Repetitive Love

So… Valentine’s Day.

I will be up front and say that I celebrate it. I find that any excuse to spoil my wife is a lot of fun. As we enter February, Hope’s high school ministry is asking us to engage in the process of talking to our students about love. Simple task, right? Now, I have a pretty good resume on this topic. I love my Momma and I love my wife. Both of those relationships have done more for my ability to speak to high school students on this topic than almost any other part of my life. My students in school are similarly taken by my affection for those two women. If I talk with high praise about my mother, students nod their heads in affirmation. If I brag about my wife or share funny stories about how we met, students lean in to hear them.

I contest, however, that I’ve learned more from one other source.

Knowing I would face a myriad of questions about love and romance and sex this month from our high school small group, I went to the Bible. I wanted to take another look at how Jesus loves us.Two important things for the rest of this blog post. First, being a Christian partly means acting like Christ. How do we act like him? Repeat his actions. So we look to the Bible and see how he talks to people. How does he handle adversity? Betrayal? Friendship? Questions? The lowly? The mighty? It’s all in there. We look at how he speaks and acts and we try the impossible: repeat.

Second, if you ever want to know what Jesus thinks about you, you can see it in the gospel. Instead of imagining him sitting down with Nicodemus, imagine he’s across the table from you. Zacchaeus up in the tree? You. Lady at the well? You. Then you just have to listen to what he says or how he challenges. Look at how he pursues and changes. That’s how he thinks of you and what he wants for you. It’s kind of cool.

Anyway, I started reading back through gospel of John. Here is a list of the ways that Jesus, in just ten or fifteen pages, brought love crashing down into people’s lives:

– honors John

– teaches his disciples

– goes seeking his disciples

– calls people to higher callings

– keeps the celebration going

– humbles himself

– gets angry about injustice and sin

– teaches the truth

– breaks through barriers and rules to love people, even at their worst

– redeems

– encourages people away from sin

– offers healing in word and deed

– goes out of his way to find people

– helps the weak and the lost

– earns the right to speak

– speaks with authority

– feeds the hungry

– invites people into his power

– offers life

– handles rebukes with wisdom and kindness

– doesn’t pretend to be someone he isn’t

– doesn’t abandon

– meets people where they are

– helps heal someone’s sight (physical and spiritual)

Wow. So that’s… a big list. This week, I read that to my high school students. It’s kind of daunting if we’re being honest about it. I told them that for relationships in their present and relationships in their future, for relationships with friends or with love interests, parents or teachers, it was still a heck of a place to start. What if love is a repetition? What if it’s looking at the Person that has loved us completely, and trying to do what he did? What if we could adopt just a few of these things into our every day conversations and interactions? What if we did that over, and over, and over again?

It makes repetitive love sound a lot more interesting than the alternative.

Now Offering: Editorial Services for Novels

Please email me at if you’re interested. I’m looking to edit large-scale manuscripts. I am able to do line-editing, overall structure, character development, etc. As a teacher of English and creative writing, I have a wide breadth of editing experience. I also am writing my own novels and work tightly with a critique group in my community. Here’s what I’m offering:

– First 10 pages critiqued for free. From there, you can decide if you’d like to use my services in the future.

– Fair, competitive prices. I’m looking at a lot of the mainstream editing websites. Several of them charge nearly $1500 for manuscripts longer than 50,000 words. I would be looking for significantly less than that.

– Deep and insightful commentary on your novel’s structure, line-by-line writing, and developmental content.

Please pass this along if you know those that would be interested!

Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

I’ve already sprinted through three solid books in 2015, and have several around the house half-read, but Golden Son?

I devoured Golden Son.

It has the kind of compelling storytelling that demands your attention until the ride is over. For those that haven’t already discovered Red Rising, you should start there. Not only is the first installment amazing, but a massive bidding war was won by Universal and I’m pretty sure the movie will turn this into even more of a cult following than it already is.

I reviewed Red Rising (Post found here: ) if you want to read about it. Anyways, on to Golden Son and why Pierce Brown did it the right way.

1. Why not make your characters do the most interesting thing every time?

That’s what it started to feel like as I made my way through Golden Son. I wondered how Brown could follow an action-packed opening in a world without some of the constructs that the first book relied upon. The first novel involves an arena much like the type we see in Hunger Games and other dystopian stories. As we’ve also seen in those dystopian books, the authors struggle to maintain our interest as they remove the rapid-paced action of their original arenas.

