Monthly Archives: April 2014

NCWN Spring Conference: Simply Inspiring…

NCWNlogoI had the pleasure and privilege to attend this year’s NCWN Spring Conference held on the UNCG campus. This was my first NCWN conference so I had no idea what to expect going in, only that I knew there was a class-act staff of writers and lecturers assembled for the day’s event. I had preregistered for Marketing with Imagination, Writing About War Panel Discussion, Lunch with Author Peggy Payne and Speed Pitch. In addition, I signed up for the “Open Mic” event after lunch and figured I’d give it a try knowing that any public speaking would be as much a learning activity as it would be a performance.

The morning began with the delightful class of “Marketing with Imagination” hosted by Piedmont Laureate Carrie J. Knowles and Peggy Payne. Ms. Knowles spoke about marketing and how we should commit to at least 20% of our time to it each week (I must state that Ms. Knowles has one of THE BEST author websites I have ever seen!!!). We learned that selling our stories should not be something we feel as if we are “Bragging” about; rather, we should think of this as something we are doing for our children. We also learned that we should focus on what our themes were in our books or publications in order to find respective audiences. It was here that I found the dichotomy similar to what Ms. Payne had found with her recent book, “Cobalt Blue“; the confusion of the religious aspect of the book with the secular attraction. This paradox was something I had already felt but now hearing it from someone else who was very successful made me realize that I had to become more attentive to groups that might not understand the story behind the action. Ms. Payne recommended I keep trying to reach the groups that were obvious audiences until I found the right denomination and from there, expand. Another classmate suggested even changing the genre description from “Religious” to “Inspirational” since my book was obviously very much the latter. As the first class ended, my head was already spinning with ideas and plans and we still had a whole day’s worth of activities ahead!

The next part of the day’s event included readings by the entourage of distinguished staff. This was a wonderful insight into each of the author’s lecturing today and their works. It was deeply rewarding to hear each read from their own work. One of my favorite’s was Peggy Payne, whom had taught in the first class and would be the same author I was to eat with at lunch; some things need naught be explained. BlNFZttIYAEDPQw.jpg largeAt lunch we sat quietly eating outside in the bright warm sunshine. Considering the winter we had just survived, everyone was soaking in the glory of the sun’s radiance. We eventually began asking Ms. Payne questions and as I listened to her respond, I realized here was someone I had never met or known little about before today, but was very impressed by her conviction to writing and the faith behind her works. As I said before, some things need no explanation and I’ll leave it at that.

Following lunch we ran through the “Open Mic” like a wild mustang full of oats; each author only getting five minutes to read. Foolishly, I thought I might be able to read most of my short story, “The Farmer in the Bull”; boy, was I mistaken. I read the words on the paper extra fast, which was something I don’t like doing, but felt compelled to share all of the tale. Needless to say, I was only on the second page of the five page story when the timer expired. Luckily, it was on a line that seemed as if I had planned the act. Inside I was hating myself for not sticking to the plan and reading the prose from my sequel, spellbinding as it might have been; I chose what I chose for sake of trying to lighten the atmosphere, and so I did; at least I garnered a few laughs; success.

After the “Open Mic” we went to our next afternoon class. I walked into the room for “Writing About War Panel Discussion” and immediately realized I was in a room filled with Veterans like myself; although, the majority of these men were combat Veterans, something I had never had to experience. I was immediately humbled by their stories and discussions. The panel who led the program were admirable writers of their own. Author Robin Greene led the discussion  along with author Paule Stroebel, a young combat Veteran himself, had not been long since he himself was wearing the army uniform. Dr. Raynor was far too young to have done all the deeds and accomplishments listed in her Bio, but here she was, sharing her ambition and life’s mission with us; having been inspired by her father’s war journal at a very young age. Although the class wasn’t what I had expected, I learned a very important lesson during the session in that sometimes the things we fall into often teaches us more than what we had planned; so it was with the “Writing About War Panel Discussion”.

Finally, my day ended with “Speed Pitch”. I had originally planned to pitch my existing book, “Bruecke to Heaven“, but after talking to other authors during the day, I decided to pitch my sequel. I thought, “Hey, at least I’ll get some professional feedback immediately. What could be better?” Suffice it to say that by now, after learning so much, hearing so many stories, thoughts and ideas, my brain was nearly numb. I had a rough draft of my “Elevator Pitch” in my head so the one minute time limit didn’t bother me; at least not until I sat down in the first chair and began to speak. My face must have had a look of complete shock as I sat transfixed facing the editor and trying to formulate words our of my mouth. All I could hear was “Bla bla bla bla”. I apologized and tried to start again but by then the bell had rung. I was laughing by now as was the editor who was supposed to critique what she had just heard. She was a real trooper and we worked together on the what, where, how aspect of my sequel during the allotted three minutes enough that by the time I got to the fourth editor, my brain was actually producing a pitch that could have made sense, if only everything didn’t seem to be blurring together. Granted it was a great exercise, but I should have known by the end of a day’s conference  my brain was going to be flat-lining and all hopes of sounding sharp and practiced on a pitch I had never given was at best, a shot in the dark. The silver lining to it all was that I got to meet a lot of great people who genuinely cared about writing and helping each other to become better.

This may have been my first NCWN Conference, but the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll hopefully plan more in the future.

Thank you  to NCWN staff, volunteers and lecturing authors for a splendid day of learning, sharing and fellowship!

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Turn On the Light…

noah1As I stood in front of the men this past Sunday morning who had gathered for the GUMC Men’s breakfast, I began my devotional presentation by first asking a question, “Have you heard of the saying of when you finally get something and that light bulb in your head turns on.” Most of them nodded. I asked them to hold that thought in their heads for a few minutes and we’d get back to it. I then told them that today’s message would involve discussing the three recent Religious themed movies which had recently been released in movie theaters, “Noah, God’s Not Dead and Son of God,” and that understanding would soon be evident.

