Feeling Odd

It’s a strange thing to find yourself without a daily job, without regular income, after almost fifteen years in the working world.

I don’t miss the hassles of Infuze, but I do miss its mission and purpose and what we tried to do there. And I desperately miss having that outlet to talk about interesting things in pop culture, which is my bread & butter. But more than anything, I miss having a steady, reliable income.

I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I feel like God has led me down the path that I’m on. To the best of my ability, I’ve been faithful to the doors that he’s opened before me. And I wouldn’t trade the time I get to spend with Evan by being at home every day for anything.

But money is a finite resource. And sooner or later, it’s going to run out. Mortgage companies, banks, and insurance agencies really don’t appreciate it when that happens.

So I feel like I’m floundering a bit, while I wait on God to come to our rescue. And it’s not like I haven’t been here before. He’s proven himself to me so many times, in situations much like this one. I guess I just still harbor that same fantasy that we all hold onto, that eventually, some day, life is going to get all sorted out, and Karen and I won’t have to worry about money and bills any more.

Are we living dangerously for not having mutual funds and gigantic savings and all that jazz? (Nevermind the fact that we’ve never had enough money for any of that stuff.) I know so many people who have such mastery over finances, who have pension plans and 401k’s and stocks and bonds and savings out the wazoo. And hey, if you’re good at that thing, then more power to you.

But there’s something about the mentality of financial security that’s always struck me as maybe dipping a toe across the line from “responsible” to “paranoid.” If your entire life is built around securing your own safety, what room is there for faith? Where are you allowing God to come in and do something miraculous for you? What if he’s desperate to show you just how big he is and what he can do for you, but you’re holding so tightly to the reins of your life that he never gets the chance?

I have no answers today. Only ponderings while I take care of my little boy (who has a cold this week) and wait on God to show me the way.

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Welcome, welcome

Hello, dear friends.

I’ve been out of contact for a while now, but I’m finally ready to return to the land of the blogging. You are looking at the brand new permanent home of my personal blog, where I’ll talk about books, writing, and all sorts of life “stuff.” Bookmark it, subscribe to the RSS feed, and all that other wonderful Web 2.0 stuff you can do with it nowadays.

A few housekeeping bits to get out of the way:

  • Yes, INFUZEmag.com is gone. Kaput. No more. Very sad, but also kinda freeing.
  • I am no longer working with XZOOSIA.com. Wasn’t meant to be.
  • I am working on a new website/ezine style project with a friend; he and I will be co-owners, with no corporate oversight or involvement. More on this when we’re ready to unveil. Another week or so, maybe.
  • Merciless is almost here! I got my first copy today, and that metallic chrome cover is just gorgeous.
  • My annual “launch party/book signing” event is set for Saturday, June 28th, from 3-5:PM @ Barnes & Noble of High Point, NC. Please come if you can! I’ll also be appearing sometime at ICRS at the Bethany/Baker Booth for an hour-long signing/book giveaway session, but I haven’t been told exactly when or what day yet. If you’re going to ICRS and would like to hook up, drop me a line at robin-at-robin-parrish-dot-com.
  • I’m signed for three more books from Bethany House, for publication Summer ’09, ’10, and ’11. The first of these will be a standalone science fiction novel entitled Offworld.
  • I have a few other projects brewing as well, including one that’s so cool, I wish I could tell you all about it… but it’s far too early.

So what have I been up to since Infuze’s demise? Mostly I’ve been enjoying being a dad. Little Evan came into the world late last December, and now he’s already almost 6 months old! Hard to believe! He’s the apple of my eye to put it mildly, and I love every minute I spend with him. As a work-at-home writer, I’ve also become a stay-at-home dad to the little guy. He’s precocious, precious, and I can’t get enough of him.

Oh, and I also had a book to finish. This little title you may have heard of called Merciless — aka, the big grand-slam finale to the trilogy I’ve been writing for the last four years. Finally holding a copy of the end of this story in my hands today for the first time… I can’t even describe the sense of accomplishment. It’s everything I hoped it would be and more, and I only hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’m having a hard time resisting hyping this one out the wazoo, ’cause I’m just so darn happy with it, but I’m going to be strong and resist and let the novel speak for itself.

