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Thursday, December 20, 2012

How Storytelling Conveys Truth Better than Non-fiction

That is the title of my first guest article at the Speculative Faith blog. I stumbled upon a website discussing the way descriptive storytelling affects the brain, and it gelled some concepts in my head. Being I'd been invited to do a guest blog, I wrote the article for that blog. Check it out if you get a chance.

How Storytelling Conveys Truth Better than Fiction

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yippee for Christmas! by R. L. Copple

As I've been doing for the last few years, I'm presenting to friends, family, and fans a Christmas short story as my Christmas gift to you. Thanks to everyone who has read, supported, and been a friend over the past year, and I pray into the new year as well. Now, enjoy my new Christmas short story: Yippee for Christmas!

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away that amazingly looked a lot like Texas, there lived a king named Loren. King Loren ruled a kingdom full of joyous, peaceful, and loving people. For they had much to be thankful for. From the mountain ranges in the west, to the plains in the north, to the ocean beaches on the southern coast, and the forest in the east, rarely was heard a dissenting voice. Crime gained no foothold here, as no one lived in discontent. It was Heaven on Earth.

What you say? Impossible? One would think so, save for one basic fact. The biggest celebration in this kingdom happened every December 25th on Christmas day. Each year, the king threw the grandest party in his castle, not sparing neither Christmas turkey, Christmas ham, Christmas tamales, or Christmas picante sauce. No child left without a present from the king. The whole kingdom celebrated Christmas.

What? Oh, you're wondering why this created their private utopia? Not because of the food, but because of what they celebrated: joy, peace, and love. The celebration reminded them all year long to practice these virtues, and so they did with the utmost fervor. They celebrated and practiced these virtues so well that all crime vanished, no one starved or lacked a roof over their heads, and no one complained over what they had, didn't have, or what their neighbor had that they didn't. The focus on joy, peace, and love overshadowed everything else.

One Christmas eve, King Loren's death ended his reign. The funeral line processed in a solemn march through the city as adults and children lined the streets. The normal joy of the season fell silent against the night of the king's life. Everyone reminisced about the good king's deeds and heroic decisions, and the most honorable kingdom in the world under his rule. No one shared a negative word against him, so great was their love for him.

King Loren's rule fell to his oldest son, Xander. Before the festivities of Christmas began, the lords of the land installed King Loren's son to the throne.

As King Xander examined the solemn crowd in the usually festive hall, he said to them, "My loyal subjects. Ever did my father find joy, peace, and love in the Christmas celebration. We can do no less in honor of his memory. He would not be pleased to find us sad on this day, lest we forget all he has taught us. So let us lift a glass to his memory and celebrate this festival as if he is watching, for he very well may be."

Heads nodded and smiles filled the sea of faces sitting around tables laden with all sorts of Christmas foods. Hands reached for glasses to join in the toast, all except one. One hand raised above the growing hum of voices and said, "My lord, I have a complaint!"

Gasps raced across the hall; talking halted. The king, along with every other eye in the crowd, stared at the man with the upraised hand. King Xander scratched his beard in disbelief. "Kind sir, are you from our fair kingdom? For complaints are rare with our people who celebrate and practice joy, peace, and love throughout the year. What possible complaint will you bring before us on this august day?"

The man lowered his hand and stood. "My lord, I am new to these parts. I had heard of the joy, peace, and love of this land, and wished to join such worthy festivities. Now that I am here, I feel excluded, for I am not of your religion. Would not it be more inclusive of all faiths who also celebrate joy, peace, and love, if we gave this holiday a new name? I beseech you to consider this request so that I too, and those who follow other faiths, are free to celebrate with you." The man sat down.

All eyes turned to the king in anticipation of his words. King Xander stroked his beard for a moment and then said, "Long has it been the tradition in our land, set by my father, to call this day Christmas. Yet your argument is sound. I will put my wise men to the task and by next Christmas—or whatever it will be called—we will have a new name. So be it."

The lords replied back, "May the king's will be done." The man smiled, and the celebration continued through the day as it had for many years.

Shortly before the next Christmas...I mean, whatever it would be called, King Xander made an announcement in his court. "My dear subjects. Last year, I declared we would find a more inclusive name for our celebration of joy, peace, and love. After much consultation with my wisest counselors, we have settled on that name.

"Beginning this year, it will no longer be referred to as Christmas, but Yippee! You will no longer have a Christmas tree, but instead, a Yippee cactus. Santa will no longer deliver Christmas presents; he will leave children Yippee presents. No longer will you hear Christmas in your songs. Rather you'll hear songs like, 'Yippee, Yippee time is here. Time for laughter, time for cheer...' Instead of hearing the story ''Twas the Night Before Christmas,' you will hear, ''Twas the Night Before Yippee.' All references to Christmas will be changed throughout the kingdom in favor of the new name to commemorate joy, peace, and love: Yippee!"

The hall erupted in a glorious, "Yippee!" followed by clapping and shouts. They had never felt more inclusive.

Christmases...I mean, Yippees came and went for seven years. Each year the celebration grew grander to outdo the last. But other changes emerged over the seven years. Crime rose from nearly non-existent to 30%. Complaints became the norm instead of the exception. Despite doing more in the Yippee parties than his father, King Xander received notices of discontent about them and a good many other government services as well. Joy, peace, and love declined even while their virtues were lauded.

At the eighth annual celebration of Yippee, King Xander put on another exciting Yippee party at his castle. After listening to a rousing rendition of "Yippie Bells," and a fun sing-along with the king of "O, Yippee Night," the king sat at the head of a table filled with Yippee turkey, Yippee ham, Yippee tamales, and Yippee picante sauce. By this point, King Xander had also added his own touch to the menu: Yippee figgy pudding.

King Xander stood, raised his glass of Yippee wine, and then said, "My loyal subjects, each year at this time we celebrate the virtues of joy, peace, and love: the founding principles of our land. So I toast with each of you that these virtues will prevail among us and that our country will always celebrate their values and benefits."

A couple of heads nodded. Many said, "Whatever." Hands wandered toward glasses to join in the toast, all except one. One hand raised above the growing grunts, and an eight-year old boy said, "My lord, I have a complaint!"

A few, "What's new?" comments echoed among them as eyes focused on the king's response.

King Xander waved his hand. "You'll need to take it to the complaint department. It is open on Mondays through Fridays from noon to one o'clock."

The boy stood. "I have a question then. Why?"

The king's forehead wrinkled. "Why what?"

"Why do we celebrate joy, peace, and love? Especially when there is so little of it."

King Xander moved his mouth as if to talk for two seconds before emitting an answer. "Why? Because my young lad, you are not able to remember the joy of my father's reign. The celebration of these virtues is what provided such prosperity and harmony in our land for many years. We have fallen from that ideal, I will grant you, but that is no reason to not celebrate their glorious effect upon our kingdom."

The child shook his head. "But why celebrate something that ain't happening?"

King Xander scratched his head, then turned to the wise men seated on the left side of his table. "Answer the boy's question."

The wise men stared at each other to see who would give an answer. Five seconds passed, then the oldest of them stood. Wise Joseph—King Loren's trusted adviser and the one, lone dissenting voice concerning the Yippee celebration change—bowed to the king.

Wise Joseph faced the child. "In the ancient writings, the angels appeared to shepherds in the fields by night. Upon arriving, the angels declared a message of great joy, and upon departing, they shared the words, "On Earth, peace." That is, peace and goodwill among men. But these virtues were not the purpose behind their celebration. Rather the angels pointed to One who would infuse joy, peace, and love among mankind. It is not the virtues we celebrate, but the god-man who came from Heaven to give us joy, peace, and love." Wise Joseph returned to his seat.

Silence prevailed for five seconds. Then the child asked, "Who is this god-man?"

The king stared at the boy, then raised his hand. "My loyal subjects. I fear we have made a grave mistake these past eight years. In our attempt to be inclusive, we have excluded the very person who instills these virtues into each one of us. Knowledge of and living by His words have diminished, and therefore, so has joy, peace, and love. From this moment forward, we will return to calling this celebration Christmas. We will have our Christmas trees, our Christmas foods, our Christmas presents, and yes, even our Christmas figgy pudding to celebrate the Christ through who we are made joyful, peaceful, and loving. We are not inclusive by excluding anyone, most especially the guest of honor, but by inviting all to join in His celebration. So be it."

The lords raised their glasses. "May the king's will be done." Loud clapping and cheers arose from the celebrants.

And so the kingdom celebrated Christmas once again, and a measure of joy, peace, and love returned to the land over the following years. What? You want to know what happened to the ideal kingdom? Once corrupted with the knowledge of evil, the kingdom is rebuilt one person, one heart at a time as they partake in the redemption of the God-man and find true joy, peace, and love abiding within. The ideal kingdom reigns in such persons, and it is this truth that the people of King Xander's country learned to celebrate.

