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Hi,

Today I have a guest blogger. He is someone who I met at a writer’s conference and I think he, his wife and myself clicked, at least enough to consider ourselves friends. He has been gracious enough to help me with an article I’ve been working on and generously gave into my offer to guest for me. Enjoy!

Thanks Joe for sharing  your wisdom and thoughts!  

 

 

 

 

Earlier today I was chatting with a friend on Facebook. We met during a mission trip to Haiti with KTIS radio and Healing Haiti. Not four months ago we were delivering water in the slums of Cite Soliel, a part of Port au-Prince. Michael had just gotten back from a trip to Haiti. Mike Stoebner’s a gifted photographer and he goes down regularly to document different mission groups and what they do in Haiti.

 

At one point he mentioned the two of us going back. My heart kind of bumped at that thought. Haiti is hard to explain to anyone who’s not been there. It either captures your soul or scares you so badly that you want nothing but OUT!!!  I fall into the first group. My heart is in Haiti. I support two orphan girls there through Healing Haiti. I think about it almost every day. And I’m so blessed to have made a mission trip there with Michael and some of my other new friends.

 

While we were chatting the repairman came up from my basement. The computer controlled demand water heater was on round 1,483,308 of trouble. The stupid thing. He had an update.

 

It dawned on me later that those are good problems to have. The water heater cost more than the average Haitian earns in 4 years. And I had one. I have fresh water on demand, and usually the option of it being heated to a toasty 120 degrees. The people in Cite Soliel don’t even have fresh water on tap, much less heated. 

 

I have plenty to eat, plenty to drink, a nice house, and nothing but first world problems. A defective computer fault on my water heater is the biggest challenge I face today. Nothing existential. 

 

I’d have to consider that a blessing. God takes very good care of me and my family. I’m healthy, wealthy, and working on wise. Someday perhaps. 

 

In the meantime, I have to ask if you’ve let “first world problems” skew your perspective on the blessings you have in life? Do you pray to God and thank Him each day for the rich and wonderful life you have in the United States? Are you aware that even a bad day here is a pretty good day most other places?  

 

Please take a few minutes to ponder that set of questions. And if your heart moves you to do so, drop on by Healing Haiti  and support them. I have a sneaking hunch that it will make you feel better almost immediately. 

 

And I hope your water heater is doing better than mine. 

 

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Joseph R. Courtemanche

. . .

 

Joseph Courtemanche is a former Police Officer and certified Middle East, North Africa analyst. He is a distinguished veteran of the Naval Security Group of the United States Navy and is a former Arabic linguist. His linguistic and intelligence experience provide the background that’s crucial to his writing in the Action/Thriller genre. He is a graduate of The University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and holds degrees from two other colleges.

 

Joseph writes his novels from a Christian perspective with the gritty realism that modern readers demand. His as-yet-unpublished Assault on Saint Agnes won Second Place in the prestigious Athanatos Christian Ministries 2013 Christian Novel Contest.

 

His extensive technical background includes a degree in Computer Science, experience in cryptology, and a large vocabulary in the military, scientific, and medical fields. Joseph has also worked in such varied fields as medical transcription and technical writing.

 

Among his performing endeavors, he lists being a professional Santa Claus (Official Santa for the Minnesota Vikings) and an extensive background in radio and television commercials. His voice over work includes a two-year stint creating audio books for the blind as well as reading the newspaper live on the air for the Minnesota Society for the Blind and Vision Impaired.

 

Joseph and his wife live in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with their two Shetland Sheepdogs in an old Victorian home. He blogs several times a week at http://www.commotioninthepews.com. His writing covers every topic from old music videos to current political events – all with a Christian worldview. You can follow him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/josephcourtemancheauthor His twitter feed is @joecourtemanche.

 

His writing motto is

 

Biblical-Strength Heroes for a Modern World

 

 

The Dream

 by J L Canfield

     “I hope you don’t mind but I moved your bed,” she said glancing up as he walked into the room.

