Sunday, December 28, 2014

1Password Review

If you're anything like me, passwords are a real pain in the  you know what.  I had so many poorly-secured logins, I knew it was only a matter of time before one of my accounts was hacked.  Over Christmas vacation, I took advantage of the extra time to explore  the problem.   There are lots of options, but I finally selected to use 1Password.

As Dave Teare, 1Password's founder, describes it in an automated welcome message, 1Password utilizes "256-bit AES Authenticated Encryption."  How does one make this work?  It's a little time consuming on an iPhone, but not a particularly difficult process.  Your first step is to create a master password to use with your account.  You will want to select a strong password and retain it in a safe place.  If you lose it, you will not be able to reset your account.  Next, you will need to create a login for each online account you wish to include.  1Password will let you choose the length of each password, and, when necessary, you can customize to a password of your own choice.  This is needed for passwords which aren't yours to modify, and this allows you to include all of your important passwords within this secure online vault.  For a small fee, you can add multiple vaults in order to keep different categories of logins separate--e.g. business and personal.

Once your online accounts are updated to the 1Password-created password, it's necessary to add the login URL for each entry.  This allows you to access each account with a single click.  At times, it may prove difficult to find a workable login URL to use, and I've had to write at least one company for the best link.  Even if you ultimately don't find one for a particular account, however, you still have a great and secure way in which to save and retain your passwords within the encrypted vault.

I've been worrying about the security of my logins for years, and this is the best solution I  have found for improving security and organization with one simple and intuitive utility.  In fact, if I can do it...you certainly can do it, too! 

For this review, an iPhone App was used, but I will also be setting it up on  my home iMac when I return to Oregon.  The software is also available for Windows.  1Password can also be used to fill out name/address/credit card account information online, but I haven't utilized this feature yet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Not Stealing...if You Need it?

There is no rationalization of "petty theft."  If there is any theft, it's on the part of the employer by not paying their employee enough where they can't afford basic necessities. There's a world of  difference between taking one roll of toilet paper in order to make it until the next paycheck comes in and taking a box of pens/paper just for the sake of taking them.  (Catholic social media user)


Sometimes, you get into a conversation with so-called Christians that really catches you off guard.  Yesterday was one of those days.  The writer of the above paragraph on social media apparently believes that the seventh commandment offers an exception--if you really want or need something.  It’s particularly interesting to me, because of the echoes of Catholic social justice thinking within her response.  The discussion began with a woman’s admission that she regularly stole toilet paper from her employer.  She believed it was perfectly appropriate because, after all, she needed the item due to insufficient income; the employer didn't pay her enough, so she'd take something a little extra.  I assumed I wouldn’t be the only Catholic to take her to task, but I was.  

In the guise of social justice, then, people like this are rationalizing petty theft from their employers.  This attitude needs to be confronted head-on because it’s a perversion of social justice, as explained in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1928-1948.  We all need to root out and expose this deceptive line of thinking for what it truly is: rationalization for theft.   (Some might unconvincingly argue that Section 2408 of the CCC gives an out for this behavior, but my argument is that this clearly fails to apply to a country such as the United States.  Too many redundant safety nets exist for those in need.)

In fact, I suggest that the attitude of those who rationalize along these lines betrays the sin of pride in addition to the sin of stealing.  That is, they are ashamed to ask others for help, so they take it upon themselves to steal to satisfy their own needs/desires.  It’s a lie clothed in shreds of truth, and this is why it's an attitude that must be confronted.  It's also worth noting that moral law is not based upon dollar and cent values--as civil and criminal laws are.  I would argue that the moral sin of taking a small item is tantamount to taking a much larger item; God doesn't care whether your toilet paper was on sale, or not.

Before coming to work for the State of Oregon in 1997, I worked for retailers like Nordstrom and Sears in the field of loss prevention.  This primarily involved arresting shoplifters as well as investigating internal thefts revealed through overs/shorts register analysis and other means—hidden cameras, for example.  After I would chase down the suspects and place them in custody, I routinely heard every excuse one can imagine.  There was always a reason why I should let them go, but, of course, I never released them before the police (and once or twice US Border Patrol) arrived to finish the reports in my cramped office.  

