Story Review: Discovery by PP Corcoran from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Discovery by PP Corcoran from Alien Days Anthology
AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Discovery by PP Corcoran is the eighth story in the Alien Days Anthology. The crew of the Discovery is about to use integrated alien technology to test its first FTL drive to visit a far away planet. Will they make the jump? Will they meet their first alien race after this test, or is the test something completely different?

Character:  My primary grudge mentioned last week remains. I couldn’t name a single character or event without going back to look at the story. In this case, it took even longer. All of these authors are fantastic in research and description. But a great majority of their characters are sadly lacking, and this story continues that trend. 

Exposition: The good news to not remembering much means I don’t remember getting angry at how slow the story moved. This is always a good indicator that the exposition is solid or even good.  

Corcoran
Image of Corcoran was taken from his blog for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Worldbuilding: This entire story takes place on a ship. There’s not much world building or character setting at all. We establish the plot, but we don’t set any scene.

Dialogue: Most of the dialogue was thinly hidden exposition used just to keep the plot moving. It wasn’t wooden, but it didn’t build character in any way.

Description:  Probably the strength of the story and probably the strength of the anthology. It feels like this story is an amazing outline for events and plot structure. However, it lacks any sense of conflict or characterization. This is even evident in the description itself, which is vivid in the science, but absent with the characters or scenes.

Overall: I think I’m onto something with the realization I came to above. All of these stories (or at least the bulk of them) read like rushed outlines that have pretty cool plots, but they didn’t bother to take (or have) the time to develop character and establish conflict. This story sums up to be the story of a crew that traveled across the galaxy, realized no one was there, and went back home. The end. The drama that this story could have had (the anticipation of meeting an alien species, the desire to learn from new cultures or the fear of facing more advanced beings) just isn’t there. That really just undercuts everything else for me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it every time. If a story’s characters don’t grab me, the story isn’t going to grab me either. This story might best represent the main issue I have with the entire anthology. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

Musings on Christianity 6

Musings on Christianity 6

What Is Evangelism?

“Go therefor and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

That just about sums up my knowledge on what we’ve been commissioned to do. When I start my deep study of Acts, I hope to gain more insight, but at this point, I don’t really know how to evangelize. Do you? What is evangelism?

I can tell you what worked for me: Patient insistence. 

In each phase of my life, I always had at least one patiently insistent friend. These were the friends who invited me to church or Bible study. These were the friends who were always willing to discuss Christianity whenever I had questions. These were the people who lived liked Christians, inspiring me to be more like them.

Of course, this topic relates to the moment of salvation. How does one know they’re saved? I think some do have moments that are defined, but I don’t think every person must have some defining moment of salvation.  If anything, the most recognizable evidence of salvation is a life change. For some, it’s more subtle.  Others, that change can be dramatic. But every instance of salvation usually is followed by a committed change to an old life. How different? Depends on the life. A lustful drug addict my turn from drugs and prostitution, thereby changing what might very well be everything about his life. But the young man raised to be Christian may simply offer more time to the church or change his social group.

We’ll have to discuss what salvation looks like from a life change perspective at another time, but this tangent is only to articulate that from before I was saved and throughout my walk in the faith, I’ve had those friends.

I tend to want to mimic this. I’ve had the pleasure of doing some formal evangelism with my church. To be clear it was one time, but I intend to do more. I just didn’t want readers to think I’m in front of a store or on a street corner every weekend. But is that the only way to evangelize? I think not.

The very way a Christian lives (See Chapter 2) can be a form of evangelism. When you watch a guy who always seems content and fulfilled, you kind of wonder what that guy knows that you don’t. When someone says, “How do you do it?” You respond, “Jesus Christ.”

What do people see you doing? What do you talk to people about?

I aspire to be a man who is clearly seeking Christ. I enjoy having the chance to talk about how I make decisions, because there’s usually a Bible reference coming. Do I wander around everywhere just randomly quoting scripture? No, but I bring up the Rule Book in a lot of situations.

