Novels, Announcements, and Manhood

This is the front.

This is the front.

First, you’re probably hoping for an update about something I’ve written. The Chimaera Regiment is pretty much finished. It’s all written. It’s all edited. Except for a few typos, the book is done. It even has a tentative cover (right), and a map, too (below). It has not, however, been published.

I'm a map!

I’m a map!

I know, I know, it’s terribly frustrating, watching me work. “When will it be finished?” you ask, “When can I read it?” Well, as you may recall, almost two years ago I began an ill-advised and sorely underfunded Kickstarter project, about which I am definitely not bitter. The goal of this project was to produce The Chimaera Regiment as an audio-book (I believe the kids these days call them “audio weblogs” or perhaps “pod-casts”), for which I myself would be voice and guide.

The long and short of it is that this plan forges onward, without the help of crowd-funding. I have less than half the book recorded, none of it edited, and completing all of that will take some time. (Frankly, it should take less time than will pass in its pursuit, but my time is at a premium, and some things take precedence.) It promises to be a grand adventure in roaring fun with a musical soundtrack specially composed to match. Look forward to it.

When the audio-book is complete (not only completed in terms of production, but completed also in terms of performance for the masses), then the book will be published, at which time, you can buy it and read it (in your own, boring voice). Since there are 19 episodes for the audio-book, that means that it will be (A) the rest of production time, plus (B) 19 weeks of release before the printed version (or Kindle version, for that matter) is available.

Certain contests may be result in certain contest-winners receiving signed copies early. Pretend you still have an analog radio, and that anything I produce will actually be on the radio, and then remain attentive to my station by avoiding the rotating knob on the front of your hypothetical radio-wave device. (“Stay tuned!” and “Don’t touch that dial!”)

With that out of the way, I come to my second bit of happy news: my wife is with child, and after the circuit of the days, she will bring forth a son. The joy of these times seems renewed every morning, and cannot be touched by the shadows of despair. I am ecstatic. And so, with my vast array of parenting experience (I have managed to keep the child alive for about sixteen weeks, which is more than a lot of fathers can say these days), I am endeavoring to comment on an issue that stands before our culture in a way that is very poignant:


There have been a lot of books written about masculinity (especially in relation to Christianity). I’ve read plenty of them. There was Wild at Heart by Eldredge, A Young Man After God’s Own Heart by George, The Samson Syndrome by Atteberry, and probably a dozen others that I don’t remember now. You see, when I was a boy, I desperately wanted to be a man. That’s the dream, after all, of all boys: manhood. Whether we idolize our fathers or despise them, we want to be real men. And almost all of us differ on what it means to be a man. Most often, I hear two sides of this argument: “We have to stop feminizing men and attacking masculinity in this country!” versus, “The masculinity presented by society is too violent, and boys need to know that emotions are okay!”

In truth, these two positions are not opposed. As men, and as fathers, we must stand against the effeminacy of the modern man; but as men, and especially as fathers, we must stand against the violent tendencies that our high-spirited wildness seeks to engender. I recently saw a video posted on social media decrying the violence encouraged among the boys of society.

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It was not terribly long ago that I was a boy, and – mostly from my peers – I kept hearing about how I should behave, especially around women. Most of their advice was, of course, terrible, and I saw that even then. I heard a lot of the comments echoed in the video above, and when I was teaching high school, I heard even more. The fact of the matter is that these comments are pervasive and perpetual, and they don’t only come from fathers. Perhaps they once did, but now, they are spread by peer groups, father-figures like teachers and principals, even mothers whose husbands and baby-daddies left them for less fertile pastures, so to speak. Society as a whole perpetuates the notion of the violently authoritative man. Only the violent man gains respect, because respect and fear are seen as one and the same.

But to be respected, a man must be loved; to be respected, fear must never enter the equation, because perfect love casts out all fear. You cannot beat respect out of another man; violence only elicits fear, and fear only resembles respect among the cowardly. No amount of violence can create respect in a man who is not cowed by his fear. A man like this has courage, and stands for himself – but more importantly, he stands for others. A man who deserves respect is not the one with the biggest stick, but the one with the strongest shield.

