Monday, March 31, 2008

April is national autism awareness month

If you have a child affected by autism, or if you are a professional working with children on the autism spectrum, attending a Defeat Autism Now! ...
The Autism Research Institute (ARI), a non-profit organization, was established in 1967. ... Defeat Autism Now! •
The National Autism Center is a new nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting effective, evidence-based treatment approaches, and to providing ...
Attending a Defeat Autism Now!® Conference is the best way to obtain the latest information on the safest and most effective biomedical interventions for ...
Putting Autism Center Stage - March 25, 2008 - The New York Sun.
"Serving the needs of children and families touched by Autism." ... For more information, contact us at Pyramid Autism Center.
Visit the Center to find out what research they're conducting on autism. ... The Professional Development in Autism Center (PDA) provides training and ... website -- an Internet portal for websites containing videos and audio files on autism.
Worldwide teaching center for The Son-Rise Program, a powerful, effective and totally unique treatment for children and adults challenged by Autism.
The Center for Autism is the oldest specialized autism treatment and evaluation center in the nation. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for ...


Saw this in the wiconi newsletter.

A little over ten years ago there was virtually no Native-style music honoring Jesus that incorporated traditional drumming, chanting and other tribal styles and sounds. Today there are many dozens of such recordings. This reality is a refection of the spirit of Jesus at work in the lives of men and women who have been inspired to write new songs of prayer, celebration and honor to Jesus, born out of their identity as Native people. Accompanying every move of the spirit in a generation or people has been a “new sound” of celebration, or indigenous hymnody; from John Wesley, William Booth, The Jesus People Movement, to this current global Indigenous Jesus Movement. These new songs are helping bear the message of freedom in Jesus that you can be fully Native and fully embraced by God in your cultural world to people everywhere.

I want to recommend three new CD releases. They are Jonathan Maracle and Broken Walls “The Father’s Dance,” Michael Jacobs’, “Mystery,” and Cheryl Bear’s “The Good Road.” Jonathan is Mohawk, Michael is Cherokee and Cheryl is Nadleh Whut'en and while their music is different in style and sound, each share a message of freedom and hope in Jesus as native worshippers of Creator.

You can listen to sound-bytes of many of their songs on our website along with a few dozen more CD’s of powwow drumming music, flute music, praise music, instrumental stuff, etc., and then purchase them from wiconi's store shopping cart feature.


We are rapidly approaching the 7th WCGIP in Jerusalem. A number of travel agents have been added to the WCGIP website ( The number of people trying to visit Israel is at an all-time high. If possible please pre-register and pay your deposits quickly.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Envelope Pushing

Who came up with this metaphor of "envelopes"?...and of "pushing envelopes"? It's an interesting metaphor. Up there with, "thinking outside the box" and "broadening the mind" and all those other catch-phrases which imply, for us writers, the fooling around with cross-genre stories.

Well, I'm working away on my current Work-in-progress, Inheritance.

When I start a novel, my aim is always to make it fully totally myself. Not because I'm so unique but because there are so many African-American Christian folks with First World issues....and I want to do my part in contributing to the emerging genre fantasy stories made for and by us. I can think of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi, Tobias Buckell's Science Fiction novels Ragamuffin and Crystal Rain, Robert Fleming's Havoc After Dark...among a few but honestly, considering there are so many Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and South east-Asian folks in the US, there really ought to be more contemporary fiction (of whatever genre) on bookshelves that speaks to these cultures. Add to the mix that some of these folks are very religious --Christian, Buddhist, African tribal, Taoist, Shintoist-- and the main religion in fantasy seems to be Wiccan or Druidic... well, there is a major envelope that needs pushing, I think.

So that's my main purpose in my stories: to be as real and as fully me as possible. To be brave and put as much of myself into a story, in spite of the fact that the reader might not be prepared for such a world. In Wind Follower I wanted to be as Christian, as folklorish, as First Peoples, as High fantasy as see what such a book would look like. Just enough of the Euro-fantasy world to make it fit into the envelope. But enough to push the envelope a bit.

So there I was working on Inheritance. Inheritance is a book I want to be as Christian, as demonic, and as erotic as possible. The same envelope pushing. I wanted a succubus but I wanted a succubus that was really connected to Christianity, a female demon whom you hated, a demon who so intoxicated the sense of my main (good and noble) character that he would be tempted to rape any woman to repeat that pleasure. In short, I wanted to take my succubus seriously and do a modern-day version of The Exorcist with Christians fighting demonic possession. IN ADDITION, --because I wanted to put all myself in this story-- I wanted to deal with sexual-woundedness and make the story erotically-charged. And of course, all this had to happen to a black female Christian character.

Wind Follower got certain Christians annoyed with me because of six small sex scenes. Would I be willing to include the sexuality and alienate those folks again? And then there were the core fantasy fans. Many fantasy readers really liked Wind Follower but others were upset at its Christian content. Was I willing again to challenge the separation of genres? Did I want to push another envelope when Wind Follower had yet to prove that folks actually would read a book with a pushed envelope?

