Arrrr Ye Ready?

Welcome aboard mateys, as this blog’s flagship holiday approaches.

International Talk Like A Pirate Day

As this intrepid explorer will be working and flying off to Dallas (a shame, as there are no oceans nearby), it seemed prudent to offer up the traditional pirate resources. Although piracy is not usually associated with prudence.

Every pirate needs a good source of navigation. How else do they find rum?

The age old question: pirates or ninjas. This landlubber writer makes his choice, and he’ll be paying Davy Jones a visit real soon.

Or, ye can settle the dispute yerself. Heave ho with the dodgeballs!

If ye are not proficient in yer pirate lingo, here be a handy translator.

There even be some food merchants who are forthcoming with plunder if ye speak to them winsomely.

Here some photographic evidence of piracy and plunder be revealing the buccaneer among ye.

Cutlass versus rum…cake

Why Do We Need Heroes?

My Greatest Hits day 3 – my most read post:

And are there any heroes for us today?

Why do we have an innate attraction to the ideas of heroes? We ask people who their heroes are. Kids and adults both delight at the stories of superheroes, people with extraordinary powers who seem to save the world again and again. We always like it when a regular person makes good: the local hero who saves someone. Every story needs a hero, doesn’t it?

Our collective imagination seems drawn to the idea of people who have a greater power or call. A look at the top box office of all time for the US and worldwide shows the list dominated by familiar names: Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, Jack Sparrow. All of these stories feature larger than life figures who overcome overwhelming odds to triumph.

I’ve always day-dreamed of some cataclysm happening in my regular life, only to find that I could fly, had super something-or-other in order to save those in peril. It’s in the fabric of who I am. I grew up on Star Wars and Super Friends, and this summer I couldn’t wait until the latest Spiderman movie came out. Recently I’ve gotten back into enjoying comic books, which shows different aspects of heroes from when I was growing up. Nowadays these heroes struggle against inner darkness or temptation and deal with more real life scenarios over the classic comics when Superman never doubted what was right and was always there to save Lois Lane.

I know that some people prefer down to earth heroes in their entertainment – the cop, the spunky Nancy Drew type, people who don’t have a special ability. Others may even prefer the “anti-hero”, the character that may otherwise be very unlikable in a story, but is portrayed from a sympathetic viewpoint. However, in general we are drawn to those who are greater than us in both their abilities and trials. I could go on, reaching back to mythology and stories of Hercules, Achilles, and so on, but I think this point is coming across.

Having made the argument that this desire is there, now we may ask “Why is it there?”

Could it be, perhaps, that it speaks to who we are? Does it draw from our deepest heart and unconscious needs?

I would argue that heroes are so compelling because we need a hero. We realize, whether directly or subconsciously, that we cannot overcome all that we encounter on our own. Try as we might, we are not able to complete our own salvation. We may fight valiantly, but our struggle is ultimately doomed against the supreme villain.

In the end, this attraction to heroes points us to the one who fought evil without ever turning to temptation. He went toe-to-toe with our greatest foe on our behalf. He sacrificed himself in defending truth, justice, and mercy. And when all seemed lost, he rose in even greater power and strength for the ultimate victory.

Jesus is my hero.

The book that inspired this post – Fearless by Robin Parrish – may not be an overtly Christian novel. This is fine with me, as I don’t require every story to have an overt religious element in order to be a good story. I think Robin taps into this intrinsic need for a hero with his story. I can’t allegorize what he’s written, partly because that’s not his intention, and I don’t know how the story will work out. It still speaks of this great human conflict, the desire to rise up over the insurmountable odds. The heart of the gospel speaks to this, and that’s what makes heroes a powerful story element, especially to a Christian writer.

Next Week’s Features

I’m doing something a little different next week. I’m on vacation, so I’m running some specials posts.

On Mission Monday I’m posting about the reason this blog is called, “Spoiled For The Ordinary.”

Writing Wednesday features a short story I wrote for fun. If I post about writing, I wanted to show that I actually do some! Enjoy “Batgirl.”

