Thursday, November 24, 2016

If My Suspense Novels Were Amish Romances

I was reminded last week of these hilarious book covers put together by one of my readers (the one and only Andy Doane), depicting Playing Saint and The Last Con as Amish paperbacks. This is probably worth doing with your favorite books... 😄

Monday, November 21, 2016

Help Me Name the Playing Saint Sequel

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody!

It's a great time of year. Everybody's feeling grateful and magnanimous this week and I'm just going to admit right off the bat: I'm looking to take advantage of that. Brother (or sister), could you spare like 25 seconds to weigh in on potential titles for the Playing Saint sequel (coming out next fall)? I'd be awfully grateful! (See? It's contagious!)

Click here to take the 3-question survey and help choose the title !

Monday, November 7, 2016

I Love My Books

How do you define success for an author? Getting an agent? Getting a book deal? Getting a second book deal? Keeping your agent and your publisher well into a lucrative career? NYT bestseller list? Keynoting writers' conferences? Some level of fame?

I define it like this: writing books you love and getting them into the hands of people who will also love them. And that I have done and hope to continue to do. What I write is not based on what is selling or trending at the moment. It's not the result of a formula found in a "how to plot a bestseller" book. It's what I want to read.

I never understand it when an author says he doesn't read his own books. If you don't even want to read them, why should I? I'm busy at the moment, writing another suspense title, but if I weren't...I'd gladly crack open one of my novels and I'd enjoy it. Why, everything happens just as I would want it to. What more can you ask for? Sure, I'm not surprised by it. There's no nail-biting, but there never is when you re-read.

Even though I meet less than half the above criteria for what makes a successful writer, I'm often asked for writing advice. And this is the best advice I can offer: write books that you love. Books you want to read. There will be others who will share your taste in reading materials and that will mean more than chasing a trend, a hot genre, or the ever-elusive book market.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Read Some Scary-Exciting Christian Fiction This Halloween!

Playing Saint is available as a paperback, ebook, or largeprint hardcover. Click here..


"It's Halloweeeeeeeen." -Capt. Raymond Holt


Monday, September 19, 2016

Sometimes Mr. Midlist gets to... down to Texas and spend three days with his favorite author, shooting guns, smoking cigars, hearing incredible stories, and having unforgettable experiences. Hear more about this trip on the next episode of the Gut Check Podcast.

Praise to our God and arrows to our enemies!


Monday, September 12, 2016

You can do it.

“…You can do anything, anything
They told me not to rap or sing a thing
I failed music; they said, Don’t do it
I put down acoustics and started a movement
If I can do it, you can do it
If you can do it, they can do it
If we can do it, what we doing?
Let’s start moving”

                        -Manfest, “Bounce

Have an awesome day. Do something amazing. Maybe write something amazing.


Monday, August 29, 2016


Not much time to blog today. I #amwriting the YA suspense novel I've told you about.

As I've mentioned before in numerous blogs, interviews, and writing conference talks, I always put together a playlist of music that evokes the atmosphere and vibe of the book. It's not usually my favorite music, but there's something about the aggregate effect that gets me quickly into the right head-space to pick up where I left off.  This book's playlist is just beginning to form, but here is where it stands so far:

Yes, I realize one of these songs was on the Lego Movie preview; my book is very different, I promise. Also, while there are several songs below with nonsense-lyrics, I promise Clinch will be coherent. :)

 The Rend Collective - Create in Me a Clean Heart

Weezer - My Name Is Jonas

Of Monsters and Men - Dirty Paws

I Am They - From the Day

The Boondock Saints - Holy Fool

Plankeye - Open House

Burlap to Cashmere: Chop Chop

Flatfoot 56 - Brotherhood

Avicci - Wake Me Up

Monday, August 15, 2016

Pushstarting a Locomotive

So I read The Secret when it was all the rage because I’m a pastor and I feel like I should keep up to date on the religious trends of our culture. I couldn’t believe how stupid it was. The “Law of Attraction,” which basically says that if you kick out positive vibes to the universe, the universe will deliver positive things back to you, seems like the sort of thing you’d only ever encounter on a sitcom, when a writers’ room is trying (lazily) to establish a character as a flaky, New Age nut.