By the way, Bethany House told me that the book was printed earlier than was expected and has already been released from the warehouse, so there’s a good chance you might see it starting to show up in your local bookstores soon. Ask for it!

This place you’re looking at is just one part of the brand new robinparrish.com, and like the rest of the site, will grow and expand over time. I have saved copies of all of my old blog entries from Infuze, and I’ll be importing them here over time, as well as sprucing up the look and feel of the place to something much cooler and more original. Aside from this blog, the new site is going to incorporate all sorts of goodies, such as extra fiction writings by yours truly (like short stories), downloads (wallpaper, video, icons, etc.), and quite possibly, an exhaustive online encyclopedia chronicling all of the minutia of the Dominion Trilogy.

In the meantime, please spread the word. I’m back. I’m at blog.robinparrish.com. And I look forward to talking with you.

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Trivia

My original plan for the Dominion Trilogy book titles were (in order): Bringer, Guardian, and Oblivion. If you’ve read the books, you know that these are all titles applied to the main character in each respective book. But this plan was vetoed by Bethany House, who felt that Bringer especially would not grab enough attention on store shelves.

They suggested the new title for Book One, and I followed their lead by coming up with the new titles for Books Two and Three.

In Relentless, in the scene where Drexel is about to enter the interrogation room to talk to Payton, someone tells him that the FBI have an interest in the man they’ve captured (Payton) and want to talk to him (Drexel) about it. In a near-final draft of the book, the FBI agent was mentioned by name — “FBI Special Agent Ethan Cooke.” I stuck in this reference to add continuity for what would become a major character, but the reference was ultimately cut for space and relevance. Ethan went on to be properly introduced in Fearless and featured prominently both there and in the final book.

Every character changed and deviated from the original story arc I had planned for them, except for one. Payton entered my mind fully formed and never deviated from that original vision. The character who changed the most from my original plan? Daniel.

As many readers have noticed, there’s a printing error in Relentless. In Chapter 48 (page 324), there’s a scene where Daniel is chatting with someone online, and I alternated black-on-white text and white-on-black text to differentiate between Daniel and his friend. It didn’t turn out that great in printed form; the margins are all wonky, the black backgrounds run a little over the next lines of black text. The worst part is the end of the chat, where the last black background completely obscures the first line of the next paragraph of the story.

As it appears in the book, that paragraph begins mid-sentence with:

who was in the kitchen, but the sentiment was there all the same.

It should read:

Daniel pounded a fist on the desk. Lightly, so as not to alarm Lisa, who was in the kitchen, but the sentiment was there all the same.

To signify the culmination of the trilogy with the final book, Bethany House went to extra lengths to ensure it would have a unique presentation. The process used to create the dust jacket cover for Merciless was a first for the publishing industry, in the way it was achieved. Various color printing passes were applied onto silver foil paper, and the graphic designers and printers at Bethany House didn’t know if this would work until they tried it.

The original outline for the trilogy had Grant choosing to become evil in the third book, Anakin Skywalker style. After finishing work on Relentless, I realized this was no longer in keeping with the person he’d become, since he had basically overcome his personal demons in that book. Revisiting that inner struggle felt like it would just be an unsatisfying rehash (though I still featured him pushing back the negative internal influence of the Ring in order to create uncertainty around the “is he causing the global disasters?” question).

Rather than rewind the character this way, I wanted to turn the page and move forward with him, so I decided that the emergence of Oblivion would be yet another thing that happens to Grant that’s a manipulation by outside forces, and ultimately beyond of his control. Once again, the world pulls the rug out from under him just as he’s gotten his footing. This rang true thematically, and it gave me the opportunity to move Grant further forward than I’d originally imagined possible.

