY 4 (amazing how the fourth installment, like every other, is as good and impactful as the original), JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL (not quite as good as the previous, but still very, very fun), THE FAREWELL (A strong, strong cast led ably by Awkwafina, touching and funny, spoken in half English half Mandarin, my oldest son's favorite of the year), ALADDIN (loved everything about this take including Smith's Genie - so does my five-year old son) and SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (predictable but still fun to watch, the Spider-man movies never shake me up like many of the other Marvel movies do, even considering this was my go-to comic as a kid, but it's still quite good).

I got to see a lot of great films from years past, some I wondered why it took me so long to see, like JOHN WICK (2014), ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (1974), 8 1/2 (1963), THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE (2001), JULES & JIM (1962), the amazing STALKER (1979), THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947) and EYES WIDE SHUT (1999), among many others. So I suppose it was a good year movie-wise.

Stay tuned for more upcoming 2019 retrospectives, including the books I got to enjoy, and I might even do a what-happened for this year because, honestly, it was quite a year.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

On Spaceships and Direction, World Building and Psalms

So, yea, it's been a while. Sorry for not updating this blog more. Although, really, I do if you look along the right sidebar. I've been keeping you (whoever YOU are, leave a comment if you happen to come by now and then, would love to know if there are any visitors who are not spider internet robot things) up to date on projects (not to mention way down what I'm reading these days). As you can see there's quite a lot.  Let's hit the highlights from oldest to newest shall we.

1. The Photograph, a middle grade YA book written with friend Dave Hilman was completed last year and we're tyring the traditional route. to be honest life has gotten in the way and I need to find more publishers to try. It's a great story, I think it should find a home, if not we'll independently publish it.

2. Plague of Locusts: Did final touches over a year ago on my science fiction novel Plague of Locusts and for a time and trying to publish it traditionally (versus independently publish). Not an easy task considering the faith angle of the book, however it has currently been pulled out of the slush for a major publisher and is being considered by their editorial team. After over nine months in slush, this could take an eternity (in feel-like years) to hear back. It's how this thing goes, but honestly I'm not in a rush right now. Am curious what they'll say.

3. Vast Array series: so Plague of Locust, though standalone, is envisioned as the first in a series of novels with what I've decided to call the Vast Array series. Last year again I began to rewrite a book I'd started ten years ago (really) then put down, and have modified it extensively as a science fiction, converting it to work in the world of Plague of Locusts, only a hundred years later. Got quite a ways in when I realized this would be the final book in the first series (of possibly many) in the Vast Array universe, and that there was at least one, if not two, other novels between it and Locusts. So I stopped, and began working on a book I'd roughly outlined a couple of years back which would be a direct sequel to Locusts. But first...

4. "Doley Nant Flower Sky": this is a novelette written as a standalone story within the Vast Array universe. It deals with abandonment, foster care and adoption as these are themes very much in my life these days. I marketed it for a time, then decided it needed more story, so have gone back to add more scenes. Will end up longer, possibly a novella.

5. So, am in early draft stages of the second book in the Vast Array series, called Morningstar (for now). It takes place a year after Locusts and has many of the same characters, taking place in two new systems discovered. Part of the book is from the perspective of an alien race (though, really, the humans are the aliens in this story), and have been world building like crazy, including an entirely new language. Been slow going, but interesting.

6. There was a spat of time where I wrote a number of non-fiction/essay articles for writer/pastor friend Marty Holman's website The Holman Report. Enjoyed doing this and was honestly quite invigorating (especially some of the reactions form traditonal church folk, not all bad). I've also written, or started, a number of film reviews but truly, without a place to publish besides my own site, been less than motivated.

7. Today: Isn't the list above enough? Not for me. I found myself - as you can plainly see above - jumping in and out of various projects with no clear single-minded purpose, except to build a world in a specific science fiction series. I still am going to, but found that my heart wasn't in it. I needed a break, and needed to know what to do next. After some literal fasting and prayer (don't knock it 'til you've tried it, bucko), am putting everything aside for a time, to work on somthing COMPLETELY different and knew. Was not thinking too much about what it is or could be, just walking forward. Using NaNoWriMo as a tool to push ahead with an early draft.
   What is it? Well, for the moment it's called The Psalms Project. Beginning with Psalm 1, I prayerfully read it, wait for an image or character or idea to rise up from what I read, then write a short story. It's going to be all fiction stories, crossing genres - could be contemporary, or scifi or horror or some mix - and one for every Psalm. Now, there are 150 of these so this will likely be multiple volumes, if I go further than the first set, but the stories in some way will be interconnected. Tightly or loosely, we'll find out. For a first draft, I've enjoyed the writing (the words I've been putting down as well as the act of writing them).

