Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review: Theology for Beginners

Theology for Beginners
Theology for Beginners by Frank J. Sheed

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As Frank Sheed points out, many Catholics love and practice their religion, but most are illiterate when it comes to understanding some of the basic tenets of the Faith. Theology for Beginners addresses this problem.

Every Catholic should reacquaint themselves with the Faith: the Persons of the Trinity; the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception; Heaven, Hell and Purgatory; the Sacraments, etc. Everything relevant to being a Catholic is mentioned in this short book.

What I enjoyed most about Theology for Beginners was the informal style, the dry British wit, and the hope that Mr. Sheed has for each and every serious reader to pursue these issues at a deeper level.

This book is a wonderful introduction to Catholic dogma, and it should be read by everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, interested in learning what the Catholic Church truly believes and teaches.

Although the book does not claim to be about Catholic apologetics (arguing against other religious doctrines with the aim of convincing non-Catholics to join our religion), Mr. Sheed sees the twofold need for a proper understanding of the doctrines of the Faith as a necessary component of practicing our faith more devoutly, as well as being part of the apostolic mission we have been called to live.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium

The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium
The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium by Pope Francis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Compared to Pope Francis' first encyclical, the 25 page Lumen Fideii, this Apostolic Exhortation was much longer, coming in at 225 pages. But there are treasures to be found on every page!

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis calls for a rebirth of the New Evangelization. He wants Catholics to take seriously their baptismal missionary promise to be apostles and to go out and proclaim the news that Christ died for us and that He is alive in our modern world.

Pope Francis explains the new direction for his vision of the Church's laity and pastors as they go about the business of being Catholics. There is much to discuss in this lengthy document, but the important thing to notice is how Pope Francis continues to place the poor and the disenfranchised at the center of the Catholic Church's concerns.

Pope Francis exhorts all of us to treat each other (Catholics, non-Catholics, and non-Christians) with love and respect for personal dignity, to learn from our cultural differences, and to be pastoral leaders.

This is an amazing Papal entreaty. Well worth taking the time to read.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Blessed Advent, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

May you all have a Blessed Advent, a Merry Christmas, and
a Happy New Year!

I look forward to connecting with you in 2014!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Dr. Farkas Excerpt and Giveaway

Dr. Farkas by JT Therrien

Tag line: Some cures are worth dying for.

Please enjoy this excerpt from Dr. Farkas, my paranormal/horror romance novella. Dr. Farkas is the first installment of a four-part series to be released by Fine Form Press through 2014.

Dr. Farkas

It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood.
Shakespeare, Macbeth

"I'm so sorry." Dr. Farkas' voice dripped with sympathy and compassion. He slid my latest CBC report across the desk, and I leaned forward to read it, unwilling to touch the piece of paper and acknowledge its reality. My white blood cells were off the charts. Add to that my constant tiredness and bloating . . . . Any way you spelled it, I had leukemia.
I clenched my hands into tight fists. I wanted to hit something. Life was so unfair. Just when I seemed to have made a connection with someone—this sensitive, handsome, dark-eyed Dr. Someone sitting across the desk from me—looking sweet and vulnerable, he revealed that I'd reached the end of my life.
Falling snowflakes—they had tickled my nose on the way over to the office—curtained off the outside world and created the illusion of inhabiting our own secret world, the doctor and I. It was much like the real world, except for the absence of gravity. I was in free-fall: my only thought; in twenty-eight years of living on Earth I hadn't made any more of an impact on the world than those weightless flakes bouncing off the windowpane.
I turned my attention back to the office walls, tastefully decorated with framed medical degrees: Oxford, Toronto, and UCLA Medical. Dr. Farkas—"It's pronounced Farkash," his secretary corrected me when I first started seeing the doctor two weeks ago—was a world traveler, like I'd always wanted to be. Someone who could say, I've seen the sun rise in the Arabian Desert; I've walked through Columbian rain forests.
Numb—and dumb—I shook my head and soaked up my tears with a tissue plucked from a handy box on his desk.
The doctor remained silent for so long that I almost apologized before catching myself. I would not apologize to anyone for dying and feeling sorry for myself.
I tucked a stray lock back behind my ear. I was way overdue for a cut. I'd get it cut next week, after I put this hellish string of night shifts behind me. Then again, maybe I wouldn't. What would be the point now? I didn't believe in leaving behind a beautiful corpse.
I began a quick prayer to St. Januarius, the patron saint of blood banks, as I mustered up the courage to face my limited options.
"Ms. Andrews. Abigail, if I may. I wish I could help you, but . . . . "
His voice startled me in mid-prayer.
"But you don't work miracles." I finished his sentence instead of my prayer. You could say that I had more than a passing interest in blood-borne diseases. As a phlebotomist, I made my living drawing blood samples for oncologists, doctors like him. I giggled thinking that if I'd been a lumberjack, a falling tree would've crushed the life out of me. As a school crossing guard, I probably would've ended up beneath the wheels of a bus. I could handle my sucky fate, just not the irony that accompanied it.
Dr. Farkas cleared his throat. "Actually, I was going to say that I don't want to get your hopes up, but there's something I'd like to research further."
I groaned. "Not more blood tests?"
"No. We're done with all that. But I want to look again at your platelets in light of some new research I recently read."
"Really? Don't yank my chain me, Doc," I replied.
"I'm not making any promises. But we should meet again."
I'd Googled him after my family doctor's referral, so I knew a few things about Dr. Farkas. He was a thirty-six year old oncologist. And single. And maybe interested? But how interested could a doctor be in a dying patient?
"Really," he reassured me, smiling at my skepticism.
I focused on his mouth instead of paying attention to his words. I should've listened more carefully.
* * *

I hope this snippet has given you a taste to read more of the story.
Leave a comment below and I'll draw a winner for a free e-book copy!

Good luck to everyone.
Thank you for participating!

PS: For those who do not win the free copy, here are a couple of Dr. Farkas buy links: Amazon, Smashwords. Dr. Farkas is also available at all of your favorite e-book retailers.


Thursday, November 07, 2013

New Release: Dr. Farkas

Release Day!

Dr. Farkas is the first part of a series of vampire-themed dark romance novellas which Fine Form Press will release over the next year.