Finally I will replay my greatest hit on Free Friday. I’m running my most visited post – “Why We Need Heroes.”

I hope y’all enjoy if you’ve missed these before. I know I’ll enjoy myself!

Next Week’s Features

I’m doing something a little different next week. I’m on vacation, so I’m running some specials posts.

On Mission Monday I’m posting about the reason this blog is called, “Spoiled For The Ordinary.”

Writing Wednesday features a short story I wrote for fun. If I post about writing, I wanted to show that I actually do some! Enjoy “Batgirl.”

Finally I will replay my greatest hit on Free Friday. I’m running my most visited post – “Why We Need Heroes.”

I hope y’all enjoy if you’ve missed these before. I know I’ll enjoy myself!

A Fan Letter

Dear BioWare,

This is coming from a long-time fan. You captured my attention with KotOR, and I have been a loyal fan since. It has been quite a ride over the last nine years, and even more so over the last three weeks. I wanted to share my thoughts away from some of the heat, so here we are.

I stand with the people who thought the ending was a head-scratching moment, to say the least. But more on that in a minute. I haven’t seen many posts that shared what went right with the whole Mass Effect series.

For years my favorite game was KotOR, and I didn’t think another game could supplant that epic landmark in my heart. Mass Effect came very close, and if I’m honest, it probably did. Mass Effect 2 certainly took the spot and became a standard of both exciting gameplay and compelling storytellling for me. With that pedigree, Mass Effect 3 had huge expectations to live up to, but I had confidence that it would be met because I have seen BioWare rise to the challenge over and over again.

ME3 hit the sweet spot of combat for the series. No longer could I duck behind some cover and just warp and overload away. I had to move and plan for the most part. I loved the fact that my Vanguard could tote an assault rifle, and I kept my load light to let my powers recharge and blast the Reapers and Cerberus with my biotic awesomeness. I don’t think I’ve ever faced a boss battle like the mission to protect the missile launchers in London. You had me standing up and my hands shaking on the controller trying to finish the waves of nastiness swamping my Shepard.

Still, the hallmark of a BioWare game, and the reason I keep coming back is the engrossing storyline and characters. I remember daydreaming of KotOR before it came out, wondering how I would play it and thinking about the characters of Bastila and Jolee. Mass Effect drew me in even deeper, and I loved how I paused over killing or saving the rachni queen in ME1. The varied cast in ME2 was mostly a joy, and I couldn’t wait to finish a mission and hang out with Joker or Mordin. I think every spaceship should have a Scottish engineer.

ME3 raised the stakes tremendously. The gravity of the situation was carried through the story. I couldn’t believe the scope of Tuchanka and all that took place there. I thought the ME2 characters were brought back in memorable ways. At first I thought Thane was getting the shift, but how noble to have him come through with the Cerberus attack.

I could go on, but the point is that there is so much that I think the whole Mass Effect series got right. It improved throughout the years, and ME3 really takes it to another level. The voice acting you recruited for the series was so remarkable. I have to give a shout out to Jennifer Hale, because I am a dude who is a loyal FemShep fan due to her amazing performance (and it is so nailed in ME3). Mark Meer, I didn’t realize until yesterday that you did Mordin. That is excellent work right there too.

All the pieces fit together so well through the series. I know that y’all have been beat up by sectors of the fandom, and that is the price of doing business in the digital age – having immediacy with your customers for good and ill. So I did want it known that this 38 year old gamer saw so much to celebrate in all the games, especially ME3.

Hopefully, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. Because I think the ending was a bit of a train wreck.

I am disappointed for your sakes as much as I am frustrated that it was an unsatisfying ending. To work so hard and swing for the fences, and have it crash with the fans is certainly disheartening. It should be the crowning moment for BioWare, but it might feel more like a taking to the woodshed.

I’m not sure what the intention was for the end. As a writer, I know it is important that you communicate your point throughout your work. Certainly there are times where Deep Thoughts (TM) can be missed by many people, but if so many people missed out on what was intended, then what you thought would work ultimately didn’t.

