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Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Great Adventure: My First Kindle Release--The Skeleton Project

Steven Curtis Chapman has a song that I've always loved called, "The Great Adventure." It vividly captures the fact that being a Christian and living a life following hard after God is indeed, The Great Adventure. Not "A" great adventure. THE Great Adventure, the one we were made for.

Sure, other adventures can be exhilarating, thrilling, and captivating. Rock climbing, white-water rafting, skydiving--cool! But, while memorable, those adventures cannot compare to the adventure God has called us to*. So what is this adventure? I believe it's when God has given you a talent or gift, a special ability plus a fervent desire to do something to influence others to find and follow Jesus, bringing glory to God. It's something that sends the "tuning fork of your soul" into turbo hum.

Writing is the Great Adventure for me. God in His grace, saw fit to let me get published back on 2005, and it was a dream come true. Nine books (so far) came out of that venture with traditional publishing houses. Back then, traditional publishing was the way to go...pretty much the only way to go. But there was (and is) something wrong with that model of publishing. As I see it, the two major flaws of that system are 1) how books are acquired  and 2) how authors are compensated.

If you sent a manuscript to a publisher, it often came down to one person's opinion as to whether or not your story ever became a book. One person. If that dude had a tough morning, ran out of coffee, or was peeved that his/her favorite team lost, your book might be tossed in the "no thanks" pile. Rejected. Cast aside as of little or no worth. Ouch. But that's a flaw. A HUGE flaw. How else do we explain the host of bestselling authors who were rejected multiple, multiple times before finally getting a contract. Stephen King, for instance. How would you like to be one of the editors who rejected King? Ouch. So, that's a huge flaw. After all, one person can hardly hope to know what millions of readers, scattered all over the world, will find enriching and entertaining.

Solution: let the readers decide.

The second flaw in the system is how the creative talent is compensated. In traditional publishing, authors get paid a very small percentage of what a book sells for. That was the biggest shock to me when I first published. With eyes as big as saucers, I happily signed the first contract sent my way. But the royalties were much smaller than I'd ever feared. In most cases 10-15% of net sales. Sometimes it comes off of gross sales (which is better by far), but in the CBA, it's usually off the net. See the issue? The artist gets a very tiny percentage. 80% or more goes to the publisher. Granted, the publisher has many mouths to feed, many employees involved in the production, distribution, and marketing of a book. But still, there is no product if not for the author.

Solution: compensate authors with a fair royalty rate.

Enter eBooks. The world of publishing has changed. The Matrix that we were all living in has been exposed, and we now know there's a better way. With eBooks, anyone can publish. ANYONE. And that means that readers decide which authors are entertaining. With eBooks, authors can earn between 35% and 70% royalties. eBooks solve both problems.

So, while I am not abandoning traditional publishing, I am diversifying. It give me an absolute thrill to announce that my very first self published story is now available on Amazon Kindle.

The Skeleton Project. It's a series of short stories (each 5,000+ words) that I began writing around the same time as The Door Within. They are supernatural thrillers with a touch of humor and self-parody. They are pure escapist fiction...with a heart. Here's the synopsis of The Skeleton Project:

Mystery, humor, horror, suspense, and supernatural--the ingredients of a read-me-under-the-covers kind of story. The Skeleton Project is a series of supernatural mysteries in the same vein as the X-Files or The Nightstalker shows. Written to be enjoyed by readers from sixth grade to senior status, you'll find these tales are a little serious and a little tongue-in-cheek. Please note: this is a series of short stories, minimum 5,000 words.

Episode 1: File #0001 is about the mysterious circumstances that led the FBI to form The Skeleton Project. The most secretive branch of the Bureau, the Skeleton Project searches out the paranormal and supernatural cases that are far beyond the means of regular law enforcement. In Episode One, you'll meet two of the Skeleton Project's finest agents.

Obsessive, bend-the-rules Special Agent Oswald "Oz" Pershing is forced to contend with a trigger-happy new partner, Rachel Minnis. Together, Pershing and Minnis travel to Spud City, Idaho solve a series of supernatural pet abductions. Haunted by memories of his own loss, Pershing must juggle alien spacecraft sightings, the demands of breaking in a new partner, and the expectations of his volatile Chief Inspector. And all the while, the ultra secretive and ultra dangerous group known as The Executors watch over these two agents and weigh certain fateful decisions...