      “I don’t mind,” he said. “Why did you decide to move the bed?”

      “I needed space.”

      “Why did you need space?”

      “So I could move in my things.”

      He crossed the room and wrapped his arms around her. She reached up and put her arms around his neck. He has the most incredible blue eyes she thought. “Why are you moving your things in when you said you were leaving?” 

     “I’ve changed my mind. I’m staying here for law school” she said reaching up to touch her lips to his. “Do you mind my being back?” Leaning down to her waiting mouth, he whispered “No.”

Maura awoke with a start. She was surprised to find herself alone. Her dream had seemed so real. She knew the man in her dream although she hadn’t seen or thought about him in years. She had known him since sixth grade. In high school he had dated her best friend Beth and hadn’t they gotten married sometime during college? Neither of them had crossed her mind in years, now she was having wet dreams about a sixth grade crush who married a former friend. Closing her eyes she could picture how he had looked, dirty blonde hair with bangs falling in his incredible dancing blue eyes that looked into her soul and a sweet puppy dog smile that played up the smattering of freckles across his tan face. Why had she dreamed of him? Why had it been so intense? She still felt, after being awake for a few minutes, the weight of his arms around her. Although she was definitely alone, she felt his body next to her. It had been a dream hadn’t it?

      As much as she would have liked staying in bed devouring this delicious feeling of being held in someones arms, she had to face the real world. Absentmindedly she began her morning routine. Brushing her teeth she pondered “Where had time gone?”  This was not the life she had imagined for herself back in high school. Back then she had plans. She was going to law school, own a house and Porsche by age 40. “Look at yourself” she thought. “You’ re 32, live in rented townhouse, manage a bridal shop, drive a sedan and dreamed about a man who you haven’t seen in years.” “Pathetic, Maura” 

     She gave herself an all over look in the bathroom mirror. “Not too shabby for my age,” she said  smiling. Heading back to the bed room she stopped short. “Hum, when did I make the bed?” Glancing around the room, noting nothing else amiss, she shook her head. “I must have done this unconsciously. Oh well” 

     When she arrived at the bridal shop the feeling from her dream was still with her. So was her puzzlement. “What had made me dream of Wade?” she questioned. Maura unlocked the door. Out of the corner of her eye, something caught her attention. Turning, she found nothing there. As she faced the door again, she gasped, staring back at her was Wade’s reflection. Spinning, she again turned to see nothing, No one was there. Maura stood on the sidewalk confused by reality. This was not like her. Usually so sure, so in control, so grounded and now undone by a dream that was trying to leave her subconscious. “No more nonsense Maura. It was only a dream. Unfortunately, bridezillas are real and waiting. Now get your act together and settle down to work.” With that thought she opened the door and put the dream behind her.

     During a morning lull, Maura asked her two employees “Have you ever had a dream that was so real you couldn’t believe it was a dream?”

      “So that’s what wrong with you today. Tell us about it,” said Judy the most pragmatic person Maura had ever known.

     “I didn’t say it happened to me.”

      “No need, you’ve had something on your mind all morning,” responded Robin, the most romantic minded person Maura had ever meet.

      Gazing at them, she decided to share the events of her dream and how she even made up her bed without being aware of doing so. “OK but if you laugh, I’ll fire you.” 

      Robin and Judy looked at each other knowingly. No matter if they laughed, they would not be fired. They were a dynamic team who had built a reputation in the wedding industry as being the best around. More than that though they were friends who held each other in the highest regard. The Three Musketeers of the bridal business. “Agreed.”

     Maura began to speak, stopped, looked out the window suddenly, and gasped.  Again something had grabbed her attention. Across the street was Wade. Maura closed her eyes. Opening them slowly she saw nothing there. Shaking her head slightly, “I’m sorry. Where was I?” She began again. When she had finished she looked first at Judy then to Robin. “Any comments?”

     “ What a great dream” sighed Robin “Maybe you’ll pick up tonight where you left off.”