Was it the grand idea of “The Shepard” and being a legend? If so it jumped from the immediate to the Big Idea without near enough build up. Is the Indoctrination Theory correct? I’ve read thoughts on this from other gamers. If the God-child (I prefer “AstroBoy”, but God-child seems to be what fans have settled on) is really the Reapers last attempt to stop Shepard, that could be an epic twist of an ending. I would have to admit it would be amazing – if it was set up enough. I don’t think either option here was developed or foreshadowed enough to make it resonate as valid for the majority of the gamers. Also, the main ME3 story didn’t make much of the human Reaper from ME2. It made the Collector mission seem like an interlude between 1 and 3 (even if 2 was so enjoyable).

(A quick aside: I thought the idea of “slow-motion” walking was thoroughly panned from KotOR with the underwater and space walks. We don’t like these slow walks that don’t accomplish anything. Geth ship and last Citadel walk, I’m looking at you.)

These are my thoughts. I have to applaud you for so much that went right. I have to be honest that the ending didn’t live up to the series. Still, I have been impressed with the interaction with fans since the outcry came out. Many companies would not worry about it, but it seems there is the recognition that interacting with the people is important.

So many are talking about the DLC and what BioWare can do for the ending. I always viewed DLC as a way to continue the game experience, and I appreciated getting fresh adventures for ME1 and 2. If a further ending or “real” ending was always planned as DLC I would not appreciate that, but I don’t really believe that was the plan. If it was the plan, then my opinion of BioWare would be diminished quite a bit.

 If BioWare does something extra for the ending I would appreciate it. I don’t believe there has to be a happy ending – I knew it would be hard to bring something meaningful where Shepard survives. What would Shepard do after being such an epic figure? I just think the ending should have been something that wasn’t lost in the translation.

This is a long opinion without editing for good blog reading. It is my thoughts, and I hope it communicates my points: Mass Effect was an awesome experience of gaming and story that I loved for the vast majority of the time. The ending crashed, but after the first couple of days it doesn’t bother me. At first I did think, “Why do another playthrough if things don’t change?” I don’t think that now. I hope BioWare continues to bring new concepts and quality writing to the gaming world. In some ways I think the Mass Effect universe is more compelling than the Star Wars universe, so I would definitely enjoy more adventures here.

A Fan Letter

Dear BioWare,

This is coming from a long-time fan. You captured my attention with KotOR, and I have been a loyal fan since. It has been quite a ride over the last nine years, and even more so over the last three weeks. I wanted to share my thoughts away from some of the heat, so here we are.

I stand with the people who thought the ending was a head-scratching moment, to say the least. But more on that in a minute. I haven’t seen many posts that shared what went right with the whole Mass Effect series.

For years my favorite game was KotOR, and I didn’t think another game could supplant that epic landmark in my heart. Mass Effect came very close, and if I’m honest, it probably did. Mass Effect 2 certainly took the spot and became a standard of both exciting gameplay and compelling storytellling for me. With that pedigree, Mass Effect 3 had huge expectations to live up to, but I had confidence that it would be met because I have seen BioWare rise to the challenge over and over again.

ME3 hit the sweet spot of combat for the series. No longer could I duck behind some cover and just warp and overload away. I had to move and plan for the most part. I loved the fact that my Vanguard could tote an assault rifle, and I kept my load light to let my powers recharge and blast the Reapers and Cerberus with my biotic awesomeness. I don’t think I’ve ever faced a boss battle like the mission to protect the missile launchers in London. You had me standing up and my hands shaking on the controller trying to finish the waves of nastiness swamping my Shepard.

Still, the hallmark of a BioWare game, and the reason I keep coming back is the engrossing storyline and characters. I remember daydreaming of KotOR before it came out, wondering how I would play it and thinking about the characters of Bastila and Jolee. Mass Effect drew me in even deeper, and I loved how I paused over killing or saving the rachni queen in ME1. The varied cast in ME2 was mostly a joy, and I couldn’t wait to finish a mission and hang out with Joker or Mordin. I think every spaceship should have a Scottish engineer.