But people have bought tens of millions of copies. I don’t get it. I mean, it’s one thing if God is rewarding your positivity (although the Christian Scriptures certainly don’t say a peep about that), but . . . the universe? In the words of Don Draper, “The universe is indifferent.” I even find it a little superstitious when Dave Ramsey tells people that having an emergency fund actually makes emergencies less likely to happen (Murphy stands in for the universe in that case).

And yet . . . it was shortly after I decided to start writing again and committed to finishing serializing my book Out of Sardis online (because no publisher wanted it) that the book got a nibble from a publisher who wanted a look at it. Then another possibility opened up. Long story short, the book is off the interwebs and back in play. Coincidence? Maybe. Matthew 25:21 in action? Ehhhh, maybe. Awesome? Potentially.

The fresh excitement of my writing life in general, though, is more explainable. I’m reinvigorated about a number of projects and am working pretty steadily on a YA manuscript that I really believe will be my best book yet. It’s got a slow-burn mystery wrapped up in a rather frantic plot, not unlike The Last Con, but with the addition of a claustrophobic, isolated rural town (which is something I loved about some of Peretti’s earlier stuff). I can’t wait for you guys to read it.

I’ve got no use for Murphy or the benevolence of the Universe, and I know that God doesn't necessarily wait to help us until we help ourselves, but now that I’ve push-started this locomotive once again and it’s picking up speed, the will to write is no longer a precious commodity. I’ve got more than I know what to do with.


Monday, July 25, 2016

When It Rains, It Rains Frogs. Mutant Frogs.

So a few weeks ago, I confessed that I hadn’t been writing. Not for months. But now I’m back like a butterfly tramp stamp. And I’ve got a lot to write. Too much, actually.

It's not like the merciful end to a writer’s block, when the debris sort of sloughs away and the words and ideas start trickling, slowly at first, before picking up speed. Because this was unnatural. My brain had been active, but I had been willfully pushing all ideas back down into my psyche, waiting for certain external things to resolve, publisher-wise. But now that I’m writing again, I find myself somewhat paralyzed by the sheer number of things crying out to be written.

I might liken it to my favorite method of brewing coffee; the Toddy Cold Brew System. This method involves leaving nine cups of water and one pound of coarse-ground coffee in a carafe to brew at room temperature for twelve hours—or longer if you want it stronger. At the bottom is a special filter and a litter rubber stopper to keep the coffee in there, steeping for the designated period. (The result is a delicious, non-bitter coffee concentrate that can be used to make hot or cold coffee or specialty coffee drinks.)

So it’s like I put the stopper in when I stopped writing and this stuff has been percolating for months. And now that I’ve pulled out the stopper, it . . . You know what? Let me switch metaphors.

You know how they say, “When it rains, it pours?” Well, in my case, it's not normal pouring. It’s more like the frogs that rained down on Egypt. As soon as they land, they start jumping around, croaking and looking for attention. These ideas are alive and somewhat angry. Instead of ribbit, they say, “Write-Me.” And they’re not even regular frogs. They’re mutating before my eyes as they jump around!

What I mean by that is, I spent the last week as camp pastor at a Christian camp for 7th and 8th graders. As I was reflecting on some of the peculiarities of Christian camp culture, it occurred to me that it would make a great setting for a Young Adult suspense story. I’ve never written YA, but I actually still read it—both with my son and (certain books by J.D. Fitzgerald, Gordon Korman, and Frank Peretti) for my own amusement. On top of that, I do believe I have a gift for communicating with young people. Without my consent, one of my frogs (a book I’ve outlined and started) mutated before my eyes into a better idea for a YA novel. I sent my agent an e-mail about it and she agreed it’s a good idea. But they all seem like good ideas at the moment.

So the question remains, what to write? I’ve got the Playing Saint sequel, about which I’m jazzed, but which I’ve given up the idea of selling to a major publisher. There’s this semi out-there project, which is trying to morph into a YA novel. And, of course, the reboot of my gritty, urban retelling of the story of Elijah. Not to mention a sort of medical suspense thing I’ve been outlining in really broad terms, working title: Expiration. And two different nonfiction works.

