Heaven is for Real--for kids as told by Colton Burpo


This is a story that you truly need to read to your kids. It ultimately answers all those questions asked by children when someone dies in the family or the favorite pets dies. Those questions we dread to answer because it is so difficult to form words that will bring peace to our children. A person is there, and then the body remains but there is no life. Where does the life go?

Colton Burpo knows beyond any doubt what happens when you die and he remembered to tell his folks who wrote it down and then Thomas Nelson published the story. Buy the CDs, buy the book for adults first and then buy this one to read to your children. It is worthy, and I know it is true, for I know there is Heaven because God says it is so.

If you do not believe there is Heaven, then read it first. If you do not believe after reading this, then I'm sorry I won't see you when we all get to Heaven on that glorious day.

Heaven is for real, and you are going to like it!
Colton Burpo came back from his trip to heaven with a very important message: Jesus really, really loves children. In effort to reach even more families with this eternally significant story, this runaway bestseller is now told from Colton—kid to kids! Children will receive the same comfort and assurance that so many adults have received from the trade book.

Beautifully illustrated, under Colton's direction, this book is uniquely written from a child for a child. Colton tells of his experiences in first person and comments on things that will be important to kids. A letter to parents is included to guide them in talking to their children about heaven. Scripture along with Q&A section with answers from the Bible are also included in the book.


Branding Obamessiah by Dr. Mark E. Taylor

An amazing book.
I first thought this book would be extolling all the unique qualities and so-called perfectness of Obama. Nothing could be further from the truth of this insightful book.

Taylor has concisely boiled down all the elements of the political arena such as American culture and advertising, and he helps the Average Joe to understand all the subtle nuance of this man-created, supposed savior of America. Taylor exposes some of the lies with simple eyewitness accounts such as someone from Obama's high school having  a completely different set of memories than offered by Obama in his writings. (Several classmates remember he actually did not take part in discussions of racial prejudice in high school.)

"Obama's criticism of 'white folks' did not seem justified by his own personal experience. The irony is palpable" (p. 99) points out Taylor. The man and the message do not make a whole truth, but variations and subtle colorings of truth (pun intended).

If you take a hard look at the photo on the cover, you'll see the kind of subliminal messages the campaign presented to unsuspecting voters. The whole message designed by Obama and the Democrats was so ingenious that even conservative radio host Mark Levin noted, "I can't help but observe that even some conservatives are caught in the moment as their attempts at explaining their support for Barack Obama are unpersuasive and even illogical" (p. 166). Taylor, through intensive research exposes all the tricks and idiosyncrasies of a political campaign that is filled to over flowing, shaken and packed down with religious fervor of the wrong kind.

If you weren't watching, Obama's rallies were organized like ole-timey tent revivals complete with the greeting, "Hello, Believers!" and the Q & A type of motivational, preaching. "You hear what I'm saying?" "Oh, yeah, brother, oh yeah!" There were even some who were "slain in the Obama-spirit", fainting as if on cue for the cameras. Taylor doesn't stop an one documented example but gives the reader ten accounts then asks the question were these eyewitness reports of "slain" devotees legitimate? Excellent question.

This isn't necessarily an expose' of Obama or Democrat tactics, but more an expose' of how the religion of politics has evolved. (Another excellent book which exposes this kind of political/media shuffle is Sarah Palin's Going Rogue.)

This book receives five of five stars. I highly recommend it, and beg you to read it before this presidential election proceeds any farther.


Mark Edward Taylor (PhD, Northwestern University Graduate School; ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a native Chicagoan who has long followed Windy City politics, culture, and religion. While teaching college courses on communication and culture, he discovered that Barack Obama’s US presidential campaign was becoming a dramatic story of quasi-religious persuasion and belief. Mark immersed himself in the unfolding political drama. Using his skills in theology and rhetorical criticism, Mark dedicated five years to capturing the story behind Obama’s ascension from backroom Chicago politics to the heavenly realm of a presidential American idol—Obamessiah.

Read more about Mark, including why he wrote the book, in the online author Q&A and in the introduction to the book.


God, Am I A Nobody? by Sheryl Young

I had the opportunity to read this wonderful devotional by Sheryl Young. You might have read my review of her last book, What Every Christian Should Know About The Jewish People. If not, click on the link because it is a great book.

