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Saturday, May 02, 2015

Avengers, Age of Ultron an Utterly Biased Review

My wife and I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron last night. It was hyped. I was hyped. The movie did not disappoint. In fact, I will go so far as to say that Age of Ultron has landed my top ten favorite movies of all time. I know, that sounds like hyperbole, and it's likely a very biased statement.



In fact, this review will be entirely biased because I'm a storyteller. And throughout the event (I don't feel like calling it a movie does it justice), I found myself *marveling at the skill through which this story—these multiple stories—were told.

[SPOILER ALERT] To the best of my abilities, I will avoid specific spoilers and plot points. But I cannot avoid talking about the themes and artistic elements. So, if you don't want any of it ahead of time, just check back and read after you've seen the movie.

Review Begins:

Joss Whedon is a freakin' genius. There, I said it. Call me a fanboy. I am. I was literally in awe of how he could wield such a massive ensemble cast and yet manage to tell each of their stories in one movie. Part of it is Marvel's brilliant universe, having TONS AND TONS of excellent source material and then releasing the stand-alone Iron Man, Capt. America, Thor pics, etc. But still, Whedon took 2 hours and 21 minutes and ran us through a tragic, inspiring, painful, and wonderful gauntlet of each character's lives, hopes, fears…

Here, I need to mention the pacing of the film. There was action. Duh. And I mean brilliant action. In some scenes, I was literally torn, not sure where to look because there were so many interesting things going on in ever square foot of the movie screen. Seriously, try looking away from center screen in just a few of the scenes, and you'll see the attention to detail that I'm talking about. I want to see this movie about five more times.

For me, however, the greatest draw to this movie was its diverse and yet cohesive thematic elements. Again, I won't tell you specifically what happened nor who was involved. But I absolutely have to talk about this. Age of Ultron connected with me on multiple levels. Whedon and his brilliant cast found a way to take ultra-beings and make them ultra human. One of the biggest themes was the fear of the monster inside of each of us, the fear that we might do irreparable harm, the fear that we won't measure up, the fear that we will fail, and the fear that we will let others down. You get to see, hear, and feel each of the cast battle with these. There was betrayal, there was grace, and there was redemption. There were more Biblical themes than you could shake a tract at. What the enemy meant for evil, God used for good. Seriously? Call me blown away.

I'm still reeling from how multi-dimensional all the characters became. There was a study in each scene, a study in each exchange of dialogue, and a feast for the eyes. So, yes, I'm biased. I'm a storyteller, and I get excited when I witness good storytelling. And I have to stand up and applaud when a mainstream movie delivers a hammer-shot of take-home-value.



*Pun very much intended.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Massive Monday Kindle Book Sale!

Starting Monday, April 27th, all of my Kindle Books* and Short Stories* will be on a MASSIVE SALE. Every book regularly priced $2.99 or more will become .99.

Every book regularly priced below $2.99 will be absolutely FREE. And the sale price will continue off and on between Monday and Wednesday (4/27--4/29).

Which book which days? You'll have to get clicking to find out.

Here's the link you need:


GHOST on Sale! Less than $1 for a 400+ page Thriller? Crazy! But that's not all: Strylun & Xerk, The Skeleton Project, Dragon in My Closet, Storms Captured, Forget-Me-Not, and more—all on sale!


*Refers only to my selfpublished titles. The publisher controls the Kindle prices for my other books. Sorry about that.


Friday, April 03, 2015

The Unstoppable Flood



Strike from your mind any of the negative images connected to the word flood. You might have first imagined the devastating tsunamis in Japan or the torrential flooding in the South after Hurricane Katrina. Imagine the force and sheer power of those events, but not the negative consequences. The flood I'm going to discuss is as far from that as the East is from the West.

There is a flood. A raging, surging flood. Picture a pristine white mountain where the snow and ice are melting…sending a pure, powerful torrent down the mountainside. And, oh yeah, this flood is moving right through your back yard. Through everyone's back yard, really.

And you've heard some things about this flood. People are finding life there. It's something like the Fountain of Youth, only better, they say. There's safety in the flood. There's nourishment in the flood. There's cleansing in the flood. There's even forgiveness in the flood.

And, from the sounds of things, this flood is unstoppable. It flows on and on and on. No dam will hold it, no blockage will divert it, no effort of human imagination can cut off its flow. And people are *willingly* jumping into this flood. They say you can too.

But you're not so sure.