      Judy who had been dressing a mannequin spoke. “It’s perfectly obvious what’s going on.” Looking at Maura she continued. “ You need sex. A life too. But mainly you need sex.” 

     “She needs romance” argued Robin. “No sex. Sex without love or romance is just empty. She needs fulfillment. She needs someone to belong to, to love, to look forward to going home to.”

      Judy cut her off. “She can get that from a dog. Sex is what she needs.” Maura watched her friends continue to discuss her as if she was not there. At least they didn’t think her crazy. 

     Close to closing time, a floral truck pulled in front of the door. Often brides returning from their honeymoons would send flowers to the shop thanking them for their help. It was a gesture meant to make up for being a bridezilla. Placing the flowers on a nearby table, Maura thought them to be exquisite as she reached for the card. “Look at the size of that arrangement.It’s got to be from Georgina White.” Judy said. In her mind Georgina had won the title ‘Bridezilla of the Century‘ hands down and bridezilla could easily be switched to another b word and she would win that title too. 

     Maura went red with rage. “How could you? I thought you were my friends. Get your things and leave. We’ll discuss this in the morning.” 

     Judy and Robin stared at her.” What did we do?” Robin said puzzled by Maura’s sudden outburst.

      “Discuss what in the morning?” Judy said baffled by Maura’s reaction.

      “Go now” screamed Maura, “Go” 

      Not understanding what had happened the two left together. Maura locked the door behind them. How could they do this? How could they have played such a mean trick on her? She had taken them into her confidence. She looked at the arrangement. It contained all her favorite flowers. It certainly was beautiful and costly. Quite an expensive joke to play on her. She would deal with it tomorrow. As she reached for the light switch she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye. Not again today she thought. Locking up she started at Wade’s reflection in the door. “No, you’re not real. Go away.” 

     The drive home settled her. Her anger at her employees diminished. She decided she had overreacted to their prank.Tonight she would have a relaxing evening and begin plotting a prank against them. Not able to put Wade out of mind she thought to google him.After a few wrong Wades, she found him. Looking at a picture from high school, she read about the accident that had taken his life. Several hours later, Maura crawled into bed determined not to dream. Yawning, she closed her eyes. She must have buried the news of his death in her mind. What had caused it to surface she wondered? Drifting into the deep recesses of slumber, a heaviness slide next to her. Warmth surrounded her body as if another person were sharing her bed, holding her in their arms. Giving into sleep, Maura rolled over. A whisper, reminiscent of Wade’s voice, breathed into her ear, “Did you like my flowers?”       

  

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Much Slipstream is on Your Shelf?

Do you even know what Slipstream is?

 

By J L Canfield

 

 

In 1989, Bruce Sterling, a cyberpunk author, coined Slipstream, to create a genre that mixed the boundaries of science fiction with fantasy, mainstream literary, and horror. What is Slipstream by definition? To quote Sterling, “this kind of writing makes you feel very strange, the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility.”

Okay, but what is Slipstream you ask. It has been called “the fiction of strangeness,” probably the clearest definition we’ll ever have. James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel, editors of Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, argue Slipstream  is best described by having cognitive dissonance as it’s heart and that it is “not so much a genre as a literary effort, like horror or comedy.”

Slipstream resides betweens speculative and mainstream fiction if you consider it a genre but without a good definition it’s easier to tell what slipstream is not, rather than is. 

Slipstream is not New Age, futuristic, magic realism, techno tempermented, pure science fiction or filled with central dogmas. It does not extrapolate. The author will not write then explore the consequences or social and technological implications he has placed his characters in. 

In the twenty-three years that have passed since slipstream was first used, symposiums have been held to cement a definition, and pick literature or authors that fall into the category. So far the best they can decide on is: no definition will be available for fifty years at least, most slipstream writers are European because they apparently don’t love technology like we Americans do and  it is intimate, subjective, internal, in the writing. Put it this way, you “feel strange” after reading a slipstream novel. It is not held to high literary standards and just because you write well both linguistically and grammatically you can’t call yourself a slipstream writer.

