Friday, August 29, 2008

Crunching Numbers


It's a little like "Groundhog Day" for me as I listen to "Dark Ritual" over and over and over...

Tweaking and polishing, making subtle changes that may be unnoticed, but will result in a better listening experience. That's the main focus at this point.

By early next week, I will be handing "Dark Ritual" to various "test listeners" to gain those last bits of vital feedback before passing through it all one more time to finalize the mix for duplication.

We're also working hard to use our funds responsibly. As it stands now, producing the 300 physical units we're planning to, combined with associated costs, will come close to cleaning out our budget for "Spirit Blade Productions". The same thing happened two years ago when we printed "Spirit Blade". We were hoping to reduce costs by printing a smaller number of units (less than half the amount we did for "Spirit Blade"), but with rising costs everywhere and an additional disc in this set, it will cost just a few hundred less to print "Dark Ritual" than it did to print "Spirit Blade". 

We're doing what we can to explore money saving options. After all, we're anxious to start our next project, which will only cover one disc and have a much quicker production schedule, so we'll need funds sooner! However, we are unwilling to release a product right now that does not meet the quality standards we are determined to achieve.

Some of you may be curious about the purchase price for "Dark Ritual". While we won't be able to determine that until we get the bill from the CD manufacturers, we want to put this project in your hands and ears for as little money as possible, while allowing us to stay afloat through your support. "Spirit Blade", a two disc project, sold for $15.00 at the time of its release. We are committed to selling "Dark Ritual", a three disc and nearly three hour project, for less than that, and still with free shipping.

So stay tuned. We'll keep you up to date as best we can. Meantime, don't forget to join me for the 6th and final chapter of "Spirit Blade" on our podcast this weekend!

 Right now, though, I've got some listening to do!

-Paeter Frandsen

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Three Hours That Fly By

IMG_0526 It's kinda strange in the final stages of "Dark Ritual", to get through in three hours something I've been working on for more than two years.

I'm really pleased with the way things are turning out. I've learned a lot since producing "Spirit Blade" and am experiencing the mastering process with much more confidence this time.

Granted, it can always be better, and if I had the money, I'd have the entire project mastered professionally. But when your production company is made up of one guy and his wife(with the aid of some great volunteers!), there's a good amount of work you just have to figure out and do yourself.

And for two years on this project, that's been the name of the game. I've inched over every moment of this massive audio drama for hours upon hours, weeks upon months. So when I can hit "play" and experience the whole thing in just under three hours, it's pretty strange.

You might be thinking, "A three hour audio drama? That's freakin' LONG, man!" But by the end of this week, I will have listened to it, front to back, more than 5 times, and I can't believe how short it is. 

Monday, August 25, 2008

In Search Of Truth


Searching For Truth In "Spirit Blade" Chapter 6


In this last chapter of Spirit Blade, we arrive at the essence of what this story is about. Our production company uses the name "Spirit Blade Productions", not because the "Spirit Blade" trilogy is our first project, but because the metaphor of "Spirit Blade" is what we want to be about in everything that we do. We want to represent the truth found in God's own words.

Below we've included some words from the Bible that have been inspirational in the creation of "Spirit Blade". (Quoted from the New Living Translation)

Matt 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33

Heaven and earth will dissappear, but my words will remain forever.

2 Timothy 3:16

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.

Ephesians 6:10-17

A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Something we really wanted to show in "Spirit Blade" is the idea of having doubts. Being skeptical about Jesus or the Bible. Believe it or not, that's okay! In fact, it can even be a good thing if responded to in the right way. Luke speaks positively about a group of people that investigated the truth instead of just believing without questioning.

Acts 17:11

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessaloniac, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to check up on Paul and Silas, to see if they were really teaching the truth.

Jesus welcomed scrutiny of his life and also approved of logical thought that leads to faith, even though sometimes it was used as a shield by people to hide their true reasons for not believing in him.

John 5:36 But I have a greater witness than John-- my teachings and my miracles. They have been assigned to me by the Father, and they testify that the Father has sent me.

John 10:37 Don't believe me unless I carry out my Father's work. But if I do his work, believe in what I have done, even if you don't believe in me. Then you will realize that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.

John 5:39-40 You search the Scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me so that I can give you this eternal life.

