Flame On! (or “Going Stir Crazy!”)

By Nathan On April 18th, 2014 | 87 views

Be careful what you delete from your laptop thinking its malware—it may be a $100 mistake.

A few weeks ago, I did just that. My laptop had been running slow and bombarding me with pop-ups. I went into control panel and deleted any programs I didn’t recognize. I restarted the computer, but I got the newfangled “blue screen of death.” I called a comic/hobby/computer shop in Columbia City, Indiana, to have it repaired. I’ve been going to that place since high school and knew everyone there, but I had never utilized the computer repair service before.

That was nearly two weeks ago. Apparently, I deleted a recovery partition, and fixing the thing is proving to be more difficult than they expected. (So they say. Other techies I’ve talked to say it shouldn’t be such an issue).

This has put quite a damper on my writing. I have several half-finished projects still on the thing’s hard drive (thankfully, I backed most of it up on a portable hard drive). I also have a few videos I want to make. Now, I can use my local libraries’ or friends’ computers, but that isn’t always convenient. As for writing, it’s been suggested I write it shorthand. I’ve done this before, but I must admit I like the immediacy of having it saved on the computer so I don’t have to transcribe it later. (Makes me wonder how old-timey writers could write multiple drafts before the advent of PCs!)

I’ve felt unproductive, for the most part, the last two weeks. It drives me crazy. Despite hanging out with some friends, I feel like I’m wasting time. Perhaps I’m a closet workaholic (I hope not). It’s like a weird version of cabin fever.


(Gotta love the Muppets!)

More likely, it’s because I have all these things to say, all these stories to tell, and I can’t get them out of me.

In college, my friend and fellow writer Keith Osmun shared a Bible passage with me he called “the writer’s verse.” It goes, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention His word or speak anymore in His name,’ His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9).

Now, I’m not about to put my writing—or anyone’s writing—on par with Scripture. However, it does describe most writers, especially Christian writers. God made us storytellers. He blessed us with talent and ideas. If we keep them in, we would burst like overfilled water balloons. In Jeremiah’s case, it was like containing an internal inferno. It will eat us up inside until it is released. Since I’ve temporarily lost my primary means of release, I’m about to lose my mind. No wonder most writers are neurotic.

Anyway, that’s another reason I’ve been quiet—too quiet—on the site. I meant to write something about why I’m not participating in National Poetry Writing Month this year, but that will have to wait.

Until then, fellow writers, be like the Human Torch and “Flame on!”

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I’m Starting an American Version of ‘Doctor Who’!

By Nathan On April 1st, 2014 | 155 views

You’ve probably been wondering where I’ve been the last few weeks. Well, I’ve been a busy fanboy. I decided to utilize the connections I’ve been making in the writing world—most notably Jonathan Maberry—and you won’t believe what I managed to do. I convinced Steven Moffat, the showrunner for Doctor Who, to let me make an American version of the show!

A promotional title card for the series.

A promotional title card for the series.

First, I must say that I was honored that “the Grand Moff” took time out of his busy schedule (what with Peter Capaldi filming his first season as the Doctor) to talk to me. I told him about a Buzzfeed article (and subsequent video) published a few months back where a fan mused about the equivalent American actors who could’ve played the Doctor had the show been an American production. This inspired me. I was a longtime Whovian and had written the pilot for what I thought would be a respectful American remake of Who. The episode was entitled “Bigger on the Outside.” The episode would start in the 1960s, and the TARDIS would be a phone booth. He said he’d look it over. A few days later, he called me and said he loved the script and so did BBC. Obviously, my jaw dropped. “This might distract the fans from hating me,” he said. I immediately started talking about casting. I told him my friend Scott Klaus, an even longer-time Whovian, would be perfect, but then Moffat threw me a curveball. “You should be the American Doctor!” he says. “What?!” I blurt. He says Mr. Maberry referred him to my Facebook page, and he liked the photo of my Tenth Doctor cosplay. But what convinced him I should play the part was this photo:

"Dude, you could play Dr. Who!" (Photo by Sergio Garza)

“Dude, you could play Dr. Who!” (Photo by Sergio Garza)

He took one look at that and thought, “He can play the Doctor, too!”