There are many reasons why people may choose not to jump into this flood. Maybe you're refusing to believe the flood exists. Maybe you're a little afraid of anything that powerful. It might even be that you don't believe that the benefits offered are something you want…or even need. Those reasons, for the most part, go beyond the scope of this post. I want to address one reason in particular, an obstacle that keeps a lot of people from jumping into the flood. It's something that has plagued me for a long, long time. It's no simple hurdle: part intellectual, part psychological, many parts emotional, and perhaps, even a part that is physiological.

There are some who linger on the edge of the flood who won't jump in because they believe their debt is too great to EVER be washed away. We all have our sins, but not all of us believe the same things about those sins. For some of us, we see them as malignant black stains that won't ever be erased. No matter what spiritual chemo we try, there's always a trace left behind that soon grows to full potency and eats away at us once more.

The flood may cleanse some folks, but nobody like me. No way. My sins go deep. Paul may call himself Chief of Sinners, but shoot, Paul doesn't hold a candle to my history. For this person, the guilt for many years of wrongdoing haunts like a vengeful spirit. No need to mention specific sins. You know what they are. It may well be that you've never told ANYONE about these things in your entire life. But they are hideous, gouging, deviant things.

For some of these folks, jumping into the flood is just way too simple a cure for what ails us. We wish it were more us-centered. Maybe we could spend our lives digging a trench for the flood. Maybe we could get out there with shovels and pickaxes and, by the sweat of our brow, just tear up the earth so that the water could flow. Maybe then, we might jump in. Because honestly, there's something in us that screams that we just CAN'T be declared not guilty. We have to pay. And the more dearly we have to pay, the better. In fact, to gain forgiveness by simply jumping in the water…well, honestly, it just doesn't seem right. I am Hitler. I am Jeffery Dalhmer. I am Elizabeth Bathory. I don't deserve an easy rescue. And…really, there just can't be anything powerful enough to save me.


Picture every one of your sins, mainly the worst of the worst. Now, what would be due punishment for those? I mean, if each and every one of them were exposed in a very public fashion, what would be the due penalty? Maybe, if the sins are really bad, maybe you should be captured and imprisoned. Would that do it? And surely, if these things were known about you, you'd be abandoned by family members, friends, those who "used to love you" until…they found out. So maybe that would be just punishment, as well. Still not enough? Let's add public humiliation to the sentencing. You'll be stripped of everything that gives you human value--even your clothing. You'll be slandered, insulted, and viciously criticized--all while those who knew you laugh or spit.

For some of you, that might just be enough to pay for your crimes. But for others, they go even deeper. All of the above, plus some. Your sins, your hideous evil thoughts and actions, would demand agonizing torture. Maybe something where your body is torn to shreds or stabbed through with blades. And honestly, you feel it wouldn't be right for your consequences to end in anything short of death. All of that---it's all what you deserve. And…maybe…maybe you're right. Maybe you do deserve the massive list of penalties listed here. I'm not going to argue with you. Maybe you are that awful. I know sometimes, I've felt that way about myself.

Take another look at that list of consequences. What if the flood we were talking about was unleashed when someone else took all of those horrible penalties--ALL OF THEM--but he himself had never done anything at all to deserve them. What if he endured even worse, but he did it on your behalf. Truth is, someone did. Jesus of Nazareth was captured and imprisoned. He was ridiculed, spat upon, and mocked. He was abandoned by his twelve closest friends. He was presented publicly as something worthy of scorn and stripped of his dignity--even his clothing. And the public who claimed to have his back chose to have a murderer set free, rather than free this innocent man. Jesus was then whipped and scourged to within an inch of his life. And finally, Jesus was murdered in cold blood, killed in a public execution fit for a criminal. Worse still, and perhaps maybe something we can't begin to understand, Jesus was abandoned by God the Father.

That…was Friday.

Whatever your past, whatever your history, whatever your addictions, or sins--whatever penalty you think would pay for it--Jesus bore it ALL. And He did it to pay for you, to buy out your contract, to release you forever from bondage. The sins were great. The penalty was great. But Jesus paid it--IN FULL. That's what Jesus meant when He said, "It is finished."

So what about the flood? Could it possibly be powerful enough to wash even you clean? Why not? The penalty, the due penalty, the worst you can imagine, was endured and paid.

But then…there was Sunday.

