Happy Halloween and Happy Reformation Day!

I’ve got a confession to make.

I’m a Christian that loves Halloween. martin-luther

Unabashedly. Unashamedly.

I look for excuses to wear costumes, but Halloween seems to be one of the only times that it’s socially acceptable to walk around in costume all day. My childhood Halloween memories were always positive, trick-or-treating with my sister and occasionally my cousins. My teenage and college years were filled with fun parties, good-natured laughter, my favorite Halloween specials, and the occasional horror flick. I love seeing the creativity and imagination that goes into thinking up a costume and pulling it off. I love candy, pumpkin beer, and I’ve recently acquired a taste for horror films, though mostly of the mystery-thriller sort.

As a believer, particularly of the reformed variety, I also am grateful for the courage of Martin Luther. His 95 theses have shaped my faith, as well as those of many before me. I think this quote from him that C. S. Lewis opens with in The Screwtape Letters has a particular poignancy for me, especially on this day.

“The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.”

The devil doesn’t own this day. He doesn’t own anything. He’s defeated in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I spend the evening laughing and celebrating my freedom and liberty in Christ. So if you celebrate Halloween in good conscience, dress up. Hand out candy. Laugh with your friends. Love your neighbor. Watch your favorite Halloween specials and films. Rejoice in your freedom in Christ. Trounce the devil with your laughter.

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

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4 Reasons to Geek Out About The River Fox by Jonny Jimison

My buddy, Jonny Jimison, is one of the most clever and gifted cartoonists I’ve ever met. Jonny’s first graphic novel, Martin and Marco: The Dragon Lord Saga, has been described as “The Lord of the Rings meets Calvin and Hobbes.” Personally, I can’t think of a more accurate descriptor for Jonny’s work and sense of humor. The sequel to Martin and MarcoThe River Fox, is being kickstarted right now. I asked Jonny to tell you, my readers, why you should support his efforts. Here are a few reasons to geek out about The River Fox.

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If you’d like to support Jonny’s efforts to fund The River Fox, please go to his kickstarter and give generously. Share the kickstarter with your friends and family and send Martin on an epic quest! Hurry though, the kickstarter only has a week left!

Special thanks to Jonny Jimison for drawing up these special cartoons specifically for my blog. If you have other artistic needs, Jonny’s your man. I can personally attest to the awesomeness of his business card art and prompt turnaround time. Check out his other work at his site: http://jonny-jimison.squarespace.com/.

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Book Review: The Week the World Ended by Thomas A. Farmer

Between my spring and summer classes, I got the opportunity to read The Week the World Ended by my friend and college classmate, Thomas A. Farmer. This was a really fun read and the perfect way to relax and escape after an emotionally tough and academically challenging semester of grad school. Tom combines his passion for and knowledge of fencing, science fiction, and a touch of southern charm for his first novel. I had an absolute blast with this book. Here’s my long overdue review of The Week the World Ended.

The Week the World Ended is quite different from any other apocalyptic science fiction that I’ve ever read. For starters, Tom creates an apocalyptic story nestled in the foothills of East Tennessee. Besides my amusement that the setting is my homeland, I was quite ecstatic to read an apocalyptic story that DOESN’T take place in New York City or somewhere on the west coast. Don’t these SF writers realize that if the world is ending, it’s ending in other places too?! The rolling hills and mountains of East Tennessee make for an winding back drop, perfect for hiding out from the Korovega.

Speaking of the Korovega, when they, the alien beings hellbent on destroying the Earth and its inhabitants, attack, all bets are off and doomsday preppers become the most popular people in town. All the planning and prepwork was fun for me to read about. I’m not anywhere near a doomsday prepper, but I am always grateful for a full pantry and I take great pleasure in not letting anything go to waste and planning ahead in any situation. That particular aspect was enjoyable to me, seeing how others might handle an end-of-the-world scenario. Each of the characters handles it differently too. Tom brings to life a large cast of characters that are interesting and invoke a bit of mystery, like we’re not getting the full details on any of them. One of the things that impressed me the most with this novel was Tom’s ability to handle multiple characters. It can be difficult to do that well, and he handled it with finesse. Each character brings something to the planning table; everybody is of use and importance to the survival of the human race and the defeat of the Korovega.

