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Monday, March 19, 2018

Reader Art

Greetings, most excellent and admirable readers!

I just received a righteous piece of reader art from Samuel Stocking. This is his rendition of Alastair arriving at Chapparel during the Gorrack Invasion in Sword in the Stars. So crazy how well Samuel envisioned the scene. I was just listening to the audiobook proofs for that chapter, so the image really struck me. 

Here it is:

Friday, February 23, 2018

What's the Big Deal About School Shootings?

If the title of this article brought one word to mind: TROLL, I guess I don't blame you. Please know: I honestly don't intend to try to tweak and trigger people on a this very sensitive topic. I also don't make light of anyone's loss of life. But I do want to explore the issues from a number of different angles. 

This isn't about politics, either. I could care less what Republicans or Democrats think. This article is about people, people and beliefs, double standards and paradoxes, problems and solutions. I apologize in advance for my own ignorance on these issues. I'm not an authority the way the world defines authority. But I am a teacher and a father and above all else, a Christian—I won't be silent because I'm not an authority on gun violence because that kind of authority isn't necessary to discuss issues of the heart and mind.

Why the title? What's the big deal about school shootings? If I'm being anything, it's not snarky, but rather ironic on purpose. Frankly, I don't think we're disturbed enough about this issue. And IMHO most of the discussion I've read on the topic shows that we're really looking at the most superficial sides of this. I ask what's the big deal because, honestly, what did anyone expect? 

The headlines are horrific, but can anyone honestly take a look at our society and be surprised that disturbed people, especially youths, are reaching for weapons to end the lives of others and, many times, their own? Remember, we're the society that set up naturalism as THE god to worship. Big court cases like The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, Roe v. Wade, Engel v. Vitale,
Abington School District v. Schempp, and a thousand others have taught our nation that we are all alone in this world. There is nothing beyond ourselves. No God. No reason to be here other than we are here and might as well make the best of it. What did we expect to happen in such a nation as this? 

Remember also that we are the society hopelessly addicted to drugs, legal and illegal. Why? Trying to make the best of it. Why? Trying to escape from a hopeless reality. Why? Because we're trying to numb and blunt that nagging sense that things aren't the way they should be. We are the nation that protects pornography as a freedom of speech. We are the nation that fosters endless cycles of exploitation and abuse and offers self-based, humanistic counseling for the win. 

Why are we surprised that people, including teens, are so angry and violent? So disturbed and distorted? Recognize that we are the nation that glorifies the action heroes who, in the movies and now the endless entertainment streaming, mow down scores of people with assault weapons, flamethrowers, grenades, etc. ad infinitum. We are the nation that allows our kids to play ultra realistic violent video games so often that households all over the country can hear their kids and teens reveling in things like "headshots" and "number of kills." Where are the parents? What makes anyone think this is okay? But we allow it. Sometimes, we play the games with our kids. 

We are the nation who purposefully distorted the term "freedom" to mean anything we want. We have banned the word "no" from our reality, and we are suffering dearly for it. Frequent sex outside of marriage, easy divorce, one-parent families, alternate identities and genders? We've got it all, now, and more coming. And we sing out that it's all for the best. Is it any wonder that our kids—and our society—are coming apart? 

Finally, we are the nation who over the past 10-15 years has all but outlawed intelligent, reasoned discussions on ANY controversial issue. We've become a name-calling nation of whiners, choosing not to think rationally about issues because we can always brand someone with "hate speech" or "homophobe" or "racist" or some other conversation-ending misnomer. We are a nation that wants what it wants, whenever it wants, and crucifies anyone who says it ought to be different. So, why the heck are we surprised when people are gunned down in Vegas or in one of our schools? 

Here's the pivot: not being surprised does not mean we can all throw our hands up in submission. It doesn't mean we get to say, well, we brought it on ourselves, so guess we'll just have to endure it. No. No. And…No. 

First off, we each personally need to repent, ie: turn around, agree that wrong things are wrong things, that God is the arbiter of truth and that God, by the way, isn't our stomach. We need to repent as a nation. How? I wish I knew. It's not as simple as "allowing" prayer in school. I don't believe the law against prayer in school really did anything to ban prayer in school. Prayer was never meant to be a big public showy thing anyway. Short of brainwashing people of faith, you will never stop prayer in schools. It's more than having government and schools turn into some kind of theocracies where we give lip service to the Almighty and then go on our merry way. But we desperately need to stop preaching meaninglessness to our people. You want to be an atheist? Fine. You want to believe in evolution? Fine. But don't you dare establish the scientifically detectable world as the reason for everything such that love and dreams and purpose and meaning are beaten out of our kids.

