Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 14 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 14 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 14 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the fourteenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. Kizuki members Hantengu and Gyokko are attacking the swordsmiths. Each has an ability that tests their members. Are they more than our heroes can handle?

Character: This volume is battle oriented. We do get to know more about Tokito and his past, and that’s cool, but if you’re not in love with the main cast at this point, you’re probably not interested in this volume no matter what I say. The author knows this. Sure, we get a bit more (and we always will) because Gotouge is a master, but these volumes at this point are more about rooting for characters we’ve already come to love than giving us stories to make us love them.

Exposition: I don’t honestly remember much exposition in this volume to begin with. The story is moving along, so there’s just no real need for any explination.

Worldbuilding: While there’s a touch of character development in this volume, I wouldn’t say the worldbuilding had much. This is much more about sitting back and enjoying the fight to see if (or how) the heroes win.

Dialogue: This actually doesn’t have the 1980s cartoon banter the other volumes have (either that, or I’ve gotten used to it). Sure, there’s some banter, and it may be a bit more on the cheesy side, but I’d say this is an improvement on what has been the trend.

Description: There’s really not much more to say about the art in this volume. A few issues back, we had a new scene (setting/location) to fawn over, and we’ll get more, but for now, it’s just well-illustrated fight scenes.

Overall: Like the last few volumes, I’ve read this one twice. I tend to re-read one right after my wife so I know what I’m allowed to talk about and what I’m not allowed to talk about. This battle has a lot of drama and great peak moments. I think this is where we see the heroes come into their own. This volume continues the freight train that is the last third of the series.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Announcing the 2021 May M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of the Month and Other Book Cover News

Greetings all,

Today marks the official end of May’s Book Cover competition. June is still ongoing, but the voting for May’s winner-take-all poll ended Friday, and that means I get to announce a new winner! The 2021 M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of May is …

Betrayed by me! This is the first time one of my covers has ever actually won Book Cover of the Month! I really think this is one of my stronger covers. Carlos really outdid himself. The stats still aren’t flattering at all, but I won fair and square (100 percent of three votes). I still need your help to get this contest going the way it was before I took that break. The more votes the competition gets, the more legitimized it is. I’ve always been a fan of book covers, and I truly want this award to become meaningful, but I need your help to do that. Please take moment to vote when you see the new poll come up. Please share it with readers you know. Just taking the time to do that will go a long way.

That means Betrayed has found its place in the 2021 Book Cover of the Year poll, which will begin in another 10 months.

That’s not the only other winner to announce! The 2021 June Book Cover of the Week polls have been going on for two weeks now, and I have have the pleasure of announcing the winner for week two.

That winner is …

A Clash of Fates by Philip C. Quaintrell!

The Week 3 poll is available right over here, so please take a second to let your vote be counted.

I’d be grateful if you would be so kind as to watch my channel, where I talk about all seven of the covers and why I think they were so cool.

Remember to vote for your favorite through the link I provided above! This means that A Clash of Fates is the second book to make it in the finals for the 2021 June Book Cover of the Month! You guys can choose who wins the title and then support your favorite in the yearly competition (obviously next year)! I hope you’ll participate.

Thanks for reading and watching,

Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 33

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 33

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 //

“This calls for a celebration!” Paul’s mother took a moment to take another bite of her dinner before standing and heading into the kitchen. 

“Your project truly does have a lot of potential,” Bill said.

“It’s our project.” Paul couldn’t understand why Bill wouldn’t take any credit.

Bill shook his head. “It’s just like I told the university. All I’ve ever done is provide you research and formulas. Everything on those boards is yours. I’d never have even considered these possibilities before meeting you. I’m honored to be your mentor, but this is all yours.”

Paul shook. Every inch of him wanted to hug Bill. He couldn’t remember ever doing so. There was a sort of fear denying him. If he hugged Bill, it would mean he’s choosing him. It would mean he’d found a father. Then he’d have to let go of the last ounce of anger he held for his bio dad. 

Bill walked up to him, and Paul felt the desire to step back, but he was still every bit as frozen as he was the moment before. He was trapped between his fear of letting go and his fear of moving on. 