Rationalization is a way for life for these people.    As one is removing bundles of stolen jeans or electronic devices from concealed compartments within the shoplifter's baby stroller, though, there is little inclination to feel sorry for them; they made their choices.  We live in the richest and most generous society on the planet, I will never excuse those who steal—by force or deception.  I will always gladly assist in holding these individuals accountable.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


The Most Idiotic Anti-Gun PSA Ever

“Can you take this away? I don’t feel safe with a gun in my house,” a child tells his teacher as he puts a gun down on her desk. So opens one of the most stupid PSA videos ever from the anti-gun crowd. The Sleeper 13 Production video would seem to encourage children to steal improperly secured weapons from their own homes and deliver to their teachers, because, after all, aren't teachers experts at all things pertaining to firearm education? Not!

So, lets briefly explore the depth jaw-dropping stupidity of this video. First, it has a child picking-up a gun which may, or may not, have a chambered round or loaded clip inserted. Children should instead learn never to touch a gun for which they are neither responsible nor trained. After all, the kind of parent who would put an unsecured gun in a clothes drawer is precisely same kind of parent who would leave the weapon loaded and ready for use. 


Second, the video would have the dimwitted child bring the (possibly loaded) firearm into a Gun Free Zone. This not only encourages a serious and life-changing crime for the child, but it also fails to consider what happens if the weapon falls into the hands of another child--perhaps on with darker motives. Sheer idiocy.  It also recommends an illegal transfer of the firearm to the teacher.  If an adult were to commit this laundry list of felonies, I'm told the sentence could approach a century of incarceration.

Even more serious, I'd suggest, is the larger message--reminiscent of Nazi Germany--in which children are encouraged to tell authorities about the private affairs of their parents, if they differ from the state's values. Is this the kind of Utopian society for which liberals hope? This is truly disgusting.

So, the takeaway from this PSA is crystal clear.  Let's teach our kids to steal a gun, which may be loaded, and bring into a no "Gun Free Zone," then deliver the firearm to a stunned teacher who has no firearm experience or knowledge--other than television, of course. Way to stress responsibility.  Idiots.


Tell them what you think.  E-mail the producers HERE.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Enter to Win "The Blood Cries Out" on Goodreads!




"The Blood Cries Out tells the story of Seattle Homicide Detective David Lightholler, who becomes involved in a murder investigation that would shake even a seasoned investigator. Erickson wastes little time in presenting the reader with a ghastly murder mystery that, as it was, cries out for resolution.

This novel is firmly set in the habitations of Seattle and its surroundings. Erickson clearly knows and loves the city, for he spares little in the way of description. Being so detailed about a location can be difficult for a writer, but Erickson pulls it off.

Set against the backdrop of Seattle, Lightholler must face his personal demons as well as the rigors of modern homicide investigation. Again, Erickson shows that he has done his homework when he describes the procedural actions of the hero.

Interestingly, the personal component of the novel often outshines the criminal. In this respect, Erickson's writing packs a certain punch. For example, when the mother of a slain child arrives on scene, her reaction feels tragic and painful. Even reading the book in a reviewer's frame of mind, I was instantly dragged back into the story and made to feel the emotion.

Erickson shows this again when Detective Lightholler must inform a mentally-challenged teen that her friends are dead. "Why can't I see her?" the teen asks. After the detective informs her that her friends have been murdered, she sweetly asks, "But I can see them later, right?" Any parent who has had to deliver bad news to a child understands how big a punch that is.

The Blood Cries Out is a mystery novel dripping in Pacific Northwest details. Readers with fond feelings for Seattle and other Northwestern locales will appreciate every touch of scenery lovingly added in Erickson's debut mystery novel. Readers looking for a detective novel with a human touch will also enjoy The Blood Cries Out."