Does that mean we shouldn’t be on street corners and in front of stores? Why wouldn’t we, but the techniques we use matter. Literature and a polite invitation to talk are great. If you have to stand in a person’s way, that person clearly isn’t interested in talking. If you have to shout, that person clearly isn’t interested in listening. If that person only wants to shout at you, that person early isn’t interested in listening. All the most major influences on my growth as a Christian are people I consider soft spoken. I’m not saying they aren’t strong people (at least one of those I’m thinking about is a woman). But they weren’t shouters or ranters

I currently am, and this is an area in which I hope to grow. No, I’m not shouting at people about God, I’m just a loud guy. I shout about the game. I shout about the movie. I shout about work.

These people, however, typically aren’t known for yelling or anything. They just speak the truth.    

We should absolutely be proclaiming Christ, and while we should seek opportunities to do this in our communities, we should also seek to do this in how we live and act.

For our panel: How do you evangelize? What obstacles should we be ready to face as we seek to evangelize? How do we overcome those obstacles? What scripture do you go to most when evangelizing? Why? Is evangelism the end of the task? If there is more, what comes next? Would you care to share a favorite evangelism moment or the moment you heard the call to Christ?

It’s My Wedding Anniversary! 1 Year and Counting!

It’s My Wedding Anniversary! 1 Year and Counting!

WeddingAs I type this (Nov. 15), it’s my anniversary. A year ago today I married a woman who makes me so happy.

She’s given me three sons. We’ve begun building a home together.

This year has easily been the best of my life. That’s not to say there weren’t sad times or frustrating times. That’s not to say there weren’t trials. However, through every trial, I had her to support me and talk to me. I had her to hold me and laugh with me. This is the wonder of marriage.

Please allow me this time to thank God for this wonderful wife he has given me. She is kind. She is loving. She is patient. She is beautiful. She is wonderful. So, I’m off to spend a weekend with her.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Story Review: Ambassador T by Quincy J. Allen from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Ambassador T by Quincy J. Allen from Alien Days Anthology
AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Ambassador T by Quincy J. Allen is the seventh story in the Alien Days Anthology. An expedition to an alien planet thought devoid of life leads to the discovery of a telepathic insects. These insects evolve and befriend the expedition, but that friendship comes with an apocalyptic cost.

Character:  Probably my main complaint with the anthology as a whole. The character in this story isn’t memorable for several reasons (one of which is a spoiler). The characters in most of these stories feel more like video cameras with names rather than people I’m learning about of whose heads I’m in. I can’t remember the character’s name, and (in my opinion) his name doesn’t matter much because he’s just a plot device. That doesn’t make this story bad, in fact, while still not in my top three, this story is one of the better ones (top five for sure) in the anthology. But it lacks greatness because it lacks true characterization.  

Exposition: This is probably the strongest aspect of this story. It flows beautifully and let’s the plot build up to a perfect (if depressing) climax. It even has what I consider a bit of a, “Didn’t I tell you how this would end?” foreshadowing to it. It was impressive to see stories that tell a reader how things will end but still make that ending seem satisfying.  

Allen Portrait
Image of Allen was taken from his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Worldbuilding: This was also a strength for Allen. This plot depends on careful research and detailed world building. It’s not world building in the sense of how many planets we see or how fleshed out one planet is. The detail is in the species mentioned above. Everything about this story is built on the knowledge of those creatures and how they evolve.

Dialogue: The dialogue here was understated in a lot of ways. It’s there, but it feels like it just sort of moves the plot. We don’t get a lot of characterization in it, nor do the characters’ voices shine. It isn’t bad, but it doesn’t add to the character.

Description:  Most science fiction folks would probably want more, especially your fans of Dune.  I was plenty happy with what I got. It was just enough to activate my imagination, and it didn’t beat me down to make sure I got it. 

Overall: This story’s beautifully tragic ending is a bit undercut by the lack of character. Tragedies rely on the reader’s love for the character, so if the character isn’t there, the payoff when the tragedy happens doesn’t really have the impact it’s supposed to. Where I could have been just wrecked at this ending, I felt more like, “Well that’s a bummer. OH! I get that part from the beginning now!” It is a good story. It is well written. I just think that I didn’t connect to the characters, so the story didn’t resonate with me.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Musings on Christianity 5

Musings on Christianity 5

Where is the line between Grace and Law, and fellowship and judgement

Growing up, the biggest stumbling block I faced in my walk with Christ was composed of groups of people who attended a church but didn’t act very Christian. You may have seen people like them. They’re the ones outside events screaming into bull horns. They’re the ones outside a soldier’s funeral proclaiming that man went to Hell.