Pierce Brown had no issue with that. The story takes us spiraling through one action scene after another. Betrayals are compounded by new alliances, new threats, and new challenges. In some ways, Brown is served by the populace he is writing about. The Golds in this society are simply lethal. There natural proclivities toward war and their insatiable hunger for power provides him the perfect backdrop for Darrow’s maneuverings. It really seemed like Brown was following one rule: do the most interesting thing. In each scene, he has his characters ratchet up the heat of what’s happening. Raised stakes, multiplying enemies, plots within plots. It makes for a joyride of a read.

I was at the World Fantasy Convention this Fall and Christopher Golden had high praises for Pierce’s work. He said that, in some ways, the story itself wasn’t something new. We’d seen lowly man rise up from the dust before. But he claimed Pierce’s writing and style and ability to drag us through his story at 150mph is just too good to pass up. I agree.

2. Internal Monologue

I always admire a writer that succeeds in their internal monologue because I find it so difficult to create. Genuine, internal feeling is difficult to conjure from thin air because, frankly, we have enough problems figuring out how we are feeling from moment to moment. Pierce has me feeling every emotion of his main character through genuine and provocative internal monologue. I simply love the way that Darrow considers others around him. At some points, the purpose is to analyze the threat they represent to his plans. At other points, he seeks to answer questions that each and every one of us ask about what it means to be human. He’s an easy main character to follow.

3. Present Tense

I’d love to analyze, at some point, how many authors write in the present tense. I’m not sure of Pierce Brown’s reasons behind choosing to write in this style, but I really find the present tense fitting for his purposes. Every scene seems to orient around dramatic actions, fighting, and moment to moment shifting in power. The present tense that’s employed in this story launches us forward and leaves us feeling active in the scene. I might as well be sitting at the war table or clawing through the mud after Darrow.

4. Sentence Structure

Recently, I noticed Joe Abercrombie discussing the topic of sentence structure on Twitter. He was lamenting the fact that we look at long, winding sentences as the “beautiful” parts of prose. In reality, a short and crisp sentence that fits the necessary tone can be just as lovely. The example attached to his post was Cormac McCarthy and his use of short sentences to emphasize, disrupt, and draw the attention of the reader to certain emotions. I really think the same thing is accomplished in Brown’s first two works. Really love the variance and I really hate that people will likely attack his use of short sentences as “uncomplicated” or “prosaic”. He knows his stuff.

Lastly, I will conclude by saying how much I loved his acknowledgements section at the end of the book. Sometimes, you just forget how much an author has gone through to get published. I just finished my first book. I had one very respectable agent take a long look at my novel (including rewrites and a second read), but we didn’t connect. Now I’m waiting to see if anyone will take my book on. I’ve just completed a second book, and I’ll begin a whole new process with it. It’s easy to read Red Rising and Golden Son, recognize the transcendent talent of the author, and think that there are just some people who it all comes to more naturally. Seeing the road he’s taken to get where he is was super impressive. It just shows that, if you really love doing something, you should continue to fight for your right to do it.

Either way, I highly suggest you get hold of this series before every single person you know is bragging about how much they like it. Someone once told me that it was the White Person’s Mecca to find a great band before everyone else does. I think it is EVERY reader’s journey through Middle Earth to stumble upon a great work of fiction that none of their friends have heard of. For me, that’s been Red Rising and now Golden Son.

Go get it!

A Guide to Cussing in Alternative Universes

No, this isn’t a blog biography of Gene Hackman.

While our culture’s realistic books and movies are sometimes jam-packed with every cuss word under the sun, it is the fantasy worlds we so love to escape to that often give us words that flit somewhere between dangerously corny and delightfully fun to say. Being someone that doesn’t cuss very often, it is always a treat to get hold of a new word from fantasy and drop it into casual conversations. Sometimes, I’m so ingrained in the fantasy world that it comes out in daily conversation. Sometimes people stare. Sometimes.

My first experience with the alternative cuss word of a far-off galaxy came in the form of Spongebob Squarepants. The genius writers of one of Nickelodeon’s most successful cartoons did a wonderful job removing well-known cuss words without removing the “I’m clearly cursing something right now” element. When Spongebob stubs his toe or forgets to do something or is terrorized by Plankton, it is common to hear him shout, “Oh, barnacles!” What an easy, kid-friendly replacement for cursing.

