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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Shawshank Rebellion - Can Movies Help Us To Write Better

The Shawshank Rebellion is one of those movies I still think about even though it's been a few years since I watched it. I recently found some notes I wrote after viewing it. and as I start on book five in the Seventh Dimension Series, I am reminded about what made this movie so memorable to me.

Here are my thoughts after viewing it as part of my Masters in Creative Writing.

The most powerful scene was the last scene, when the two characters, Andy Dufresne and Bogs Diamond, reunite in Zihuatanejo, after serving their prison sentences. Of course, without the powerful scenes before and the setup, it wouldn’t have had the punch or the afterglow for the take-away. Plus I have been to Zihuatanejo – and so I know how beautiful it is.

The most powerful scenes before the last scene included:

When Andy Dufresne arrived at the prison initially and he and the others were looked upon as jail meat by the inmates. 

The long corridors of the jail where the inmate population were housed. 

The opera music that was piped loudly through the jail as the inmates stood frozen in the courtyard listening. 

The newly finished library; the completed tunnel that was discovered behind the picture of the movie star; the emptying of the dirt through the pants leg of Andy Dufresne from his tunneling. 

The scene where Bogs uncovers the note from Andy toward the end; the scene where the old man after being released from jail is almost run over by a car. 

The voiceover says the outside world moves too fast. He had only seen a couple of cars before he was put in prison and now there are so many. 

The little bird that the man was hiding in his jacket, he gave him a worm from Andy Dufresne’s food; and the powerful scene when the crow was released. The first bird symbolized the prisoners, but yet being taken care of; the second bird symbolized the old man being set free.

The Shawshank Rebellion spoke to my heart; we are all prisoners on some level, in some aspect of our life, but we can be set free and not lose hope.  And may I not become like the warden, who carried a Bible and quoted Scripture, yet was a crook and a cheat.

The best movies are those that strike a nerve and cause us to question the status quo; what we feel, think, and believe at our core. Few movies do that—at least for me—and to bring it back to writing stories, do not the best books do the same in our hearts? Redemption is paramount, and The Shawshank Rebellion gives the reader what we all want: To be redeemed. To feel valued. 

Now that I've been challenged with a reminder from the past of what I want in movies, books, and life in general, hopefully I can deliver to my readers that kind of redemption in the fifth and final book in the Seventh Dimension Series.

Now off to outlining and writing!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Blow the Whistle - Excerpt from Wheels of Wisdom: Life Lessons for the Restless Spirit," by Tim and Debbie Bishop

Lesson 3

Blow the Whistle

Packing a positive attitude for your pursuit will always make it more pleasurable and satisfying. Establishing some accountability will help you stay on track.
When you are touring by bicycle, you never know what to expect when setting out each morning. All you know is that you will encounter something new and interesting, and perhaps learn something in the process. On one particular day during TheHopeLine Tour, we would encounter another new state and learn a trick to becoming a better person.

Despite a cool and overcast start, we had wonderful weather for the remainder of the day. An early-morning race with a pair of deer proved too much for us, yet we persevered for our third consecutive day of biking more than seventy miles.

Leaving Metropolis, Illinois, and cycling into Kentucky all in one day felt like quite an accomplishment. For some reason, I thought Illinois would be flat, but it isn’t. We climbed up and down hills until we stopped for lunch at mile forty-one. We also switched maps, leaving the Great Rivers South map and heading in the direction of the Underground Railroad route. Our new route and new direction foreshadowed a change I would make later in the day to improve our travel experience.

The end of our time in Illinois came at Cave-in-Rock, where we caught a ride on the free ferry across the Ohio River. No cars accompanied us on the ferry, just the two guys who operated the boat. As soon as we entered Kentucky, nothing awaited us except more hills—no people, no homes, and no crops for miles. Just like in other states along TheHopeLine Tour, we had the place to ourselves. The hilly terrain meant we had some challenging climbs, while the dense forest with no people around made for a lengthy and uncertain ride to civilization.

In our travels, we’ve used maps published by a nonprofit bicycle-touring advocate called the Adventure Cycling Association ( Those maps mentioned the possibility of loose dogs in Kentucky, so Tim had a bright orange whistle hanging from his neck, and I had one in the outside pocket of my handlebar bag for easy access. Mine offered the added benefits of serving as a compass and a thermometer. I had used the thermometer and compass more than the whistle, but I must admit I loved blowing the whistle on dogs that chased us.
At that time on TheHopeLine Tour, we’d already had to blow the whistle on dogs in Missouri and Illinois. I can remember thinking, Kentucky dogs: be prepared! We won’t be wasting our precious water squirting you or fending you off with our bicycle pumps. The whistle would be the way to ward off unwanted canines in pursuit.