Grant is the underdog character I repeatedly did the most nasty things to — changing his identity, killing off people he loves, twisting him into something evil against his will — but what was essential to me (and what was one of the major themes of the entire trilogy) was how he chose to react to each of those things.

It was always part of the plan that Book One would be the “hero’s journey”/coming-of-age tale, Book Two would be a superhero story, and Book Three would be an end-of-the-world/”disaster movie” kind of thing. Each book had to achieve this while still maintaining the sense of continuity of telling one big story in three books.

Fearless was the toughest entry in the trilogy to write. It’s the middle of the story with no true beginning or ending, so there’s no real resolution to anything. Relentless kind of burst from my head in this steady stream of wild ideas; it was probably the easiest to write. Merciless was the most gut-wrenching, because I had to put these characters who I’d been with for so long through such hardships and darkness. I was more meticulous with the final book than either of the others, and it’s by far my favorite of the three.

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F.A.Q.

Why do you sign your signature as “M. Robin Parrish”?

My first name is Michael, after my dad. I’ve always gone by Robin, so that is my proper name. But since I rarely write in cursive (I prefer to print), the only time I usually do anything in cursive is when signing a check, which requires my full name. Hence, the signature requires the M, and I can’t seem to reprogram my brain to do it any other way when signing books.


Your books read like movies. Is anyone ever going to make films out of them?

I probably get asked this more than anything other question, and the answer is complicated, so let me explain how the book-to-movie transition works, for those who don’t know.

For those of us who aren’t Michael Crichton or John Grisham, it’s a very convoluted process. It begins when the writer (that’s me) writes his book. Sometimes Hollywood producers find out about hot new titles that are in the works in advance, through industry trade publications. But more often, a producer or someone from a film production company will stumble across a book in a bookstore or a library, or hear about a great book from a friend, become interested, and contact either the author or their agent to inquire about the film rights.

If the producer decides to purchase the rights (and that’s a very big if), then they now own the exclusive option to make a movie based on your book. Note the word “option.” This ownership in no way guarantees that the movie will ever get made. (And most options usually run out after five to ten years, if there’s no movie by then.) After the rights are owned, getting a movie greenlit is a cumbersome task, and involves acquiring major studio funding (particularly for a film that would require a big budget for action and visual effects), which is not as easy as it sounds. There’s talent that has to be lined up (director, actors, screenwriters, etc.), and all of these stars and planets have to align perfectly, within a single, workable timetable or schedule, in order to make a movie happen. If all of these things take place, then at long last, a writer’s book is turned into a movie. But it’s worth noting that unless you’re J.K. Rowling, the writer has virtually no input whatsoever about the if, how, or when your book will be turned into a movie.

So as much as I’d love to see it happen, I am the last person who could ever make it come to pass.


You claim to be a Christian. Yet your novels contain precious few references to God, Jesus, the Bible, or even a sinner’s prayer. What gives?

My stock answer to this question is always, “I wonder if Tolkien or Lewis were ever criticized for their novels not being ‘Christian enough’.”

(I imagine they probably were.)


Merciless recounts a pseudo-historical backstory about the origins of the Secretum of Six, which mingles facts from the book of Genesis with your own ideas. Do you actually believe in this alternate view of history? Either way, why write something like this?

Part of the fun of being a writer is the chance to color outside the lines and ask “What if?” about anything and everything. One technique storytellers have used for ages is to look at recorded history, find the gaps in the recounted tales, and use that question “What if?” to fill in those empty spaces.

This is what I’ve done with the Dominion Trilogy. It’s a narrative rooted in the biblical, historical story of Cain and Abel, and then expanded upon with fictional ideas. It’s nothing more than another of these “What if?” scenarios.


Eye color?

Blue.


Height?

6’1″.


Weight?

Um, rude.


Birthmarks?

No markings, but I was born with a double earlobe on my left ear.


Any piercings? Tattoos?

Not my style.


How many broken bones have you had? Surgeries?

Had a stress fracture once, but never broken anything. Never had surgery, either.


Walmart or Target?

Tar-zhay.


PC or Mac?