Yippee for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lisa Godfrees Interviews Me

Lisa Godfrees recently reviewed my book, Mind Game, which she really enjoyed, so she asked me if I'd be up for an interview. So, like, yeah! So, by jove, she did, I answered, and she posted. I'm blushing a bit with the praise, but she asked some good questions you may not have seen on many of the previous interviews. So check out her author spotlight on me, the "spectacular R. L. Copple" as she puts it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hallow Fright

Decided to offer a free Halloween story this year to my fans. It's around 1300 words, so not long. Enjoy!


"Ouch! Mom, that hurt."

"You can thank me later." She yanked again on Tulek's rough hair. "Now hold still like a good little orc, and I'll give you some more."

Tulek smiled. He'd not messed up his hair for nothing. After all, he had to look good for Halloween. "Ouch!"

She put the brush down and wiped her finger-claws on her apron. "That's enough. Don't want to make you look primed and proper, like those vampires."

Tulek frowned and hopped off the stool. He sat at the table next to his little brother, Jukel, already chewing his bat innards. But he turned his attention to his plan for the night.

His mother's thoughts appeared to be there as well. "Tulek, you remember what your dad said about tomorrow?"

"Yes, ma'am." But he knew she'd tell him again anyway. She never believed he remembered anything. Well, sometimes he had to admit, he forgot things, but really?

"For your coming of fright day, he's signed you up for a bed. Did he go over with you what to do under that bed?"

Tulek nodded. "Yes, ma'am. Once the lights are out and the parents have left, I make growling noises and shake the bed."

She stared at him. "You should appreciate this opportunity. Your father worked hard to get you an easy shot like that. Do you want to get your fright by jumping in front of a car or eating someone?"

Tulek grimaced at the thought of eating a human. They tasted horrible. "No, ma'am."

She nodded as she pulled her apron off and set it on the counter. "I should hope so. Now finish your bat and go enjoy your last Halloween as a little orc. I've got to help your father with his lunar array project." She walked down the hallway of the cave. "Can't let those werewolves get a jump on getting to the moon's energy."

Jukel let his bat skin fall to the plate. "Are we going to go now? Huh? I want some candy."

Tulek swallowed. "Right after I get my first fright."

"But Mom said that was tomorrow, not tonight."

"I know."

"And you can't get a fright on Halloween."

"So they say." Tulek ripped the last of the intestines from the bat and gulped it down with some poison ivy juice.

Jukel shook his head. "Dad will not like this. No, no, no."

Tulek swung his head around. "You didn't tell Dad, did you? Or Mom?"

Jukel's long nose flared. "No, of course not. I'm not ready to lose any limbs."

Tulek relaxed, but pointed a finger at Jukel. "And don't you forget it, either."

Jukel dropped from his stool. "I still think it is a waste of time."

"That is precisely why I'm doing it."

"What? To waste time?"

"No, silly. To prove it can be done."

Jukel grabbed his bag and slid his feet into his shoes. "My life goals are so much more practical. Candy."

Tulek laughed. "You don't understand. But that's okay. Keep it simple, until you no longer can." He breathed deep before grabbing his own bag and heading for the door.

# # #

Tulek scanned the horde of children accompanied by their parents. Halloween, the one night an orc could mingle freely with humans and not scare them. Many of his kind, as well as vampires, werewolves, and other monsters, joined the kids for trick or treating. But it also was the night hardest to get one's first fright. A day off for most monsters, but not him. Not tonight. Tonight, he was set on becoming a man-orc.

Jukel pulled on Tulek's coat. "Come on. If we wait much longer, all the candy will be gone."

"Just a minute. First things first."

"We've been waiting for several minutes."

Tulek huffed. "Okay, okay." He scanned the area for a good target. He saw a small group of girls, unattended by any adults. He smiled. They would be the best bet. "Stay here. Watch and learn."

Jukel frowned, but nodded, and then sat on a small tree stump.

Tulek followed the girls and caught up to them. One dressed as a witch, typical pointy hat, broom, and black dress. Another girl arrayed as a fairy princess Please! One of them wore a pirate outfit, eye patch and broad-flat hat. The girls, looked to be around eleven or twelve, giggled among themselves as they gawked at other costumes and discussed their candy hauls.

Tulek leaped in from of them, extended his claws, and yelled out a big, "Aaaaaaarrrrrrrgggg!"

The girls screamed and ran away. Tulek grinned. He knew he could do it. Then his smile sank into a frown. "They're laughing!"

Jukel had walked to where he stood. "Of course. That's why it's hard to scare anyone on Halloween. They don't take you seriously."

"I know that." Tulek growled. "But I just thought I could be different. Though I could prove to Dad that I don't need an easy job. That I'm as good as anyone."

"Don't take it hard. At least you have tomorrow. It'll be like taking candy from a baby."

Tulek stared into the stars. He blinked. "What did you say?"

"You have tomorrow."

Tulek smiled. "No, after that."

"What? Like taking candy from a baby?"

He snapped his fingers. "That's it. You're a genius, little brother."

"Can I get that written in blood?"

"I'll write it with my decomposed flesh if this works. Wait here."

Jukel shook his head. "Here we go again."

Tulek spotted a child dressed as a dragon. He'd just hopped out of a car. The perfect target. Tulek crossed the street and approached the child.

The kid's eyes peered from behind the dragon mask and he paused, watching Tulek.

As Tulek drew close, he stopped. "Have some good candy, kid?"

The child clutched his bag to his chest. "Uh hu."

Tulek bared his teeth and flexed his claws. The kid shrank back, his feet shaking. Hard to see his facial expression behind the mask, but he looked scared. Tulek had his fright!

The child stepped back. "Don't take my candy!"

Tulek lunged forward and grabbed the bag from the child's hands, ripping the paper. Two pieces of candy fell to the sidewalk. Tulek grinned at the fake dragon snout. "Boo!"

The kid's fake dragon mouth opened. Tulek knew it was to scream.

A whoosh of fire engulfed Tulek's face. The smell of burning flesh flooded his nose. Heat seared his head. Pain soared through his skull. He dropped the bag and fell backward, screaming.

As Tulek lay on the ground, writhing, he heard the kid running to the car screaming, "Mommy, I got my first scare, on Halloween!"

# # #

Tulek spit in the urn by the side of his bed. They'd taken him to an orc hospital. He had to spend a few days recovering, which meant he'd miss his appointment for an easy scare. Now he'd be seen as a total failure instead of the hero he wanted to be.

His dad and Jukel entered the room. His dad smiled. "Heard you tried to take candy from a dragon."

Tulek growled. "I didn't know he was a real dragon. Could have sworn he wore a costume."

Jukel giggled. "He did wear a costume. A dragon wearing a dragon costume. How cool is that?"

"Not very." Tulek stared out the window. "Sorry for ruining your Halloween."

Jukel pulled closer to his brother. "But have you seen your face yet?"

Tulek raised his hairless eyebrow. "No."

Jukel grinned and grabbed a mirror laying on a stand next to the bed. "Look!"

Tulek took the mirror and placed it in front of him. A horrid mess of charred flesh stared back at him. If he'd been human, it would have made him throw up.

Tulek's widened his eyes and turned to Jukel. "With this face, I can scare anyone!"

Jukel nodded his head. "Isn't it cool?"

His dad patted Tulek's chest. "Good job, son. You should have no problem getting your first fright now. Thanks to some dragon-based plastic surgery."

Tulek turned back to the mirror and caressed his face. "This is so cool." Yes. Now he would stand out and be the hero after all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Is Indie Publishing the New Vanity Press of Old?

That's the question author L. A. Sartor ask on her blog, and invited author Anthea Lawson and myself to give our thoughts on the matter. Naturally, I opined mightily. You can check out my thoughts and Anthea and L. A. Sartor's thoughts on the subject by reading the article: Is Indie Publishing the New Vanity Press.

Thanks for checking it out!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jennifer Eifrig Interviews Me

Author Jennifer Eifrig has posted an interview of me. She asked some more unique questions than some I've had, and so you get some unique answers than perhaps you've heard from previous interviews with me. I think she did a great job, and am thankful for providing the opportunity.

Check out her interview with me and post comments on her site. You can here as well. Thanks for checking it out.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Devil's Hit List Excerpt Frank Creed

Devil's Hit List CoverI'm kicking off the Splashdown Books Blog Tour for October's new release, Devil's Hit List: Book Three of THE UNDERGROUND by Frank Creed. Book one is Flashpoint, published in October 2009, and book two is War of Attrition published in October 2010. After two years, readers get to hop on board for another exciting ride through the cyber-punk world of Frank Creed. Here is the blurb:
The One State has contracted the Ash Corporation to produce virtual-e, a brainwave technology chip so highly addictive that it's eventually fatal.

The chip is used in the hottest new entertainment product that will hook any who experience it.

Calamity Kid and his crew fight the production of virtual-e and get backing from the Body of Christ to run an operation to keep the chip from being marketed in North America.

But how far can the underground heroes get when the global government and a megacorporation work together?

