Starting Out As A Writer – 5 Things You Should Know

Starting out as a writer is exciting and worrisome all at the same time. It is an adventure than many enter blindly and without a specific plan. Here are five things that all new writers should know:

1) Pick a genre! Recently, I was talking to someone on Twitter, who told me that they weren’t sure what genre their work in progress fell into. When I asked them how far they had gotten, they told me they were already half way through. Eek! You must pick a genre and write to that audience. If not, it is going to be extremely hard to market your book in the future and convince people to read it!

2) Social media is your new best friend! Seriously, I’m not joking! Go sign up for a Twitter account, create a Facebook author page, join writing groups online, and get on Goodreads. Of course, there are other social media networks, but the three I mentioned are, in my opinion, the most important! Start finding other authors, people who enjoy reading your genre, editors, publishers, etc. Before your book is out, you want a following of people who will give your writing a chance. This will help increase your popularity in the literary world and increase your sales.

3) There are a ton of resources for writers online! Websites, blogs, and writing groups are all amazing! I highly recommend joining SCBWI! I met my critique group members and other amazing authors and illustrators after joining this awesome group!

4) Writer’s block is a reality and when it happens it sucks! In order to move past these horrible incidents, have a plan to get out of your writing funk. When I get stuck on a particular scene or just can’t figure out what I want to happen next, I do a number of things. I talk to my critique group members, I watch a movie for inspiration, or I read a book in the same genre by one of my favorite authors. All of these actions help propel me out of writer’s block!

5) Have a writing plan and set goals! For instance, my writing plan is to publish Grishma this February and write the next two books in the series this year. My goals are to write at least 3,000 words a week and continue to work with my critique group members.

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3 Things You Should Be Doing on Your Author Blog

It’s a basic truism these days that if you’re in any kind of business, you need to establish a blog. Great, you say! You run right out, sign up for a Blogger.com or WordPress.com account, or the more tech-savvy among us go into the Escher-esque maze that is the management software on our hosting services and manually install the WordPress software. Then, things get trickier. The blog is there, in theory, but once it’s up, what’s an indie writer to do?

Quality Content

Everyone talks about quality content and they’re right to do so. Any blog worth its readership offers something valuable to its readers. What makes for quality content, though? Non-fiction authors have a decided advantage here. There’s a good chance they write in a pretty narrow niche, be it molecular gastronomy or The Punic Wars, and the material becomes self-limiting by nature. As long as there is a clear connection between the content in the post and the writer’s general area of interest, they’re more or less golden. Fiction writers have a tougher row to hoe. A lot of us, me included, tend to default to writing about writing. Write what you know, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t much help in building up a readership. The people who are most interested in writing are other writers, not readers. Fortunately, even though most of us write about imaginary places, we tend to ground our work in the real world. If you’re a science fiction writer, you can talk about (and link to, by God) an article you read about some breakthrough that informed you’re writing. Romance writers can delve into anything related to relationships, from the latest in sex therapy to how relationship books tell them what kinds of things create tension in relationships. Basically, if you ever read something, saw something, or heard something that made you go, “I bet I could use that for X writing project,” you’ve got a blog post that you’re readers will probably be interested in reading. 

Talk, Don’t Write

In the olden days, generating video content was solely the purview of high-powered, well-financed production companies and a handful of dedicated amateurs willing to forego food in order to buy good equipment. Today, smart phones, web cams, and off-the-shelve digital video cameras (not to mention a whole lot of SLR cameras) can record perfectly acceptable video content for a fraction of the cost. Most computers come with basic video editing software pre-loaded and the world of shareware can generally make up any lingering deficits. “Wait,” you declare. “You want me to just talk to camera and then load it onto the web for anyone to see?” No and yes. On the no side of my answer, you’re video content, just like your written blog content, should say something relevant to your reader. Maybe you just saw the Hugh Howey interview in Wired and want to crow to the world about an indie writer success. Maybe you just saw a massive uptick in your own sales and you want to send out a more personal kind of thank you to your loyal readers.  Relevance is the key, regardless of medium. On the yes side, if you enjoy some success as an indie writer (or any other kind of writer) there will come a day when you must verbally interact with another person. Video blogging or vlogging lets you practice articulating your thoughts verbally, rather than textually. Also, human beings are visually cued creatures. A video will often hold attention where the written word does not. 

