When life gets you down, where do you turn for help, advice, or inspiration?

If I wanted to sound all spiritual, I'd say "The Lord."  But the truth is, I don't always think to go to him first. I think it's an instant gratification thing. When you talk to the Lord, he listens, and when you hand something over, he handles it.  But it's not like a worldly two-way conversation. When I'm down, I want to have someone I can vent to, who empathizes and encourages, who gives you feedback. God doesn't usually respond that way. Instead, it can feel like I'm talking to a wall, because with God there isn't usually an immediate answer or an easy reassurance.

So yes, while I do hand things over to God and trust him to solve problems that are for me insoluble, I also usually need a human sounding board.

My mom is the go-to person for a shoulder to cry on or advice. She's also a power prayer, which is great. I also have a few friends who are good listeners when I need to vent. They can be trusted to hear what I say without passing it along, and they "get" it.  It humbles me. I have a little ADD, and it's really hard for me to just sit and listen. I want to be the kind of friend people can feel safe with when they need a shoulder, but it's always a struggle for me because my thoughts scatter all over the place like popcorn.  I hope I am a worthwhile friend in other ways to make up for the fact that I'm not always a great listener.

"A stabbing pain pierced her back, and she knew the scorpion guard had stung her. Her body went limp, paralyzed by the poison that burned through her veins, and the creatures pulled her to the floor. She was helpless, unable to move, as sharp fangs sank into her skin."

(Oh no! Hadlay!) 

Well, yes and no. 

Naturally, I can only write from my own experience, so no doubt my characters' behaviors and reactions are based on things I've seen from people around me, including friends, family, the guy ahead of me in line at the coffee shop, and public figures.  But that's behaviors and reactions. I might use the way one friend twiddles her hair around her finger when she's thinking, or the way an actor I like smiles around the eyes, but that's not the same as basing the whole character on those people.

When I first started writing, more than one person thought they saw themselves in characters in my stories, and sometimes they were hurt or offended.  It's horrible to know you hurt someone you care about, even unintentionally.  So now I make it as clear as I can that I will never base a character on a person I know. 

Question for YOU (if you've read the story):

What Biblical person is the character Rasab based upon? Why do you think so?

Its available—for free!  But only because you asked so nicely!   .
My sister woke me up this morning to ask if I was OK.  I asked why.  She filled me in.  Yet another tragically crazy man decided to shoot into a crowd--this time at a movie theater.   (Ever notice they're ALWAYS men?  Sorry, guys, don't mean to be a sexist, but so far crazy women don't seem to do this stuff.  They'd rather pee on artwork.)  And dozens of innocent people--including little kids--who just wanted to see a movie ended up wounded or killed.  I later listened to the recorded police chatter and cried at the horror that I heard in their voices--and these were people trained to deal with horror.

And the more I heard about this guy, who was wearing tactical gear and a gas mask as he lobbed some kind of flash-bang gas grenade and shot THREE different weapons, the more I was reminded of a strange event last week. 

Exactly one week ago, a friend and I were driving through my neighborhood (and remember this is almost an hour from the theater and shooter's apartment) and there was this young man jogging up the sidewalk wearing cargo shorts, a tactical vest and a gas mask.  We did a double-take and circled back to be sure we hadn't imagined it.  I tried to get a photo but it came out all blurry--now I wish I'd had my friend shoot it for me.  Anyway, at the time we both laughed at the general weirdness of it, and went on, but it was in the back of my head that if I heard about some nasty chemical attack I was going to wish I'd called the police.  It did go through my mind, but really, what could the cops have done? I'm pretty sure running around in a gas mask is legal. And given all the smoke that's been hanging over this state, maybe not even all that strange.

Anyway, my friend got a better look at the guy since I was driving, and she's sure it wasn't this shooter (She says our guy was blond--and really, what would the shooter have been doing clear across the city running around in tactical gear?)  Which makes me wonder how many young men in this city own tactical gear and gas masks.  Somehow that seems a lot less funny now. 

With a setting this rich and storytelling this good, you don't just read this book; it gets into your head and under your skin so much that turning the last page is like waking up from a dream. You'll be thinking about this one for a long time.

-Phillip McCollam



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"You have taken something that is mine alone… until now no real harm has come of it, but soon you will learn the danger, for what you do to another will prey upon you. When you see the truth of this, you will begin to grasp the key." 

From The Mirror of N'de

Q:  When did you first start writing? 

A:  I was writing even before I could hold a pencil. I remember when I was maybe two or three, my mom would put me to bed before I was ready, and I would lie there and script episodes of my favorite shows to occupy my mind until I got sleepy. I always had a good imagination. I could see the story unfold as if I watched it on TV. By third grade I was writing class plays about pirates, and in high school I wrote a lot of cheesy songs and torrid poetry about my adolescent angst. I didn't really think about writing fiction for public consumption until much later. I was blessed in that when I finally did get serious and sit down to write something to be sent to editors, it was picked up right away. My first published piece was a funny short story for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, followed by a short feature article for the now-defunct (don't blame me!) Rocky Mountain News.

     The ragged blonde girl hangs back from the rest of the beggars.  She watches the bolder children push their way through the constantly moving crowds to approach the ones who seem the richest. The richest, though, never enter this part of the city, Daddy has claimed.
     But other beggars are getting dit coins.  Just tug on a sleeve, she tells herself.  Hold out your hand for a few coins.
     She runs nose first into a leather longcoat that smells like the inside of the piece of rellis fur Mama used to keep in her jewelry box.
     "What do we have here?" the man in the leather coat demands.
     "A red, Sirra, or maybe a blue dit?" she manages to ask before her courage deserts her.  Too late she notices she is Nevian.
     "Sirra?"  The man's face darkens.  "You dare call me by that Homelander title?"
     The girl flushes.  Tears of fear sting her eyes.  "Forgive me, kind Master."
     "I may at that."  His attention turns toward her with interest instead of contempt.  He pulls a red full five-wen note from the pocket of his longvest.  "Yes, once I show you what you were born for."

From Her Darkest Beauty