Alec Merta's 5-Star Amazon Review









Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Blood Cries Out by Karl Erickson

The Blood Cries Out

by Karl Erickson

Giveaway ends January 12, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dinesh D'Souza's "America" is a Remarkable Achievement

I finally watched Dinesh D'Souza's America, and I was really blown away.  Now, I should probably mention here that I'm not new to the work of Mr. D'Souza, but nothing before of his has really come close to What's So Great About Christianity for me.  It's not that I didn't like his other works, but they were hard for me to get into the same way that I entered into that earlier work of his, but  "America" changed all that.

This is a remarkable movie, and its content is shockingly persuasive.  It's like a breath of fresh air from the current idiocy of the political scene in the United States.  He first examines a series of "indictments" against our nation--from the likes of Howard Zinn to Ward Churchill--then proceeds to systematically destroy their anti-American claims with logic, history, and a strong dose of common sense.  It's powerful, and it's unlike any documentary I've seen before.

The emphasis on exposing the attempted rewrite by the left of our nation's history is particularly eye-opening.  I knew the allegations were wrong, but Dinesh D'Souza has a gift for exposing just how ridiculous they are.  Into the mix, he shows the viewer the context of the situation in a new and powerful way.  For instance, he points out that prior to the Civil War, more than three thousand black plantation owners owned ten thousand slaves and were strong supporters of the Confederacy themselves.  Mr. D'Souza exposes the evil of slavery from a different perspective as well: "stealing labor and stealing lives."

As a guy who entered the state political scene briefly about a year ago, it's been incredibly disheartening watching the news of riots and racial tensions across the United State these past few weeks.  It's even more distressing that the protesting sheep are unable to discern who their shepherds are.  The mainline media is simply fanning the flames of division and stupidity once again.  Documentaries like this one are an excellent reminder that sanity remains strong with many still.  It's also an encouragement to re-enter the fray and do all that we can to fight for this country's future.  I urge you to buy or rent this movie today!  (Trailer link below.)

Speaking of these cultural distractions, here's some related food for thought.  We need more purveyors of common sense like this.  I hope you will add your voice to the demand for a return to santity in our nation.  After all, it all starts in the home.







                                           video

Karl's Famous Pretzels (Encore Post)


I’ve been perfecting this recipe for several years now, and I think you will enjoy it. One word of advice is not to skip the quick immersion in the boiling water! This step makes all the difference in their final texture, creating pretzels that are moist yet crisp. I don't go into a lot of detail here about forming the pretzels, but just do your best. It takes a little practice. Even if they look odd, they should still taste great!



Ingredients and Preparation
1 1/4 cup water or beer (1/4 cup of warm water for the yeast)
3 cups bread flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
about 1 1/2 tsp of dry yeast
2 tbsp softened butter (optional)
1-4 tbsp of sourdough sponge
1 or two beaten eggs
course salt
sesame seeds
1/2 stick of butter
Activate the yeast separately by adding it to the water and sugar. If you have a bread machine, try using this to prepare and knead the dough. (It helps if you add the water first.) If it’s too large a batch for the machine, try cutting the recipe in half. Otherwise, prepare the dough as you would for an ordinary loaf of homemade bread.
Neither the butter nor the sourdough is a required ingredient, but I think both help make a better finished product. The sourdough enhances the depth and richness of flavor. The butter not only improves both the texture and flavor, but it also might help slightly when it comes time to form the pretzels. (You may also want to try adding one tablespoon corn meal and letting the bread "rest" before rising.  Also, cooking sprays work well on one's hands.)
Watch the dough’s progress in the bread machine (or food processor) carefully. It often requires a little fine-tuning with additional water and/or flour in order to achieve a proper ball of dough. You will want the dough to rise for several hours, and, depending on the size and habits of your bread machine, you may decide to transfer before long to a bread pan inside a barely heated oven and cover with a moist towel. (I pre-heat to a couple hundred degrees, put the bread in, then turn off the oven.) As an alternative, you may also want to form the pretzels now, then place in the oven under the towel to rise.  

HINTS: Another alternative, recommended by my daughter, is to roll the dough into eight-inch ropes and let those rise before later forming the pretzels.  You may also find it helpful to roll the pretzles on a floured cutting board.