Do Marketing, But Casually

A lot of indie writers fall for the temptation to use their blog (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube accounts) as an advertising platform to flog their books relentlessly. The reality is that people who are regularly reading your blog probably already know about your book and there is a good chance they’ve already bought your book. If you beat your readers over the head with a constant barrage of marketing messages it will likely result in little more than alienated readers and a loss of future sales. You should absolutely blog about it when you’ve got a new book, article, or short story coming out. You should probably write more than one in the month or two leading up to its release. The rest of the time, though, let the marketing happen naturally. Marketing casually on your blog means creating a dedicated space on the blog that lists what things you have available and where to get them. For most indie writers, this space can simply be titled “Books,” “My Books” or something in that vein. Any new reader than comes to your blog and sticks around long enough to get interested by your incredible, highly-relevant posts will click on that page to see what you have to offer. 

Reviews on Bewitched

I thought it might be fun to publish some of the reviews on Bewitched made by some big-time reading blogsites. To begin with, Tara from “hobbitsies.net” let me blog for here. You can go to this link to see the questions and answers I gave regarding writing and Bewitched specifically. http://hobbitsies.net/2013/03/blog-tour-bewitched-by-mark-harris/ Here are a few sites where they announce the release of Bewitched:

http://wormyhole.blogspot.com/2013/03/blog-tour-bewitched-by-mark-j-harris.html
http://www.thereadiacs.com/bewitched-by-mark-harris-blog-tour
http://brookeblogs.com/?p=2651Here is a review of Bewitched: http://overflowingbookshelves.com/blog-tour-review-bewitched-by-mark-harris/

I didn’t know what to think of this story when I first read the synopsis. There are a lot of stories about witches but very few with a male protagonist that is fighting against the witches. I thought it’d be an interesting take on an old tale (witches and warlocks, good vs. evil) and I’m glad to say that it was.

I got drawn into the story right along Darren, I wanted to know if Samantha was a witch (and I had some questions about Andrea as well). I liked the interplay between the characters, it seemed like they were really in high school with petty jealousies flaring up, girlfriends worried about their relationships, and the guys worried about make State Finals in basketball. When you add the paranormal elements to the story, the story and the characters got more fleshed out. One of the most overlooked characters (especially at the beginning), but became one of my favorites was Crissy. There was just something about her even though we really don’t get to see her that much in the first third of the book. For those few pages she was in and the few sentences she uttered, she intrigued me. I was glad that my liking her was vindicated in the latter half of the book. It just reminded me that the most unexpected things can come in small packages.

The only had an issue with two things in the book: keeping the characters separate in my mind at the beginning of the book and the introduction of Darren’s powers. I know the story is set in high school but there were times when it was really hard to keep track of who was important in Darren’s circle of friends. When we’re first introduced to them we meet around
six new characters all at once, all of who are cheerleaders or basketball players. Even though the names were different it was I found myself having to stop and figure out who exactly these characters were to Darren. It got better, though, as the story continued and Harris fleshed his characters out more.

The other issue, the introduction to Darren’s powers, was a little rushed in my mind. I know Darren’s been hearing these stories for years from his grandfather (so the idea of magic isn’t that hard for him) but I, as the reader, have not been privy to these stories. As such, when Darren is being introduced to this whole new world I had trouble keeping up at times. There was a lot of information revealed in a short period of time that I was left wondering how it all interconnected. But like before, Harris does a good job of showing what is important to the story line.

Overall I liked the book and am interested in seeing where Harris goes next with the story.

Another review: http://lustforstories.blogspot.com/2013/03/review-bewitched-by-mark-jay-harris.html

Bewitched is an urban fantasy story told from a male perspective. Darren’s just a typical teenage boy, but with a less than
happy life at home. His brother’s dead, and his parents have withdrawn into a half-life. How could it get worse? What’s even worse is that he’s actually part of this “magical” group that makes him think his family’s bonkers. 

To be completely honest, I liked darren’s perspective, but just liked. Though Mark Jay Harris created a comfortable character to read, I didn’t feel like he had that grit of a teenage boy. Darren’s monologue and dialogue didn’t feel entirely real, and while I find that alright, he could’ve used an extra edge to make Darren a real character that I could sympathize with and connect to.