So as you can see, without deadlines or direction I can move about quite a lot, but writing is happening and it's happening in spades. It will see the light of day and you will be able to enjoy it (I hope) some day, but sometimes good meals need time to simmer, to mix my metaphors a little.

Have a great day.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A Thank You from Paul Keohane

"You find the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down."
                                                                                                                              -- C.S. Lewis
As I look back on this year's event, this quote seems fitting.

In between a beautiful Friday and Sunday was a storm-shortened Saturday.  Hurricane Dorian crept in like a lion on Friday night and hammered us a bit with its heavy winds and rain -- most powerfully in the overnight hours, luckily.  As a result, we had to hold off on our Saturday start a few extra hours.  The storm may have shortened our route that day but it definitely didn't dampen our spirits.

The MS 3-Day event is always such an emotional time.  Surrounded by the over five hundred walkers and volunteers throughout the weekend, it's tough not to be inspired by their stories and their resolve. 

I spoke to many people with MS, who feel the headwinds that life sends their way each day.  There were times when they talked about their struggles, both physically and mentally.  But mostly they talked about hope.  They talked about how they will not let MS define them.  They talked about how this event was a way for them to rage back against the storm, arm-in-arm with friends and family who love them and will always fight by their sides. And they talked about their dream of a day when those headwinds finally calmed and the storm that was MS headed out to sea forever.

I want to thank each and every one of you for joining me and fighting by my sister's side these past few months. 

Thanks to your generosity, we were able to raise over $6,000!!    You are incredible!!  I cannot thank you enough for your support and kindness. 

We will continue to rage against the storm.  We will win this fight.

- Paul

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Wicked Weird from the NEHW is now available!

A little late getting this out:

The New England Horror Authors' newest anthology, Wicked Weird, is now available everywhere!

Edited by Scott T. Goudsward, David Price and Amber Fallon, with cover art by Ogmios the Artist, this is a fantastic foray into the weirder side of horror. I did final proof editing, internal layout and publication (under our org's guide of NEHW Press). Here's the blurb:

There’s a side of the world those deemed "normal" don’t see, save for glimpses in flashing moments of fear and confusion. These places exist just around the corner of our vision, beyond the ocean fog of memory and nightmare, where monstrous children cry for love and secrets are hidden in remote caves; where nature reclaims its own and a sweet taste in your mouth portends evil beyond imagining. Within these pages are twenty-one secrets hidden behind a veil only the most ancient of beings have dared to pass through, brought to you by some of the most talented and imaginative authors to come out of New England.In short, these stories are Wicked Weird. Featuring oddities and terrors from Matthew M. Bartlett, J. Edwin Buja, William D. Carl, Victoria Dalpe, Barry Lee Dejasu, Peter N. Dudar, Emma J. Gibbon, John Goodrich, Paul R. McNamee, F. R. Michaels, Kali Moulton, Errick A. Nunnally, Jason Parent, Steve Van Samson, Rob Smales, LL Soares, Wicker Stone, Morgan Sylvia, Jeffrey Thomas, K. H. Vaughan and Trisha J. Wooldridge.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Wheels and Heels Against MS, 2019!

From my brother Paul Keohane:

I can’t believe it’s already August.   I hope everyone has been enjoying the warm weather of late and that you’re all doing well!   It seems like I send out my letter later each year but, fear not, I will be lacing up my sneakers and heading down to the Cape this September.

This year, my sister Anne and I decided that, between leg issues that she’s been dealing with and my current sore shoulder, that I should go it alone this time around.  Although she will not be with me during those three days, she will most certainly be there with me in spirit – motivating me as the miles pile up and the blisters inevitably start to form.

This year’s MS Challenge Walk begins on Friday, September 6 and will mark my 17th year participating.   My mission remains as always -- as long as MS negatively impacts my sister, I will continue to do whatever I can to help fight back against it.  I look forward to joining forces with friends and fellow walkers next month, raising awareness of MS as well as raising the much-needed funds to get us closer to one day finding a cure.

Anne wanted me to be sure to stress to all of you how much this event means to her and how very much she appreciates your incredible generosity.  She has benefited greatly from the National MS Society’s programs over the years and knows how important they are in not only helping her but everyone else who battles this terrible disease.

Multiple Sclerosis is a frightening disease that affects the central nervous system.  The symptoms may be mild (such as numbness in the limbs) or severe enough to cause blindness or paralysis. The severity and specifics of the symptoms of MS can’t yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are giving hope to all affected by the disease.

Your donations to the National MS Society are the key to these exciting treatments.  We hope that you decide to persist in the fight with us and be that beacon of hope for all who battle this disease.  No donation is too small! 

As in the past, there are two ways you can donate. 