Dr. Farkas by JT Therrien

Tag line
Some cures are worth dying for.

Abigail Andrews is a phlebotomist who has terminal leukemia. The good news is that Dr. Jakob Farkas might be able to heal her, since he claims to be a vampire. But there's one small hitch, tired of his lonely existence, Farkas has not fed in over 100 years and needs to be brought back to health before he can help Abigail, with whom he has fallen in love.

Abigail doesn't believe the crazy doctor's story, but she doesn't have much else going on at the moment besides dying. So she leaves her boring life behind in order to join Jakob Farkas on his travels around the world in search of a mystical cure.

As they await the arrival of the Spring Equinox in the legendary caves in Lascaux France, Abigail wonders if she can overcome the greatest obstacle to her cure: her mortality.

Buy links

Dr. Farkas is available for 99 cents from your favorite virtual bookseller, including: 
Amazon and Smashwords.

I hope readers will join me on this para-romance journey!


Friday, November 01, 2013

Review: Of Human Life: Humanae Vitae

Of Human Life: Humanae Vitae
Of Human Life: Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Humanae vitae is the Catholic Church's (via Pope Paul VI) position on birth control, specifically, why the Church and the Magisterium cannot condone the use of contraception.

This religious text is as relevant today as when it was released in 1968.

Must-read for Catholics who seek clarity of understanding on the Church's definition of marriage (qua husband and wife), family life and social responsibilities.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: 111 Questions on Islam: Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. on Islam and the West

111 Questions on Islam: Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. on Islam and the West
111 Questions on Islam: Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. on Islam and the West by Giorgio Paolucci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the perfect book for someone who wishes to learn the basics of the Muslim faith. Samir examines in an easy to understand question and answer format the fundamentals of Islam, with the ultimate goal of seeing whether a peaceful coexistence between the Islamic and Christian faiths is attainable without either faith compromising their basic tenets. The short answer is "no". The longer answer, as Samir explains, is based on the understanding of Islam as being an integrated social, political, cultural and religious ideology.

This is a very interesting and informative book. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in furthering their understanding of the current issues involved in the immigration and integration of Islam in Western societies.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Release - The Betrothal!

I'm excited to announce the imminent release of my newest novella The Betrothal from Fine Form Press. This is an art-themed contemporary/historical romance set in modern day London and in 1434 Bruges, at the time of the painting of Jan van Eyck's masterpiece The Arnolfini Betrothal.

The Arnolfini Betrothal by Jan van Eyck

When Benjamin takes Sarah out to celebrate their four-month dating anniversary, he wines and dines her at Calabash, London's best restaurant. After a wonderful meal, he has another surprise for her: his prepared lecture at the National Gallery, where he presents Sarah with a unique and entertaining interpretation of the love story between feisty Giovanna Cenami and Pieter Baes, Jan van Eyck's young assistant at the time van Eyck painted the famous Arnolfini Betrothal Portrait.

The Betrothal by J.T. Therrien
I think readers will really enjoy this novella that offers two sweet romances: a contemporary one and an historical one. I look forward to sharing it with you very soon!

Addendum: (October 17, 2013) The Betrothal is now available at Smashwords and Amazon for 99 cents!


Monday, October 07, 2013

Review: The Sentimentalists

The Sentimentalists
The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading The Sentimentalists. Although I have never read any of Johanna Skibsrud's poetry, her understanding of language as she explores her characters' motivations, beliefs and memories proves to be quite sensitive and creative.

The Sentimentalists clearly deserved to be the 2010 Giller Prize winner. I knew nothing about the novel before picking it up, other than it went out of print within days of being awarded the Giller Prize, and I have been waiting for a chance to read it since it won. Had I known what literary treasure I was missing out on, I would have moved this short novel up to the top of my To Be Read list much sooner!

Readers who enjoy stories within stories, characters trying to uncover the truth of memories and beliefs (their own and other characters') then The Sentimentalists should be a satisfying read.

I have added Johanna Skibsrud's name to my list of authors to read, and I cannot wait for her next novel.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: MaddAddam

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Margaret Atwood's final chapter in her MaddAddam trilogy was well worth the wait.

I have rarely read such an ambitious work. In MaddAddam, Atwood ties up loose ends from the previous two novels, and also further develops two central characters through the use of backstory.

As is common in Atwood's writing, writing itself becomes an important aspect of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed her vision of a post-apocalyptic world and the questions that inevitably arise. The birth of a new generation also welcomes the birth of new mythologies, key to answering human(oid)'s central questions about its origins: Where do we come from? Who made us? Why are we here? And where do we go from here?

Communication (verbal and non-verbal), writing, speech, history, good and evil, rituals... Atwood tackles all the big issues of important literature - and she does it in an entertaining, thought-provoking, highly creative way. The creation of deities that fly to our rescue when summoned is a perfect example of her witty writing.

If there was any doubt, the MaddAddam Trilogy reaffirms Atwood's place as one of the world's best science-fiction authors.

I highly recommend reading this trilogy. And when you're done with that, if you haven't already read it, read The Handmaid's Tale. And then read everything else by this wonderful Canadian writer.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Guppy Soup Release!

Here it is! The release of my latest fiction: Guppy Soup.

Guppy Soup by JT Therrien

For those of you who do not follow me on Twitter or Facebook, Guppy Soup is my latest release from Fine Form Press. It is a small collection of literary short stories that cover a wide range of subjects such as cancer "Wanda's Appointment", quirky relationships "Masks", medical science vs faith "The Power of Words", surrealism "What if Dali....", science fiction "Zip: A Cautionary Tale", nostalgia "Legend" and "Summertime". There are also two previews of Fine Form Press releases included in the collection: The Well, previously released and still free at Smashwords, and the forthcoming The Betrothal, an art-themed contemporary-historical novella featuring Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Betrothal masterpiece.

Guppy Soup Blurb ~
The stories in Guppy Soup explore human nature and how we sometimes simply don't live up to our potential. Guppy Soup reveals us as who we (oftentimes) are: impatient, petty, jealous, flawed creatures who have knee-jerk reactions to the world of appearances; people who fall too far short of achieving a charitable outlook on life and on others to be considered good.

* * *

Guppy Soup is currently available at Smashwords and at Amazon, with more distribution coming soon to third party e-tailers. I hope people will have a chance to read this fun collection of short stories!