Sheryl is offering something a bit different in that you have a daily dose of Christ-like wisdom about things we face as we work for the Lord:

In today’s world, personal accomplishment gets all the accolades. Economic stability seems elusive or unsatisfying. It’s hard for us to put God’s will before worldly success. Sometimes:
-God doesn’t let us do something, so we try to do it ourselves.
-There’s a mountaintop experience when we least expect it.
-And sometimes we “labor in obscurity… while He lets others get the credit.”
This last quoted statement is from nineteenth century missionary Hudson Taylor’s sermonette, A Higher Calling. Taylor, an Englishman, devoted his life to serving the people of China and challenging other Christians to put the Lord first.

While everyone has these moments, not everyone has the wisdom to overcome Satan's tug toward worldly desires and fleshly appetites. I have often written about the ability we Christians have to make idols of church, church work, our families and other Church Lady things. Take for instance Chapter Thirteen...

O God, Behold our shield, and look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand (Psalm 84:9-10a).

How often have we used church work as an excuse for not meeting with God? If you are honest, you'll look back and note at least once this has happened. If you haven't done this, then you will so don't be so smug :)

Sheryl points out the story of Martha always in the kitchen while Mary sits at Jesus' feet. Jesus does chide Martha just a bit, and we can see why for Jesus wasn't long on this earth in His physical body. Mary certainly chose the thing I crave the most, sitting at His feet and learning from His own lips. As the priest told Romeo, "There shalt thou be happy."

You can purchase this book...
“God, Am I Nobody” at the publisher in paperback or e-book:
or at Amazon Kindle 


Sheryl Young has been freelance writing for magazines, newspapers and the internet since 1997. Her special interests are Politics, U.S. Government, Society and Education as they intersect with biblical faith. Her articles and stories have been seen in such venues as: Yahoo News, The Christian Post, Chicken Soup for the Soul, the Florida Baptist Witness Newspaper, VISTA National Sunday School Curriculum; Light & Life Magazine and Better Nutrition Magazine. She’s been a Community Columnist for the Tampa Tribune Newspaper, Florida Spokesperson for Concerned Women for America, and the recipient of a First Place “Roaring Lambs” National Writing Award from the Amy Foundation.

In connection with being a Jewish believer in Jesus, Sheryl wrote the previous book, “What Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish People” (2008, Pleasant Word/Wine Press). (here:, or at Amazon and most online booksellers).

You can see her blogsite at, where she posts some of her articles and also spotlights other Christian small-press and self-published authors.


Randy Ingermanson interviews James Scott Bell

4) Marketing: An Industry Pro Goes E

The e-book revolution is roaring in even faster than predicted by e-enthusiasts. A few facts will make clear what I mean:

A-list novelist David Morrell recently self-published his novel THE NAKED EDGE on Amazon, in Kindle and audio formats only.

A-list marketing guru Seth Godin is due today, March 1, 2011, to self-publish his next book, POKE THE BOX, simultaneously in hardcover and e-format.

In January of this year, self-published e-novelist Amanda Hocking sold a reputed 450,000 copies of her books on Amazon. She is 26 years old. Less than a year ago, she posted her first novel on Amazon. Now, she's a superstar.

In view of these, I wasn't surprised when one of my writing buddies, Jim Bell, recently self-published a new e-book, COVER YOUR BACK. The book contains a novella and three short stories. If the words "film noir" and "femme fatale" ring your bells, then COVER YOUR BACK might well be a book you'd enjoy.

Jim has not abandoned the world of traditional publishing. His venture into e-books simply allows him to do things that he couldn't have done with a paper-and-ink publisher that thinks a year is a short period of time.

I asked Jim to tell me about his venture in an interview for this e-zine. Here's a blurb about him and his writing:

JAMES SCOTT BELL is a bestselling thriller author and served as the fiction columnist for Writer's Digest magazine. He has written three popular craft books for Writers Digest Books: Plot & Structure, Revision & Self-Editing and The Art of War for Writers. Jim has taught writing at Pepperdine University and numerous writers conferences. On June 4th and 5th he is teaching a seminar in Los Angeles for novelists and screenwriters. Information can be found at

On to the interview. Let's see what motivated Jim to take the e-plunge.

Randy: You recently self-published your first e-book, after more than a decade of publishing paper books with a number of traditional royalty-paying publishers.
What prompted you to take the plunge into the e-book market?

