Sorry for the time between updates.  I’ve been busier than normal, as of late.  On May 20, I tabled at the Salem Comic and Toy Expo.  It was a great time.  Darrell Shaw did a fantastic job putting this together and I am intending to go to the one next year.  I saw some friends I hadn’t seen in a couple of years.  I met some new friends.  And I sold quite a few books.  Surprisingly, I sold more copies of Lily’s Redemption than individual copies of the ADVENTURE CHRONICLES.  I commissioned Nathan Bonner to draw a picture of Dave Isaac.  As he has always been a fan favorite, I’m shocked at myself for never having a pic drawn of him.  Between the various book covers, I’ve had Jamie, Yoshi, Deck, Star, Shawna, Elvara, and Buster drawn.  Now I have a commission of Dave that I just need to scan.

Speaking of book covers, Nathan is working on a new cover for Book One for me.  I’ve always been less than pleased with the cover of Invasion of the Ninja.  While the pic, portraying Yoshi kneeling with her face buried in her hands, is an awesome piece of work by Jason Richardson, it really didn’t fit the feel or theme of the book.  So the new cover will be more in line with what is in the book.

Aside from working on Book Seven (I’m waiting for the final edit of Book Six to come back), I’m doing some editing for a friend.  I never trust myself to edit my own stuff and, in all honesty, no author should.  But I’m finding an enjoyment in editing my friend’s work.  He’s a great writer and it sure helps that the story is good.

This leads me to my next decision:  I’m going to start doing some freelance stuff for other writers.  Nothing fancy, or anything.  Just editing and book layout.  I’m not sure what I’ll charge for these services.  I’ll need to do some more research on it.

I’ll be back to writing the Legacy Blog entries soon.  With everything that’s gone on in my home town of Van Buren, MO, it seemed cheap for me to talk about the “good ole’ days” while knowing that the town was flooded and so many people lost so much.

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#lwff A review of the Love Worth Fighting For Marriage Event

<Author’s Note-I must be cruisin’ for a bruisin’ in writing this.  To be frank, I truly expect to see many people drop off my Facebook friends’ list over this.  But I have to get this off my chest.>

Most high profile preachers, like those that you see on television, don’t have my respect.  Anyone who knows me understands that.  The likes of Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Benny Hinn tend to make me roll my eyes at the mention of their names, if I’m in a charitable mood.  At worst, their “ministries” tend to make me see them  as a blight to the Name of Christ, who wants you to have your BEST LIFE . . . in Heaven, not now (sorry Joel).  But out of these high profile names, there are a few who tend to have my respect.  John MacArthur, John Piper, Ray Comfort . . . even Mark Driscoll (despite his failings in Mars Hill).  Another who has always had my respect is Ray Comfort’s friend Kirk Cameron.  The former start of “Growing Pains” is all grown up and is a minister of the Gospel.  And I’ve always respected his theology.  This is why I was so stoked to go to the Love Worth Fighting For marriage event.  I’m going to put my thoughts on the event, which took place in Florissant, MO last night (May 6, 20017).

First of all, the hosting church was First Christian Church of Florissant.  Two years ago, my family left that church on bitter terms, at best.  It was revealed by the wife of a former member of the pastoral staff, that a former youth worker from this church had been arrested for child molestation out of state.  What’s worse, while this youth worker had been at FCCF, it had been reported to the Senior Pastor that there was a concern that he had been doing it to the youth at our church.  Very few things can break pastor confidentiality laws.  One of them is possible endangering of children.  Even if you don’t believe it’s true, you have to report it to the authorities to investigate.  Pastor Wingfield didn’t.  It was ignored and the people who had reported it were strong-armed into leaving the church.  Now that it was on public record that this man really was a child molester, this woman called for the pastor to step down, as he had, truthfully, made himself unfit for ministry in the dereliction of his duties.

He refused.  Instead, the people who were still going to this church and calling for his resignation found themselves forced out of the church, sometimes by police escort.  Some of the respectable ministers on staff were removed and told to never return.  The church, in a vain attempt to save face, “punished” the senior pastor by making him take a six-month sabbatical—basically, he got a six-month, paid vacation.  And, to make matters worse, the church filed a lawsuit against some of the accusers, even going so far as to post, on the church’s website, a “bible study” about why a lawsuit—against other Christians—was acceptable.  The suit was later dropped but not before the liberal Riverfront Times, given cannon-fodder to attach Christians, had a chance to run with the story.