Today, we have an excerpt from the new novel to wet your appetite. Enjoy.
The train grunted and chugged out of our way. We strolled the pedestrian walkway across the tracks, a crude asphalt footpath, and then the sidewalk toward Main Street. Specialty shops lined the street and we took our time scanning their windows, giving other walkers a good head start. By the time we’d made it to a pottery shop, the block was empty of travellers.

“By the way,” said e-girl, “Serene got the Body Surfers’ cell back up and running. I finally have some hack support.”

“That’s good.” We passed a fabric store and a small antique seller. I thought I heard something.

“You know, Lethe likes you.”

“Uh-huh. I like her too.”

“Hello? I know! You told me the first time you saw her!”

Hurried footsteps sounded behind us and I ignored my sister. “Not right now, okay?”

“What ever.”

Two sets fell, paced to catch up with us by the next corner. I looked to e-girl. She still gazed in the store windows with no idea at all about our tail.

My electro-magnetic sense displayed something like an old photo-negative, and I did a slow blink to check my mind’s eye. With dark jackets and lip piercings they matched the loitering guys I’d recorded at the station—the image was not clear enough to tell if they were the same guys.

If these jokers were who I suspected, it would be better to lose them while there were still only two. Near the first block’s end, the Spirit spoke to me in the Word. Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned around and attacked Debir.

I turned around. “Wait here,” I told my sister, and walked back at them. They were now only five meters away so I closed quickly with big strides.

One was nearly as short as I. His big friend stood a bit over two meters. They stopped and muttered to each other, unsure of what to do. They stepped under the awning of a confectioner, and tried to hang out by its front door.

I stopped alongside them.

Draw. Both pistols obeyed my thought. They left their bicep holsters and sprang down coat sleeves to my ready hands. I snugged one under the ear of the short ganger, pointed the other at the tall one, and namedropped, keeping my voice low, to assure their compliance. “Tailing the Calamity Kid is not a prime career move. Tell me why I should not shoot you.”

The tall one hesitated before speaking. “’Cause then you won’t have security at your meet with Toad.”

I growled and pushed the short ganger into the tall one. Backing toward e-girl I said, “Thanks for your concern, but we’re safer without you drawing attention to us. Stay here or I will shoot you. And tranq rounds leave a mean headache.”

With another thought I holstered my pistols, holding my arms out so they could watch them disappear. Snagging e-girl’s arm, I led her across the street.

She kept sneaking peeks at me from her eyes’ corners.

Frank Creed PhotoFrank Creed's Links:

Devil's Hit List Amazon link (print):
Devil's Hit List Amazon link (kindle):
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Kat Heckenbach
Timothy Hicks
Robynn Tolbert
Fred Warren

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What's the Name of Your World?

World building is one of the funner things a fantasy or science fiction writer (to a lesser degree) gets to do. At least from my perspective, it offers me the freedom to design the very laws of nature to create a unique experience. So I thought I would let you in on how I developed the world of The Reality Chronicles.

There are two basic types of world builders. There are those who plan out the whole world, how it operates, functions, land masses, seas, forest, mountain ranges, language of people, etc., before they ever lay a word to page. Then there are others who start out with a very minimal idea of the world, and it grows and develops as they write. In truth, very few writers are totally one way or the other. Most of us will find ourselves somewhere between those two poles. But most writers will lean to one side of the fence. Even that can change from one novel to another, depending on how dependent the plot is on how the world is designed. I would designate the two types as pre-planners and organic-planners.

I fall more into the organic world builder. I find out more about the world as the story progresses. That is true of novels like Mind Game, which is more a traditional novel plot, but even more true of the Reality Chronicles, which started out as a short story, three more short stories, another short story added to it. Then a novel sequel to those. Then a third novel. Then went back to the first book and added ten more short stories. Because of the way it grew from that one short story, the world naturally grew with it as I added more and more.

The task in doing it this way, is to keep it consistent. Adding onto it as you go, it is easy to forget some detail that what you are adding that would contradict what you've done before. That requires keeping a good database of what you've added or defined, so any proposed additions or changes can be checked against what's gone before. But even someone who plans it all out before hand will find themselves making mid-story adjustments as characters and plots develop.

But when it comes to the Reality Chronicles series, two of the common questions I get is first, does the world have a name? And two, is it modern or medieval?

To the first question, that is no, the world as a whole doesn't have a name. This is counter to a lot of fantasy where the whole area or world will usually be called something. For sure, people like to have names for things. But when I wrote the first short story for this world, I didn't bother deciding whether it was in our world's history or an alternate world. I didn't name the town it was in. It was just about the story of a kid in a small, primitive town with a strange steam house. The story was meant to be an allegory of the Last Judgment. Figuring out the name of the town or where it was or the world it was in beyond the little bit you get in the first story wasn't critical to the story.

But then I added on four more short stories to that one. Sisko traveled to new places and towns, which I did give names to. Those first five stories gave a bare sketch of the world and how it operated. But by the time I had finished those, I had a good idea of how magic worked in that world, that it was an alternate reality from our own Earth, and the rules of how the ring worked, mostly, and what it even represented. But there was still a lot left undefined as those five stories become my first published novella, Infinite Realities.

Including I never gave Sisko's home town a name. That didn't come until I wrote the full novel sequel, Transforming Realities, currently listed as Reality's Ascent. When Sisko decides they should return to his hometown, I figured it was time to give the place a name. That's when I gave it the name Reol. When I added the other ten short stories to Infinite Realities and Splashdown Books published it as Reality's Dawn, I went back and added mentions of the hometown into the previous stories I'd written where appropriate, as well as using it in the newer stories. But if you read the original novella, you'll never see the name of Sisko's hometown.

The development of the political aspects of the world resulted in a city-state type governments. So a king in the Reality's world is king over a city and its surrounding territory. There is no king over all the land. And whether a city had a king or not depended upon the city, and how they set up their governments. You'll find some very much like a traditional kingship, and others more “democratically” organized. Sometimes this is mentioned, other times just assumed if it doesn't play into the story.

Because of that, the people tend to focus upon their own world, their own towns, and don't think in “big picture” ways. Because there is no overarching governmental structure, or developed sense of geography, no one saw a reason to give their whole world a name. At least, not one that was commonly used by most everyone. Theoretically, individual places might have a name for the whole world.

In the third book, Reality's Fire, the world grew again. Our characters headed west, across the forest, into a less “Christian” section of the world. New cities and mountain ranges and deserts are added, and a sea, an island called Pluto, and new races including a group who live in the caves of the north called Burrowers. When Transforming Realities was first published, I came out with my first map that I had visualized as I wrote the stories of the adventures. The third book added to it.

By the time I added the extra ten stories to Infinite Realities to create what had eventually became Reality's Dawn, I had already written two rough drafts of a new series in that world, which I've tentatively called, “The Dragons' Dying Fields.” These stories have greatly expanded not only the geography of the world, but its history and even how that world is connected with our own, as well as other alternate realities. Knowing that as I wrote the ten new stories gave me the ability to not only help introduce characters that appeared later on, like Joel, and fill out the stories of the characters better that were only alluded to before, but I was able to foreshadow what was to come in the next two books and the future new series.

One thing that never changed, however, is the world as a whole never received a name. In the first book of the new series, I play on that as well a bit, because the characters have no concept of a country or names of anything beyond a forest or mountain range.

When it comes to the feel of the world alluded to in the second asked question, I wanted to give it enough of a historical basis that it was grounded in some type of familiar reality, but change things up a bit. Being an alternate world gave me the freedom to do that. I focused on it having a medieval feel to the world, but there are more modern things about it. Primarily, I used common English we are used to hearing, without worrying about whether it sounded too modern or not. I did limit it some in that regard, but I wanted the language to connect with the readers instead of attempting to stick to an Earth-like language during the medieval times. Being an alternate world gave me the freedom to do this, though I know some will balk at it.

However, that doesn't mean I didn't do any research to keep it “real” in other respects. When I had a reference to toilets, I asked, “Did they have toilets back then, and if so, how did they operate?” So I researched it, and discovered yes they did, but usually only the rich had them. Common folk had a “spot” in a secluded area and used leaves for wiping. But often toilets were nothing more than a bench with a hole cut in it, and flies buzzing all around as you did your business. Not very sanitary. Castles were often better off, where toilets were on upper floors, and the disposed of mess dropped all the way to the ground so it stayed as far away from the seat as possible.

In another story, I wanted to use a dentist. Did they have dentist back then? Yes, though they were mostly crude and involved pulling teeth out more than anything. I took some liberties that in this world in that they'd developed the ability to use tools to “tap” the cavity corruption out of the tooth (to Sisko, it felt like pounding), and packed it with a substance that would keep it from getting worse, a primitive filling material. So you see a more modern type of dentistry than what actually existed in our medieval history, though Sisko no doubt would label it as torture, not healing.

Though I hadn't decided in the first story whether it was an alternate world or not, early on I decided it wasn't our Earth, and even though it had a parallel history, there would be some significant divergences in progress and abilities and historical facts. Enough real history to keep the reader grounded in a world, but enough differences to say, “We're not on Earth anymore, Todo.”