Bill wrapped an arm around him, and something broke. Paul threw his arms around him and hugged him. He didn’t weep, but tears flowed down his eyes freely. The more joy he felt, the tighter he squeezed. 

He heard Bill grunt, but he didn’t stop, and Bill didn’t ask him to. They held each other there. 

Paul looked up to Bill, who wasn’t that much taller. “I’m going to figure this out,” he said. 

“I doubt doubt it,” Bill said smiling. 

Paul coughed as if he had something stuck in his throat and tried to pretend he wasn’t drying the tears from his eyes. “I’ve … “ He took another breath. “Did Mom tell you about what happened?”

Bill nodded his head. He understood where Paul was going.

“My bio dad never showed an interest. I was like another muscle to him he could exercise or train to be his. At least, that’s how I felt. I was an annoyance. I never felt like I was a son.”

Bill moved and sat down in his chair. He didn’t say anything. Again Paul noted the similarities between Nobody and Bill. Nobody was quite. It was like he wanted Paul to feel free to say anything. 

“I’ve never felt chosen before,” Paul finally said. “I never felt wanted.”

Bill smiled. “Before I ever met you, before the world was made, you were chosen.”

Paul chuckled. Of course Bill would find a way to make this about God, but not in some sort of sermon. It’s just how Bill worked. 

“You still don’t know that yet,” Bill said. “But I’ll keep planting. The joy is mine, Paul. You’re a gift, and I’m glad God gave you to me.”

Paul felt another urge to hug the man, but grunted instead. He wasn’t sure he was ready to trust his feelings. Instead, he changed the subject. “Where’d Mom go?”

He walked to the kitchen without waiting for an answer. Paul turned around the open frame that led to the kitchen and found his mother sitting on a stool, crying. Three white bowls sat next to a tub of ice cream, and she sat there weeping. 

Paul rushed up to her. “Mom! What’s wrong?”

He gently wrapped her in his arms before stepping back to check for injury. She laughed. It might have been the most melodious and cheerful laugh he’d ever heard. “I’m not sad or hurt.” She pulled him back into a hug. “I’m happy.”

She held him there for a long time. “I’m just so very happy.”

After another long time, Paul started to feel a bit silly. “You know, Bill’s out there waiting.”

His mother laughed again. “Isn’t it wonderful!?”

Paul chuckled. He grabbed the bowls, and she picked up the ice cream. They headed out to the dining room to celebrate Paul’s scholarship. 

It might have been the best night in Paul’s young life. They just talked and ate ice cream, but it was wonderful. After they finished, Paul stood to grab and rinse the dishes. 

“It’s getting late,” Bill said. 

“Do you have to go?” His mother asked. 

“It’s OK if you stay,” Paul called out from the kitchen. 

“It is most certainly not OK if I stay,” Bill said. “Though I am very tempted.”

Paul heard the sound of kissing, so he turned up the water and scrubbed the bowls as hard as he could. He didn’t leave anything to chance. He washed ever dish by hand just to make sure he didn’t have to overhear his mother making out. He hoped they were, but he didn’t want to have to listen to it.

When he shut the water off, he heard them talking. 

“ … have to do things the right way,” Bill was saying.

“Who’s going to know? Who’s going to care? Whose business is it?” His mother asked.

“Ours, and we’ll know.” Bill said. “You’re more important to me than my desire.”

“But aren’t I the one you desire?” She asked. 

“Of course you are,” he answered. “But I don’t want you for a night. I want you for the rest of my life.”

Paul wondered if they’d noticed him eavesdropping. It’s like the air got sucked out of the room. He felt the urge to peek around the wall, but stopped just as his mother let out a deep breath. 

“Are you … are you asking … “

“Not tonight,” Bill said. “Tonight’s already special, and it’s Paul’s night. Let it be his. But maybe I could take you out tomorrow.”

Paul felt the urge to shout for some reason. He actually covered his mouth like to make it sound more like a sneeze. That gave him an excuse to turn the water back on. He washed his hands. As soon as he turned off the water, he shook his hands dry and rushed into the dining room.

