What Do You Write?
I get this question a lot when people first meet me. Many years ago, when I first published, it was an easy answer as I only had one series and it was really only available in ebook format, online.
Times have changed.
Now I have three series, and one of those series has several entrance points. I also have some shorter works out in various anthologies, not to mention audio books. I also am now writing in at least three different genres. All of my books have print editions and you can walk into any major bookstore in many countries and request my books.
In addition to my novels, which I will cover next, I have written various short stories and poems for assorted anthologies over the decades. These have been collected into a single volume called Glimpses.
I currently have three main series out. I do have more series I am planning on writing, but for now I just have these three:
This is my newest work and by extension my best work so far. It is a portal fantasy; that means people from the modern world travel into a fantasy world and try to survive. In this case, a game world. Two popular examples of this genre are: Jumanji and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. The final book, number four, is about halfway written and I hope to have this series completed by year’s end. Time will tell though!
The story is filled with nods to popular science fiction and fantasy movies and books as one would expect from a collection of gamers on an adventure. For now, this series is planned to be four books long. I will not close the door to spin offs or the like in the future as I have really enjoyed living the lives in these books.
Dragon Master Series:
This is a high fantasy series that started off its life as a serial. The original plan for this series was to continue to release novellas, each around fifty or sixty pages long. This turned out to be an impractical plan and was abandoned.
The two novels that are out are both collections of the six novellas that were released for each season. Magic plays a role in the books but is far more removed from the story than anything else I have written. A third book is planned for this series. When it is ready it will also be released as a full novel, but internally may also be formatted into six parts to match the first two. The two books that are out do have a nice conclusion, with just enough loose ends for there to be a book three.
The Lost Tales of Power:
This is a space opera like Star Wars. Think “wizards in space.” One reviewer called it “Rambo meets Harry Potter,” (though to be clear, it pre-dates Harry Potter). It is set in a time where humans and various alien races live in a galactic scale society complete with faster than light travel and deep space stations. A concerted effort has been made to keep all the science in it to the plausible level, even the FTL drive. This series is where I began my life as an author (I started writing the first book in the early 1990s), and as such the first several books are not quite as polished as my more recent work.
Also, this is an opened ended series with nine books out so far. I have no plans to end this series. Instead I plan to keep writing new books, and mini-series inside the universe created in the first four books.
So, there you have it. That is the long answer to the question, “what do you write?” I suppose the short answer would be that I am a storyteller, who makes up elaborate yarns to entertain and distract from the trials and tribulations of life.
Government and the Church
As a pastor serving in a Christian church during a pandemic and facing orders from our government against meeting together, I am often faced with the question of what power does the law of the land have over Christians, and should we obey the new rules or not? I know I am not alone in this, as many people (pastors and laypeople alike) have come to me and asked the same thing, so I will try and gather my thoughts on this and present a complete answer here.
Romans 13 and Titus 3 teach that Christians should submit to the authority of the government they live under. Romans 13:1 states that God appoints all the world leaders and gives them authority. So, if that is the case, is there any grounds for a Christian to ever disobey the government? Or are we to blindly follow all the government’s orders?
There is both a hard line and, as with all things, there is a gray area where we as Christians will have to pray for wisdom and guidance. Let’s look at both in a holistic approach.
First, we must acknowledge that there are clear lines in which we as Christians cannot waver. Hills to die on, as the colloquial expression goes. Acts 4 gives a clear example of one such time:
So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:18-20, ESV)
There are several more stories like this. For example: the tale of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3), also the tale of Daniel and the lions’ den (Daniel 6). In both of those accounts the government overstepped its bounds and demanded people worship the government’s specific religion to the exclusion of all others. In both of those accounts the people mentioned resisted and faced capital punishment for it. In the end it turned out well for them, but in many other similar accounts in Scripture and history that was not the case. In Acts 6 for example, Stephen was brutally killed for taking such a stand.
While discussing this we must remember that when Romans 13 and Titus 3 (the main Scriptures on obeying the government) were written, Rome was in power and first century Rome was far from a Christian government. The emperor had declared himself a god and there were many other things going on that we as Christians would disagree fervently with. So, a simply bad government, or bad laws, are not just cause to rebel.
So where is the line?
I like how Dr. Del Tackett explains it. There are spheres of authority. The government is given certain powers, the family is given some, the church certain others, and God is above all. I would resist a government that said I had to remove the name Jesus from my sermons for example, but if the US government decides to take away the second amendment (the right to bear arms), that is within their God-given authority. As a citizen I could vote against it, but if it passed and the amendment was nullified, then Romans 13 and Titus 3 teach I should turn over my guns. Scripture goes further to say I should turn them over willingly and without complaint.
