The Writer’s Lens – Ep67: “The Great Divorce” and Why We Don’t Take Hell So Seriously

C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors of all time. His literary works are popular outside of even the Christian community, for which he is most known. But one such title that is often overlooked is a short story called, The Great Divorce. It’s about about a man riding a bus to somewhere. And that somewhere just so happens to be heaven. For those who get off, it’s a path to hell. But there are more than a few ways to get off the bus and head to the underworld. 

This analysis I attempt is a true deep dive. So it’s lengthy, but like any of Lewis’ works, it’s chock full of meat to chew on. In particular, the topic of heaven and hell and why we might forget about one while in pursuit of the other. 

The Writer’s Lens – Narrative Wars 10: “Should We ‘Bend the Knee’ to Our Critics?”

The Narrative Wars returneth….

You may have never heard of Amelie Wen Zhao (or maybe you have?) but just in case you did or didn’t, this episode was catalyzed by a recent ordeal involving the up-and-coming YA fiction writer. Ms. Zhao was the subject of some harsh criticism for her new book, Blood Heir, which hadn’t even hit the shelves yet. Her book, as described by her earliest of critics, was said to be “racially insensitive” and was encouraged to the point of not releasing her book. Here’s the catch though: many of her detractors had not even read the book. Apparently hearsay and a few buzzwords had caused many to take to the social media to block the Blood Heir release. Much talk and discussion over Zhao’s ordeal followed.

Yet after the social media mob settled, she decided to move forward with her book anyway and not give in to earlier pressures to not publish it. Her book was published mid-November 2019.

This episode is an attempt to talk through artistic expression and how creatives can face a lot of external pressure – even before their idea is off the ground.

Hope you enjoy.

For more on this situation, you can check other sources such as this one here.

The Writer’s Lens – E63: “The Fellowship of the Ring” and Finding Your Place in a Group

The Writer’s Lens returns!

In my first episode in over a month, I take a look at one of my all-time favorites: Tolkien’s first of three stories in the Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Lovers of the fantasy epic recognize LOTR for its dramatic visuals, beautiful descriptions, and downright awesome story. For this episode, I take a deeper look at Tolkien’s theme of fellowship. As a man who lived through some of the most horrific wars in human history, Tolkien understood the need to band together for the sake of a larger cause. As such, his first entry into the series explores the dynamics of group membership and how it can unravel when leadership is lost or when selfish desires take hold. And even more so, how do we even get into the group in the first place?

These ideas and questions I attempt to tackle in about 30 minutes – which is a significantly less amount of time than the extended edition on DVD or Blu-Ray. Enjoy!

The Writer’s Lens – Interview 17: Sam Eldredge, “Our Stories Are Epic, Not Perfect”

A few years ago, I read through a book with several friends called Killing Lions, a coming-of-age book for young men, co-authored by John Eldredge and his son, Sam Eldredge. Today, I am fortunate to interview one of the voices behind that book, Sam, and pick his brain on the genesis behind it.

Sam is co-host of the podcast, And Sons, which continues the spirit of Killing Lions by focusing on the rites of passage young men face. Sam is a lead content creator for their magazine publication of the same name as well. My interview with Sam covers his story as a budding writer, his initial struggle with co-authoring a book alongside his already-published father, John (author of bestseller Wild at Heart, among others), and how imperative it is to learn from our own stories, lest someone else define our stories for us.

You can find more about Sam and his work at andsonsmagazine.com or follow him on And Sons, which is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and other podcasting platforms.

My Theory on Conspiracy Theories

Who loves a good conspiracy theory? I know I do. In the wake of the #EpsteinSuicide, it seems all manner of conspiracy theorists have weighed in on what might have really happened. And hey, I’m one of them. Which is why I wrote this piece. What makes us gravitate towards stories that don’t have all the facts yet? Here are some of my thoughts on this phenomenon.

The Writer’s Lens E59: The Exalting and Glorifying of Ideas

After a couple weeks’ break, we’re back to finish this small series on Exploring, Exposing, and now, Exalting Ideas. What does it look like when an idea is glorified? And how might we be more cognizant of the ideas we are ingesting?

This one got a little ranty, but that comes with the territory.

The Case of Jeffrey Epstein and a Lesson in Temptation

Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes are despicable. But what else needs to be discussed in the wake of his arrest?

My latest article talks about temptation and how none of us are immune to its hooks.

Narrative Wars: 09: “Why Is It So Hard To Change People’s Minds?”

Ever have a conversation where you couldn’t convince the other party of something? You have all the facts. You have all the information. But for whatever the reason, the other person just won’t see things from your perspective.