Wanda's Appointment can be read in its entirety as part of Amazon's preview.

Check back here or on Twitter for a chance to win a free copy of Guppy Soup in my upcoming giveaway contest!


Sunday, September 08, 2013

Review: Real Men Pray the Rosary: A Practical Guide to a Powerful Prayer

Real Men Pray the Rosary: A Practical Guide to a Powerful Prayer
Real Men Pray the Rosary: A Practical Guide to a Powerful Prayer by David N Calvillo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This introductory book to praying the Rosary was given to me by a friend who wasn't aware that as an auxiliary member of the Legion of Mary I've been praying the Rosary daily for years. Even though I question religious groups that seem to distinguish between male and female-centered prayers, I was able to draw some useful information from the included readings.

The premise of Real Men Pray the Rosary (both the spiritual movement and the book) is that since many men think the Rosary is a "woman's prayer", presumably because the petitions are addressed to Mary, they ignore, or are ignorant of, its spiritual power. Again, I disagree with that basic premise, but it isn't as if I've discussed this issue with many men. So, Calvillo might be right.

Be that as it may, in RMPTR Calvillo explains what the Rosary is, and why everyone, men and women, should pray it. Each chapter also includes a Toolbox (spiritual exercises) that introduce the Rosary to someone who may find praying it daunting. And Calvillo also includes practical activities that men can introduce into their domestic life to involve the rest of the family in praying the Rosary.

I highly recommend Real Men Pray the Rosary for anyone curious about, or interested in, learning to pray this devotional prayer.

I would also recommend following RMPTR on Facebook.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Guppy Soup Cover Reveal!

Guppy Soup, my new collection of literary short stories, will be released by Fine Form Press.

Guppy Soup will soon be available at Smashwords, Amazon, B&N, and all third party e-tailers.

It will retail for $1.49. 


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Author Showcase: Doreen Cox

I'm starting a new feature on my blog: Author Showcase.

For this new blog feature I am not interviewing the authors. I am simply showcasing people who have so generously taken the time to promote my own promo tweets on Twitter. In some cases, I have read some of these author's books, but in many instances I have only retweeted their links. (Unfortunately, due to the glacial speed at which I read, I cannot possibly read everything I want to.)

First up is long-time Twitter friend: Doreen Cox, non-fiction author of Adventures In Mother-Sitting!

From Doreen's Amazon Author's Page
Writing my book after the time of Mother-sitting was cathartic for me as it relates to my dance with grief. During those caregiver years, there was never a dull moment much less a moment in which I could relax. I'm not complaining for that is the way it is for a Care Bear. Humor got me through most of those days. The vacuum that came after Mother-sitting became filled with writing, editing and publishing. The vacuum that came after my memoir was published was emotionally difficult for me. In hindsight, this last vacuum was a necessary and cathartic time. Without the earlier distractions to engage me, a plunge into the abyss of sadness and despair allowed me to deeply grieve my mom's death and the 'death' of my role as her Care Bear. The experience of Mother-sitting taught me that joy, frustration and despair are juxtaposed emotions that are part of any experience, including writing and publishing. ADVENTURES IN MOTHER-SITTING is a memoir that speaks to a journey through grief, through losses of many kinds.

My 5-star review of Doreen's book Adventures In Mother-Sitting can be found on my blog's Book Reviews page.

Doreen's links:
Amazon Author's page: www.amazon.com/Doreen-Cox/e/B005YOQAQ0/
Blog: Treasured Encounters
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mothersitting
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mothersitter
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4245447.Doreen_Cox

Doreen also has a bunch of other links (she's everywhere on the internet...)

I strongly recommend following this wonderful writer and most wonderful person! Oh... and by all means read her heart-warming memoir of caring for her ailing mother.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Banned Pro Life Ad

I thought I would post Heroic Media's beautiful Pro Life ad - recently banned by USA Today and the NY Times, among other media outlets.

Ad copyright (c)2013 by Heroic Media
The pro-life ad was part of the Texas Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act, a law (passed 19-11) that will stop abortions being allowed after 20 weeks - when a child feels pain.

Yes, let's stop the war on children.

*I did not request permission from Heroic Media to post their ad on my blog.

Addendum (July 25): For those of you interested to read a first-person account of what the mood was like in that Austin Texas capitol building for the pro life vote, I've put a link to Emma Smith's powerful essay: "Eyewitness To Evil."


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Sick Puppy

Sick Puppy
Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Laugh out loud funny!

The best reason I enjoy reading Carl Hiaasen novels is because I will never be able to conceive of plots (and characters) such as his.

In Sick Puppy he has... let me see if I can recall most of these characters: a prostitute whose clients are Republicans, a self-sufficient eco-terrorist, a slob lobbyist/big game hunter, a rogue former Florida Governor, a killer with a 9-1-1 call fetish (among several other fetishes), a black Labrador (one of the Sick Puppies alluded to in the title), an entrepreneur with an unnatural love of Barbie dolls, two Eastern bloc real life Barbie dolls, and so on. This list barely touches the cast of interesting characters.

Readers will enjoy Hiaasen's sense of humor, his quirky characters, and his convoluted plots (which are surprisingly easy to follow!)

Although they pretty much all do, this particular Hiaasen novel reminded me of Donald Westlake's books.

A well-written and entertaining read!


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Review: Lumen Fidei: Enciclica sulla Fede

Lumen Fidei: Enciclica sulla Fede
Lumen Fidei: Enciclica sulla Fede by Pope Francis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first encyclical that I've ever read. I found it (surprisingly) easily accessible and I look forward to reading previous ones.

I thought the work was well written and both Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis had much to say about faith - Lumen Fidei meaning the Light of Faith. The text addresses most of the current challenges facing the Church: the arguments against Nihilism, relativism, homosexual unions, etc. were presented in an easy-to-follow dialectical fashion.

I especially liked the chapter where Jesus is understood as the synthesis of Hearing the Word and Seeing the Word.

I strongly recommend the encyclical to anyone who is interested in what the modern Catholic Church is concerned with, and why the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church) responds the way it does to current events, while claiming (correctly) that it is acting out of love.

And, of course, the encyclical should be required reading for all Catholics!