“Where’s Bill?” He looked around, but it was obvious he’d gone home. “What happened?”

His mother smiled. “He had to go, but he’s taking me out tomorrow.”

Paul smiled back and snatched her into a hug. She laughed again, and it was wonderful. 

They talked for a bit about unimportant and silly things, but it didn’t take long for his mother to yawn, fighting back a rare evening of work. 

Paul said goodnight and headed to his room. He opened the door and found Nobody sitting at his desk. 

The End of Chapter Nine … To Be Continued …

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 13 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 13 by Koyoharu Gotouge
The cover image for this manga was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 13 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the thirteenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. Two more members of upper Twelve Kizuki have started an all-out attack on the sword smiths, which just happens to be where our heroes and a few Hashira happen to be training. It’s been more than 100 years since any one upper Twelve Kizuki have died, so what are any number of slayers going to do against two?

Character: As the cover suggests, we finally dig deeper into one of the quieter side characters. All of these characters have satisfying back stories, and this one is no different. Don’t blame the writer because I can’t remember the name. I really struggle to remember names. The world is expanding quickly, and as a fight of this magnitude begins, it’s cool that we still take a bit of time to get to know some of the other characters more.

Exposition: There were a few exposition boxes in this issue, but only to give context. I feel like this volume did a great job only relying on those boxes when there wasn’t another way.

Worldbuilding: This volume doesn’t do a ton to expand the world, but it has a few subtle points that a discerning reader should look for (no spoilers). The safe thing to say is those Kizuki all have unique traits that make the simpler methods of beating them unreliable if not hazardous.

Dialogue: I think if there’s a knock on this manga, it’s that the fight dialogue is pretty dated. I’ve mentioned this a few times, and I still don’t mind it personally, but I can’t deny it might rub some readers the wrong way. In fact, this particular manga has a few 1980-cartoon habits that wouldn’t work if the characters were any less appealing or the fights weren’t that interesting. Still, I have to tell potential readers they have to be ready for those kinds of things.

Description: The art is fantastic as always. I love the way the different breaths (as I call them) are illustrated. I could stare at any page for hours and just enjoy it (if I had hours to spend looking at art).

Overall: I’ve already read this volume twice. Honestly, every volume from 12 up is just amazing. I’m so glad I had most of the other issues out before I started this. I’d be so mad having to wait months for the next volume. This is the kind of binge read action manga and anime fans should love. I know I do.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Announcing The Week 1, 2021 June Book Cover of the Month! There’s Still Time to Vote for the 2021 May Book Cover of the Month

Announcing The Week 1, 2021 June Book Cover of the Month! There’s Still Time to Vote for the 2021 May Book Cover of the Month

Greetings all,

Before we get into June’s news, would you please take a moment to vote for the 2021 May Book Cover of the Month? There’s only about six days left to vote, so please show these covers some support.

Now we can move on to announce the winner of last week’s Book Cover of the Week poll. Seven covers were nominated, but only one cover could win and advance to the Book Cover of the Month poll.

Without further delay, here is the winner for Week 1 of June.

The cover for Angel of Armageddon by Michael Anderle is a great example of composition. Look at how everything in the scene has its own unique space.

But, as one week passes, another begins. So you can vote for your favorite Week 2 2021 June Book Cover of the Month right here!

I’d be grateful if you would be so kind as to watch my channel, where I talk about all seven of the covers and why I think they were so cool.

Remember to vote for your favorite through the link I provided above! This means that Angel of Armageddon is the first cover to earn a spot in the finals for the 2021 June Book Cover of the Month! You guys can choose who wins the title and then support your favorite in the yearly competition (obviously next year)! I hope you’ll participate.

Thanks for reading and watching,

Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 32

Visits From  A Man Named Nobody 32

16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 //

Nine

Oct. 23, 2027, 9:33 p.m. 

18 Years, 145 Days Ago

Paul and Bill sat at the dinner table talking about scientific theory. They’d gotten a series of white boards and had somehow started jotting down notes that became an honest to goodness theory. 

Phrases and formulas littered the bulk of the boards, and they’d have to buy a new batch soon. Jordan quickly joined the effort, but he wasn’t there at the moment. Paul let the experiment slip in class, and the next thing he knew, even the school had started showing an interest. Honestly, other schools, started showing interest.