Before encountering any loose dogs, however, I discovered another use for the whistle, but you need the assistance of a spouse or a friend. I’m talking about breaking a bad habit I’d had at times on that trip…well, actually, two bad habits.

It all started on the prior day when I’d made a sarcastic comment and Tim blew the whistle as a referee would and shouted, “Unnecessary sarcasm, fifteen yards!” He was joking, of course. However, after entering Kentucky, I thought, What a great way to break a habit!
So, I said to him, “If I complain about anything for the rest of the day, I want you to blow the whistle on me.”

It may sound strange, but my request for Tim to hold me accountable kept my grumbling in check. I set goals for myself every day, and many days, I pray that I will not complain. Day after day, I fall short. On that particular day, I thought blowing the whistle on my complaining would be a great way to break that horrible habit. And it worked!

Instead of complaining to Tim, I started thinking of ways to put a positive spin on things. My knee hurt, but instead of complaining about it, I thought about the beautiful sky. I was so sick of the endless hills, but instead of dwelling on it by talking about it, I said I was grateful for the lack of traffic on those hills! The fear of the whistle blowing with each complaint kept me from whining. I tested Tim while pedaling up a very steep hill and complained about it. Sure enough, he blew the whistle!

If you have a bad habit to break, ask someone to “blow the whistle” every time you indulge in that habit. The list of habits that could benefit from some whistle-blowing interference includes gossiping, complaining, swearing, being late, smoking…the list is endless. Chances are this behavior-modification plan will get you into shape rather quickly. You will be “a better you” once you’ve broken the bad habit and replaced it with a new, healthier one. Instead of complaining, turn it into gratitude. No one will blow the whistle on you if you’re grateful and full of joy!

Thirty-two miles into Kentucky, we ran out of sun. Yet we were glad to have entered state number eleven on TheHopeLine Tour. After climbing 4,700 feet of elevation, we were heartened when a woman at a convenience store in Sturgis reserved a motel room for us. The map listed none, but she knew of a place with cabins for rent. They had closed early, but she had an “in” and, therefore, so did we. Small-town Kentucky hospitality was in the air.

When we arrived at the cabin, we had more pleasant surprises: it was beautiful, the price was right, and the adjoining market packed us a home-cooked meal—which goes to show that when you stop complaining, things will work out well in the end!

Attitude. It has so much influence on the success of a journey and the fulfillment of a destiny—and whether you will be miserable or happy along the way. Make sure you check your attitude at the door to your pursuit.
Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Philippians 4:8
Personal Reflection:
1. Which bad habit would you like to “blow the whistle” on?
2. Can you think of anyone who could help hold you accountable in overcoming this bad habit?
3. Which is more agonizing: continuing to struggle with the bad habit or giving permission to a trusted individual to help you stop it?


Title: Wheels of Wisdom: Life Lessons for the Restless Spirit

To order from Amazon, click here

Tim and Debbie Bishop have coauthored four books about their midlife launch into marriage, cross-country bicycle touring, and other matters of faith and inspiration. Two Are Better: Midlife Newlyweds Bicycle Coast to Coast captures the story behind the stories, while Bicycle Touring How-To: What We Learned shares their knowledge with bicycle touring wannabes. Now, Wheels of Wisdom: Life Lessons for the Restless Spirit conveys some deeper truths that apply to virtually any life pursuit. Metaphors in Motion: Wisdom from the Open Road is an e-book containing more lessons like those found in Wheels of Wisdom.
The Bishops serve as volunteer Hope Coaches for TheHopeLine, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reach, rescue, and restore hurting teens and young adults. They are available for speaking engagements about their touring and life experiences. The couple blog at
Tim Bishop
In addition to consulting for small businesses, Tim Bishop has written Hedging Commodity Price Risk: A Small Business Perspective, an e-book that explains hedging in easy-to-understand language. He is a CPA and former corporate treasurer with over thirty years of business experience, and blogs at Tim is a native of Houlton, Maine.