Interested readers can get complete text by following the link on My Reading List - Religious Texts page.


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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Timeless Christian Persecution

I recently saw this Make Your Own Roman Arena activity book in a dollar store and snapped a picture of it:

I can't help but feel that this activity book is insensitive and offensive to all Christians. After all, martyrs' blood filled the Colosseum sewers at the height of the persecutions of Early Church Christians, and to have such abhorrent behavior trivialized as the subject of a kids' activity book (without explaining the historical context) is sad and intolerable.

If you look inside the arena you can see a lion dragging a dead or dying Christian by the arm. Fun!

For anyone who thinks that I am being too "thin-skinned" that I see the worse in things, that I should relax because this is just a kids' book, I end this post by referring to Monsignor Fulton Sheen:

A Plea for Intolerance by Fulton J. Sheen
In 1931, Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen wrote the following essay:

“America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance - it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded.”

“Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil … a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons … never to truth. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error … Architects are as intolerant about sand as foundations for skyscrapers as doctors are intolerant about germs in the laboratory.

Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.”

In this age of relativism, political correctness, and rampant tolerance, I am making a plea against the type of tolerance that trivializes the spilled blood of  all Martyrs of the Church.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review: The Childhood of Jesus

The Childhood of Jesus
The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although I've read a few of JM Coetzee's novels in the past and I've always enjoyed the strong stories and characters, I've never enjoyed one his novels as much as this one. In fact, I would rank it right up there with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book I have used in the past in leading philosophy seminars.

The novel begins when two immigrants, Simon, an older man and David, a five-year old boy, arrive in a Spanish-speaking country. Neither are very familiar with the language. Simon is not the boy's father, he is not related to David. When the information letter explaining who David's parents are gets lost at sea, Simon becomes the boy's charge and makes a commitment to find the boy's mother in the new country.

The two face many frustrations and hardships in this odd, new world. Through it all, Simon manages find them a place to stay and he gets himself a job working as a stevedore, unloading boats by hand with a group of well-meaning men. David is still too young to attend school, so he hangs out at the docks, where he learns to play chess with the supervisor.

David and Simon are not their real names. These are the names the two are given at the processing center. There, they are encouraged to forget their past, their language, their history. This is a new world, and they are not to dwell on memories. Their official papers state approximate ages (based on appearances) and the two are assigned the same birthday - the day they stepped off the boat.

I enjoyed Coetzee's ability to convey the sense of displacement and alienation that immigrants feel, that sense of other-wordliness that Simon experiences as he finds everyone friendly enough, but realizes that they all think in a completely different (logical) way, their thoughts based mainly on the appearance of things.

As Simon tries to find his place in this foreign land, he begins to voice his philosophical questions aloud and his companions on the docks are more than happy to engage him in these debates. The topics include existential questions such as the meaning of a man's life, where it is to be found in work, play, or at rest, all within the context of the appearances versus reality.

David, meanwhile faces his own issues, when Simon eventually discovers the boy's natural mother. Soon, David must begin school, where his ability to conform to the class is tested. He struggles to read, to write, and to do basic math, due to "philosophic issues with numbers" as Simon points out.

The Childhood of Jesus is a truly interesting, engaging, and thought-provoking novel which I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys entertaining different ideas about the world and their life.


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Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Joyland

Joyland by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Joyland, since it reminded me of every other Stephen King novel I've ever read. There's plenty of nostalgia, and a carnival, to boot!

Joyland has fun characters who speak The Talk (carnival lingo), a good plot, three friends, lots of love and death. And a boy in a wheelchair. Sound familiar?

If you enjoy Stephen King novels you'll enjoy this one too. I did.


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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Review: Manuscript Found in Accra

Manuscript Found in Accra
Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wasn't a fan of this novel.

This link to John Crace's comical review of Manuscript for The Guardian expresses my thoughts a million times better than I could ever write.


But seriously, I have a problem with Manuscript's content. As I read through the different topics presented, I was never sure if Coelho was showing the reader that New Age philosophy grew out of Biblical teachings, or if Biblical teachings were, when it came right down to it, New Age. This is an important distinction, but ultimately either interpretation places Coelho in the wrong.

Of course, since Coelho uses a Coptic narrator, he could always discard such criticisms by claiming that neither of the positions I attribute to him are his own views, he is merely presenting the narrator's (a Coptic wise man) thoughts on such topics. But given that Coelho is the author, the criticism still comes back to him.

Either way, I had a very strong, uncomfortable feeling that my morality, sense of religious history, and Biblical knowledge was being put to the test in reading this book.

I suppose that if I don't like New Age fiction, I should stop reading Coelho. I just wish he would stop trying (seeming to try?) to ground his New Age philosophy on universal themes found in the Bible.

Either New Ageism will stand on its own, or it will fail due to it's own internal inconsistencies. But to drag biblical subjects into an extraneous discussion of morals, simply because Coelho disagrees with certain religious doctrine, is intentionally misleading, and as such is considered scandalous.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review: Tell-All

Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoy Chuck Palahniuk's fiction. He's a truly creative, witty writer. He's in top form with Tell All. I would've given it 5 stars, but I didn't honestly find it "Amazing", although it ranks as one of the best fiction that I've read in a quite a while. So I would give it 4.5 stars if I could. On second thought, I've decided the story was in fact "amazing" and I've now given it 5 stars.

Tell All is Palahniuk's (successful) attempt to deconstruct Hollywood. The story takes place in Hollywood's golden years, circa 1940s, and focuses on an aging female actress, her protective assistant, and the actress' loves.

Every possible actor and actress, director, producer, musician, and studio head working in Hollywood is mentioned in this novel.I admit I was reduced to Googling quite a few of the mentioned actors and actresses, I didn't really have to do it, although doing so added a layer of meaning to the reading. There are simply too many references for one individual reader to be able to identify them all.

I loved everything about Tell All: the format is a screenplay, already conveniently broken down into acts and scenes for the reader; the premise is a love story; the prose is Fight Club raw.

