More Than 400 Followers!

More Than 400 Followers!

thank-you-1606941_960_720I’m honored to announce I’ve passed the 400 mark with followers. Each person who interacts with me is a blessing, and I can only hope to continue to grow and provide information and content you all enjoy.

To celebrate my 400th follower, I’d like to give a shoutout to my last five. I hope you give their blogs a look and maybe start following them, too.

The Book Dutchesses was the most recent to follow my blog. They’re a pair of readers (Candyce and Isabelle) who provide book reviews. They also have this charming thing they call a Bookstagram challenge. It’s a clever way to blend blogging and Instagram, which I’m not on, but should probably fix…(I probably won’t).   Still, it’s a clever thing.

Wellreadmisty (most of these blogs do reviews, but you can never have enough of those) does reviews. I’m a fan of her quest board style TBR pile.  (PSSST…if you’re reading this, Miss T, Caught would count for seven of those blocks…just say’n.)  Anyway, her TBR pile is like a little quest board with different achievement style clues like “A Book Published by a Small Press.”

Fantasy Read 2017 is pretty new (at least it only has one blog up). But it’s about Rise of the Dragons, so I’m excited to see what else comes from the blog.

Bethan May Books who reads primarily fantasy (which makes me a fan). She has a review policy, though she’s not open to submissions just yet. Review policies are great though because they help guys like me find willing readers who can spread the word about books.

Sulaimaniac96 is a creative writer who’s looking for people to offer critiques on stories. I have to give a bit of a content warning here as some of the shorts can maybe be a bit steamy. (I’ve only read one so far.) Still, it’s a chance to read some free content and help a writer get some feedback. For the record, the story I read was solid.

I like to use these “benchmark” posts to spread the wealth. I hope you’ll give these blogs and more a chance just as you’ve given me a chance. I can’t thank you enough for visiting my blog and showing interest in my work and posts.  I hope this is a small form a gratitude.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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The November Book Cover of the Month is Halfway Done!

The November Book Cover of the Month is Halfway Done!

With just seven days left in this month’s bracket, it’s time to update you all on how things have been progressing. As I type this, this month started out solid, but it’s slowed way down. Any help getting word out and getting people to vote would be appreciated.

1,796 votes so far.

51nY6pcjfDLPrey till the End, by S.L. Eaves took the lead on Day 2, and has been pulling away ever since, but the most it would take anyone to take the throne is 15 voters putting them all the way through to the championship round.

Most Voted on so far: Prey till the End has the most total votes so far with 128.

Least Voted for: Empire of Dirt by Philip C. Quaintrell. This cover has 30 votes. I’d like to see it get a bit more support.

Eaves is slowly pulling away at the moment. He’s got some stiff competition from Living the Good Death in the Sweet 16. Eaves has a five-vote lead in that round, but if Scott Barron is going to catch Eaves, it only takes six people to do it. Eaves is also fighting a tough battle in the Final Four where Half-Asleep Guardians by Aurel Larue is only four votes behind, which means five people could change all that.

51x3Sop7TYLMother of Chaos by John Patrick Kennedy is in second for the moment, but Kennedy is barely hanging on in every round of the bracket. He’s winning nail biters with no more than a four-vote lead in any one round.

This will be the only update for this type of bracket. I hope readers continue to support their authors by voting, liking, and sharing the bracket with as many people as possible.  You can vote at this address!

I’ll announce the winner is just seven days!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

I’ve Read The New Testament! A Journey of Faith

I’ve Read The New Testament! A Journey of Faith

Greetings all,

I’ve mentioned a few times about my Christianity, and even posted a review on a previous piece of Christian literature. Some time last year (before Christmas), I made a commitment to go on a sort of religious journey.

While in the Navy, I got frustrated pretty quickly by people in charge saying what they wanted to say without regard for the standards. “You’re uniform is UNSAT,” or “That’s not how WE do things.” I don’t think that issue is unique to the Navy, and I assure what I’m describing wasn’t in violation of any standards, more an misunderstanding of them. Most of the time, it was well meaning people trying to establish what they thought was right. My problem with it was that I don’t want to stand behind my rank or my seniority. I want to stand behind the standards.

In Christianity, that standard is The Bible. I decided to start with the New Testament as that is the new covenant between God and humanity.

Why did I do this? Honestly, I want to be a better Christian, and, in my opinion, the best way to do that is by going directly to the source. Now, I can’t read the native language of The Bible, but I can read the version I have.

17562_largeI read the New International Version of the New Testament. I’m currently reading the Old Testament, but that’s a conversation for a later date. Now, imagine my surprise when some said that version “wasn’t the best.” You see, this is part of my frustration. The biggest problem with religion and the Bible is the habit people get into of discussing what perspective or what version was best. If the United States Navy can create one, single Standards of Operating Procedures, I’d think my Lord and Savior could create one Bible everyone could agree on.

