Friday, April 29, 2016

Expressions of Faith: Eternity

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
(1 Peter 1:23 NIV)
In context of the chapter, this verse is pretty common sounding. 
We don't just die, if we are in Christ. We have eternal life.
Then there's this kind of obtuse mention of Scripture as the path to eternal life. 

Regardless of the commonality it engenders and the seemingly out-of-left-field reference to Scripture, this is a very important verse

It sets up Peter's next thought—next Friday's blog addresses that. 

It sets up what's coming by generating a thought pathway, even if it appears tangential.

The thought pathway is this: In my reading of the verse, eternal life and the word of God are inescapably intertwined.

Next Friday's Expression of Faith Series: Timeless
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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Timeless Truths: What Christians believe about… #5 - The Afterlife (Part 2)

#16. Timeless Truths: What Christians believe about… #5 - The Afterlife (Part 2)

April 28, 2016

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”
All Scripture quotations are from the NIV.

This is Luke’s version of Jesus’ parable: The Rich Man and Lazarus

The tone and meaning of this passage are very similar to the Matthew 25 passage. <See last week’s Part 1> Here Lazarus matches the description of “those in need”

The rich man sees Lazarus daily and walks right by him offering no assistance.
Heaven with gates of pearl and streets of gold demonstrates the difference between God’s idea of value and the world’s idea of value.

  • Hell is described as a place where there is no access to the presence, mercy, and grace of God.
  • Those in hell cry out for God like an injured child calls for a parent. But, in hell, there is no response from God to their pleas.
  • There are chasms in our lives that we’ve allowed to form. These chasms must be crossed before death. Strained relationships between family members and friends—examples of life chasms—must be addressed in this life.

What really mattered in both passages were relationships with other people.

The lesson is that poor horizontal relations—between us and other people—on Earth are unacceptable.

Our horizontal relationships show what our true relationship with God is.

Thanks to Rev. Scott Peterson for the central teachings used in this blog.

Next Thursday's Timeless Truths Series: Rahab: An unlikely hero

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Reviews, Reviewers, and Reviewing – Part 3

April 26, 2016
Reviews, Reviewers, and Reviewing – Part 3

As much as you try, you’re probably not going to get as many reviews as you’d like to get. Once you get above 30 reviews on Amazon, you’re likely to get contacted by various individuals with deals to help publicize that book. I rarely check on these. The one’s I have checked on are very similar. They don’t offer much more than I’m already doing.

Of course, you’d like to get all 4-Star or 5-Star reviews. If your book gets only 5-Star reviews, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. The implication is that EVERYONE who read the book loved it. That’s not true. There are readers who won’t publish their review if it’s not 5-Stars because they don’t want to hurt the book or the author. But, a mix of review levels is more realistic. I think you have a better chance to attract readers with an average rating of 4-5-Stars than with a 5-Star rating with 100% 5-Star reviews.

Now, it’s time to get really real.

You’re going to get bad reviews. Hopefully not too many, but you will get them. What do you do with them?

My first novel, Traveler's HOT L - The Time Traveler's Resort, was awarded

in the science fiction category in 2014. I was on a high.

In late summer of 2014, Publishers Weekly began offering reviews of books from Indie publishers. I submitted Traveler’s HOT L. In all honesty, I was looking to get one or two sentences or phrases I could use in publicity. I didn’t get a single word that I would be able to use.

Few people I know have seen the review. I did not put it up anywhere. I’ve decided to print it in its entirety below. Commentary I wrote soon after receiving the review follows. It is based on the highlighting colors. This post resumes this blog after that commentary.

Booklife Review: 10/1/14

A rundown hotel hides a HOT L (Harmonious Overlap of Time Location), a nexus for time travel, in a series of stories that lack the execution to deliver on the premise. 
Debut novelist Downing’s conceptual framework is ambitious, sending readers into a medieval historical, two crime stories, and the book’s own alternate-universe sequel, but there’s nothing new in these familiar settings. PI Phil Mamba tries to catch a murderous politician in his past and inevitably ends up altering the future; no one believes the boy who says that his dolls can speak when, of course, they can. By the time Jesus is referred to as a temporal anomaly, it’s all too much, especially given how often explanations of theory and verbose descriptions (“he spoke with tenderness tinged with resignation”) slow the narrative. The recurring characters who direct the HOT L lack personality, limited to droll remarks and clichés such as “smooth the now-wrinkled time fabric.” Nearly every opportunity to treat these concepts originally has been missed. (BookLife)

My first reaction was disappointment. I can’t imagine anyone not being disappointed after receiving what is, essentially, a dismissal of a project of theirs.

Everyone is entitled to her/his opinion. This individual clearly does not like my style of writing. That’s fair—it is, after all, an opinion.

However, I am now somewhere between perplexed with and angry at some of what is written—because some of it is wrong.

No one in this book goes back and does anything to change the future. Both Mamba and Michael restore the original timelines. This is more than a technicality. No future is altered. This is a point of angriness for me by misrepresentation of the book's content.

In Battle, three individuals are described as having disappeared from the timeline before Rose goes missing. Jesus disappears from the timeline. He’s never referred to as a temporal anomaly. It is the Ascension that is referenced. His presence on Earth is never questioned. A second point of angriness for me by misrepresentation of the book's content.

I think this is wrong. Most readers comment on the originality of the ideas. 

Specifically missing from the statement in the review is any mention of what I can defend as original ideas about time travel:
  • The method of travel. Ripples, DNA stimulus,
  • The fact that only specific items travel. No artifacts in either direction, consequences for taking artifacts.
  • The fact that travelers return to original timeline with a real time lapse for the time they miss in nearly all cases.
  • The fact that they don’t know how this all began. The premise of DNA Trek.

Collectively, these comprise my third point of angriness. This makes me suspect that the reviewer was not a science fiction aficionado and wonder why (s)he was assigned this book to review. 

I disagaree. Each character has a unique personality that is reinforced in every story. Chronos is a bit of a tease. Eternity is a literalist. Epoch is a legalist. Tempus is learning how to co-exist with humanity. However, this is now my opinion. It is a point of perplexity.

I guess the bottom line is still disappointment. But now, my disappointment is in the lack of content integrity of the review. Much of what is written is a misrepresentation of the book.

Blog Post (Continued)
I don’t read this review often. I do, however, read it on occasion for a number of reasons. It reminds me that
  • when I do a review, I need to be fair. I also need to be very certain that what I write does not present any opinion of the book being reviewed based on only my like or dislike of either the genre or the book itself.
  • life is not fair. At least life doesn’t always follow my definition of fairness.
  • I take a chance every time I send a book out for review.
  • to review my work looking for what I might do to make my ideas as original as I can.
  • all characters need to be multidimensional.

Since this review, I’ve written other books. The book I have out now for pre-review and copy-editing is the best I’ve ever done. While much of that improvement is the result of a hard-working publicist whose goal is to help authors to be the best they can be, (, a reasonable share is because I never want to read a review like this again for one of my books.

Bottom Lines For This Series on Reviews, Reviewers, Reviewing
  1. Authors need to help other authors by reviewing other author’s books.
  2. Reviews should be honest and reflect the content and characteristics of the book more than the personal preferences of the reviewer.
  3. Believing only what’s said in good reviews is stupid.
  4. Turn a bad review into a learning experience. Profit from what was pointed out by working to avoid those problems in future works.

Next blog: Lessons Learned from Young Writers

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