I'm a fan of post-structuralist, self-referential art, and I enjoyed how Palahniuk literally rewrote the ending of the story five or six times. I truly liked how all the actors' names eventually refer to the same person, how Hollywood ultimately reduces everyone to the sameness of existence as it churns out one "star" after another and, finally, I appreciated Palahniuk's social commentary of the perceived role of women in movies. Readers will pick up on that blatant theme as they read Katherine Kenton's extensive list of starring roles. Using his not-so-subtle style, Mr. Palahniuk also brings up the trend of celebs buying ready-made families, a la Brad and Angelina.

I would recommend this novel to everyone, but especially to Chuck Palahniuk fans who might have missed it when it came out a couple of years ago. And if this is your first Palahniuk novel, bear in mind that it doesn't read like his more well-known novel, Fight Club, although there are stylistic similarities. Personally, I associated Tell All more with the feeling of nostalgia that Palahniuk evoked in the first part of Rant.

Tell All is definitely a fun read. I would actually like to see this novel made into a movie.


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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

David N. Walker Guest Post

Today, I am posting on fellow author David N. Walker's blog, and he is guest-posting on mine.

A few months ago I was lucky enough to read David's devotional collection Heaven Sent. I truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit within the pages. Some of the stories made me laugh, and others tear up, and they all made me pause and reflect on different aspects of humanity. I gave it a 5 Star review on Amazon. The following is David's post:

David N. Walker
As leader of my Sunday School class for the past eight years, I've made it a practice to read a short piece to the class each Sunday before bringing up the teacher. Sometimes it would be something funny or something to do with current events, but frequently it would be an inspirational or devotional piece I've received in an email. I've carefully saved all of these readings over the years.

A year or so ago it dawned on me that I had a treasure trove of Christian stories I could share with others. I went back through my files and selected 67 of the pieces I've read through the years. The selection includes some of my own thoughts and one piece written by my daughter. The rest are those I've received in emails.

My first step was to try to contact the authors of the pieces whenever I could find their names. Then I sent emails to each asking permission to include his or her piece in my book. Of course, I had to omit a number of them whose authors either were unlocatable or denied permission. The result was the stories I've included in the book, Heaven Sent. Many of them are anonymous, but I've attributed those authors I found who gave me permission to use their stories.

Once I selected the stories which would go into the book, I appended comments of my own to them, except, of course, for the ones I originally wrote. To eliminate confusion, I put the original stories in italics, with my comments following in plain text.

Please click here to read more about Heaven Sent on my website, including how to order it. Or click here to read about it on Goodreads. Or here to buy a copy while you're at it.

Here's one of the stories I wrote:

Anna Grace—a Picture of God’s Rest

Sitting in church one morning some years ago, I saw something so ordinary and simple and yet so beautiful that I was overwhelmed by it. I hope I can convey the power of what hit me.
A young couple sat in front of us with a baby in an infant seat between them turned so that the baby—who my wife discovered was named Anna Grace—faced us. Throughout the service—praise and worship, announcements and sermon—the mother sat with her hand lightly touching Anna Grace's cheek.

Anna Grace rested one of her little hands on the back of her mother's hand and the other on her arm and just smiled contentedly. A little later she fell asleep with her hands remaining on her mother's hand and arm.

The picture was one of unbounded love from the mother to the daughter and of unquestioning trust from the daughter toward the mother. Resting securely in her mother's touch, Anna Grace was totally at peace.

The church service and the crowd of people around me ceased to exist as I gazed at this picture. God reminded me that He loved me infinitely more than this human mother loved her daughter and that I needed Him infinitely more than Anna Grace needed her mother.

There was much going on around Anna Grace that she could not understand. Our sanctuary holds a couple of thousand people. Our music is pretty loud and lively. Strange people (us) were staring at her. Was Anna Grace daunted in any way by all of this? No! She was at peace, resting in her mother's touch, totally confident that her mother would bring about what was best for her despite anything going on around her.

This was the most powerful picture of God's rest I've ever seen. He promised us that He would take ANYTHING that happened in our lives and use it for our good—not some things, not most things, but ALL THINGS! He didn't promise there would never be pain or that all would always go the way WE wanted it to, but He did promise our ultimate good.

This infant, Anna Grace, was reminding me to rest in God and be anxious for NOTHING! Not to worry about circumstances around me, not to worry about what I was going to eat or how I would pay for it. Not to be bothered or troubled—period!

God has already let us see the end of the book. We know how it comes out. We win! But more than just winning in the end, He has promised that He is in control in the meantime if we'll just surrender ourselves to Him and rest in Him.

The contentment on Anna Grace's face spoke volumes more than I can hope to write here. I just hope I have given you a glimpse of what God showed me in this infant and her mother.

David N. Walker
David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot, a would-be Nashville star, and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states.

He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Four of his books, the devotional Heaven Sent and the first four novellas in the Fancy series, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats. Click here for more information and links to purchase these books.

David continues to work on the Fancy series, and expects to publish volume 5 in April.

I wish to thank David for participating (and suggesting) this blog post switch today, and for sharing one of his wonderful stories. To read more of David's writing, please go to his blog: http://davidnwalker.com/heaven-sent.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Way: Movie Review

This is one of my rare movie reviews, so I ask you to bear with me if it doesn't read like the usual reviews some of you may be be used to.

I'll begin with this caveat:
I watch maybe 12 movies a year, tops. I used to watch many more, but now I don't find anything that comes out of Hollywood worthy of my spending two (or more!) hours of my time. I don't watch comedies, other than Woody Allen films, I try not to watch any movie that has any kind of advertised chase scene, or explosion, or that features a comic book character. There is also a long list of actors that I simply refuse to watch, and I'll save that lengthy list for a later post. I'm also not a fan of trolls, goblins, witches, or any kind of supernatural creature, so that leaves me with...?

What have I watched, so far in 2013? Four movies come to mind: For Greater Glory (*****), starring Andy Garcia, Joyeux Noel (*****), Just Henry (**), and, more recently, The Way (*).

This short review is about The Way, released in 2010. The movie is directed by Emilio Estevez and stars Emilio's father, Martin Sheen.

The Way Movie
The Way is supposed to be a movie about a pilgrimage on the world-famous El Camino de Santiago, the 800 km route that St. James traveled from France, through the Pyrenees, and into Spain. Daniel (Estevez) wants to live his life on his own terms and decides to travel to Europe instead of finishing his PhD in Sociology, a decision that doesn't sit well with his father, Tom (Martin Sheen), a very successful optometrist. Daniel no sooner decides to make the pilgrimage on the El Camino de Santiago, when he dies in an unfortunate accident. This is not a spoiler, the incident takes place five minutes into the film. Tom flies to France to reclaim the body of his son. Once there, in a sentimental moment, Tom decides to make the pilgrimage on behalf of his son.

