Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A year of thanks 2013

I've got a lot to be thankful for this year. And even though I should have probably said this at Thanksgiving, better late than never.

Daria DiGiovanni, who let me on her show ... twice.

Robert Bertrand, who let me co-host once after having already been a guest.

Matthew Bowman, the Novel Ninja, who gave me one of the best compliments I've gotten all year.

The people of the Catholic Writer's Guild, who made me so welcome in the wilderness of New Jersey. The last time I felt like it was home, it was DragonCon.  This includes Ann Margaret Lewis, Ellen Gable Hrkach, Karina Fabian, Kathleen Gulo, and I'm certain I'm leaving out one or two.

Jo Lindsell and Virginia Lori Jennings for putting up with me on the FB writing page. Sue Freivald, who gave me one of the best reviews I've had to date.

And I'm sure I'm missing several ... okay, a few tons of people here and there. Tanja Cilia, Jamie Wilson, Kia Heavey, for moral support alone, if nothing else.  I know I'm missing beta readers (don't worry, you've been written down and noted for the books you've beta-ed), and how about everyone who has ever reviewed me.

My family, who tolerate me still.

And, of course, you, faithful readers, who keep me going.

Happy new year, one and all.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Requiescat in pacem: a Pius in memoriam

I have never cried through a blog post before, but this year, I've buried five childhood friends: Vince Flynn, Andrew Greeley, Tom Clancy, Sheamus Heaney and Elizabeth Peters.

Yes, it's strange to say that some of my best friends were writers that I've never met, but you must consider a few things.  I've been reading these people for a very long time, and they've lasted longer than every relationship I've ever had, sans family.

Sheamus Heaney's Beowulf is the first and best translation I've ever seen of the epic poem. It was smooth and easy to read, and was just plain straight English.  He died in his 80s, with a few international awards, so he had nothing to regret when he left.

Elizabeth Peters, aka Barbara Mertz, introduced me to Egyptology the old fashioned way -- by writing about murders at Egypt excavation sites. There was a reason I was a child who knew an awful lot about the Egyptian pharaoh Akanten.

Her characters were witty, well drawn, and brilliantly done, even though none of them were particularly handsome. It was smart writing with intelligent heroes and villains, and enough history to make it interesting without making it painful. I will never see the rest of the family of archaeologists she created, who grew up with me -- the only offspring of this Nick and Nora of the desert was my age, and aged at almost the same exact rate.

She died at age 85. She had a damned good life, and I will miss her. It just hurts when a childhood friend has died.

Tom Clancy was my bus ride home every day during Freshman year of high school. When the film Patriot Games came out, it was one of the first movies my father loved so much I just had to get it for him immediately. Jack Ryan was fun, because he was a nerd who had to be an action hero whether he liked it or not.  After I played SSN, a submarine game based on an idea of his, the Spratley Islands and the South China Sea were never the same. Splinter Cell brought me back into the world of gaming by showing me an interesting story with my games.

I probably learned more about history from Tom Clancy than I did from any history class in high school.  When 9-11 happened, my first thought was "Didn't Tom Clancy do this already?"

When he died, he was only in his 60s.  Not fair.

American Assassin: A ThrillerVince Flynn .... I've discussed Flynn's writing other places. He was a fun author, who only used politics when it suited his plot, which was most of the time. Not bad for a thriller author who spent most of his writing time using terrorists for target practice. His first book about CIA assassin named Mitch Rapp was about terrorists taking over the white house. This was before terrorists became popular (1999), and he did a wonderful critique of what went wrong during the 1990s in the intelligence world.

One of the nice things about Vince Flynn was that he always has a domestic element to his novels. Domestic as in "do we have to kill the politicians before they get us all killed." Again, Flynn has had politicians as antagonists since the 1990s, so he didn't jump on a Tea Party bandwagon.

He helped write the best season of 24, day 5, which started with a bang, a boom, and a massive shootout in the first episode. he was a good, solid author. And he was only 47, damnit.

And then there was Fr. Andrew Greeley, who was with me the longest. Greeley wrote mysteries, and romances, and even one or two thrillers of his own.  A Catholic priest from Chicago, I grew up with him in the house.  I read his novel Angel Fire when I was 12, one of those books that you start at night and finish by dawn. I probably learned more about my faith from Greeley than I did from 12 years of Catholic school.  He was essentially a childhood friend.  Granted, he went off the rails a little when he hit the 21st century.  As a Chicago Democrat, he went from little jabs of "being a Republican is a sin, but excused by invincible ignorance" to just being snotty about his politics, which means he may have written about 15 lousy books..... I'd settle for having a few dozen bestsellers of quality writing.