So certainly, we must teach our sons not to respond with violence when they are emotionally slighted. Such behavior is inherently unmanly; it is an expression of the fear that someone else could humiliate you, the fear that you have no control – but the truth is that adherence to this behavior, like all sin, is to cede control. In allowing violence to take over, you place your will beneath the fire in your heart.

Ironically, effeminacy is caused by the same thing – except the feelings in charge are seen as feminine, such as tenderness and sorrow. From the perspective of the modern man, there are three emotions: happiness, sadness, and anger. Happiness is what people would have if the world were perfect; sadness is feminine; and anger is masculine. From this perspective, when a boy is sad, he is seen as effeminate; when he is angry, he is seen as masculine; when he is happy, he is seen as naïve. Since he is a boy, the modern man sees feminine as bad, masculine as good, and naïve as foolish; the only emotion encouraged is anger, and uncontrolled anger begets violence.

That is not to say that effeminacy is a figment of the gangster’s imagination. On the contrary, many of those opposed to violence make the same assumptions, only they call sadness “tenderness.” Tenderness is feminine, anger is masculine, and happiness is foolish, because the world is a hard place. Since anger leads to violence, then masculinity is bad, so femininity must be good, and all boys should be encouraged to let their tenderness control them. And it’s true – when you make your will subject to your tender emotions, you will not be violent. But you will also not be manly. Instead, you will cower when threatened, and when someone attacks you or your friends, you will be defeated without contest. And every time a teacher punishes a boy for fighting back against a bully, s/he perpetuates this problem – after all, the bully still hears about how he must be masculine, angry, and violent at home, but now the bullied learn that even self-defense will be punished.

We see here two sides of the same coin: allow your anger to control you, and you will be “masculine,” which means violent; allow your tenderness to control you, and you will be “gentle,” which means effeminate. The real solution is to attack the root of the problem: we’re still flipping the same damn coin.

Violence is not the answer; neither is pacifism. The right answer is the victory of the will. Do not let baser things rule that which was designed to rule. When your urges command your decisions, you have already lost – regardless of which urges are in command. If your violent urges rule, then you will be violent; if your tender urges rule, then you will be effeminate.

But if your will rules, you will be a man.

Our violent tendencies can be dangerous, but when tamed, they can protect the ones we love from harm. Our tenderness can weaken us if left uncontrolled, but when harnessed, it can lead us to lay down our lives for those we love – both literally and figuratively. It is not enough to die for your family; first, you must live for them.

I pray that these are the lessons I will teach my son about masculinity.

Fictional Cartography 101

Some of you may know that I have a passing interest in fictional cartography. That is to say, I make random doodles on paper and declare them to be faraway or fantastical places.

Perhaps someday I shall make a time-lapsed video of this process, but in the present, I have only scans at each stage. In this case, I am drawing a map of the continent of Cavahir in the world of Auriel, a fantastical realm and the setting for an open-world RP (“role-play”; more accurately in this context, a collaboratively written story) on the Star Wars: Exodus role-playing forum, of which I am a member.

Stage 1: Source
Usually, I just make up the map off the top of my head. But sometimes, I have a good reason for doing this. I have a rough draft of a map for The Chimaera Regiment, the novel you keep hearing about that never seems to be finished (it’s not vaporware, I swear). That map requires some precise calculations based on how long it takes characters to reach places. No, things do not move at the speed of plot… or at least, they don’t only move at the speed of plot.

But in this case, as I have mentioned, the source is a fictional world devised by several members of the aforementioned forum. Which means they came up with a map for it, too. Which means that I’m not the creative force here, just the muscle. The aching, cringing muscle in my hand that wants to kill me for causing it so much pain.

At any rate, there is an original map, primarily a rough outline:


That map is based on these two maps, with some additions. I did make a map of the original continent (Cavahir), before the additions, but obviously, the additions made that obsolete.