Sometimes, simple changes are the most natural and hilarious. In The Fantastic Mr. Fox, writers replaced cussing with… well, cussing. In a scene between Badger and Mr. Fox, we get to see the full extent of their verbal weaponry:

Badger: In summation, I think you just got to not do it, man. That’s all.

Mr. Fox: I understand what you’re saying, and your comments are valuable, but I’m gonna ignore your advice.

Badger: The cuss you are.

Mr. Fox: The cuss am I? Are you cussing with me?

Badger: No, you cussing with me?

Mr. Fox: Don’t cussing point at me!

Badger: If you’re gonna cuss with somebody, you’re not gonna cuss with me, you little cuss!

Again, not particularly in your face and a wonderful replacement to make a movie accessible and fitting within the universe of thieving foxes and talking badgers. But what about the truly alternative worlds? That’s where the necessity for newer and differently-originated cuss words comes from. We have our world and our languages and they developed a certain way. But if I’m diving into a different universe with different people and languages and development, well, they’re not going to have some of the same words. We suspend reality for certain things, but we also are forced to get creative when imagining how someone would curse in our sub-created universe. Here are some great examples I’ve encountered in my own reading:

1. Bloodydamn- Not too far from the beaten path, but a slight adjustment to a common word bleeds originality into the cuss words of Pierce Brown’s characters in Red Rising. As he would say, you’ll bloodydamn love his book.

2. ‘Kent-kissing- The inspiration for this post! I’ve been reading Brian Staveley’s new book, The Emperor’s Blades. In it, characters toss this word around in necessary situations (Example: I need a ‘Kent-kissing break from my ‘Kent-kissing job).

3. Belgium – In A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Belgium is “completely banned in all parts of the Galaxy, except in one part, where they don’t know what it means, and in serious screenplays.” To direct this word at someone else is both unthinkable and, if we’re honest, hilarious.

4. Merlin’s beard!- Just one of many clever twists in J.K. Rowling’s world, but the ancient and well-known wizard finds himself inserted into the cursing of modern day wizards in both this and the also-popular, “Merlin’s pants!”

5. Frak-  Perhaps the most popular and well-known cuss word in fictional universes, this sanitized Battlestar Galactica TV swear word may be the nerdiest and most used of them all.

So, what are some of your favorite alternative cuss words? Or how have you seen fantasy language impacted by world and setting? Thanks for reading!

Good Reads from Good Authors

You’ve heard the phrase. “Good readers make good writers.” Using mathematical properties I’ve long forgotten, I decided to inverse that phrase for today’s blog post. I would have to imagine that, “Good, established, published writers are really good readers.” So I tweeted out a question to some of my favorite and most beloved authors to see what they were reading. I asked, “What is the last book you read and adored?” Here were their responses: ________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sara Megibow- While Sara isn’t an author (as far as I know), she is one of the more responsive and charming literary agents on Twitter. Very responsive to my questions over the years and that proved true of this one as well.

Her response: “ARG! too many to choose from! Best AND most recent non-client book that I’ve loved was A TURN OF LIGHT by Julie Czerneda”


Robin Hobb –  One of the big names in fantasy literature, Robin Hobb is best known for her The Farseer Trilogy and recently released a new and wonderful book.

Her response: “Don’t tell Sam Sykes, but most recent was The City Stained Red.”


Django Wexler- Author of The Shadow Campaigns series and The Forbidden Library. Last year, I had the pleasure of Skype-hosting Django for my creative writing class and they loved him.

His response: “Hmm. Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone or Tainted Blood by M.L. Brennan.”


Pierce Brown-  If you haven’t heard of Red Rising, you’re going to. Darrow will be the next name on the lips of every teenager and lover of dystopian worlds. I read it this summer. Twice.

His response: “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell


Jason Hough- Author of the best selling science fiction series, The Dire Earth Cycle. Read this book last year and it reignited my love for all things science fiction.

His response: “easy! THE EMPEROR’S BLADES by Brian Staveley”


Michael Martinez – Author of The Daedalus Series, a wonderful mix of science fiction and alternative-almost-steampunkish history. I’ve read through the first book and am loving the second one.

His response: “Honestly, I don’t have one that springs to mind. I think as I keep writing books, I’ve become more critical of what I read!”

A big thanks to all the authors that participated. I may be editing and adding a few names as responses come in. But this should give all readers a few new names, books, and series to dip their metaphorical toes into. Happy reading!