Aren’t all creative people Macs? They should be.


Favorite clothing store?

I’m a hardcore Clearance shopper, so there are quite a few stores where I’ll always run in and check the clearance rack: Gap, Old Navy, Eddie Bauer, Bass, Haggar, Geoffrey Beene, LL Bean, the list goes on.


Favorite food?

Italian.


Favorite restaurant?

Macaroni Grill.


Favorite guilty pleasure?

Krispy Kreme donuts. The hot sign being on is evidence that God loves me.

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Only One

Written for INFUZEmag.com.

“Candidates, seekers, and dreamers. You have travelled far, prevailed over many challenges, and proven yourselves worthy.

“Thousands tried to reach this place, but only the five of you remain. Each equally noble, equally capable, equally ready for what lies ahead. You know the risks. As the entire world watches, you will each make your final attempt. We still do not know where it came from or where it leads to. We know merely that it was sent to us.”

A gentle breeze brushed across his face as Zak fought the urge to yawn, as the speaker — the Commissioner — paused his speech for dramatic effect, before finishing with:

“For only one… can open the Door.”

Zak had heard this phrase thousands of times now, yet despite himself, the magnitude of this moment caught up to him and his heart quickened once more. For years, Zak had dreamed of reaching this place. He could still remember how it all began on A-Day, as they called it.

Arrival Day.

The day the Door arrived on Earth. In a lovely courtyard in Ecuador, a few hundred feet away from a monument standing on the Equator, a massive, monolithic structure had simply appeared. Over five stories tall, its flat, metallic sheen gleamed brightly enough to be seen for miles away. Yet scientists had never identified exactly what its molecular structure was composed of.

The Door’s enormous archway was rounded in a giant semi-circle at its top, and along that frame, in more than a dozen languages, were engraved the words:

WILL OPEN FOR ONE
ON THE THIRD SUMMER SOLSTACE

Everyone had assumed that “the third summer solstace” meant the third one after A-Day. Like the rest of the world, Zak was immediately captivated by it. Where had it come from? Where did it lead to? Was it sent by another race? Was it conjured into existence by magic?

Zak nervously shifted his feet as the impeccably-dressed young Commissioner continued his meticulously prepared speech. Zak still had no idea how this young guy before him had been chosen to oversee the Doorway Project, as it had been dubbed via international council, and he really couldn’t bring himself to care. He was here to get close to the Door, and maybe, if he was worthy enough, to open it.

Only one…

The Commissioner droned on at a podium erected mere feet from the artifact’s threshold. Zak’s mind wandered as he glanced at his four competitors who stood two a piece on either side of him, shoulder to shoulder, all five facing the Door.

There was Samora, the South African woman, who never stopped smiling. Niklas, the severe German man who seemed incapable of smiling. Ilsa, the Swedish, blonde, and requisite “pretty face” competitor. And Peng Rui Bai, the astonishingly brilliant, elderly Chinese man.

Zak was the only one among them not carrying the responsibility of representing his country. Though born in the United States, he’d been a drifter his entire life, galloping off from one exciting place to another, determined to see every nook and cranny the world had to offer.

He harbored the secret hope that this might give him an edge over the others. After all, who better to take the ultimate plunge into the unknown than a man who’d never settled down?

“The time is upon us, at last,” the Commissioner said with great reverence. “Would the five candidates please step forward?”

Zak’s heart fluttered again as he took four steps forward, matching the others. All of them now stood within teen feet of the Door; it was closer than anyone — aside from the Project’s council and a handful of scientists — had ever been.

He had to fight the urge to rush forward and throw his shoulder against the Door with all his might. But would that open it? The question of how the Door would be opened had often filled his thoughts in the wee hours of the morning. When would the Commissioner explain it?

Of course, that thought only entered his mind when the more dominant one managed to step aside, however briefly. What is beyond the Door? Who would send such a thing to humanity, and why?

Only one…

“Each of you will be given twelve minutes — no more and no less — to make your attempt,” the Commissioner explained. “If you fail to open the Door, you will be dismissed from the Project. Assuming you survive the attempt, of course.”

