40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media – Day One Finished

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 10.29.45 PMThe day started well, with Skye Jethani‘s daily devotional waiting faithfully for me in my e-mail inbox when I awoke.  I read it, and then, since my family has not been doing very well with devotionals lately, I called everyone to the breakfast table.

Together, we read through Jethani’s devotional, which dealt with Luke 23: 27 & 28.  It focused on Jesus’ encounter with the women while he was carrying the cross to Golgatha.  They were weeping for him, but he told them to weep for themselves – and Jethani pointed out that Jesus had the chance to act like a victim, but instead he focused on the true victims, and he challenged his readers to do the same.  It led to a really nice discussion with the kids about times they’d felt like victims.

We went to church, and had a nice service at the international fellowship here in Shekou.  Afterwards, I came home to a quiet house.  My wife and daughter had a girl scout event, my older son was playing at a friend’s house,  and my toddler son had fallen asleep.  I wanted to see what sort of Christian television programming I could find, and went searching.

I quickly realized that watching Christian programming from China was not going to be easy.  Parables.tv – the Christian Netflix, as it bills itself – streams videos, but they are mostly the bottom of the barrel, quality-wise.  I’ll try to give them a go later, but the two that I started watching (some Christian “comedian”, and a really REALLY low budget movie about Samson) weren’t worth pursuing.  I tried Godtube, but again, didn’t find anything.  I perused the Cornerstone Network (home of The 700 Club and similar programming), but wasn’t in the mood for the perfect people in suits who smiled too much and talked too much about people being “anointed”.  I did find something about a Christian sitcom called “Pastor Greg”, but couldn’t find any way to watch it online.  Also, there were rumblings about a sitcom starring Stephen Baldwin, but again, nothing available online.  I checked the religion section on Amazon Prime, and there was absolutely nothing there worth watching.

People producing Christian programming, you guys really need to make your things available online.  Riot Studios, the makers of last year’s Believe Me, were brilliant with this – releasing their film simultaneously in the theaters and as a digital download.

I checked over on Christian Faithbook to see if anyone had acknowledged my new membership, and had a single request for friendship.  I’d even commented on one of the groups, but apparently the faithful Christians of Christian Faithbook rarely visit.

By this time, my toddler son woke up from his nap, and so I had to turn from the Christian media to my son.  My attempts to find decent Christian programming online?

there-is-no-try-only-failOne of the really fascinating things that has happened as a result of my announcing this challenge has been the pity exhibited to me by other Christians who also don’t see much of redeeming quality about the bulk of Christian media.  I received comment after comment from Christians telling me how sorry they are that I’m doing this to myself.

I was also fascinated by the folks who wrote encouraging me to consider all the great artists who are not famous for being Christians, but who were.  Tolkien, Hugo, Christie, etc.  One person even wrote, “there’s no excuse to imbibe bad art when you can have good art at the highest cultural level.”

Truth is, I hope to discover some new good art while wading through all the bad.

Interesting note on the day – I decided to prepare dinner, since I was home alone with the baby, and sat down on the computer to find a specific recipe.  Since I could only look on Christian websites, I discovered there are very few Christian websites that specialize in recipes.  This is ironic, considering how much Christian love to eat.

So, if you are a Christian looking for a niche – there you go.

I ended the day on an extremely positive note – watching Richard Ramsey’s The Song.  Here’s the trailer, if you don’t know it:

This movie is absolutely amazing.  Quite literally one of the best films of 2014, in my opinion.  I’m going to be writing a review on the film tomorrow, but you need to see it.  It was a great way to end the day.

Day 1 down, 39 days to go.

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Six Things to do after Downloading a Free Kindle Book

The best thing two things about owning a Kindle (or other e-reader) are (1) that you can carry a ton of books around in a tiny device and (2) so many free books are available.  I purposefully avoided the e-reader experience for years, because I loved the feel of holding a real book in my hands.  However, since I live overseas, I finally took the plunge and I’ve never looked back.

And the multitude of free books you can download on a Kindle!  It’s amazing, and fantastic!  I’ve spent quite a bit of time filling my Kindle with free books.  It’s a brave new world, indeed.

Thimblerig's Ark Cover ArtAnd then last March, I self-published my first novel.  Suddenly, one of those free books out there had my name on it.  And just as suddenly, the books in my Kindle device took on a different meaning.