While I do find Darren’s character a bit lacking in the “real” sense, I admire Harris’ ability to mesh different characters together in a way that creates texture. Do you know what I’m talking about? No? In simpler words, Harris creates characters
to provide different feelings, different atmospheres for his readers. That’s something to be admired.

As a conclusion, yes, Bewitched may have some points that can do with a bit of improvement, but for a first novel, this is a truly exciting read. The world-building, different characters can all easily suck one in, and I’m glad that Inkspell Publishing, who are amazing, gave me this opportunity to be a tour host for Bewitched!

And another good review: http://jackiesbookworld.blogspot.com/2013/03/book-tour-review-bewitched-thaumaturgy.html

The story starts of with Ethan’s funeral, Darren’s brother, who at the time was a normal high school student until he started seeing weird things happening around him that he could only see. Unaware of what was happening to him, he decides to
ignore them, but it was hard to do so when his grandfather start telling him what he is and what he is destined to do. The story takes off from there, and it becomes one with twists and turns that left me wanting for more. It was well written, full of action, secrets and surprises. When a new girl, Samantha, enrolls as a student in the same high school, Darren is left to wonder whether or not there is a reason why she was there. The interactions that he has with those closest to him are vital in order to fulfill his destiny, they all play an important role in his life. The complexity of the characters make the story just
that much more interesting and exciting to read. Mark’s use of detail and history (with a twist) made the story believable. The ending left me wanting for more. Overall, Mark Harris has created a world that is exciting, where witches, demons, and those that are after the witches coexist. From the first page to the last, I was able to go into this world that he has created with so much detail. I was intrigued and bewitched by this story, and I can’t wait to read the next book of the series, “The Return of the Familiar.”

It gets mentioned her and includes a long excerpt:
http://www.readergirlsblog.com/2013/03/the-watcher-and-bewitched-power-blog.html

Here’s a really great review: http://www.leisurereads.com/bewitched-mark-jay-harris/

With a book cover showcasing a boy playing with fire, I sort of assumed the protagonist would be somebody who had already mastered the art of fire magic …

I was wrong.

Darren leads a relatively normal life.  He is a basketball team player.  He has a few good friends.  He likes to have fun and he has a pretty girlfriend.  Life on the outside seems good but he knows his parents are still mourning the death of his big brother.  When he discovers the secret compartment in his big brother’s room and retrieves its content, he knows his dying grandfather has been telling him tales that are not fabricated but real.  Being a part of an ancient order, the “Pessum Ire”, whose duty is to destroy witches, Darren feels helpless – his grandfather is not in the right state of health to be his mentor and he has no idea how to prepare himself to face the evil witches.  Will he suffer the same tragic death just like his big brother?

I must say I was a little disappointed at first when I learned that Darren did not know what he could possibly do to tap into his supernatural power.  It’s like he’s so clueless about himself.  How can he be so powerless??  I was baffled, but as I read and got to know him a bit better, I started to see him more as a determined survivor and less as a frustrated teenager.  No
doubt, it’s unfortunate that he had no one to “show him the way” but it didn’t necessarily mean he had a lesser chance to stay alive.

In the story, Darren suffers not just from his ill-fated duty, but also from betrayals of those who are around him.  I’m pretty marveled by the number of evil witches that are in disguise and because Darren is not trained to discern witches from normal people, he is defenseless.  But I like that Darren never uses his lack of training as an excuse to enslave himself as a
helpless victim.  His determination to get out of his mess opens him to uncover a world of allies, magic and power and I like that the outcome and reward are both pleasing and satisfactory.

I guess what intrigues me the most is that I could never be certain about whether a person is a true friend or foe until the very last page of the book.  The hint of what’s truly evil lies not just in those who are power hungry but also in the deceptive, self-fulfilled nature of foresight and prophecy.  There are so many intricate layers to the plot that I can’t help but be amazed.

And while my assumption about Darren being this skilled teenager with fire magic was not entirely accurate, the image on the book cover does capture the essence of the climactic moment of the story.  Although I feel somewhat relieved that
most of the evil people are now identified, I know something devilishly sinister is looming and I look forward to reading the next installment when it’s available.