We weren’t forced out.  Having teenagers—one of whom had been in the class of this molester—we left willingly.  The church has dwindled to—fr0m what I understand—a shadow of its former self.  I’m pretty confident that, after what I’ve just written, I won’t be welcome back there.  But it had to be said.  An event like this has difficulty divorcing itself (pun intended . . . it was a marriage seminar) from its hosting church.

The event was ministered by Kirk Cameron and Warren Barfield.  The latter is a musician who wrote the song that would become theme for Cameron’s movie, FIREPROOF.  Barfield’s words were thought-provoking.  His mixture of passion and humor made both times that he was on stage exhilarating.  I specifically appreciated his marriage testimony, which basically told about how he and his wife almost divorced over a pretzel.  I won’t go into detail here, just look it up on YouTube.  I’m sure it’s there.

Kirk was good.  He started the seminar off with a little self-deprecating humor about his time as an eighties heartthrob and how he knew that many of the women in the audience probably had “Seaver Fever.”  My wife did not, BTW.  He also pointed out that he figured that most of the men in the audience were just there to placate their wives (he worded it better).  For the record, I was the one who pointed this event out to Vickie, not the other way around.

I enjoyed the event.  I got a great deal out of it.  But I just can’t let some things go.  First of all, Kirk Cameron is supposed to be an approachable brother in the Lord.  However, if you wanted a chance to meet him and actually talk with him, you had to pay double the price of the ticket.  Of course, I wasn’t too upset to not buy the VIP tickets, as I wasn’t a teenage girl in the 80s and I probably would have just spent any time questioning him about Ray Comfort, anyway.

Second, the seminar was totally geared toward the men.  Being a guy, I can see the importance.  However, with him pointing out the things that the men need to change, and reminding us that the marriage is the man’s responsibility, all fault fell on the men.  And I get this.  Often, a man can be a bear to get along with.  But, just as often, a wife can be as well.  And there was no counterpoint to the discussion.  He quoted 1 peter 3:7 and preached a basic sermon on the verse, showing how a man is supposed to treat his wife.  He began the discussion by pointing out that verses one through six discussed how a woman is supposed to treat her husband.  And then he ignored them and went along with how the men need to change.  I can picture a number of women—who have good, faithful husbands—going home with puffed-out chests and saying, “See, it is all your fault.”  Perhaps including discussion . . . any at all . . . about how the wife’s supposed to treat her husband, would have helped.  Or, even better, market the seminar as a husband’s enrichment seminar.  I’ve had a failed marriage in the past.  And, after a decade of going over all angles of what happened, I am more than willing to take fifty percent of the blame.  But 100 percent is not accurate in any case.

Third, the majority of the seminar was more of a commentary on the movie FIREPROOF.  We saw clips and Kirk discussed how terrible a husband Caleb was before he found the Lord.  And, yes, in the context of that movie, the majority of the marital problems were his fault.  However, they gloss over the fact that she was flirting with another man while she was still married (a man who was legitimately vilified for hiding the fact that he was married, too).  Mostly, this was a repeat of every bible study on Fireproof and the Love Dare that we had ever been to.

Finally, I have to go back  to the first part of this review.  As they discussed our need for Jesus, they encouraged us to come back to the host church.  Kirk (and please understand that, despite my review of this event, I still hold Mr. Cameron in the highest regard) specifically pointed out Pastor Steve Wingfield and said that he would be happy to pray with us.

Considering what I know about the history of that church and the fact that the pastor’s arrogance splintered it, I couldn’t even take such a suggestion seriously.  The most honorable thing that he could have done was to step down and let the church heal.  Instead, he stayed and pushed out those who disagreed with him.  Even Mark Driscoll had the decency to make the right decision in the end, and still has my respect for having done so.

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Legacy Blog #30: The Current River

My Beloved Daughter,

I’m going to step out of chronological order again this week to deal with something that is—at the time of this writing—a timely issue.