What I liked about that approach is the ability to just focus on the story, without worrying about getting a bunch of historical facts “just right.” Yet enough I could make some allusions and analogies to our world.

So that tells a lot of the story how the Reality Chronicles world developed and grew. You'll be reading more and getting into a lot more history and worlds within Sisko's world in the near future, when the first book of the new series comes out.

How did your world(s) develop?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hero Game Now in Print!

That's right. The ebook I published a few months back, I've finally come around to getting into print. I've got my about you?

From the back of the book:
Being virtual superheroes gives Jeremy, Mickey, and Bridget all of the glory with none of the danger. Using Zori's virtual engine, the trio can become any number of superheroes to right the wrongs on Earth.

But Jeremy hadn't counted on Lorian arriving in the Solar System, the brother of the alien Jeremy helped kill to save Zori. With revenge on Lorian's mind and the invasion of Earth in his plans, the super trio find the odds stacked against them. Earth's armies are defenseless before a virtual fleet they can't kill. The three superheroes are all that stand in the way of Lorian enslaving Earth before retaking Zori. It will take more than super powers to save Earth and Zori again.

To read more about it, go to the book's web page.

As of this writing, there are two places you can buy it. Either at CreateSpace or Amazon. It should be appearing at other outlets like Barnes and Noble as time goes by. The ebooks, however, are already available at most places.

If you get a copy and read it, I appreciate any reviews people can offer. Word of mouth is my best advertising. Thank you.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Interview: Seeking Unseen by Kat Heckenbach

Seeking Unseen CoverToday we have a treat for our readers. Kat Heckenbach's new title, book 2 of her The Toch Island Chronicles, Seeking Unseen has just been released this month. For the Splashdown launch party, I'm kicking off the blog tour to feature her and the two books, Finding Angel and Seeking Unseen. Here's her interview:

Did you always want to be a writer?

Well, yes and no. I actually grew up wanting to be an artist. I drew all the time and was very good. But, when I got to college (after deciding I'd like to teach art), I lost some of my interest in it. I had some phenomenal science teachers at the community college and ended up changing my major from Art Education to Biology. I never really went into science as far as work. I ended up teaching and tutoring (mostly math) until I had my son. Then I became a stay at home mom and eventually started homeschooling. Then, a couple of years ago I was overcome with the desire to write. I love reading Young Adult fiction--became completely addicted to the Harry Potter books and movies and Cornelia Funke's InkHeart series--and decided one day I just had to give it a try. Memories came streaming back that showed me it was a desire I'd always had. I read all the time from the time I was very young, but never thought I could do what those authors do, so I pushed the idea out of my head for so long. But, I suddenly remembered sitting on my bed when I was in high school trying desperately to start a novel. I also remembered writing fourteen-page notes to my friends all the time, which should have been a clue that I like writing :). And I always got A's on my papers and essays. I just think I was so focused on my art and never had the self-confidence in writing. I didn't think I was interesting enough to come up with any grande and creative ideas. And, I was too young back then. I didn't have enough life experience. Now, I've been through a lot and all of that comes out in my writing.

Tell us about your relationship with your publisher Splashdown. Any surprises as you’ve worked with them?

The whole experience has been one surprise after another! I had no idea what to expect from working with a small publisher. But it’s been awesome. Grace Bridges is wonderful, and the whole group of authors work really well together as a team. We brainstorm back cover blurbs and such for each other, and everyone is respectful of each other’s suggestions. I will admit, I love the creative pow-wows Grace and I have when it comes to cover art. We seem to totally connect most of the time and it’s ridiculously fun. Those moments of, “What if we….?” followed by, “Oh, yes, that’s brilliant!” happen a lot—in both directions. There have been far too many for me to doubt I’m in the right place.

Author Kat HeckenbachKat Heckenbach grew up in the small town of Riverview, Florida, where she spent most of her time either drawing or sitting in her "reading tree" with her nose buried in a fantasy novel...except for the hours pretending her back yard was an enchanted forest that could only be reached through the secret passage in her closet...

She never could give up on the idea that maybe she really was magic, mistakenly placed in a world not her own...but as the years passed, and no elves or fairies carted her away...she realized she was just going to have to create the life of her fantasies.

Now she shares that life with her husband and two kids. Ok, maybe "share" isn't the right word--more like lives that life in her writing and tries her best to be normal the rest of the time...

Kat is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom—everything from Art to Algebra II—and now homeschools her children.

Author Website:

Finding Angel CoverToch Island Chronicles

Book 1: Finding Angel (Sept. 2011)
ISBN: 978-1927154137

Book 2: Seeking Unseen (Sept. 2012)
ISBN: 978-1927154298

Visit the other blogs in the tour:

Grace Bridges
R. L. Copple
Ryan Grabow
Diane M. Graham
Travis Perry
Paul Baines
Caprice Hokstad
Keven Newsome
Greg Mitchell
Robynn Tolbert
Frank Creed
Fred Warren

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How to Identify and Write Honest Reviews

Often when viewing a product I'm thinking about buying, I will read the product reviews by users that often accompany online retail sales pages. When I find a product that doesn't have many or any reviews, I'm hesitant to buy it, feeling like I'm going to be the guinea pig for the product. On most products, it seems such reviews are generally helpful in making a decision to buy something or keep looking.

But when it comes to books, the situation changes dramatically. The reason is somewhat obvious. Items like underwear, clocks, record albums (in most cases), and the like are produced by a company. Said company usually produces a lot of products and doesn't have the manpower or extra cash to get their best friends and family to go post positive reviews on the 1000 different items they sell. The few who actually pay someone to do so risk making that obvious and losing credibility. So most companies are content to let the users of the products make their honest comments. Maybe doing clean up on any particularly damaging complaints, especially if they are a small company with limited product lines.

But authors who do most of their own promotion, whether they are self-published or traditionally published, usually have a handful of product to sell, and usually have family and friends who want to see them succeed with their books. So they are willing and ready to go to bat for the author by posting positive reviews, no matter the actual quality of the book. You don't tend to find that dynamic as often in other product lines like you do with books. This tends to stuff a book's review list with overly positive reviews by people who are as wishful thinking as the author is on the sellability of the book.

Also some authors—because it is their one and only book or series to date and they fear its failure will doom their long-term success—are willing to take the more shady routes to get their book to sell. Some create multiple email accounts and Amazon accounts to pretend to be other people and give rave reviews to the their own books. Others will pay a review company to do essentially the same thing, often without reading anything more than the blurb. Using key words like "page turner" and "couldn't put it down" give the reader the impression they've read it and it was good, when it may not be the case.

Because of these differences, the value of books reviews on these sites tend to be diluted, and honest reviews get buried in the list of 1 or 5 star reviews. So I have two questions for my readers.

When buying a book, do you use the reviews as one element in your buying decision?

If not, would you if you trusted that the reviews were mostly honest?

My guess is, out of those who answered no to the first question, a majority would answer yes to the second. In other words, the main reason you don't read reviews to help make your decision is that you generally don't trust them to give honest opinions. And the ones that are honest are hard to find. That said, there are elements of an honest review that enable you to spot them in a list of fluff or attacks. Likewise, if you are writing a review, there are some items you want to include if you want your review to be accepted as honest.

One, an honest review answers the question, "Is this book worth my money and time to buy and read?" While an entertaining review is a plus, the reason people read reviews is to help them decide if the book they are examining is one they'll enjoy reading. People generally don't like plunking down hard earned money to read books they don't like. If the reviewer answers that question, then the review will be perceived as helpful. If the reviewer has other motives, that will tend to emerge from the writing, and the reader will more likely ignore the review.

Two, an honest review contains both positives and negatives. It is rare that a book will not have any positives or negatives. Few books deserve to get totally glowing reviews with no negatives, or all negatives with no positives. Readers innately know this. So if a review has no negative, or likewise, no positives, those types tend to get discounted and ignored. For a review to be read and used, it should contain both positive and negative points.

Three, an honest reviewer rarely gives out 5 or 1 star reviews. Like extreme positive gushing reviews and angry sounding rants, books given 5 or 1 stars tend to be discounted. The exceptions to that rule are when a reviewer usually doesn't give out 5 or 1 stars, then it means something when they do; or if a book is really so good that the reviewer is ready to rank it with the classics; or there are thirty or more reviews and the bulk of them are 1s or 5s. Sure, getting that 5-star review makes the author feel good. But whether the reviewer is being honest or not, the reader, if they see 5 stars and a glowing review, will likely figure the author's mom or another friend/family member wrote it and dismiss it as too biased.