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Here are five tips for scaling the editing wall:

1. Do not read too many editing books while you are editing.

A book I would recommend for editing your own drafts is Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott BellIt’s a fantastic book and should help in many ways.  The other book I would recommend is Donald Mass’s Writing the Breakout NovelThis  is like a Bible for authors. Especially first-time authors who want to knock their first book out of the park. Donald Mass is brilliant and his book is excellent, but reading it while you are editing will put the pressure on. It makes you really want to do the writing equivalent of hitting that home run in the bottom of the 9th–in the World Series.

Imagine learning baseball and expecting that kind of performance. But really, wouldn’t you have to learn to play baseball first? That might mean hitting a lot of flyballs.

Truth is, there are tons of great books on editing, tons of websites giving advice. If you want to read them, do, but take it in small doses. Read one chapter or maybe two, and do a round of edits. Then rest and read some more.

2. Give your manuscript time to breathe.

One of the first pieces of advice I got was to wait at least a week before reading the manuscript. I waited a day. As a result, I had no objectivity and overwhelm came in pretty quick. You have to give your manuscript time, which means slowing down.

3. Switch to a different tactile sensation.

Lots of us spend time in front of our computers. Too much time. Take time away. Print your MS on paper and read it. Make notes in the margins. Use colored pens. Then read it again. This time, make chapter scene notes on index cards (it keeps you brief). Write it on colored paper, with colored pens. Then you can arrange things and see if the order needs changing. I don’t have the science behind it, but it seems to bring about a kinesthetic approach, which is good for adult learning, and opens up new ways of thinking.

4. Take time off and be physical.

Go for a walk. Go do some yoga. Go for a run or to the gym, or even get a pedicure or massage. Letting off some steam not only helps you deal with stress, but it will pull you into a different state of mind, one that will process your story differently and give you more perspective. I also find that doing something physical reminds me of the world around me, which we forget when we’re in the minds of our characters. But if we don’t experience the world, we can’t experience it for them.

Seriously, live a little. It’s good for you.

5. Put your unconscious mind to work.

You know the old expression, “sleep on it”? Apparently, it really works. I read somewhere once about a study showing that people make better decisions if they meditate or sleep on something.  Take a nap, a hot bath, or meditate. There’s a great article on how meditation increases creativity here.

Final note:

Above all, the best way to avoid overwhelm is to trust yourself and your process. if you are creating or doing things that are new to you, it will be uncomfortable at first, but that’s all part of learning how you work. You are the best at figuring out what works for you. It’s an ongoing thing.

Thanks for visiting today! If you have have tried any of these tips and they’ve worked for you, please share in the comments below. Or, if you have worked through editing overwhelm in a different way, please let me know. I’m always looking for new ways to improve my own process.


“Bewitched is spell-binding! A highly-unique page-turner that hooks you from the first paragraph. With complex characters and unexpected twists and turns, Harris delivers and leaves you hoping for more!” – Stephanie Keyes, Author, The Star Child series


Is it love or is it  witchcraft? He’ll never find out if he kills her first.

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The first time Darren saw Samantha, she was floating above his high school gymnasium during a basketball game, invisible to everyone but him. Next time he sees her, she’s sitting in front of him in class, wowing his friends and causing unexplainable things to happen that only he seems to notice. But things really  get strange (and complicated) when his dying grandfather tells him that he is part of an ancient order, the “Pessum Ire,” whose duty is to destroy witches. What does he do now, since he’s almost positive Samantha is a witch…and he’s
crushing on her pretty hard?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Harris lives in Smithfield Utah, a small town located in a beautiful valley in Northern Utah. His wife, Shaundale, and he have four terrific children, two girls and two boys and a fifth one due to arrive in November of 2012. Mark has taught English and Special Education and currently works from home teaching English to people from all over the world. Writing has always been his true passion since he was a grade schooler writing about mushrooms. “Bewitched” will be his debut novel. He has two others underway and will soon start on the sequel to “Bewitched,” called “The Return of the Familiar.” He hopes you enjoy his work because he is working on several series geared toward younger audiences.

Book available on all major outlets: AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo and The Book Depository or enter below for a FREE COPY!
So…Do you believe in witches? Completely or are you somewhat skeptical? Darren fell in love with a witch and it gets him in all sorts of trouble as you’ll find out in my book, coming out this Friday, March 1, 2013.  In the meantime, let’s see what everybody thinks.
While here, why not join my blog?
Do you believe in witches?

