Inspired on a Forest Trail

This is a neat spot I found during a morning walk. Forest trails sometimes hold hidden gems. I discovered this trail during a another morning walk but did not have the time to explore it, and so I decided to try it during my next walk. After a short distance I found this spot.

I quickly considered what sorts of fantasy stories could find inspiration from sitting here and absorbing the look, feel, and sounds of the place. The sights and sounds remind me of the Channelwood Age in Myst (a classic adventure of the 90s). What else could be discovered here if one’s imagination is set free? Imagine yourself finding a fantasy world with fantasy creatures that you never noticed before but which always existed in the woods behind your house or just down the street. Why did you never notice them before? Why have they kept themselves hidden from view by the modern world? Will you explore that world again tomorrow? Is it safe to do so? Will you be able to return to your world afterward, or would you want to return?

The answers to many of those questions depend on the life and struggles of the main character in the story which forms in your mind as you explore hidden locations like this. Whatever you decide, keep your eyes and ears open to sources of inspiration which can create worlds in your head and make life in the real world more entertaining and interesting. I will need to return here to sit and read and to enjoy what comes to mind as I take in the sights and sounds.

The day after I took this video, we had a heavy snow storm (heavy for Georgia), and so I had to check the trail again. I felt like I was in Narnia.

I had to walk carefully along the walkway across the water to reach the pavilion. I then sat on a bench to experience the sounds and feel of the place.

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People, Please, Take Your Eyes off of Those Phones

I wrote this today at work during my lunch break after noticing how many people were glued to their cell phones (a daily occurrence).

People, please. Take your eyes off of those phones.
There is a world surrounding you, a real world.
Talk with a friend; go for a walk.
Read a novel; write a story.
Listen to some music; paint a picture.

Experience life . . . not through a plastic box with wires,
But with your eyes, ears, hands and feet.
A storm is brewing outside today; listen to the rain.
Pet a dog; rub a cat.
Hike a forest trail.

Do something . . .
Live your life . . . a real life.

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An Appeal for Christians to Rediscover the Power of Imagination

Yes, it has been quite a long time since I posted. As many of you know, I have been in school, and that takes much of my time. I have also studied for some certification exams, and so far I have passed CompTIA A+ and Security+.

On top of studying, I have spent time attending job fairs and other networking events, and I have started a job at a call center. Needless to say, I have been busy, but that is not the only reason I have not posted. I have also felt uninspired, and I have struggled to find the drive to write. I must say, it is nice to be back at it. I do not know how often I can write while I am in school, but I enjoy it when I can.

This post was unexpected. Last Monday night after I finished all of the school work for the night, I was relaxing with an old issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine that I never finished. After reading a few pages, I thought that it would be nice to have a Christian equivalent of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Some of the stories in this periodical are entertaining, and some deal with interesting ideas. Often, however, I see sexual immorality, intentional jabs at religion, and profanity.

Now, do not read me wrong. I understand that this is not a Christian publication, and so I do not expect the authors to write as Christians. They are free to write as they choose. I also have no problem reading stories written by non-Christians if they are well-written, entertaining, and deal with interesting ideas. I can recommend many that I have enjoyed greatly (Isaac Asimov, who was an atheist, is one of my favorite writers).

Nonetheless, I do think Christians would benefit from an outlet through which they could use the power of speculative fiction within a Christian context, a place where they could bring their stories together in a shared medium. I made some inquiries online to see whether there is such a place, and I was told of a few. I do not want to recommend any of them here without first evaluating them myself, but you can ask The Rabbit Room Chinwag on Facebook.

Whether in one of these forums or in another, maybe more Christian writers of fiction should consider what they can contribute. C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien showed how powerful the fantasy genre can be, and their works have become true classics. Science fiction is another genre which has proven numerous times to have immense potential to explore the cultural, political, and technological trends we see today. What would we see if Christian authors today combined the cultural and political foresight and Christian convictions of Francis Schaeffer with the captivating storytelling skills of Lewis and Tolkien? That would be something worth reading.

Writers must, however, keep in mind the quality of their contributions. I have no problem saying that many Christian movies . . ., well, they just stink. I appreciate the Christian worldview that they present (when it is not incredibly shallow), but the storytelling is often painfully inferior to many secular movies. It should not be that way (remember Lewis and Tolkien). Christians should strive for quality in all creative endeavors, whether on film, or on paper, or on a canvas.