My rating system on 5 stars is: 1 equals, "I couldn't make it through the first chapter or two, it was so bad"; 2 equals, "Not that great, it has some redeeming values and I appreciate what the author was doing, but overall, too many negative issues to make it work for me"; 3 equals, "Though it had some problems, overall the story was worth reading, recommend"; 4 equals, "I really liked this book. Some issues here and there, but really worth my time to read it and I would highly recommend it"; and 5 equals, "Wow, just wow! This book knocked my socks off and I would rank it with the all time greats in publishing history!" If a reviewer marks every book a 5 that they review, then the ranking doesn't mean anything. Especially if "every" equals one or two reviews.

Four, an honest review avoids using marketing catch phrases like, "page-turner," "couldn't put it down," "stayed up late to finish the book," "threw the book across the room," "reading it was like watching paint dry," etc. Even if true, using those types of trite phrases will tend to make the review read more like marketing text. The moment it sounds like a sales pitch to the reader, that's the moment they discredit it.

Five, an honest review gives a brief, spoiler-free summary of the book. This not only indicates that the reviewer read it and know the basic character names and plot, but allows the reader to see the gist of the story from another person's eyes than the publisher's. Reviewers who haven't read the book will generally not give much, if any, of a summary beyond what can be found in the blurb. But don't make this too long. One or two paragraphs should be all you need. A review is much more than regurgitating the plot and saying whether you did or didn't like it.

Six, an honest review gives an opinion on the main elements of the story: plot, pacing, characterization, settings, writing style, grammar and typo issues (readability), what stood out to the reviewer as good or bad about it. The more a review casts a critical eye to the various elements of the story, the more honest and authentic the review will ring to the reader. If all a reader gets is, "it was a great story," the more likely the reader will assume that the review isn't worth factoring into their decision.

Seven, an honest review gives an opinion on what kinds of readers will and won't enjoy the book in question. Even if the reviewer indicates he or she didn't care for the book, saying who will or won't like a book lets readers know the reviewer is trying to be objective. Even the negative can help. Warning men who like action novels that a specific book isn't action/plot driven can be a service to the reader, whether or not the reviewer is glad or not that it is or isn't present.

Eight, an honest reviewer personalizes his or her review. Such a review relates not only the technical aspects and how well the author did or didn't pull them off, but any aspects that spoke to the reviewer personally, made a difference in how the reviewer views an issue, people, problem, or other life experience. When the reviewer answer the question, "What did I take away from this story?" it shows the reader that he or she interacted with the story, digested it, and gave it thought. An insincere review isn't likely to provide such feedback.

The next time you read reviews to decide whether to buy a book, consider the above guidelines as a means to spot the more helpful and honest reviews. Likewise, if you wish to write a review on a book, give consideration to those elements, and you're more likely to get readers to give due consideration to your review in their buying decision.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Excerpt from Faith Awakened by Grace Bridges

Today we have a treat. As part of my publisher's blog tour, I'll be sharing an excerpt from her novel, Faith Awakened. The tour runs from 8/13 through 8/19/2012. Be sure to check out the other web sites as the week progresses to find more goodies about Faith Awakened.

Faith Awakened CoverExcerpt from Faith Awakened - Mariah All Alone

One morning in the early part of summer’s heat, the restlessness got to me a little more than usual and I decided to go for a long walk. Inquiring among the others and finding none to be similarly inclined, I set off alone for the hills beyond city limits. It was a long way, but at least up there the country was much as it had always been—it was pleasanter to be in than the town where I was always aware of its unnatural stillness. I stepped out briskly and was soon passing through an area that had once been termed industrial. The large square buildings were made for practicality and not style, so I was glad to get past them and out towards the open country. I walked at first on a broad expressway that cut through hills and bridged yawning gullies, but when this road turned away from the coast, I left it and crossed fields where long-haired sheep were still fending for themselves. One or two of them looked up placidly as I passed by, then went back to grazing. I was no danger for them.

After leaving them behind, I came across a dead sheep. Flies buzzed around the body. I wrinkled my nose and gave it a wide berth, but not before I noticed it lay in a pool of congealing blood. Can sheep get Ebola? I decided to ask Anna about it later.

I pondered many things as I walked along; when one is alone, thought processes tend to multiply. There was, after all, more than plenty of time to reflect.

Sighing, I admitted to myself that I was not happy. It was not for any kind of physical lack, that much was sure—in fact it seemed more than likely that I was now better off materially than I had ever been in my life during the Trouble. Then why could I not be content? I dug deeper and pressed myself to answer the question. Come on… there must be a reason. I moved my hand to stifle a yawn, then thought better of it. Who would see anyway? A worldwide disaster had all but ruined my own life. Manners no longer mattered at all.

Time slipped by, and the sun rose higher towards noonday as I tramped on. Eventually I came upon another once-busy highway that led up to a hilltop, where I left the road and struck through the bush on the steep slopes. Coming to a cliff’s edge, I squatted down with the sea spreading out below me. Even in the old days it had always been quiet up here—so it nearly felt normal and I could almost imagine none of the dying had ever happened. I knew the spot well from long-ago outings with family or friends, when we had travelled in cars and arrived fresh and lively to chase about and splash one another on the beach below. But now I was alone and miles away from all humanity—not that all humanity was very much these days.

Author Grace BridgesFind Grace:

Info on Faith Awakened
Blog Tour Sites:

R. L. Copple               

Kat Heckenbach       

Diane M. Graham     

Travis Perry                

Paul Baines                 

Caprice Hokstad       

Keven Newsome        

Robynn Tolbert         

Frank Creed                

Fred Warren                

Ryan Grabow             

Greg Mitchell              

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chic-fil-a and Homosexual Marriage

I'm probably a fool for wading into this issue. As a writer, I know putting my views out there can turn off people and make them decide not to buy my books. Yet, today, as the big push to get people to visit a Chic-fil-a restaurant to support the CEO's views on the traditional understanding of marriage, I've seen people on both sides of the fence get things wrong, not really understand the other side, much less their own position as clearly as they should.

That is not surprising, really. We tend to deal with complex issues in black and white terms. Either/or lines drawn in the sand. Most often, we talk past one another. And it doesn't help matters when it becomes the domain of political and media sound bites. People want wrong/right absolutes that are easy to grasp in a few seconds, not serious discussion of complex issues. Each side tends to look for key words and classify you in one camp or the other instead of really understanding where you are coming from, because it is intellectually easier to not have to think through what someone is saying in order to decide how to respond to them. And I know some will do this to me.

Such key words as "traditional family" which the CEO of Chic-fil-a was asked whether he believed in it, was turned into him being anti-gay. While apparently he has donated money to groups who fight for those "traditional family" values and "against gay's rights," in the actual interview which started this ruckus, the issue of homosexuality and what he thought about that never came up. It was all inferred by the media from his agreement that he supported "traditional family values." He didn't intentionally wade into the public discussion, he was responding to an interviewers question.

For whatever reason, which I wouldn't be surprised to learn that politics and reelection distractions have more to do with this coming up at this time, this simple answer to a question that many have answered positively before has become the "last straw" it seems for the homosexual community, and the media and politicians that support those activist and rights. The firestorm it created on both sides of the fence have bubbled up all sorts of statements and views. So, for the next few paragraphs, I'm probably about to alienate folks on both sides of the fence. So hang on, and see where we're at when we end this article.

First off, I'm all for equal rights for everyone, no matter their sexual orientation. A person is a person is a person, all made in God's image, and as our founding papers relate, are equal in God's eyes. God cares as much about what happens to the gay or lesbian person as he does me. No one has the right to discriminate based on a person's sexual orientation in civil rights that we all share in. Freedom of religion should mean the government can't force churches to go against their beliefs, but a person, like the CEO of Chic-fil-a, who doesn't believe in homosexual unions, cannot deny service to one or restrict their access or employment based only on sexual orientation. None of which the CEO is accused of doing.

But there's the rub, isn't it? The homosexual community sees straight people as having the "right" to get married, but not homosexuals. Therefore, they conclude, they are being discriminated against because the government grants a right to some that they withhold from the homosexual couple who love each other. Apparently, there are certain legal rights that a married partner have that a homosexual couple do not. The appearance of "civil unions" attempted to fix that, but some say it doesn't go far enough.

Why is it not enough? After all, the intent of civil union laws is to grant to a homosexual couple the same legal benefits as a married person. One would think if it was merely a matter of civil rights, the crusade should be to get more states to adopt civil unions. I mean, think about it. Does it really matter what it is called? If it accomplishes the same thing, who cares what you call it? And how much easier would it be to do that, than to get the word "marriage" redefined after hundreds and thousands of years to include spouses who are of the same sex?

On the other side of the fence, it appears many Christians are concerned that allowing the legal definition of marriage to be redefined in the states to include same-sex couples will somehow change what marriage really is. But the truth is that legal issues have squat to do with defining what marriage is. All it can do is define what the legal definition of marriage is, and what legal rules, whether for the benefit or restrictions of the marriage, apply to that definition. Giving homosexual couples the same legal rights, whether one calls them civil unions or marriage, doesn't change the reality of what marriage is. No church is required to believe differently about marriage because of state law.