Stage 2: Dotmap
Stage 1 gave me a lot of information to work with. Stage 2 is the process of getting that information into a usable space. So first, I have to decide on a series of important locations on the map – the westernmost edge, certain points and dips and curves, islands, lakes, mountain ranges, mountain passes, river deltas, and so on. Then, I use the original map and photo editing software (in this case, GIMP) to figure out the exact placement of those locations, as if on a Cartesian plane.

Locations & Coordinates

I might change my methods in the future (if I start making a lot of maps for other people, for example), but this time, I got coordinates in inches. GIMP puts (0,0) at the top left, though, so proper Cartesian coordinates would make all my Y values negative. But I digress.

Then I take those coordinates and, once I’ve calculated the ratio between original and destination (in this case, 1:1.55 to put it on a piece of 8.5×11 paper), I calculate the new coordinates for my map.

Plot Conversion

What you see here are, from left to right, location, original coordinates, and new coordinates (with Y adjusted to put the bottom of the map at the bottom of the paper). The third pair of columns are the remainders from the new X and Y coordinates when those coordinates are converted into 1/16 inch increments – that way, I don’t have to do the math in my head while I’m trying to plot important map locations.

When I’m done with that, I plot said map locations.


It’s probably tough to see at this size, but you can click on the image to see it at full resolution. You may notice that I have labeled a large number of the dots on my dotmap; this is so I don’t confuse these with the main outline of my continent.

Naturally, this does lend itself to handy Connect-the-Dots versions, which is great for all the kids out there aspiring to be fictional cartographers.

Stage 3: Outline
With the dotmap down and prepared, we begin our map itself with Stage 3: the rough outline. At this stage, I make sure all of my coastline is present and accounted for, including any nooks, crannies, islands, isles, and tiny spits of land that barely deserve to be called a sandbar. Sometimes, I also add a few titles at this stage, if only to take up white space left by the scale of the map.


And now you can begin to see the continent taking shape. But there’s so much left to do!

Stage 4: Interior Sketch
Once I have the coastlines finished, it’s time to move on to Stage 4, wherein I settle in my mountains…

Mountain Outline

… rivers…

Mountain Outline

… and forests.

Tree Outline

It may look like it has everything, and it could technically be called an accurate map now. But it isn’t finished.

Stage 5: Coastline Cleanup
Despite its title, Stage 5 has nothing to do with oil spills or litter duty. This is where I take the rough outline from Stage 3 and turn that coastline into something pretty. This part of the process is in the running for most tedious, because waves don’t draw themselves next to the shallows around my coasts. And islands make this even more hand-numbingly dull.

Finished Coastline

But it is starting to look better now. I also threw in a chasm for good measure.

Stage 6: Mountain Shading
At this stage, I move back to the interior and I make my mountains three-dimensional (as well as any chasms or cliffs I might have). That means adjusting the shape of each mountain (so they’re not a long series of ugly little downward-facing angles) and adding shadows to each mountain. You may also notice the addition of one more river and a few more trees, which should have been on there already.

Finished Mountains

It may surprise you to learn that this is not in the running for “most tedious task.” By comparison to Stage 7, this is almost a delight.

Stage 7: Tree Shading
You see all those trees on that map? You see how many there are?

Finishes Trees

Boom. Shaded.

And now my hand hurts.

Stage 8: Miscellany
This is the final stage. It’s mostly unnecessary, as far as the map is concerned. But it’s fun, and it makes the map look cooler, so I usually do it. This is the part where I add a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with any particular locations on the map. I finish up the titles…

Finished Titles

… and I add things like ships…


… monsters…


… and a compass.


I’ve also been known to add a whale or two in my time, but it’s not as relevant to Auriel.

Stage 9: Completion
This is the last and final step. Here, I use photo-editing software to clean up the image, erase smudges, straighten up the disorderly, and, on occasion, add a little color. But that last one is pretty rare.