When it looks like it’s done rising, it’s time to get everything else ready. Beat your eggs for the wash and set aside. Get a deep pan and fill it halfway with water and bring it to a boil. Begin forming the pretzels by making eight-inch ropes. Once they're formed into their classic shape, carefully pick each up and dip in the boiling water for ten seconds before returning to the greased baking sheet.
When this step is complete and they’ve all had their hot bath, then brush the egg wash over each and season with the course salt and sesame seeds. Bake until lightly browned for about 20 minutes at 450 degrees. Enjoy with melted butter.

Some Quick Pretzel History
Pretzels are said to have had their origin in Europe in the 600s, and were used by monks to reward children for memorizing their prayers and studies. The History of Science and Technology, by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellemans, describe their invention by a monk "...as a reward to children who learn their prayers. He calls the strips of baked dough, folded to resemble arms crossing the chest, 'pretiola' ("little rewards")". Pretzels were also used as a teaching tool for the mysterious three-in-one nature of the Holy Trinity.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Book Club Recommendation!


Book clubs are an exciting way to discover great mysteries with friends, and it's even better when authors can drop by to share insights or backstory details on what's being read.  If you are part of a a book club, I invite you to read my new mystery, The Blood Cries Out.  I know that you'd love the story, but it also raises some great topics for group discussion and dialogue.  There are many, many different potential conversations that could arise from reading my novel, but one of my favorite would be the discussion of the unique frontier history of the Pacific Northwest.  One great book concerning our area's tumultuous history--which pertains particularly well the sixth chapter of my novel--is Massacred for Gold, The Chinese in Hells Canyon.  What would you do, for instance, if you found gold that dated back to a tragic historical episode like the Snake River Massacre?  What should you do?

For a fascinating list of other topics related to my novel, just contact me.  From the importance of conveying an authentic sense of place in fiction to the nature of sin itself, there are many, many possibilities for fascinating conversations.  In addition...if you're in western Oregon, I'd love to drop by and talk about my book with you.  I can come with something prepared, entertain your questions, or just join you in a lively conversation about good books.  If you'd like to also discuss the arts, my wife might also be able to join us.  Who knows...maybe I could bring our Newfoundland, too.  :)

There are also unique packages available, if you'd like to be supplied with the books and supplemental materials.  Depending on your budgetary restrictions, I'm also willing to consider visits beyond the Pacific Northwest.  Just contact me for details.  

I look forward to hearing from you today! 

Chesterton is our 150 lb Newfoundland.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Is Suicide Murder?

I'm fortunate that suicide has only touched my life a handful of times.  When a colleague suffocated herself, I found that it helped in sorting out my thoughts and feelings on the matter to write a short story called "The Stars Within the Glass."  Admittedly, those thoughts and feelings can be a little overwhelming.  In 1998, a young woman named  Mora McGowan and her addict boyfriend hung themselves off of Portland's Steel Bridge.  I had known Mora and her sister in elementary school and junior high, and I'll never forget the child's happy, innocent smile or how much she loved to read good books.  If we try to look beyond the emotions, though, what is the morality of suicide?

If murder is indeed the intentional killing of a human being, then suicide seems to fit that description.  With the well-publicized suicides of Robin Williams and Oregon's Brittany Maynard, we need to take a close look at the minefield before us.  If we accept that suicide is a legitimate answer in only some situations--e.g. terminal illness--then we are, in effect, placing the pain of one group of people on a pedestal, discounting the pain of others as inferior.  This only makes it that much more abundantly clear that suicide is never the answer.

In other words, if you support a terminally ill patent's attempt to kill herself, why don't you also support the depressed teen or the mentally ill person who has a similar desire?  How about a disabled person who is tired of living with the pain of a severe disability?  You see, don't you, where this leads?  There is, frankly, no end to the people you might encourage in their planned suicide.  We all experience pain, after all.  If you pick and choose...you're placing the pain of one group of people above the pain of the other.  Your logic crumbles, and it exposes a black heart.  