Bruce Sterling will admit, Slipstream has not become a genre, marketing or publishing category even though room exists for it. The fact that this discussion continues now that we have moved into the twenty-first century muddles all minds and leaves everyone feeling very strange.

The best way to define slipstream to me is, normal characters who have fallen into  strange circumstances but behave with total normality. In other words, people dealing with bizarre abnormal occurrences so often it become normal everyday life for them.

Using that definition  check your shelves for these books, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, Breakfast of Champions, By Kurt Vonnegut, Beloved by Toni Morrison, Zeitgeist, by Bruce Sterling and the following collections, The Best of Lady Churchill Rosebud Wristlet, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology.

 Other noted slipstream writers include, Mark Leyner, Kathy Acker, Stanislaw Lem and Carole Emshwiller.

If twenty-three years of dialogue has not cemented Slipstream into a defined  literature genre, then personally I don’t think fifty more years of discussions will make it a publishing category or give it a named shelf at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. 

 

 

 

Resources

 Slipstream 2,  Bruce Sterling,

Symposium on Slipstream.

Slipstream, Wikipedia

The Best of Slipstream Stories, by Sue Lange

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Josephine Kihiu

Writing a well-crafted story bears shocking similarity to building a structurally sound house or successfully running a race. Sure, writing doesn’t require heavy lifting or strenuous motion on your part but good writers, like builders, understand the importance of strong foundations. Good writers, like runners, appreciate the effectiveness of pacing.

 

The essence of a story provides its structural integrity. A well-thought out plot contains seven basic elements: change of fortune, problem of the story, complications, crisis, the threat climax,  and resolution.

 Establish the setting and introduce the world you intend on pulling your readers into. Then, propel the story forward by inciting change either in a character’s behavior or the character’s environment. Static conditions make for dull reads. Instead, provide an impetus for character growth and change. Setting it into motion and creating a clear problem fuels the story. If you’re writing a longer piece, ensure this prevailing problem is note an “easy fix” by adding a complication

Most importantly, you must bring a threatening presence to loom over the protagonist. The “threat” opposes the protagonist’s efforts to restore the lost balance. Just as Superman tests his strength against the cunning Lex Luther, the success and believability of a protagonist often hinges on the potency of the force he or she is fighting. 

The bulk of the story occurs during the crisis period. Lobbing complication after complication your main character’s way will make your reader urn the page. Struggles reveal character and the true nature of the protagonist under duress. Figuring ways out of tight corners, making mistakes under pressure, and overcoming onerous obstacles, give the character dimension.

 

 In the climax, you pit him or her against the overarching problem in a final encounter. Heighten the suspense and ramp up the drama in the culminating point in the story. The character either resolves the problem or is overcome by it. 

 

The excitement of the climax wanes. The character faced his or her threat, confronted the problem, and stands victorious or defeated The resolution deals with the repercussions of his or her actions. Wrap up the story and answer any lingering questions.

 

Ensure your writing follows the plot trajectory by making a physical structure. Draw a smooth arc to visualize the general path of your story (think of the top left quarter of a circle cut into fourths). The exposition is the lowest point, and tension mounts until the climax where it tapers off a little into the resolution. 

Once the story is structurally sound with a hearty essence, tug along the reader at an appropriate pace. You’ll lose the exciting effect of quick pacing if you sprint through the entire story with short sentences.  However, the reader won’t continue beyond the first few pages if you pull the story along at a deadening pace with long sentences and no tension. Balancing all these techniques will strengthen your story from foundation to finish, giving you something in common with good builders and runners.

 The young lady who wrote this is in high school. I liked this work and asked her permission to put it up on this blog. She is an extraordinary person and I have encouraged her to write for text books in the future. I think it’s time they became more interesting. Thanks for letting me share this Josephine.