Now, they weren’t just freebies meant to be downloaded and forgotten, they were dreams put to the page.  Each free book I’d downloaded now represented years of hard work.  Stories that had been taken from idea, to draft, to beta readers, to revision, to hard critiques, to killing the darlings, to more revision, to putting it aside and picking it up three years later, to becoming determined to finish even if it resulted in death, to typing until callouses formed on fingertips, until at last, that final copy emerged.

jpegThis is true of every single free book that you have downloaded, with the possible exception of Baboon Fart Story by Phronk.

And so, I want to make an appeal to you Kindle free ebook downloaders.  These are six things you can do after downloading a free Kindle book if you really want to help the authors who are giving you this free entertainment.

Understand that each step involves a bit more effort and investment on your part, but each will be increasingly appreciated by the author.

1)  Download the book!
It seems pretty obvious, but it needs to be said that if you see a book that looks interesting, go ahead and download it.  Self-published authors really want to see their books climb as high as possible on the Amazon lists, and your solitary download will help that to happen.  So if the book looks interesting to you, go ahead and hit that “buy now” button and get your free book.  That action alone will be doing the author a favor.

2)  Share the free book info with your friends

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.27.33 PMA book is only free for a limited time, and so the author is depending on you helping to spread the word in a timely fashion.  After you download, go ahead and share the info with your friends, and water the author’s attempts at grass roots marketing.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, whatever your social media outlet of choice – let folks know that an interesting-looking book is out there for free.  Just use Amazon’s handy share buttons.

3)  Actually read the book!

imgresThis is where it starts to get a bit more complicated.  As I said before, I also have a Kindle full of free books that I may or may not get to, but as we head into the new year, I am making a commitment to actually go through those books and give them a shot.  At some point, they looked like something I might want to read, so I should give them the benefit of the doubt.  Right?  Who knows?  I may discover a great new author!  This happened for me when I downloaded and actually read Marion Harmon’s Wearing the Cape – a great new take on the superhero genre.

4)  Write a review.

For some reason, this seems to be the most difficult step for people.  For example, I’ve given away literally a couple of thousand digital copies of Thimblerig’s Ark since it was first published back in March, and since that time, I’ve had 22 people write reviews.  It’s actually quite simple to write a review, but it might just be one of the most important things you can do for the writer – especially when they are self-published.

Understand, I’m not suggesting that you go all Kirk Cameron on this and inflate the reviews, but if you will actually take a moment and write an honest critique of the story, it will help immensely.  Even if your review is negative, it shows future potential readers that the reviews are honest.

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And don’t be intimidated by the idea of writing a review, because it doesn’t have to go into great depths.  For example, one of the reviews that Thimblerig’s Ark has received says simply, “Loved it….reminds me of Watership Down almost. Reading it to my son now! Good book to read to a class!”, and that was a great review!

5)  Buy the Book.

I know, I know.  The book was free, you downloaded it, shared it with your friends, read it, and reviewed it.  And now I have the gall to suggest that you drop some of your hard-earned cash on a book you’ve read?  As I said before, this is a list that involves increasing commitment.  As a writer, I am very happy when someone reads and reviews my book.  However, several friends told me that they could easily drop the $2.99, and that small support meant the world to me.

But what if the self-published author isn’t your friend?  It will still be a huge encouragement to them if you liked the book enough to actually take the time to invest in it.  Remember, they haven’t been contracted by some big publisher to write – they are writing because they love writing.  And if they are anything like me, they would love to be able to do it full time, and deliver new books year after year.  Certainly your one purchase won’t enable us to quit our day jobs, but it will be an enormous pat on the back and encouragement to keep on writing.

6)  Gift the Book.

And if you really, really liked the book, then take the plunge and order copies for your friends.  Give the print copy of the book as a gift!  Send it to friends for birthdays, or give it to your dad on Father’s Day, or to the ladies in your life on International Women’s Day.

This will accomplish several things.  First, it will be a financial support to the author as you purchase multiple copies.  Second, it will help get his or her writing out there to new potential readers.  Third, it will drive up sales, which will help the author to be taken seriously by others.

And you have to get friends and family gifts anyway, right?  Give a gift to a budding author at the same time.

So,intrepid Kindle downloaders, get out there and collect the free books.  But don’t stop there!  Read, review, spread the word, and actually buy some!  This is what will enable writers to continue doing what they love to do, and you’ll be able to continue reaping the benefits!

Author Nate Fleming at a book signing at the Bookworm, Chengdu, China - summer 2014

Author Nate Fleming at a book signing at the Bookworm, Chengdu, China – summer 2014

And – in the shameless self-promotion portion of this blog post, I’d ask that you go ahead and start by downloading my book, Thimblerig’s Ark, which is available for free until December 28, 2014!