I’m simply ignorant. This whole journey started as an effort for me to do more to build a relationship with God. I’m not smart enough to know which Bible is “right” and which church is “best.” I have this silly idea the my role in life is to live as close to God as I can, and I figure anyone doing that is on the right track. We’re all human, so I figure none of us is perfect.

This is a story about my journey with my faith. It is my testimony about my efforts to know God better. You are welcome to read whatever version of The Bible you wish. I’d be MOST interested in the opinions of someone who’s read The Bible in its original language, as there’s less room for errors in translation. What I will not appreciate is anyone simply posting comments on how “wrong” this Bible is or how “much better” your church understands it than I do. I freely admit my ignorance, but I’d appreciate perspective and insight, not backhanded ridicule because I don’t read your version of a book we should all agree on as the standard for this particular faith. I will also not appreciate anyone using this post as ammunition against other faiths or persons.  I am me. When I die, I’ll be judged by God. He’ll judge me and everyone else. I TRY to live in His name as well as I can. I’ll neither judge anyone else nor pretend to know anything I don’t.

The other reason for reading The Bible? Well, you see, I grew up in a strange neighborhood. I had a lot of people throw quotes from The Bible at me in a sincere effort to help me understand why, exactly, I was destined to be dammed. I had to have been about 13 at the time, and even to this day I wouldn’t necessarily argue. What’s the point? I’m not God, so I have no say on my admission into his kingdom other than to do my upmost to live in His name. The thing that dawned on me after my time in the Navy is that, a LOT of people are willing to tell you “what The Bible says,” but how many of said people actually read said scripture. In order for me to understand my faith more, in order to speak intelligently and ask the right questions, I felt it my duty to start at Matthew and work my way through the book of Revelation. It’s a start of a journey I mean to continue. I’m looking for answers from a source I know I can put my faith in. Churches, like the one with the man who enjoyed stopping me on my way home from school every day so I could better understand the reasons for my damnation, are full of men. I don’t necessarily begrudge them their belief, but I trust The Bible, the Word of God, more than anything else. (I will admit this doesn’t mean I’m completely prepared to call this a historical document. I don’t wish to start an argument on the subject. This post requires a fair, open, and honest commentary with the context and honesty necessary to have intelligent discussion.)

Well darn, I guess I have to touch on one issue this may bring up. While I’m not ready to deny or accept The Bible as a complete historical record, I have no doubt in my heart (and you’re again welcome to your own beliefs) that Jesus lived. He was born of the Virgin Mary and died on the cross for my sins. There are still other aspects and details I am simply far to ignorant of to make an educated decision on.

What I learned:

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All stock images form Pixabay.

First was that the first books of The Bible are different perspectives of the life and teachings of Jesus. They’re called, as I understand it, the gospels. Each book offers a different perspective of these moments, with some other events focused on more than most. These were the books I felt the most reward in reading. That’s not to say the rest of The Bible didn’t have an impact, but for a man seeking a closer relationship with God, I highly recommend he read the testimony on the life of his son.

Next is the book of Acts, which set up the church and described the Holy Spirit. I watch online sermons recommended by a dear friend, and that church has gone over Chapter 2 of that book quite extensively.

The rest of the book are letters. Testimony from the Apostles about religion, faith, sin, temptation, and walking with God.  I found a good many of these comforts. It’s pretty hard to get wrapped up in your own drama when you’re reading about a guy in prison who’s about to be executed.

What I still need to learn:

Well, yeah, I read The Bible, but I read it, out loud, straight through, one time. This doesn’t make me an expert. Heck, I could express to you the idea of my favorite passage (I write to you, dear children), but I couldn’t quote it directly nor tell you what chapter and verse it was. (Pretty sure it’s 2 John.  Maybe 12?)  That’s when my Navy training came back.

Any former service members (still) reading this? Can you quote any policy? Can you tell me what article in the UCMJ relates to alcohol related incidents? I can’t. Heck, I teach PA and visual policy, and I still can’t do much more than name the two instructions. I don’t think of The Bible as some book you read and then put down saying, “Yep, I got it!” No, it’s a reference book. It’s something to turn to when one needs guidance. It’s a way to learn and better understand my faith. I expect to do a great amount of study. I’m a man of faith, and I’m a man of science and research. I’m of the opinion that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

I’m not writing this to say, “I read The Bible, so now I’m saved.” In fact, as I understand it, reading The Bible, while good, isn’t required. It’s a charging station for the heart. And this is what I found most valuable. I’m a very mortal man with very real temptations and vices. I find any who claim they don’t have such are probably guilty of lying. Rather than avoid the FACT that I sin, I’d rather acknowledge that fact. However, since I’ve started this, I have more strength in matters of Faith.

car-1882691_960_720I described temptation to a friend of mine like a song. It’s a catchy, beautiful, loud melody. Imagine, if you will, that haunting, beautiful, horrible song taunting you, just in the background of your mind. It’s at my weakest moments when the song cranks the volume to 11.  The Bible is a metaphorical pair of noise reducing headphones.