Yes, and I can prove it
No, don’t be ridiculous
Yes, she turned me into newt
No, but vampires are real
Maybe, I know this weird lady
Yes, I’m married to one!
Total Votes : 8
  Post Comments

Create a Survey
Check out the latest cover for Stephanie Keyes up coming novel release: THE FALLEN STARS. Looks like an excellent addition to her series with a beautiful cover!

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“Imaginative and fast-paced. Couldn’t put it down!” –  E.G. Foley, New York Times Bestselling author of The Gryphon Chronicles 

“This well-written and intriguing fantasy was a delight to read. I can’t wait to read the second novel
in this
 series!”
 – Linn B. Halton, author Never Alone on The Star Child by Stephanie Keyes

When all is lost, he will have to make the ultimate decision.


Kellen St. James was just your average seventeen-year-old prodigy, until he eighty-sixed the Lord of Faerie and proposed to a Celtic goddess. Now everything in Kellen’s life gets turned upside-down when Calienta, Kellen, and friend, Gabriel Stewart, find themselves on the run from a seriously irritated group of faeries. The worst part? They have zero idea why.
Suddenly, Kellen finds himself stuck in the middle of another prophecy that questions everything about him including where his loyalties lie. Plus, Calienta’s more than a bit different; she’s making choices that he doesn’t understand. And Gabe, his best friend? He’s started doing all sorts of freaky
things that make Kellen question who he really is.Kellen and Calienta will fight to stay together and keep the hidden part of the prophecy from becoming reality.

When the ultimate power is within reach, which side will he  choose?

Release Date: 12-April-2013, Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Sounds good? If you liked Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, Need by Carrie Jones, or Fallen by Lauren Kate, you will love this book!

About the Author:

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Stephanie Keyes has been addicted to Fantasy since she discovered T.H. White as a child and started drumming up incredible journeys in her head. Today, she’s still doing the same thing, except now she puts those ideas down on paper.
When she’s not writing Stephanie is also a graphic designer, presenter, teacher, musician, avid reader, and Mom to two little boys who constantly keep her on her toes. In addition, she’s best friend to her incredible husband of eleven years.

Keyes is the author of The Star Child YA Fantasy series, which currently includes The Star Child andThe Fallen Stars. She is currently hard at work on the third book in the trilogy.


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Here’s Watson with his cousin Sampson. Watson is 2 1/2 months old in this shot. His cousin Sampson is exactly 2 months older than he is. They are both in the arms of their Nana and Papa. They are wearing their matching “Monster” p.j.’s they got from Nana and Papa for Christmas (which also matches the pajamas of my other boys, Chi and Talmage). 

Watson looks a little smaller than Sampson but he’s still a cute little “monster!” I think Matt, my brother-in-law, took the picture and managed to capture them both grinning (Watson and Sampson, not Nana and Papa). Good job Matt!!


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Look at this fine piece of work! I love it! The cover of BEWITCHED turned out fantastic! I’m very excited about this final product.
The look of the main character – “Darren” came out just how I envisioned him. I didn’t see him exactly how the artist rendered him, with Justin Bieber hair wearing a hoodie, but conceptually it is spot-on. According to my description in the book, it’s actually quite accurate.
Plus, the fire in the hands looks intriguing and mystical – just like it should. How does this scene relate to the book? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out, but it’s very important to the story. Let me just say that historically witches were burned to death…hmmm…
What is that kid thinking?!? You’ll have to wait until March 1st, 2013 to find out for sure. 
The blurb:
The first time Darren saw Samantha she was floating above his high school gymnasium during a basketball game, invisible to everyone but him. Next time he sees her she’s sitting in front of him in class, wowing his friends and causing unexplainable things to happen that only he seems to notice. But things really get strange (and complicated) when his dying grandfather explains to him that he
is part of an ancient order, the “Pessum Ire,” whose duty is to destroy witches. What does he do now since he’s almost positive Samantha is a witch…and he’s crushing on her pretty hard? 
Thanks for dropping by and taking a look. And while here take a look around. Here’s the link to the first chapter if you want to whet your appetite:BEWITCHED CH. 1