Usually, one of those frogs is croaking far louder than the others; so you write the thing you can’t bear to not write for one more minute. But this time, they’re all hopped up (heh) on Red Bull, ribbiting at full-blast. I’ve been tending to each one in turn, a bit here and bit there. But I really want to attack one project full-force, and soon. Maybe the right answer will suddenly appear in a Writer’s Digest article about the current state of the market or in an e-mail from a reader. Or maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow with a singular desire to write one of these things and see it through to the end.

Either way, after months of writing nothing at all, it’s a good problem to have.

Update (9/12/16): It's the YA novel. I've used a push broom to corral all the other frogs into a large terrarium and I'm going full-speed on this one.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Midlist Monday: Healing a Schizophrenic Brand

Note: If you don't know what Midlist Monday is all about, check out my last post here.

A few years ago, I decided to take the first few steps on the road toward publication. I’d written a few books, some of which a friend and I had put out on our own independent press, but I had one in the chamber that I really wanted to see on bookstore shelves, published by a traditional publisher. I knew it was good enough and I wanted to see how much better it could be with the editing, design, and marketing powers of a deep-pocketed corporation. I also, if I’m honest, wanted to receive a nice fat check before a single copy had sold.

For the uninitiated, this process begins with a whole bunch of “query letters.” The best way to get a book deal is to have a literary agent working hard to get you one. And the way to get a literary agent is through querying. So I started sending letters and copies of my book proposal to agents who represented some of my favorite authors. As is almost universally the case, I received an awful lot of rejections. The helpful ones came with some advice for how I could improve my book proposal or, more often, my “brand.”

I realized quickly that, even though I didn’t realize I even had a “brand,” I did, and it needed some help. The most common thing I heard was that my brand was too broad and diverse. When you googled my name, you found 1. my cheesy smile on the church website and a bunch of sermons, 2. the niche small press, known primarily for snark and satire,which I run with a friend, and 3. a fledgling web presence for Zachary Bartels, suspense author. It was too scattered, I was told. I needed to find a way to unify it or, better, trim it down so that Zachary Bartels’ online presence was largely limited to the suspense writer stuff. I did my best, removing most links and references to my sermons, nonfiction writing, podcast, and satire from my website and social media pages.

Eventually, I did land a great agent, who quickly got me a two-book deal with a major publisher (my first choice, in fact). But now I find myself feeling oddly pigeon-holed, like a type-cast middle aged actor who doesn't necessarily want to stop playing sitcom dads, but also wants to audition for some other roles.

Of course, conventional wisdom says that, if you must branch out to different genres, you should use a pen name. That way you can start cultivating a new brand identity without diluting the one you've already been working on. But conventional wisdom and I are not on the best of terms at the moment. And there are exceptions to every rule. My friend Carrie Stuart Parks has been writing award-winning Christian suspense under the very same name she uses for her instructional art books. Readers seem oddly unconfused by this. Steven James, bestselling suspense author whose endorsement has helped me greatly, has also written kids’ books, devotionals, and nonfiction without a pseudonym. And N.T. Wright, best known for his rather academic writing, uses the (non-)pen name Tom Wright for his popular-level books and commentaries.

At any rate, I’m in the process of re-consolidating my “brand,” as it stands. I’ve added nonfiction and satire to my books page on my website, and I’m currently working on a nonfiction book about pastoring a small church in the midst of a megachurch culture, another satire with my friend (and award-winning author) Ted Kluck, and two (or maybe three) suspense titles, obviously one at a time.

That’s an awful lot, you might be thinking. And you’re right. But more about that next Monday.

To learn more about querying agents and the 
different paths to being published, check out. . . 


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

#amNOTwriting: A Confession

So you should never begin a blog post by apologizing for “how long it’s been” since you last blogged or (worse) explaining why it’s been so very long. Writing (and Speaking) 101: always start strong, with a hook, not with a soul-suckingly boring laundry list of tedious events and obligations. But what if you’re writing about the dearth of posts? Is it okay then? Nah, still better to kick it off with something that grabs the reader, like . . .

Confession: I haven’t been writing.