I’ve heard it said before that if you’re a writer, you should write what you know. Writing from your roots is the best way to get a solid story. As I’ve written before, Tom is an assistant coach at The Knoxville Academy of the Blade. His love and knowledge of the sport bleeds through onto the page. I felt like I got a crash course in fencing equipment, moves, armor, and the art behind the sport. This adds a unique element to the story, instead of the usual fare of guns, ammo, and atomic bombs.

The door is open for much more in this series. I can’t wait for Tom to finish the sequel and I look forward to reading his other work in the meantime. This is a solid first offering and based on this book, it holds a promising future for a new science fiction writer. You can support Tom by picking up his book on Amazon. Click the image below to see what it’s all about.

This post contains sponsored links. Please see my disclosure policy for more details.

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Mid-Year Check-Up

Alas, a little too long between updates again. My apologies.

Life has been extremely full for me in 2016. My course load at Signum University has been quite rigorous all year, with no signs of stopping in the fall semester. This fall, I’ll be taking my last required class (Intro to Anglo-Saxon) for my M. A. degree before I begin the thesis process in the spring. By the time I finish, I’ll have my M. A. in Literature and Language, specializing in Imaginative Literature. The prospect of completing my M. A. is nothing less than exciting to me, as you might imagine. However, the process of completing the degree has been a joy, despite its challenges.

Anyway, I digress. Here’s a mid-year check-up on how I’m doing towards my goals for 2016. There’s more 2016 behind us than in front of us (how did that happen?!), so let’s see where I stand.

  1. Read 50 books. I’ve actually done fairly well at this goal, largely due to my love of audiobooks, as well as my summer class requiring me to read approximately 2 books a week. According to my Goodreads Reading Challenge, I’m right at 52% of my goal at the time of writing this post. I’ll finish a couple more books this week, and I look forward to all the fun things I’ll get to read between classes in a few weeks. Up to the plate are an assortment of graphic novels, notably the final volume of Mark Waid’s Here Comes…Daredevil The Man Without Fear series, Mark Waid’s Princess Leia series, the volumes of the brilliant Greg Weisman’s Kanan series (Weisman is the creator of Gargoyles, arguably my favorite animated series of all time), and the Guardians Team-Up series, which looks to be a barrel of laughs. I’ve also been graciously granted 2 different review copies of novels, one by my friend and college classmate, J. P. Beaubien, his Aeon Legion: Labyrinth (Book 1), and another by friends of a friend, Keys of Candor: The Red Deaths by Casey Eanes and Seth Ervin. I also am about a month or two overdue to review my friend and college classmate, Tom Farmer‘s book, The Week the World Ended. (Preview: I loved it).
  2. Write consistently. Whoops. I’ve found it challenging to keep up with this goal, largely because of the heavy workload I’ve shouldered in real life (I’m still looking for more work, if you need help with social media, blogging, etc.), in addition to the challenges of my M. A. courses. One other thing related to my writing coming up is that I’m going to be on a panel at HoshiCon in Charlotte next week entitled, “Faith and Fandom?” with my dear friends Bethany Nuckolls and Sarah Onxley.  If you’re planning to attend HoshiCon, I’d love it if you dropped by our panel on Sunday to say hello.
  3. Retro gaming. I’ll say I’ve done “okay” on this goal. Again, my time has been a bit limited with my work and rigorous course load. However, I did acquire a copy of DuckTales for NES and it’s been quite fun and more difficult than I expected. I loved the show growing up and have been having fun playing the game. I want to get some more games for NES and work on playing and beating the games I have. Speaking of which, I finally finished Legend of the Dragoon for PS1 earlier this year and I absolutely loved it. Truthfully, this is probably the first video game RPG I’ve ever played to completion. That was a gorgeous game that unfortunately has never received the sequel it deserves.
  4. Fill in the gaps in my film/television “Nerd Knowledge.” Since the beginning of the year, I’ve completed The X-FilesJessica Jones, the second season of Daredevil, the new Voltron: Legendary Defender series, Sword Art Online, the Disney adaptation of Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Black HoleVV: The Final Battle, and gotten all caught up on Game of Thrones. That’s quite a lot, so you might say I’ve managed to do excellently on this goal. Television/film is primarily a destresser for me, so that’s been a great way for me to relax and enjoy some current and classic science fiction and anime. I also watched Akira for the first time in 10 years, which I enjoyed this time around much more than I did then. I also watched Ghost in the Shell for the first time and loved it, a surprise for me as I didn’t like it when I read the graphic novel for a class in undergrad 10 years ago. I think this is due to my somewhat newly acquired taste for cyberpunk. I think I want to watch more anime this year than I have in recent years, so I’d love some recommendations thrown my way. I’ve seen a good portion of the Miyazaki films, so I’d love recommendations on other solid anime films and series, or any other solid science fiction/fantasy films/TV shows you love. My favorite animes tend to have giant robots (VoltronGundam WingRobotech) and I lean towards retro anime, so if you have a favorite, send it my way.
  5. Make time for myself. It’s difficult for me to gauge how well I’ve done on this goal. I’ve been working a lot, but I’ve also been trying to leave Mondays open as just “me” days, where I relax, and try to do things that help me stay stress-free. I mostly just feel tired pretty often, but I think I can just chalk that up to stress. I think I did pretty well on that this week, with a long nap, catching up on Sleepy Hollow, a trip to the Farmer’s Market, and spending the evening at an Independence Day cookout with good friends. I also haven’t gotten to take advantage of the nice swimming pool at my apartment complex, so I think I’ll give that a go more often while summer is in full swing.