As an aside, I'll offer a brief suggestion here.  Learn the histories and backgrounds of those organizations who fight for death.  Don't mistakenly assume they have society's best interest in mind, because they most assuredly do not.

Suicide, euthanasia, and abortion are all manifestations of a devaluation of life around us.  Life is not a commodity; it is a sacred gift.  We didn't create ourselves, and we didn't set our own hearts to beating.  Ending this life in suicide is throwing away the greatest gift we have.  Perseverance, hope, and prayer don't offer an immediate release, but, of course, neither does suicide.  Death is just the beginning of what's to come.

So, I ask you to stop glorifying and praising suicide as a "personal choice."  It's the wrong choice; it's a selfish choice, and it's murder.  For once, let's call it for what it is.  Instead, embrace life with thankfulness and endeavor to offer up the pain.
  


Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said “dignity is something other than putting an end to one’s own life,” when asked about Maynard’s decision to kill herself. Carrasco de Paula said “Brittany Maynard’s act is in itself reprehensible, but what happened in the consciousness we do not know.”

Courtesy LifeNews.com

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Don't Forget the Editor!

I hear a lot these days about the unfair  reputation of self-published authors.  Sadly, it seems many of these authors write their book, upload it to Amazon, and hit publish--all before seriously considering its editing.    

For those of us who may carefully try the self-published route, the authors who rush to press really aren't helping the marketplace situation.  It leads to the blanket refusal of some publications to even review our self-published works or to take them seriously.  This isn't some mysterious conspiracy of the big publishing houses--well, it might be that, too--it's primarily because of the dismal quality of some of the work that's easily found up on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  I've been contacted, for instance, by friendly and well-meaning authors for reviews only to find significant grammatical problems within their first page.  


I don't care if you have the best darn story idea since Hamlet, if you can't write a coherent sentence, then you...may need to stick with that day job--or hire a real editor.  Yes, it sounds harsh, but no one wants to read a stream of consciousness narrative without correct grammar or punctuation.  


So, what are some low cost ideas for dealing with the editorial challenge?  In the case of my most recent work, which was published through a hybrid press, I relied upon several approaches.  Beta readers were arguably the most important part, though.  I don't want a beta reader who thinks everything I write is a masterpiece; I want a critical and well-read reader who can spot my errors and give me sound advice.  In return, of course, I need to be thankful and courteous--even if the beta reader tells me the entire subplot needs to be mercilessly ripped out.  (This has actually happened to me.)

I think many of us have forgotten that even independent eBooks should be higher quality than a college freshman's English paper.  If we all want to be taken more seriously, then we need to hold our fellow authors to a higher standard.  If you write, take your content seriously!


   

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Grab Some Free eBooks This Weekend!












Free eBooks through tomorrow night!  Just click on the book in order to visit that page.  Please note that the cover of the third title is not updating correctly, but the eBook should contain the updated contents today.

Enjoy!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

An Interview of Kimberly Erickson

(Re-printed courtesy Catholic365.com.)