I first began by quoting from memory the book of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend[a] it.” Yes, in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and He was in the beginning with God, yet even though He was the life of men and the life became the light to men, they did not willingly receive it; that proverbial light doesn’t come on for many of us until it is nearly too late. I have been studying the book of Enoch for my sequel to “Bruecke to Heaven: Children of the Light,” and know that before Enoch was finally taken to Heaven for good, he had been given a preview. Yes, Enoch had an “open-house” review of Heaven before he was finally taken and during that tour, he was told about everything that had ever happened to mankind but also everything that would happen. Then he was taken back to earth and told that he would have one year to tell his family all that he had learned and seen; after which time, he would be taken for good. Imagine knowing you only had a year to live, a month, a week or just a few minutes; how profound your life would become and how the focus of your life would quickly change. For the men’s group at GUMC, there were several that had recent health traumas or even soon to be known operations; all of which had certainly changed some of life’s relevance for these men and their families. For those that have never accepted Christ into their lives, this is when the light turns on and they finally get it. Enoch had a year to tell an eternity to his family, for them to absorb all that was and that ever will be had to be more than daunting; yet, in the end, they got it.

It was interesting to note that when my family and I saw the movies, we saw them in the reverse order I had listed them; meaning, we first saw “Son of God”, then “God’s Not Dead” and finally “Noah”. However, for the message Sunday, it was necessary to review them in reverse. I began with “Noah” which was directed by a proclaimed atheist, Darren Aronofsky, yet he admitted in an interview that he had purposely tried to follow the story of the Bible in order to keep it true and that he had only changed some things in order to make the movie more dramatic. I had read several reviews before finally deciding to take my family and finally came to the conclusion, that if I wanted to be able to honestly speak out against it, I first had to see if for myself. I had also heard that the word “God” was not used in the entire movie. “Oh, that probably won’t be such a big deal,” I thought to myself, assuming there would be other appropriate representations; boy was I wrong. I shared with the men that Noah was like what was mentioned in John when the light shone into the darkness but the darkness did not comprehend it; Director just didn’t get it. My frustration began when God was repeatedly, over and over again referred to as the “Creator.” I wouldn’t have had such heartburn with this if they had at least once prefaced “Creator” with “God the Creator,” yet not once did they bother to mention God. That was just the beginning of my frustrations with the movie.

In my studies of Enoch, which I previously mentioned, I have become very familiar with Fallen Angels in the Bible. Satan himself, a Fallen Angel, was referred to as an Angel of Light in 1 Corinthians. So when the narrator in “Noah” starting talking about the Fallen, my ears perked up. Next came scenes of phenomenal cinematography showing fiery figures of angels plummeting to earth, something I’ve always wanted to see in person, but could never imagine to the extent seen on the big theater screen. Shortly afterward their ascent is where I became disgusted to the point I almost left the theater; they turned into these monster things that were a cross between Transformers and the rock super hero in Avengers. Yes, the director had tried to make “Noah” into a DC Comics action adventure, and from that point on, it became obvious faith of humanity and salvation were not the themes the movie, unlike the Biblical story, would follow. The light had not reached the darkness nor had the light in Aronofsky’s head turned on; Aronofsky just didn’t get it.

Next in my review came the movie, “God’s Not Dead.” I had seen a trailer for this movie long before it was released and godsnotdead1knew it was a very low budget production, yet the acting seemed solid enough. I had spoken with both of my pastors, Linda Yow and David King, about the movie and they both had heard great things about it, so we were thrilled to join the Cumnock UMC church group to go together to see the movie. As the movie progressed through multiple threads, the anticipation and dramatic ending built until when the final moment hit, you wanted to literally stand up and shout in the theater, “Praise God!” I could feel the electricity in the air in that less than filled auditorium on a blustery Thursday night from just the few people in attendance, so great was the movie. Unlike Enoch’s family who had a year to get it, some of the people in “God’s Not Dead” only had a few minutes to accept Christ into their life, but in the end, they got it. Yes, this movie company and director had gotten it; their light bulbs weren’t just turned on, they were blasting a spot light so bright “Noah” could have used its source for their Angels of Light and been all the better; Yes, they got it!

sonofgod1And finally, I came to the movie “Son of God.” For all the wonders the movies can produce these days with special effects, Mark Burnette hit a home run with his ability to finally capture on film what I felt like, was the essence of the spirit of God. Although the story was the retelling of the crucifixion of Jesus, it was also a celebration of his life and ministry. The production was very well done and likely had a large budget, but unlike “Noah”, “Son of God” followed as much as possible the stories from the New Testament. And like “God’s Not Dead,” “Son of God,” got it, and because of what “Son of God” portrayed, we can look forward to a life everlasting, a salvation for our sins thanks to God the Father who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. It is up to, us unlike early man, to not run from the light, the Word of God, for He is our salvation of life everlasting.

You see, all in all, the three movies exemplified Jesus’ own words, “The least shall be first and the first shall be last.” Meaning, the lowest budget film, “God’s Not Dead” was by far the best and the most expensive, “Noah,” was the worst. Yet like the Apostle Paul said, even if there are negative things being said about God, at least God is being discussed and in the end, this is a good thing.

Turn on the light and let the light shine in…

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Premonition of Forelorn…


The beckoned flight, My soul doth seek,

Yet spirited wings, Are clipped beneath.

The journey’s path, Mere footsteps trod,

While Heaven’s gate, O’re yonder calls.

Each day we breathe, A breath once more,

And exhale our last, On God’s golden shore.

– T. Tron

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