Debbie Bishop
Debbie Bishop has taught for over twenty-eight years. She has a passion for reading and seeing that young people do it well. She also has a strong interest in recovery issues and encouraging others with her own triumphs over such struggles earlier in her life. She is a featured author in Love is Out There by Melissa Williams-Pope, in which she relates her own story of finding love later than most. Debbie volunteers as a facilitator for, an online support group dedicated to helping women who are struggling with eating disorders. She also has New England roots.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Jim Baton and the Peace Trilogy

Someone Has to Die

Peace Trilogy book 1
Jim Baton
June 2012

In the midst of a global clash between international terrorism and an American congressman’s peacemaking effort, a poor Muslim-majority neighborhood in Indonesia holds the keys to victory. While some in the neighborhood are making efforts to understand the truth behind the Muslim-Christian divide and build new bridges across it, others are determined to perpetuate and intensify the hatred that has plagued the region for years.

When a tragedy reveals an unexpected villain, it will be up to two unlikely heroes to set aside their differences and save the day. What will it take to keep hope alive? And who will be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of peace?

This intense thriller will encourage you to reexamine your understanding of love and forgiveness, and reconsider what it means to be a true hero.

ISBN-13: 978-1616389222
$2.99 eBook
$14.99 Print

Amazon US 
Lisa's review:
Provocative, thought-provoking, challenging. Jim Baton, long-time missionary to Asia, writes a call to action in his novels. Aptly named Peace Trilogy, the first two novels in the series are a virtual visit to life in the streets of a little-known nation torn by differing faith practices. Baton explores why Muslim youth are able to be drawn into jihad, especially those who have nothing but themselves.

I read the books in reverse order, not necessarily on purpose, but also to see how they stand up. A Way Out of Hell (read about the book and my review here), is a story of the result of actions taken by families in a close-knit neighborhood in this book. The reader is drawn into Indonesian culture at its most intimate level, from intact family life, to single parentage to second wife status, from making a living, to education and religious life. Readers can’t help but empathize with the widows who live on handouts, the angry youth who feel purposeless, the women who must keep their deepest secrets, teens with a Romeo and Juliet story, and especially the fear of anything that rocks the status quo. When a neighborhood matron takes charge of bridging the gap and getting to know the neighborhood Christian lady better, she opens a Pandora’s Box of woe that drives a storm of retaliation across the planet. Who will step into the miasma of hatred and show what love can do?

The amount of detail was both wonderful and frustrating as I was sometimes impatient to find out what would happen next. For those who love detailed virtual visits to exotic places where you can live with the natives, the books of the Peace Trilogy will meet your expectations. A bonus is Baton’s character’s struggle with how to practice what they believe, an in-depth look at the misunderstandings and lies that have kept people of different religions and denominations within the religions in hate. There is no pussy-footing around American or Christian values for that matter, but love is the foundation of miracles. Told in multiple viewpoints. Nicely done.

About the Author
Jim Baton (pen name) has spent the last 20 years living in the Muslim world, where he’s been involved in a variety of peace and reconciliation activities including interfaith dialogue, training elementary through university students in peace principles, and bringing Christians and Muslims together to pray.  His real name and photo won’t appear on this site to protect his identity from radical groups where he lives out his faith.  When in America, Jim is available to speak to groups that have a heart for loving those of the other religion and can protect his identity.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Excerpt of "Poetry from God" by Joseph F. Harlin

Lord you see and know my heart 
Willing to be your perfect vessel 
But every time I try to do right 
My mind begins to wrestle. 

I'm blinded by my weaknesses 
In sin I'm entangled 
I can't breathe in your presence 
Because my spirit has been strangled 

It's hard to see any hope from the way my life is angled 
My knees shake in weakness 
My spirit is just not steady 
So while I try to get things right 
Lord cover me till I'm ready 

By your loving kindness 
I am always drawn 
Can you fill me again 
Though my strength is gone 
I think about my purpose 
From dusk till dawn 

My knees shake in weakness
my spirit is just not steady 
while I try to get things right 
Lord cover me till Im ready. 

My hands are shaking 
My soul is aching 
My life seems to keep crumbling 
My feet are always stumbling 

But it's a process I just can't rush 
So I'll tell my doubting lips to hush 
One day, Satan's head I will crush 
But until then, until my spirit is steady 
Lord hold on to my hand 
And cover me till I'm ready


You can get your copy of "Poetry from God" from Amazon by clicking here.

Joseph F. Harlin is the author of "Poetry From God" which is a book of Christian poetry and commentaries. In his first book, Joseph writes as he is inspired by God bringing encouragement, enlightenment, and hope to readers. Joseph will be releasing his autobiographical book entitled "Earrings In My Ear" in the near future.