The fastest and most convenient way would be to visit my fundraising page at:

You can also mail me a check, making it out to The National MS Society.
My address is:            Paul Keohane                                               
                                   2 Jillian Rose Dr                                 
                                  Oxford, MA 01540

Thank you all so very much for your continued support!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

"Vaguebooking Out the Window of Life" at The Holman Report

My essay about a trend I'm seeing with increasing regularity on social media is now up at The Holman Report, check it out at

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Of Leviathans and Famines

My friend Marty Holman recently began an online magazine called The Holman Report, where he writes about living our your faith in the wilderness, starting conversations about the modern church and where it is, where it's going, etc. I've written a few articles for him so far. One recently. The last couple are:


Friday, May 17, 2019

When Someday Becomes Tomorrow, for Amanda and Audrey

My two amazing daughters, Amanda and Audrey, are graduating college. In fact, Amanda has already graduated a few days earlier. Audrey's big moment is coming up tomorrow morning. I've been trying to write something around all of this for a week. What I keep coming up with are clumps of memories, what has stayed with me through the years. But it didn't feel enough. Too impersonal, more akin to those end of year summaries outlining the fun had since the last summary. Something was missing.

What makes a memory, and what do I truly remember about the family I helped bring into the world, and specifically the two little girls I held and hugged and loved from babyhood through this beginning phase of their adult lives?

What do I need to remember from a quarter century of being Dad?

Moments, laughing and crying and watching these beautiful people dance and run and pretend and dress up and snuggle as I read to them. I bought them clothes and got them to school and helped with homework but in the end, if I've been halfway decent with this parenting thing, I also watched them. The best gift we can give any child is what they crave the most: my valuable, personal attention.

Watch me, Daddy.

I watched them jump in the pool; do a dance; stand on one foot; perform a play they renamed "Rabbit" because "The Big Scary Haunted House" was too frightening a title. I watched them learn to cook, setup blankets and pillows in front of the TV for movie night, do a fashion show.

I listened, to the stories they made up, the things they did in school. To flute and piano recitals, the music washing over me grander than any symphony because this was music made by my daughters. Listened to their bad dreams, and without judgment their plans for the future. As parents we try to support their first steps towards any dream. I want to be a chef. I want to be an engineer. I want to be a cinematographer. I want to work in an office like on that TV show. I want to save the world. I want to step out and make my own mistakes but God willing I hope you're there if things go south and I need to call my Daddy.

I talked to them. Not my strongest suit. When I do speak it usually sounds like I'm thinking about something else. I've tried to be honest with my girls. Restraint when needed, when my opinion doesn’t matter in the moment, but offering encouragement or advice if I think it'll land in good soil. When they were little, I spoke to them as if they were big. Never speak down to the little ones; if they don't know what you mean, they'll ask.

I read, Harry Potter and Madeline and Get Fuzzy comic strips and that series of books with the cats. Curled up against a pillow at bedtime, opening a world of words for them. If I'm lucky, the memories of their childhood will be narrated by my voice. Share with your children the books and movies you loved as a kid, too. These are as much a part of you as any grand tradition carried through generations.

I watched them dance and let their joy break my heart (see below for a link to a classic entry on that topic that still makes me cry). Shouted and screamed and burst with pride as they raced to the finish line (then threw up). I laughed at the plays they wrote then performed, at the scary movies they made when they stole the video camera.

What advice would I leave future Dads (and Moms)? As a parent, never make the mistake of thinking their universe revolves around you, or take their acts of rebellion as a personal affront. At the very best, you will never be the center of their world, but always an anchor when it's needed. Video as much as you can, but don't pan the camera too quickly. People watching will throw up. On that note assume you'll get vomit on you often, and don’t assume when the kids get bigger that part ends.
Every now and then, make chocolate cake for breakfast (one very minor regret of mine, never having done that). Try to live your life with honesty and integrity, and assume they'll follow suit. Live out your faith with no hesitation, and pray for them every day. Don't shove any of it down their throats, but don't let them talk down about it. They'll follow your path, or make their own. You can’t control them. You can only love them.

Amanda and Audrey, I love you girls so much I want to cry if I think too hard about it. In a couple more days you will both be officially out of college and joining your amazing brother in "the real world" with all its possible roads before you. I'll continue to watch as the events of your life unfold, the good and the bad (there will always be both), and listen to you tell me about your adventures traveling the world or what you saw in the supermarket the other day.

I think we did OK with this family stuff, crazy and eclectic as it's become. I might not be able to give anything too big or shiny as a graduation gift, but I can always give my words. Hopefully, along with love and our shared memories of what has been, these will last a lifetime.