"But, then the state can force us to marry homosexuals." No it can't. One, the Constitution prohibits the state from doing that. If they did, they would be singling out one belief system to persecute in favor of another. Two, if they ignored the Constitution and violated it, as is a possibility, it won't be the first time Christians have stood up to the state for their beliefs and been persecuted for it. The point being, even if the state came in at gun point or fined a church for refusing to marry a homosexual couple, the Church wouldn't have to give in an do it, but could protest. The government can make life a living hell, they can even kill you, but they can't make you believe something you don't want to. Thousands of martyrs down through the past 2000+ years can attest to that.

So the desire of homosexual couples to get "married" and the desire of Christians to prevent the "redefining of marriage" only shows the lack of understanding of what marriage is. It is the lack of that understanding that creates the problems in this discussion. Until we can agree on what marriage is, this divide will continue to grow. Or at least until we can come to an understanding of what each other really believes, can we come to respect each others views.

The secular understanding of marriage amounts to "because we love one another, want to commit ourselves solely to one another, and want to have sex that is accepted by everyone as okay." The common idea is you find someone that you fall madly in love with, you want to be their one and only (or multiple in the case of open marriages) most intimate companion for the rest of your life (or until it is no longer desirable, at least).

It is strange that while the secular heterosexual community tends to move toward ignoring marriage by having sex with whoever and whenever regardless of marital status, that the homosexual community is trying to get it. For most secular people, there is little difference between living together and being married aside from the legal issues. Once you get that piece of paper from the state that says you're married, you continue living as you have in the months before that day. So marriage for the secular person has become nothing more than a legal change of status, because nothing else changes. Not living arrangements, not sex, not emotional attachment. Only legal benefits and restrictions.

Which has led many to decide that marriage is outdated, not worth messing with. For in their understanding of marriage, and rightly so, there isn't anything more marriage adds other than some visitation rights and tax advantages but also not being able to easily exit the relationship should you so decide to do so. If you perceive marriage as mainly a social permission to have sex with each other, and you do that anyway, then the idea of marriage loses its value. Its only value left is a culturally induced idea that two people who love each other enough to have sex, should get married because it shows each other how much they love one another to legally bind them together so it isn't easy to just get up and leave. So it is ironic that as the secular society devalues marriage these days, where living together and premarital sex are the "normal" way of life instead of wrong, that homosexuals would feel it is valuable enough to fight for.

But why do Christians fight against the idea of homosexual marriage? In what way is it "redefining" marriage? Granted, most Christians do a horrible job of explaining their position on it. What it generally boils down to is the Bible is against it, labels homosexual acts as a sin, and therefore, marriage is out of the question (as if they could in some way be considered married under the Christian understanding). Instead of explaining the why, they resort to more soundbites like, "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." Such statements may point to a reality, but does little to enlighten anyone. Also, a lot of Christians don't really understand they why of their position. They may be able to quote Bible verses, but they never get beyond that to explain why in the Christian view of marriage, that a homosexual marriage is an impossibility. Not because of rights or equal status before God, but because it is impossible the way God has created us. So let's get to that, because it clarifies everything.

The definitive verses on what marriage is are Jesus' own words: "But from the beginning of the creation, Male and female made he them. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh: so that they are no more two, but one flesh." (Mar 10:6-8 ASV)

Yes, Jesus states that marriage is between a man and a woman because God made them male and female. But why is this important? Because, as He points out, the main point of marriage is a union between two people. And not just any union, but for the two to become "one flesh."

On the surface, this union would appear to be very abstract and "spiritual." After all, the two people still remain two people. They don't get stuck together like co-joined twins, or merge into one person. How else could they become "one flesh"? And honestly, this is where most Christians get mixed up too. They do tend to see this as some sort of mushy-wushy, wiggly-wobbly abstract concept. They would tend to view the idea of one flesh as metaphorical to describe some spiritual reality. So when it comes to the "why" it won't work for a homosexual couple, they don't have much left to say other than "God said...."

However, there is a very literal fulfillment of the two shall become one. It is called children. The sexual act is designed to create children. Whether it ever does or not isn't the issue. When a man and woman have sex, they share and mix their DNA together, in a literal way, and it has the potential to produce one flesh from the two. It is spiritual, but the spiritual is always founded in the concrete experience. Each person in the act gives of themselves to the other in a way that can create life. That reality unites them as one flesh, whether or not a child is ever realized or can be due to a physical handicap or disease.

This union is what forms the basis of the Christian understanding of marriage. Without it, you simply have no marriage. You cannot unite in that fashion unless the sexual union has that ability and potential. No matter how much you mix sperm or eggs in a homosexual act, you can never create life from that mixture or activity. It has to be a woman and a man together for that to become a real marital union. It is simply the way God designed it. And changing the law to allow for homosexual marriages will not make it a marriage.

At this point, I can hear folks bring up "what about love?" "What about the emotional bond?" Indeed, the martial union should include other types of union than merely physical. It should be an emotional union, a social union, a spiritual union, as well as a physical union. The social union is reflected in living together, getting legally married, having a public wedding either at a church or court house with witnesses. It involves a sharing of resources and time together.

There should also be an emotional union. There should be a self-sacrificing love for one another, rather than a selfish infatuation. There should be the type of love and emotional energy that wants to spend the rest of their life with that person. An emotional intimacy, where both people share their lives and meet each others emotional and romantic "I love you" needs is a key component of a healthy marriage.

That these should be there before a marriage is consummated in the physical union is the sinfulness of premarital sex. It is marrying someone before you've committed yourself to raising the children. In the Christian understanding, there is no such thing as premarital sex, because when you have sex, you are marrying that person, but to do so without having the emotional and social union in place is to treat the uniting of two people into one flesh as trivial and purely for one's own enjoyment. It is an abuse of the meaning behind the sexual act just as much as adultery is once someone has married another. Indeed, unless you do marry the first person you have sex with, subsequent sexual unions with another is tantamount to adultery. So yes, those two aspects should be present in a marriage for it to be the fullness of marriage as God intended it to be.

However, without the sexual union, what you have if only the above is present, is really good friends. Maybe very intimate friends who love each other very much. But without the uniting the two into one flesh activity of sex between a man and a woman, that is all you have. Indeed, even society can call you married legally or socially, but without that union, you are not in reality married, no matter how intimate you may be with each other. Without participating in the activity that potentially creates life from the two, there is no marital union.

What about the spiritual? That is an act of God. And as Jesus said, the fulfillment of the two becoming one flesh is the spiritual union created by God. The go hand-in-hand. That is why after focusing on the union of "flesh," Jesus then says "...what God has joined, let no man put asunder." (Mark 10:9) Therefore, when you have sex with someone, you are not only marrying them physically, but also spiritually.

What about the sacrament of marriage in the Church? This doesn't nullify that. It is a formal and concrete way with witnesses to bestow God's blessing and union of the two people. It is a part of the social union, for sure, and in the Church, at least my group, God's activity in making the two, one. However, the spiritual union isn't finalized and "consummated" until the physical union happens. If the physical does not happen, the spiritual is a union of type, but not the fullness of the marital union as God lays out. But according to Jesus, God unites the two when they become "one flesh." The spiritual union is fulfilled, and if there is no church service, the physical act still unites the two into one both physically and spiritually.

I will admit that there are Church groups who wouldn't want to go as far as I have in that last statement. Either they want to retain the right that the sacrament fully creates a spiritual union, and indeed, is the primary point of union in a marriage, and it cannot be conferred merely by having sex with someone. Catholics would especially have a problem with that, because it would put in question their whole theology of annulments. Hard to say the marriage never really happened if spiritual union can be made active by a couple having sex. And others don't want to admit that sex alone can marry a person. But this is what Jesus stated as the basis for marriage, and when God determines that He joins them together. When the two become one flesh, which happens with the sexual act that can create that one flesh, then God's activity through that sacrament of marriage unites the two into one spiritual flesh as well.

To get a clearer picture of this, keep in mind the culture in which Jesus made these statements. The marriage ceremony in His day consisted of a week-long party that culminated by the couple going into a tent to have sex, at which point they were considered married. It was such a celebration that Jesus attended with His mother when He performed His first miracle, blessing the marriage as it was in that day not only with his presence, but with his miracle of wine. They didn't have to get a certificate from the Romans. They didn't have a marriage service in the synagogue. This was the case until some point in the Byzantine empire, when the state and the Church became involved in granting and blessing marriages. But before that, the only point at which people were declared married was when they had sex. Thus, God united them at that point, because that is the primary purpose of the sexual act: to unite the two into one flesh, and so join them together. What they created on earth was joined by God in heaven.

It should be clear that this type of union can never be achieved by a homosexual couple. They can be very united emotionally, socially, legally, but it is impossible, according to the way God designed marriage, for the sexual consummation to make all the other unions a full marital union. And that's why, even if homosexuals get legal marital status, they can never be married in the full sense of the Christian understanding of marriage. Not because anyone is denying them a right to do so, but because it is biologically and spiritually impossible as God has defined it.