On the way, Tom meets up with three characters, none of whom are true pilgrims (understood by me as religious), and eventually learns the lesson that he doesn't need to make this pilgrimage by himself.

I would have given The Way five stars had it been marketed as what it actually is: a fictitious documentary travelogue. I found Eat, Pray, Love to be more spiritual than The Way, which isn't saying much. The scenery along the route is truly spectacular. The film is interspersed with the obligatory shots of the cross, many, many crosses, and many religious-themed statues, and also a few churches. It includes many scenes of the hostels where the pilgrims can stay overnight. And all the pilgrims seem to have one heck of a party on their pilgrimage. Apparently, there are plenty of drugs and booze to go around on the El Camino. You can get fresh goat cheese in some places, and there seems to be great wine everywhere. There are even some four-five star hotels where a travel-weary pilgrim can rest her swollen feet and get some much-needed pampering.

But there is no soul to The Way. At least, there is no Catholic soul, since the ultimate aim of the movie is flawed, again, from this Catholic's perspective. I won't reveal the ending, because that would be a spoiler of sorts, so you'll have to either watch the two hour trek, or find another review that reveals more.

As Emilio probably discovered during the filming, showing a character's interior spiritual life on the big screen isn't easy. But to simply show some random Catholic imagery without providing (or showing some understanding of) spiritual context is just more Hollywood fluff film-making. It looks great, but the film means nothing. I don't mind that the movie is so shallow. After all, I'm the guy who doesn't expect anything substantial to come out of Hollywood to begin with. I just thought that since this was an indie production, and it actually dealt with a religious theme as its subject matter, that there might have been some spirituality to the film.

The Way, unfortunately, lived down to my expectations.
Still, I'm undaunted and would jump at the opportunity to embark on my own pilgrimage on the El Camino.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Author Interview: Faye Hollidaye!

Today is a ground-breaking day on my blog. No, I haven't come up with a clever title for it. I am conducting my first guest interview! For this special occasion, please welcome author/friend Faye Hollidaye, of Susie Chapman Series fame!

Hi Faye, I hope you've got your thinking cap on, 'cause I've got a bevy of questions for you.

1. First of all, tell us a bit about yourself. Share whatever you'd like.
Hello. I’m a writer, a reader, a wife, and mother of only my and my husband’s pets. I have a doggy named Bade, who’s big enough to take me for walks, but I have a pretty strong leash, so I don’t ever lose him, though sometimes he’s quite harsh on my shoulder and wrist. We also have a few snakes for my husband’s high school biology classroom, named Hannibal, Diamond, Sagan, and Scarlet. We have a red-foot tortoise named Autumn, and also a Saharan Uromastyx

Uro - Saharan Uromastyx

who’s nicknamed Uro. My hubby and our pets are my life, pretty much, except for writing and doing whatever odd jobs I can to earn us a few extra dollars. It’s not exactly ideal to be living on a single income, and that of a high school teacher, so I do whatever I can to help make ends meet, since I’m currently unable to get a decent job with my degree in language.

2. Maybe you should consider going back to school and getting a degree in Philosophy. Just a thought. So, who/what are some of your favorite authors or books?
There have been a lot of books over the years that I’ve just had to buy for my bookshelf. I’d have to say a few of my all-time faves are Cindy Holby’s Chase the Wind, which is a historical romance but a book I find I can really enjoy over and over again because I can relate to it so much – when I became a Christian and threw out all the smutty romances, that was the one I just couldn’t let go of. Also, I must mention Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, which I’ve read at least three times, and it does have religious implications I don’t really support, but it is so much of a fantastic adventure, it’s hard to read and not enjoy the journey. Another is June Rae Wood’s works like The Man Who Loved Clowns and A Share of Freedom.

3. I'll have to check some of those out. What is your most favorite line you've ever written (I know I know, they're all gold), and in which story does it appear?
Wow, now that’s a tough question for me. I’d have to go back and read my stuff to find one I really like... Right off the top of my head, I’d have to say one of the opening lines of Pieces, where Maryanne is trying to decipher why one of her guy friends hasn’t told her about his new girlfriend: “Does he think that I’ll go psycho and kill her or something?” And with some more thought, I have to mention the opening line from my one of my newest short stories, The Rise: “In the beginning, they had no voice.”

4. Ooh, I like that! What genre(s) do you write in? Which one have you not tried yet? Why haven't you?
I always have a problem pinpointing what genre I am. I’d like to think I’m creating my own kind of genre, which is a blend of psychological thriller, mystery, romance, religious-themed supernatural, young adult but older than teen fiction, tragedy, science fiction, and possibly others. I do write poetry, nonfiction and fiction prose, and short stories. I know I haven’t tried comedy yet. Comedy is hard for me, because I never know if what I think is funny is actually funny to anybody else – sometimes I laugh at things that I later find I shouldn’t have laughed at even in the least. I guess I have a twisted sense of humor.

5. That could make for some funny scenarios, a la John Irving. Does anything scare you about writing, or the writing process, or the publishing industry?
I’m not afraid to write anything. And I’m not afraid to try new kinds of forms or structures, or new ways of improving my writing processes. The publishing industry though, is intimidating. I self-publish because I know everyone gets rejected at least by a few publishers before signing with a big one, and I’m afraid I’ll get discouraged from writing when I get my first rejection letter from a publisher. So I skipped the rejections and self-publish, hoping I can get myself and my work out there and in front of readers.

6. I wouldn't worry about rejection. The first hundred or so are tough, but after that it gets easier. Now tell us: Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Pantser? What does that mean? I plot so far into the story, usually about half-way, and then the characters tell me what happens from there.

7. So, not a pantser, then. FYI, a pantser flies by the seat of his, or her, pants. No plotting beforehand. Would you say you write primarily character- or plot-driven fiction?
I’d have to say character-driven, though I do use plot to get the characters to react and drive the story. My writing is a little more complicated than just one or the other, I think.