If I were the kind of guy to use established hashtags on a regular basis, you’d still never see the ironically-broken-English-sounding #amwriting tag from me—at least not since last November, when I finished a short story double-header called God Rest Ye Motor City, which I think is some of my best writing to date, despite having been cranked out in just a few days. “#AmNOTwriting” is more like it (or maybe . . . “#aintwriting” to better mirror the janky grammatical issues of the original?). Yeah, every tweet and post since before Thanksgiving should be tagged with one of those. I’ve spoken at three writing conferences during that time, but I haven’t been writing anything.

I guess that’s not entirely true. I write a sermon every week. Often two. And sometimes a lesson. But that’s a whole different thing.

So what makes a just-starting-out novelist, briefly referred to as “The Suspense Author Everyone’s Talking About,” just . . . stop? I’d like to say it's kind of a Salinger thing. I’ve penned my Catcher and my Nine Stories and now I’m fading into obscurity while the world builds up my mythos. But that doesn’t work when your paperbacks are ranked in the neighborhood of 1,000,000 on Amazon and everyone’s not, in actuality, “talking about”  you. So, at the risk of reciting the aforementioned soul-suckingly boring laundry list of events, let me fill you in . . .

My two traditionally published books, Playing Saint (2014) and The Last Con (2015), have performed as one would expect the debut and follow-up of an unknown author to perform—neither breakout smash hits nor total flops. They were nominated for three awards, were finalists in all three, but won none. And, for a variety of reasons, my publisher and I parted ways. Which makes it sound like it was mutual, when in reality they had a contractual right of first refusal and they exercised that right (specifically on a proposal for a Playing Saint sequel).

So my agent sent the prop on to some other publishers, along with a proposal for a book I’m currently calling Clinch, which has a rather out-there premise, involving a paramedic, a long-lost treasure, an Indian tribe, and a woman who runs a junk shop by day and decides to become a super hero by night—all in a sleepy little Midwest tourist town. Not surprisingly, Breaking Saint (as I’ve been calling the Playing Saint, pt 2) was a none-starter. No one wants to do the sequel to a modestly-performing thriller owned by the competition. (In fact, a couple editors seemed kind of confused to have received the proposal.) And Clinch was just too unconventional, they said. Too fringe. Too niche. Too midlist. But we like the writing and please send us any future projects that are more marketable.

In early April, I decided to start another project while I waited to hear back from the remaining publishers considering these proposals. I would write a nonfiction book I’d been outlining for quite some time and serialize it, releasing a chapter at a time on The Blazing Center, an awesome online magazine that has published my work in the past. I was thinking I’d write one chapter every couple weeks. To date, I’ve written (waaaait for iiiit) one chapter. And, if I’m honest, that one was already written, almost a year earlier. Chapter 2 remains half-done. It’s been almost three months.

While #notwriitng, I’ve been barely-active on social media (at least on my author accounts), occasionally sharing the sort of stuff authors of Christian fiction are expected to share, along with a few things I actually wanted to. It’s been no secret that I’ve had something of an ongoing struggle with pandering, whether with my “image” as an author or with the actual content of my books. More on that in a future post. Suffice to say, in response to all this, I wrote most of a book proposal that I’m fairly sure would get picked up by an advance-paying publisher if I were to put it out there. And yet, I really had no interest in writing it. Or writing at all.

But wait! Come to think of it, I have been writing something over the past few months. Me and my buddy Ted Kluck have been writing a sequel to the end-times satire we put out in 2012. It’s the last thing any mainstream CBA publisher would touch. But I’m writing like an animal. Seriously, I can’t stop. Maybe because it’s refreshing to write without the pressure of trying to break out of the midlist, without dulling the sharp edges to suit the market, without subconsciously trying to target a demographic that is unlikely to get what I really want to say. Instead, I can write for the hundred or so people who actually e-mail and tweet me, asking when they can read my next book, because they loved the last one. I can write what I want to read. It’s stupid stuff at the moment (seriously, the plot involves a drug called “Ultragest” that shortens the human gestation period to six weeks), but it’s freeing in a weird way. It's the means, not the end, but it actually has me writing again.