Jim: Because there is absolutely no downside to it, and plenty of upside. The e-market is exploding and I had several stories and a novella that didn't have a home.
E-book publishing allows me to bring new material to my readers, and introduce me to others. I've always admired the old pulp writers of the mid 20th century, who had to write a lot for a penny a word, but created some of the best suspense ever. That's what I always wanted to be able to do, and now can via e-publishing.

The nice thing is that the royalty for these works is great and I get paid every month.

Randy: Let's talk a bit about the process.  You decided to write a novella and three short stories.  You wrote them in Microsoft Word just as you normally do.  Then what happened?  How did you take the book from a Word document to its final published form on Amazon and the other online retailers?

Jim: I hired a person to do the conversion for me.
There are many people out there who will do this, and the cost is relatively low. You should be able to find someone for between $50 - $100. It may be a bit more if the document needs more work. I toyed with the idea of doing it myself, but was advised by others to let a professional handle it. So I provided the Word document and the person I hired converted into a format for Kindle, for Nook, and for Smashwords, should I expand to that.

Randy:  Many fiction contracts have "non-compete"
clauses in them.  Tell us about those and what they mean for the already-published author who wants to venture into the electronic self-publishing world but doesn't want to alienate his publisher.

Jim: Well, publishers are investing money in writers and trying to build them. So a standard publishing contract has a clause that says the writer cannot sell a book that might compete with the one they're publishing. Usually there's language about potential "harm" to the sales of the contracted book. That could mean that a self-published e-book, at a low price point, could be viewed as competition with the published e-book, which might have a higher price point.

On the other hand, a low priced, self-published e-book can be seen as a marketing tool for the other books.
This should all be discussed with the publisher, and a written understanding hammered out.

Randy: Any predictions on the near-term future of publishing?  As we speak, Borders is circling the drain and Barnes & Noble is battling to reinvent itself, while dozens of previously unknown writers are earning thousands of dollars per month.  Where do you see the world of publishing going in 2011? What are your plans to deal with the massive change?

Jim: I do think the traditional publishing model is undergoing great stress now. There are fewer distributions points, less revenue coming in as consumers turn to lower priced e-books. The old guard will have to be experimenting with new ways of doing things, but that's hard for a big, established business to do.

Meantime, there will be a veritable tsunami of original material self-published. Most of it will be bad. A writer still needs to sweat and strain and get better.
The old model provided a filtering system. But for those who learn to write well, the self-publishing avenue has great potential.

I don't think anyone can predict what the landscape will look like in five  years. I have been surprised at the rapid rise in e-readers (as was predicted by one Randall Ingermanson). As a writer I'm taking advantage of the opportunity. Others will do the same. And word of mouth will continue to help the best works get the attention they deserve.

Randy: You probably couldn't have traditionally published your novella WATCH YOUR BACK and you almost certainly couldn't have published your short stories in paper format.  Tell us a bit about those stories and why you wrote them.  Isn't it enough to be a successful novelist?

Jim: I love the short story and novella form. It used to be we had a thriving short story market in this country, lots of pulp and slick magazines. But that all dried up except for a couple of little magazines, through which it is impossible to make a living. And yes, short story collections are rarely published in print form.

So, here is a way for me to write short form suspense fiction and publish it. As I said, there's just no downside to that. I can provide entertainment for readers at a low cost, and everyone's happy.

Randy: I bought COVER YOUR BACK last week and read through it in a day. Great read! Lots of fun for those who like darkish fiction. What advice do you have for someone contemplating writing exclusively for the self-publishing market?

Jim: First, always be about getting better as a writer.
That should never stop. I started in this business 20 years ago and have kept on studying the craft all that time.

Second, be sure to have your story vetted by several "beta" readers, and even consider paying a freelance editor to go over the manuscript. Readers do notice if the text is sloppy.

Third, hire a good cover designer. You have to make a good first impression with your book cover.

Finally, make some long term plans. What kind of writing will be your specialty, your "brand"? As you build readers, they are going to expect some continuity in your work. That's not to say you can't be flexible and try new things, but an audience is grown largely by coming to rely on the type of story you produce. Think of Stephen King and John Grisham. Even they did not deviate from their genres until they were well established in them.

Randy: Great advice, as always. Thanks for telling us about your adventures on Planet E, Jim!

Permission to reprint granted by author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 24,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

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March 1, 2011
Volume 7, Number 3
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