If the government attempts to interfere with anything that is within the sphere of the church such as telling me I cannot teach all the things Jesus commanded or baptizing new believers (Matthew 28:16–20), then they have overstepped their authority and I should ignore such laws. This of course does not mean I will be free from the earthly consequence of my actions, just that I would be doing the right thing.
Finally, I believe that in general Scripture teaches the principle of non-violence at the individual believer level. That is the idea that you always use the least necessary amount of force to do what needs to be done. So, if I am told “You must preach that all religions lead to heaven,” I would not grab my AR-15 and storm the Whitehouse shooting everyone in sight. Instead I would simply refuse to change what I preach. Obviously, God can, and does, call for more violent means at times, but that is in His authority, not mine. Furthermore, that is normally done at the government level, not the individual level (Romans 13:4).
That is my personal perspective based on my current best understanding of Scripture. It is a hard road to walk sometimes, but Christ did not call His people to the easy life.
To bring this home, we Christians face a tough decision: how do you obey the clear biblical command, “do not forsake the coming together” (Hebrews 10:25) at a time when so many believe it is dangerous and wrong? At a time when the government is telling us, “Do not come together in order to protect lives.”
The church where I serve as a pastor has answered that with splitting into much smaller groups, enhancing our live streaming and continuing to meet in ways that drastically reduce risk and does our best to honor the spirit of the quarantine orders. This is a case I think where we must carefully choose the option that honors Scripture and is still loving to our people.
If we lived in a place where Christians were being killed for meeting, we would break up and meet in small secret groups. We would not have big flashy news-covered gatherings. That decision would be easy. I feel that the quarantine is more like that than not, and as such I think my church is doing the right thing by finding a way to come together and still protect our vulnerable.
Romans 14:1-15:3 speaks directly to this in my opinion. The heart of that section is that the “strong” take on the burden of limiting themselves for the sake of the “weak.” The strong are not called to berate the weak or force the weak to act differently. In fact, the strong are ordered to never do that. They are ordered to limit themselves for the sake of the weak.
I hope this brings some clarity to all my fellow believers on what to do with such mandates as “wear a mask” and “avoid large gatherings.” We must choose the option that most honors God (Deuteronomy 6:4), gives deference to others (Romans 12:10), helps us to live at peace with all (Romans 12:16-18) and to love all people (Luke 10:25-37).
We are not used to science...
As I watch the world cope with the pandemic something really stuck me. Americans, and probably the world at large, are just not accustomed to how science works. We are accustomed to just going to a respected website and getting a well-established and researched answer. Want to know the symptoms of chickenpox? Easy. What to know what constitutes a dangerous fever, and what means your kid is fine? Easy. All of that and more is easy to find on the web, or by calling your doctor.
When something like COVID-19 comes along, a new virus that has the potential to be a global disaster, we want the same instant answers. We expect to go to CDC, WHO, our doctors, or other experts and get quick answers. And guess what? They give them. They give the best and answers they have at the time.
The problem is the best answers you have in the first couple months of a new pandemic are at best-educated guesses. It takes time and research to get good answers. Fortunately, science has a way to take care of this. They take care of it by changing their answers as they learn more.
The problem is that means sometimes things they said do not do, later they tell you to do. Sometimes science has to reverse their answers more than once. Each time they give their best answers, and sometimes those answers are wrong especially when they are rushing as fast as they can to get answers out.
So, what happens? People are like “You lied to us! You said X was bad, and now it is good!” or the like. Sadly, comments like this are from lack of understanding of the scientific process.
Instead, we should do the best we can with the answers we have and understand that those answers may change as we get more information. It could be years before we really have solid answers, but we cannot wait on them. We act in the here and now, and correct as we go.
So, for now, I suggest you listen to the experts, such as Dr. Fauci, and understand that no expert is perfect and all things could (and likely will) change but that does not mean the experts are not giving out the best advice they can right now.
Mantidom Book 3: Checkpoint
Once again, the ten heroes must split their paths if they are to accomplish all that needs to be done before the final war. Crag and Tulip journey to the land of perpetual winter in hopes of solving the dwarven problem, while Raven, Kira, Smoke, and Listra head to Dragon Holm to learn the true history of the fractured worlds. Meanwhile, Rock and Orchid need to meet with the human king to form an alliance. The only trouble is that no one knows where he is.
All the while the dragons and the Darkness are moving forward with their own plans as each group races towards the final battle.