And what if I wasn't skillful enough to bring that book to fruition? If one speaks to pentecostal Christians, Native American non-Christians, Native American Christians, or Christians from Latin America, Asia, of demons, spirits, and possession is fairly common. The problem is that although the demonic is ever present in the fantasy genre, most fantasy writers don't really really believe in demons. Heck! Some American Christians don't even believe in demons. Not to the extent that other folks do.

I've gotten some interesting correspondence re Wind Follower. Folks telling me that it connected them to their life in the old country, or that it reminded them of stories their grandparents told, or that it was a book that "didn't seem like a made-up book" because stuff like that happened to them in their old villages or in some weird town in Louisiana. I like that phrase: "didn't seem like a made-up book." So, for some folks, Wind Follower felt intensely real.

So, back to Inheritance: Can I write it? Can I ride on that edge again and cause the story not to fall flat? And if I do have the skill to write a story that is totally paranormal and totally sexual and totally ethnic, do I have the fearlessness to actually write it? The effect of bad reviews of Wind Follower (there have been about five, I think, that I know of. Five out of 23 isn't so bad but hey)can really make an author pull back from pushing that envelope.

When I read the Bible, I don't see it telling me to abandon my sin-stained culture to take on the European sin-stained culture. It wants me to be myself, a Christian of African-American descent. But when I read American fantasy, I feel as if I am called to abandon that culture and take on Elvish and Wicca. By the year 2057, the majority of citizens in the United States will be non-white. (The growth will be fueled by Latin American immigrants and their children. Most of these immigrants are Roman Catholic, Evangelical and even mormon.) Will fantasy books continue to call us to worlds of vampires, elves, wiccans? Worlds that have little to do with us? (I can deal with shapeshifters because shapeshifters such as werewolves occur in many ethnic cultures. I'd like to see less European shapeshifters, though.)

I'm hoping that writers of color and that my little book Wind Follower will help to push the envelope a create space on those fantasy bookshelves for books that reflect the ethnic and religious differences of the America that we are becoming.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sea-born pre-orders

Chris Howard is running a drive for SEABORN pre-orders from He'll send a Giclee repoduction of one of his watercolors to anyone who pre-orders the book--no payment until July and Amazon knocks off an extra 5%.

More about it here:

or here:

Please pass this along to anyone who'd be interested.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008


How strange and hard it is to be corrected!

Just look in the book of Proverbs for all those verses with: instruction, refuse instruction, corrections, rebuke, etc. So many things to learn, so little time.

As Christians we read so much about how to behave when corrected! And yet...Okay, I won't pull in other Christians. (All this talk of 'WE'!) I'll only talk about myself. Other Christians are great when corrected. Me, well... I only make matters worse by defending myself.

Why do we defend ourselves? Er,...uh...why do I defend myself?

First, ego, I think. The self...the emotion...the work...the word...the action... That's all we have. And the self --whether right or wrong-- doesn't like to be wounded, misunderstood, insulted. So yeah, right or wrong, I have to die to self.....and learn not to care what the self feels. Become like Christ basically.

But the most important I think is this: we defend ourselves because we feel others will not defend us. Or we think others will not defend us well enough. Some of us know what it's like to be undefended. Some of us are so emotionally wounded that even when people defend us we somehow feel it's not enough. That's all emotional.

The spiritual part is this: we don't think God will defend us. Or we think that if God defends us, the one who offends us will not see or recognize that God is defending us.

I'll tell you something. It's not a secret really because everyone who knows me is aware of this: I wish I were rich, powerful, with rich powerful friends. A kind of Christian Cinderella complex. I want to make up for my life as it it once was.

But I am only rich in God's love -- which I often don't recognize.
I am only powerful in a very small sphere -- which is no real power at all.
And the only rich and powerful friend I have is God -- whose power the world generally does not recognize.

In such a state, what is a mere human to do? Sit back and accept corrections humbly? Retain no bitterness if one is not defended. Move on. As St Paul says, "This one thing I do.... Forgetting that which is behind, I press toward the high mark."

Wow, my first really bad review

I stand here amazed. I got my first really really really bad review. It's up at Neth Space.

He says it was so bad he could only make it through the first 100 pages.
I don't know if he actually read the book at all though because he says
"Much of the first hundred pages are told in a first person narration."
But ALL of the first 100 pages are told in the first person. So am not sure what he means?

Then he says the book lacks subtly with religious things and says things are
"a bit on the conservative side for me."
But there isn't any kind of Christian religiosity in the first 100 pages. And there's definitely no "conservative side" going on.

He says my main female character goes from strong-willed to meek and subservient for no apparent reason. Apparently, those three scenes where her mother tells her that if her father's debt isn't paid off he will be sold into slavery weren't reason enough.