ME3 raised the stakes tremendously. The gravity of the situation was carried through the story. I couldn’t believe the scope of Tuchanka and all that took place there. I thought the ME2 characters were brought back in memorable ways. At first I thought Thane was getting the shift, but how noble to have him come through with the Cerberus attack.

I could go on, but the point is that there is so much that I think the whole Mass Effect series got right. It improved throughout the years, and ME3 really takes it to another level. The voice acting you recruited for the series was so remarkable. I have to give a shout out to Jennifer Hale, because I am a dude who is a loyal FemShep fan due to her amazing performance (and it is so nailed in ME3). Mark Meer, I didn’t realize until yesterday that you did Mordin. That is excellent work right there too.

All the pieces fit together so well through the series. I know that y’all have been beat up by sectors of the fandom, and that is the price of doing business in the digital age – having immediacy with your customers for good and ill. So I did want it known that this 38 year old gamer saw so much to celebrate in all the games, especially ME3.

Hopefully, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. Because I think the ending was a bit of a train wreck.

I am disappointed for your sakes as much as I am frustrated that it was an unsatisfying ending. To work so hard and swing for the fences, and have it crash with the fans is certainly disheartening. It should be the crowning moment for BioWare, but it might feel more like a taking to the woodshed.

I’m not sure what the intention was for the end. As a writer, I know it is important that you communicate your point throughout your work. Certainly there are times where Deep Thoughts (TM) can be missed by many people, but if so many people missed out on what was intended, then what you thought would work ultimately didn’t.

Was it the grand idea of “The Shepard” and being a legend? If so it jumped from the immediate to the Big Idea without near enough build up. Is the Indoctrination Theory correct? I’ve read thoughts on this from other gamers. If the God-child (I prefer “AstroBoy”, but God-child seems to be what fans have settled on) is really the Reapers last attempt to stop Shepard, that could be an epic twist of an ending. I would have to admit it would be amazing – if it was set up enough. I don’t think either option here was developed or foreshadowed enough to make it resonate as valid for the majority of the gamers. Also, the main ME3 story didn’t make much of the human Reaper from ME2. It made the Collector mission seem like an interlude between 1 and 3 (even if 2 was so enjoyable).

(A quick aside: I thought the idea of “slow-motion” walking was thoroughly panned from KotOR with the underwater and space walks. We don’t like these slow walks that don’t accomplish anything. Geth ship and last Citadel walk, I’m looking at you.)

These are my thoughts. I have to applaud you for so much that went right. I have to be honest that the ending didn’t live up to the series. Still, I have been impressed with the interaction with fans since the outcry came out. Many companies would not worry about it, but it seems there is the recognition that interacting with the people is important.

So many are talking about the DLC and what BioWare can do for the ending. I always viewed DLC as a way to continue the game experience, and I appreciated getting fresh adventures for ME1 and 2. If a further ending or “real” ending was always planned as DLC I would not appreciate that, but I don’t really believe that was the plan. If it was the plan, then my opinion of BioWare would be diminished quite a bit.

 If BioWare does something extra for the ending I would appreciate it. I don’t believe there has to be a happy ending – I knew it would be hard to bring something meaningful where Shepard survives. What would Shepard do after being such an epic figure? I just think the ending should have been something that wasn’t lost in the translation.

This is a long opinion without editing for good blog reading. It is my thoughts, and I hope it communicates my points: Mass Effect was an awesome experience of gaming and story that I loved for the vast majority of the time. The ending crashed, but after the first couple of days it doesn’t bother me. At first I did think, “Why do another playthrough if things don’t change?” I don’t think that now. I hope BioWare continues to bring new concepts and quality writing to the gaming world. In some ways I think the Mass Effect universe is more compelling than the Star Wars universe, so I would definitely enjoy more adventures here.