Getting to more of the specifics: what about assault rifles and such? Here's where I must plead more ignorance because I just don't get the double standards that exist so openly in this society, often including Christians. I don't understand how someone can be fiercely pro-life and ALSO fiercely pro-assault weapons. Assault weapons were designed for killing people, for warfare. There's no human being in this nation who needs or deserves an assault rifle. And please don't give me that garbage about protecting ourselves from a government gone bad. Follow that thread through. If the government went bad, do you think even ten million civilian citizens with assault rifles could win the day? Get real. If our government ever went bad (or I should say went to the worst), they could kill and destroy with impunity. 

As far as I can tell from the most recent articles, I don't see anyone trying to ban ALL guns. But assault rifles? Ban them. I don't think for a moment that legislating a ban on assault rifles will keep determined people from getting them, but if we can keep one disturbed teenager from getting one and shooting up a school, shouldn't we? And on that subject, why are we avoiding the most common sense suggestions for stopping violence in schools? We should have a branch of the FBI or some other specialized law enforcement Anti School Violence Division put together and fund working state-of-the-art metal detectors in all schools! How can this not be law already? Money? I'm sure. Politics? Most definitely. Still it's unconscionable to not have metal detectors in all schools. I can't be certain, but I suspect that those metal detectors could even be funded by the private sector. If my kids' schools asked me to donate toward a metal detector fund, they can take my money now. And speaking of the new Anti School Violence Division, why not have at least one highly-trained officer stationed to run those metal detectors and patrol the schools? 

Again, banning assault rifles won't solve the problems of the human heart. After all, there are nearly four times as many knife killings in the US each year than assault rifles. But we've got to do something. 

If you're a young person (or person of any age), please know you are NOT a cosmic accident. You were created by God as a one-of-a-kind, priceless masterpiece. God is real. He loves you. You have ultimate meaning, and no, this life is not all their is. Your life matters to God. Your identity matters to God. There is such a thing as right and wrong, and we need to reject the wrong. We need to turn to the lifeline God offers us by believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of all our personal wrongs. We need to seek God and love God. We need to let Him show us how to love and, in the words of the Black Panther, look after each other. How can I be so sure? The Bible is one reason. No other book on earth is like the Bible. Do some homework. Read up about how unique and reliable the Bible is. Personal experience is another reason. I've seen 20 year alcoholics cured in an instant. There are inexplicable healings every single day, well inexplicable but for God. I've felt the scriptures resonate within me. I've seen and felt unconditional love. But the greatest reasons boil down to common sense:

1) How can this world have come together by itself? Do you know what the odds against it are? I've heard it likened to the odds of throwing thousands of alphabet letters into a great bin, mixing them up, and then pulling them out one letter at a time and resulting in Shakespeare's complete works. 

2) How can this world be all that there is? If we're honest, none of us are completely satisfied by this world. We might claim to be. We might even have deluded ourselves into believing that we are. But most honest people will tell you there is a thirst for something we can't seem to find. There's a hunger for a food this earth doesn't provide. And there's a desperate need for a love that people, try as they might, just cannot fulfill. 

3) It is ALL a question of faith. Which faith will you choose? Evolution is a theory. Creation is a theory. None of us were there at the beginning to see what happened. Science does NOT have everything figured out. In fact, by definition, science can only describe what is observable. It cannot tell you how it all began. It cannot tell you why you fall in love. It cannot tell you what happens after we die. Science depends on the natural world, so by definition it must ignore the supernatural. But make no mistake, naturalism, atheism, humanism—are all belief systems. Dig deep enough, you will find the massive leaps of faith in all these systems. To be fair, Christianity has some massive leaps of faith as well, but it does, after all, claim to be a faith. If you boil it all down, you either believe in an intelligent, loving eternal God who created the world and offers hope to mankind -or- you believe in a blind eternal particle that somehow turned into all that we know and offers no hope for anything or anyone. If you choose to believe the latter, don't you think we've already seen where that road leads? All you have to do is read the headlines.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Pondering the Draw of Eternity

My wife and I own a modest townhome in North Topsail Beach, North Carolina. It's not one of those modern mansions on stilts. Just an older townhome, but it has a million-dollar view of the ocean. It feels like having the Atlantic in your backyard.

We've just come down for a long weekend to celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. The moment I step out of the car and hear the crashing surf, it's like coils of chains fall from my shoulder. I stand up a little straighter, a tear comes to my eye, and I remember how to breathe without tension, worry, fear, ad infinitum. I've always felt drawn to the ocean. I can sit and watch the waves for hours on end. I will stare as far out to the horizon as my eyes will let me see. And, at night, the sounds of the relentless surf send me thoughtfully to sleep.

Now, understand, it's midFebruary. A nice day, but still winter. No one will be swimming in the ocean or the pool today. And yet, as we drove up the strip, we saw that people are all over the beach. Some sitting on blankets. Some walking dogs. Others just wandering hand in hand. And some walking alone along the sand, pausing from time to time to pick up a seashell or simply to stare. 