So here’s the updated confession: My name is Zach and I’m a midlist author. (“Hiii, Zach.”) And I’m cool with it. I #amwriting, but I’m on no one’s 2016 list. It’s been nearly a year since The Last Con came out and I finally feel the desire to write again—not from without (you should have another book in the works or you'll be a year behind!), but from within.

And here’s what I see in my future: I’m not waiting for one of the Big Six (which I think have become the Big Four) to sign me again. I’m not waiting for anything.

  • I’m going to finish Chapter 2 of Out of Sardis and send it to The Blazing Center.
  • I’m going to finish Breaking Saint and it will be available to readers next year, even if I put it out independently. People keep asking if there will be another Parker Saint book. There will, God willing.
  • And I am going to reboot my gritty, modern retelling of the story of the prophet Elijah, through a new upstart publisher where a bunch of blood and bullets are not a deal-breaker. I’m hoping to make it a trilogy.

And I’ll keep you in the loop, right in this space. Here’s a hashtag I’ll actually use: #MidlistMondays. Most Mondays for the foreseeable future, starting next Monday, I’ll explore a different aspect of life in the literary limbo where I currently reside,having decided to just get comfortable here, light up a fine cigar, and craft some books that I would want to read. Books like Playing Saint. Books like The Christian Gentleman’s Smoking Companion, which I wrote and published with Ted and which has sold almost as many copies as either of my traditionally published novels.

While I respect all the podcasts and workshops and books about how to get your foot in the door of the Publishing Machine (I even contributed to one) as well as all the advice, freely (and not-so-freely) given by industry veterans, about how to keep your career moving up and your “platform” expanding . . . when it actually quenches your desire to write, it’s time to let all that go.

Walk into your local Barnes and Noble today and I’m not sure whether you’ll find one of my books on the shelf. I actually kind of doubt it. Maybe soon they'll be on the bargain table.

But I’m writing. And that feels good.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Inspy Award Interview

Happy Monday to you!

 For the second year in a row, I'm on the shortlist for an Inspy Award! They will be announced tomorrow.

Today, they posted a short interview with me on the Inspy website. I talk about what inspired The Last Con, the challenges of writing suspense, and what sort of stuff I'm reading, writing, and listening to at the moment.

 Click here to read it.

It sort of feels like a repeat of last year, in that I'm up against Ted Dekker, as well as Carrie and Ronie. Of course, that doesn't exactly bode well in that Ted won last year with an almost identically titled book. : )

Oh well. Either way, it's an honor to make it to the finals!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

These Go to 11!

I'm super-stoked to have been the guest on this week's episode of one of my favorite podcasts, "These Go to Eleven" with Greg Dutcher and Nathan Bell. 

It's an hour of great conversation, about writing, publishing, podcasting, cigars, and all sorts of other stuff. You can listen here:

But even if you don't have a full hour to listen, at least take five minutes to hear me fulfill my life's dream (meaning, something I've wanted for like a year) of being berated by the one and only, angry fundamentalist (and fully fictional) preacher, Rev. James King! 


Saturday, March 26, 2016

An Article for the Climax of Holy Week

Satan enjoyed that Friday intensely.
He perched on the cross, watching the Son of God suffering and dying, sin piled on his boney shoulders, occasionally crying out in pain.
He crept up beside him to mock and jeer. He made his way through the crowd, throwing fuel on the fire of hatred and spite in the men who mumbled, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself” and shouted with a laugh, “Come on down! Then we will worship you!”
He enjoyed sticking his sword through the heart of Jesus’ mother who was weeping in a heap a few yards from the cross, while Jesus writhed in agony, seemingly helpless to put a stop to it.
And he enjoyed stroking the egos of the religious leaders standing at a distance, stirring up an almost sexual glee in their flesh as they watched their enemy finally get what he deserved.
When Christ gave up and died (the first on the hill to cash it in, the demons pointed out with a scoff), the Devil laughed himself hoarse. The sight of the King of Kings, slumped against that pole, his eyes vacant, the birds of prey already swooping closer and closer, was too hilarious for words.
The Christ’s hold—or what had remained of it—on this wicked planet had finally been broken. Decisively. It was now the exclusive property of the Devil and his angels. If Satan had any doubt of that, it was put to rest when he heard the news that the curtain in the temple was split in two (so long, “holy place!”) and a surge of supernatural energy had caused hundreds of people to start seeing ghosts all over the city!
The age of evil—unfettered evil—was now beginning.
Saturday was a field day for Satan. He was usually in a foul mood on the Sabbath, but not today; not ever again! He attended a Roman orgy, the stoning of a young child, and several pagan temple services. And between each, he made a stop back at the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, where Jesus’ dead body lay at room temperature.
As for Jesus’ soul, it was in Hades with all the pitiful slaves of sin and objects of wrath who had died before him. How utterly stupid of God himself to become sin and tempt fate on a Roman cross. Didn’t he know that, to the Prince of Darkness, a cross was like a lyre in the hands of a skilled musician?
The Devil spent the evening curled up under the bloated body of Judas Isacriot, hanging dead from a tree. Treachery was a great dessert, and Satan lingered there, dreaming about what he would do to his slaves tomorrow.
Then came Sunday.
Satan first heard the report from a demonic foot soldier who had been skulking . . .