Book of the Year 2011

In my last post I listed my favorite fiction books of 2011. There was one other book that impacted me in such a way that, even though I focus on fiction, I have to highlight it for people.

Girls Like Usby Rachel Lloyd.

It is the memoir of a young woman who had a rough upbringing, ended up being trapped in the world of sexual exploitation by a boyfriend who was also her john, and managed not only to escape the life but start a non-profit organization called GEMS that helps girls in similar situations.

It is a raw book because it is a raw topic. Rachel’s story, and the examples of the girls from her charity, are real and ugly. They are stories that need telling.

I was interested in supporting the fight against human trafficking before – this book sealed it. It is a powerful read, sometimes unsettling, but never boring. There is much in our culture that lends to the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls. Pornography, the idolization of pimp culture in popular music, the ways that families and social services break down and leave children vulnerable.

I talked about the book in detail here. If you didn’t read it before, I hope you check out the post, but most of all the book. It is a wake-up call, and it is a significant marker in the battle against modern-day slavery.

Book of the Year 2011

In my last post I listed my favorite fiction books of 2011. There was one other book that impacted me in such a way that, even though I focus on fiction, I have to highlight it for people.

Girls Like Usby Rachel Lloyd.

It is the memoir of a young woman who had a rough upbringing, ended up being trapped in the world of sexual exploitation by a boyfriend who was also her john, and managed not only to escape the life but start a non-profit organization called GEMS that helps girls in similar situations.

It is a raw book because it is a raw topic. Rachel’s story, and the examples of the girls from her charity, are real and ugly. They are stories that need telling.

I was interested in supporting the fight against human trafficking before – this book sealed it. It is a powerful read, sometimes unsettling, but never boring. There is much in our culture that lends to the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls. Pornography, the idolization of pimp culture in popular music, the ways that families and social services break down and leave children vulnerable.

I talked about the book in detail here. If you didn’t read it before, I hope you check out the post, but most of all the book. It is a wake-up call, and it is a significant marker in the battle against modern-day slavery.

2012

An announcement!

I’ve been blogging since 2006. I’ve posted regularly for quite a while, but in the last half of 2011, I started struggling. I didn’t always have inspiration for a post. I questioned whether I should continue with this blog, as I am working on a novel and wondered about splitting my writing time.

Friends encouraged me to continue, and I know that an author needs a presence online to help chances of publication in this brave new world of books and ebooks. Even with this, I limped to the end of the year.

Keepin’ it fresh, yo?
What do I do? How to keep it fresh after 5+ years of blogging?
Good ideas are worth stealing, and I’m going to borrow an idea from my writing and geekery friend Athena Grayson and her blog. She has themed days that keeps her going with a structure and regular posts. That’s what will happen here at Spoiled For The Ordinary.
1. Mission Mondays. I started this blog without much of an idea of a theme. Over time I wanted to bring out ideas and news about missions and being a world Christian. The time I spent in missions led to the title of this blog and a radical change in life for me. Now I will be deliberate with it and highlight different stories related to the mission of God’s Kingdom on Mondays.
2. Writing Wednesdays. The other major focus of this blog is on writing. I talk about my writing journey, Christian fiction issues, and publishing in general. Heaven knows writing blogs are a dime a dozen out there. Still, I’m interested in the process and will continue to add my own 2 cents to the never-ending flow of words – because writers never met a word they didn’t like (maybe “actually” is getting there, but I digress).
3. Free Fridays. Freedom!  I’m not limiting myself here. I can post random stuff. I’m not committing myself. There may or may not be content on Fridays. Because I am giving myself that freedom. Nuff said.
There will be breaks in this. I am a regular contributor to the Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy tour, which routinely runs Mondays through Wednesdays. This will supercede things when I participate.
I hope this helps me keep motivated and lets readers know what to expect and when to find things. I’m excited for 2012, and I want to continue on this journey with all of you. Yes, you in the back as well. Okay, even you Mark.
Here we go…