Watson

01/11/2013

1 Comment

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So, today I changed my baby’s diaper. I’ve changed it before, so it’s not like a big “Oh, he finally helped out with the baby!” kind of thing. Of course, Shaundale, my wife, changes Watson more than I do. Yes, we named him after Sherlock Holmes’ friend and confident. The name grows on you after a while.In any case, I change Watson’s diaper from time to time and I’ve found that when I do, I seem to have the same thought run through my head. As I unsnap the bottom of his sleeper, then unsnap the snaps on his onesy, suddenly I feel like I’m in a timed competition. I rip his diaper off him like it’s on fire, whip the clean diaper underneath him and slap the velcro stips across the front. I snap the onsey back in place like his and my lives depend on it being done before the next tick of the clock. Now I’m cramming his legs back into his sleeper like a person making sausage, and snapping the snaps back in place – sometimes snapping a leg snap to a crotch snap, correcting myself and muttering to myself about this unexcusable loss of time, thinking he’d be fine snapped together in a tangle, and only correcting my mistake because my score won’t count if he’s not put back together correctly. Finally, the last snap is snapped into it’s correct place and I raise my hand like a calf roper who has just trussed a baby cow in record time.

I have yet to actually time myself, so I don’t know if I’m breaking any old records from day-to-day, but it doesn’t stop me from looking at changing a diaper as a rodeo event. And at the end of each change I feel as if I have just had numbers posted on a huge digital board above some stall in a stadium.  “And the winner is, Watson’s Dad!!!”


Okay, I know everyone has something to say about the movie rendition of “Les Miserables” but I want to add my take on it.For my birthday the other day my wife took me (along with her family) to see the movie.

I loved the new approach to a musical, having the actors sing their parts lending all the emotion of the part to the song and recording it live as they perform – then going back and adding the
music later. I think it made the performance and the music much more powerful
than it would have otherwise been.

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JESUS TO SANTA CLAUS

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To My Intellectual Friends who have Left the Church

Friend, I believe it is a one-sided argument with you. By supporting religion, Mormon or otherwise, I am automatically at odds with you and homosexuality. Perhaps that is true. However, I feel the same with you and your friends. They treat anyone who believes in the Savior as someone who hasn’t thought it through, non-intellectual idiots who are kept down because of the foolish beliefs of their fathers, etc.

I know there is no way to intellectually “prove” God exists. That was the reason the Spirit and testimony were so important while teaching the Gospel. Nevertheless, I’m going to present an intellectual approach as to why I think you must believe in God. I know it may be a total waste of time because I have lost so many of my smartest friends to their superior intellects. I’m not being sarcastic. Many of my smartest friends, much smarter than me, I admit, have left the Church because they have come to rely solely on their intellect when it comes to accepting God. I know there are plenty of historical curiosities in the life of Joseph Smith. I’ve had many friends present them to me, and I have read many on my own. I know you cannot “prove” the existence of God. I know that there are many strong arguments to support evolution (as I have said before, I don’t count it out…I’m merely open minded at this point). I could go on and I’m sure you have many, many more intellectual reasons than I to “prove” that there can be no god. In any case, notwithstanding all that, I submit the following logical approach to the existence of God.

1. Either you believe there is evil in the world or you do not. This is a very important question. If there is no evil, then, of course there is no good or righteousness. This isn’t just a clever argument from the Book of Mormon, it is dead on correct. You can’t punch a hole in it logically.

If there is no evil, then no one can do anything “wrong.” No one can just decide what is unacceptable and what is acceptable – if I molest children it isn’t “wrong,” or “evil.” At the most I may be considered mentally ill, but even that doesn’t make sense because by what standard can you make such a judgment? Even “misguided” doesn’t apply because according to whom would I be misguided? The majority? That won’t fly – I would think as a homosexual you would be keenly aware of that. The majority can be wrong. We may live by a majority decision on a lot of things, but that still doesn’t make right or wrong.