How are you progressing on your goals this year? If you can quantify it, you can take action on it.

This post contains sponsored links. Please see my disclosure policy for more details. 

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Meeting a Nerd Hero: My Encounter with Ernest Cline

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Yes, he’s wearing a Rush 2112 t-shirt.

I’ve had a busy spring. My spring semester class was by far the most difficult class I’ve taken thus far in my M. A. program. I was struggling with the material to start with, but then when my grandmother passed and I had to be out of town for a week, I got even further behind. Thank God for gracious professors. I rewarded myself for muscling through one of my papers with a brief jaunt to Asheville to listen to one of my favorite authors, Ready Player One‘s Ernest Cline. Cline was touring to promote the new paperback edition of his latest novel, Armada, and I knew I could never forgive myself if I didn’t haul myself to the last stop of the tour for the chance to hear him speak, especially when he was only a couple hours away. It was well worth the drive.

Ready Player One is my favorite book since Harry Potter. For anyone who knows me, you know this is the absolute highest praise that I can give it. I wrote a paper on it for class last spring. I’ve probably listened to the audiobook at least 10 times, if not more. Cline combines my love for all things retro (think 70s and 80s science fiction/fantasy/pop culture) and my enthusiasm for all things in the realm of nerd/geek culture in his novels. Hearing him speak was an exercise in wit, humor, and learning to write from your roots.

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Meeting the man himself!

Cline is the ultimate fanboy.  No surprises there, based on his body of work, but he would call himself, not a nerd, not a geek, but an “Enthusiast.” I like this term. While the world has now embraced nerd/geek culture to a degree, those who have long been nerds/geeks still get eye rolls when it comes to our unabashed enthusiasm for the things we love. Cline gave his audience a tour through his childhood, which essentially became the foundation for his novels.

Cline is an engaging speaker, keeping his audience in stitches with his humor, but I also learned something from him that really inspires me as a writer. Cline confessed that he wrote Ready Player One without hopes that it would actually be published. Because he approached the novel from that perspective, he unabashedly threw every single geek reference that he possibly could into the book. The book was written entirely for his enjoyment. When the book was published and hit the bestseller list, Cline was just as surprised as anyone else.