Then, a poster Charlotte Byrd, posted that the book contained sections that were anti-Gnostics. This was weird cause she too admits that she didn't finish reading the book and even weirder cause I wasn't even thinking of the gnostics when I wrote Wind Follower. HEck, Christianity has tons of denominations that have added their own texts and prophets: Mary Baker Eddy's Health and Science, The Seventh Day Adventists and the Writings of Miss White, Joseph Smith's Writings. And if one considers that Mohammed was connected to the early Christians, one might even wish to add him into the mix of books influenced by the Jewish and Christian Bibles. So I was pretty much making fun of all Christian denominationalism, including my own. Interestingly, Neth answered that if I were picking on gnosticism then he definitely wouldn't read Wind Follower. Totally odd! One can really see how bad news and bad gossip and bad assumptions build and build on top of false foundations. Now Neth's going to go around saying Wind Follower has an anti-Gnostics swipe.....all based on his not finishing the book and his believing the comment from someone else who didn't finish reading the book.

(I recently was watching The First 48, a crime reality cop show. On that particular episode one 18 year old killed another 18 year old because he had heard the kid was gonna kill him. But of course the kid wasn't. Also am thinking of the white kids in Long Island who went to beat up a black kid because they had "heard" the black kid was planning to rape a white girl. The stupidity of these kids' abilities to read the mind of a would-be killer aside, it's amazing this mindreading ability created such a fuel that they went to the black kids' house. The father of the black kid shot them in self-defense. And of course all this is based on suppositions, lies, and people talking sh*t. It really has me thinking about the cruelty and the sinfulness of people speaking about what they don't know anything about.)

Yeah, a bad review is nothing compared to the death of two people....but it's scary that this kind of gossiping and unfounded talk can go on. I, for one, have never been comfortable with talking badly a book I've never read.

But some folks did defend me and another blogger got so interested in the mini-storm in the mini-teapot that he wants to read it for himself. So maybe this is all good.

Well Wind Follower has gotten some great reviews. Publishers Weekly (September 07) gave it a good review and said,
her elegant, meticulous world-building shimmers with the ambience of an old-world folktale

Library Journal (October 07) recommended it as a book for Black History Month.
Other reviewers have also really liked it.
J Kaye's Book Blog, The long and short, John Ottinger's Grasping the Wind, Mir's Mind Flight and Karen McSpadden's Disturbing The Universe: Reviews And Rants

So I really should let it all bounce off me because no book can please everyone. Still and all, that a book could be so liked in one area and so savaged in another.....well, it makes one wonder! It really shows that it's all a matter of taste.

Check out this wonderful post called the book is not that interesting.

Kinda puts it all in perspective and ... I find myself in good company.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Please Sign Petition: Every Child With Autism Deserves A Chance!

Please Sign Petition: Every Child With Autism Deserves A Chance! And Repost!

Please sign this petition telling the US Congress every child with autism deserves access to the critical intensive, early interventions and treatments that are necessary to provide an opportunity for them to participate successfully and independently in society and our economy! Our kids need your help and support today. PLEASE SIGN TODAY and pass along to your friends & family!

The Spectrum Press
March 2008 Issue

Autism Solution Center’s Newsletter & Updates
Now available online. Click below to view the newsletter or right-click to download:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Debut: Newton's Riddle

There is strong evidence that God gave Newton the most mysterious secret and riddle of all -- the timing and the events of the end of the age!

Paperback: 396 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing & Enterprises (March 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602478945
ISBN-13: 978-1602478947

Here is the website and here it is on amazon.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Favorite movie: Rope

So there I was...waiting for the schoolbus to arrive when I start playing around with the remote and what do I see? One of my favorite movies, Rope, is on at 5 pm Eastern Time. TCM Turner Classic Movies. Talk about the intense joy I feel. I LOOOOVE this movie

Ah the joys of favorite movies! If I try to figure out what I like about the movie, I guess I could talk about Aristotle and the three unities but dang, that's not it. Sure all the action is scrunched up in one little night in one little place but that's not really it. The entire film feels scrunched. The actors seem squeezed together to fit into the scene, the actors are flustered as they rush to fit all their words into Hitchcock's articial "one take" and there is all that panning and all that sooming into and stopping the camera onto the back of a suit to change the reel.

But what really gets me about this film -- and yes, I have a major Farley Granger crush and have had it all my life it seems-- is how jumpy and stressed the film makes the viewer. I've seen modern flicks try to tighten the screws on characters and make a film which leaves the viewer on the edge of his/her chair unable to breathe. DOA, Torque.

But somehow they don't quite work as this one does. Because what makes it really work, i think, is the relentlessness of it all. There is a deep desire in the viewer to let the bad guys get away with their crime. The minute they do it, we know their personalities will be the downfall of them. Guilt is gonna get one of them, arrogance the other. Even then, although they are utterly unheroic characters, we want them to ...get away unpunished. Because they are human.

But our desire is thwarted, and it's like watching one's friends do something stupid ....and one simply cannot stop them in time...or save them. This, i think, is one of the things that makes this story essentially Christian. Watching one guy make a really bad arrogant decision and watching his stressed-out wimpy friend be dragged along for the ride. ...and thinking...oh my god, oh my god, there is no way out for them now..... unless a miracle occurs. And all the time wanting the bad guys to succeed, not because they are such nice people, but because they are so like us sometimes...on a train with no turning back... and the only thing we can do is to beg and pray and hope that they get away with evil. Perverse joy, i know...but joy nevertheless.