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Moon Landings and Bad Bible Interpretations

Today, I am reviewing an incredibly important and relevant book, which you have probably never heard of. It’s called The Bible and Rockets to the Moon by Edward Boone. First off, let me apologize; you won’t be able to find this work anywhere, nor can you borrow my copy. But that’s okay, because I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about this little volume. Strap in; we’re going to hit 5 Gs.

The book begins with the bold observation that, “Radio commentators, newspapers, and magazines have been talking in terms never before used in the history of the world.” This is conveyed as a bad thing, largely because recent achievements have been so far beyond the average citizen’s understanding that they “leave the human race groping in darkness like a blind man.” I know, sounds bad.

Oh, I should mention that this little booklet was written after Sputnik and Explorer, but before Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface. And the “relevant issue” at hand is whether or not landing on the moon would be a sinful rebellion against the Almighty. I inherited this short, saddle-stitched volume from my late grandmother, who had a whole shelf full of similar booklets and pamphlets—some of them full of solid Gospel material, and a few of them more or less cookoo for Cocoa Puffs. I have no idea where she got them or what she thought of this particular book. Seriously, though; stick with me. I promise it really is relevant.

Mr. Boone attempts to use the Bible to build. . .

Click here to read the rest.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Answers for week 3 of Con/Heist Movie Trivia

Here are the answers to the last set of Con/Heist Movie clues.

You can check out part 1, part 2, and part 3 by . . . ya know . . . clicking them.

1. The Sting
2. American Hustle
3. The Lady Eve
4. Matchstick Men
5. The Italian Job
6. Ocean's Eleven
7. Mercy Streets
8. The Parent Trap

Monday, February 8, 2016

Week 3: Con/Heist Movie Trivia

Long before I wrote The Last Con, I was a huge fan of con and heist movies.  This is the last of three quizzes  to test your knowledge and griftiness (part 1 and part 2 are here). Eight clues for eight movies, each week.

Name the following movies based on the synopsis:

5. A remake. A team of thieves-with-hearts-of-gold seek revenge against a thief with no heart of gold and an evil, pencil-thin mustache. Starring two rappers, two Acadmy Award winners, a Transporter, a Monster, Jack Bauer's dad, and a bunch of MINIs.

6.Another remake. A team of thieves-with-hearts-of-gold seek revenge against a rich guy who doesn't seem all that bad, but isn't as cool as the thieves, so we want them to come out on top. Starring everyone who was cool in 2001. Followed by a crappy sequel and a good sequel.

7. A good "Christian film" (which is unusual). A con man must pretend to be his priest brother in order to dodge a dangerous criminal who is out to get him. The soundtrack is incredible, including Moby, Jennifer Knapp, and Sixpence!

8. Two reckless youths discover they are related while on a summer trip and plan an elaborate con with their parents as the marks. Both have pronounced British accents, despite allegedly being from Boston and California, hinting that a deeper con yet might be in play.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Answers for week 2 of Con/Heist Movie Trivia

 Here are the answers for week 2 of Con/Heist Movie Trivia.