Jesus didn't stay dead. That's an incredible line, isn't it? See, the flood wasn't unleashed when Jesus died. The torrent was launched when Jesus rose from the dead. See, anyone who has the power to come back to life is someone who can help you out. We're talking about the power of God. The power that created the universe and all the life in it. We're talking about the power to create life from nothing and the power to bring dead things back to the living. This is the Unstoppable Flood. There is nothing you could humanly imagine that is so great a sin that Jesus couldn't beat it down. You might be a bigtime sinner, but sorry, you aren't that special. You cannot out-sin God's grace. If you step into that flood, you will be cleansed. The penalty you were due, will be washed away forever, marked PAID IN FULL. This flood will give you life. It will nourish you. It will grant you everlasting forgiveness. And one day, it will give you a chance to hold the nail-scarred hand of the one who took your penalties.

There's only one catch. You need to jump into the flood. You need to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who paid for your sins, who suffered and died for you, and rose again so that you could see that HE beat the snot out of sin & death once and for all. Jesus is the Unstoppable Flood.

Come on in. The water's good.

[Originally posted on Easter, 2011]

Monday, March 30, 2015

My First Ever Writing Guide!

Aspiring writers often ask me:

1) Where do you get your ideas?

2) How do you create those powerful moments in the story?

3) How do you structure or outline a whole novel?

4) And the big one: How do I HOOK my reader?

Well, I've just published a guide to fiction writing. It's not your typical writing book because I've published it for teachers to use in the classroom with student writers. I've broken down my typical novel into 16 Recipes. I call them "Recipes for Adventure," or R4A, for short.

If you follow this plan for a novel, I can't guarantee you a bestseller, but I can guarantee that you'll learn tips, tricks, hacks, and insider fiction strategies that you can't find anywhere else. These are the trial & error techniques that I've learned, working with fantastic pro editors over 16 novels. You want to AMP your writing, this will get you there.



The format is .pdf, so you can pretty much open it on anything. The file is available in only one place: TeachersPayTeachers.com. The link you'll need is this one:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy…and The Weight of Glory

"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP" 
Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015


 
This is Leonard Nimoy's final tweet. (LLAP = Live long and prosper). This deeply thoughtful man died today. His thoughts here, so close to the end of his mortal life, strikes me as remarkably similar to what CS Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory. 

“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory 


All the most beautiful, the most meaningful, the most sacred of all we can experience here on Earth, in the end, is transient and fleeting. It is a temporary and vastly incomplete glimpse of what Jesus has in store for us in Heaven.

So sad that Mr. Nimoy passed today. But I'm grateful to have known him from a distance.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

An Absolute No Brainer!

Hi, most wonderful readers in the known universe!

So this post is a little off the beaten path but, honestly, I'd feel guilty if I didn't let you know about this. My wife and I are -ALWAYS- looking for ways to save money. With four teenage kids, out of pocket costs are just insane.

When we first heard about Solar Power, there were a ton of out of pocket costs. That was a few years back. So recently, when we heard about Solar City from a friend, we instantly put up a wall. You know that—thanks but I know you're selling me something—wall?

Turns out Solar City is ahead of the solar power pack with a ZERO out of pocket cost approach. Unreal. My wife and I grilled their sales rep (a very nice chap named Mark Morell) with every question, skepticism, string-attached, fine-print, worry, concern, etc. And each and every answer he gave told us the same thing: this is a Win-Win.

I think the solar panels actually improve the look of the house.


There are no costs up front. There are no costs that will zap you two years down the road. They own and maintain the solar panels. They guarantee and insure your roof. Seriously, they do everything.

And the bottom line? We will save @$2,000 dollars off our electric bill in the first year alone. The average monthly savings is $165.

Even in the coldest winter, there's still plenty of solar energy to be had.


Cleaner, God-given energy, zero up front costs, and guaranteed savings? Win. Win. If you have any interest in Solar City, please contact our rep:

Mark Morell, click here for the website: http://share.solarcity.com/mlbatson

Phone: (725) 333-6123

Email:  mmorell@solarcity.com
 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What is Pain?


A personal trainer I know has a sign on the gym wall that reads: "Pain…is just weakness leaving the body."

It's very motivational, a great line to defy the burn and squeeze out a few more reps, but it's more than just a perspective thing. It's actually true. Muscle is what makes you strong. To grow new muscle, you must literally damage the muscle you have. Either through volume, weight, explosive movements, or a dozen other training techniques, you must cause these micro tears in the muscle to trigger your body's rebuild-overcompensate response. Pain, really is weakness leaving the body.