Race and Obama's minister

I honestly cannot believe the todo going on about that minister's sermon. The big open-mouthed "shock!" being expressed throughout the media. Honestly, it has me wondering how/if some white folks honestly don't realize how angry black people are at the past and current atrocities inflicted by the United States on minority peoples outside and inside our borders.

Do they honestly think this kind of sermon is unusual and over-the-top? Of course, they're trying to make it appear as if we Black Christians don't love the country as much as white Christians do. And they're trying to isolate Blacks and Black Christians if we are the only minority that even thinks this way. Is this a kind of national white self-delusion.

And the Christian community! For heaven's sake! If one talks about this issue among Christians, there is this: "peace, we must all love each other." But the problem is that we have been peaceful all along and that meant accepting their idea of what should and should not be discussed. And what did that do to us? They --many Christian whites-- continue to believe that they can get to heaven and be racist.

When I wrote my book Wind Follower, so many of my fellow Christians got stressed out about me showing the imperialism of the United States...and the way religion and imperialism have worked together. They said, "well, all that is passed." Aren't we a religion dedicated to truth? Not in the united states where to tell your truth is to ask to be treated as if you've said something totally weird and flaky and extreme.

There has always been a weird concept in American elections: that of hijacking the country. It's not subtle at all and the idea behind it is that a Catholic president, a fundamentalist Christian president, a Muslim president, a Black president will somehow "hijack" the country. Add the country's continuing belief that black folks are emotional and that we "hate" the country and you can see what tends to happen: pics of Obama in Kenyan clothing, darkening of his pics, questions about the extremity of his faith, etc. I don't think many white Americans can understand that when Blacks say we are angry with the United States, or with racist white Americans, or American history, that we do NOT dislike America. Because they identify America as a white nation, they can't picture Black Americans as loving a country and at the same time being upset at that country's history.

Now poor Obama in order to pass white muster must behave as if what his minister says is an if his minister is the ONLY person who says stuff like that. Luckily, we black Christians know the game and will forgive him if he has to speak gingerly about his faith as a Christian, his race, or his being both. Obama, my friend, do what you gotta do. We understand.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Two anthos from Cyberwizard productions

Cyberwizard, a family-oriented speculative fiction publishing house has two new anthologies coming out. One for kids and anyone who loves humor and bad puns. The other for lovers of heroic fantasy.

Here is the graphic of the book cover - "Strange Worlds of Lunacy: The Galaxy's Silliest Anthology." Over 40 stories, poems, art pieces and general silliness will comprise this volume. You can go to to order it.

The other is The Return of the Sword, an anthology of sword-and-sorcery fiction by some of the most exciting writers in the genre. A few of the stories might be for mature audiences because it is sword and sorcery after all. Wenches and broadswords abound.

You can order it at


Review of Gypsy Tears: Loving a holocaust survivor

ISBN 978-0-9760896-9-8
Published 2007
244 pages

Rating: Excellent
Gypsy Tears -- Loving a Holocaust Survivor By Cora Schwartz
published by Hobblebush Books,

Here's the blurb:
An unusual, beautifully written, and important first novel by Cora Schwartz, based on the true story of her life living with a holocaust survivor. In a magical and haunting style, Ms. Schwartz weaves an intense love story that answers the question asked so many times since her husband's death: "What was it really like living with a holocaust survivor?" As Ms. Schwartz carries us along in a grand sweep through Yugoslavia, Russia and Romania in the 1960s, the depth of her relationship with Rudy becomes a tragic work of art as she allows us a peek into the soul of a holocaust victim in an artful and deeply moving way. The timeliness of this cannot be overstated now when there are those who deny the holocaust happened.

My review is up at blogcritics

She also wrote another book:

Here's the blurb:
Forty-five Holocaust survivors in a small town in Ukraine would have been forgotten but for an American woman, Cora T. Schwartz. Cora first visited Mogelov with her companion, Rudy, who spent four years in a Nazi labor camp in the region. Although he is gone, Cora carries on their commitment to "never forget" these elderly citizens. The Forgotten Few is a small book with a big message conveyed in both text and photographs. Despite suffering and destitution, the seniors' faces light up when Cora arrives - laden with medicines and donations. Beauty is within them. Describing Frida Shvarzbahn, for example, the author writes, "Here is a woman...who has survived all the horrors of the camps, the ghetto and the war… and yet ...manages to create beautiful poetry. She sits in her little room, rations out 5 grams of sugar a day for her tea and writes about love."

Anyways, check out my review on blogcritics.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

A podcast of my story

Please check out the podcast of my story, Homecoming at the Borderlands Cafe over at Escape Pod. It takes about fifteen minutes to listen to. Please comment if you can. It's a story about race and religion in an alternate America.

-Carole McDonnell

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

kneejerk disdain

Back in the day when I was an Episcopalian-bor-and-bred I had a gay priest who hated Bible-believing Christians. His hatred was visceral and his unequal treatment of his parishioners based on their beliefs was all too obvious. He was like night and day. He'd get bright red and he'd get very distant whenever a Bible-believing Christian approached him whether in or outside the churchyard. It was as if he was always ready to be hurt by them.