Their actions and hostility all led me to a place where I thought that’s what Christianity was. I thought Christians were a group of self-entitled jerks who used God to snub their noses at others and proclaim how holy they were by comparison to others. I wanted no part of that. It got to the point to where I honestly feared walking into a church. My mom was told God demanded she remain married to a man who molested her daughter (a direct contradiction to Matthew 5:32). I was told it was sinful for me to go and use the bathroom during a pastor’s sermon.  So the story of how I came to be a member of Hope Bible Church is one longer than I can tell.

If I were to try and summarize, it started with invitations. They didn’t demand or say anything. They just offered. Then, as I told them my story, they were kind enough to refer me to the online sermons. This let me hear the word and listen. I didn’t like everything I heard, but I understood it. Even what I didn’t like wasn’t a statement of persecution; it was a statement on how the Bible clearly says those things are sinful. HBC didn’t expand on the law. They simply shared the word and what it means. That’s not to say there isn’t accountability in the church.

There in lies the root of this chapter’s question. Whenever I talk about the faith with people, even other professed Christians, I hear an interesting range of ideas.

I don’t need a church that judges me: I do. And the members of the church are supposed to judge (1 Corinthians 6:3).

But that thought quickly swings high and right with. Our church must punish sin. No it doesn’t. In fact, the most extreme thing Christ taught us to do if a person sins against us and refuses to repent is to let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. John MacArthur’s notes on Matthew  18:17 state, “If he still refuses to repent, step three requires that the matter be reported to the whole assembly — so that all may lovingly pursue the sinning brother’s reconciliation. But failing that, step four means that the offender must be excommunicated, regarded by the church as “a Gentile and a tax collector.” The idea is not merely to punish the offender, or to shun him completely, but to remove him as a detrimental influence from the fellowship of the church, and henceforth to regard him as an evangelistic prospect rather than as a brother.”

But this balance is a tough one to have, especially when a body seeks to increase the law. After all, this was exactly what happened to the Pharisees. No church should seek to elevate itself above God. However, it should absolutely serve as a place of worship  and prayer (Mark 11:17), loving discipline (1 Corinthians 6: 1-8) and fellowship (1 Corinthians 14:26). I’m also a fan of the summary of Churchly discipline found in 2 Timothy 4:2.

Personally, I fear a church without discipline every bit as much as a church that seeks to condemn and persecute. No, churches actually can’t let anyone come in and do what they want (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), but neither should they seek vengeance because that belongs to God (Romans 12:19).  That doesn’t mean we don’t rebuke or discipline. (again see 2 Timothy 4:2)

Think of it like a true friend. Would you really let a drunk friend drive home? Is it loving to let a person put himself in danger? If you would do something to protect the life of one you love, how much more would you work to save his or her soul?

But I’m also confident we have those friends. Those friends who can’t wait to list out our faults and tell us how wrong we are. There have even been those friends who look at our misfortune and simply presume wrong (Job).

The same balance you’d have with a friendship should be the least you expect from a church in my opinion. From there, we need to seek churches that have a firm grasp on how to identify sin and lovingly correct it so we might grow together in sanctification.

For our panel: How does a church balance discipline? What should a church do (if anything) to help sinners repent? Should a church seek and speak against sin? If so, how? What does loving rebuke look like? How can one who’s experienced some of the misguided persecution of a church like I’ve mentioned above reconcile that against the loving grace of God and how a church should correct a brother? Is there ever a point at which a church should proclaim or deny a person’s salvation?

A Shoutout For Kindlepreneur

A Shoutout For Kindlepreneur

Purchase Caught on Amazon or Audible.

Greetings all,

kindlepreneur logoMarketing has always been something I feel is a great weakness of mine. I read a blog here and there. I wander around YouTube searching for guidance. A while back I stumbled upon Kindlepreneur.

I watched a few videos, and what I appreciated was the articulate discussion about how Amazon Marketing Services works. Then I learned about the site’s free course. I figured, what could it hurt?