Available at all major ebook stores:
A Storyteller's Journey
Someone asked me to write up a brief version of my journey to becoming a published author to share with a college class on creative writing. After typing it up, I decided to share it with y'all too. So here you go...
Today the path to become a self-published author is fairly mainstream. Many self-published (or independent) authors have gotten movie deals, made the best sellers lists, and take home six-figure incomes. I started in a much different world. A world with strict gatekeepers and deadly slush piles.
Decades ago, when I was still in elementary school, I started writing stories. They were all fantastical and just as strange as you might assume from someone that age. As an example, one of my first stories was about a guy who drove his Lamborghini Countach across the desert. I have no idea why he was in the desert in a Lamborghini; that is just as lost as the story itself is.
Later in high school I wrote a story about an alien that came to Earth and tried to understand what he saw. That alien’s name was Vydor, a name that has stuck with me ever since. That was one of the few stories I finished in that era of my life. Since I was handwriting them, I would lose the papers and have to start over constantly.
I wrote and lost many stories over those years. They varied in genre, style and quality greatly, but they had a common core, a core that is with me to this day. They told the story of good people overcoming adversity. Today we have a name for these kinds of stories, “noble bright,” but back then I would have just said they were fun stories. They were stories meant to take you away to a better place, a place where good wins without becoming evil.
There is one story though I started in the ninth or tenth grade that essentially was about wizards in space. The main character’s name was Vydor, and he was human this time. Vydor gets around, you see, but regardless I spent years working on that story. I rewrote the story by hand many times until I got it on a computer where I could more easily edit it.
For years, no one read that story, or indeed most of my stories, but eventually my wife convinced me to try and get it published. This was before Amazon and the rest were taking indies and putting out ebooks. I shopped it out with an agent and a publisher, and they told me at the time that they wanted to see at least four books before they would take me seriously, so I started a sequel for it.
Over time the deal with the agent soured and the dream of publishing was shelved for a while. I kept working on the books, and my wife tried to do some basic editing on them. During this time there were a few disasters where the books were lost and had to be recovered from old backups and all edits were lost. More than once.
In November of 2010 I put the book up for sale at $0.99 on Amazon’s ebook platform under the title The Enemy of an Enemy. It had a cover that was a real photograph of a nebula and the title was in some sci-fi font I found somewhere. It looked really cheesy, but I was finally a published author. I knew that no one would buy it, but that did not matter. You could go to a real bookstore, look up my name, and see a book I wrote.
In those days, self-pub was the wild west and the fact that the book had never been edited by a professional did not matter. Several months after it released, Amazon set it to free, and an outfit I had never heard of called “EReader News Today” listed it on their site. The book flew off the charts. I moved something like twenty thousand copies in a matter of days.
Keep in mind, this is 2010, long before the ereader boom. No one took ebooks seriously at that time but that did not matter to me. I was not only a published author, but I was flying up the charts.
Then the reviews came in. They were a mix of five star and one star. The one stars were all due to the fact that the book really needed an editor. Most of those were very valid complaints and well-earned. The five stars came from people that saw past that and loved the story. They were the readers I focused on. Those that came for the story, they became my tribe.
I released book two, The Academy, the following June and book three was not far behind that. People were now paying for my books and I was getting email from readers that enjoyed the stories, including one touching letter from a woman that said my books got her through chemo. These readers are why I kept at it despite some very harsh reviews, some of which contained vicious personal attacks.
I was bringing joy to strangers around the world. That was what mattered. That was all that mattered. I would have kept writing no matter what. I am a storyteller; I cannot help but tell stories, but I kept publishing because of the light in the eyes of those readers. To bring joy, and an escape from the often-harsh realities of life. That is why I publish.
Fast forward to today. I have three series, over a dozen books and over a million words in print. My sales have been very much a rollercoaster ride. Some years I made really good money, other years I lost money. Throughout it all I have stayed in touch with my readers, and some of them have been with me since I first released Enemy in 2010. They saw past the poor grammar and spelling to the heart of the story and traveled with me through learning how to be an author.
Today my books all go through multiple editors and prereaders. I pay artists for custom illustrations for maps and covers. I have hired professional voice actors to make audiobooks and professional layout people to create print editions. Just about every aspect of the process has been outsourced as much as possible. The quality of my product rivals any in the industry now, a far cry from November 2010.
Today’s world of publishing is drastically different than when I started, but one thing still remains constant: It is all about the story. I am a storyteller, and that is where I focus everything. I hire others to do the rest, but the story is all mine, until I release it. I release it to bring joy and escape to those that are looking for a bit of light in this life.
I write for me, but I publish for my tribe.