I tried to tell him I wasn’t cool enough to be the Doctor, but he would hear none of it. He was already talking with executives at BBC America and the SyFy Channel about the show. “A thirteen-episode season should be enough, right?” he asked. “Um…sure…” I replied.

Looks like I finally got my big break, True Believers! The writer and star of my own science fiction TV series!

Whether it’s picked up by BBC America or SyFy, the show will premiere April 1, 2015.

As my favorite Doctor always said, “Allons-y!”

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Why Shouldn’t Characters Make Mistakes?

By Nathan On March 11th, 2014 | 172 views

My mind tends to wander at my day job (no surprise, right?) and contemplate random ideas. Most recently, I thought about how audiences are averse to characters making mistakes.

Critics and comedians alike have made careers out pointing out the “stupid” mistakes characters—villains in particular—make in many stories. I’ll be the first to say I’m not beyond making such criticisms/jokes and I love websites like the Evil Overlord List. But this begs the question: What’s wrong with characters making mistakes?

"Now here's my little secret--I AM YOUR FATHER! (oh wait...wrong movie!)" Image courtesy of www.queeofsarcasm.tripod.com

“Now here’s my little secret–I AM YOUR FATHER! (oh wait…wrong movie!)”
Image courtesy of www.queeofsarcasm.tripod.com

The specific instance I was thinking when this thought came to mind was Scar in The Lion King. When Simba returns to Pride Rock, Scar forces him to confess that he’s responsible for Mufasa’s death. He pushes Simba over the edge of a cliff. Then, with his nephew clutching the precipice, Scar whispers that was actually him who killed Mufasa. Simba suddenly finds a second wind and pounces on his uncle. The climactic showdown follows.

On the surface, this seems like a variation of the tried-and-true “villain’s monologue before killing hero” trope. If Scar had just kept his mouth shut, he’d probably still be king. Plenty of other villains have made the same mistake. Is it often contrived and stupid? Yes. But I would argue that when done right, it serves the story.

One of the great ironies of villains (and other characters) is that they’re undone by their own hubris. For villains it usually manifests as sadism or narcissism. In other words, they show off. They can’t just kill the hero: they have to flaunt how badly they’ve beaten them. The hero, usually being the villain’s foil, exploits this weakness, thus proving that humility trumps arrogance.

But this isn’t limited to villains. Many have criticized Hamlet’s reluctance to kill his uncle when he had the chance in Shakespeare’s classic play. (I’m amused at the unintentional irony because The Lion King was loosely inspired by Hamlet, but I digress). If he had done so, Hamlet not only would’ve avenged his father, he probably would’ve prevented his own death. (My apologies for the spoiler). :P

I think much of this criticism stems from audiences’ own arrogance, whether they know it or not. They watch characters make mistakes and think, “I wouldn’t have done that.” Maybe they wouldn’t have. Or they would’ve made a different mistake. The truth is that both good and bad people make mistakes in real life. Napoleon made an infamous one at Waterloo. Hitler foolishly tried to invade Russia during winter. George W. Bush gave a war speech under a banner that said, “Mission Accomplished.” The list could go on. Nobody’s perfect. Art is a reflection of reality, and mistakes are part of it. That can be traced all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Mistakes can and do service a story.

So be careful next you criticize a character’s mistakes. You may as well be indicting yourself, too.

Besides, Vizzini avoided making “one of the classic blunders,” and it still got him killed!

"...but only slightly less well-known is this: "'Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line'! Ha ha ha..."

“…but only slightly less well-known is this: “‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line’! Ha ha ha…”

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Waiting

By Nathan On March 8th, 2014 | 171 views
Image courtesy of www.Gigaom.com

Image courtesy of www.Gigaom.com

I (usually) have the patience of a saint, but even a saint has his limits.

While things like the Internet and self-publishing have given writers greater opportunities for instant gratification, the writing life remains the slowest business in the world. A writer must have patience, among other things, or else he will give up early in the race. I know this firsthand. It took at least six months longer than normal for Hades Publications to pick up Pandora’s Box, and even then it was because I pestered them to the point of a restraining order. It takes time for editors to rummage through manuscripts and separate the wheat from the chaff. Then that “wheat” must be threshed (i.e. edited).