In Art and the Bible, Francis Schaeffer encouraged Christians to be more involved in the arts in service to the glory of God. Because Christ is the lord of a person’s entire life, that life can produce both truth and beauty through art. The same can be applied to literature. Schaeffer also argued that legitimate Christian art does not always need to have specifically religious content. A Christian can paint a picture of a beautiful landscape simply because it is a beautiful landscape which he knows was created by God. In the same way, a Christian can write an entertaining story simply to write an entertaining story, and he can also write a story with a biblical purpose and message. Both are valid.

Fantasy and science fiction both have power to capture the imagination, and they are limited only by the imagination of the author. This makes them great vehicles with which explore ideas and to address the real world in which we live. Let us see what Christians can do with that.

(My previous posts on fantasy and science fiction)

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Writing Prompt – Your Life in Print

At a bookstore you find a book which appears to be your biography. You are amazed because you never knew anyone wrote your biography, and you do not understand why anyone would want to. As you skim through it you notice that it contains events of that day and the moment you find that book. It even contains events which have not yet occurred.

  • You choose what type of bookstore. It can be a large store like Barnes and Noble or a small local store. In either case, provide a vivid description.
  • Do you visit that bookstore regularly, or have you never been there before?
  • Describe the books and/or magazines you look at before you find the biography.
  • Describe the biography. How large is it? How is it bound? Describe the cover art. In which section of the bookstore did you find it? Make the content of the book appropriate to that section, but it is still a record of your past, present and future life.
  • How detailed are the future sections? If they are vague, are the gaps filled in as you live your life?
  • Because you know what will happen, then can you change your future, or are you stuck with what the book predicts? Maybe you can change some detail but not the overall trajectory. Does the content of the book then change to match the changed events?
  • Are you afraid to read the book, or are you overwhelmed with temptation? You are likely to experience both. It may depend in part on whether you can change the book’s predictions. The inner struggle could make some interesting narrative.
  • Do you discover the origin of the book and how the store acquired it?

You are free to use this prompt in your own writing. If you print it or post it online, however, please credit this post.

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Another Semester Done

I took my last final yesterday. I have one A- and two A+ this semester, and I have one industry certification (Security+). I think that is a productive semester. This summer I will probably study for the A+ certification.

Although the semester is done, I am still busy. My sister is downsizing, and so I need to move. With that approaching, I am going through my shed and deciding what to throw away. I found some old college notes which i have not read for more than twenty years. I tossed those. i also have some old books and magazines. I will keep some and set aside some that might earn me something at a used bookstore, but I will toss some that are not worth keeping.

I also need to find a job. I do not think I could have survived this semester of three classes if I worked a job, and so in the Fall I will probably take two classes. I need to get work experience in this field. That can be just as important at the education. If that means I need to graduate a little later, then that is what I will do. The purpose of this endeavor, after all, is to move into a field which will provide a job with a decent living. I do not regret taking three classes this semester, however. I finished some classes which are prerequisites for many other classes, and so I should now have more flexibility with my choice of classes in future semesters.

Now I must go. My sister’s dogs need a walk, and I am ready to listen to some good music while we walk. As I leave, allow me to suggest a video. It combines the sounds of a fireplace with a rainstorm. I sometimes like to play some of it when I go to bed. I do not play the entire video – just the last thirty minutes or hour which is more than enough as I fall asleep.

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Working through Some Ideas in the Midst of a Busy Life

It has been quite a while since I last wrote, and I have missed it. My life has been packed. I am now in the end of semester crunch time with exams approaching, two projects to finish, and preparation for the Security+ exam. I am also attending professional networking events and looking for an IT internship so that I can get my foot in the door and set myself up for a full job when I graduate..

I simply have not had the time write each day (I have done some), but I have worked on some ideas in my head. Years ago I thought of an idea for a fantasy story. I never developed it much because I thought some parts were too derivative, drawing too much from common themes. Nonetheless, I still liked some of the concepts, such as the basis for magic. I did not see how I could use it, and then this week I realized that I could work that part into my imaginary mythology.

Maybe I should give a small teaser. In this mythology, I envision a world which is the manifestation of its creator’s dreams. Unlike our dreams, which can be fragmented and constantly changing, this is a complete world. It also does not cease to exist when its creator is awake. Instead, it just goes on hold and then continues the next time he sleeps, but without the inhabitants ever noticing the pause. I also imagine a close relationship between magic and music, so close that they cannot be fully separated. This is the concept that I brought over from the old story idea.

This will probably be a long time in development. I have so much to learn about writing, and I need so much development. I am also busy trying to get through school so that I can make a better life for myself.