Why do people feel drawn to the ocean or the lake or the mountains? The reasons are probably vast and varied, but I believe there is, if we are honest with ourselves, a deeper reason. The beauty of nature draws us to ponder eternity. No matter what we've been taught, we stand audience to the staggering enormity of creation and we know that this all cannot be the result of cosmic accidents. For me, I think of the massive continuous power of the waves. I think of the horizon and how far away and endless it seems. It tugs at the mind and soul.

Many of us ignore that spiritual pull. We assume it's beauty or relaxation or nostalgia that keeps us coming back again and again. But I believe it's nothing short of a signed, sealed, and delivered invitation from Almighty God to rethink our lives. It is the whisper of Jesus, "Come to me, you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest for your soul."

CS Lewis once wrote, "If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world." And the impact of this desire is multiplied exponentially when we are in the midst of stunning creation. The beauty and vastness break through our meticulously constructed walls and force us to reckon with life more honestly than usual. For 85% of life we wear the mask. We self medicate. We numb ourselves. We get lost in routines. And, we keep busy. And, for some of us, we're running, fleeing madly from what we fear might be true.

But make no mistake, we are fooling ourselves. We are running around from thrill to thrill like trick or treaters on Halloween, hoping the rush won't end. But it does end. Lift the veil for a minute and really see. Every town has a cemetery. We pass by the legions of tombstones and shrug. But so once did all the people buried there. In traffic, a hearse goes by followed by twenty cars with little orange cards visible in the windshields. A neighbor gets sick. The headlines report another tragedy. We try to hide from it all. We desperately hide from the personal implications.  

If you're approaching 50 like I am, maybe you've found yourselves also thinking more clearly about the enormity and brevity of life. We're no longer center stage. Our kids are. And soon, their kids will be. But, dang it, our lives count for something! All these experiences, the good, the bad, the love, the loss, the memories—it all matters, doesn't it? Or will it all, like Roy Batty in Bladerunner said, disappear "like tears…in rain?" 

Many of us go through life thinking science has proven we're all just magnificent accidents, here today, gone tomorrow…forever. But this is part of the masquerade. This is part of the deadening of our souls to the reality that eternity is calling us. God is calling us.

As a kid did you ever keep critters (ants, beetles, caterpillars, salamanders, fish, etc) in a jar or aquarium? You watch them moving all around, bumping into their boundaries, seemingly resigned to their confined existence. Did you ever find yourself wondering what these tiny creatures are thinking? 

We look in on them and watch them, thinking how funny that these creatures just go about their duties and routines. I wonder if we're actually just like those ants and varmints. Just live for living's sake. There's nothing more. All the while, our Creator watches and waits…and invites.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Mea Culpa: An Update on The Myridian Constellation (formerly Dark Sea Annals)

What was it Douglas Adams said about deadlines? "I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by." So, dear readers, it is with profound exasperation that I let you know I am not able to get the new version of Errant King or book 3, The Forsaken Continent, out in stores by Christmas. And this comes on the heels of about 25 missed deadlines regarding this series.

In a perfect world, with a perfect author, The Myridian Constellation (formerly The Dark Sea Annals) would be into its 5th book. The original publisher wouldn't have collapsed and the return of series publishing rights wouldn't have taken years—so long that I wrote The Dreamtreaders Trilogy while I waited. But, it's not a perfect world, and things dragged on. And I'm not a perfect author. I made book deadline promises to my long-suffering readers over and over again, but I did not keep them. 

Yes, there have been many extenuating circumstances, many of a personal or family nature that required or consumed time. We all know how life can get. And, I could bore you with details of how self-publishing, the process, takes away so much time from actual writing. But, I know I could have used the time God's given me better. So, I apologize.

Rather than offer you another deadline, (WHOOSH), ouch, I'll give you an update instead. I am @80% finished the revisions for The Errant King, Author-ized Edition. Frustratingly, I've discovered a massive timeline error that requires me to completely revamp the series chronology. On the bright side, delving so deeply into The Errant King has provided some wonderful new material. This version should be so much better than the original. And, as an added bonus in the new version, there will be no characters killed off early in the book only to show up later in perfect health!

The Forsaken Continent, you might recall, was originally going to be Mirror of Souls. But that manuscript surpassed 200,000 words. So, after much toil and thought, I split the manuscript into two distinct novels: The Forsaken Continent (Book 3) and Mirror of Souls (Book 4). In essence, both novels are written, but I still have work to do. And I don't want to rush and put out an inferior product. I believe God has something special planned for these books and this series, and I feel deeply that this will be a kind of life's work legacy when all is said and done. So, I ask, patient readers, for you to be patient once more. If you cannot wait, I'll understand. I'll update you in the future, but I won't make release promises again until a given manuscript is through revisions.

