Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Faith is not Fear

Faith is not Fear.

Several weeks ago, I published the article "Faith is not Religion." When I did, I felt somewhat reluctant, not wanting to wade into the religious quagmire spiraling through American politics. If you have not read the article, you might want to read it before finishing this since I feel no less reluctant to write this article.

As we all know, there are three dominant religions in current history. Two of these began as what I think of as relief valves for the original, which is Judaism.

The Jewish religion was, as I understand it, founded on the backs of those who suffered for their faith. Their God was an angry demanding and unforgiving deity. This God maimed, punished, and killed those who dared not obey without hesitation, without question.

Then, a man who many now claim to be the Son of God walked the lands of what was then Palestine. Everyone knows the stories of His deeds, His words, His lessons, and His death. Central to His message was compassion, loving one's enemy as one's friend, turning the other cheek, building plows out of swords. He healed the sick, welcomed all to listen and follow. He spoke of a loving, forgiving God.

Centuries later, another man, the Prophet Mohammad walked the same ground, offered, I believe, an enlightened message, teaching the need for harmony and education. He too spoke of a loving, forgiving God.

I do not believe that either, Son of God or Prophet, intended hatred and fear to be central to what they felt humans needed for peaceful co-existence.

Yet now centuries later, followers of all three religions seem to feel it necessary to reach far back in time for the Old Testament God's discriminating lack of compassion so they might now beget a future.

Fear is not Faith.

I write this with conviction. I do not think followers of the three religions can ever live together as long as fear is the batter from which loaves of justice are baked and shared during meals.

However, humans, it seems, need to dwell on the past to seek a future. I think that knowledge of the past can be a foundation only, not building blocks for the unseen and unknown tomorrow.

We expend too much effort; exhaust too many lives ramming wet clay cast from spilled blood into barricades and levies, to keep out the undesirable element, which too often is the element we would see if we had a spiritual mirror to gaze in to.

Elected leaders, men and woman entrusted to speak publicly, to promote reason, and doctrines of faith, twisted and writhed under the erotic and enticing caress of wealth and fame. They distorted truth for personal gain, not the common good. They used basic human psychology to further whatever agenda they received payment to promote.

Those leaders, speakers, or their masters, knew too that fear is the heart of religion. Therefore, they used religion.

They understood, it seems, that as time passed, throughout history, men rewrote, adjusted, and added to the original teachings of the Prophet and Son of God. They created demons, burned witches, hung or disemboweled heretics, dunked the innocent, stoned, whipped, or killed disobedient wives and daughters, beheaded non-believers.

Many at one time waded through flowing blood in the streets of the holiest of cities.

They performed these acts as needed to control the masses, the peasants, serfs, slaves and willing but uneducated followers, without regard for truth, justice, or the teachings of the Son of God or the Prophet.

Politicians and their moneyed masters also restricted education, or lowered the standards of educational success.

Until all the people of Earth can set religion off to the side of discussion between our cultures, we will never discover true peace. Moreover, when religion is dragged back into the rooms where cultures meet to resolve differences, those meetings must be curtailed until religion is again outside.

Peace is a living without fear. Fear is not faith. Fear is religion. With true faith comes true peace.

Listen to the voices of men and women filled with religious fervor, and you will hear anger, and know that anger is often an expression of frustration or confusion. Those emotions are deeply rooted in fear. Too often, the fear taught us by religious leaders.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The book that most influenced me as a boy

At the age of fourteen, I sat down on a rainy afternoon, bored and “trapped” inside. My mother, an avid reader, kept many books on the shelves in our recreation room. The shelving wrapped around, or up one side, over and down the other side of an upright piano that once belonged to her grandmother.

No one in our family played piano, or admitted it if they’d attempted the task. I was not prepared to sit on the bench and pound the keyboard.

I’d started reading while in elementary school, but I knew that any teenage boy caught reading the children’s books that mostly lined those shelves, would, if found out, die from embarrassment. Besides, I really was no longer interested in most, and those that might’ve held my interest, well, I’d read them before.

However, boredom works wonders, or at least it does with me. I truly hate boredom. After sitting alone in that room for fifteen or so minutes, I “struggled” to my feet, and glanced along the book spines, hoping to find something good.

It seems strange now as I think back, that I hadn’t noticed it in the past, but as I was about to turn away, I spotted the title Green Mansions on a plain, yellowing hardcover spine.