Twenty-four years ago, I married Kimberly Erickson in Dallas, Texas. Coming from a family where her father and grandfather are both successful artists, I knew she was artistic. Still, the breadth of her artistic range never ceases to amaze me.  She really has done it all in the past two decades: illustrationswater gilding, and, most recently, fused glass creations of vivid color and light. It’s her glasswork, though, that has really struck me the most.
I’m excited to share the following interview of my wife about her life, her art, and our family.
How did you make the transition from book illustrations to glass art?
Well, I’ve always loved to collect glass, so, when the opportunity came, I jumped in with both feet. As a newer Catholic, I had been looking for a holy water font to put on my wall, but I couldn’t find anything I liked. One day, I decided to try designing one myself. I drove to a shop that lets customers play around with glass and design your own creations. I was excited to finally work with glass, but my first two attempts were failures.
Soon, though, I was able to learn from my mistakes and try new approaches and techniques until I created a holy water font that I was truly excited about showing. When people saw it, they loved it, and the orders started coming in! 
What drives or influences you to create your art?
I have to do it. Something inside me seems to be missing unless it comes out in some form. I truly feel like God gave me this talent, and everything I am able to do is because of this grace.
We joined the Catholic Church in 2005 from a Protestant background. How has this enriched your artwork? 
It’s funny, but I haven’t thought of this before. Coming from a Free Methodist background, it’s really like I have been a given a new freedom. Free Methodists don’t believe in having statues or much artwork in their churches out of a fear that it could tempt people to worship the created over the Creator. Catholicism, on the other hand, thinks of art like a teacher who reminds and inspires us of God. As an artist, this makes more sense to me.
Since becoming Catholic, you could say that my art has bloomed. It began with me illustrating my husband’s two books for children (Toupee Mice and Tristan’s Travels), then I was asked to water gild a fifteen-foot reredos (frame) for Saint Peter’s Catholic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. This project took a couple of years to complete, and it took every ounce of skill I had to accomplish it by myself. This felt like something I really did for God. There is something satisfying for a Christian artist when they are able to give what God gave them back to Him. It’s like a song praising God.
Your father, John Collier, is a great artist and sculptor, and he’s done many religious pieces around the country—and beyond. What lessons have you really learned from him?
I’ve learned an amazing amount from my father. It’s like having an amazing art teacher always available to answer your questions and tell you what you need to work on. It’s helped me make my art so much better. Most artists don’t like their art critiqued, but when you’re learning from someone as kind as my dad, the medicine goes down very easily. Art is something you learn by constantly doing.
What kind of symbolism do you use, and why do you use it?
Symbolism really takes a lot of study. As a new Catholic, I feel I am just beginning to learn this, so I use simple symbols usually: crosses, doves, or blue hues for the color of Mary. An artist is always learning, and I am definitely still a student.
What brings you the greatest joy as an artist?
When something turns out just like I imagined it. This is especially true with glass, since you never know until the last kilning.
How is it different to create in glass than upon a canvas?
For me, it’s being pushed into impressionism. I love impressionist work, but I am a bit of a perfectionist when asked to draw. Glass pieces are usually larger than a dot or a line on paper, and working with glass forces you to bring out colors or feelings more than that single line on an image. It’s more like a mosaic that plays with colors and conveys feelings.
 Do you feel the leading of God’s hand with regards to your art?
I do truly feel that God has helped me bring out my art. When I started trying to put together a studio for glass art, I was overwhelmed by how quickly it came together. Within a couple weeks, I had a kiln, glass supplies, tools, and a workspace all ready to go. I felt like God was really taking care of me. 
Besides holy water fonts, what other types of glass creations do you create?
I’ve also been creating bowls and plates, but it’s really up to what I feel like doing at the time. I’ve been playing around with some Christmas designs, but…we’ll just have to see what happens.
Where can people go to see more of your work?
I invite everyone to visit my online portfolio, and my paintings and glasswork are also on display at the Red Raven Gallery in Salem, Oregon.


An Interview of Myself

(This interview is reprinted courtesy Catholic 365.com.)