Lately, I’ve felt like my life and especially my career have been in a holding pattern. I’ve tried to contact publishers about writing for them; agents about representing me; and artists about creating artwork for self-published books. Many of them take a while to respond, if at all. I joined a freelance writers group, but was put on the waiting list since there aren’t any openings right now. I tried to sign up for this year’s Writers’ Corner at Gen-Con, but it filled up fast, so I was—you guessed it—put on the waiting list. There’s no guarantee I’ll return as a merchant to the convention this year. :( I’ve also been considering going to grad school, but due to a combination of ignorance and tarrying, I may have to postpone that until next year.

This drives me crazy because I am a man of action. When I set my mind to do something, I do it. Unfortunately, I can only do so much. Eventually, I must let someone else, like an editor, do his job before I can continue. On the other hand, I’m not immune to the sting of failure. Past disappointments have paralyzed me; made me hesitant to forge ahead. It’s hard to move when you haven’t any momentum. Perhaps my difficulty with beginnings goes beyond writing stories.

I began 2014 with the goal of trusting God more. Little did I realize that like Morgan Freeman’s God said in Evan Almighty would be true: “If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does He give them the opportunity to be patient?” Patience, like most things, requires trust. In order to foster both, one must have opportunities for them. An athlete can’t develop muscles unless he exercises. So it is with developing virtues.

I say all of this to say that, perhaps, these holding patterns are God’s ways of answering my prayers. I may not like it, but in the end, it will be the best thing for me.

As the old saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.”

However, I think my favorite Bible verse says it better: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 KJV).

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Breaking Down the Wall

By Nathan On February 26th, 2014 | 283 views

I shouldn’t be writing this blog post. No, really. I have a short story whose deadline is the end of next month. It’s for an anthology a fellow writer is assembling. I started it last night. I should be working on that. Why am I not? I’m stuck. Call it “writer’s block,” if you want, but I can’t get the story going.

Every writer, if he’s honest, will admit that while he loves the craft, there is always a part of writing that is most difficult for him. Personally, I’ve noticed I usually have the most trouble starting a story. This isn’t always true (I drilled out last week’s flash fiction in less than 30 minutes, I think), and sometimes I overcome that initial difficulty faster than others, but it still tends to be the hardest point in a story for me. The ideas are swirling in my head like overzealous bees locked in a hive, but when I stare at that blank page, silence falls. (Gotta love unintentional Doctor Who references). Suddenly those bees don’t want out. I managed to crank out a few hundred words, but it was a chore and I hated most of them.

However, when I get past that initial “block” and find the story’s rhythm and voice—it’s like dancing with a whirlwind. Characters come alive; descriptions jump off the page; and settings envelope my mind’s eye until they become my mini-world. It is glorious! I live for times like that. All writers do.

But in order to get into that “zone,” I need to break through that first wall. Some days I can smash through it like Superman (which is funny because I have a Supes costume—maybe I should wear it during those hard days!). Other times, I’m a mere mortal who bruises his shoulder while constantly running into the wall hoping to find a weak spot. Regardless of whether I smash through the quickly or not, it’s a triumph, for out of the white-hot throes of creative energy a new story is birthed. This one I’m working on in particular is one I’m excited about. I just need to get break down the wall.

Now, where’s my Superman costume? :P

What’s your “wall” in writing? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

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‘Pizza and a Psychic’ by Nathan Marchand

By Nathan On February 20th, 2014 | 397 views

Author’s Intro: No new blog post this week, but I do have a new story to share. It’s a flash fiction prompted by an assignment in my local writers’ group to write about E.S.P. The following story is loosely based on my own life. (I’ll leave it up to you to decide which parts are “true”). :P Enjoy!

Pizza and a Psychic

By Nathan Marchand

            Like Garfield, I hate Mondays. Nothing happens, especially at Pizza Barn, and when you’re a delivery driver, that means no tip money and, worse yet, unending boredom. I spend my time folding boxes and oiling pans. Mundane. Menial. Mind-numbing. There’s just one problem with that: I churn out crazy ideas when I’m bored. Like answering customers’ phone calls with obviously phony names. One time on Independence Day, I answered the phone saying I was George Washington. I was disappointed the customer didn’t notice.