At the end of the day, death is still a very real problem. We need a solution that does more than make us feel good. We need a solution that is really real. As real as death is. Some people may prefer to avoid the Bible, not because they don't believe it might be true, but because they'd rather not have anything or anyone telling them how to live their lives. But life is relatively short and death lasts forever. Stop and think about that for a moment. Isn't the cure for death worth a re-examination of your life and your choices?

The Bible presents the solution to death. Other religions claim to do the same thing. So if we really want a real solution to death, we probably ought to logically examine the claims of the Bible and other religious texts. Where does the evidence lead? Which source of knowledge is the most historically reliable?

Regarding the evidence for the Bible, some good books to start with include:

The Case For Christ, by Lee Strobel

The Case For Faith, by Lee Strobel

The Case For A Creator, by Lee Strobel

Can Man Live Without God, by Ravi Zacharias

Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Vol. 1 and 2, by Josh McDowell

Whether you've already chosen to trust in Jesus, or not, a critical yet open-minded examination of the Bible can be a life-altering experience. Being what the Bible calls a "Christian" is more than a one-time decision. It's a continuing journey filled with questions and driven by the search for real truth. We're on that journey, too! We'd love it if you chose to stick around and travel with us!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Final Stages


We are now entering the final stages of production for "Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual". Our graphic designer is looking into options and pricing for CD case production, in addition to completing his work on the design for the rest of the 3-CD case.

Paeter is beginning his first of many listens to the entire project and preparing to hand it over to a small team of test listeners for further examination.

Although we are still unable to pronounce a release date, once we have decided on a manufacturing company for our CDs, we'll have the information we need to narrow down the field to a single month.

In other news, you may enjoy listening to the podcast this weekend, as Paeter, through a series of audio journal entries recorded on site, shares his GenCon experience! Info on new games, role-playing stories and the continuing quest to find parking!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In Search Of Truth


1 Thessalonians Chapter 2

We gain some insight here regarding Paul's relationship to those he spoke to and spent time with. Both pastors and the average Christian can use this chapter as a guide as we try to share truth in the context of relationships. (A great context for sharing truth in our "anti-podium" culture!)

We should also point out that "sharing truth" is not limited to non-Christians. Paul is describing here his relationship with a group of believers! Naturally, they were unbelievers at some point, but Paul did not abandon them and move on once they chose to believe the truth. So this chapter applies to our relationships with everyone we talk about the Bible with.

First, we should expect opposition. (V2) It could be from specific people, circumstances, or from social pressure. Absolute truth is not a popular concept, and subtly opposing influences are imbedded (both intentionally and unintentionally) in books, movies, video games, TV shows and all other forms of entertainment or pop-culture. We live and breath relativism and should expect that there will be some bias against absolutes.

Despite the difficulty of sharing truth in this setting, we should critically and skeptically examine ourselves and the ideas we share to weed out any error, bias or bending of truth.(V3) Those who listen will be doing the same and the last thing we want to do is give them a reason to be suspicious.

Although we should aim to present truth in a way that can be understood and related to, we also need to avoid ever altering or "watering down" what the Bible says so that someone will be accepting of it. We might avoid an uncomfortable situation, but the truth will be distorted. Above all else, we should aim to please God in the way we communicate his words. (V4)

The Bible should never be used to manipulate people, to satisfy our greed, or to gain social significance. Instead, the Bible should lead us to be selfless, caring genuinely and deeply for the people we're sharing truth with. (V7-10)

There also comes a time in our relationships where we should motivate each other to go deeper spiritually. (V11-12) The Bible does not depict a multitude of isolated spiritual journeys. "Live and let live" does not apply to the life of a Biblical Christian. That said, our aim should never be to point out sin so that we can feel better about ourselves. (And that one can be a tricky motive to spot in ourselves!) As the NASB translates verse 11, "we were exhorting, encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children." Can you hear the sense of love and pleading in that sentence? Everyone makes their own choices. Our role is to inspire each other with actions and words, so that we can all move forward into what God has for us.

Paul expresses his thankfulness for how the Thessalonians accepted the truth, and for how they are now withstanding mistreatment from the people around them. Paul makes a comparison to the Old Testament prophets and also Jesus, who were opposed and even killed by their own people. Paul has seen the same pattern in the way he and his ministry partners have been treated and points out that this behavior angers God.(V16)

Paul clearly has compassion for the Thessalonians. Paul has made people the most sought after goal in his life. Paul implies that the people he invests time in will be like a crown on his head when Christ returns. The ultimate prize we can take from this life is the result of investing in the lives of others. (V19-20)

Coffee House Question

What is it about the idea of "Absolute Truth" (in a spiritual/religious context) that people may find offensive?