Paul distracted himself from the news by checking his latest numbers. Bill probably knew something was up, but Paul was waiting for his mother to get home. Which meant Paul needed a more powerful distraction, and he also wanted to try and test a more unusual theory.

“Do you ever, um, evangelize?” Paul asked.

“Hopefully every day,” Bill said, “but I imagine you mean something more formal. I’ve done two missionary trips, and I’d like to do more, but I haven’t really set anything up yet.”

Two? Paul had seen Nobody far more than that, and neither Bill nor Nobody would ever lie. They were eerily similar. The problem was it was hard to remember Nobody’s physical attributes. They may have only been standing together once, and Paul was much shorter then. Nobody always wore that mask, which muffled his voice just like it covered his facial features. 

He couldn’t exactly blurt out the questions he wanted to ask. “Are you Nobody?” “Why did you wait years after visiting me that first time to talk to my mom?” 

Then there was the experiment. If Bill was Nobody, he’d already know how to teleport. Could he just be teaching Paul how to do it in one of his drawn-out lessons? 

“The problem is researching a way to break down a physical object in a way that doesn’t destroy it,” Paul said. “Right now, I’m thinking of teleportation like a sort of physical email.” 

Bill nodded. “It’s a line of thought to consider. It may not lead to the answer, but in things like this, all a person can do is develop theories and test them.”

This was actually their eighteenth theory. The front door opened, announcing that Paul’s mother was home. 

“We’re in here!” Paul called.

“Where else would you be?” She walked in smiling. She gave Paul a hug before accepting a light kiss from Bill. In all these months, Bill had never stayed the night. He’d hang out until bed time and go home. 

Paul originally thought Bill would circle around back and sneak in so things looked appropriate, but even an all-night observation, one he felt both idiotic an ashamed about, proved Bill never stayed the night. 

This was one of the odd nights Paul’s mother worked late. Bill went into the kitchen to heat up some of the leftovers from dinner while Paul’s mother looked around the dining room.

“I think it’s time we think about getting something like a small garage with a space heating and cooling unit,” she said. “I want my dining room back, but I don’t want you to stop your studies.”

Paul smiled. “About that,” he said. “I have some news.”

“He’s been exceptionally quiet this evening,” Bill said as he walked back from the kitchen and set the plate in his girlfriend’s spot. “I imagine whatever it is will be exciting.”

“It is!” Paul waited for Bill and his mother to sit down. “This experiment … It’s important.”

“I certainly never expected you to be this passionate,” Bill said. “One day I hope you’ll trust me enough to tell me where the idea really came from.”

Only if you trust me enough to tell me why you’ve been visiting me all these years, if you are Nobody.

“I’m not lying,” Paul said. “I met someone years ago, and I think he vanished.”

“So someone can do what you’re trying to learn how to do,” Paul’s mother said. 

Paul nodded.

“Wouldn’t he be selling his idea?” she asked.

“I don’t think he’s very interested in money,” Paul said. “I’m not either really. I just want to see how he did it.”

Paul kept the more unusual details out of his story, but by the time they realized Paul really wanted to develop this technology, he had to at least explain why he was so adamant that it was possible. 

“Anyway, the school found out, and I guess they told, well I don’t know who all they told, but Carnegie in Pittsburgh found out,” Paul said.

The mention of one of the more prestigious technical schools caused Paul’s mother to sit up straight. 

Paul smiled. “They offered me a scholarship if I study this at their universi— ACK!”

Paul’s mother practically flew from her chair and flung her arms around him. It was genuinely hard to breathe. 

“I’m so proud of you!” she said. 

“Mom, can’t … breathe .. “ he wasn’t exaggerating. She was much stronger than she looked.

She let him go, but then she covered him in kisses. Suffocation would have been a preferable alternative to embarrassment. Paul stepped away. She thankfully realized she was being dramatic and sat back down.

“That’s an incredible achievement,” Bill said. 

Paul shrugged. “I still have to graduate high school. Oh! and yes, I told them you were helping me. They didn’t seem to mind.”