 

Thimblerig’s Ark • FREE Christmas Download!

As a special Christmas gift to you, Thimblerig’s Ark will be available as a FREE Kindle download from December 24 to December 28, 2014 (PST)!  Please help spread the cheer by passing on the good news!  Share this exciting info on all your social media platforms.

If you tweet, you can just copy this onto your Twitter feed starting on Christmas Eve:

You know about , but not the animal’s story. It’s not what you’re expecting. Thimblerig’s Ark, FREE DOWNLOAD!

4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon!

“Thimblerig’s Ark is a really fun book with lots of action and lovable characters.” 4-LAN

“a great read, it kept me interested and I was completely invested in the story!” Lena K.

“Quirky characters set up a gentle tale with a solid message behind it.” Mark L.

“I’d recommend this book to animal lovers who like adventure stories with a touch of comedy.” stansby

“It has been a real pleasure to read this book full of adventure, humor, vivid and well developed characters…” Andrey

Thimblerig's Ark Cover ArtThimblerig is a little groundhog with big problems.

He’s a loner con-artist who’s losing his mojo; the wild dogs who run the forest harass him at every turn; he’s having vivid nightmares of apocalyptic floods; and worst of all, he believes he sees unicorns when everyone knows unicorns are only the stuff of legend.

But what one animal might call a problem, Thimblerig calls an opportunity.

In a moment of inspiration, he comes up with the ultimate con: persuade as many suckers as he can that a world-ending flood is coming; the fabled unicorns have told him where the only safe place will be; and only he can lead them to safety.

All for a reasonable price, of course.

When the flood really does come, Thimblerig has a choice: either save the ones who trusted him, or lose everything.

And that’s when he discovers that his problems have only just begun.

Inspired by an Irish pub song about why the unicorn missed out on Noah’s Ark, Thimblerig’s Ark is a Narnian-style fantasy novel that looks at how the animals all made it there in the first place, focusing on a con-artist groundhog named Thimblerig.

Coming soon:  Thimblerig’s Ark Book Two: Forty Days and Nights

 

It’s October… NaNoWriMo’s Coming! Are you ready?

It’s nearly the middle of October, which means one thing for thousands of people around the internet: almost time for Nanowrimo!

Nanowrimo stands for the National Novel Writing Month, and it is a free, non-competitive opportunity for writers all over the globe to go from zero words to 50,000 over the course of the month of November.

In short, it is the opportunity to write the first draft of a novel.

Started in 1999 in the San Fransisco bay area with a modest number of writers (21), Nanowrimo has grown to over 400,000 in 2013.  It is a serious occasion in the writing world, because it gives everyone – from first time wannabe writers to established and published writers – that most-needed phenomenon: a deadline.

But you don’t have anyone looking over your shoulder, no editors breathing down your neck, no teachers looking to see if you would meet your goal.  It’s just the writer and the computer and the imagination going wild.

And it’s a fantastic thing to do.

I first found out about Nanowrimo because of its now-defunct sister program, the Script Frenzy, where screenwriters worked on first drafts of film scripts over the month of April.  Unfortunately, that program was retired, but participating in the Frenzy led me to Nanowrimo.

Thimblerig's Ark Cover Art copyI’ve enjoyed Nanowrimo in two ways.  First, I was able to finally complete my novel, Thimblerig’s Ark, because a draft was written and edited during subsequent Nanowrimos.  Second, as an upper elementary teacher specializing in reading and writing, I’ve taken two classes of fifth graders through Nanowrimo through the Young Writers Program, and I’m currently preparing a class of 6th graders to go through the month of insane writing.  I’ve done this in international schools in Kazakhstan and China, and it’s been a huge success as I’ve watched ten and eleven year old children blossom as writers.

This is the wonderful thing about Nanowrimo – it gives us an excuse to do the thing that we could be doing at any time, but which we have a hard time actually sitting down and doing – writing without abandon.  In November, anyone (with understanding family members) can excuse themselves from the bulk of other responsibilities for thirty days while they get their story out of their head and onto the page.

And writing the first draft is the biggest challenge, isn’t it?

So if you are one of those people sitting around thinking that you would like to write The Next Great Novel, but you don’t have the time, consider taking part in Nanowrimo.  It won’t cost you a penny, but it might just be the thing that helps you to achieve that particular dream.

And you still have half a month to get yourself ready.  What are you waiting for?