“But, sir?” It was Samora, raising a hand with a question. The gathered crowd of thousands, along with the millions that watched via television and Internet around the globe, dropped their whispers to nothingness, all still and silent in anticipation of what Samora would interrupt this momentous occasion to dare ask.

“Yes?” the Commissioner replied, straightening his tie and trying to mask a slight frown.

How do we open the Door?”

I can’t believe she asked that! What a preposterous thing to blurt out!

Yet it was the very question on the mind of every single person on the planet. How could it not be asked?

“Hadn’t you guessed by now?” the Commissioner replied with an arched brow. “That is precisely what we are all here to discover.”

“You mean,” Zak suddenly cried, “you don’t know how we open it?” In all this time, it had never occurred to him that it would be up to the competitors to figure this out. He had assumed that they would all be given the same instructions, each try their hand, and the Door would allow whichever one of them it deemed most worthy, to enter.

“Of course not,” the Commissioner replied. “The Door has been examined by the greatest minds this world has to offer. Though clearly technological in origin, no moving parts have been detected within the structure, nor any sort of control mechanism.

“Simply put, we have no idea how it is to be opened. Perhaps you are to simply nudge it. Maybe it reads the fingerprints on your palm, or the retinas in your eye. Possibly there is a controller device, hidden where only one of you can find it. Or perhaps you simply walk into it. It is a profound mystery, but we believe one of you will solve it this very hour. And then the world will know.”

“But I thought ‘only one can open it’?” Zak replied.

Open it, yes. But we believe that once open, we can keep it open indefinitely, so that any who wish to, may enter in.”

Zak was thunderstruck. This had never occurred to him, either — that more than the “one” who opened it would be allowed to pass through the Door and learn its secrets.

He watched in stunned silence as Samora was first up to make her attempt. She walked all the way around it, ran her fingers all across its smooth, cold surface. She tried pressing her entire body into the Doorway, then just one hand. After twelve minutes of this, her time was up.

The crowd cheered her anyway as the Commissioner quietly directed her out of the immediate area. Next up was Niklas, the German. He tinkered around for the first six minutes, using some small tools he had brought along in his pockets, and tried prying the Door open. When that failed, he stood before it defiantly, hands on his hips, and strained his eyes and his brain in the direction of the archway, as if trying to will the Door to open.

He failed as well.

Zak’s turn came, and he found his hands shaking as he stepped forward and reached up at long last to touch the Door. He wanted to embrace it, to internalize it, to somehow make it a part of him. But he felt the pressure of the ticking clock and ran out of ideas. Devastated, he was escorted away into the crowd, while only a handful of onlookers cheered.

Clearly, he wasn’t the popular favorite.

Ilsa tried caressing the door, running her fingers along the engraved letters across the arch. Then she did something that made the entire crowd laugh out loud and then boo and hiss: she kissed it.

Peng merely stepped forward and sat before the Door, cross-legged. He appeared to be meditating, though later he would tell the press that he had been doing complex calculations in his head, in the hopes that the Door would recognize his intellect and grant him access.

The hour came and went, and all five candidates had failed. Quite uncertain of what to do next, the Commissioner called the proceedings to a close and vowed to meet with the Doorway Project council immediately, to determine if there had been some kind of error in reading and understanding the inscriptions.

Zak found his way back to the nearby hotel where the selection committee had housed him and his fellow competitors. He passed by the four others at one point, arguing loudly in the hotel lounge over what must have gone wrong. But he kept walking, until he reached his room, where he collapsed on his bed.

His tears ushered him into unconsciousness.

Zak awoke long after dark that night, and flipped on the television. Every network was airing news specials about the Doorway Project’s failure to open the artifice. The competitors were demonized, the Project was scrutinized, and the Commissioner was ostracized. The Door itself was called a twisted hoax meant to drain the world of goodwill and money.