It starts out super basic, even I understood the first videos, maybe even the first two lessons. Then I started getting clear instruction with actionable guidance. Yes, they do a lot to push KDP Rocket, but I’m actually very interested in using that program as well. Even aside from the KDP Rocket info, I still received information.

But what were the results?

Well, From Aug. 10 to Sept. 27 (48 days), I had 57 clicks costing me $5.67 with no sales to show for it. Now, six bucks isn’t a lot of money, but the no sales isn’t what I wanted.

I started the course Sept. 28. From then until Nov. 7 (41 days), I have 56 clicks costing me $9.21 but earning me $3.98 in orders. Sales and orders aren’t the same. That four bucks is what the customer spent. Given that I had a 99 cent deal going, I didn’t make much.

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 10.27.13 PMHowever, when you look closely at the progress, I feel as though there are a lot of positives. First, I have a 200% increase in orders. I have just about the same number of clicks, and I’m only paying about three dollars more. I also have some KU pages read since then (183). I’m still learning, and I’m still compiling data.

I can’t stress enough how good this makes me feel to see actual purchases. I’m refining and investigating. Also, AMS seems to be making a concerted effort to make it harder and harder to tweak your campaigns. But the information I have now gives me great optimism about navigating those waters. As soon as I can save up the money, I intend to purchase KDP rocket to see how it can help me even more.

So given that I at least feel this has improved my efforts, I felt now was a great time to share this information and that course. It’s a tad outdated, but it still helped me, and if you’re hating sales, I think it can help you.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

Purchase The Journals of Bob Drifter on Amazon or Audible.

 

Story Review: Where All Memories Are One by Leigh Saunders from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Where All Memories Are One by Leigh Saunders from Alien Days Anthology
AlienDaysCover
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Where All Memories Are One by Leigh Saunders is the sixth story in the Alien Days Anthology. Y’reui is an insectoid queen (called Callibrini). Only we’re seeing her memories. Her hive has decided to protect a group of humans form an overwhelming force. How much of themselves are they willing to sacrifice to save their friends?

Character:  So it was hard to connect to the character because we’re actually seeing from the memories of the character (for spolierific reasons). This is probably my one knock on the story. It was hard to connect to a character whose thoughts were so alien (honestly, I promise there was no pun intended) to my own point of view. The sympathy of this story is off the charts, and it’s a good counter to the limited ability the perspective character has in which to act. I actually took the same calculated risk with Sojourn in Captivity. When a character is in some way prevented from being proactive, you have to amp up the sympathy to keep the character interesting, and I can see how Saunders worked to achieve that same balance. 

Exposition: It felt exposition-filled because of the point of view and the limited scope of the character (limited in capability not depth). The story had a few moments where it felt like things were slowing down, but in a story with this much range and with that small a word count, it’s not more exposition than necessary. Instead, there’s a bit more exposition than usual required. I think most fans of hard science fiction will be alright with it. 

Leigh
Vector image representing Saunders was pulled from her webpage for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. I have no idea if this rendering is her actual likeness or a simple avatar.  

Worldbuilding: This is where the risk Saunders took paid off. What we lack in character, we gain in seeing a different world and culture in a very different way. If you read my blog regularly, you know I usually dislike stories that have tons of worldbuilding with little character. That’s not true in this story, which I hope conveys how highly I think of the crafting of this particular story. No, it’s not in my top three, but I very much enjoyed this story as a reader, and as an author, I really appreciated how much effort had to have gone into crafting the ambitious story while still providing that awesome perspective into such a unique setting.

 

Dialogue: If there was much dialogue, I don’t remember it.  That means it wasn’t wooden or boring, but it also didn’t add to my appreciation of the story. 

Description:  This is another strength for Saunders. The descriptive phrases and well-placed adjectives really gave a vivid sense of place throughout a pretty emotionally powerful story. This tale activated my senses pretty consistently. 

Overall: This was a memorable story. Yeah, I needed to scan for a moment to jog my memory, but once I did, I remembered liking this story. It had a very Rouge One feel to me, only in this story I had what I felt Rouge One lacked–A reason to believe it could work out. I don’t think this story is great in any setting at any time, but if you want an alien science-fiction drama that makes you think, give this story a try. 

Thanks for reading

Matt