I first met Karl Erickson in Seattle during a New Testament class at Seattle Pacific University. We were married several years later and I can still say that I am married to my best friend. Karl Erickson is a writer, husband, father, and an employee for the State of Oregon. Since 2005, Karl has written nearly fifty articles—e.g. America, National Catholic Weekly and This Rock--two children’s books (Toupee Mice, and Tristan’s Travels), as well as a new mystery novel, The Blood Cries Out. His Catholic faith seems to come out with whatever he writes, but maybe not in the expected normal way. For example his new novel, The Blood Cries Out, comes across as real life. His character, David, has problems, temptations, and deals with normal day to day life. What makes it different than most mysteries is how David seems to allow his steps to be guided by God. This is my interview of my husband, Karl Erickson.
  1. What inspires you to write?
People and situations catch my interest, and I like to imagine what the backstory is. When I was a kid, I was fascinated with distant lights—especially twinkling lights on the dark ocean. To me, each pinpoint of light represented an untold story. Looking further back, my mother always took time to read good books to me; Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and George MacDonald were some of our favorites. The written word was always highly prized in my home growing up, and this became a fertile soil for stories to take root. 
Strangely enough, sometimes when I find myself spending a lot of time in Catholic churches, I feel like somehow the experience blasts away writer’s block and opens my mind more. It’s not that I’m writing about anything relating to the service itself per se, but there’s a quality of creative freedom that seems to come to me through the act of worship
  1. Why do you write?
Usually, I have a passion to write a particular piece or scene. Other times, I feel I should address something by writing about it. If given the choice between speaking and writing, I often would select writing; it just feels more natural to me. The satisfaction of finishing a strong piece is also highly rewarding. When I’m deeply immersed in a passage I’m writing, I lose track of time to such a degree that it can be startling to return to the here and now. There’s not really anything else quite like it. The creative process still remains somewhat mysterious to me, but I am thankful to God for any talent He’s seen fit to give me.
  1. Where do your ideas come from?
When I was younger, I had a habit of keeping a little notebook on me to take down character sketches or story ideas. I remember sitting on a city bus, and taking notes on the strange conversations I’d overhear. These days, I’ll sometimes make a voice memo on my iPhone or e-mail a note to myself. The ideas themselves usually come from life observed, but they can also be sparked indirectly by either the writings of others or historical events. In the case of my novel, for example, a poet’s account of finding some old, bloody clothing from Oregon’s Snake River Massacre played an important part. I also enjoy writing the kind of fiction I really love reading myself. There are authors who write styles of fiction they don’t personally enjoy reading, and I think this shows a lack of respect for their audience.
  1. How do you go about your writing?
With my fulltime day job and a family, it’s definitely hard to find time to write. Sometimes I may be unable to write for a week or two, but writing is like exercising in that it’s really important to keep at it. If I find myself in a situation like this, I’ll try to make time to write during late evenings or maybe Sunday afternoons. It doesn’t have to be long; any time spent writing often helps me get back into the “creative groove.” I can’t forget music. Having music on helps me concentrate.
  1. Do you have any ideas for future books?
I do, but I’m still focusing on promoting The Blood Cries Out right now. If it’s sales continue to improve, I may very well pursue a sequel. I’d like to eventually move the series to the San Juan Islands, but that’s just one option being explored right now.
  1. What do you like to do besides writing?
I love hiking and nature photography. Lately, I’ve been enjoying finding patterns in nature to photograph—from water droplets in a mountain waterfall to intertwined tree roots in the forest. One of my favorite recent photographs is the first one showcased on my new Water and Ice page.
  1. How do you respond when asked whether, or not, you are a Catholic fiction author?
Well, I am a Catholic writer, but I try to avoid emphasizing this fact too much. Like I heard a Catholic singer recently explain in an interview, I don’t want the Catholic dimension of my authorship to be a significant selling point; I’d like the story to or fall stand on its own merits. Let’s face it, modern Catholic fiction has lost something of its past luster. Too often the story doesn’t come first; the story is just a means to make or illustrate a point, and this betrays a lack of respect for the reader.  I'd like to help change this.  I think it's also critical that Catholic fiction takes into account real life situations.  That is, anyone can be saved in a story where God's power is like a magic wand that heals and saves effortlessly, or where daily life is sanitized.  I want to write fiction that demonstrates how real characters handle trials that are true to life. 
When it comes to fiction for older readers, my pet peeve is sanitizing dialogue or situations for the taste and preferences of the writer or a select group of potential readers. If you have a story, tell it truthfully and with authenticity. As Flannery O'Connor so eloquently put it, “Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't try to write fiction. It's not a grand enough job for you.”
Not too long ago, I was discussing my novel with some fellow Catholic writers who were very passionately debating their view that profanity had no place in fiction--especially the writing of a Catholic. While I don't agree with this premise at all, it did encourage me to lighten the profanity in The Blood Cries Out just slightly--as a courtesy, you might say. Some might argue that my lightening of the profanity was an unnecessary sacrifice to political correctness or prudishness, but I suggest that realism and truth can be achieved with a lighter touch at times. Finding that balance can be a real challenge, but it's what lies at the heart of writing that matters the most: truth.
  1. What can you share about your spiritual journey?
I was raised in Evangelical Protestant churches. In fact, my wife and I were both raised in churches of the Wesleyan tradition: Nazarene and Free Methodist. My grandfather, a retired minister from the Christian Missionary Alliance, helped me understand at an early age that we need to be reverent before God, and avoid transforming our services into mere entertainment. Even though our family was Protestant, my mother placed me in a Catholic school. This turned out to be an important influence in the future.
We never intended to become Catholics, but for the first fifteen years, or so, of our marriage, we were pretty miserable in regards to finding a church home. We visited church after church—from Free Methodist and Lutheran to Episcopal. In looking back, each church we attended seemed to bring us closer and closer to the Catholic Church. The liturgy and the sacraments began to be more fully understood and valued as we journeyed on.
When we began to study Saint Peter, in particular, we were struck with the fact that this first pope of the Church was entrusted by Jesus Himself with the keys to bind and loose. That is, real authority was given to this man (and his successors) by Jesus. 
Christian unitywas also terribly important to us. In particular, we were struck by passages like 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 or John 17:11, which reads...
"I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one."
The writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and G.K. Chesterton were also profoundly important in our decision to join the Catholic Church. In Lewis’ essay entitled “The Fern-seed and the Elephant”, for example, it seemed his words were directed straight at us as we debated whether, or not, to leave the Episcopal Church.
It’s impossible for me to read verses like this and not be struck with the vital importance of Christian unity, since we all are members of the mystical body of Christ. I ended an article of mine on unity with the following words. 
"It was Pope John Paul II’s tireless ecumenical work that first caught our attention years ago. Slowly, it dawned on my Protestant family that the pope was indeed right.... Whether Protestant or Catholic, we all follow the same Good Shepherd, and it’s time this separated family came back to the house of their fathers."
For our conversion story, please visit Catholic.com.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Let's Get Something Straight! (An Open Letter to the Media)

