Thursday, December 12, 2013

Armed Takeover of the USA: What Would You Do?

Recently I came across a December 9, 2013 article entitled Nuremberg Revisited in a blog named Israpundit. A statement in the article has been haunting me:
After the shooting and mass murder of school children and teachers in Sandy Hook, CT, in December of 2012, Obama and his minions began demonizing guns and ammunition, and championed eliminating all guns. Yet the US Federal government and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) purchased 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition for domestic use. The DHS has national, not foreign, authority, yet purchased 450 million rounds of hollow point bullets that are even banned for military use by the Geneva Convention, enough for a seven-year war with Americans, DHS also purchased $400,000 worth of radiation-protection pills, and thousands of bulletproof roadside checkpoint booths.(Emphasis added).
In another Israpundit article on December 6, 2013 I saw where the army could come from that might use these weapons. It states,
"Back in 2010, Obama issued an executive order to expedite immigrant visa requests from Islamic countries. A person from a Muslim country could become a U.S. citizen in as little as ten weeks, with no I.D. and no declaration of allegiance to the U.S. Constitution. … Obama's Immigration Bill and his ensuing amnesty are not mainly about the 13 million or so illegal Latinos in this country but it is the back door entrance for over one hundred million Muslims to be brought to the US by 2018 – and, by some indications, such numbers could be as high as 150 million. Naturally, their presence would imply an intrinsic establishment of sharia law as the law of the American nation. The mainstream media is quietly avoiding to mention that Obama's amnesty plan specifically speeds up the visa process for immigrants from Muslim countries (Sections 2317 & 2318 of the amnesty bill).
What would I do? What if these weapons are used to impose some form of martial law in the USA? Jesus in the Bible tells us, "Love your enemies!" (Luke 6:35). What if Washington DC is locked down because President Obama refuses to step down with the backing of a civilian army? Jesus continued, "Do good to them" (Luke 6:35). How could I love and do good to a massively oppressive force as is being witnessed by 450,000 Christians in Central African Republic? "Lend to them without expecting to be repaid" (Luke 6:35).

What would you do?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Example of Parallel Symmetry From Exodus 19

Parallel Symmetry is a type of literary structure found in the Bible where a set events happen, such as A-B-C-D, and then these same themes are repeated, A'-B'-C'-D'. Recognizing this pattern can help identify a progression, clarify the text, or even reveal subtle issues.

At the time when the Ten Commandments were told to Moses, he heard the voice of the Lord but only partially obeyed it. If you have a Bible available, I am looking at Exodus 19 and 20.

The Lord called to Moses out of the mountain stating, "If you [plural] will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured people …" (Exodus 19:5 ESV). When Moses stated this to the people, they all agreed. Everything is good so far; the Lord's voice will provide direction and they will obey it.

The Lord then positioned Moses as spokesman, "… that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever" (v19:9). God was granting authority to Moses, but I suggest He was not stating Moses must be the only conduit. He was not precluding the people from listening directly to His voice.

See if you can see where Moses did not follow the voice of the Lord:

Lord's instructions Moses' actions
A. Consecrate the people and tell them to wash their garments (v10) Consecrated the people and they washed their garments (v14)
B. Tell the people to be ready for the third day, for the Lord will come down on the mountain and be seen (v11)
Told the people to be ready for the third day (v15a)
C. Set limits for the people: if you touch the mountain, you will die and not live (v12,13a)
Told the people not to touch a woman (v15b)
D. The trumpet will sound a long blast (v13b) On the third day, there was thunder, lightning, a thick cloud on the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast (v16)
E. The people shall come up to the mountain (v13c) Moses took the people out of their camp and brought them to the foot of the mountain (v17)

Did you see it? Moses did not tell the people about touching the mountain!

Please allow me to paraphrase the relevant portions of this story's remainder (Exodus 19:18-20:21):
the Lord told Moses to go up the mountain and then privately stated to him, "Warn them about the mountain!" Moses told the Lord of his hesitation; apparently he did not like the limits that the Lord had set. The Lord said okay, go down, get Aaron, and bring him up. The Ten Commandments were then spoken.

One of the saddest verses of the Bible is then stated by the people to Moses. In their fear they said, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die" (v20:19). I suggest that because Moses had failed to warn them correctly, they misinterpreted the source of the thunder, lightning, and trumpet. Instead of learning how to properly hear the source, they intensely feared the source. Moses said, "Do not fear" but the people stood at a distance. They missed it.