Of course, if you are not a Christian, none of this matters. Marriage isn't a union between two people who could create babies, it's just a union between two people who love each other. An emotional union, and that's about it. Even though best friends and people who are very intimate with each other, minus the sex, are not considered married. If it is all about getting the same legal rights as married couples, I see nothing wrong with that. But I would suggest it is easier to accomplish that with civil unions than trying to redefine what marriage means. Which is what makes me think this is more than about civil rights, otherwise you'd be fighting for that, and not trying to redefine marriage. No, this appears to be more about acceptance of a lifestyle by the population.

But there's the rub. While I would acknowledge that some people are born with a preference for certain things, like hot dogs, ice cream, or sex with the same gender, and that such people who have those preferences shouldn't be discriminated against simply because they have these desires and preferences, the existence of those desires doesn't make the activity okay. Anymore than my desire might be to have sex with a woman other than my wife makes that activity not sinful. Or any other sexual sin prohibited by God in the Scriptures. And because I probably have a propensity to desire crack, doesn't mean it would be a good thing for me to use it. The presence of a desire does not mean it needs to be fulfilled.

So I do not believe those with homosexual propensities are sinful and it is wrong to have those feelings. I do believe it is damaging to fulfill those sexual desires. But doing so, doesn't make you any more of a sinner than I am, or your sin any greater than one I've committed. That will be between you and God, not judged by me. But as St. Paul says, be careful what you approve of. Not everything is beneficial, and He has declared fulfilling those desires to not be beneficial.

This has nothing to do with hate or condemnation or discrimination, but with operating within God's design specs. If you don't believe in God, then at least you may have an understanding why it is impossible for Christians to redefine marriage within our theology to include homosexual unions. It is simply not theologically possible. To do so is to redefine one's theology to ignore the core reason God said He created marriage: to unite the two into one flesh.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Get Reality's Dawn for FREE!

Yes, for the next 5 days, you can get the Kindle version of my book, Reality's Dawn, for free. A great introduction to the series, and sets the stage for the next two adventures.

So don't wait too long and miss out! Grab a copy of it today!

What? Don't own a Kindle ereader? Have no fear, you are not left out. When you follow the preceding link, look toward the bottom-right of the screen and you'll see a link for Kindle apps that can be installed on most computers, tablets, and smartphones. Follow that link to install one on your device of choice, then get this book.

Grab, read, and enjoy. And if you would, once you've finished it, please post a review on Amazon and any other places you would like. Thank you.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Final Rift Jump 2-Question Interview

Rift Jump Cover Rift Jump by Greg Mitchell

The day Michael Morrison died was the day his life began.

A sinister threat is growing in the void between realities, and Michael has been recruited to stop it. Ripped from his own violent life, he is sent rift jumping to other worlds seeking out the agents of the Dark and putting them to an end by any means necessary. The love of his life, Sara, joins him as he battles Civil War space ships, sea serpents, superpowered humans, and even his own duplicate from a parallel timeline.

But the darkness he fights is growing within him too, calling him to the same destiny as every other Michael from every other world. If he is to change his fate, he must learn to love, to forgive, to trust, and to let the man in the Stetson guide him to become the warrior of the Light he was always meant to be.

Interview with Greg Mitchell

How would you summarize your style of writing?

Cinematic. I’m a screenwriter first, so I naturally lean towards my narratives being very streamlined, fast-paced, and action-packed. But I also love to live inside a character’s head and just get their reaction to the events they find themselves in. That’s a depth of detail that I can’t do in a film, so I like that super-intimate insightful approach that only prose can offer. I like to keep things moving, though. I love action scenes. I love to blow stuff up. And then I have my characters wax philosophical about it afterwards ;)

How has Splashdown helped you to be a better writer?

Well, there are always little technical things that I pick up with every book I write. No matter how many editors I work with, I always learn something about sentence structure or verbage or what-have-you. All boring behind-the-scenes things that most Readers don’t want to know about.

Author Greg Mitchell What are your contact links: web sites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter links, your book's page, etc.?

I’m everywhere!




To order Rift Jump:

Visit the following blogs on this Splashdown Blog Tour for Rift Jump by Greg Mitchell.

Grace Bridges   

Fred Warren      

Caprice Hokstad

Paul Baines       

Travis Perry       

R. L. Copple     

Keven Newsome

Kat Heckenbach

Ryan Grabow    

Diane M. Graham

Robynn Tolbert 

Frank Creed      

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I'm Interviewed at 5020genesis

I have a new interview! Melissa Finnegan asks me a few questions on her 5020genesis blog in her "Write to the Point" author interview series. Some good questions, and hopefully, some good answers that will let you in on some more info about me and the books.

Check out "Write to the Point with R. L. Copple" to not only read the interview, but to have a chance to win an ebook of my latest novel, Reality's Fire.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

2-Question Interview With Greg Mitchell

Rift Jump CoverRift Jump by Greg Mitchell

The day Michael Morrison died was the day his life began.

A sinister threat is growing in the void between realities, and Michael has been recruited to stop it. Ripped from his own violent life, he is sent rift jumping to other worlds seeking out the agents of the Dark and putting them to an end by any means necessary. The love of his life, Sara, joins him as he battles Civil War space ships, sea serpents, superpowered humans, and even his own duplicate from a parallel timeline.

But the darkness he fights is growing within him too, calling him to the same destiny as every other Michael from every other world. If he is to change his fate, he must learn to love, to forgive, to trust, and to let the man in the Stetson guide him to become the warrior of the Light he was always meant to be.

Mini-Interview with Greg Mitchell

So your new book Rift Jump is about this guy that travels to parallel dimensions inside of a sheet of paper. You have got to tell me the story behind that.

Yeah, the paper thing. The seed of Rift Jump began as a dream I had one night, waaay back when I was, like, fifteen or something. I remember, distinctly, that it was about this kid (a much cooler version of my young self) who traveled the worlds in a sheet of paper. I can still see the paper in my mind’s eye. It gently rode the winds and you could see flickering images on it, like a movie was being projected on it. It fascinated me in my dream and I translated it exactly into the story. What does it all mean? Who knows. It’s just my unbound id. Draw your own conclusions about the power of simple sheets of paper to carry us to strange and wonderful worlds.

You say you had the idea for Rift Jump when you were fifteen. Have you been writing it all this time?

Not the incarnation that’s out now, no. I wrote a whole series of Rift Jump short stories on and off over the last couple decades—just for the fun of it. It was a sandbox where anything was possible and I had no rules or boundaries of logic. I just wrote whatever I felt about life at the time. I never intended anyone to read them, as I honestly never tried very hard while writing them. It wasn’t about making a professional product—they were more like journals, chronicling my journey into adulthood and my spiritual walk. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I looked back at this long trail of weird stories and I realized there was something beautiful buried underneath all those personal ramblings. I dug all the old stories out of my desk drawer, dusted them off, and set to work to rewrite them into something that made some semblance of sense to everyone who wasn’t me. I’m very proud of the end result. It’s basically the story of my adolescence—only with a lot more monsters, gangsters, and high-flying adventure :p But, in the interest of full disclosure, that original Rift Jump story that I wrote when I was fifteen is included in an Appendix of the new book that’s out now. It’s a hoot.

Rift Jump CoverGreg Mitchell can be found at:




To order Rift Jump:

Visit the following blogs on this Splashdown Blog Tour for Rift Jump by Greg Mitchell.

Grace Bridges   

Fred Warren      

Caprice Hokstad

Paul Baines       

Travis Perry       

R. L. Copple     

Keven Newsome

Kat Heckenbach

Ryan Grabow    

Diane M. Graham

Robynn Tolbert 

Frank Creed      

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Writing for the "Weaker Brother"

One of the tightropes Christian writers must walk is whether or not to add in such things as cussing, sexual situations, or violence into their fiction stories. And one argument of why this should be avoided is the "weaker brother" argument found in Romans 14. As evident in the comments when Mike Duran posted about this issue on his blog, Answering the "Weaker Brother" Defense, this can be a touchy subject with a lot of opinions. Which only goes to show how hard it is for the Christian writer to always remain true to his story while taking into account the audience. How does one do this?

The argument is mostly taken from the second half of the Romans 14, where St. Paul discusses that even though he believes all meat is clean, he will refrain from eating such meat considered unclean if he fears it will cause someone weak in the faith to stumble. So, it goes, authors should refrain from mentioning sexual situations in their books or cussing because it could cause someone to stumble in the faith by thinking someone they look up to has said, "It is okay," yet they don't feel believe it is.

And while there is that danger and possibility, there are several factors that mitigate against that when it comes to fiction stories. Let's consider some of these.

One, St. Paul is talking about things that would cause people to lose their faith, to sin. It is very doubtful that someone who believes cussing to be a sin, because they read a Christian book with cussing in it, is going to decide to cuss themselves. Maybe a possibility for children. One day when our oldest was in first grade, we were riding in the car, and from the back seat she said, "Hell." Both my wife and I were shocked, wondering where that came from, as we didn't cuss like that. When asked, she said, "Captain Picard says it." I watched a lot of Star Trek the Next Generation back in the 80s.