With but a small amount of reluctance, thinking the story would prove to be yet another attempt at juvenile entertainment, I slid the book off the shelf and flipped it open to read the author’s name on the title page: W.H. Hudson.

Clearly the writer had something to hide, I thought and the intrigue drew me in.

When I read the first page, I felt satisfied that W. H. Hudson did not write children’s books. In fact, the 1944 edition I own now (of course I still have a copy) states: Green Mansions, A Romance of the Tropical Forest. A rather risque, for the time, drawing by E. McKnight Kauffer is to the left of the title page. Wonder if I saw that back then, hmm.


Well, I was fourteen and once I started reading, I could not put the book down. That was a first for me. Not only had I selected the book without suggestion from an adult, but it was terrific and I was hooked on science fiction and fantasy....um, no, not so much on romance.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

ABNA Expert Reviewer's comments on "Drop Dead Cadillac"

Before I comment on their comments, here are the Amazon.com Expert Reviewers opinions regarding my novel "Drop Dead Cadillac."

Feedback: Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Reviews

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The strongest aspect of this excerpt in my opinion would be the eccentric writer. I did like him. Although I don't find this character to be a total package, I did find him somewhat interesting. I wonder if the writer and Black will need to team up to solve this mystery.

What aspect needs the most work?

There are just to many questions in my mind about these characters to find them totally credible. Why would a well known writer (millions of readers about the world according to black) live on the outskirts of a 'rotting corpse dumping ground for mobsters'. That doesn't make any sense to me, and this needs some work. Black seems to be some sort of private investigator. He didn't seem to give much thought to taking this job from a writer who may be a "certified" fruitcake. what will the relationship be between these two guys, if any? I think their opposing and strong personalities would make them unlikely bedmates for this mystery. But that is what would make this story good. The problem is we don't get any hints if this is a possibility or not.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I could find this excerpt good, but that is the problem. I am not sure what is going to happen down the road in this story. I would love for these two unlikely fellows to have to join up together and solve this mystery. I don't know if that is what this write has in store for me though. I also believe these two main characters need some better development or descriptions for me. They just aren't believable with the information I have been given.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The author doesn't miss a detail in describing the scene or the characters in his story. The opening sounds interesting and readers are given a good mystery in the excerpt.

What aspect needs the most work?

The book starts out too slowly and the author spends more time describing unnecessary moments in the scene instead of introducing us to the character.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I thought the story was promising but it did not seem that original and we weren't given much insight into who the main character is. The author spent a lot of time explaining every little detail of the surroundings which will make for an absurdly long book if it continues in the whole manuscript.
_________

Now, it's my turn.

First, any writer must acknowledge that every reader will read what they want, not necessarily what you wrote. It is difficult, if not impossible to do anything about this.

Second, reviewers -- like anyone else -- make assumptions when they have only a section of a novel to read and review.

Third, their opinions are theirs alone.

Fourth, many of Amazon.com's expert reviewers specialize in nonfiction and maybe should not review novels.

What I liked about their comments were that, for the most part, I can easily fix the "problems" without worrying about altering the plot. Marlowe Black is a PI, which comes up later in the story, but really should've sooner.

The eccentric writer -- name withheld to avoid fictitious lawsuits -- is a man well into his 70s, has lived in his home for more than 30 years, it wasn't always a bad area. He loves his home, period. We all know older people like him.


An excerpt is meant to lead the reader into the plot, not to deliver it in 5000 words or less. Although it may not be apparent to the second reviewer, character development requires description of the character's surrounding. Thus lots of detail, especially in fiction is necessary and does not imply a story will be too long and burdened with too much detail. Just ask David Weber, Elizabeth Moon, Harlan Coben, Laurell K. Hamilton, James Patterson, to name a few writers who use a lot of detail in description.

To state that the writer's use of description implies an "absurdly long book" demonstrates the expert reviewer's possible lack of knowledge regarding the average length of a mystery novel -- 60,000 -- 90,000 words.

Lastly, I think both reviewer expressed enough curiosity regarding how the characters would gel and work to reach a successful conclusion, which -- while it could've been stronger -- showed that the excerpt did work in that regard.

Here is a link to the excerpt: http://www.scribd.com/doc/20069062/Drop-Dead-Cadillac-Chapters-1-2
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