Review: Half A King

I found myself at the beach, struggling through One Hundred Years of Solitude. A great, winding book with some astonishingly good writing… but also with a plodding sense of inevitability that left me bored. So bored. That’s when I saw that Joe Abercrombie’s new release. Now, I’ll preface this with the fact that I loved his First Law series. The third book did not have the typically satisfying ends that can come in a novel of such epic scope, but until that point they were compelling, rich, and most importantly: well-written. Here is the summary from Amazon:

“Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.”

Having read a great deal of YA this summer (Red Rising, Divergent, etc.) I dove greedily into Half a King and found it to be an excellent beach read. Here’s what I liked, and what I didn’t.


1. Word for Word Writing- The obvious difference that I noticed between this and a book like Divergent is that it’s just excellently written. Joe Abercrombie uses turns of phrase and twisted descriptions that really are without equal in this genre. I think we put up with authors who write competent descriptions because they’ve captured a unique idea or character or angle. I believe The Hunger Games really falls into this category. Is Collins a good writer? Of course. Is she excellent? Does she have brilliant phrasings that capture things the way we wished we could say or think them? Ehhh… What we can celebrate about Half a King is that it is written by an author who does not have to rely on a clever idea, but one that backs his ideas and characters with brilliant writing.

2. The Disabled Narrator- Yarvi is born without a hand. I believe that Abercrombie has really captured something that is so often missing in our fantasy genres… Characters of imperfection. Characters that are considered a certain way by their society because of their disabilities. Yarvi’s anger/bitterness/resentment/self-deprecation also seem incredibly authentic. I just felt slightly annoyed because… you know… I had my character losing fingers… which now seems not so unique. Oh well.

3. Triumphant Scenes- There are three or four scenes in this story, just like there were three or four scenes in each of Abercrombie’s other books, that simply rise above the rest. The fulfillment of character arc or the flash of unique magic/world building… they just astound you sometimes.

4. The Worldbuilding- While this really does fit a Viking saga kind of world… he’s built an interesting backdrop of gods and setting. I love how the pieces fit together and it aids his storyline.

What I Didn’t Love…

1. Some Predictability- While this is expected in the YA genre, I was surprised to find some of the reveals were easy to spot early on. I think there was one surprise that popped up and I said, “Wow, didn’t see that one coming.” The rest took only a bit of digging to unearth.

2. Convenience of Events– I didn’t know how else to say this one… Sometimes an author knows where they need and want the plot to go. I’m having trouble with that in my second book right now actually. But if you push a plot towards an “end” that isn’t the natural result of your character interactions or desires… sometimes it feels convenient or thrown together. I felt a little bit of that in this story, but only just so.

All in all, Half a King was easily my second favorite YA book this summer. I have to admit that I am still a little bit taken by Red Rising. The overall framework of Joe Abercrombie’s novel has a better pace to it than Red Rising does, but once Darrow is in the “arena”… well, you can’t really beat the action in there. Great book, though, and I’d recommend it heartily.

It’s Pronounced “Rank-In”

If I say my name, people can’t spell it. If I spell my name, they can’t say it.

Reintgen. R-E-I-N-T-G-E-N

My name is a collision. Either the T or the G ran a red-light, and both consonants were driving fast enough that the metal twisted around each other like hesitant tongues. The wreckage is enough to leave everyone confused. Telemarketers, friends, first dates… they all stumble out of the car in a daze. They forget what they were going to ask as they try to make sense of shattered glass and bent fenders. Their words, like so many shocked victims, come out halting and unsure: Ring-con, Raintagen, Rennigan, Rhine-gen, Ring-a-tang?

When I was in kindergarten I told Ms. Honea that I wanted to be famous. When she asked me why, I told her that I was tired of people pronouncing my name wrong. I always thought I was a little young to already be tired of things. At age 10, I considered marriage off-limits because I didn’t want to condemn someone else to my fate. At age 15, I got really into Germany and history and my heritage. At age 20, I broke up with a girl who misspelled my name in a love note. At age 25, I’m considering pen names to make the life of my readers easier. Names, I’m discovering, are a touchy subject.

So now that I’m a teacher, I take names seriously. I scan my roster, practice each name, and beg kids to correct me if I get it wrong. Sometimes, I’ll get students like Anijah or Bekweh or Mamadou… And I’ll say their name wrong. Looking at their faces is like looking in a mirror and I know that pained expression on their face is a practiced one. Sometimes they tell me its okay or that they don’t care how I say it and I put my foot down. Confuscius said that the beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right names… and even though you can measure what I know in teaspoons, I’m still trying to get a little smarter each year.