Well, I understood exactly how he felt. I've had my share of Christian cruelty. I remember the Assembly of God minister, Pastor Glickert, the white minister in a 99.9999% white congregation who decided to drag me up to the front of the conversation to talk about me living with my soon-to-be husband. (Other young folks had boyfriends too and were into extramarital sex but they were white young folks and their parents were in the congregation. I suspected he did this in order to make himself appear to the white congregation as hard on sin....and I, being alone, was a great tool for that purpose.)

I remember the white minister's wife who stood beside me at coffee hour telling me she didn't like seeing my white husband and me together because she didn't like seeing her race muddied.

I remember the Christian reviewers who toured Wind Follower who wildly emailed each other offlist about the sex and violence in my book. And I remember the Christian fiction group, Xianscribblers, which all ganged up on me and once again were emailing each other offlist about me. (That trouble started because I didn't like the idea of invading Iraq and because I said people should not judge homosexuals because some --by no means all-- of my homosexual friends had had sexual abuse as children.) Of course something always happens with all that gossiping and I always end up being told...Christians are good at herd-mind cruelty but never good at hiding their gosiping.

So as I think back upon that former minister of mine -- who is quite the Christian gay theologian revolutionary-- I tell myself, "I don't want to develop a kneejerk disdain toward Christians. I don't want to write stories where Christians are harpies who pride themselves on how kind and good and mature they are...when they are really nothing more than cruel beings. Those are the stories non-Christians and Christian-haters write."

Yet, the depiction of Christians is often true. At least American Christians. And let's face it: much of the most blatant racism comes from Christians in the Bible Belt. The Bible tells us: a true witness delivers souls. But can I write the passionate accurate story without being mean-spirited and kneejerk about it?

God alone knows.

Monday, March 03, 2008

a stripped down life

When one has been ill a long time, real life crumbles away. The veneer of it at least. One reaches a point where one doesn't really care...and that not caring either leads to great despair, great indifference, or great joy. On Sunday while i was cleaning (yeah, yeah, i know. I shouldn't be cleaning on a sunday) I suddenly got an overwhelming sense of joy about my solitariness. Of course I'm not as solitary as most reclusives. I have a hubby and two sons and some lovely friends -- who are also solitary reclisive types-- and my email friends.

But for the most part I live without seeing people and I rarely encounter people. So there I was kinda bewailing my illness and the way my life has turned out....and cleaning the best of my ability.....when this flaky joy comes into my heart. I'll try to explain what the joy was saying to me. (yes, joys can speak). It said something like: "Look how happy and free you are! You know what it's like to not be bounded by all those rules and expectations of a normal life. Because your family hasn't got the tiniest semblance of an ordinary life, you are so free!" (Trust me, life in this house is very strange and grief-stuck most times.)

That's not exactly what the joy-grief (greif-joy?) said but it was close. I can't really explain it but instead of feeling as if my neighbors and my church brothers had abandoned me...and instead of feeling that normality and life had abandoned us... I felt the joys the desert hermits must have felt....a total freedom from the world's cares, rules, judgment....a realization that I was a bit like those folks who had willingly (or unwillingly) turned their back on normal life. It was wonderful. Strange, but wonderful. God must've been in it. It certainly is making me indifferent to stuff the world considers important. Which may or may not be a good thing. Dead to the world, and the world is dead to me.

Perhaps it's the nature of the situation...being ill for so long. I DO believe that God's word is working mightily and powerfully in me, though. But illness does make a person indifferent to life as others live it. In some ways i DO think that this indifference is good for my particular soul. Since my childhood, I was always so pleasant and repressed...and I'm sure the root cause of this too-long-endured illness was me repressing my emotions. Now, the indifference separates me from people...from my old desire to be liked by people....from the fear of man, from my worries about the stuff the world worries about. I think that's a good thing. Because the Christian community --especially the white ones--- has been pretty harsh to me... and it's good to be free from them..and to neither love nor hate them. And it's good to live a stripped kind of life....especially when one is aware that YOU GOD SEE ME.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Gregory Banks' Phoenix Tales -- Writers of Color Blog tour

Phoenix Tales
By Gregory Banks
WheelMan Press

Rating: Very Good

African-American speculative writer, Gregory Banks, has added four new stories to his collection of stories, Phoenix Tales: Stories of Death & Life, Second Edition. Once again, the short story collection has been highly acclaimed and compared to authors such as Roger Zelazny and Harlan Ellison.

I haven't read the new edition but since I reviewed the stories in the first edition several years ago, I'm sure the new stories can only be as good or better. Few speculative authors have explored the many aspects of death as Gregory Banks has.