8. Having read most of your fiction, I'd have to agree. Speaking of which, when is your next release coming out? What's the title?
My next novel release is coming out this year. It’s the second work in the Merely Mortal Series, though a reader doesn’t have to read Pieces to understand what’s happening at all. It’s called The Dead Girl, and is Miranda’s story – a small piece of it can be found in the second half of Pieces. It’s vampire-themed. The big thing about it is a biologically sound vampire. I go as far as microbiology to explain how vampirism, at least in a sense, is possible.

9. Sounds intriguing. I'm looking forward to reading it. So, who is your favorite fictional character? What story is he/she in? And why are they your favorite?
Lyra from Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I decided this quite a while ago and can’t remember exactly why. I’ll have to reread the books again to remember why she’s my favorite. Maybe because she’s such an easy liar...

10. Lol. Okay, I have been waiting a long time to ask you this question: what's the deal with Susie Chapman? By that I mean: where did you come up with the idea of writing a story with multiple narrators? What do you hope readers will get from this unusual literary technique? And do you plan to release the whole story one chapter at a time?
The funny thing about Susie Chapman is I saw on Facebook not too long ago that my step-grandmother has a friend named Susie Chapman. I was like, Oh my, so close, you know, only two degrees of separation. Haha. Anyway, the story began with a dream. I wrote down Jesse Adams’ story, the first one in the series, one day from my notes about the dream, having a specific narrator in mind. Then I got to thinking later, what really happened to Susie, where’d she go? I found myself interested enough to ask around, and there seem to be plenty of different stories about her. I personally don’t know what happened to Susie though I have my own suspicions and beliefs, and I enjoy writing the installments as much as I hope at least some of my readers enjoy them. I came to the multiple-narrators idea pretty naturally. Jesse Adams told his story, and he has no more to say about it than he does in his installment. He doesn’t know anything about where Susie went. Other people at her high school seem to think they do. As I sift through what the other kids at Green Bottom High say about Susie, I hope to reveal some clues that point to what really happened to her. Yes, it’s fiction, but it’s kind of fun to try and figure out which narrators are reliable and which are not. Sometimes it’s easier to believe the best storyteller than the most reliable narrator, and this is a major theme I’m trying to get across, I think, with the Susie series. As to the last part of the question: I think of the character who I want to interview next, and I have to let them think about how they’re going to tell their story before I can write it down for them. I give them a week or two to get their story straight, and then I sit down and channel their voice for the recording of their side of the story. This process is a little tedious, but it’s turning out to be quite efficient. I know there will be 18 installments, since Susie’s little sister has already told me what she thinks happened to her, and once I get that far, I will combine them into a short novella to sell for 99 cents. For now though, I am releasing them one installment at a time, generally one every two weeks.

11. I find them fun to read. They're like tuning in to a soap opera. I'm always curious to see who will have what to say about Susie. Where can people find you online?
I’m at a lot of places online. I have a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/fayehollidaye), a Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/fayehollidaye), a Google+ , a Myspace, a Wix website (found at http://www.fayehollidaye.wix.com/fayehollidaye - where you can find the links to where I can be found online that I don’t provide here), and a few blogs. I’m also on Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords, Lulu, Black Caviar, Wapi Aponi, and Sporcle. I now also edit an online newspaper called The Interesting Weekly at paper.li.

Wow. You're everywhere!
Well, Faye, thank you for being my guest. I had fun getting to know you a bit better outside of Twitter. I truly wish you great reviews and many sales with all of your future releases.
Thank you, JT! I enjoyed being here. ☺ Sorry if I went to town on a few of these questions – I’m quite a talker once you get me started.

No problem, Faye. I hope you'll come back when you have a new release blog tour.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Review: Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent
Heaven Sent by David N. Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading Heaven Sent. Had the title not been taken, Mr. walker could have called it Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul. This book is a collection of uplifting, heart warming, and tear-inducing anecdotes, stories, and reflections that the author has taken the time to comment upon.

The stories are all short, wonderful, and well-worth taking the time to read and reflect on. I highly recommend Heaven Sent to anyone who wants to see the wonders of everyday people acting upon their faith, acting selflessly to help their fellow brothers or sisters in need.

I also think Mr. Walker does a disservice to his book by claiming (several times) that the collection is intended primarily for "Born Again" Christians. I believe that the messages of piety, love, humility, chastity, kindness, selflessness, patience, endurance, and patriotism apply to anyone and everyone who reads the stories with an open heart. Personally, I would not hesitate to recommend Heaven Sent to my Catholic friends and family members.

Even though we don't all have the same religious and political views, we all share a God-given life and humanity; and ultimately, that is what is being revealed in Heaven Sent. The most consistent message I got was: God works (miracles) through individuals.

I found myself tearing up more often than I care to admit, and I bet that many readers will, too. I can't say this about many books that I've read, but I am better for having read Heaven Sent.

If you want to find out what is right with the world, why the Bible and God are important and should matter to all of us in this modern, secularized world, you will find this collection Heaven Sent.

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Review: The Fifth Mountain

The Fifth Mountain
The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my second reading of The Fifth Mountain, a rarity in and of itself. I barely have time to read a book once, I don't usually get around to re-reading it. But it had been years since I had read Coelho's book, and so much has changed in my life since then that I wanted to see how/if the story still spoke to me.

The last time I picked up The Fifth Mountain, I was practicing yoga, and although I never embraced Coelho's whole New Age, Warrior of Light idea, I thought it interesting. But now that I've returned to my Catholic faith, I was curious to see how Coelho dealt with a major biblical figure, Elija.

As a writing project, I think Coelho did an amazing job. He filled in the blanks and re-told (re-imagined) a powerful story of faith. Sort of.

To the best of my knowledge, Elija did not write Warrior of Light, yet that is what Elija tells his young charge at the end of The Fifth Mountain. As an author, I can let that go. You can't fault an author for writing a tie-in to another one of his books. Just ask Stephen King.

The other idea that Coelho mentions is more complex and, to me, more troubling. As Elija imparts his wisdom to the widow's young son, whom he has promised to take care of, he re-tells the story of Jacob wrestling with a stranger (who turns out to be God). At daybreak, the stranger cannot beat Jacob in the contest, and wants to take his leave. Jacob, having recognized that he was wrestling with God, refuses to let him go, and then demands a blessing. God blesses him, and changes Jacob's name to Israel.