Some related entries from days gone by:

Friday, May 03, 2019

Who Am I? (Part 2)

In Part one (which was a devotional - click here to read Who Am I? (Part One)), we talked about the perils of meeting your heroes, and briefly mentioned how we raise up others to be larger-than-life examples of the kind of person we either wish we could be, or strive to be. This is where we pick up now:

Wishing and striving are two very different actions, and the way you look at them will vastly determine the path ahead of you in life.

That's the kind of man I want to be.
I wish I was like him.

Which of the above statements would end in a resigned sigh? Most likely, the second. If wishes were fishes, and all that. On the surface, they sound similar. Follow them along the path they lay out for you, however, and the destination will vastly differ.

That's the kind of man (or woman or artist or park ranger or ball player) I want to be.

This statement implies you can, if you choose, become like this person, even better. You are pointing to someone and saying, "role model," "example" (living or otherwise), "goal." As in a race, when you see the finish line and aim for it, a person raised up as an example before us – and by us (key point) – is a destination towards which we direct our lives.

When we were young, people often pointed at little Johnny (apologies to all the Johnnys used as literary examples in this way) and say, You should be more like him, or, Your older sister has no problems in gym class, what's your deal? More directly, Why can't you be more like this person, while pointing to an athlete or a speaker or a neighbor or someone on TV.

That approach never works. Forcing a role model on someone breeds discontent. On the other hand, imagine a six-year-old girl watching the Olympics with her mother. Mom says, "Oh, that skater is so amazing. I love watching her." No finger pointing, just genuine awe and respect. If the daughter is athletically inclined, she might see that skater as a hero, a model towards which to strive. Perhaps for no other reason than to make her mother proud.  We do a lot of things in life to make Mom and/or Dad proud. That's an important bonus take-away from all this: If you're a parent, show pride for your children. It is the number one fuel for their early years.

I wish I was like him.

On the other hand, this statement doesn't actually have a destination in sight. As mentioned earlier, it's usually followed by a sigh of discontent. Personally - and yes I'll agree this might be a purely personal feeling with no basis in fact - "wish" is not an active verb. It's a statement of desire without an accompanying action. As someone who has a faith in God and tries to live it out the best I can (which on some days is not very well), I see prayer as being active. Lord, help me to become more like this person; show me ways to reach this level. That's asking for help. Wishing for it is just that and no more.

When I was a teenager, I wished I was a writer. Though I did scribble a few words down, they were quickly discarded. Growing up, my personal dreams and desires were only wishes. I never did anything about them and instead let events and experiences carry me where they may. No complaints, in retrospect, as they were mostly fun times and I did a lot of growing up. After school, job in hand, I started adding actions to my desires. Firstly, I finally conceded that to be a writer, I needed to write. I took a continuing ed course on fiction, read a book on the craft and most formed a writers' group with other newbies. I also read a lot, studying how those (far) better than me created such amazing visuals with words. Many of these were written by people who became in varying degrees my literary heroes.

All of it, adding action to the wish, making desire into a goal. I was off, slowly, but forward.

We all have dreams and wishes and bucket lists. If future accomplishments and worlds-to-visit start off as only wishes that's fine. Wishes come from the imagination and without that we would be standing in little unpainted rooms staring blankly out onto brick alleys all our lives. At the very least, wishes elevate our imaginations away from the mundane to something new and hopefully better.
Soon, though, decide on a first step and take it. Find someone who is doing what you want to do, being who you want to be, and use them as 1) proof that it's possible, 2) an example of how to do it well. You don't need to know them, or ever meet them in person. Decide, then, on the next step, and take that, and the next, all the while putting action to the wish. Once you start, it becomes a goal and the proverbial race is on. Keep going, adjust as necessary, and you will reach the end. One of many ends. There will always be more races, more goals to aim for.

Finally, and most importantly, enjoy the journey. In my life I've finished a number of smaller races and enjoyed the process of getting there. I learned a lot, found new heroes, chose new goals, and started again. I'm on one now – though my end goal is a little fuzzier than usual, and I've been wandering off course. But it'll come. I'll get a better picture, then get back on track.

We all will. It's life, and this a pretty good way to live it.

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Great Divorce

It's been a strange time, being church-less after attending services at an evangelical church pretty much every Sunday for past ten years and Catholic mass for forty-five years before that. Sundays meant church for as long as I can remember. They will again, I have no doubt, because I feel it's important to get together as a community to worship and celebrate on a regular basis. At the moment my wife and I have different opinions about what this should look like, but we'll figure it out.

In the meantime, I've been watching the emotional progression of my friends Marty and Al, former pastor and assistant pastor of the church from which we've all stepped (or been pushed) away. There has been a gamut of emotion, including anger and resentment. In many ways I know what they are feeling, though from a different perspective. I've been through a divorce, seen a life I once assumed would be a constant in ways not the least of which being who my partner in this journey of life would be, suddenly fragment and come apart. Said life eventually fell together in wonderful ways and I'm certain for my friends the story will end the same. But first, they need to go through the ups and downs of their respective divorces.