To keep the metaphor, life happens when I pull those headphones off, and that song of temptation (and yes, there is a trilogy I plan to write using this same metaphor) never goes away. Neither does the song of God. The challenge is me. I choose what I listen to. I choose what I play in my mind and hear. The more I listen to the Word of God, the less I hear that other song. Being me, I’ll admit I hear more of the bad song than the good. It’s the rhythm of jealousy. The beat of ambition. The staccato of fear. The bass of pride. The crescendo of lust. I’m surrounded by that song.

violin-2946994_960_720Playing quietly, if I block out all the other songs, is a lovely, single violin. It’s haunting. It’s humbling. It’s beautiful and hopeful. It’s love without bias or condition. It plays most strongly when I read the word.

I’m going to finish reading the Old Testament. Then, I’ll begin deeper study. I’ll cross reference religious material and facts. I’ll ask questions. I do so to feel more certain. I do so to understand. This is my nature. Whatever I do, I’ll never stop seeking until I feel I truly have that understanding. This was just the first step.

Thank you for reading,

Matt

Writing Update: The First Draft of The Worth of Words is finished! A Call for Alpha Readers

Writing Update: The First Draft of The Worth of Words is finished! A Call for Alpha Readers

Greetings all,

I’m happy to report I’ve finished the first draft of The Worth of Words! Technically speaking, this is actually the second draft, but this is the first draft I actually let other human beings look at.

That means I’m looking for alpha readers.

Worth of Words is essentially a science fiction heist story.

Power of Words Cover_FRONTHere’s a blurb for the story:

In the year 3753 on the planet of Leznova, all forms of communication are extremely regulated. Drones patrol the skies, seeking out gestures and expressions, executing punishments to any who violate the Communication Act of 3748. Every person over the age of 7 is fitted with Communications Monitor Collars, which send progressively stronger jolts of electricity into any who speak without permission. Should any wish to speak, they must purchase words at increasingly higher fees.

Ardelia Sabine wants it all to stop. She’s simply a mother who doesn’t want her daughter to be forced to stay silent. Formerly a monitor, a police investigator, she’s developed a plan to corrupt the server that regulates the policy and keeps the world silent. She leads a team of brilliant criminals, one of whom is the man she married after capturing him ten years ago. This band of thieves, led by one who used to chase them, must get into the most guarded server room on the planet. They do so knowing it isn’t likely they’ll all survive the effort. To make matters worse, a rival from Ardelia’s past seeks to make an example of her and her betrayal of the monitors. He’s fixated on stopping her, and he’s confident he’s already derailed the most critical part of her scheme.

END BLURB

As with all alpha drafts, what I’m looking for most are people who will point out plot holes and inconsistencies. I’d be very grateful for anyone with experience in writing heist stories. I’d also appreciate anyone who understands hacking to any degree, as one of the characters in the story is supposed to be a renown hacker, and I’d like to avoid looking foolish.

I’d like about 10 alpha readers. If you’re interested, please email me. I’d like to receive feedback by Jan. 5. I’ll be working on a new draft of Repressed by then, but I’d like to jump right back into Worth of Words once I finish those revisions.

I’m honestly very proud of this story. I’ve been talking about this as well as The Power of Words, the anthology this story inspired, for about two months now. I honestly believe the Holy Spirit filled me as I crafted this story. I had the idea, and once I did, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think about anything else until I started writing it. Then, once I started, I finished this project (20,000 words) in a very short period of time (I think it might have been less than a week).

150922-N-PJ310-002I teach journalism. I believe in speech and the protection of the people’s right to speak freely. This story was inspired by the fear of what would happen if people in power began to think the answer to problems is limiting speech.

So what’s next for me? Well, the editorial comments on Repressed aren’t due for a few more weeks. My next priority will be reading the other contributions for The Power of Words. I’ll be making my own editorial comments on those four stories and working with other authors who volunteer to be part of the anthology.

As always, I’m thrilled to know there are so many people who are interested in my work. Each story I finish feels like its own reward, but knowing there are people who are as excited about these stories as I am is a whole new level of euphoria. Thank you.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A Power of Words Update! A deadline extension

A Power of Words Update! A deadline extension

Power of Words Cover_FRONTGreetings all,

It’s Dec. 1 (as I type this) and that means the deadline for The Power of Words has come and gone. I’d like to update everyone on where things are.

At this moment, I’ve had four submissions. Those submissions as well as my own story  add up to about 58,000 words. I have not had a chance to get to read any of the contributions. I’d always intended to start looking at them once the deadline passed. However, I feel the best course of action here is to extend the deadline.