Eventually these people all died in the wilderness, for only those under 20 years of age at the time of the exodus were allowed to enter the Promised Land. Immediately prior to this new generation's entry, Moses gave a new appeal: "Obey his [the Lord's] voice" (Deuteronomy 30:2). Once again, the Lord was stating the importance of listening and obeying His voice.

God does speak and it is always for the good. I, like others, need to be more consistent about listening and then obeying our Lord.

If you enjoyed this analysis of Exodus 19 and 20, you should also appreciate the many Biblical insights in my book Joshua's Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Chiasms of Joshua. You can also see this book on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

New Christian Authors ask, "How Much Do You Earn on Your Books?"

I have heard it stated that one out of every three Christian adults would someday like to get a book into print. If that is anywhere near true, then there is a tremendous market for those publishing services that can help new authors move from concept to final copy. That is why there is a plethora of companies, both small and large, that are scrambling to be of assistance.

As an independent Christian self-publisher, I do not depend on one of these services. I locate someone that can provide what I need at the time so that I can manage the entire process. Most importantly, I stay totally away from vanity publishers that appear to me as a total rip-off.

Vanity publishers include companies such as Xulon, AuthorHouse, Lulu, and PublishAmerica. There are many besides these; each of their contracts and services are somewhat different and some are more reputable than others. As I see it, their major purpose is to take an author's completed manuscript and convert it to a specific form of PDF so that a printed book may be reviewed and approved by the author. Page layout and formatting are a normal part of their service because most authors are untrained on what constitutes a quality manuscript. Some charge a large up-front fee, some require purchasing a large number, and many provide a very small return to the author for each printed book.

To the vanity publisher, their customer is the author and not the one that will purchase the title. To help their customers, they will generally offer services such as editing, marketing assistance, development of a business plan, webpage development, etc., all of which can be added to the total cost because few are knowledgeable of these things.

I think "vanity" is an appropriate name for these publishers. They seem to appeal to vane authors who somehow have allusions of how great their manuscript is or will be. What they are doing is helping contribute to the American economy as they scrape together their money to help keep these vanity presses in business.

As a true independent self-publisher, I run the risk of overlooking something significant. Quality is a big issue and readers have an expectation that the book will be similar to that from a traditional publisher. I hire people to perform the different types of editing; for those areas where I lack the skill, I read material that assists me in the learning process and I buy the software that I need. In short, I become the manager of my manuscript because I care more than anyone else about it.

I use Lightning Source to print my titles. They are the largest print-on-demand provider and I find them to be a quality organization. Some potential authors buy a copy of my Joshua book simply to check its quality; I would hope they read it as well.

Joshua's Spiritual Warfare My first title, Joshua's Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Chiasms of Joshua, sells for $14.99 on Amazon and many other on-line retailers. Lightning Source's charge for printing this 232-page book is currently $3.92 and their distribution fee is $3.00. That leaves $8.07 for me to recover my expenses. Published in 2008, I am now able to state that I have covered my initial expenses and am beginning to recover my many, many hours of writing and marketing.

By comparison, I recently talked with a Christian author that wrote a novel in 2007 using one of these vanity publishers: he earns $0.60 for each book that is sold for nearly $20. Another Christian author recently signed a contract that required 3,000 books to be printed; most of them sit in a warehouse somewhere waiting for the next sale through Amazon or some other retail source. Another author had a large amount of additional services that proved to be very costly.

Like most published authors, I find the whole marketing effort is my biggest challenge. For every hour that I spent preparing that manuscript (14 months at 20 hours per week), I have probably spent five times that in marketing. With the saturation of both printed and on-line books in the marketplace, it is extremely difficult to get the general public to find and then ultimately purchase any book.

As publishing has become substantially easier, many new titles have been recently released; yet the number of people reading seems to be going down. I am told that the average Christian book sells 200 books in its lifetime and that includes well- established authors.

The question that each potential Christian author should seriously address is their motive: "Is God really in this?" I cannot predict the total cost of using a vanity publisher. I do know that the effort to be an independent self-publisher is very significant, but it is also the least costly for me. Another question might be, "Do I have the skills to be an independent self-publisher?"

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chiasm, Chiasmus, or Chiastic Structure?

I was recently asked this question, "Is a chiasm the same as a chiasmus?" Also, "Is the word 'chiastic' related and if so, how?" This article attempts to diffuse this obfuscated mess.