He was also 85, and I expected him to live forever.

Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. And may their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed,through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, y'all. Oh Holy Night.

Merry Christmas, to one and all.  Or, as my Jewish friends call it, merry "Chinese food and movie" day.

If you're wondering, no, I'm not really going to blog today, of all days.  After all, I'm crazy, not particularly stupid.

However, I think this is a great time for O, Holy Night, by Peter Hollens.  So, turn up the volume, and enjoy.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent: Lent, with Christmas Lights.

[Originally published... for someone else]

How many of us grew up with the concept that Advent was just Lent, only for Christmas? As a child of the '90s, my experience tells me “not many.”

Don't worry, this isn't going to be the standard “spirituality over materialism” Christmas special that you usually get this time of year. After all, if 40 years of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” isn't going to convince the Internet, then one blog post isn't going to tip the balance. Besides, if you're reading this post, it is unlikely that you need convincing. I can't see many of my readers involved in a Black Friday shootout over the latest gadgets.

However, how many of us take the time to prepare ourselves, spiritually, for the coming of Christmas, and Jesus' birthday? Assuming that neither you nor I are involved in the latest riot at a toy store – my gift shopping was done in August – we are free from any special psychosis-inducing event that comes with the materialism of the season. But what of the day-to-day?

Let us consider, for a moment, just how special Christmas is. Yes, Christ was incarnate, etc, etc … does that really matter? After all, Christmas isn't considered the most important part of the Catholic calender, Easter is. There's a reason that Handel's Messiah has the “Hallelujah Chorus” in the section covering Easter. And, for Easter, we pull out all the stops, don't we? We fast, we abstain, we confess.

What do we do for Advent? If we go by what your average church encourages, probably not as much as we should. While Easter is the day in the Eucharistic calender, Christmas is what makes Easter possible.

So, something to dwell on, if you would (I abhor the word “meditation”); try something that our Pope would be familiar with – the Jesuit practice of imagining. In this case, just imagine if you were the creator of every speck of dust and every watt of electrons, and you make a choice to become – at best – a foot-long, 12-pound creature without the brainpower to utter a coherent sound. And you do this so that you can clean up the mistakes of people who really should have known better. Isn't that a strange thing to do?

It was Fulton Sheen who once described the reason that Jesus had to be incarnate in order for our salvation. He explained it very simply as a form of retribution, of repayment. If you steal my watch and ask me to forgive you, I will, but I want my watch back. Now, what happens when you offend against an infinite Being that is so far beyond our experience, the wonders of time and space are dwarfed? What kind of repayment can we utilize to make amends? Only something just as infinite – in this case, someone.

Yes, I agree, this is quite of bit of depth coming from someone who dedicates pages to shootouts in between bits of history just so he can revenge himself on Dan Brown, et al, but I have my moments.

In the memory of the Infinite Being who became a mewling infant, let's try to put in as much effort to Advent as to Lent. Visit a confessional, give up something if you like. Just … something.

As for me? I take a page from St. Augustine, who once said that “Singing is praying. When one sings, one prays twice.” 

There's a reason that I'm always on the hunt for a perfect rendition of “Angels We Have Heard On High”. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Saruman's Heavy Metal Christmas

Christopher Lee, singing Christmas tunes, with a heavy metal guitar in the background.  Your argument is invalid.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Christmas Posts of A Pius Man.

I've done a lot of posts about Christmas in the past. So many, I think any more will be redundant.
Stolen from Karina Fabian

So, a few things.  Let's start with the short story O Little Town of Bethlehem, may nothing you dismay.... even though I have a plot to blow you up. MUAHAHA.

This is followed by an unofficial sequel, my tale Coyote Christmas, a Story by Twitter. The events take place after OLToB, though that's better pointed out in even Coyote Christmas: the full story, written in standard prose, took in a goodly number of readers.  Who knows, I might have stolen someone's title without knowing it -- that would explain why I had a lot of readers looking for "the author of Coyote Christmas" in search terms.

I had some nice music blogs, mostly because of Lindsey Stirling, and her epic violin. Seriously, this woman was awesome.  Not to mention that her Celtic Christmas was beautiful ... oh, and What Child is this?

There was also The Piano Guys Bless ye merry Gentlemen, O Come Emmanuel, Angels we have Heard on High, and I've got one or two others coming.

And Christopher Lee does Christmas songs.

I think that's enough for right  now, don't you?

Monday, December 2, 2013