Never? Yeah, me neither (insert sarcasm).

Changing someone’s mind is hard. We aren’t really as open as we’d like to think (cruel irony there, is it not?). New ideas can rock our worldview. And it can make for some rather uncomfortable situations if we’re discussing them openly with another who thinks differently than us.

From a writer’s perspective, storytelling – effective storytelling – is a powerful means by which to change the course of someone’s mindset. A great story can make someone aware of something he never knew or even cause him to consider making a 180 on his own thinking.

This episode of the #NarrativeWars is a deep dive so be sure to stick with me till the end.

The Minimizing of Sin, the Maximizing of the Autonomous Self

Here’s my most recent article discussing a topic I have been especially challenged by as of late. Not by a belief in God, but by the ramifications for not taking sin seriously.

Amazon’s Amazing Deals Are Affecting…Amazon?

*Picture by Mein Deal. https://www.mein-deal.com/

I’ve been self-publishing material through Amazon for a few years. I didn’t start out that way. I was originally working with a publishing house out of Indiana before I decided to part ways with them. They put me through several channels, including Amazon, as it was the fastest-growing distributor on the Internet. At that time of my departure, I made a jump to CreateSpace’s platform. They had an intuitive program for self-publishing and I enjoyed the freedom. But then CreateSpace was reabsorbed by…well, Amazon. The entire program was taken into Amazon’s publishing platform and I, along with likely thousands of other authors, was taken up along with it.

You can probably discern the pattern by now. If you’re in the business of building a platform – as a writer – it’s difficult to avoid the goliath that is Amazon. Jeff Bezos’ company is the biggest online retailer in the United States. It’s a multi-billion dollar agency. Its reach far exceeds that of its closet competitors and every aspiring author, like myself, knows it.

That’s why so many writers inevitably find themselves within Amazon’s premier marketplace. The allure of Amazon is its possibility of overnight success. Newbies to the industry are probably thinking just that. If I can get on Amazon, then I increase my chances of selling more books. All I have to do is publish through them and get some reviews to boost the algorithm. No sweat….

There’s nothing wrong with that sort of thinking. I’ve thought it. I still do, to some extent. And if I’m thinking like that, then I know others are doing the same. Namely, those looking to take advantage of people like myself.

Recently, Amazon came under fire for selling counterfeit copies of a book through its online marketplace. An author was notified by one of its readers how there were several typos present. The situation cost the author close to $240k in possible revenue – a massive hit – but avoidable, nonetheless. Why could something like this even occur? David Streitfeld of The New York Times sums up the situation quite well:

“The company (Amazon) sells substantially more than half of the books in the United States, including new and used physical volumes as well as digital and audio formats. Amazon is also a platform for third-party sellers, a publisher, a printer, a self-publisher, a review hub, a textbook supplier and a distributor that now runs its own chain of brick-and-mortar stores.” 

One can see the ripple effect. When you’re that big and you can do that much, it’s hard to keep tabs on everything. To Amazon’s credit, they’ve tried to address this issue, including the claims of Mr. Streitfeld. But this isn’t the first time it’s happened. In fact, it keeps happening; a reality which raises the concern as to whether Amazon will need to take further action as 2019 rolls onward.

Either way, this situation showcases one of the dangers associated with becoming such a big distributor. For the ones looking for a personal touch and a steep attention to detail – aka the aspiring author – Amazon may lose potential clients. Though many will still look to garner reviews from the tech giant, there’s no guarantee new authors will flock to Amazon for their publishing needs. Time will tell, of course. If Amazon can crack down on these problems and assure its customer base these mishaps won’t happen (at least not regularly) then that will only encourage more up-and-comers to sign with Amazon.

As for me, I like to keep my ear to the ground. Amazon does have a massive reach. Amazon does bolster an intuitive platform. And if I’m honest, I’m not really sold on other made-to-order publishers just yet. But that doesn’t mean I can’t shop around in the meantime. There’s still traditional publishing, among other alternatives for a writer with a platform. Amazon isn’t the only player in the game.

And yes, I am aware how one could say, ‘at least for now, there are options’. But I’d prefer not to end on such a morbid note. There are other online sellers like Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million providing similar publishing services. So the biggest question is not whether Amazon will rule the world, but if buyers and authors will continue to choose the Amazonian giant down the line. Can Amazon overcome its surplus of “good problems” so as to become more streamlined and author / reader friendly?

Well, that story is still an unfolding one. Happy Amazon Prime Day, everyone.