And thus, we have the final version of the map of Cavahir and surrounding lands, in the world of Auriel.


To be honest, I think the original might have looked better, in terms of visual quality, but I’m not disappointed in this one. There’s also a version with regions and capitals labeled, but keep in mind that those, above all else, are subject to change.

TCR Update, et al

Hello, reader(s)!

Lately, I’ve been working on “The Chimaera Regiment” again. I’m most of the way through the second chapter (out of fifteen) in my editing. Unfortunately, several later chapters will take much longer to edit than these early ones (which are mostly copy- and flow-editing). This will take time, especially since I have a day job and other things to attend to, but it will get done… eventually. I usually knock out a few pages every time I sit down to it. I don’t have a timeline for you, especially not for the finished product (i.e., audio recordings, cover images, finalized book), but I can tell you that it’s progressing.

In other news, I’ve taken Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic about as far as I can take them without paying for them. I have a level 50 and a level 32 on STO, and I have two level 15’s (with six other characters ranging from level 6 to level 14) on TOR. Briefly: both games are reflective of the multiplayer mentality of modern gaming. Which means that they’re not perfect. But they’re not bad.

STO really caught my attention because of how much I could do alone, mostly because I often had an away team on ground missions and space missions were never overwhelmingly difficult. I also enjoyed the “crew missions” aspect of the game (so much so that I gained my last six levels by logging in once a day just to do that). But the overarching story isn’t quite enough to keep me reeled in at level 50 (“Oh, no, the Undine/Species 8472 have infiltrated every government! Quick, let’s save the galaxy!”), especially since getting a level-50 ship requires either real money or way, way, way, way more time than I have.

TOR, similarly. I enjoyed working on the main quest by myself. It has a larger number of in-your-face group quests than STO (which has plenty if you’re looking for them, but they’re easy to avoid), but the main quest is easily possible on your own. Gameplay cinematics in an MMO are innovative, but not revolutionary. They also take up huge chunks of HDD space that I could better use for other things. I would probably go back to TOR if they made it free-to-play, but I’m in no rush for them to do that (and they’re not either, judging by their server populations)… even if the gameplay does reek of World-of-Warcraft-in-space. STO, at least, took a hint from Tera (which, I gather, is wildly popular, although I didn’t see the appeal) and made combat more FPS-like. And I have to admit, after shooting things with my mouse, watching an avatar shoot them with my “1” key is pretty lame.

Besides editing and gaming, I’m still planning a science fiction novel (with some sparse ideas for sequels and prequels) which I have affectionately dubbed the “DCTSF Project.” “SF” stands for “science fiction,” in case you missed it, and DCT are the initials of D.C., whose inspiration and creativity helped create the universe in which this novel will be written. (How it happened: about six and a half years ago, just after Christmas 2005, D.C. and I were on a ferry from Indonesia back to Singapore, whereupon we devised the majority of the setting for this novel. I know it sounds like there’s a story there, but that’s pretty much it.) In this novel, we’re going to have humans, who have reached a few stars (so they’re beyond the limits of the solar system at this point), but they’re not traversing the galaxy with ease; they’ve met a few other species, but so far, humans are the only ones who developed on a planet (instead of a moon). But in this story of pirates, linguistics, lawmen, and intrigue, they’re going to encounter something they’ve never encountered before…

… And that’s enough to tease you for now. That book will be quite some time in coming. I probably won’t start putting pen to paper until TCR is completely finished. But I wanted folks to know a bit about it before it gets here. And I know I’ve mentioned it before. But it always bears mentioning again.

Kickstarter, et al

Kickstarter (xkcd)

This. This is my experience with Kickstarter.

I saw this and, considering my brief experience with Kickstarter, I found it hi-larious. It’s not that I think that the nature of Kickstarter ruined my project, or even that I did everything within my power to make my Kickstarter project a success. There were a lot of things I missed out on, a lot of opportunities I passed up, and a lot of money I never earned… and considering what has happened since the failure of the project, there was no way I would have maintained the project on time, so it’s all for the best in the end, anyway.