Much love. Never alone.
-Wayne Thomas Batson, December 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Blackened Keyboard Friday: November 24th

It's almost Thanksgiving. Mmmmm...can you smell it? No, I don't mean the roasting turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie! No, I'm talking about the effervescent scent of ash and soot and charred plastic! Yeah, now can you smell it? Mmmmm...

That's right it's almost time for Blackened Keyboard Friday! Spurning the marketing gimmicks, sales, lines, and stampedes, I'll be comfy at home and writing all day. And...I'm asking you to join me. Regardless of your time zone, come aboard the Lunatic Writing Ship as we sail for record-setting word count madness! 

Interested? Here are the particulars:

1) Anytime on Friday, November 24th, join my Blackened Friday posting on Facebook. In the comments, introduce yourself and your writing project. Give us your starting word count.

2) Write like maniac for as long as you want within the 24 hour 11/24 window.

3) Then, post your final word count and your sum total of NEW words written.


A) If you beat me, I will put your name into the acknowledgements section of the next book I release: likely "Errant King - The New Author-ized Version" just before Christmas. 

B) If you score the highest NEW words written count, I will either: 1) if you're an author with books to sell, I'll put an ad for your book(s) into Errant King—at no charge! (You'll have to send me the completely finished, print-ready ad.)  -OR- 2) If you're not an author with books (YET!), I'll give you your choice of getting a character named after you in a future book or getting a free critique from me on ONE of your fiction chapters!

FELLOWSHIP OPPORTUNITY: I'm going to start a "Secret" Blackened Keyboard Friday Group on Facebook. Let me know if you want an invite. That way, we can have writing fellowship with whoever's writing at the time. We can share writing blurbs, ask for help (I need a word for excited but needs to be more powerful), and, of course, the ever present possibility of inane banter. 

Until then, limber up those fingers. Get ready to singe those keys! Kick the tires and light the fires, big daddy!


Friday, September 01, 2017

The New Improved "Author-ized" edition of Sword in the Stars is HERE!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am STOKED to announce, the new "Author-ized Edition" of Sword in the Stars is now available in paperback!

I have to admit, I was a little shocked to see how thick it is. I mean, I knew I added a few thousand words, but WOW! Get ready for a serious journey!

I want you all to know that CreateSpace forced the price to this height. The minimum was $22.36. In order for me to make a decent profit, I made it $24.99. 

SPECIAL OFFER: From now until the end of Labor Day, all the profits from Sword in the Stars will go to help Houston. If you're going to get one (or three), please purchase in this window. I'd love to send a nice donation to help those who've been blasted by Harvey.

Thank you, readers, for being so patient! There's more to come!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Cross Promotion Opportunity

Hey, fellow authors! I'm getting ready to publish the new "Sword in the Stars," both in paperback and ebook (kindle). I've never believed in author competition. If someone reads my stuff, I'm thrilled, but I'm not trying to keep readers all for myself. How dumb would that be? People read my books and look for something else. Great! To that end, I'd like to offer to my fellow authors the opportunity to publish a full page ad for your book(s) to appear in the back of "A Sword in the Stars." Here are the specifics:

Also, I need to let you know, I have room for only 15-20 ads. My interior designer said we'd go beyond CreateSpace's page count if we go any more than that. Sorry! First come first serve!

1) The ad would cost $25; payment via check in the mail or PayPal. If Paypal look for me under this email: mdbatfam (at) yahoo (dot) com

2) The ad would need to be "PRINT AS IS" in pdf, should look good in color or B/W. Kindle ad will be color. Print ad will be B/w

3) Probably should be books in the fantasy / scify / adventure genres

4) I have to protect my readership, so please, if your books are "anti-Christian," sexually explicit, or sensationally violent, I can't take the ad. If you send me something "iffy," I might have to turn it down. No offense intended. Seriously.

5) The ad can be for selfpubbed or professionally pubbed books. Again, cross promotion is awesome!

6) Please message me on facebook or email me (batguy21784 (at) yahoo (dot) com) if you're interested.

7) Thank you!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Have you enjoyed my work? Consider being a Patron of the Arts!

Greetings, Marvelous Readers! I try not to do this very often, but this summer is a pivotal time for me as an author. For the first time ever, I am NOT under contract with a traditional publishing house. Everything I'm writing will be completely self published. And over the next six months, I hope to be publishing FIVE novels, Myridian Constellation Books 1-4 (formerly Dark Sea Annals): A Sword in the Stars (Author-ized Edition), The Errant King (Author-ized Edition), The Forsaken Continent (Late June), Mirror of Souls (August), and GHOST 2: Minister of Fire (October).

And so, if you've enjoyed my stories or, by God's grace, have been built-up, encouraged, or inspired by my writing, would you consider becoming a Patron of the Arts on behalf of my future stories? In Ye Olde Days of Yesteryear, artists, musicians, and writers were sponsored by private citizens who wanted to make sure more of their favorite creative works could be produced.
But in 2017, becoming a patron of the arts couldn't be easier. 