It is also about relationships, power, hope, death and rebirth. On earth or beyond it, in time or outside of it, death is a constant. In this collection of seventeen stories written by Gregory Banks, death is constant – death of individuals, cultures, worlds– and always there is mystery. The mystery of what lies beyond death is present, of course. And the narrators of these stories usually have a positive optimistic view of death -- a faith either spiritual, cosmic or magical, that all things are working together. But there is mystery in these stories. Often the puzzle or conundrum surrounds the actual cause or generative force that causes the death. There is also the long wait that accompanies dying. Whether the person waiting is a dying man who is continually revived, a faithful best friend beside a respirator, a long-dead son awaiting a spiritual reunion with his now-dead father, or a dying person who doesn’t quite understand that death has occurred or is in fact taking place.

“Terminal Velocity,” the lead story, is a story about death locked away and hard to get at. The main character, Jory Myles is surrounded by good people, attendants at a Nursing home who are deeply committed to keeping him alive. The problem is that Jory doesn’t want to be alive. He doesn’t want to be “vived” yet again. The distance between his wishes and the nursing facility’s is wide to say the least. Powerlessness is powerlessness even when one is in the hands of those who mean well. He escapes of course. And of course death is a relief for him as it is for most of the characters in this book. But the mystery remains: just why is that pendant so important to him?

This distance between Randy and his father in Homegoing is bridged at a funeral – called Homegoing, in the African-American community. This is a story full of regret which gives hope of a reconciliation when all truth will be understood. Funerals, especially those which bring a person back home, bring healing to the narrator not only because of words he hears spoken, but because he is once again forced to confront a community he felt he had to leave if he had to grow. Love and parental acceptance is finally achieved after the funeral. But again, the mystery – for me, anyway– the main character discovers certain truths, not when he himself dies, but when another person dies and something is mentioned at a funeral. So, is the author saying that even after death, human agency is sometimes needed for spiritual healing and eternal reconciliation.

In the gently-innocent “An Old friend,” the main character stands faithfully and innocently near the respirator of her dying friend. She is waiting for her friend to be released to become an angel, an angel who uses nail polish. Such childlike faith and loyalty – humans after all flee death– is written in a very naturalistic way and is not maudlin at all. However, again the mystery: where are the dying child’s parents? Why aren’t they mentioned in the story?

In “The Soul Man” Death – minus his scythe– comes to take a little girl away from abuse. For me to say that a story in which a little girl dies of abuse is a sweet story shows how Greg Banks twists the idea of death upside down. Seen from the standpoint of eternity, Death is better for this little girl. She will be freed from this life and move on to heaven. But this slice of lie story will leave some with the nagging question: Just why did this little girl die, at this time? Perhaps the reader doesn’t really know. Banks seems more interested in seeing the world from outside the box of mortal eyes.

Death and the promise of birth figure in some of the stories also. “A Time to Rest” in which mentally-retarded main character Mona is probably dying and is probably caring for a dead child while she waits for her husband. The reader finds herself hoping that her husband hasn’t died in the nuclear blast in town, and desperately wishes that if he has died Mona will die soon and be reunited with him. The thought of her sitting around waiting for a husband who will probably never return is too much. Death is her only release. Am not sure if it’s fair of the author to destroy a city and only keep one mentally-retarded mother alive. It’s possible that such a thing could happen but it seems like a cruel kind of existentialist joke. And existentialist jokes may happen in stories but they rarely do in real life, unless a writer wants to make a point about the cruelties of life. I liked the story but considered this one a bit unfair in its drastic scenario.

Both “The Last Living Thing”and “An Elysian Dream” imply that the death of worlds brings a new beginning. Unlike most of the stories in this book of speculative fiction, these two have fantastical mythic elements with female birth symbols. Some may like the fantasy element less than others. I found “An Elysian Dream” complicated in its world-building and was not entirely ready for it after reading stories which only had small dashes of speculative elements.

Many of the stories touch on healing of some kind, healing created by a group, healing for a group, unwanted healing. The characters are normal everyday folks —most probably African-American but their races generally do not matter. They face something common to all people: death and dying when racial identification, wealth and politics take a back seat to finality. Race, wealth, and politics aren’t dismissed, mind you, – the “viving” people at the nursing home are definitely powerful figures backed by a powerful government. But for the most part, in these slice of life supernaturally-tinged stories, death is a lonesome valley that these characters usually travel alone.

A collection of stories about death could be troubling and haunting to some. But it is the most common of human journeys. And Greg Banks has written about it with hope, faith, love and joy. I highly recommend this book. Especially for those spiritual and psychological types who ponder the importance and meaning of death and the journey of the dying.

Other reviews can be found at these sites:

FeBlueberry 2005 newsletter
"...For an experience in description and emotion, this is good." - Piers Anthony, Author the Xanth series.

Jennifer Murray,, May 3, 2005
"...(Has) the same ironic, bittersweet twist (of) The Twilight Zone mixed with the acidic musings attribute(d) to Harlan Ellison."

Kalaani, The RAWSISTAZ™ Reviewers, June 19, 2005
PHOENIX TALES by Gregory Bernard Banks is a one of a kind book anyone would enjoy reading.

Joe Murphy, reviewer
"(When) I read Living with Mrs. Klase...I wept...Any book that can do that deserves the highest marks."