Thimblerig Climbs Amazon Charts!

Thimblerig’s Ark is the 6th top best-seller in Amazon’s Children’s Literature and Fiction today!

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What an amazing story!

Today, the little un-represented, self-published book about a groundhog weathering the Great Flood has climbed to the top of Amazon’s charts, storming the free download section like the world’s coming to an end!

The best part?  You can help Thimblerig reach #1!

Here’s how:

1.  Download Thimblerig’s Ark for free yourself!

2.  Share the picture below with your friends, and encourage them to go and download Thimblerig’s Ark

3.  Be happy that you were part of something very cool!

4.  And after you read Thimblerig’s Ark, run back to Amazon and write a review.

The free download offer is open until September 14.

Thanks for supporting an indie author and self-publishing!

Free Thimblerig U2

The Computer Giant, The Rock Band, The Groundhog, and Free Downloads

I woke up this morning, like the rest of the internet, to the fascinating story that U2 and Apple had teamed up once again, and that U2 was offering their new album, Songs of Innocence, for free download on iTunes.  And the internet is still ringing with the shockwave that followed that announcement.

But, in the midst of the shock, one thing that most folks reporting this story seem to have missed is that 3D T'rig Cover no shadowapparently U2 and Apple apparently coincided their big news to apparently “drop” just a couple of days before Thimblerig’s Ark became available, also for free download!  

Coincidence?  There are no coincidences.

Not when the worlds of big computers and big music collide with the world of little-known self publishing animal-centered biblical fantasies.  When that happens, all bets are off.

To make matters even more compelling, Thimblerig was actually on hand in Cupertino for the big announcement!  He’d saved up his figs for several weeks to make it there, managed to get onto the stage, but before he could do anything he was forcibly removed by some blue-polo-wearing, no-necked, hipster-bearded Apple Genius thug.

You would think this scandal would be on the front pages of all the websites of the world!  You’d think that blogs would be picking it up and running with it!  You’d think that Matt Walsh would have written a scathing, insightful, controversial editorial about the incident by now!

But somehow Thimblerig’s sad story has been quietly swept under the carpet.

Thankfully, the great equalizer – the internet – will help us prove it.  After all, a picture posted on the internet is the best proof, right?  Remember the Derbyshire Fairy?  Hercules, the world’s biggest dog?

But I digress.  To the proof:  Here’s Thimblerig, trying to get Bono’s attention, right before the no-neck Apple genius hipster rushed him off the stage.

 

 

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Some people might think that this was all a stunt on Thimblerig’s part to try and get Bono to read Thimblerig’s Ark, or to get Tim Cook to release a new special edition purple iPod with Thimblerig’s paw print on the back.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  He just wanted to ask Bono to help get the word out about the free download of Thimblerig’s Ark, which will start on September 12 (PST) and run for three days!

In fact, as he was hoisted on the shoulder of the Apple genius-thug like an undignified sack of potatoes, Thimblerig reportedly screamed, “Just for three days!  You can download Thimblerig’s Ark for free just for three days!  It starts on Friday – Pacific Standard time!  Hey, can you guys play Bullet the Blue Sky?  Can you play Bullet the Blue Skyyyyy?Thimblerig Apple mug

But he was lugged out of the hall and straight into the Apple Company store, where he spent the rest of the afternoon playing Flappy Bird on a display iPad, and then bought a retro Apple coffee cup before heading home, dejected.

Now Thimblerig’s feeling down, feeling like he could have done more.

Well, he couldn’t.  He screwed up.

But you can help!   “How?” you might be asking your computer screen.  Well, if you would like to help Thimblerig’s morale, then you can do three simple things.

1)  Go to Amazon on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday (PST) and download Thimblerig’s Ark for free.  Then, if you like it, write a review!  Reviews are the bread and butter of non-U2-sized artists/authors.

2)  Share Thimblerig’s inspirational story with the world through your own social media outlets.  Take the picture below and post it all over the place!  Help get the word out!

3)  Finally, if you know the Edge, tell him Thimblerig apologizes for grabbing the sunglasses off his face.  He left them with a nicesunglasses person named Kip at the register in the Apple Company store.  Thimblerig is pretty sure Kip worked there.

There’s a good chance that none of the events in this story are true, that it’s some form of parody.  But what isn’t parody is that Thimblerig’s Ark really is available for free download (September 12 – 14), and we hope you’ll give it a try!

Especially if you are Bono.  That would be really, really cool.

Free Thimblerig U2And share this picture!