1. Out of Sight
2. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
3. The Usual Suspects
4. Maverick
5. The Inside Man
6. Jackie Brown
7. Identity Thief
8. Confidence

Click here for part1 and check back next Monday for part 3.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Week 2: Con/Heist Movie Trivia

Long before I wrote The Last Con, I was a huge fan of con and heist movies. Last week, I launched a series of three weekly quizzes to test your knowledge and griftiness. This is week two of a three week game of "Name the con movie." Eight clues for eight movies, each week.

This week, we've got screenshots with all faces either erased or obscured with my own mug. Enjoy.

Answers posted on Thursdays.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Answers for Con / Heist Movie Trivia, part 1

Below are the answers for part 1 of the Con/Heist Movie Trivia game.  Check back next Monday for part 2.

1. Reservoir Dogs
2. Paper Moon
3. The Score
4. Sneakers
5. Snatch
6. Catch Me If You Can
7. Boiler Room
8. Grifters

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Con/Heist Movie Trivia, part 1

I've been a huge fan of con and heist movies for years and years—long before I wrote The Last Con. If you like them too, you'll want to check back here each Monday for the next three weeks for my con movie trivia.

Eight clues for eight movies each week.

Below are four movie quotes. Identify the grift/con/heist movie without googling. If you google, you will get crippling diarrhea.

5. "You're always gonna have problems lifting a body in one piece. Apparently the best thing to do is cut up a corpse into six pieces and pile it all together."

6. "Two little mice fell into a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned, but the second mouse, he struggled so hard that he eventually churned that cream into butter and he walked out. Amen."

7. "The Notorious BIG said it best: 'Either you're slingin' crack-rock, or you've got a wicked jump-shot.' Nobody wants to work for it anymore. There's no honor in taking that after school job at Mickey D's; honor's in the dollar, kid. So I went the white boy way of slinging crack-rock: I became a stock broker."

8. "You have a visitor, Mr. Dillon. A very attractive young lady. She says she's your mother." 
 Answers will be posted here on Thursdays.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I Am Xerxes' Crushing Insomnia. . .

My insomnia is back. It randomly shows up out for a week or two, vexing me greatly, before disappearing just as randomly (usually for a couple months). I hate it, or course, as I hate hell, all Montagues, and every “Nae Nae” video. When you’re up at 3:30 AM, knowing you have to take your kid to school in three hours and then officiate a funeral or preach at the rescue mission, there’s very little you can do but harrumph quietly (so as not to wake the wife) and get more and more angry.

Sometimes I’ll get up and read my twitter feed, because that (i.e., any twitter feed) is literally the most boring thing ever. I have tentative plans with fellow author/fellow pastor/fellow insomniac Noah Filipiak to meet at this greasy spoon twenty-four-hour diner called “Theo’s” a couple blocks from our homes when we’re both up in the dead of night, but we’ve never done it and likely never will. I used to post my frustrations on Facebook (“Arggh! Still awake!”), but I couldn’t take the comments, which were a combination of obvious advice (“Try Melatonin!” “Stop looking at your laptop screen BECAUSE BLUE LIGHT!”) and pious suggestions that were just too darn pious for the hour.

For example, “Sounds like a great opportunity for some in-depth Bible study!” or, “Maybe God is giving you this time as a gift and you should use it to pray!” The people making such suggestions mean well and, in the clear light of day, it all sounds fine. But I’m convinced these commenters are either way holier than me or (more likely) have never had real, enduring insomnia—at least not the brand I’ve had. Remember that scene in Fight Club when Jack is slumped on the couch, slack-jawed, not-watching some horrid infomercial at 4 AM and the voice-over says, “When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep and you’re never really awake?” That couldn’t be more true.

Don’t get me wrong. In the fifth hour (or fifth night) of insomnia, I do pray. Things like, “Lord, please let me fall asleep.” The Spirit also prays for me with groanings that cannot be uttered, which is good. But beyond that, my mind could not focus enough to truly pray for an extended period and I’d fall into the crass cliché, “Forget counting sheep; try talking to the Shepherd!” (read: use your blood-bought access to the King of Kings as a trick to get sleepy, because addressing your Creator is Dullsville). No thanks.

Likewise, while I’ve been known . . .

[Read the whole article at The Blazing Center