The lifeblood of my hometown of Van Buren, MO, was the Current River.  During the winter, our town was small.  When I was in high school, we had only one open spot for teens to hang out, that being The Oasis.  It was a small, fast food establishment that also had an equally small arcade.  As a child, I would go there and play the likes of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Popeye.  By the time that I was in high school, they had more up-to-date games, like Street Fighter 2.  But it could only hold so many people, which is probably why most teens headed to Poplar Bluff (we called it “the Bluff”) on weekends.

But when the summer came?  Suddenly, Van Buren was the place to be!  With the coming of Memorial Day, Van Buren swelled with an influx of tourists.  On that special holiday, the famous Jolly Cone, a fast food stand where you walked up to the window to place your order, opened for the summer.  The Water Slide, on the outskirts of town opposite where your grandparents and I lived, opened.  But, most importantly, the Current River opened.

The river, winding its way through our little town and our neighbor of Doniphan, MO, was filled each summer with swimmers and fishermen.  Motorboats would speed down the river to find the perfect spot to catch some fish.  During the summer, the local motels would often have a policy requiring you to book two days per weekend, as they were often booked solid throughout the summer.

Floating was a fun pastime that even I—who never learned to swim—would take part in at least once a year.  I can remember my friend, William, parking his truck at Big Springs and us all crowding in my car to drive to Water Crest.  I’d don a lifejacket, fasten my glasses to my face with a rubber band, and jump into my tube (usually rented from one of the businesses in town that specialized in them).  Out of all of us, my friend, J.D., usually didn’t even use a tube.  Like your stepmother and stepsister, he could swim like a fish, so he swam the river next to us, holding onto one of our tubes whenever he would need a short rest.

We would float from Water Crest to Big Springs, which usually took about two hours.  Then we would jump into William’s truck (I’d usually ride in the back) and drive back to my car.  I don’t normally like water sports but even I enjoyed these days.

Big Springs, by the way, is a contender for the largest spring in America.  Depending on rainfall, springs give off different amounts of water on any given day, so it may share that title with the Snake River Spring Complex in Idaho and the Silver Spring in Florida.  But, with an average output of 286 million gallons of water a day, Big Spring is an awe-inspiring work of God, to be sure.

The majority of the businesses in the little town of Van Buren seemed to make the majority of their income from the tourists who came into our town in the summer.  But, living on a river could definitely have its disadvantages.  Too much rain could make the river swell.  I remember a time, when I was in high school, when the river came in so far that it flooded even the town library.  Every bottom-shelf book was lost.  Homes and businesses near the river tend to carry flood insurance, which has more than paid for itself, time and again.

As I write this post, however, the river has risen to the highest that it has ever risen.  The entire town of Van Buren, proper, is flooded.  Even my high school, several blocks from the river, hasn’t escaped the damage.  The problem with this is that most of the homes and businesses that weren’t really close to the river don’t carry that all-important flood insurance.  Many of them have lost everything.  Cell coverage for AT&T seems to have been affected severely there, although other carriers seem to be okay.  Each time I log into Facebook and read about the devastation of my hometown, my heart breaks.  Many of them have set up Go Fund Me pages to try to get help.

I haven’t lived in Van Buren in twenty-five years but it’ll always be home to me.  And I know the people there, people who have a strong will and work ethic.  If the town were filled with other people, they might let this destroy them.  But I’m confident that they will bounce back from this.  They will rebuild and Van Buren, MO, will be even better than it was.

My prayers are with them.

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Legacy Blog #29: Freshman Year

My Beloved Daughter,

Starting high school back in Van Buren, MO, was more of a shock that you would expect.  I had left in the third grade and was returning in the ninth.  People I’d known before had changed significantly during my absence.  Aside from physically maturing, they had formed their cliques.

And I, having been away, was not included in them.

The ridicule started almost immediately.  I had gained quite a bit of weight during my tenure in Campbell.  Plenty of afternoon cartoons—along with a certain teacher who overloaded us with homework—took away my outside time.  Over my time there, I grew to hate being outside.

And my gut expanded.

The friends that I’d left when I moved away were no longer my friends when I had returned.  They had become the popular kids, athletes and class clowns.  And, like most of the popular kids that you’ll find in school, they kept themselves popular by putting down those who weren’t popular.  I hated going to school and would often fake being sick to keep from having to go.