If you've enjoyed my stories in the past, I hope you'll try out The Skeleton Project. And, if you'd like to help spread the word, I'd really appreciate if you could mention the series and drop a link on your blog, facebook, twitter, etc. That kind of word-of-mouth really helps! Join me on The Great Adventure.

If you'd like to consider purchasing The Skeleton Project, Episode 1: U.F.F., just click the link below, or you can use the graphic link button in the sidebar. Never alone!

Awww, mannn, what if I don't own a Kindle??? Don't worry, Amazon has you covered. There are a whole bunch of FREE reading apps you can download that will allow you to read Kindle files on just about anything you own! Just click the link:

So, if you don't have a Kindle, no worries. You can still enjoy The Skeleton Project on your device of choice! Thanks for being faithful readers and joining me on this adventure!

*Note: it's quite possible that God has called to be a Christian influence as a rock climber, white-water rafter, or skydiver. I'm not putting down other adventures. God has a place on His wall for everyone.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Starseeker Contest WINNERS

Ladies and gentlemen! The day has come! The Starseeker Contest ended on June 26th. All eligible reports have been turned in. It is time to announce the winners!

[Cue Drumroll]

The Winning Starseeker Constellation is: 


What, you don't see the winner? You'll have to highlight the black space above with your mouse.
Or you can just look at the full standings below. lol

Here are the full standings. Constellation Founders, please check my totals for accuracy. Some of the reports I received were a little hard to decipher. 

FIRST: Silvertree = 273,850
SECOND: StarryElite = 246,260
THIRD: Phoenix = 167,890
FOURTH: Pureline = 42,900
FIFTH: Lumenos = 39,810
SIXTH: Starfire = 32,880
SEVENTH: Icemen = 20,600

And now, let's talk PRIZES!

For the winning SILVERTREE Team:
Founder: You have one the Grand Prize of having a real STAR named after you, a person of your choice, or your constellation. eMail me your mailing address so that I can register the star in your name and have them send you the plaque and stuff that comes with Star Ownership. Please also indicate EXACTLY what name you want the star to be named after.

Members of Silvertree: You will all have characters in my next book named after you. FOUNDER: please send me the fantasy name of all of the members who participated. Important: these must be cool fantasy names. I won't name a character Bob Smith or Twinkletoes or anything like that. LOL

Members of Silvertree: You will have a special page in the Acknowledgments JUST FOR SILVERTREE. Please give me a list of the names of your members--as they want their names to appear in the book.

Highest Point Earner on the Silvertree Team: FOUNDER--please email me and let me know who the highest point earning member of your team was. He/She will be enrolled in my BOOKS4LIFE program. I will need a name and a mailing address so that I can begin to send books as they are released.

Who wins the Kindle???
It's possible the winner of the Kindle may not be on Silvertree. The winner is the single Constellation Member who earned the most points all by himself. SO, all FOUNDERS, please email me the name of your highest point earner, so I can figure this out. I have one team's report that shows a particular person with lots of points but then I have another team with a spreadsheet from which I can't tell individual total points. So please give me the individual score of the high scorer on your team. This person could be the KINDLE winner!

What about everyone else?
2nd Overall Highest Points for an individual = BOOKS4LIFE winner! Once again, I'll need a name and address. Note: if prizes overlap, there won't be a doubling of the prize. Lol

Founders: Send me a list of every member of your team as they want their name to appear in the acknowledgments of my next book. ALL of you will be in there.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Independence Day 2012 and the Dangers of Freedom

"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

1776: The Declaration of Independence

Most of us are more familiar with the opening of the document, particularly this line:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Freedom. It's what we celebrate each July 4th. It's what we live each day of our lives. Or so we think.

Freedom. It's our right…given to us by God. That freedom and everything it has, over time, come to mean--that freedom is a good thing. Or so we think.

Make no mistake, the United States of America is the greatest nation on the face of the planet. Our history and heritage is born of diligence and the divine. But, freedom comes with a price. How many young men and women have paid for our freedoms with their life's blood? Far too many, with more obituaries written every day. They give their lives for freedom. They pay the price. But with freedom there is a dangerous string attached. For with freedom, comes the responsibility to shun the abuse of freedom, often referred to as "license."