What I am discussing is the use of a writing style that is found throughout the Bible. Yes, there is a popular singer named Chiasm; not the same. And there are the medical terms named chiasm, chiasma, and chiasmata that involve how the human eye is able to see; not the same. I am referring to the repeating A-B-C ... C′-B′-A′ pattern that is found in many New or Old Testament passages. See my article What is a Chiasm (or Chiasmus)? for more information.

Some Christian authors use the word 'chiasm' and others use the word 'chiasmus' but both mean the same thing when referring to the Bible. Other prominent Christian writers stay away from the words 'chiasm' and 'chiasmus', but instead refer to 'chiastic structure', 'chiastic parallelism', or 'chiastic repetition.' You may also find words such as 'concentric parallelism' and 'inverted parallelism' that again promote the same concept.

The words 'chiasm', 'chiasmus', and 'chiastic' do not appear in the Bible, just as the word 'paragraph' does not appear in the Bible. The identification of chiasms can help us understand God's emphasis in the passage.

In 1942, Nils Lund popularized the word 'chiasmus' in the United States by writing Chiasmus in the New Testament: A Study in the Form and Function of Chiastic Structures. Lund used the words 'chiasmus' and 'chiastic' in the title, but others over the years have abbreviated and/or modified his original concept. The result has been that these well-intended linguists have obfuscated the foray by using other names for the same concept.

To me, I prefer to call this reverse literary structure a chiasm, yet a chiasm is a chiasmus and a chiasmus is a chiasm; both are examples of the chiastic structure when referring to the Bible.

In my book Joshua's Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Chiasms of Joshua, I use a rigorous analysis of the book of Joshua to show how to find chiasms and then how to extract meaning from them. My article, Background of Chiasms, is adapted from that book.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

New Christian Authors Ask, "How Many Books Should I Print?"

Possibly the biggest killer of very good and potentially life-changing authors is a poor decision to the question, "How many books should I print?"

Imagine a great author with his or her first title now published. Sitting in a warehouse somewhere are four thousand copies of that title. A robot is waiting for someone using Amazon or a buyer from a bookstore or the author himself to order one or more copies. Reality of today's market suddenly hits them because the books do not move like once hoped. Frustration and discouragement sets in and this great author never publishes anything else.

I recently developed friendship with a Christian author that has fallen in that trap in the last six months. Today he is having a book signing at a local bookstore. If he is fortunate, he will sell ten or twelve books today. There remain over 3,800 copies of his title in a warehouse in Georgia. He has given many copies away hoping that someone will recognize the great work that it is. I truly wish him well.

Unfortunately, new authors simply do not understand how very competitive the market for books has become. These same new authors know in their heart that they have a very viable product and that many would benefit from reading it. In some cases it is excessive ego that over inflates the manuscript's potential, but in other cases it is the competition that does the person in. But in either cases, discouragement sets in and this new author does not attempt another. So sad!

If you don't know the potential, be conservative.
Besides an underestimation of today's market, the biggest culprits are the various subsidy publishers. Sometimes referred to as vanity publishers, these businesses feed on the ego of new authors to let them see a false potential of their manuscript. Naive pride kicks in; soon these great authors have a contract to put 3000 or 5000 copies of their great work into print. The work is probably great, the subsidy publisher does a great job getting the manuscript ready, the front cover is enticing, the marketing effort is exhausting, and the book dies on the shelf.

Christian publishers can be just as manipulative as non-Christian publishers when it comes to creating false expectations. Buyer beware!

In 2007, I was about to sign a contract with Xulon Publishing when somehow I came across an article about true self-publishing. I would have spent over $3,000 for their basic package; today my books would still be sitting in a warehouse somewhere. Excess books are eventually dumped onto the resale book market and sold for a mere shadow of their initial value.

A reviewer for Xulon stated that she thought the manuscript was well prepared and some other blah-blah-blah words that hit my pride button. Most new authors have this pride issue going on, and I certainly was one. I probably would have selected one of the middle-tier packages which would have resulted in even more books sitting on some shelf. As a result of the market forces and my resulting discouragement, I never would have authored another title.

Instead I went the self-publishing route where I am the independent publisher. No subsidy publishers or vanity publishers are involved. Instead, I coordinate all of the efforts and order only as many books as I need. I found a Christian service that would convert the title into print-ready format that Lightning Source could use. After some editing, I eventually had 250 books printed. Today I have just five left from that initial printing: 59% were sold and the remainder were given away.

I use the same print-on-demand technology that Xulon and other vanity publishers use: when someone orders that book on Amazon, it is printed and shipped within a few days after the Buy Now button is clicked on Amazon. What I don't have is boxes of printed books sitting in either my home or in a warehouse somewhere.