Don't get me wrong - these two and their wives are so happily married that birds fly around them with garlands of flowers in their beaks. It's sick. Even so, a divorce is happening. We keep the illusion that marriage is forever, and it will always be an illusion if both parties don't work hard at it every day. We also see "church" as another relationship that will be constant in our life. If it's working, not a cult-of-personality but a strong, cohesive group of believers striving and living together for the purpose of honoring God and each other, how could it not last forever? After all, that description paints our old church home perfectly.

Well, God knows (literally) that our enemy hates that sort of thing and will do anything to dismantle it. We talked about this last time. In the end our little church-world came apart and its former leaders were left with the same emotions and crises of relational faith any divorcee will experience when the world they thought they knew is torn away. They understand why it happened, but it hurts because there has been betrayal. What they once saw as "right" with religion is suddenly being questioned. In some ways this is a good thing - when we stop questioning and keeping our focus on what we care about, we allow it to rust away. There are other aspects of "church" which might only appear negative in the moment, in light of the pain, but will come to be seen as "good" again in the future. One hopes.

On the other side of the coin, I am in the unique position of suddenly understanding - even if just a little - what my now-adult children went through. In their younger lives, family was one thing they probably assumed would never change - always be there for them - hold up against any storm. Then their mother and I sat them down in January of 2010 and explained how everything was a lie and it was all coming to an end.

My spiritual parents, as it were, announced they were getting a divorce a few months ago and now it is done. I am recently as yesterday grieving the death of the very church I'd dreamed of being a part of, one I had gladly gotten up at 5:15 am every Sunday morning for setup, stayed until the afternoon to take down. One where my younger kids always were excited about attending.  But the cracks growing in the organization had gone too long unattended, and things ended. Pride, mostly, let it die. Hopefully humility will help restore it to what it once was, though this may not happen quickly. Some things  simply need to be brought into the light.

Many of us are now left with a broken church family struggling to decide how to move forward with this thing called "church". Family is, truly, what we'd found these past five years. One with shared purpose and a love for each other that transcended any differences. Now we cling together online mostly, sometimes having lunch, traveling to other churches as smaller exploratory groups to work out what life will look like post-divorce. Even others have stayed at the old place and this also is perfectly acceptable, even expected.

Who are you going to live with, Mom or Dad? A horrifying question no child should have to answer, but which most need to at some point. For me, I'm a "kid" in his mid-fifties having to answer this. Marty and his wife Carie, Al and Erica, Linda and I and everyone else will find what answer works for us. For the moment, we have to pray and lean into God and each other, and not let our light dim too much.

If nothing else, people are looking at us very closely to see how we respond. Waiting for us to prove that "church" is not the building, or the day, but who we are.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Walking Down New Roads with Smoldering Remains Behind Me

15 Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out
    falls into the pit they have made.
16 The trouble they cause recoils on them;
    their violence comes down on their own heads.
- Psalm 7: 15-16

There was a recent schism (if I'm using that word right) in my church: a multi-site organization with locations, for the most part, around the northeast. A decision was made to fire our local pastor, even though our specific location was one of the healthiest in the organization and the pastor an amazing shepherd to his people. A lot of questionable behavior from the central leadership followed as they tried to prevent the mass exodus which eventually happened anyway. Our local church bled well over half of its membership to become a shadow of what it once was, formerly a growing, spirit filled congregation open to everyone and worshiping with bursting joy in community. The new local pastor is a nice guy with a big heart, and the people staying on are committed to working with him to rebuild, and I pray that his church will grow under him, I really do. I'll watch from the sidelines, however, as I myself have stepped away.

That itself was a hard thing to do. I'm not good at endings, but like someone who sees how his food is actually prepared in a favorite restaurant, and after many months of prayerful consideration, I felt obliged to. It still took a while, because I was in charge of what was called the "production" team and truly loved the people there who come in early to setup, run the lights and video and sound, and did not want to leave them. In the end, central management, the new pastor and I came to an agreement and just prior to me leaving for Spain for vacation (see earlier entry) we parted ways amicably. I told each team member (those still there), and people were sad but understood.

Why the verses up top? Well, after writing a 1200-word rant then deleting most of it, I trimmed it down and posted the main point on my devotional page, but in short, every organization working for the kingdom, be it a church or charity or what have you, survives only when it keeps its perspective upward, stays humble and grateful for the chance to serve, and its leaders never forget they are not the hinges upon which the door of their efforts swing. Sorry, not the best metaphor but I liked how it looked in my head.