The following blogs are also touring Greg's new book:

Dark Parables

Nicole Kurtz

The Void by Mark Mynheir: Christian Fiction Review Blogtour

Format: Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books
ISBN: 978-1-59052-400-8 (1-59052-400-4)

Here's the Blurb

The Truth Chasers Book Three

Someone’s trying to play God…
and he’s turning Palm Bay into hell.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Robbie Sanchez devotes her life to crime prevention, and it shows: She has no personal life and doesn’t know the meaning of a day off. After all, someone has to be around to clean up the mess crime leaves behind.

So when Officer Brad Worthington is brutally murdered, Agent Sanchez is called to the scene along with Brad’s best friend, Detective Eric Casey. The two turn to Lifetex, the genetics lab near the scene, hoping their elaborate security system might have captured the crime outside.

But what’s going on inside the lab is far worse: a renegade scientist is cloning humans! As Robbie and Eric pursue clues–and a growing attraction–they are caught in a deadly battle as the clones begin to act on their own volition…but this battle threatens to claim more than human life; the clones are vying for human souls.

It's available on:

Random House website and Amazon

Here's the Mark Mynheir Author Website

Click here to read an excerpt

Mark Mynheir is the author of Rolling Thunder and From the Belly of the Dragon and a police detective whose law enforcement career has included serving as a narcotics agent and a S.W.A.T. team member. Mark and his wife, Lori, live with their three children in central Florida.

Participating Blog links:

Geralyn Beauchamp
The Christian Fiction Review Blog
Back to the Mountains
Queen of Convolution
A Frank Review
Between Sundays
Bibliophile's Retreat
Between Sundays

Arts and Faith significant films list

Got this in my email so am posting it here:

For the first time in two years, the Arts & Faith community will update its list of the Top100 Spiritually Significant Films--and you're invited! The Top100 list has been described as "a monument to a history of people speaking a different language about eternal concepts" and "an incomparable resource for anyone interested in exploring transcendent themes in the movies". You can access the 2006 and earlier versions at

The 2008 list promises to be our best list yet, looking at films released before 2007. As a registered member of the A&F community, you're invited to participate by visiting our website at

Here's how the revision process works: From now through early April, nominations are open. In early May voting will begin. Voting closes in late May--giving people plenty of time to see the nominated films. Everyone registered at Arts&Faith will receive a personal e-mail invitation to vote in early May.

If you haven't visited in a while, you should come by and see what's new! In addition to our long-standing forums on film, we have lively discussion of music, writing, visual art, theater, and other arts. There's discussion of social issues, home and family life, television, science, sports, and much more.

The site offers individual and shared blogs, a gallery for visual arts, social-networking features, a store highlighting member work, collaborative rating of current films, and on and on. With all this, and over 2,000 registered users, Arts & Faith truly is "the largest and most dynamic online bulletin board on the subject of the intersection between art and faith" (and a lot more!). You can also connect with Arts & Faith on Facebook.

Whether you're a regular contributor, a "lurker", or if you haven't visited in a while, I hope to see you on and invite you to participate in the 2008 revisions to the Top100 list!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Story of the Gospel

I'm always amazed at how we Christians tend to use jargon when we try to preach the gospel....even when we are trying our best not to. Did I just hear a person witnessing to some stranger say, "Jesus came to save you from your sin and to bring us his glorious gospel that you may enter into His body?" Oh, where does one start with a declaration such as this?

Well, for the innocent non-believer out there, here are the basics of the as non-jargonal terms as I can make it. I'm sure some jargon might have slipped in. But at least I'm trying to get down to the nitty-gritty of my faith. I tried this with Wind Follower too. Just to get down the basic folkloric aspect of Christianity. So here goes:

Gospel is a word often used by Christians when they speak. It is a word that has two meanings and these two meanings are closely related.

The meaning of the word gospel :

• The word “Gospel” is an old English word which means good news. It is related to another old currently used old English word: gossip. But “gossip” means rumors and bad news about other people, the word gospel is used of news that is true and so wonderful it sounds unbelievable but which is nevertheless very, very true. This leads to the second meaning: something which tells the wonderful unbelievable truth about Jesus Christ.
• The second meaning of the word gospel refers to four books in the Bible which tells about the life of Jesus Christ. There are four gospels
• The gospel according to Matthew
• The gospel according to Mark
• The gospel according to Luke
• The gospel according to John
These gospel writers are called “evangelists” which is a Greek word which means “Messengers who tell the good news.” Three of the four writers (Matthew, Mark, and John) were friends, followers (sometimes called an “apostle”) and eyewitnesses of Jesus when he lived on earth. The fourth (Luke) was a friend who met them later. He was also a researcher and a doctor and he wrote another book in the Bible called “The Acts of the Apostles” which tells about how Jesus’ followers taught the gospel and what they did as they preached the good news.

All the gospels were written to tell about the good news of Jesus Christ.