A photo I snapped of Seattle Pacific University in fall of 1987.
Dear Media,

Watching your coverage of the latest Washington State school shooting, I feel compelled to offer some timely advice.  


Let's stop calling lone crazies "lone wolf." It's disparaging to the majestic and powerful wolves living in our forests. A former CIA official suggested "lone rat," and I couldn't agree more. (Some rat owners may disagree.)  There's nothing about these sick individuals that should be looked upon as good.

On a similar topic, let's stop using words like "brazen" to refer to cowardly crimes against the innocent. Describe it for what it is--without the sensationalism. While you're at it, stop profiling and probing the killers' lives. Let's forget their names, faces, and their existence altogether.  Instead, let's remember the names and lives of the innocent taken from us.

Because, mainstream media, I think you know that you're are a serious part of the problem here.  Your reporting encourages copycat attacks, and it rewards the shooters with the fame and purpose they desired.  This needs to stop; we must hold the media accountable.

May I suggest, without using the shooters' name or photo, that you consider exploring precisely how he came to get his hands on the gun, and what was the family situation.  That information might truly help us get at the root of this societal illness, because the shooter is NOT a victim.  Let's repeat that one more time, shall we?  The school shooter is NOT a victim.

As for my fellow Christians, I suggest that these kind of tragedies are a direct result of the Culture of Death. We have devalued life at each and every turn and removed prayer from our schools; this is the logical result of moral relativism and the religion of self.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Win an eBook on Sunday!


It's almost been three months since my book was released.  To celebrate this milestone, I'm giving away one eBook on Sunday afternoon.  Between now and then, there will be several different ways for you to enter for your chance to win a free book.  For instance...do you receive my informal newsletter?  Well, hold onto your socks, but a new newsletter is coming this weekend!  If you don't already receive it, drop me an e-mail to be added to our distribution list, and I will automatically add you to the potential book winner list, too.  

Not into newsletters?  That's okay.  Tweet the message below--being sure to add @PacNWCathWriter on the end, so I can track it.


More into Facebook?  Great!  "Like" my author page, and just message me that you've done it, and to please enter you into the eBook contest.  

Good luck!!