With that in mind, there are three undeniable facts:

1. We exist and are here on earth.

2. Whether God gave it to us or not, one way or the other we all have free agency.

3. Everyone lives by faith.

Number 3 you may not agree with, and yet, many things you have said actually support it. Nothing can be “proven” completely. We may live by what we see repeated day after day, for example, that the sun will come up, that plants will grow, that gravity will keeps us from flying off the planet, but we can’t know these things are real. You can’t deny that what our senses tell us can be tricked. If you’ve ever seen a good magician, you know you can be completely fooled by what your eyes and ears tell you. In the end, for all we know, we’re all sitting in Petri dishes dreaming all this. I once told Mike Hofhine that if I said, “Let lightning strike that tree,” and it happened, he could very easily claim it was coincidence. An amazing coincidence, but nothing more. How do you prove it was God’s will or a coincidence? You don’t, you either accept one or the other – free agency. But, still, in most aspects of our lives, we all live by faith that what we observe is, for the most part, reliable reality. In other words, we accept that the sun is coming up tomorrow as truth, and that we are here on earth in bodies not in Petri dishes dreaming.

We all ask ourselves how we got here, why we’re here and where are we going? It’s normal. As thinking beings, we can’t help it.

That leaves us with either three possible responses:

a). There is a God who made us and everything and left us with a plan to follow. From there of course you’re left with all the religions to choose from, but I won’t get into that here.

b). There is a God, but he has yet to reveal himself. Until he reveals himself (in some unprecedented way – leaving no doubt) it is okay to believe their is no God. (This choice circumvents the knowledge that we all live by faith and that God’s existence would also have to be accepted on terms of faith)

c). There is no God. Our existence came about through an accident of nature, developed through accidental evolutionary mutations (meaning absolutely no guidance from a higher power). When we die we are forever done with. That was it, a happy mistake of consciousness which ceases at death.

I have to tell you, if you believe in (c) above you have much more faith in a belief than I do. I can’t get my head around that one at all. The idea that we got there from a design is much more believable to me than a phenomenal super-accident.

But, that aside, I suppose that you might have another option. That there are other options than the three I’ve presented here. If that is the case, I’d like to know what it is. I can’t for the life of me think of anything that wouldn’t fit under one of those three.

The point I’m making is that if all is accidental mutation, then there is no purpose to life. If life just happened, and will eventually disappear and cease to be, then we are without purpose. If we are without purpose then there are no rules we need to be subject to because no one will hold us accountable. If we aren’t held accountable we need not worry about hell, punishment, or being counter to some God’s commandments. In brief, no matter what we do, it is okay, or not wrong, because there is no wrong.

This leads me back to the Gay Issue which you champion almost daily on your FB pages. [I love it, by the way, when you post things about your family. It’s not controversial and it is nice to hear about your kids. I don’t like hearing about how your family has been unfair to you. I fully believe you are good parent and an excellent father. I can tell you love your children and that they love you. I believe Gays should have every “right” afforded straight people. No one should be abused or misused for religious, sexual orientation, race or many other reasons. However, I do believe in judging others. Yes, you’re a fool if you don’t judge others. I wouldn’t go into a motorcycle gang’s bar because I judge that to be dangerous and foolish action. There are some kids I don’t want my children to play with because I think they are bullies. We all judge others based on our beliefs and desires and based on how they act, and how they present themselves, even the words they use. But we’re not supposed to judge others!! Technically, that thought doesn’t apply to anyone who has no religious teachings, or doesn’t believe in the foolish beliefs of their fathers. You may believe that just because it makes sense, or you were raised to believe so. In any case, I would think that wouldn’t bother you. It doesn’t bother me either. God said judge righteously because by the same judgment you will be judged. I know you don’t necessarily worry about that standard when making judgments, but you might still appreciate it.]

Friend, you and your friends have all judged religion as incorrect, at least from what I can tell about your posts. They are all in error, or are false. They are not true. However you want to state it, that is your belief. I judge that my religion is true and that there are many things that people do which go contrary to what God has taught us – homosexual behavior being one. But, just because I don’t struggle with homosexuality personally, don’t think I don’t have things I DO struggle with. Right now, in my family, the Church has done something that is effecting my brother and his son, and me also. I fully disagree with it. I also struggle with the Church’s stance on immigration. I have issues to deal with you don’t know about and which I don’t wish to share here – deeply personal things which are between me and God. My impression is that when it comes to God, homosexuals feel singled out when it comes to their challenges.