That got me thinking about a direct parallel to living as a Christian in a broken world. But rather than Pain being WEAKNESS leaving the body, it seems like something else. Self.

For the Christian: Pain is Selfishness Leaving the Soul.

Jesus tells us if we lose our life, we will find it. He tells us to take up our cross and follow Him. He tells us to serve others, to die to self, to love all the time, even when it hurts, even if it leads to death. But, you know, it hurts a little to do any of these things.

The longer I've been a Christian, through trial and much error, I have watched many sins that used to haunt me, begin to slowly die away. But sometimes, it really hurts. Many of us might not admit it in public, but we have certain sins that we cling to. I'm not going to name them. We all know what they are. And some of these sins aren't really sinful in and of themselves, but because we put them before God in our lives, they have become snares…sinful snares.

About ten years back the game of golf had to die in my life. This might sound silly to some, but it's not. I was really getting into golf. It was beautiful scenery, fun competition, and even a bit of "man time." In essence, nothing wrong with it, but it became clear to me, that it had to go. Why? Well, each round of golf takes between 3-5 hours, more if you travel and grab a bite to eat with the guys. With a young family at home and the calling to be a novelist, I no longer had that time to spare. But, I fought it. I fought it for much longer than I'd care to admit. I made "my golf time" an idol and placed it ahead of my wife and kids, and worse still, ahead of God. And it hurts to let what we call "our stuff" go. When the guys call and invite, when the best ball tourney shows up…and I need to say no, it takes a chunk of flesh with it.

And golf, honestly, was the least of my worries. Over the years, sin after selfish sin, had to die. And each time, if felt like a mortal wound. But in the end, you know what if feels like? It feels like freedom.

It's not over. I haven't "made it" yet. There's more pain on my horizon, that is FO SHO. But the dynamic is very real: if you die to self, God gives you freedom and life. Like Paul, we can probably all admit: "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus."

What is that secret sin your clinging to? Or maybe "sins" plural? Time to let them go. Time for them to die. Supplant them with service, love, giving...whatever God asks of you. And don't do it alone. Invite God into the process. Ask Him to put these selfish "idols" to death. Make no mistake, it's going to hurt. The longer you've clung to each sin, the more it hurts to rip that scab free, but it's worth it. You'll find life.

Pain is Selfishness Leaving the Soul. Good riddance.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Holy Spirit Face Palm


Ever had one of these moments? I'm reading the account of Jacob and Esau from Genesis 25, and I'm thinking this about Esau: "You idiot! You sold out your birthright for a bowl of stew? What kind of moron does that?"

Then, there was this companion scripture from Hebrews 12:

"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears."

That's when I got a Holy Spirit Facepalm. What kind of moron does that, Wayne? Uhm, go look in the mirror.

No, I didn't sell my birthright for a single bowl of stew, but I might just be in the process of throwing my birthright away for a few hundred bowls of nachos. In the past ten years, I've gained 100lbs. ONE HUNDRED POUNDS. Through selfcentered eating habits, I've somehow managed to grow a whole new person…a rather flabby feller that I carry around with me wherever I go. Well just slap my momma and call me Esau.

God has seen fit to allow me to be born, live, and have one amazing life, but at this rate, I'll be checking out LONG before God's plan for me (my birthright) is finished. I don't want that to happen. I cannot allow that to happen. I've got to change. I don't know exactly how, but tomorrow is too late to start. Now is the time.

How about you? Maybe, it's not food, but some other thing that has way too much of your time and attention. Maybe it's something else holding you back, keeping you from your birthright. Know this: you have a birthright. That is to say that God has a purpose for you. You may not know what that purpose is, but the beautiful thing is, you don't have to know. God's making a straight path for you. It may look like a meandering, haphazard path to you, but to God, it is the Laser-straight Path that you were born to live. The question is, are you squandering your birthright? Are you bathing in immediate pleasures and fake fulfillment while turning your back on what might be?

CS Lewis puts it this way: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 

Have you been living an Esau life? If so, get a Holy Spirit Face Palm and floor it toward the life you were born to lead.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Please Join the M.N.A.B.C. These Books Need You!

Greetings and Salutation, my dear Bat Book Readers! So, it's the new year and that can mean only one thing: NEW BOOKS! {Go ahead, do the happy dance. You know you want to} As an author, I always wonder: how often do readers who've loved one of my book series make the leap to one of my other book series?