If you're still reading, thank you. If you're thinking you might like to become a patron for me, check this out: 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Rent "A Glimpse of Heaven," Have a heavenly vacation...and a signed book!

Mary Lu Dovel Batson and I are here in North Topsail Beach, NC, and the weather is stunningly nice. 76 degrees today. The sun, like rippling diamonds, on the ocean is mesmerizing. We've named our beach house "A Glimpse of Heaven," and just the view from any of the five decks will tell you why we named the place as we have.

Just wanted to let you know that we are now accepting rentals for this season. You'll be shocked at how affordable the weekly rates are. If you are looking for a gorgeous beach vacation this spring or summer or fall, click the link below and get your reservation!

Then, private message me, and I'll send you a signed book of your choice from my 17 published books as a thank you for renting our beach house.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love is More than a Feeling

There are many kinds of love, but all too often what this culture calls love is more like affection or even infatuation or attraction. Nothing wrong with the love we "feel." It's wonderful when we really feel it. But relying on feelings as the sole proof of love is one of the dumbest things we could ever do. Forgive me for being blunt, but some of us (chiefly me) need to be hit with a hammer sometimes to get the point. Feelings are fickle. They come and go. Feelings can be impacted by 10,000 variables that have nothing to do with real love. Too little sleep, too much sleep, a poor diet, not enough of a certain vitamin, the time of year, the time of month (cough), clouds, body chemistry, etc. etc. etc. Love is far more than a feeling, and if we forget that, we will crash and burn in our relationships with people…and with God. For years, I struggled with not "feeling" the love of God. I wanted warm fuzzies, hugs from God, to hear and feel Him near. Seemed like some other people got that, but not me. So I quite literally found my faith shipwrecked in despair…because of feelings.

In contrast, the bible tells us that "Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for a friend." John 15:13. That's agape love right there, folks. Selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. Boom. Just this past year, I've come to grips with this reality, and it has changed my life. I don't have to feel God's love. I don't have to beg Him for love. I don't have to base my confidence of God's love on what I feel. The scriptures tell us that God took love to a whole new level: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8. Let that sink in. While we were still sinners, meaning when we cared nothing for God or for Jesus. When we went about our merry way, seeking self above all things. When we spent our lives on our own appetites—Christ died for us. Christ. Died. For. Us.

Forget feelings. They will come and they will go. But you can KNOW that God loves you because He lay down His life for you. He took action. He saved us. Believe it, and you'll know you're loved by God. Happy Valentine's Day. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Politics versus Unity in Christ: Which One is Winning?

34 “A new command I give you: Love ONE ANOTHER. As I have loved you, so you must love ONE ANOTHER. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love ONE ANOTHER.” John 13:34-35

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be ONE, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be ONE as we are ONE— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete UNITY. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17: 20-23

"1 But I, brothers,[a] could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is JEALOUSY and STRIFE among you, are you not of the FLESH and behaving only in a HUMAN way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely HUMAN?"

"5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are ONE, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building." 1 Cor 3: 1-9

"18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is WISE in this AGE, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the WISDOM of this WORLD is FOLLY with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in MEN. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." 1 Cor 3: 18-23.

"14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point YOU THINK DIFFERENTLY, that too GOD WILL MAKE CLEAR TO YOU. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained."

So why the scripture barrage on unity? Do you really need to ask? I am calling out to all of my Christian brothers and sisters (and myself) to take a quick soul check based on these verses. If facebook, private conversations, flurries of sarcastic jabs, etc. are any indication, Christians (many of whom I know and love dearly) are dividing publicly about President Trump and a whole host of political issues. And many of us, in the act of making divisive comments, are splintering the Body of Christ. All the while, the nonbelieving world says, "see how they disagree and don't love one another." And satan is laughing. 

So I have a few suggestions, for myself, and for my Christian friends and family:

#1: Stop it. Just stop. Stop the Facebook posts, stop obsessing over politics. Stop thinking you know better than all your other brothers and sisters. And honestly, stop acting like you know more than God. Do you think God's in heaven wringing his hands thinking, "Oh, no, Trump is president! Look at that horrifying policy he just signed into law. That's trouble, right there. What ever shall I do?" Do any of you really think you have a perfect godly perspective on everything that is happening? And, even in a worldly sense, do you really think you know what's going on at the highest levels of government? It's House of Cards on steroids mixed with trigonometry! And you think you've got it all figured out? Get real. Just stop. Go back and consider 1 Cor 3: 18-23. In delving so deeply and so obsessively into politics, are you trying to be Wise in this world? Maybe, it's time to pull out a bit and be a fool for God.

#2: Pray. Pray for our president. Pray for our government. Pray for senators and representatives. Pray for our nation. Since Trump has become president, how many times have you actually prayed for the man? How much time do you spend praying versus venting politics on Facebook, Twitter, etc?