The unofficial tagline for my novel Plague of Darkness is that secrets never stay buried forever. In the above verses, if you dig a large hole, you end up stuck in it like Mike Mulligan and his trusty steam shovel Maryanne, or at the very least you fall back into it at some point. The latter is usually what we humans end up doing. There's accountability for every action we perform, good or bad and whether we think we've hidden it or not.

A significant moment for me was during a date with my wife, Linda. We told each other pretty much all of our deepest, darkest secrets, stuff we hadn't told anyone before. Coming out of that, it was like the world was suddenly open like never before. So much metaphorical weight lifted from our chests. There's a song from the band Tenth Avenue North which goes

You told me secrets nobody had known
But I never loved you more, even though
Now I know what you did.

To climb out of the holes our own actions have dug, to break bad habits and patterns in our lives, we need others to be brought into the game. After years of trying to quit smoking, I succeeded only when I told other people what I was doing, and asked them to keep me honest. I think about what they might say if I start again. Being reminded that what we do has an impact on other people is a strong deterrent to bad behavior.

Sometimes because of this, we try to hide our secrets. That opens the door for our spiritual enemy (call him/it what you will) to work against us. Most major church movements start out honestly, humbly doing the work of the Spirit here on earth and perhaps growing in size and influence, not that this is an important attribute of a church, but that's a topic for another day. At some point, if we're not careful (and often we are not because we're a prideful bunch) the enemy will do what he always does: get us to destroy it all by ourselves. Pastors have affairs that shatter illusions of the people they serve (to clarify: that is NOT what happened here, nothing like that). Church leadership becomes so obsessed with money that every sermon brings the subject up in some way, rather than putting more trust in God's provision. Preachers see themselves as deserving accolades and reverence, instead of serving humbly every day and being grateful for the opportunity to speak and teach. Obsessing over details, trying to control everything, rather than trust. So often, in scripture, Jesus warns us to stay humble, that the proud will fall. Or, in the words of Han Solo, "Don't get cocky."

Pride, and control. A lot of these potential holes can be avoided by putting guardrails in place, not least of which is being open and transparent with other leaders and the congregation itself.

There's a lot more to talk about and I will over the next few weeks. When "going to church" has become so central to one's life, what happens when that man-made structure and organization is yanked away from you? My relationship with Jesus is still strong –as strong as it has been, at least, there's always room for improvement. Like my friend Marty, the aforementioned local pastor who after twenty years is on the same road (more so since "church" is what he has done twenty-four hours a day for most of his life), I'm walking down whatever road(s) the Lord lays before me and discovering what "doing church" can mean outside of the box we are constantly trying to shove God into.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Took 25 Years to Finally Look Inside

About 25 years ago, the Catholic church I attended (St George n Worcester) hosted a Maryknoll priest and we began giving money to their mission outreach each month. Saw no reason to ever stop, they do good work, but every quarter they send their little magazine. In 25 years I never read a single article, just tossed it. Been going through this season of drifting (and yes, rest) without a church home (a story for another time, soon) and picked up the latest newsletter, decided to read it. Some pretty amazing stuff. This is a short article I just read which seems quite timely for me (and maybe some of you) to read. Check out the article here: "Even when we feel far from God, God never leaves us."

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Fear is the Mind Killer

My wife Linda and two of our children visited friends Marty and Carie Holman (and their 4 young kids) for a week in Valencia, Spain last week. Marty, during his month-long stay in Spain which was one-part vacation, one-part sabbatical, had been writing daily updates on Facebook of his experiences traveling in a new country with his family. He asked me to write some final thoughts on our own trip which he then posted as day 25 of his story:


The moment my wife Linda heard that that the Holmans were traveling to Valencia, Spain for a month, there was no question in her mind we were going to Spain for a week to visit them. I thought it was the wackiest idea she'd ever had and did my best to forget how these ideas of hers usually end up pretty darn good times. Everyone knows Spain is a backwoods country riddled with crime and swarming with ‘ne-er do wells’ just waiting to snatch away children and lash out with rusty sabers in the marketplace.

Yes, I watch too many old movies, and was probably mixing up Spain with early 20th century Istanbul.

Often, if I'm asked to step out of my comfort zone I will invariably fight back. I know my world well: which step creaks at night, where the dogs go when they run away, where the bathroom is, and even how to say "bathroom" which is kind of important after a good almuerzo! Fear will whisper to us that "new" equates to "bad."

God does not call us to have a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). Linda, on the other hand, has no such qualms about stepping into new experiences and seeing new things. This fearlessness has rubbed off on me a little. Even so, when an opportunity like this arises, my first reaction is to metaphorically curl up into a ball and shout, "No, no, no!"