I'll confess it, if I find an author I love, I'll read his/her whole catalog. Do you do that? I'm not sure everyone does, and maybe not on purpose. For whatever reason, some books end up ignored because people don't find out about them. That kind of makes me sad {picture lonely book on a curb somewhere, shivering alone in the cold}. I—KNOW! Such a sorrowful image. But, together, we can change this. Today, I begin the No More Abandoned Books Campaign. Join me, won't you? The N.M.A.B.C. needs readers like you to help spread the word. Think of it: millions of books out there, dreaming of the day that some nice readers will come along and take them home. We can make those dreams turn to reality. 



See below! Here is my complete catalog of books. Which ones have you read? Which ones haven't you read yet? Please help spread the word.

SERIES 1: The Door Within Trilogy:
I. The Door Within
II. Rise of the Wyrm Lord
III. The Final Storm
IV. The Blackwood (a DW sidequest, Kindle only)

SERIES 2: The Griffin Thorn Duo
I. Isle of Swords
II. Isle of Fire

SERIES 3: The Berinfell Prophecies
I. Curse of the Spider King
II. Venom & Song
III. The Tide of Unmaking

SERIES 4: The Dark Sea Annals (will be 7 books)
I. Sword in the Stars
II. The Errant King 

SERIES 5: Dreamtreaders (will be a trilogy)
I. Dreamtreaders
II. Search for the Shadow Key

SERIES 6: John Spector Thrillers
I. GHOST
II. Minister of Fire (will release Fall 2015)

SERIES 7: Imagination Station (Adventures in Odyssey Spinoff)
I. Battle for Cannibal Island
II. Hunt for the Devil's Dragon

SERIES 8: The Misadventures of Strylun & Xerk
I. Book 1: Origins of Mischief (Kindle Only)

SERIES 9: Novellas and Short Stories (Kindle only)
I. The Dragon in My Closet
II. Forget Me Not
III. The Skeleton Project, episodes 1-4
IV. The Law of the Land

NONFICTION: Kindle only
I. Captured Storms


Monday, January 12, 2015

Going a little NUTS with Dreamtreaders Book 3: War for the Waking World. Mannnnn ooooooh, maaaaaan. Get ready for a big ole helping of Off Da Hook!

http://www.amazon.com/Search-Shadow-Dreamtreaders-Thomas-Batson/dp/1400323673/ref=as_sl_pc_qf_sp_asin_til?tag=wwwenterthedo-20&linkCode=w00&linkId=4GOZ2KSLNMSX2VGG&creativeASIN=1400323673

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Your Free Story Gift is Ready!

Okay, Readers! Merry Christmas And Happy New Year!

And now, here, at last, is your new Story Gift! The link below will give you the free PDF file.

Now, Enjoy 

Hey, all! The Misadventures of Strylun and Xerk is now live on Kindle. However, Amazon wouldn't let me make it free on the first day it appears. So, what I've done is made the book free: Saturday, Jan 3rd thru Wednesday, Jan 7th. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Here's the link:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ROOOK60



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Good news. Bad news.

Hello, Readers!

Well, there's good news and bad news. First, the good news:

GOOD: Your Merry Christmas Story is getting longer and longer. At the rate it's going, it might be a full 20,000 words!

Now, for the bad news:

BAD: I've been scratching my head trying to figure out how to finish in time for Christmas without impeding my family's enjoyment of Christmas. And...well, it just won't work. So, The Misadventures of Strylun and Xerk will just have to be a HAPPY NEW YEAR present.

Can you live with that? I hope so.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Writing You a Christmas Present!


I love Christmas. What's not to love? It's the time of year to celebrate the birth of our Savior, whose gift of eternal life will never be surpassed by any gift we could give or receive. And, during this festive season, even this old, stodgy world wakes up from its selfish stupor and remembers to love one another.



In keeping with the season of giving, I'm writing you a Christmas Present Story. This is a previously unpublished work somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000-15,000 words. It'll be some kind of fantasy adventure, but that's all I'm telling you. The story will be available Christmas morning for FREE! You'll find links for the story here, on Facebook, and on Amazon Kindle. You'll be able to get it in two formats: Kindle and PDF. Most eReaders have a way to convert a pdf to something it can use, and Kindle has an app for just about any computer, tablet, phone, etc. to allow you to read it on whatever is convenient to you.

So set a reminder on your device: check back here for a free story on Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS to ALL!!