Next Week- Searching for truth in the 6th and final chapter of "Spirit Blade"!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Vacation Time!

IMG_0528 Despite being so close to the finish line with "Dark Ritual", I'm taking a week of vacation for my 30th birthday. Actually, I turned 30 back in April, but my present from my awesome wife was a trip to GenCon Indiana!

On one level, it's very difficult to put everything down and leave for a week. On another level, it's just what I need. Although it would be great to power through non-stop and finish, it probably won't hurt to forget about the world of Spirit Blade and come back with fresh ears after a week off.

FYI, there's no podcast this weekend, which is why there's no "In Search Of Truth" here today. You won't see another post here until the 20th, which will probably be "In Search Of Truth". If you're itching for something in place of our podcast this weekend, don't forget that we've got a TON of free downloadable audio content at

That's it for me! Thanks for your patience as we count down to the release of "Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual!"

Have a great week!

Friday, August 8, 2008

On Schedule... kinda


This week we enjoyed having Krystofer James VanSlyke over to record some guitar tracks for the songs in "Dark Ritual". After about 3-4 hours of recording on Wednesday, we have some great new elements to add to the music you'll be hearing.

Paeter is currently mixing and recording for the final song of "Dark Ritual" and will likely be finished with it today or on Monday. This will hopefully allow for completion of our first mix before we close things down next week while Paeter goes to GenCon.

Although productivity moves forward with irregularity, subject to both dead-ends and times of inspiration, in the over-all scheme we are right about on schedule!

In the meantime, don't forget to listen to chapter 5 of "Spirit Blade" on the podcast this weekend! Just two more chapters to go before you're up to speed and ready for the "Dark Ritual" experience!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"Basically Good"


The phrase "people are basically good" stimulates a bunch of different thoughts in my mind as I try to make sense of it.

What does it mean to be "basically good"? Is good our default? Do we naturally have a tendency to do good rather than evil? If so, then what causes us to do evil? Does the influence of society cause us to do evil? If so, why is society influencing us to do evil, when society is made up of people who are basically good? Additionally, if we are basically good, why can't we resist the evil influences around us?

If we are good and society is influencing us to do evil, do we get all the credit for doing a good and society gets the blame when we do evil? That feels a little convenient. How do we know it's not the other way around? Someone had to teach us to do good, after all. Are we, in the end, just a complex series of reactions to stimulation? If so, then how can anyone be called good or evil? How can any action be called good or evil?

Of course, before we can enter into meaningful discussion about any of this, we have to figure out how to address another part of the equation: "Good."

What does it mean to be good? How do we know when something is good and something is evil? Does the majority determine what good is? For awhile, in some southern states of the U.S., the majority thought it was good to use kidnapped human slave labor. Does that mean it was good?

Do we all just decide individually and somehow we're all right? What about the hijackers on 9/11? They probably thought that what they were doing was good. Who are we to be critical of their beliefs? How can we be so sure that what they were doing wasn't good? Maybe they would have said, "I'm sorry, everyone on the plane today. But I simply must follow my heart and do what it tells me to."

So maybe there are some bad apples in the bunch, who just spent too much time around "society" and were ultimately influenced to become evil. (And let's remember that we haven't defined "evil" yet, either.)

Okay, for the sake of discussion, let's assume that serving others before ourselves is considered "good". Giving priority to others instead of pleasing ourselves first is a good quality. A standard we should all aspire to if we want to do "good".

Now let's ask the question: "Why don't we serve others more than ourselves?" Why is self-sacrifice so highly regarded if we are all basically good and have tendencies toward this trait? If we are all basically good, self-sacrifice should be common and mundane. It shouldn't make the "human interest" segment of the six o'clock news. We shouldn't need to aspire to it. We should just be confused when someone does not behave according to this trait.

But every day we serve ourselves. We don't sell all of our toys and give the money to help feed starving children. We don't offer to cancel our movie or gaming plans so that our husbands or wives can relax while we watch the kids. We don't take our friend out to lunch or a movie because we want to buy that comic book or video game on Wednesday. We don't hand the remote to the person next to us and say, "Here. You pick something to watch."