But all that said, I still think that Kickstarter has gotten… commercialized. Sure, there are still plenty of folks who have nothing to their names accomplishing their dreams because of a successful Kickstarter project… but there are also video game companies, famous webcomic artists, and other people who already have significant fanbases using it as a means of collecting donations. Instead of saying, “Hey, you, give me money and I’ll give you stuff,” they’re using the established Kickstarter mechanism for it. I can’t really blame them – why reinvent the wheel? On the other hand, it tends to monopolize the funds available. I don’t imagine there are very many eccentric millionaires browsing Kickstarter who will give equally to famous and obscure projects. Most people are going to go with what’s likely to succeed… and what’s most likely to succeed is that thing which has succeeded in the past.

Not to mention that people on the Internet tend to donate to things on the Internet. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to use the Internet to its maximum efficacy in an attempt to produce, create, and advertise something which reeks of old fashioned and handle with care.

In short, people will give millions of dollars to make a video game, but can’t scrape together a few thousand for a book.

But I try not to be bitter.

At any rate, I’ve been inspired by a recent blog post to make something of myself, because I know people who know people who have already made something of themselves. So while I’m selling my soul in the retail world, and dividing my free time between trying to pack & to move and enjoying the company of my beloved wife, I will also attempt to complete the editing process on The Chimaera Regiment. I have begun my stylized stick-figure approximations of what I want for a cover, which will – hopefully – lead me down a path of artistic growth and personal development, since I sure as heck can’t afford to pay somebody else for the darn thing. Now, all that remains is making sure the book is actually worth reading. At the moment, I am utterly convinced of its shallow characters, poor plot development, inconsistent perspectives, limited depth of prose, and ultimately flawed nature (although I’ve been told that I’m harsh on myself). I have a great deal of editing and rewriting to do before it’s even remotely ready to be released… but I do still intend to release it as an audiobook, once I scrounge up the greenbacks for a quality microphone and audio editing software.

In other news, I am most of the way through the planning stages of a new novel, as yet untitled. It’s based in a science fiction universe devised (about six or seven years ago as of this posting) by the brilliant minds of D. C. and of myself. We mused about a possible science fiction future in which humans are not the biological underdogs they always seem to be in the Sci-Fi world, and in which religion and religious distinctions have not collapsed in some form of UFP-esque utopian development, but in which those distinctions have actually become primary among the peoples of Earth (or Terra – I haven’t quite decided on that yet). At any rate, this new novel is a space opera about pirates, exploration, human nature, intrigue, and linguistics. I have enjoyed planning it, I expect to enjoy writing it, and someday, I hope you will enjoy reading it. It really is quite excellent.

I also have more tentative, less established plans for a retelling of the myth of Orpheus, a sequel and a prequel to The Chimaera Regiment, and a retelling of the story of St. Telemachus (not to be confused with Telemachus, son of Odysseus), of which the last is the least developed (although it is also the oldest). If you were to place a wager upon the ordered release of future novels written by me, I would go with: TCR, space opera, TCR sequel, Orpheus, TCR prequel, other things, Telemachus somewhere in there.

Or something to that effect.


Kickstarter Project Funding Unsuccessful

I want to thank everyone who pledged to support my first novel, “The Chimaera Regiment,” but unfortunately, we didn’t make our funding goal. I still intend to move forward with that project, albeit at a slower pace, so I won’t be able to keep schedule.

In the meantime, I’ve begun work on the next 31 Prayers book. I’ve already selected the topic, the verses, and the categories, but I’m still finalizing the title. I only hope that people don’t think I’m trying to play to the lowest common denominator. I hope these prayers will be heartfelt, honest, and useful… and I know for a fact that they will be my own honest prayers for the time to come.

So anyway. Keep an eye here or on for more updates on that front. I will continue to provide updates here regarding The Chimaera Regiment as they are relevant.