As I was folding what seemed like my thousandth box, the phone rang. I jogged over since no one else liked answering phones. The customer’s name and phone number flashed up on the computer screen. I pressed my thumb on the fingerprint scanner and picked up the phone.

“Thank you for calling Pizza Barn. This is Joey. How may I help you?” I droned reflexively, trying to smile (my manager says customers can “hear a smile” on the phone).

“I’d like to place an order for pick-up,” replied the woman on the phone.

Darnit. Not a delivery! I thought.

I tapped the name flashing on the screen and brought up the customer’s info.

“Is this for Smith?” I asked.

A brief pause. “Yes,” said the customer, surprised.

“Is your address 234 Main Street?”

“Yes. How did you know that?”

My boredom suddenly seized my mouth. I can’t be held responsible for what I said next.

“I’m psychic.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

Another pause. “What do I want to order?”

I figured I’d take a shot in the dark, get it wrong, and explain we have caller ID. We’d both have a good laugh, and then I’d take her order.

So, I said, “A large pepperoni pizza and an order of breadsticks with cheese.” That’s about as bland and generic an order you can get—and I learned I was dealing with an equally bland and generic customer!

“That’s right! Oh, my gosh!”

I raised my eyebrows. Talk about luck, I thought.

Ms. Smith kept raving about my E.S.P. as I keyed in her order. After a minute or so, I read back her order and gave her a total. But instead of saying goodbye, she asked me another question.

“Can you tell me my fortune? What will happen to me tonight?”

I rolled my eyes. I wanted to tell her the truth, but she sounded so earnest, I decided to humor her.

“You’ll meet the man of your dreams and win five-hundred dollars in the state lottery.”

Ms. Smith squealed. “I’ll pick up a ticket on my way to the concert tonight! Thank you!” With that, she hung up.

I didn’t think much of it the rest of the evening.

The next day, I was equally as bored folding boxes when the phone rang again. I reflexively answered, not looking at the computer screen.

“Thank you for calling Pizza Barn. This is Joey. How may I help you?”

“Joey! Thanks for answering. You were right!”

“What?!”

I looked at the screen—it was Ms. Smith.

“I won five-hundred dollars and snagged a boyfriend last night at the concert!”

“That’s…great, Miss Smith….” What else could I say?

“I told him about you, and he asked me to call you for advice before he went to the horse races today.”

“Well, um…”

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Digression 8: Valentine’s Day Karaoke 2014 – ‘If’ by House of Heroes

By Nathan On February 15th, 2014 | 84 views

I’m a day late, but not a dollar short! I’ve decided to make V-Day karaoke videos an annual tradition. This year, I sing one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands. Sadly, I re-learn why I shouldn’t sing tenor. Let’s just say I thought I should start a band called American Idol Rejects. While I didn’t have a specific girl in mind when I sang this, I identify with several lines from the song. Enjoy!

(Please pardon the typo in the video’s title).

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Washing Feet

By Nathan On February 14th, 2014 | 400 views

Despite my disdain for Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to post something today. No, it’s not a bitter rant.

I’ve attended many Christian weddings (I’m a Christ-follower, after all), and a common thread throughout them is the couple selecting a Bible passage for the occasion and having the presiding pastor give a short sermon on it. These are usually 1 Corinthians 13, Genesis 2, Ephesians 5:22-33, or a portion of Song of Solomon/Songs. These are great choices, but when I get married, I don’t plan to use any of them.

I’m going to use John 13:1-17.

Read the passage in the above link.

Read the passage in the above link.

You’re probably thinking, “That passage has nothing to do with marriage or romance!”

No, but it has everything to do with love.

Ever notice how most romance stories are about big and grand acts of love? Knights rescuing maidens from dragons. Heroes saving heroines from villains. An elaborate profession of love (like drawing a heart on the side of a building). We all love dragon slayers and want to be like them, and with good reason, but in real life, love usually finds expression in the small things. Sometimes that “dragon” is the dishes that need washed, the diapers that need changed, or the special date that is remembered.

Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, the Creator of the Universe, humbled Himself to perform the most menial of tasks. Washing feet was work relegated to slaves. It was undignified for a rabbi like Jesus to perform such a task. But He did it despite Peter’s objections. It was an example of servant leadership. It’s easy to be served, but love’s nature is to serve others. It may mean doing thankless, disgusting, and/or embarrassing things. It is agape (unconditional) love. It isn’t a feeling; it’s an act of the will. Any lover can die for his beloved. But to live an unglamorous life in service to his beloved? That requires true love. Keep in mind that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet hours before he was nailed to a cross to die for mankind’s sins. That was His greatest act of love. But this humble act anticipated it. In other words, the little things husbands and wives do for each other adds significance to the big things.

Jesus went on to say, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). One of God’s purposes for marriage is echoing His love for the church. So, by loving each other even in these small, seemingly insignificant ways, a husband and wife broadcast God’s love in Technicolor, especially in this age of rampant divorce.

I want a marriage like this. I want to be the kind of man and husband who will “wash feet” for his wife.

I pray you want the same for yourself, True Believers.

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Never Forget Your Singleness

By Nathan On February 12th, 2014 | 259 views
Image courtesy of www.bigbaddie.com.

Image courtesy of www.bigbaddie.com.

I’ve made it no secret that Valentine’s Day is my least favorite holiday. In fact, I, like many people, euphemistically call it Singleness Awareness Day. This will be my 30th V-Day in a row without someone special. I’ve had a few girlfriends, but never on this holiday.

What annoys me is whenever singles—especially in Christian circles—lament their singleness in any way, they get tired platitudes (“It’ll happen when you’re not looking,” “Jesus is your boyfriend/girlfriend,” etc.) instead of sympathy. Or, worse yet, heartless lectures. These Christians, despite their good intentions, succeed in only denigrating marriage and singles’ desire for it. They cite Bible passages like 1 Corinthians 7 and make it sound like singleness is the godlier lifestyle. They even accuse singles of either desiring marriage so much they blind themselves to it not being God’s will for them or idolizing it to the point of defying God in seeking it. The worst part is these come from married Christians 99% of the time.

I believe these people have been married for so long, they have forgotten what it was like to be single. Or their time as a single was comparatively short and/or easy. In other words, they’ve lost their frame of reference, if they even had one. They are unable to sympathize. How can a person understand someone who is 30 years old, single, and desiring marriage if he married in his early twenties? Any struggles he had as a single are distant memories. Marital bliss has made him callous. He runs off with his sweetheart on V-Day, forgetting his single friends—if he has any—are alone at home.

I, however, won’t forget my singleness when I get married. I’ve spent too much time struggling with singleness to do so. I’ve watched friends hook up and get married while I was passed over, wondering if something was wrong with me or if I was unworthy of love. I’ve battled lust and a bottled-up sex drive. My hopes have been shattered and deferred. It gets harder to say, “It is not good for man to be alone,” with each passing year. I’m constantly told I’m a great guy, yet no woman seems to like me for long, if at all (unless they’re desperate).

I say all of that to say that I will be a countercultural married. I won’t forget singles or their plight. I’ll seek them out, talk to them, pray with them. I’ll validate their desires and advise them on how to fulfill them. Valentine’s Day won’t be a day where my wife and I go on an overly elaborate date. It will be a day where I invite all the singles I know to my house for a party, and we will serve them. We’ll prepare food, play games, and talk about the struggles of single life. Why? Because I want them to know there’s at least one couple out there who wants to redeem this so-called “romantic” holiday and include singles in it. They won’t be forgotten because I was once one of them, and I wished the couples I knew wouldn’t leave me by the wayside.

Couples, will you do this for the singles you know, especially if they’re your friends, this Valentine’s Day?

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But I Digress…, Episode 20: A Surprise Book Review

By Nathan On February 9th, 2014 | 83 views

“But I Digress…”
Hosted by Nathan Marchand

Happy New Year! Welcome to my first video of 2014! This week I review a book. Which one? Well, some may think it’s an unremarkable read, but I loved it. Watch to find out what it is!

Please subscribe, share, and comment!

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