Bill shrugged. “It’s not like I’m doing much more than offering you research.”

Paul frowned. “They called you, didn’t they?” 

Bill nodded. “Not to convince them to offer you a scholarship. They only wanted to see if you were helping me more than I was helping you, and I told them the truth.” “

“Why didn’t you tell me you knew?” Paul asked.

“I only knew they called,” Bill said. “I had no idea they’d actually offered you the scholarship.”

… to be continued …

Dealing With Disappointment

Dealing With Disappointment

I think it’s important to talk about disappointment. For about a year now, I’ve averaged about eight sales a month. One person may scoff at that, and I can’t really argue. Selling less than ten books a month isn’t impressive, is it? But I worked for that same year to bring that average up. About two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised when I sold a book at all.

Image by Schäferle from Pixabay

So you see, that was an improvement. Sure, what author doesn’t want thousands of sales per week? But one has to start somewhere.

May started off slow, but then I had about three sales in two days. Surely I was going to meet my eight-sale quota! I might even do more! After all, Betrayed came out, so that should only increase my sales right?

Wrong! I sold those three books, and that was it.

This is not a post about how to complain. This is a post in how to handle disappointment.

Hopeful authors, take measure of your determination.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Brandon Sanderson, my favorite author, did a video about how hard it is to make it. The dream is easy enough to understand. We want to write stories and sell millions of books and have movie producers beat down our doors. Allow me to summarize what Sanderson said in the video: “Making it has nothing to do with talent.”

Writing a book is hard. It takes dedication and determination.

Getting an agent is hard. I don’t even try these days. It takes a force of will and many, many rejections. Just search authors who got turned down by agents and enjoy the reading.

Photo from Pixabay.

Even assuming you get an agent, only about one percent of the authors out there reach the financial success every author dreams to attain.

Does the above depress you? Does it make you decide not to write? Should you give up?

Well who am I to tell you what to do?

By now you may be wondering how this does anything to help an aspiring author deal with disappointment. Some of you may even think this post is more likely to say I’m fed up, and I quit. I assure you, that’s not the case.

You see, the way to deal with disappointment is to remember why you started writing in the first place. If you started writing to make your millions, you probably made a mistake. Those who did make their millions did so through time, dedication, and effort filed by something far more powerful than the desire to amass wealth.

You have to love writing.

You have to love writing so much that you don’t even care if you ever sell a single book. You have to love writing so much that if an agent tells you (in very unkind words) that you have no business writing, you shrug and say, “Maybe not, but I’m going to keep doing it.”

Every time I even thought (if only for a moment) about giving up, one very simple thought came into my mind: “There’s no way on earth you’re going to stop writing.”

You see, I’m about 80% through my next book, and I’m already frustrated because I can’t wait to finish the one after that, and I. So excited to start Mercer my Urban Fantasy Police Procedural series. I have a mountain of stories in my head dying to get out, and I’m writing them because I want to read them.

Yes, I want to earn money. Yes, I want to be a best seller. Yes, I want tv shows and movies made from my books, but I write them because I love writing.

I love writing g so much that I market for two hours a day just to reach new readers. I love writing so much I sneak in about 1,000 words during my lunch break because that’s the best time for a follower of Christ, husband, father, and teacher to sneak in a bit of writing.

If you started a book to make millions, I wish you luck, but your odds are crap.

But this post is for you, that person whose mind is flooded with ideas and worlds and characters yearning to be unleashed on a page. You write because you love it, and that’s enough.

If you love writing that much, just keep at it. It’ll feed your heart with joy, and maybe, with effort, time, patience, work, a mountain of luck, and the will of God (without whom nothing is possible), you’ll find yourself successful. Indeed I hope one day to write a post where I can say, “Just look at me!” Clearly, today is not that day. But every day is a chance to write, and I love it.

So writers deal with disappointment by realizing that whatever happens, you can always write another book, and that’s enough. I hope it’s enough for you.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown is a self-help book that bases its assertions on 10 Pillars of Whole-hearted Living. She bases her pillars on research, as that is her field of expertise. Through the interviews she’s conducted and her research, she’s narrowed down this pillars and created terms that describe them.

The cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

What I appreciate is that while I may not like some of the terms she uses, she’s careful to define those terms through the context of her research.

The basic premise is to help people let go of unhealthy thoughts and pursue healthy thoughts, which I aggree with. However, i can’t necessarily get behind everything she says.

Listening to this audiobook, I found myself nodding my head a lot, and then a second later I would jerk back because I disagreed so strongly with at least a part of what I heard.

I have to contextualize that last comment. I’m not one to simply deny research because I don’t agree with it. Most of my issues come not from the research or what I felt the ultimate points were but instead how they were presented or defined.

The example I’ll go with here is Brown’s distinctions between sympathy and empathy. Without getting into too much detail (and therefore debate), she speaks as if sympathy is bad, and empathy is good. She overgeneralizes sympathetic behavior. It’s frustrating because her overall point is that people want to connect. There are some good ways to do so, and there are ways that don’t succeed. I wouldn’t go so far as to lump the non-successful techniques and wrap them in a box labeled “sympathy,” and that’s what Brown does.

There are things here in this book I think are very important. And what I love most about this book is that Brown provides ways to stop bad habits and cultivate good habits. I think some of her pillars taken literally and applied in excess can actually create the opposite effect. I’m not one to practice a lot of “self” anything, but that’s where there’s some interesting overlap.

Brown believes in God, she speaks often of that. Her denomination or even specific religion are harder to pin down, but she speaks about it here and there. She also includes faith as an aspect of her pillar. But here we find another area where I feel an odd contradiction. It’s difficult for me (and I can only speak to my personal challenges) to see life through any other filter than my faith. Sometimes Brown refers to a person’s self in a manner I don’t feel is profitable, especially for one of my specific faith. This isn’t a critique on her faith whatsoever. This is instead a perspective on how I struggle to wrap my head around her 10 pillars through the lens of my faith.

This portrait of Brown, taken by Jose Tutiven, was taken from Brown’s About Page on her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

What I generally like about her book is that even if I don’t agree with the whole of everything she says. There is something out of each pillar I found helpful. What this means is even someone who doesn’t completely embrace every word of Brown’s book can find some value in the book. I appreciated the “letting go” portions more than the cultivating portions, but she provided actionable methods to apply these principles and exercise them into daily life, which is very good.

For me, listening to this book made me want to buy her dinner (in a professional manner) and just talk. I had a lot of “Well you say you mean this, but what about this?” or “When you talked about this part, did you consider?” or “How does this pillar apply in situations like this?”

Despite the fact that there were some parts I couldn’t get behind, I found a lot of the information helpful. I even found some ways to contextualize her information into my mental framework that alleviated those issues. What this book does best is talk about the hangups most people have and provide ways to counter those hangups.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Announcing the Week 4 2021 May Book Cover of the Month! Vote for Your Favorite!

Announcing the Week 4 2021 May Book Cover of the Month! Vote for Your Favorite!

Greetings all,

We’re coming up on our second moth of the 2021 M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of the Year, and that means I need your help to name one! So, let’s start by naming the winner for the fourth week of May.

The Week 4 2021 May Book Cover of the Week is…

Facing Off by Tanya Ross really is all about nostalgia for me, and that’s enough. I love the ’80s feel to this cover, and apparently a few other people did, too. That means Facing Off joins A Hag Rises from the Abyss by Douglas Lumsden, The Sunfire King by Sylvia Mercedes and Betrayed by, well, me! I’d apprecaite it if you took a moment to vote for your favorite (especially if it’s mine). You can vote for the 2021 May Book Cover of the Month right here.

But that’s not all! The 2021 June Book Cover of the Month contest is already off and running. You can vote for your favorite Week 1 2021 June Book Cover of the Month right here!

I’d be grateful if you would be so kind as to watch my channel, where I talk about all seven of the covers and why I think they were so cool.

Remember to vote for your favorite through the links I provided above! You guys can choose who wins the title and then support your favorite in the yearly competition (obviously next year)! I hope you’ll participate.