Who is Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ lived more than 2000 years ago in Israel. At that time the country was called Palestine and the Romans had invaded the country. The gospels show Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, and telling people about God’s love. But for Christians, Jesus is more than a mere historical figure. Christians believe Jesus is:
• The Pure and Ultimate sacrifice for a person’s sins
• The Love of God made visible
• The One and only mediator between God and humans, someone who is equal to both God and humans and so he can speak to both.
• The uncreated Son of God who co-created the world with God the Father
• The Prophet who spoke the ultimate truth and mysteries about God, God’s love, Faith, Evil and the Devil, Truth, Life, Death, Spiritual Laws, and the spiritual world.
• The True Example of what a real human being should be.
• The Living Word of God in human flesh.
• The Way to God and to heaven
• The revealer of certain mysteries such as how the world really works.

What is the good news of Jesus Christ?

The good news of Jesus Christ is based on the following beliefs:

• God loved humanity and saw that humanity had forgotten how loved they were.
• God wanted humans to know him yet he knew they could not understand his goodness or his essence because the way humans thought was different from the way God thought because God is good and God is spirit
how hard people tried, they could never be as good as God wished them to be. Nor did they wish to be.
• God’s holiness required justice and required that all sins – bad things we do, think, or say such as murder, lying, pride, or sexual immorality—be punished. But God’s mercy wanted to provide a way to help people come to Him.
people couldn’t be good without His help, yet people did not understand that they needed to understand what goodness, justice, and love were.
• God sent Jesus Christ, who is the representation of everything God is, to be born on earth as a Savior, Teacher, and Sacrifice on earth
• God put the punishment for all the sins humans would ever commit onto Jesus.
• Jesus perfectly did everything God sent Him to do.
• Jesus lived a perfect life, and died for all the sins that sinners had ever and would ever commit in order to pay for their sins
• Jesus gave his life to free humans from death, hell, and the power of sin.
• Jesus sends God’s Holy Spirit to live within those who believe what the gospel writers say about Jesus.
• T
hat anyone who puts his or her trust in Jesus and asks Jesus to died for his sin have power over sin and sickness and conquers the world through their faith in all that Jesus did.

What the gospel is not

The gospel is not
• A system of laws -- although those who believe in the gospel should be good.
• The gospel is not aesthetics – although those who believe in Jesus often worship God in many kinds of beautiful settings and church services
• The gospel is not political correctness – although those who believe in Jesus are commanded to be kind and good to all people
• The gospel is not etiquette – although good behavior is always a good thing.

How do you become friends with God?
If you want to be reconciled to God and feel that something is separating you from him, say this prayer:
God, some people are so sure that you exist. Some people are so sure that you love them. They say that if we ask you for anything and mention Jesus to you, you will answer our prayer. Please God please let me know you in the way your son Jesus Christ does. Please let me understand everything about the Bible and about you and about Jesus. Please help me see that you have destroyed even the most powerful sin and that if you live in me that I will be able to conquer sin and all that sin does to my body, mind, and soul. Please let me understand your love, your care, and your power. Help me to trust in you and for the sake of Jesus and all Jesus did for humans, please forgive me of all my sins, free my soul and spirit from the damage sin has caused in my life and make me your true and obedient child. Amen. It's done.

Carole McDonnell’s fiction, devotionals, poetry and essays have appeared in many publishing venues, in print and online. She lives with her husband, their two sons in upstate New York

purgings unaccomplished, hurts still unhealed

Well, now that I finished Wind Follower and it's out there in the world, I still feel I haven't quite gotten all my heart's hurt out into a good story.

I know you've seen a lot of movies where people portray Christians as cruel uneducated know-it-alls. As a Christian, I've seen them. I always cringe and say, "Why do they portray us like that? We aren't all like that." Stephen King, for instance, has a lotta creepy Christians in his book. Even so, I always suspect that Stephen probably is a Christian underneath it all. Let's face it. There are many cruel racist Christians out there. I have a white friend from Georgia who says the same people who invited him to Church were the same people who invited him to KKK rallies. Heck, Christianity in America actually contains denominations based on hatred of black folks. And then there is Sunday morning, the most segregated day of the week, where blacks are in their black churches and whites are in their white churches.

I WANT to write a book showing the kinds of horrible Christians that exist in the world. But do I want to contribute to the pool of anti-Christian literature out there? The same thing goes for racism. Christian white racism. (Yeah, there is such a thing as black racist christians but honestly, not nearly on a scale as the other kind. I can't think of any black theologian who has ever built a racist church.)

I often feel Christian folks need to write about that...but how to do it? For the most part, the Christian books that deal with white Christian racism are books written by black Christian women. But even so.....those books are usually published by white Christian how angry and truthful can those books be? And while black Christian folks read books by white Christian folks, the reverse is not as common. (IF I see one more little black Christian girl reading Janet Oke, I will scream!)

I'm working on two works-in-progress now. One is based in a totally strange world and is full of great world-biulding. Some sexual issues, though. A Christian publisher probably would not accept it.

The other story is based in this contemporary world. All the hurt and grief I have ever received from Christians just threatens to overflow in that novel. Should it? Is picking on racist Christians an attack on the faith? Or is it a prophetic wake-up call that is truly needed in this racist world we live in? Gotta see. But what is the use of writing if the folks you want to change just ain't gonna read it?

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