Stepping Outside of Myself

Spider-Man and a friend

Your friendly neighborhood author (and a friend).
Photo by Heather Conner.

On Halloween night, I attended our church’s annual “Trunk or Treat” night, where my family (okay, mostly my wife) put together a trunk for the kids who came. I went as Spider-Man, and it turned out to be a very special experience.

I expected the kids that attended would think it’s cool to see a guy dressed in a fairly authentic-looking Spider-Man suit (I was leaning more toward “cosplay” than the standard “Halloween costume”), but I had no idea how big a deal it would become.

Hardly a minute or two went by (and sometimes a handful of seconds) when another boy or girl down the line would spot me and shout, “It’s Spider-Man!” Many times they bypassed the candy we were giving out altogether and came straight to Spidey. Most of them wanted high fives or fist bumps. There were probably 10-15 whose parents asked if I’d pose for pictures, and I tried my best to contort into a cool Spider-Man pose.

As incredible as those moments were, they weren’t my favorites. That distinction belongs to the five or six little ones — probably 2 to 3 years old, each — who without a word and without hesitation, ran up and gave me a big hug. “I love you, Spider-Man,” a few of them said. “Spider-Man loves you too, buddy,” I replied as I hugged them back.

To say that it tugged on my heartstrings does not do the event justice.

I don’t make a particularly impressive Spider-Man. I may be thinner than I used to be, but big muscles and the ability to grow them are not something God has ever gifted me with. I’m still a little squishier around the middle than I’d like to be. Then there’s the suit, which was cheap and poor quality. It didn’t fit so well, and I couldn’t see through the lenses. At all. (But the fact that we were in a parking lot with no bright lights actually helped sell the illusion.) By the end of the night, the suit was showing a lot of wear and tear.

But none of that mattered. For one night, I was Spider-Man, a real superhero that made a whole bunch of kids very, very happy.

And now I think I know what I want to be every year for Halloween.

Living with chronic pain and invisible illnesses is no fun. The pain ebbs and flows but never goes away, you’re always tired and want more sleep, and your mind decides to forget things that it knew just a few hours ago. That’s the tip of the iceberg. But for a few hours this week, I got to step outside of that person and be someone else. It was exhilarating! No thinking about my pains or fatigue or money or stress or whatever else; I existed purely as a real-life superhero to several hundred children.

I think it was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done.

Now if only there was a way to cosplay as Spider-Man for a living…

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How to Solve the Skywalker Problem

Daisy Ridley as Rey

A few years back, Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy famously said that the episodic Star Wars “saga” films are and always will be the story of the Skywalker family. From Episode I on, we’ve followed Shmi, Anakin/Vader, Luke, Leia, and now Ben/Kylo Ren.

In The Last Jedi, it’s revealed that the new trilogy’s heroine, Rey, has no connection to the Skywalker lineage. She’s not a Skywalker, a Solo, a Kenobi, a Windu, or even a Palpatine. She’s “no one” from “nowhere,” a development that worked narratively and emotionally for the character; it was the worst news Rey could have possibly received, yet she managed to rise above it and persevere. That’s what being a hero is all about.

But fans were kinda disappointed. Because logically speaking, how could the newest Jedi of the Star Wars saga not be a Skywalker? Not only did it break with the narrative pillars of the rest of the saga, it also meant that the evil Kylo Ren is the last of the Skywalker line — a development that doesn’t bode well for the line’s future.

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What I Remember About Writing FEARLESS

Fearless artwork

So I made it through Relentless. It wasn’t easy turning an online serial into a printed novel, but I did it. Now I had to figure out the sequel. Fearless was an odd beast. It was the toughest nut to crack of the three, the hardest one to write, and it’s my least favorite of the trilogy.

But I’ve heard from a number of people over the years who say it’s their favorite. Go figure!

Spoilers ahead for Fearless (and Merciless, too).

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6 Things People Don’t Know About Me

1. I have a weird thing about my hands.

I’m not OCD. I’m not a germaphobe. But I can’t stand for my hands to be sticky. There’s a famous story in my family about how I refused to take part in finger painting in kindergarten. Some things never change.

2. I can draw.

I’m couldn’t sell art or anything, but I can sketch respectably. When I was younger, I could look at any object and recreate it with paper and pencil. My son appears to have inherited this ability — but he far surpasses me. He’s able to do it from memory, and make up original things as well.

3. I always wear socks.

I never go barefoot. Don’t know why. Just doesn’t feel right without socks on. Exceptions are Hapkido class or the beach.

4. I’ve got mad bargain shopping skills.

For realz. Any store I enter, I make a beeline for the clearance section. I’m not ashamed to admit that most of my clothes come from clearance. My favorite online store is a closeout deep-discount store called Hollar. I’ve found lots of cooking gadgets for MANterest at Hollar, and most of what they carry is just $1-3! Shipping is free if you order $25 or more.

5. I cut my own hair.

Maybe I’m kidding myself and people have already figured this one out on their own…

6. I rarely read books.

I know, I know. Shameful for an author. But when you spend most of your day, everyday, staring at words, reading is pretty much the last thing you want to do when you have downtime. I play video games to unwind.

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