There were exceptions, of course.  Some kids seemed to be above that game.  Two guys in particular, Bryan Hawkins and Joseph Markham, were friendly to those of us who were less than popular and didn’t seem to care who noticed.  I’d trade NES games with Bryan, who was a preacher’s kid.  Joseph often went out of his way to stop the ridicule that I would get.

There was Candy Adams, a pretty girl who was on the drill team (I think), who was kind to pretty much everybody.  I kept in touch with her after high school and we carpooled to college when were both going to Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff.

And there was your Uncle Evan.  Moving to Van Buren from Alaska in January of 1990, he sat next to me in English.  I can remember seeing him draw a map one day and asking him about it.  Lo and behold, we both played Dungeons & Dragons!  He and I struck up a friendship that has lasted for nearly thirty years.

My cousin Mark married Mary Clardy that very same year.  Her brothers and sister became long-term friends of mine and we’d all play D&D and video games together.

And this was all just my freshman year.  Also, during that year, I had Speech (I think it’s called Public Speaking now) and English with Tim Hager that year.  Aside from his encouragement in my writing, he also played a major role in me leaving the liberal mindset behind for the more practical (in my not-so-humble opinion) conservative point of view.

I grew to adore our school librarian, Mrs. McDowell.  She had been there when I started Kindergarten and was there when I graduated from High School.  She even wrote a college recommendation letter when I was thinking of going to College of the Ozarks and needed two teachers to recommend me to them.

There was Mr. Freeman, the science teacher and one of the most intelligent men I have still ever met.  He complimented me on being a hard worker and became one of my favorites from that point on.

Despite all of these positives, I still hated going to school and putting myself in the midst of those who took pleasure in putting me down.  But my grades suffered and I got my first failing mark that year.  So I decided to go into my sophomore year with a new attitude.  I resolved to lose weight that summer (not having more than two channels in the outskirts of Van Buren made that much easier than I had thought that it would be).  And, while the ridicule of my peers had made me dread going to school, I went into the summer resolved to begin the following year fresh, only missing school if I was truly sick.  And I followed through on that resolution.  How did I manage to change my attitude about school for the next year?

I made more friends.

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Legacy Blog #28: Strong, Arkansas

My Beloved Daughter,

Strong, Arkansas, was a nice little town, situated about seventeen miles north of the border to Louisiana.  It had an even smaller population that winter-time Van Buren.  The junior high school, where I spent the last half of my eighth-grade year, was tiny.  Everyone was friendly.  Unlike the other schools that I had gone to, the cliques in this school weren’t hateful.  Nobody treated me poorly.  Nobody picked on me or put me down.  Over all, it was a peaceful school.

And, yet, I was miserable.  Yes, Campbell had bullies and mean kids.  But I also had good friends there.  I had kids I’d hang out with outside of school.  We’d ride bikes together, play video games together, watch movies together . . ..

I didn’t have those kinds of friends in Southern Arkansas.  The kids in school treated me well.  Outside of school, nobody ever visited.  I usually spent my time in my room, hand-writing my stories and playing my NES.  The only person who was ever around was my cousin, Leon, who lived in nearby El Dorado.  I saw him maybe once every other week or so.  Your Uncle Greg drove a truck for Uncle Roger and lived in that finished sunroom in the house for a while, but he was ten years older than me and didn’t want to hang out with his kid brother, needless to say.

Two important things to my later life came into play while we were living there.  First, I watched a horror movie (Witchboard) that I had recorded when we were still living in Campbell.  I hadn’t figured out how to program it to stop at a certain time and it recorded the movie that came on after it.  That movie, American Ninja 2, caught my attention and I watched it over and over.  I visited the two video rental places in town and rented every ninja movie that I could find.  I was obsessed.  And, as you can tell from my ADVENTURE CHRONICLES series, that obsession hasn’t faded in the last nearly thirty years.

The second—and much more important thing—was that your Grandpa Chuck  got hurt again.  He had ridden to Baton Rouge, LA, to keep your Uncle Ronald company while he made a delivery for Uncle Roger.  While at that warehouse in Louisiana, your Grandpa was helping to unload boxes and didn’t realize that Uncle Ronald was backing up in a forklift.

Yep.  Your Grandpa Chuck got run over by a forklift.  With his emphysema, he was so short of breath while moving those boxes, the beeping of the reverse sound from the forklift didn’t register in his head.  His leg was broken in seven places.