What would happen if I did that? What if I wrote my what I loved, not caring what anyone else thought? I’m certain that I’d have a novel or at least a short story by now. Just a note of encouragement from me to you. Write what you love. Write what you know. Chances are, there are other people in this world who will really get what you write. They’ll identify with you in some way. Confessedly, it was all I could do not to freak out when I met Ernie. I am thankful that though I could tell he was exhausted from being on the road and meeting fans, he took time to take photos, answer questions, sign autographs, and shake hands with each of his fans. Today, I raise my glass to you, Mr. Cline. Thanks for teaching me to write from my roots and to be myself. It never hurts to have a reminder.

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In the Night, My Hope Lives On

Normally I post something fun, witty, and nerdy here on my blog.

Today, I am simply too sad for that.

My Grandma passed a week ago, a friend lost her Grandma two nights ago, another friend and mentor lost her husband in a tragic accident on Saturday, and a couple at my church lost a 7 month-old baby to a heart defect on Sunday. Aside from my personal tragedies, the evil committed in Brussels today is infuriating and heartbreaking. How does humanity press on in spite of personal tragedy, loss, and acts of evil?

So in the night, my Hope lives on. 

Hope is seen clearest not in the best of circumstances, but in the worst. I have hope that one day, these tragedies will cease to exist because of the resurrected Jesus Christ.

The gates of hell will never stand against Him, so in the night, my Hope lives on.

In light of the Easter celebrations this coming weekend, I pray that you have hope. I only have hope that through my sadness, through the darkness my friends are facing, and through the evil being perpetrated throughout the world, that those who love justice, truth, and mercy will prevail.

In the night, my hope lives on.

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Progress

In the time-frame since my last post, I’ve done better at some of my 2016 goals than others. Shortly after my last post, I was blindsided by two weeks of bronchitis. Last week was spent catching up from bronchitis. Here I am now!

#LastWordBookHaul

My latest haul from my favorite local used bookstore.

My reading, retro gaming, and nerd knowledge goals have all progressed steadily, though none as quick as I’d like. You can check my progress on GoodReads here. As for retro gaming, I’ve had fun playing a couple RPGs on NES and my original Gameboy.

As I mentioned in my last post, I thought I had until summer to catch up on The X-Files. That information is INCORRECT! I’ve been scrambling to finish the original series so I can catch up on the new one, which by all accounts is fabulous. I just started season 9 last night, so I feel confident that I’ll be able to start the new series by next week. Once that’s finished, my husband wants me to watch Fringe with him. I’ve seen a handful of episodes and I’m a big fan of J. J. Abrams, so I’m looking forward to watching from the beginning. He’s already watched the series, but was very adamant about a rewatch. As you can see, I also picked up some new-to-me TV with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, mostly because I want to see Lena Headey play a character I don’t hate. Also, Summer Glau as a Terminator is a pretty fun idea. This will also allow me to have completed all the films and TV in the Terminator canon. My completionist tendencies will be very satisfied once I do that. I’ve seen seasons 1 & 2 of Orphan Black, but haven’t seen season 3 yet. Any Clone Club sestras here? Don’t spoil me, please, but I plan to get my paws on season 3 soon.

As for my writing and self-care goals, I hope to be able to keep writing here once a week. Again, bug me if I don’t! I also had a blog post go up today on the Mythgard site (my grad school), where I compiled a list of calls for papers, with the aid of fellow Mythgardians, Kris and Curtis. If you’re interested in fantasy, science fiction, medieval literature, and/or television, you should definitely check it out. On the subject of my self-care goals, we had originally planned to be out of town this weekend, but unfortunately our plans changed. The silver lining to that though is that I have a very rare Saturday off. I plan to do some things to take care of my apartment and to do some cooking, which is always a good stress reliever for me.

What have you been up to this winter? What goals are you working on? Anything fun going on in your neck of the woods?

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