The lesson Elija imparts from this is: sometimes you gotta take the bull (or God) by the horns and wrestle from Him your destiny. If we add to this concept the New Age (read The Secret) ideas that the universe is there to do your bidding, peppered throughout The Fifth Mountain, it led to a disappointing and troubling read. Yes, the Jacob story is in the Bible (Genesis). So it must have an edifying purpose. But is the message to be gleaned a New Age message, where God is just one more celestial being in and among the universe who can/should be bullied into giving us what we want simply by whining about it long and loud enough? I don't think so.

So, to recap, The Fifth Mountain is a great story, obviously well-written, a fine piece of historical/Biblical fiction, but ultimately it fails in that, I suspect, many readers will come away thinking erroneously that the Bible is yet another New Age text, or worse, that the Bible supports New Age ideology.

~ JT ~

View all my reviews

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bible Passages Mentioned in Sprainter

When I wrote Sprainter, my art-themed, young adult, dystopian, romance I wanted to reach the younger reader, not so much the thirty-to-fifty year olds who enjoy reading young adult fiction (people such as myself), but the real teens, say between thirteen and twenty.

What's more, I wanted that Christian teen reader to pick up a Bible and read it. You can't follow your Christian faith if you don't know your Bible. Towards that end, I decided to make Sprainter as interactive a read as I possibly could. Thankfully, my editors at Astraea Press gave me complete freedom. [Since 2014, I have terminated my relationship with Astraea Press and Sprainter is now published by Fine Form Press] They could've made a fuss and told me that it was an impractical project, but they let me do my own thing. Sprainter reads well enough without knowing what the Bible references are, but I think they add a nice dimension to the story.

Here, then, just in time for Holy Week, is a list of Bible references that MrE spraints on the walls as part of his own propaganda in his fight against El Alcalde's religious oppression, just in case some readers might have skipped over the part where they were supposed to see what the texts refer to:

1 Corinthians 13:8-9, 13
Love never fails. Prophecies will cease, tongues will be silent, knowledge will pass away.Our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect. There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Matthew 25:40
And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Psalm 23
A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
   he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
   for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
   I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff—
   they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   my whole life long.

Exodus 20:3-17
You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
   and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
   and he will make straight your paths.

Ephesians 6:10-18
The Whole Armor of God
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints

 * * *
So, as you can see from the readings, I tried to get the basics of Christianity across. I truly hope some of Sprainter's readers will take the time and effort to look up these well-known passages, and to maybe rediscover them. With Easter just a few days away, now is as good a time as any to get re-acquainted with the Word.

In my next blog maybe I'll post the prayers that show up in Sprainter.


Friday, March 15, 2013

"The Mark of A Man" Blogfest

Hi everyone,

When fellow author David N. Walker asked if I wanted to participate in "The Mark of A Man" blogfest, I jumped at the opportunity. After all, how tough could this be, I asked myself. I'm a man, I'll just write about what I know best: me! Yeah, right. Self-introspection? What's that?

David suggests that society's views about men might be a bit fixated at the moment on ripped abs. Of course, he's right. Flip through the television channels and you're bound to come across another revolutionary ab-training workout system. Have you seen the covers of Men's Health magazine in the last ten years or so?

But ripped abs are just one manifestation of how modern society is obsessed with youth, appearances, and with youthful appearances. Nowadays, it happens way too often that as I'm watching television I see a face that is almost recognizable. I have to imagine what this person might have looked like thirty years ago, without the facelift. Eventually, I can identify them, and place them on the show they starred in. It's a weird feeling, seeing people who are much older than me look so much younger (than me) and than they used to.

Abs, facelifts, and anti-wrinkle creams are all symptoms of the same vain culture of youth and of appearances. Given that we're in the twenty-first century, one would think that everyone in the world would have learned by now the important lesson of misleading appearances as discussed in the allegory of Plato's Cave, 400 BC. Also, since deceptive appearances are the bread and butter of just about every piece of fiction written or filmed, again, one would think the lesson would have sunk in: reality is never what people perceive it to be. Shouldn't this lesson be taught in high school? Or grade school?

Yet, this fundamental truth hasn't set into our zeitgeist yet. Why not? What's wrong with looking old(er)? What's a few more grey hair and having a pot belly? What's wrong with looking your age? Do people honestly think they will be able to pass as a thirty year-old for ever? And, more importantly, why would they want to?

I was once thirty. Sure, they were good times, but I also enjoyed my twenties, and my forties, too. So far, although they're just starting, it looks like my fifties will be the best out of all the decades. Why? Precisely because I'm not in competition anymore with everyone else in the world. I'm satisfied with my lot in life. More than satisfied, I'm grateful to be where I am!

And maybe that's the answer, and the problem. Maybe this Baby Boomer youth-obsessed ego-driven culture is so dissatisfied with life that some of us feel the need to keep searching for superficial things to make all those disappointed dreams of our youth go away. And if not to make them disappear, then maybe to hide them for a while. As if a facelift could take all those problems away...

The truth, ladies and gentlemen, is that a chemical peel does not make you younger. The truth is that we should stop getting our narcissistic ego-boost from how others see us. Because, frankly, that's what it's all about, isn't it? It isn't a matter of looking younger for your own sake, but for everyone else. Do we really care how our neighbors/friends perceive us? Would we rather not want to show them how we really are, instead of presenting them such a superficial part of ourselves? Would a kind word or a helpful gesture not show our true self better than focusing our time, energy, and money on only looking younger? 

Save the time and money you would spend on changing some superficial aspect of yourself, and use those gifts to help someone else. I guarantee you, you'll feel great about yourself, and the feeling will last much longer than anti-wrinkle cream! As for those flat abs... if you want to pursue that pipe dream, you're on your own, buddy. :-)

Please take time to check out Rhonda Hopkin's contribution to this blogfest.

Thank you for reading my thoughts on this issue. And remember: Never judge a book by it's cover...  unless it's my new art-themed, young adult, dystopian, romance novella from Astraea Press - Sprainter!

Addendum March 1, 2015
Sprainter will be re-released by Fine Form Press in the fall of 2015.

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