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'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.”


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.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

An Interview of Kimberly Erickson

(Re-printed courtesy

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

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