And unfortunately, since the late 1950's, America has become "punch drunk" with its freedoms. The average person will tell you that all the extra freedoms we have, the things we cheer for now, and accept as "okay" are all good things...that they are improving America and our quality of life. But, don't be deceived by a majority "vibe" such as this. Things are not getting better. In fact, since the 1960's, as morals became muddied and began to erode, our freedoms are beginning to destroy us.

Think about some of the moral and social issues that have come to pass since the 1960's. Each "freedom" has been championed by various "Rights" groups, politicians, activists, pundits, celebrities, and even the clergy as of great benefit to America or even mankind in general. This is by far a partial list:
• Casual sex
• The Banning of God from Public Schools
• Easy Divorce
• Cohabitation
• Homosexuality
• Abortion on Demand
• Pornography

In the last 60 years, each of these moral/social issues has surfaced, gone away, resurfaced, gained momentum, and then gained acceptance by large numbers of Americans. And yet, life really isn't better, is it? For young readers, the answer might be "yes." But for those of us who have lived in different decades, we have experience that indicates otherwise. Statistics too, indicate otherwise. I contend that most of us have been like the "frogs in the pot." They sit in the pot, in the water, making no effort to get out. After all, we know the water. The water is comfortable. Slowly, the water gets warmer, but because the rise in temperature is so slow, so incremental, we don't notice.

And then, we're cooked.

I remember a time when kids could go out and play, sometimes quite far from home, and even at night {gasp}. And parents didn't need to worry that some sick nutball would take their kids away. There was a time when kids didn't have to worry that their parents would break up. There used to be a time when entertainment wasn't laden with sex and violence. Ah, those were the days. To quote the eminent scholar Sir William Joel, "The good old days weren't always good." Granted. But in many measurable ways, they were much better than they are today.

Rereading the Declaration of Independence, I can't help but think that the founding fathers of that document would turn in their graves if they could see how misunderstood the term "freedom" is in America today. The freedom to pursue happiness has become a carte blanche for every perversion known to mankind. If it feels good, some reason, do it. After all, it's our right. That, my friends, is a lie of the most horrific sort. The right to liberty has been rationalize to mean do whatever you want. The right to life has been roundly ignored.

I am not a professional researcher. I don't have the time, nor the inclination to perform a classical study. But even a cursory glance at the statistics makes it clear that life in America is NOT improving. More and more, we are becoming a society driven by sex, greed, violence, and perversion. Consider This Data. Violent crime, forcible rape, aggravated assault rates, etc. are all WAY up since 1960. Our appetites are making America less safe.

Some might argue that the list of moral issues declining don't have a causal relationship with the increase in various crimes. Maybe not, but if not those, then what? Those of us with life experience, and especially those of us who do counseling of any kind, we know the human heart. We see that if you feed a craving for sex, violence, etc., it only succeeds in making the appetite grow.

Some might argue that we can't legislate morality. In other words, the government can't tell us what's right and wrong...and hope to change people's actions. Amazes me how confidently and forcefully people will make this claim. Examine the claim. It's absolutely preposterous. The government is there to guide us. Laws are meant to protect us. All we do is legislate morality. Every law has a foundation of something being right or something being wrong. If we shouldn't legislate morality, we may as well declare murder legal. How foolish a notion.

What do we do? The genie's out of the bottle, right? We've stepped upon the slippery slope, and there's no climbing back. With man, yeah, we're pretty much toast. We've given away the farm. But with God, all things are possible. Here's what we do:

1) We turn back to God. Privately. Each one of us. We give ourselves to Jesus Christ, accept salvation/rededication, and ask for power to turn from sin. We confess our abuse of freedoms and ask for wisdom to use freedoms to honor God and serve. We do this because God is the ultimate judge of what is right. His word tells us pretty succinctly how to live...and yes, it is very relevant for 2012 America. If we don't look to God for right and wrong, we'll become our own gods and make up our own morality. That doesn't work.

2) We do not suffer any talk about moral abuses being "good" for people. We do not accept labels of being bigots or intolerant. That is immature thinking and petty-name calling from people who want their way but don't want to have to think through the possible alternatives. No, we don't sit around pointing fingers at people, calling folks "sinners, pagans," or "the lost." We are all travelers in this world, but we are entitled to our voice. Tell the truth, but tell the truth with love and respect. We may find ourselves in the minority, but stand we must. You may be one small stone, but stand firm where you are. Each stone has its place in a mighty avalanche.

July 4th, we celebrate independence. But be careful with your freedom.