I have also pondered a video that I saw on YouTube. I recently discovered the BrunuhVille channel. It posts nice background music, often with a fantasy theme. I especially like this one:

At the end of the video beginning at 3:05 you can hear elven voices. The composer explains that he does not give them a meaning so that each person can imagine his or her own meaning.

So what do you see while listening to this song? Consider the image. The woman’s clothes and jewelry suggest that she may be royalty or in another high position. Also consider the mood of the voices. It suggests a culmination, but a culmination of what? That is the question I am still trying to decide. Maybe whoever is handing her the leaf is resigning from an important role and passing that responsibility to the younger woman. If so, then maybe the voices are reciting a traditional verse to commemorate the event.

What do you think is happening?

Because of school, I do not have the time to fully explore my ideas, but I still try to have fun with them when I need a break.

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You Grew up in the 80s If

  • You practiced getting in and out of your car through the windows.
  • Your first Walkman weighed 10 pounds and was the size of a brick.
  • You know the meaning of “Wax on, wax off.”
  • You know whose phone number is 867-5309.
  • A piece of folded paper and two hands could tell your fortune.
  • You want to be “where everybody knows your name.”
  • You know what Willis was talking ’bout.
  • You remember when it was worth getting up early on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons.
  • You know the dangers of saying “water” and “I don’t know.”
  • You remember when dialing a number on the phone actually involved a dial.
  • You wore a ponytail on the side of your head.
  • You owned a pair of jelly shoes.
  • You played the game “MASH” (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House).
  • You said, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.”
  • You asked, “Where’s the beef?”
  • You yelled, “By the power of Grayskull!”
  • You know where Gordon Shumway is from.
  • You rode in the back of the station wagon and faced the cars behind you.
  • You know what happened on Nov. 5, 1955.
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“Caledonia” Has My Attention

I recently found this video on Youtube while looking for Scottish and Irish music. It has kept my attention since then, and I have listened to it many times.

Dougie MacLean wrote this song while busking in France with some friends because was feeling homesick for his home in Perthshire, Scotland. After he played the song for his friends, they all decided to return home.

This song is relaxing. The lyrics also resonate with me, although not with the same message. In the second verse MacLean says

I have moved and I’ve kept on moving, proved the points that I needed proving
Lost the friends that I needed losing, found others on the way.

I do not know what he refers to here, but I think of times that I felt abandoned by people that I thought were friends when I needed help finding work in my previous field (not all of my friends; some did try to help). Leaving behind a career path can be difficult if you have invested much into it, and being unable to depend on some of the people who went to school with you is also difficult. In time I learned that I needed to move on. Now I am back in school and pursuing a career which will continue to be in increasing demand. I can move forward without letting the past define my life.

As I listen to this song, I also think of my dream to spend a week in Iona and another week exploring the surrounding islands. I have decided to set a goal to accomplish that dream. As a student, I do not have the funds or time now. After I finish school and work a few years in this field, then maybe I can earn a two week vacation to take the trip.

This raises another idea. Whenever I travel in this USA, I bring my laptop, or at least my tablet, so that I can do email and write my thoughts. On this trip, however, I might leave all of that at home and instead bring some notebooks and pens. After all, the point of this trip is to get away from my normal activities for a while to spend time in contemplation, reading and writing, and quietly letting God minister to me. Call it a pilgrimage if you like. We are so accustomed to the conveniences of modern technology that we can feel awkward without them, but it is tempting to step away from such conveniences, and the distractions they bring, while on this trip. The life I know here will be waiting for me when I return.

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Arwen and Jenny

While sitting at my desk before class this morning I found Arwen enjoying a moment with my sister’s dog Jenny

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Balancing Two Desires

Class has been as demanding as always, but it has also been interesting. Yesterday for my information security class I studied a section on password cracking and learned how to get a user’s password from a web page that he is logged into. As I learn more, the idea of doing penetration testing (ethical hacking) to help companies strengthen their security continues to intrigue me.

In my spare time I am trying to write. I said I would try to write some each day. I have not been fully successful, but I have written more than I did previously. I have brought out my notes from an idea I had for a fantasy world’s mythology. The idea came to me while I was still working at the warehouse, but because of the demands of life I put it aside.

Now I find myself wanting to work on that while I also need to focus on school. My classes need to take priority, but I occasionally fit in time to work on the mythology. I have organized and typed my handwritten notes into a Word file, and I am beginning to flesh them out in a private blog which only I can read. After I have developed them more, I will decide whether or not to post them here.

Needless to say, I am quite busy. Fortunately, I have a supportive work partner. Arwen sometimes likes to settle on the back of my chair while I work. She is a good buddy.

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