Thanks for reading and watching,

Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 31

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 31

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 //

“I don’t think he’ll be harassing you anymore,” Bill said, “but let me know if he does.”

Paul laughed. “Dude, you totally shut him down.”

“I didn’t do any such thing,” Bill said. “If he had been willing to sit down and look at scripture, that would have been better. If we could have been reconciled, that would have been even greater.”

Bill really sounded sad. A part of Paul had no issue feeling smug about someone shoving Mr. Dorney’s words back down his throat, but it was hard to feel that way when Bill, who also claims to be a Christian, was the one who did it. On top of it all, Bill felt remorse. 

“Why are they all so different?” Paul asked. They were still making their way back to the house, so Paul came to a stop. He wanted to understand.

Bill turned around to answer. “I assume you mean why so many people who claim to be Christian can have so many different views and attitudes?” 

Paul nodded his head. 

“There are at least four religions who all share a portion of the Bible,” Bill said. “They have at least the bulk of the same text, that being the Old Testament and even a significant amount of the New Testament, save those of Judaism, who do not recognize Christ as the Messiah.”

“You’d think God would make it clear,” Paul said. 

“You mean like sending his son down to earth saying, ‘Listen to me’?” Bill said. “The trouble with religion isn’t God; it’s man.” 

That caused Paul to cock his head in confusion. 

Bill gave one of those knowing and patient smiles. “God is perfect. God is all knowing. Humanity was made in his image, after his likeness.” 

Bill firmed his lips. Paul guessed that Bill was fighting the urge to cite the scripture he just quoted. Does he always cite the scripture he’s referencing in his head? 

He didn’t offer the verse he was referencing. Instead, Bill continued. “But man has ever wanted to be God himself. That might sound harsh, but it’s true. We want to be masters in our fields. We want to be masters of our homes. We want to satisfy our own desires and our own goals. This is the nature of sin.”

“What does this have to do with why so many religions are so different?” Paul asked. 

“I’m coming to that,” Bill said. “Humanity ultimately has two choices. The first is to honor God and submit to him. The second choice is to refuse to take the first. But there are those who want to maintain the appearance of faith, so they create new gods, idols. Or they deny the existence of God, thus making themselves an idol. True Christians will ever seek God’s authority on the matter. They’ll read his words and work to come to an understanding. Indeed, if the word seems unclear, they’ll accept the differing opinions as equally valid and let the matter go without judgement because True Christians are called to judge rightly.”

“Wait,” Paul said. “I thought they weren’t supposed to judge at all.”

“You’re referencing Matthew 7:1-3,” Bill said. “Where Jesus warned about hypocritical judging. There is absolutely a wrong judging, and I’d define it as judging designed to elevate yourself rather than bring the person you’re speaking to closer to God. There is also a right judgement, which Christ talks about in John 7:24. And that’s the answer to your question right there. When people seek after themselves, they might cherry pick parts of the Bible that fit their ideals, letting the rest of the word pass away, but no one who wants to honor God can only follow part of his word. Sure, we’re human, but we’re meant to pursue knowing and honoring him. We’re not supposed to just take the parts we like and cast the rest aside.”

“That’s what Mr. Dorney does.” Paul realized it as Bill was speaking. “That’s why he didn’t want to sit and look through the whole scripture with you.”

Bill nodded and smiled. “A True Christian would be excited to sit and look at scripture with another person. I’m not saying Mr. Dorney would have welcomed us into the house that moment. I’m not implying I don’t do anything but read the Bible. Otherwise, how would I be dating your mom. The point is, we’d have made arrangements. If the issue of dispute was critical, we might very well sit down that moment and look at it, but that, to me, is the difference.”

“I’m not sure it makes sense,” Paul said.

Bill nodded. “Let’s say you’re playing a board game.”

Paul shrugged.

“During a board game, if someone breaks a rule, you have a choice to make. You can let it slide, or you can challenge him on it,” Bill explained.

“OK.” Paul was just trying to show Bill he understood, at least so far.

“Well if you challenge the player on it, you create a new choice. The simplest thing would be to open the rule book and see what it says.”

Paul scoffed. “Of course.”