#3: Consider Who's Watching: I recently saw a post highlighting every single thing that Trump has done wrong and not once mentioning anything his administration has done right. And the worst thing about this post is that it was a Christian addressing other Christians and basically lobbing guilt trip bombs, saying things like are you going to be the kind of Christian I need to explain to my kids? And why? Because we're not ALL screaming and yelling about the terrible things Trump is doing. That's like Paul objecting to factions forming to follow him and other factions following Apollos. Are there genuine Christians who are republicans? Of course there are. Are there genuine Christians who are democrats? Of course! So start acting like it. The world is watching. Our children are watching. And, since His vigilance never sleeps, God is watching. Will they, will HE see unity?

#4 Go private. If you absolutely need to discuss political issues with your fellow Christians, send private messages. Call people and do lunch (at an uncrowded restaurant) and talk it over. Run it through scripture and see if you can agree. If not, pray, submit to God and allow Him to make things clear between you.

#5 And finally, put love first. Sure, someone might be a hand or a foot or an eye or an arm, but we are ONE body. Sure, someone might be a republican or a democrat or libertarian or even undecided, but we are all ONE body. Spend less time plotting how to annihilate the political stance of another and much more time determining ways to love each other.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Christians, Take a Page from MLK: We Must Wear Down Our Enemies with our Ability to Love Them.

My favorite MLK quote. I pray that all Christians could adopt such a love battle cry as this (thinking of myself as chiefly in need of it). But if we all did as Jesus told us to do and loved our enemies, the world course would be altered forever.

"I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say:”We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Want to Be an Author? Read this First.

I was contacted the other day by a young writer who was working on a project for a class. She wanted to ask a published author a few questions about the trade. They were such good question and led to some very detailed answers that I thought others should have access to them too. Seriously, if you are an aspiring writer and want to be a published author, read this first:

1. What does the day-to-day work in your field look like? Pertaining to writing, that is.

It'd be impossible to pin down what the day-to-day is in my field because writers are a wacky breed. Not a one of us does it the same way. Stephen King writes 10 pages a day no matter what. Me, I can't do that. I can't even create a set writing time. My life is so fluid with family and teaching demands that I just write whenever I can. When I can write, I put the headphones on, listen to epic trailer music, and dive into story mode.

2. What are some key considerations you'd tell someone like me who's considering this field? That is, considering making writing part of one's income?

I'd recommend just that: making writing PART of your income. At first, no one, I mean NO ONE has ever heard of you or your books, so you need to have a primary source of income. Perhaps something that compliments your writing like being an editor or an English teacher. Once you have safe income in place, you can go to town on your writing, either going the traditional / legacy route with a publishing house or self pubbing on Amazon Kindle etc. If you do the selfpub route, consider submitting your novels to a service like BookBub. You can often start a readership through such services.

3. What skills would be important for me to have in this field?
Besides the obvious, I suppose. Lol.

I suspect "writing" might be a good skill to have. 0,o Seriously, though, there are a couple of subsets of writing that you need. First, I highly recommend taking a few classes in poetry (contemporary, if pos) because, in it, you will learn to make every word count. And that is SO key. When you tell a story, you are not telling every detail of someone's life, but only the highlights and most meaningful qualities that will form the basis for your character's decisions in the novel. Don't just pick good words or words that "will do," but rather, pick the best words. Try to use connotative words, words that trigger a reaction or feeling in the reader. Don't say "she sat down." Say she slumped. Don't say he walked across the room. Say he lunged. Don't describe a winter tree as bereft of leaves. Say the tree was black and rigid with branches and limbs like a thousand spiders linked in some unholy dance.

Secondly, work on suspense techniques because that, my young swordmaiden, is THE name of the game. You must make your readers wait for what they want. Be cruel in that way. Use mystery, the unknown, intense emotion, danger, unusual events, clues that stick out like a sore thumb—you will have the reader flipping pages like some kind of mad librarian! And do this right at the start. Your first sentence better grip the reader by the throat. Then, the first paragraph, should yank them forward. Then, the first page must shake them senseless. And your first chapter, well, your first chapter should end on such a potent cliffhanger that the reader will very nearly rip the page trying to get to the next chapter.