I do respect your situation. And, I don’t wish to deal with it myself or with my children. I do feel for you on that level. I think it is an extraordinary challenge, having same sex attraction and living according to the Gospel…perhaps impossible. I too would probably look for error in Christianity and leave it also. I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t. But, that wouldn’t mean Christianity or Mormonism is wrong. It would mean that I ran into a conflict I could not resolve. I’m not going to budge and God’s not willing to budge, and I can’t continue in the path I’m on…so…using my free agency, God’s wrong.

I don’t know if homosexuality is learned, inborn, nature, nurture, or otherwise, but I’ve come to a conclusion about that. It doesn’t matter. Being tempted or desiring something isn’t a sin. I’ve had crazy ideas and desires. I’ve wondered why I must struggle with them. Why did God make me this way? Why is it wrong in the first place? Where do these thoughts and desires come from? Does God put them there or the devil, or are they chemical chemical reactions in my brain and nothing more? In the end, it doesn’t matter. And they don’t make me evil. Remember the sins the Lord was tempted to do at Satan’s hand. They didn’t make him evil in God’s sight. It is only acting on “wrong” impulses which are sins.

I cannot sleep with my neighbor’s wife, no matter how beautiful and sexy she is. It doesn’t matter if we LOVE each other and it doesn’t matter that her husband beats her. It doesn’t matter that her husband has cheated on her, or that my wife is a shrew. It doesn’t matter that she is my soul mate, or that I am willing to leave my family to have her. It also doesn’t matter that I will never be happy or satisfied unless I can have her.

The natural man is an enemy to God. I can’t speak for all religions, but I do know the Mormon faith is that there is a purpose to life and, put succinctly, it is to rise above our “natural” selves to become more like God. It should be no surprise that his commandments or his instructions to us are difficult. Many go counter to our first impulses. We have to teach kids not to hit, not to steal, not to harm others, not to hate, etc. It is not innate.

Friend, you say that my comments are condescending. I didn’t mean for them to be that way. My belief in the Savior being compared to Santa Claus was, to say the least, belittling. I hold no malice toward your friend in this regard, but I want for him to have the happiness again I feel he has lost. My purpose in writing all this isn’t to win the “argument” as it were, but to hopefully spark something that will remind you of the joy that is promised and be had here in this life. That there is a reason we are here and that this life is not it. We are not accidentally found here on this planet only to disappear in the future.

Even now I ask you to ask yourself, do you truly believe that this life is it? That you won’t go on after death? Your consciousness that is. Every man has an eternal part to him and it has nothing to do with fear of ceasing to exist.

Free agency is yours and will never be taken from you. Every man must decide what he will believe. That is perhaps the only thing forced on us: we must believe something. If we live by faith, why not believe in the most happy possible outcome?

My faith does teach of a God who came to earth to suffer and die for the sins of humanity. All men and all sins. Yes, we do commemorate and remind ourselves of that sacrifice weekly by partaking of emblems of that sacrifice. Emblems are merely tools to reminds us and teach us. Seeing them as barbaric is to miss the point entirely. We consume these emblems in order to make something part of ourselves in an effort to try to become something greater than we are.

We are not animals nor accidents. We are sons and daughters of a loving God. He knows our struggles and our pains. One more reason for His sacrifice – so that we could come to him with these problems, these hurts, these horrible challenges. This is why I can’t let what the Savior did be compared to Santa Claus. This is why I say your friend has not understood the Gospel teachings he once taught. It’s also why I say even something as difficult and harsh as having same sex attraction must not be acted upon in this life.

I don’t wish you pain or difficulty. I pray for you Friend. I don’t understand why God gave you such a horrible challenge in this life. I even understand why you would leave the Church over this. As I said, I don’t think I could handle such a struggle either. But, it doesn’t make the Church untrue.

I’ll finish now with this final word. Religious people are not stupid, unthinking people who haven’t thought their beliefs through. We don’t believe what we believe simply because we were taught that and are afraid of going contrary to our fathers. Mormons/Christians don’t hate homosexuals or wish you ill. We do want you to continue to fight your “natural man” like we hope to do as well. (We aren’t necessarily the best at it either. And I apologize for any of the Saints who have willfully offended you. They are wrong and I am sorry they have done that. Truly.) We are all struggling in this life and we all need the support of each other.

I will always consider you a friend and hope you find no offense in my words.