Bill held up a finger. “But what if the person you challenge says something like, ‘I don’t play that way’ or “That’s not how we do it in my house’?”

Paul scoffed again. “Doesn’t matter. The rules are the … “

Bill smiled. “People unwilling to look through all the scriptures, are those trying to create their own rule books. That’s something I never want to do.”

“What if I don’t want to follow that rule book?” Paul asked.

Bill took a deep breath. The comment honestly hurt Bill to hear. Paul sort of understood. Based on religion, if you don’t follow God, you go to Hell. Bill obviously didn’t want Paul to go to Hell. The problem was Paul wasn’t sure there was a Hell, so why be afraid of it?

Bill shut his eyes, probably thinking or praying, or both. He opened them just before speaking. “Christians are supposed to evangelize and spread the Good News, you may not know what that is, and that’s also a place where Mr. Dorney went wrong, but for now, I’m just trying to answer your question.”

Paul nodded to encourage Bill to continue. 

“If you choose not to follow God, that’s your choice. At least, it is in the simplest sense of the idea,” Bill said. “For those who aren’t of the faith, I’ll only ever be a light to shine for it, and I will continue to offer the Good News, but that’s it. If the word of God isn’t enough, nothing else I say is. I’ll be sad, but there’s no point in being angry. If I’m angry, it’s probably based on some degree of pride on my part. Think of it like finding a hungry person on the road. I bring him the tastiest fruit I have, and he rejects it because he doesn’t want it.”

“But if he’s starving, won’t he eat anything?” Paul asked.

“Maybe if you were inches from death,” Bill said. “But you’d be surprised how many people turn away perfectly good food because they don’t like the taste, so I think the metaphor holds up. Speaking of food, your mother told us to be back quickly.”

Paul smiled and followed Bill to the house for a few steps. But then he froze again. 

“What …. what is the Good News?”

Bill turned. He had a huge smile. “Well, Mr. Dorney probably covered the first part. He’s not wrong when he says that those who don’t follow God are doomed. The point is, all men have sinned.”

“I get that part,” Paul said. Mr. Dorney really loved talking about how evil every man was, every man but those who went to his specific church. 

“Every man needs to come to terms with the fact that he isn’t perfect.”

“Of course they’re not.” Even the statement sounded ridiculous.

Bill nodded as he sighed. “But one needs to understand that the fact that you’re not perfect means you’re evil in the sight of a perfect God, in whom there is no evil.

For some strange reason, Paul took a step back as if Bill had shoved him. It’s one thing to admit you’re not perfect, but to think that being imperfect makes you evil?

“That’s the part most people struggle with,” Bill said. “Who wants to think that the slightest imperfection makes you intolerable? But that realization, that hopelessness is why we need a living hope. It’s only the first part. God knew this from Eternity Past. So he sent his Son, God in the flesh, to pay the price of man. It is Jesus who gave himself up, so that his perfection could become ours, if we earnestly confess he is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. So we need Christ to give us his righteousness, so that we can enter God’s presence as adopted sons.”

Paul waited for a few moments, but Bill just turned back and started walking to the house. 

“That’s it?” Paul asked. 

Bill kept walking, but he answered. “Yep.”

“But I didn’t say I believed.” 

“Nope.” 

Paul waited again. He actually had to jog to catch up to Bill. He managed to get along side him. “But aren’t you going to say more?”

Bill still didn’t stop walking. “Like I said, if the word of God hasn’t taken root, nothing I think of with my mind or say with my mouth is going to do anything. But please know that won’t stop me from offering the Good News again. Maybe the soil needs a bit of tilling, but I’ll keep planting because that’s my job.”

“Planting?” Paul asked.

“I’ll explain later.” They had made it to the driveway of Paul’s house. “For now, let’s have dinner.”

Paul was willing to wait, but he was far more interested in how Bill spoke. He sounded exactly like Nobody. But how could Bill be Nobody? Could it be coincidence? Paul meant to figure it out. It was a new puzzle, but at least he felt pretty sure he could think about that puzzle on the way home. He didn’t think Mr. Dorney would be botching him anymore. 

The end of Chapter 8. To Be Continued.