Within a month of us living in Arkansas, Grandpa Chuck was on Workman’s Comp.  He spent the next several months healing up.  Afterward, it was decided that your Grandpa was going to have to file for Disability.

The Workman’s Compensation continued as we moved back to Van Buren.  Since we owned the land there, it was necessary to move there in order to save money.

We lived in Southern Arkansas from March of 1989 until September of 1989.

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Legacy Blog #27: What’s in a Word?

My Beloved Daughter,

I’m going to leave chronological order again this week.  I was discussing regional versions of different languages with a couple of coworkers today and it reminded me of your Grandma Pat.

As you know, she was a southern woman.  I did tend to get irritated at how she pronounced wash.  She always put the r in it.  She’d pronounce it “warsh,” which your mother and, now, you do.  As I type this, Microsoft Word puts a squiggly red line under that spelling.  Do you know why?  BECAUSE THAT IS NOT THE PROPER SPELLING OR PRONUNCIATION!!!

Grandma Pat had other special ways of saying things.  We would shop at “Walmarts.”  The middle of the week was “Wenjday.”

Your Grandpa Chuck would join in on the fun, too.  When we had spaghetti, we were eating “Eyetalian.”  And the little truck that he wanted me to get was a “Tyeota,” rather than a “Toyota.”

GG also had her unique way of saying things.  For example, I would heat food up in the “Micawave.”

And then I met your mother.  She brought her Americanized version of English words.  To check the oil in the car, I had to pop the bonnet.  To stow the luggage for a trip, I had to pop the boot.  If it was raining, she wanted me to grab the bumbershoot.

She was also funny in that she picked up the accent of anyone she was around.  We’d go visit my parents and she‘d come back to St. Charles sounding like a hillbilly.

So your creative way of speaking comes to you honestly.

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Legacy Blog #26: The Move to Arkansas

My Beloved Daughter,

Our final year in Campbell was a whirlwind.  Not long after buying that house on Franklin Street, your Grandpa Chuck’s employer trumped up a reason to fire him.  Something about him being a couple of minutes late getting back on the boat from shore leave.  Considering that he had worked for them for ten years, letting his lungs deteriorate in the process, he had never been late before.  One time and he was fired?  I think there was more going on there.  We did go after them for a financial settlement over his health issues.  Since it literally took them four years to settle, I’ll get to that in a later post.

So, after he was fired by the towing company, he went to work as a diesel mechanic for your Grandma Pat’s brother, Uncle Roger, at his company in El Dorado, Arkansas.  This kept him gone longer and he had to travel to see us, so he wasn’t making enough to support us in Campbell and keep himself fed in Arkansas.  To try to supplement the income, Grandma Pat got a job as a nurse’s aide, working with Aunt Ruth in a nursing home in the nearby town of Malden, Missouri.  It went well for a while, until she hit a snag.

Your Grandma Pat had worked as a nurse’s aide before I was born.  She liked taking care of people, so it fit.  Unfortunately, by the time I was in junior high (what you now call “middle school”), it required a certification.  And Grandma Pat didn’t know if she could handle going back to school that late in life.  So she ended up quitting the job.  It was decided that we would move out of that house in Campbell and move down to join Grandpa Chuck in Arkansas.

Our last week in Campbell, during the early part of March of 1989, was a freezing one.  I had just celebrated my fourteenth birthday, to little fanfare.  We couldn’t afford to pay the gas bill and the gas company came out and shut it off . . . again, during 0ne of the coldest winters on record.  We spent a week in that house, bundled up at all times in blankets.

Then, Grandpa Chuck and Uncle Ronald, who was driving a truck for Uncle Roger’s company, showed up in one of those trucks and a completely empty trailer.  In the middle of the night, we loaded everything we owned into that truck.  I grabbed my cat, Linus, and joined Grandma in her car and we drove the six hours to southern Arkansas, to a little town called Strong.

Linus threw up on me sometime during the trip.

I remember the house that we moved into down there.  It was actually very nice.  It had a sunroom that had been finished with carpet, along with two bedrooms.  It was smaller than what we had lived in in Campbell.  But at least it was warm.

And it was the first time that Grandpa Chuck had worked in a job where he could come home every night since I was five years old.

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