I now have an easier decision: am I now ready to prepare a second edition which incorporates some editing changes, or should I print a dozen more for my own immediate sales? With Lightning Source, I can order just one copy if that is what I need.

"How many books should you print?" My market is Christian non-fiction; you may wish to adjust what I suggest if you are working with another genre. I suggest that fifty may be a good number but that should be adjusted based on the number of book signings that you have already scheduled. If your church is promoting a book signing, they would know you the best so you might add an additional 20% of the average Sunday attendance (assuming a moderately sized church). If you have scheduled a signing at a bookstore, you might add another ten books. You probably don't yet know what works and what doesn't work in your market – I suggest you purchase enough for the next 45 days. At the end of a month, re-evaluate and buy more when your inventory gets low. That is the beauty of print-on-demand.

If you have aspirations of authoring a second title, please do not engage yourself with one of these vanity presses if they want you to print many copies. The result will most certainly be that you will have too many printed, you will think you are not a good author (which is probably not true), and your reading public will suffer.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Christian Authors: "How Inviting is Your Website’s Coloration?"

When people visit your website, what do they see? Are the colors pleasing and engaging, or is there visual conflict that triggers their mind to disengage? This is my story of how I corrected that problem.

In my opinion, Christian self-publishers should create and change their own webpages. Based on my experience, webpages need continual care. If we farm out this responsibility, the quality will likely suffer greatly. A professional may do a superb job creating our websites, but most self-publishers are not in a position where we can call on them for modifications on a regular basis. This means that we or a family member should manage our own websites; managing our websites means managing our color schemes.

I confess: I am color challenged. Yes I dress myself and I know my basic colors. That said, my wife is continually suggesting to me that something blue is really green or vice versa. She can tell me what mauve and teal are, and she can distinguish between daffodil and canary yellow. I can't.

If you looked at any of my websites prior to this week, I'm sure you would have agreed. I knew that complimentary colors were important but I had no idea how to get there. In addition, my Adobe Photoshop skills are very weak.

I currently have fifty-eight (58) webpages broken into five families: my three books (Joshua's Spiritual Warfare, A Garden of Love, and A Topical Treasury of Proverbs), my business (Prayer Gardeners), and the Gethsemane Prayer Garden. In addition there is my blog ( that you are currently reading. Each of these had different color themes and frankly they were uninviting. Two were light tan, two were pink but the wrong pink, and another was a pale army green. The background to this blog was from a beautiful photograph of Japanese anemone, but the color was altered to an unappealing purple. In short, I'm color challenged – I can't imagine what people thought when they arrived at my website.

Taking this color problem by the horns, I hoped Photoshop had the answers and it did. My goal was to find two color ranges that complimented each other. I opened this photo in Photoshop because it appears on the webpages for my A Garden of Love book:

After some experimentation, I found that the Eyedropper Tool and Color Picker in Photoshop's Tools panel (left side) provided the solution. I used the Eyedropper to click on a medium pink color from that photo. I was interested in a range of colors, so I right clicked on the eyedropper, changing it to a 5 pixel x 5 pixel range. By clicking the Eyedropper, the square called Foreground Color (at the bottom of the same Tools panel) was changed to that same medium pink. I then clicked on that square whereby the Color Picker window was displayed showing that the color is #FCBDD0. That color became the basic pink that now appears throughout all my websites.

My next challenge was to find a complimentary color to that basic pink. I used the Color Picker window to determine that. With #FCBDD0 as my base color, I found I could change one of these to keep in the same family of colors: hue, saturation or brightness. In that way, I found a baby blue that was an excellent match: #BDF5FC. That is the blue color that appears as the background on many of my webpages.

Lastly, I needed other pinks that were in the same range as the first one that was selected. I again used the Color Picker, moved the slider as needed and gave each a try by pasting it into the CSS file associated with the HTML.

Now when you visit my websites, there are essentially two color themes: for those that are related to the Prayer Gardeners business including the Gethsemane Prayer Garden, there is a pink background with complimentary baby blue accents. I use the name Bible Discernments as the publishing division of Prayer Gardeners; the theme for those, including this blog, are baby blue in the text area with the same pink accents.

Time will tell if it makes a difference; it should.
(NOTE: I use Windows; if using a Mac, the instructions may be slightly different).

For other articles about self-publishing in this series, see:
Index of Self-Publishing Articles by Thomas B. Clarke