Don't get me wrong. Of course we've been known to do these things. But are all of them the default for all of us? I might be good at taking friends to lunch. But I wanna watch my show. Is it rare for me to cancel my movie plans so that I can clean the house for my wife, long before she even asks me to? If our natural tendency is to be good, why is it so difficult to consistantly think about pleasing others before pleasing ourselves?

So maybe we aren't "basically good". (A term I still haven't been able to define.) Maybe we're basically... evil? Not basically murderers, cheaters, rapists, physical abusers and thieves. If those are the only activities classified as evil, then maybe we are all "basically good". But we can probably agree that selfishness is not good. Does that make it... neutral? At this point, someone might say, "It's just being human." But that feels a little like avoiding the "E" word. (Another one we haven't clearly defined yet.)

So while it sounds good and feels nice to say that we are all basically good, it's really a nonsense statement until we define good and evil. Once we've done that we can movie forward.

But I still wouldn't put money on "Basically Good."

-Paeter Frandsen

Monday, August 4, 2008

In Search Of Truth


Looking At Truth In "Spirit Blade: Chapter 5"

When Isaiah joins Merikk in a journey across time and space, they witness the death of Yeisou. Isaiah attempts to put into words aspects of Christ's crucifixion that at best we can only try to grasp.

How is it that by one person dying, billions upon billions of lives, past, present and future, could be forgiven by God for every mistake, every selfish thought, every imperfection they possess? How could one life ever balance the scales?

The answer is found by looking at the worth of Jesus' life. Based on the law God gave his people, the Jews-

(Hebrews 9:13) The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.

God didn't institute the sacrificial system because he hated animals, loves violence and likes seeing animals suffer. After all, if animals weren't worth anything to God, it wouldn't be a "sacrifice" to kill them, would it?

God hates sin, but loves us. Because he is a perfect and just God, he can't tolerate injustice. So until a completely satisfying payment could be made for the sins of humans, God created the system of animal sacrifice to remind us of the terrible price that must be paid for rebelling against the God we owe everything to. (Hebrews 10:1-4) He could have forced us to pay the price personally, instantly killing anyone who sins, but that would wipe out the human race! And God loves us, so that's no solution!

So God has a problem to solve. There has to be some form of payment that will be worth enough to cover the debt of all sin through all of history. If he ignores our sins, God might still be loving, but he's no longer just. There has to be compensation. Animals aren't worth enough. Hebrews 9:13 said they were only enough to make us "outwardly clean". But look at the next verse-

(Hebrews 9:14) How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

Because Jesus is God, his life is worth infinitely more than the lives of all humanity. For us, "perfect" is an abstract concept that we can't truly comprehend. But God is perfect in every sense of the word. Because of this, we'll never be able to comprehend what Jesus gave up to live on earth and die the way that he did, cut off from God the Father. But God determined this "sacrifice" to be a punishment worth the crime . Jesus stepped up to the plate and essentially said, "I'll do it. I'll take the punishment for them."

At the end of this, we see a picture of God that is perfectly loving AND perfectly just. These two elements of God's character seem potentially at odds, but God found a way to live up to them both. We tried to capture that truth from a different angle in "Spirit Blade" and hope that if nothing else, it stimulates some thought for you as you listen.

For a Biblical summary of God's strategy regarding humans, we've included what many people nickname, "The Roman Road". These are all verses from the New Testament book of Romans that outline God's strategy regarding Humans, Sin and Jesus-

3:10,12 As the Scriptures say, "No one is good- not even one." "All have turned away from God; all have gone wrong. No one does good, not even one.

3:23 For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard.

6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

3:24 Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.

10:9-10 For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.

Coffee House Question

If you could stand in the same room with God and get the answer to one question, what would it be?

Next Week: 1 Thessalonians Chapter 2!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Burning At Both Ends


Paeter's been burning the candle at both ends to meet his personal goal of a finished mix by August 12th.

Today, he'll be finishing up work on scene 30 of "Dark Ritual". This scene has taken more time in the "polishing stage" because much of it was left unfinished until the scoring decisions were finalized. With such a hugely explosive and dramatic sequence, we wanted the score to drive the scene, and it does. Scene 30 will probably contain the most dramatically memorable moment in all of "Dark Ritual".

After scene 30 is finished, we will quickly finish adjustments on scenes 31-36. Paeter will have all of next week to polish the already completed songs and finish mixing two other songs.

It's a tall order, but no one is lounging around. We'll continue to keep you posted!