4. What are some of the unique challenges I might encounter in this career?  

There are several unique challenges that I've faced, and I'm not totally certain they are common to all writers, but for what it's worth: The first major challenge is wearing too many hats. When I got my first publishing contract, I was already a Dad of four young children, a husband of a wonderful wife, and a full time English teacher. Still am all of those things except that the kids are all in their late teens now. {Sigh}. Finding time to write was difficult. My wife was incredible, bearing a ton of extra burdens so that I could head to the library or the local Panera and spend the day writing. But the worst thing about it is that no matter what I was spending my time doing, it always "felt" like I should have been working on something else. If I spent the day sledding with my kids, I loved it and cherished that time, but always on the back of my mind: the deadline or the lesson plan. If I was writing, I would constantly think of my wife and kids and how I wasn't there for them. No matter what I did or was doing, I felt the pang of other responsibilities. Time. That's the big thing about writing. Novels take an absurd amount of time from your life. And, while it might be a ton of fun to invent worlds and races of people, creatures, etc, to do so, means letting the real world go by, real people and relationships are missed. Writers must sacrifice hours, days, weeks, and months. And it's time you cannot get back. Honestly, if I didn't feel that God wanted me to write these stories, I don't think I would have been able to keep doing it. Time is precious. What I wouldn't give now for an hour to play with my kids when they were young! Of course, I can still play with them now, but they can pretty much beat me up. lol

The second challenge was living up to the expectations and demands of the publishers. When I signed the dotted line for The Door Within Trilogy, I paid no attention at all to the deadlines. I was, more or less, mesmerized by the dream come true of being an author. But suddenly, I needed to write 75,000 words in three months. And then, I had to do it again for book 3. But there can often be creative differences too. I had to do research and fight and email battle with my publisher who didn't think the main character in The Door Within should be named Aidan. It's too uncommon, they said. Too unusual. I loved "Aidan" because it had roots in Irish (Gaelic), and it meant "little fire." To defend the name, I researched baby name sites and found that for that particular year, Aidan was the most common boy name given to newborn boys. The publisher conceded. Yay!

But they don't always.

There were times that I had to cut parts that I loved or add parts that seemed pedestrian. And there was once, during the writing of Curse of the Spider King (cowritten with Christopher Hopper) that I think the publisher was close to firing us—or whatever it's called when a publisher cuts you loose. The contention came over the ending of the book, which CH and I believed to be an AWESOME cliffhanger. But the publisher felt like it didn't follow the usual story arc or allow enough closure. Eventually, we came to a compromise, but it was a painful one. There was another unique situation that kind of blew my mind. Publishers, especially big publishing houses, tend to have "profit" worked out to a formula. And so they plan everything out ahead of time, often including the side of the book's binding, how many pages, etc. I'd always thought that the author just writes the story, however long it may be, and then, you edit out what needs cutting, and VOILA! A book. But with my publisher, I most often worked on a word count of @75-100K words. But with Isle of Swords, I went way over that. It was originally 120K, and so, after much discussion, I had to cut 20,000 words. That was an arduous and heartbreaking task.


5. Yikes, I imagine that would be. I wouldn't have guessed, though. I love Isle of Swords as it is. If you had to do it over, what would you do differently? 

If I had to do the author portion of my life over, there's a ton that I would change. 1) I would get published earlier. I took 13 years to publish The Door Within. But most of that was a lack of persistence and discipline on my part. God was patient and still opened the door later for me, but I wish I'd started earlier. It would have been so much better for my family financially. 2) I'd ruthlessly cut other "hobbies" from my life and use that extra time to spend with my wife and kids. On top of the time I needed for writing, I often took too much so-called "me" time for things like golf, tennis, video games, etc. What an idiot I was. Nothing wrong with any of those things, but those hours are gone. Jesus tries to tell us in His word, "if you lose your life for my sake, you'll find life, but if you keep it to yourself, you lose it." I was quite literally a fool for spending so much time with selfish pastimes. Please don't misunderstand, I was a very involved husband and father, but I could have been more. I should have been more. I'm sure there are other things I would change, but those are the main two.

Thank you, that's a lot of awesome advice. I appreciate the time you took to answer all these questions.

You're very welcome. It was kind of cathartic to explore all that you asked. I'm going to publish the whole Q&A on my blog. Hopefully, other aspiring young writers will learn a bit from it.

I hope so, too. You were one of my main inspirations to start writing. I don't know if God will guide me to opportunities in this field yet, but I'm sure your advice will be helpful if He does.

Well, aww, thank you for saying so. I pray that you'll take whatever path God lays out for you. It'll be an adventure, that much I can promise you. And, as you know, adventures always begin with the unexpected...    


Saturday, December 10, 2016

The only gift we ALL need...

Look, I know that you are not stupid. And I know that you are probably wandering through life, in many ways, just like I am. You know something's not quite right. You know the world isn't the way it's supposed to be. There's too much pain; too much suffering, and not enough love, not by a longshot.

You've been to church. You've met so-called Christians. You WISH there had been more to it, but were left feeling empty. So now, you disappear into the routines of every day. Step 1 thru Step 9, and then you go to sleep and start it all over again. You wish there was something more, but science has proven there isn't. So you just go on, doing the best you can. And as Henry David Thoreau put it, you "live a life of quiet desperation."