But that's just it. My daughter decided the word wasn't bad because she'd heard someone else use it and thought it was okay. She didn't sin against her conscious. And if someone is convinced that cussing is sinful, they are not likely to start cussing because they read a book by a Christian where characters cussed.

Two, St. Paul, to keep this in context, is referencing a personal discipleship level. He wasn't writing fiction. Rather, he had disciples, people that looked up to him, who had come out of pagan worship where meat offered to idols was bad. Likewise, in every church there was a certain Jewish faction, and they considered certain meats unclean. St. Paul decided that he didn't want to eat meat in front of them that they considered sinful to eat, even though he didn't, because he didn't want them to lose their salvation over it. As their spiritual leader, what he approved of could lead some to violate their own conscience.

Fiction authors are not in a discipleship relationship with their readers. If people are getting their theology and morals from any Christian fiction, they are in sad shape. Mainly because while truth can be conveyed through fiction, that is not its main purpose. Its main purpose is to entertain you. Certainly we'd hope that a Christian author would write stories in sync with their own faith, but there is no guarantee of that, and there are so many views on what is correct theology that no one will please everyone. Writers are, after all, human. Therefore not infallible or infinite in wisdom like God. Any truth picked up from a piece of fiction should be tested with the Spirit and the Word like anything else, including your pastor's sermon.

Three, St. Paul doesn't put the responsibility of not offending the weaker brother upon the producer of the meat, but upon the leader who by his support of eating meat, could persuade a brother to go against his conscious and eat when he feels it to be a sin. St. Paul's conclusion wasn't, "Because of my weaker brother, we need to burn down all the idol temples where such meat is offered." He didn't say, "Let's kill all pigs, because they are unclean and we can't eat them. So no one can."

Writers of fiction are sources of entertainment. This is something one can partake of or not as they deem fit. The "weaker brother" argument isn't directed toward the provider of the meat, but toward the one who has influence over another's life. A comparable situation to St. Paul's example as a writer would be if I wrote a book containing explicit sexual detail, but an overall plot that required it and showed the sin to be sinful and harmful in the end. A youth minister might find it a great tool to help teens who are faced with sexual sins of the same kind, but some of those teens would end up participating in sinful activities because they weren't astute enough to pick up that message, and believed the leader was endorsing such behavior by recommending the book. Assuming the leader didn't clarify what it was about that book that impressed him, and use it as a teaching tool, he could be guilty of allowing a "weaker brother" to fall into sin by recommending my book.

But, it would be upon this leader for allowing that, not the fact the author wrote it. Because that book could also save a lot of lives as well. The author may have some influence over their readers, but unless they've set themselves up in the position to be seen as disciplers, they are providing a story to the public that may help some of them. If you don't like that type of story, if it will offend you, don't read it, no matter who suggest to you that you should.

Four, and this really shouldn't have to be said, but we have to cover the bases, because an author has a fictional character in their novel sin, doesn't mean the author is approving of that sin or thinks others should go out and do the same thing. The reality is, real people sin, no matter their moral compass and beliefs. King David committed adultery and murder. Saul didn't trust in God and used sorcery to bring Samuel from the grave. King Solomon committed sexual sins and in the end, despite being one of the wiser men in the world, fell into immorality. St. Peter denied Christ. St. Paul aided in the murder of Christians purely because they were Christians. The Bible is filled with such sins.

For instance, in my most recently released book, my protagonist gets drunk at one point in the story. Am I saying that I think getting drunk is a good thing, a honorable goal, or that everyone should do it, because my character does? Of course not. I would disagree with such an interpretation or that my character getting drunk means I'm endorsing it.

Fiction writers have a duty to depict reality to a degree, to make the story real enough that people are drawn into it. But just because I have a character that commits a sin doesn't mean that I don't think it is a sin, anymore than the fact I've committed sins means I think everyone else should follow in my shoes. Bottom line, having a character sin is not an endorsement of that sin to the reader. And anyone who interprets it that way is in the wrong, not the author.

Five, St. Paul also gives the following notice at the top of this chapter: "Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him." (Rom 14:3 EMTV) That's right. St. Paul calls the weaker brother not to judge the stronger one. It is one thing for the stronger brother to blatantly approve of something he or she knows the weaker brother may be encouraged to do against their conscience. It is another for the weaker brother to judge the stronger brother in what they approve. It is wrong for me to suggest you read a book I know is full of cussing if I know you are sensitive to that and might adopt that language because you respect me. It is another for the reader to judge the author as not a Christian because one or more of their characters cuss.

With those understandings in place, we can now address how to write for the weaker brother.

One, determine who your audience is. Once you've nailed that down, you can determine the freedom you have to write your story. Each demographic will have certain expectations, and everyone has things that will "offend" them. If you're audience is the typical CBA middle-class white woman, you're going to want to avoid all cussing and descriptions of sex. Not because such is likely to cause them to sin. But because if that is your market, you'll need to conform to their expectations if you want them to buy your book and recommend it to their friends. And that isn't going to happen if it is filled with cussing. So this point has little to do with the weaker brother, and everything to do with marketing.

Two, ensure that any cussing, sex, and violence, has a very good reason for being there. If it appears at all gratuitous, it will be rejected. If it appears necessary to the plot or character, then the reader is more likely to give it to you than not. I'll usually work to figure out a good alternate route around a bad word or situation that my first draft has introduced, and only if I can't find a good and natural alternative will I leave it in.

Three, don't beat readers over the head with it. It is enough, for example, to have the character cuss here and there, but to have it in every sentence, paragraph, or even page, will be the equivalent of taking a two-by-four to their heads. And they won't put up with that for very long. Even a cussing character can be shown to be such by only showing a smattering of cuss words, and the rest alluded to. Because lots of cuss words are going to sound gratuitous to most reader's ears, and/or sound like the author is too weak to avoid using them to prop up their "evil" character.

Four, when your story has elements that you know will offend some people, make sure the blurb makes that clear. For instance, my recent book, Reality's Fire, has some more adult themed subject matter in it. I debated about how to handle it, especially since the first two books had been read by younger readers, I wanted to make sure parents had a heads up so they could read it ahead of time to determine if it is appropriate for their child. The solution was to include in the blurb an indication that it contained more mature subject matter. See if you can spot the line that gives that away:
The Day shall declare the reality revealed by fire...

Destinies are forged in the dark night of the soul. Kaylee and Nathan pursue a zombified Crystal to rescue her soul if they can. A vision of death propels their mother, Gabrielle, to chase them in order to prevent its fulfillment. Her wizard friend, Josh, accompanies her to keep his promise to protect her. A mysterious religious leader wants to seduce Kaylee to violate her morals. And a demonic being seeks to bury the reality of the ring through temptation and deceit. Through their twisting journeys, each encounters their destiny. Including the ring.

...Reality's Fire is revealed, and no soul can hide from its judgment.

You've probably noticed the sentence that gives this fact away. Granted, I had you looking for it. Others may either skim over it and not get it, or not read the blurb at all. While true, they should be reading the blurb, and that should give people a heads up that if someone is tempted to violate their morals, then there is a good chance this will contain some more adult subject matter.

I feel this is better than popping a rating on it, because that can mean many things to many people. And you have opportunity to word it in a way that says, "this book is for this type of reader..." So, if my blurb included, "...and John has to deal with his rebel sister, lost in a world of bikers and immoral living," you can expect the subject matter to be on the more raunchy level, and to likely read some cussing if the author stays true to those characters. At least they can't say they weren't warned. Oh yes, they'll likely say that anyway, but it won't be true. They only have themselves to blame if they didn't want to read such a book.

Four, ensure that sin isn't glorified. Sin can be shown to result in negative consequences, and even be neutral about it. But if the sin is shown to be okay, or even in some cases, good or excused because of circumstances, then you'll have more of a problem. Because by glorifying it, you are, as a writer, falling into promoting that sin to someone rather than just showing it as part of life, bad as it might be. In other words, when you take the novel as a whole, could one suggest that one of its themes is that getting drunk is okay, not sinful, and even desirable? I don't think my book, for example, does, even though my protagonist does get drunk. Afterward, she admits it was stupid. I never gloried it as a good thing.

As an author, you'll offend people. But St. Paul didn't write those words to prevent you from offending people. Sure, we don't want to needlessly offend people. On the other hand, neither does God expect us to write for only one audience, the weaker brother. Otherwise, those others may never experience the truth through our stories, and be left hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Whole groups of people will never be reached. And St. Paul says the weaker brother cannot judge us. They are to tend to themselves, and not be looking to who will offend them next. That tasks falls to the one who has influence in their lives, who disciples them in the faith. Not the writer. That said, the above steps can limit needless offense when your plot and characters do call for potentially offensive subject matter or actions by your characters.

Where do you draw the line for the weaker brother?