My reasons:

Simple value. A print edition of a work only consisting of 58,000 words isn’t quite sufficient as a stand alone in my opinion. Anthologies I’ve seen usually have quite a lot more. I’d always intended to have eight total stories, and if I receive three more submissions, that should get the book to a size where the cost of printing and production are more appropriate.

Readers demand more. Anthologies are about giving the readers a diverse set of quality stories. I love reading them specifically because they introduce me to new authors I might not otherwise try.  I don’t tend to buy anthologies that only have a handful of authors because I want to meet a lot of authors.

Finally, I still believe in this with my whole heart. I feel strongly that others out there will find inspiration as well. My hope is more time will let others participate.

constitution-62943__340So, for those reasons, I’m going to extend the deadline for The Power of Words to Jan. 31. This will allow authors who want to participate to work on their stories. While I write every day, I am aware of the holiday season. This means travel. I want to make sure authors can work in a reasonable timeline. I will begin reading the other contributions and contacting those authors regarding this extension. I’m hopeful they feel as I do that the anthology should happen, and it should contain quality stories from at least eight authors.

In regard to how to progress from there, I think I’ll present some options to the other authors regarding the rest of the process (additional edits, work-shopping). I’ll consider it more as I contact those who’ve already submitted. I’ll post another update once I’ve reached out them.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

 

The November Book Cover of the Month Starts Now!

The November Book Cover of the Month Starts Now!

NOTE: We’re going to have two brackets. This month’s winner is automatically in the Book Cover of the Year bracket. However, the runner up will be placed in a Book Cover of the Year Wild Card Round bracket, which will launch the week before Christmas. Stay tuned for that.

November’s bracket has 30 new books. Chosen by R.S. Broadhead and The Fallen Queen by Janie Marie (last month’s 2nd and 3rd place covers) also get another shot at the title.

You can vote all the way through the tournament, supporting the covers you like best through each round. I like to make sure people get the credit they deserve, so please show your support. Please vote and share as much as possible to get people a chance to pick their favorite.

As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.

If you are the author, let’s remember to be good sports! 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.

Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.

A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.

The Book Cover of the Year Wild Card Bracket will kick off just as soon as the November Book Cover of the Month tournament ends. If you want to leave a comment for a cover you liked that didn’t get in, feel free. I’ll consider the options, though I think the ones I’m looking at now all have a justifiable right to be consider wild card entrants.

I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.

All you have to do now is head over here to vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Anaerfell by Joshua Robertson and J.C. Boyd

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Image taken from Amazon.com for review purposes under fair use doctrine. 

Spoiler Free Summary: Anaerfell by Joshua Robertson  and J.C. Boyd was listed in my February Book Cover of the Month bracket. my March Book Cover of the Month. It’s an epic fantasy about two brothers who literally set out to kill death. Using the boost taken from a ceremony and the blood of a dead dragon, Drast and Tyran set out on this mission for reasons of family loyalty and glory.

 

Character:  This was my favorite part of the book. Drast and Tyran aren’t your typical fantasy brothers. They’re flat out monstrous in some degrees. They have justifiable reasons for their behavior, but it’s their efforts to find nobility in a world without honor that kept me reading throughout this story. I’ve already said I’m a huge fan of “white-hat” good guys, but these protagonists are compelling because their circumstances are plausible and compelling. What makes this dynamic perfect is the unconquerable love between these brothers. That sort of relationship is one I can get behind. If you love stories with compelling characters, this is a book you’ll enjoy.

Exposition: This was about average in terms of epic fantasy. It didn’t drone on in any areas, but there were certainly a few (probably necessary) information dumps. The authors do a nice job of weaving this in as necessary, so it doesn’t slow the book down.

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Image of J.C. Boyd from Amazon.com

Description:  I’d say the description of the characters and action is deeper than that of the scenes and landscapes. It’s visual without being visceral. However, I’m a fan of that sort of skeletal description. Show me what I need to see and let my imagination take over with what you want. Details mater, but only the right details.

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Image of Joshua Robertson from Amazon.com

Overall: This was a different sort of fantasy story, where the protagonists struggle with their shortcomings every bit as much as they struggle with their opponents, and that’s rare. Even more so, those internal conflicts don’t seem overly melodramatic. Fans of original magic systems with interesting “costs” will enjoy this fantasy element. Fans of grittier characters with flawed backgrounds will love it.

NOTE: As I mentioned above, Anaerfell did very well in it’s bracket. It had a tough fight with The Unleashed, but it didn’t quite make it. For this reason, Anaerfell will get another shot against eight other covers in the Book Cover of the Year Wild Card round. That will kick off the week before Christmas. Stay tuned for more on that.

Thanks for reading,

Matt