There's a part of you, bruised and battered because every time it speaks up, you hit is with your fists until your knuckles are raw and bleeding. But this part will not be silent, not completely. It whispers to you: "There is more." It makes your skin crawl with the idea that this life is not all there is. And somehow, some way, you know you were meant to travel on, to be transcendent. That the grave will not consume you whole, but will let some inner part of you go.

I wish I could reach out to each one of you and somehow change your heart. But all I can do is tell you what I've seen and what I know. As the apostles said, "Gold and silver, I do not have but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."

That's right. Walk. You think all this life has been is walking. No. This life is a long distance crawl, and worse, it's like Atlas pushing that stupid stone world up the hill, only for it to come rolling back down around us or over us. You're so right. This world SUCKS. This world is NOT what it should have been. And this world is NOT all there is.

Jesus came and picked me out of a strawberry field. That's my story. I was working at one of those pick-your-own strawberry patches, and it was my senior year at UMCP. An old old friend came out that late afternoon to pick strawberries. He ended up picking me. He simply asked "How are you doing?" And somehow, against my better judgment, I did not respond with the usual, "Fine, how are you." Instead, I said, "I'm actually awful."

And that was such a strange thing for me to say. I had just graduated near the top of my class. I had letters of recommendation that made me blush because of the high praise. I was quite certain of a teaching position and quite certain I would become the next Stephen King. But God revealed to me that I was broken. I left a relationship with a very sweet young lady, in the worst possible way. And the future, to me, looked more of a burden than anything else.

I had this pressure on my chest. I can't explain it. But it was like God pointed His finger directly into my pectoral muscle. All day long, I felt it. And I cried out to everyone I trusted, trying desperately to explain what I was experiencing. But the only person who had a clue about what I felt was the old friend who came out to the strawberry field.

He said, "Wayne, could it be that God is trying to get your attention?" He went on to babble a TON about Jesus and being born again and all that. And I nodded a lot. But, honestly, I didn't really care "what" he was saying. But I was absolutely captivated by the peace that he wore like a glow in the dark suit. He had, I knew, something I had never ever had. There was peace and security and well, a sense of love and belonging that I'd never thought possible.

So we agreed to meet together to read through the bible's book of Romans together, and I read Romans 7 and it hit me over the head like a sledgehammer. It was a full color portrait of me, but written 2000+ years before my birth. I was stunned. And I prayed that Jesus would forgive my sins (many, many, many sins). And I believed in Jesus for eternal life.

My life didn't instantly become a JOYFUL merry go round. It has been a struggle. I have doubted more than God deserves, and I have struggled and fought, and came kicking and screaming back to the realization that God. IS. REAL. That, JESUS, IS. REAL. And that He is both GOOD and LOVING, and calling out to all of us. The transcendence I feel in my deepest heart, I now realize is eternity calling. An eternity with Jesus in a world that knows no pain, no tears, no sickness, and no death.

When my father died last October (2015), the bottom dropped out from under my feet. Suddenly, death was something real and for those left behind, crushingly permanent. Look, you can deny it all you want, but you are going to die. You may be hitting the gym and eating kale all the time, but still, the death ratio is 100 to 0. No matter how much fun you can fill your life with, it's going to end. And likely, people you love will be taken before you, and you will feel the aching emptiness of that loss. This is no joke. This isn't funny. No movie, no book, no alcohol or drug can take away this truth: you will die. And though you invest in stocks and bonds, though you have the greatest life insurance known to man, though you have given careful thought to the legacy you will leave are still leaving.

There's a place in you, battered like your bloody knuckles, a place that is weeping quietly that everything you've done in this world, every single act, every memory, and every experience, will melt away when you die. There's a divine melancholy that hits you at the end of every birthday, every Christmas, every Vacation. A very real sense that what should be....didn't last as long as it should have. And, if you're honest, you'll see that this feeling is real.

All I'm saying is this: I'm 48, the wrong side of forty. You might be fifteen, thirty, twenty-four, or sixty. It doesn't matter. Time will kill you. And after? There will be eternal life. One way or the other. You will not disintegrate and be no more. You will live on. I beg of you, look for Jesus. Read the book of John or read Romans and see. Taste God and see that He is good. He's not closed minded and intolerant as the modern press would preach. Instead, He offers eternity to EVERYONE who would believe in Jesus and what He did on the cross, saving us from our sins.

I hope I've got a lot of time left. I want to see my kids graduate high school and college. I want to see them get married and make a dent for good in this world. I want to write a gazillion more books. But more than anything else, I want to see people believe in Jesus and be forgiven. I want to see you all in the GREATEST PARTY IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE. In heaven. That's our real home. As much as this world doesn't feel quite right, Heaven with Jesus will feel like the far off country we've always felt rumor of. And it will be ours to share with the Lord forever.

If you've read this and believed in Jesus, please message me. If you have questions, doubts, flaming rebuttals, etc, message me.