Zak wandered to his second story window, where he could see the Door, reflecting the moonlight. It stood all alone in the night, long since abandoned by the spectator throng and apparently, the Project council as well. In fact, the entire courtyard was utterly… deserted. All alone it sat.

Only one…

Alone!

Zak gasped and glanced at the digital clock by his bed.

11:49 PM.

He wasted no time; he ran out on the balcony adjacent to his room, to avoid Project security downstairs, and climbed down a drainage pipe to the ground below. He landed with a gentle whoosh and ran through the darkness for the Door as fast as his legs would carry him. He approached the electric fence that had been placed around the courtyard and climbed a nearby tree to get over it.

His thoughts returned to the inscription…

WILL OPEN FOR ONE…

“Who goes there! Halt!” screamed an angry male voice from behind. He knew it would be the Project’s security detail, who monitored the round-the-clock perimeter around the Door’s courtyard to ensure no one tainted or sabotaged the mysterious device.

“STOP RIGHT THERE!!” another voice shouted, and then there were footsteps falling fast somewhere behind him. Zak thought he might have heard the sound of gun safeties being clicked off.

“If you approach the Door, you will be shot dead!” an authoritative voice announced. But it was still far behind, like all of the other sounds. He had too much of a lead, he could only pray it was enough, that they would be unable to get close enough to the Door before he reached it…

It was twenty feet away now, and he could almost feel it. The wind rushed through his face and his dark hair, and there were dogs barking in the distance to his rear, but he thought only of the Door and this one, last chance at achieving the impossible, seeing something no one else had ever seen…

He stretched out his hand as he neared the door. His fingers only inches from the door, there was suddenly a light brighter than any he had ever seen, and he thought for a moment that perhaps he’d been shot in the head. But then he saw that the Door was the source of the light.

In the next second, the security men watching would see only the light flash out, and Zak swallowed by it.

Zak stared out in wonder.

Around him was a place like nothing he had ever seen, like nothing that could ever be described in words. It was a place of delight, beauty, mystery, and awe, full of colors beyond the spectrum, sounds to both please and terrify, and smells of every kind.

The very ground he stood on seemed to glow. As he was noticing this, a very old man approached him, leaning on a wooden cane that looked like a tree branch. He wore overalls and a red flannel shirt, as well as a straw fedora atop his snow white head.

“Welcome,” the old man croaked, wheezing for breath and leaning heavily on the cane.

“Where is this?” Zak asked, jaws wide with amazement.

“You have come,” the old man replied, “to the center.”

“The center of what?”

“Of everything.” Zak thought he detected a grin buried amid the withered man’s features.

“Meaning what? Does this place have a name?”

“It goes by many names. Atlantis. Narnia. Never-Never Land. Outer space. The center of the earth. A galaxy far, far away. Everyone calls it something different, but it is a real place — as substantial as the air you breathe. You are standing on the most priceless land in the universe. The most fertile soil in all of creation.”

“I don’t understand. Why am I here? And what does it mean?”

“As a very wise man once wrote, it means that your arrival does not herald the end of this story, but the beginning of all others. From here, the greatest adventures have yet to be born into existence. But this is a precious, innocent place. It requires the presence of a Caretaker. You listened, followed, and refused to fail. My time has faded. You are the Caretaker, now.”

Somehow, Zak knew. Untold possibilities filled his mind, and he knew them to be all of the great stories still waiting to be written.

The old man began to stoop until he was on one knee, and Zak helped him lower to lay on his back. “Protect this place! Keep it safe! Without it, life would falter and end. Guard this treasure, this repository, with everything you hold dear to you, so that it will always be available to the makers, the creators, and the dreamers. And one day, another will come to take your place.”

“I will,” Zak found himself saying. “I promise.”

The old man took a final breath and closed his eyes before mumbling just above a whisper.

“The Door always knows who to choose,” he said as Zak held his dying hand. “I can see in you that it chose rightly, once again. You have been an adventurer all your life. Now, you are the adventure.”

Copyright 2007 ©Robin Parrish. All rights reserved.

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