Not counting trips to Canada and Mexico, 80% of Americans have never left their native country (based on State Department statistics, the percentage of people who own a passport and average number of trips US citizens have taken to non-neighboring countries over last ten years, and a wild guess). Aside from Canada and four trips "the countries" at Disney's Epcot, I've never left the United States. Suddenly we're talking about traveling with our two youngest children to a spanish city that I'd never heard of? I don't even speak Español!

Granted, my two oldest daughters visited Barcelona, Spain a couple of years before and did not return screaming in terror. In fact, They had a wonderful time.

After crunching the numbers and deciding we could (just) swing this financially, I had two options before me: 1) stay where I was and not personally experience the rest of civilization around me, claim as I do to be open to other cultures; or 2) step out of the boat and trust mine is not the only corner of the world worth standing in.

In the end we had an amazing time, posted pictures and videos from Valencia and perhaps learned some valuable lessons along the way, not the least of which is that the rest the world has an overflowing sense of beauty and culture and chocolate croissants and piña juice to share with us if we're willing to stop listening to fear and take a step of faith. Spain isn't perfect, but neither are the walls of our own home. Being cautious and wise is a good thing – an important part of survival, in fact. Now and then, however, you have to uncurl from the fear and trust God has a lot more of life to show you than what you can see today.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

My Top Movies of 2018

Ok, so it's time for my Top 10 Movies of 2018! Click here to see what I liked. Also, in honor of the late Cinema Knife Fight, check out L. L. Soares' and Michael Arruda's lists!

Monday, January 07, 2019

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) - My Long-Awaited, 50th Anniversary, Three-Part Review is Now Showing!

Well, I mention the film enough times in other reviews, and knew that someday I would need to write a review for this 50-year old, polarizing science fiction epic. What I call epic, most in my family refer to as "the slow movie." Still, it unarguably changed the game for the sci-fi genre in cinema with its scope and special effects. At last, come on in and join the discussion of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), which is still one the best of its genre ever released. Completely brain-wonky ending aside, of course. Read the three-part conversation on my reviews website here.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Books Read in 2018

It’s time again to clear out my Books Read section of the website for the new year, but before I do, let’s save it for posterity in a post, shall we?

I didn’t read as many books in 2018 as usual, though I still covered decent ground. One reason is I’d started , then put down more than my usual share of books. If a book doesn’t grab me by the quarter-read mark, I generally put it down and start a new one. There are too many waiting to be read next. For example, I’d been wanting to pick up a new Terri Blackstock for years, and Last Light was one that started out intriguing enough, about an EMP (I assume) that knocks out power everywhere. Though the writing was good, as always, the main characters were so unlikable it was too wearisome to live in their world any longer. I was enjoying The Hideaway by Lauren Denton, but about halfway realized it was a romance novel and I simply wasn’t engaged in the story and its pace (romance novels aren’t my thing), though I do understand why this book was a big seller. Some classics, like the original Casino Royale (James Bond #1) by Ian Fleming or the next Perry Rhodan (volume 4) honestly weren’t that good, or simply so dated it interfered with my enjoyment of them, so I stopped.

Then what did I like? On the fiction front, a couple of my favorites were happily by a friends in the business, which is always nice (they did not make this list because I knew them, though, trust me). Christopher Golden’s contribution to the Alien franchise: Alien: River of Pain which shows us what happened at the Hadley’s Hope research station on LV-426, before Ripley and the marines arrived in ALIENS (1986), was heartbreakingly awesome. I also finished the Seven Forges fantasy series with The Silent Army: Seven Forges Book 4 by James A. Moore. As chaotic as it was with so many characters coming together, the overall series was incredibly original and entertaining (and dark, and bloody....).  A surprise by an author I had never heard of: Space Team: A Comedic Sci-Fi Adventure, Barry J. Hutchinson’s first in a series of comedy science fiction novels, and this one was very funny. It shouldn’t have been, with much of the humor being snarky wise cracks by the main character, but it was. Hutchinson has a deft, and very funny touch with scene building and dialogue. Looking forward to volume 2.

I returned to my reading roots with more science fiction (I’ve also been writing more sci-fi), and wanted to find a decent example of an SF book with a Christian bent – not easy to find any sci-fi in this market, let alone good ones. I was pleasantly surprised at my first try with Edge of Oblivion (The Chronicles of Sarco Book 1) by Joshua A. Johnston. Published by a small CBA publisher, it was fast paced and interesting with a pretty veiled (until the end) Christian theme.  Another product of a Christian author (but not religious-themed at all) was  The Dark Tower and Other Stories by C. S. Lewis. The Dark Tower (no association with the King series, obviously) was an interesting, but unfinished science fiction novel by Lewis dealing with alternative universes. It was amazingly written, especially for such an early draft, but also very odd at times in an original, fascinating way. It might have changed not only the genre with such a sharp turn of originality and dark tone, but how people might have viewed the author. I picture him working on this much as I myself do with some projects, trying to incorporate faith into writing but at times veering away completely into uncharted waters.

Along the lines of classic novels, I’ve always enjoyed the 70’s movie SOYLENT GREEN (1973) so grabbed the original novel by Harry Harrison titled Make Room! Make Room! Interestingly, the food product Soylent Green gets only a minor mention in the book, which focuses instead on the cop investigating the murder of a rich mobster, while showing what the world will be like straining under the weight of overpopulation. It’s a well-written, interesting novel, with a diverse (for the time) cast of characters, ethnically-speaking. In the film they were mostly all white-washed, but re-watching SOYLENT it is obvious they took the source material in many other ways quite seriously.

Other fiction books I finished and enjoyed were The Walk by Lee Goldberg, Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman which was not quite as universally approachable a story as Bird Box but still a weird, fun read, along the lines of another book I devoured (after having loved the film version): Annihilation: A Novel by Jeff VanderMeer. My daughter gave me Stephen King’s new one, The Outsider for my birthday last year and enjoyed it. Paul Tremblay’s sophomore release Disappearance at Devil's Rock which again plays with the reader as to whether it is horror or not, but even more subtly in this one. Have Paul’s next on the list for this year, looking forward to it. The Lion's Game (John Corey Book #2) by Nelson DeMille was at times a rough read (I dislike reading from mass murderer’s/serial killer’s perspective, and half this book was from a sociopathic terrorist) but nonetheless gripping. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is another classic read last year – I’m noting a reading trend with classic novels. Since I’ve been writing science fiction more lately, I decided to give Greg Bear another chance (Moving Mars was too political and slow-paced for me, but I might return to it someday) with his classic The Forge of God. Again it was a political science fiction, but a good read. He’s an amazing writer. On the other end of the scale, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom told the tale of slaves near the end of that era and the young Irish child the plantation owner brings home for them to care for. I have to admit, I couldn’t finish it, not because the writing was weak, but because it was too good. I didn’t want to see characters I’d quickly come to love go through as much shit as I knew they were going to in the second half. So I chickened out, and stopped reading. Sorry, Kathleen, but you did too good a job.

One last book I finished, mostly, and was interested in initially but eventually got tired of was The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay by Harlan Ellison. Ellison was known as being an abrasive and opinionated man, but a brilliant writer. This book was his way of showing how much better the classic STAR TREK TV episode would have been if they hadn’t made so many changes to it before final shooting. There were some interesting aspects of his original story which would have been cool but after reading early treatments, then various edited versions of the teleplays... basically every draft of his original screenplay... I honestly feel the version eventually filmed is better than Ellison’s original. I stopped reading the book halfway because between drafts of his script are essays where he pontificates endlessly on how he was wronged, and how this person or that was a lousy human, or how his version is so much better. It got tiresome.

I also went back and read the Oct-Nov 2018 issue of Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, now edited by Charles Coleman (CC) Finlay. I used to read this magazine religiously years back, but found it harder to keep up with it over time. I still pick up an issue now and then. As usual, stellar fiction all the way through.

Lastly, I read a number of non-fiction books, my favorites of which are: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (it’s always good for writers to read a writing book now and then to remind ourselves why we do it), The Great Movies, Roger Ebert’s first volume of revisits to his favorites films, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans, beautiful writings of how the author became disillusioned with organized religion and slowly, through searching and experimenting and connecting with God on her terms, found a community again. It’s a poetic, at times searing rebuke to churches who have completely lost the point. As well, Good News for a Change: How to Talk to Anyone about Jesus by Matt Mikalatos was a funny, common sense (something we tend to forget to use in church circles) discussion on how to speak to people, hostile or otherwise, about our faith. If the idea of taking to anyone about God outside of the pews gives you the willies, read Matt’s book.

Other completed non-fiction, of which quite a few dealt with matters of faith and were quite good in their own right, were The Ultimate Treasure Hunt: A Guide to Supernatural Evangelism Through Supernatural Encounters by Kevin Dedmon, Waking Up: To The Way of Love by Ted Dekker, which was more a prologue to a new inspirational series he has just released, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns, a book I do not recommend for new Christians because it challenges the entire basis of how the Bible was written and intended– as important as this is to a degree. How much of what he says is accurate, I can’t say, but for well-anchored people of faith it’s a good wake-up call that we need to understand the context of where and when something was written to truly understand it. Finally, on the other end of the scale, Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix is a massive coffee table book chronicling, through hundreds of beautiful or (mostly) gaudy book covers, the history of modern horror.

Well, that’s it for 2018’s reading list. Below on the right I’ve begun the 2019 list. Looking forward to the worlds I’ll be visiting this year.