Sunday School Notes: Revelation 7:11-14

11 And the angels stood encircling the throne and the elders and the four living creatures and they fell upon their faces before the throne and they worshiped God 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever. Amen!” 13 And one of the elders spoke saying to me, “Those people having been clothed in white robes–who are they and from whence did they come?” 14 And I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “Those are the ones coming from the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and they have whitened them by the blood of the Lamb….”

The throne room is full again–or at least John is now drawing our attention to the fact that the myriads of angels from chapter five are still there. These angels are standing around the throne, elders, and creatures, as they were in chapter 5, only this time John says he saw them (in 5, John says he heard them). John’s emphasis here is on the visual, not just the sound. He sees the majestic gathering of creatures in heaven who are there for one single purpose: to offer praise and worship to the One on the throne and the Lamb. They fall on their faces before the throne and worship the Lord. Bear in mind that this praise and worship is going on in full knowledge of what was described in chapter 6, and what is to come in chapters 8 and following. Even though the Lord is the One who brings judgment and tribulation, He is still worthy of worship.

The chorus sung (or said, but I like to think of them as singing) by the heavenly host is a longer version of the song sung in 5:13. Indeed, here we have seven things mentions: blessing, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power, and strength. By now, we should be accustomed to the fact that whenever seven is used in Revelation, it signifies completeness or fullness. Since 5:13 only has four items (blessing, glory, honor, and might), I think it’s safe to say this is a deliberate seven-fold enumeration, conveying the fullness or completeness of the majesty and worthiness ascribed to God. This song starts and ends with an “Amen,” denoting ascent–that is, agreeing with something. In this case, the angels are probably agreeing to the statement in verse 10: Salvation belongs to God.

One of the elders approaches John and asks him who all the white-robed people are, and where they come from. No clue is given as to who this elder is, and that’s probably just as well–what’s important is the question he’s asking. John knows he can’t answer this question, but he’s sure the elder can so he respectfully turns the question back on him. If the elder knows the answer to the question, why ask? Clearly because it’s important. The origin of the people in white robes is, perhaps, something John wouldn’t have given a second thought to, but the elder wants to be sure their identity is known. John needs to know. The churches need to know. We need to know.

The elder answers the who and where questions in two parts:

  1. They have come out from the great tribulation.
  2. They have washed (i.e., clean) robes, whitened by the Lamb’s blood.

We need to look at each of these in turn.

First, what is this “great tribulation” from which the multitude have emerged? Is it a cataclysmic event in our future, or something that happened in the past, or a present trial the church is going through, or something else?

Some have suggested that this is a reference to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, an event that affected the Jews deeply, and would have also impacted the church insomuch as Christianity was viewed by many in that pagan society as a Jewish sect. However, as traumatic an event as that was, I don’t see how it would qualify as “the great tribulation” for believers in Asia Minor–i.e., the churches to whom John was writing. It’s likely many of the Christians in John’s audience were Gentiles, and they all live many miles from Jerusalem, so they wouldn’t have felt the impact of this nearly as much as the Jews in Palestine.

A popular view today is to see this “great tribulation” as an event that is yet to happen. Taking a strictly chronological view of the visions, this tribulation is a period of time during which the church is absent from the earth, having been snatched up (“raptured”) and protected from all the calamity that’s happening. However, there will be those who are saved during this tribulation period–I believe the theory goes that these are Jews who come to Christ, hence the 144,000–and those are the ones in white robes. There are several problems with this view, I think. First, those in white robes are more than just a section of God’s people. All of God’s people are dressed in white (e.g., Jesus’s promise to the church in Sardis in 3:5, the believers under the altar in 6:9-11, and the multitude in 7:9). Further, tribulation isn’t something that will come upon the church in the future: it has been a present reality for the church since the Resurrection. I could see this referring to a time of heightened tribulation prior to the end, but for further insight we should take note of two important passages elsewhere in Scripture.

Daniel 12:1-2: This is more than likely the passage the elder is referring to when he speaks of “the great tribulation.” Notice that those “delivered” are those whose name is in the “book of life,” which, according to Revelation, includes all believers. It will also involve “all who sleep in the dust of the earth”–i.e., the dead, so it’s an all-encompassing event that will involve resurrection to eternal life or to eternal condemnation. It’s an event that will bring tribulation to believers and judgment upon the world.

Matthew 24:15-31: Jesus appears to be developing Daniel 12:1-2 here, but notice how this tribulation is followed by cosmic anomalies that sound like the sixth seal, and yet prior to this, there is no indication that the church will be rescued physically from the torment to come. Indeed, Jesus tells his audience to watch and be ready. In verse 9, he warned that his followers will be delivered to tribulation and death, but the one who endures will be saved. In verse 22, he says that the days of tribulation will be cut short “for the sake of the elect”–i.e., for the sake of God’s people. It’s not that God’s people will be pulled out of this tribulation, but that the tribulation will be curtailed for the sake of the elect.

If we survey the New Testament, we see that “tribulation” is primarily to do with attacks upon the faith, and has been part of the church’s experience from the beginning (e.g., John 16:33; Romans 5:3, 8:35-36; Revelation 1:9, 2:9, 3:10, 6:9).

So what is this “great tribulation”? From the Scriptures we looked at, it seems to me that this is a period of judgment for the world, and persecution for God’s people. Tribulation of this nature has been going on since the earliest days of the church, but it appears there will be an escalation of it as we draw closer to the end. Christians shouldn’t look for some kind of physical rescue from the ordeals that are present, or the ordeals to come. Our hope is that we will be among those robed in white before the throne. The promise we have from Christ is that we are sealed to him, and whatever may happen to us, our faith is secure as those who have been purchased by his blood.

Next time, we’ll look at the second part of the elder’s answer: the washed robes whitened by the Lamb’s blood, and hopefully finish the chapter.

Music Monday: The Friends of Mr Cairo

Friends of Mr Cairo LP 1Since I recently finished THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett, I thought this would be an appropriate song to share for Music Monday this week!

Jon Anderson, former lead vocalist for the band Yes, and Vangelis, composer of electronic music, first found each other in the mid-70s and discovered they had an unusual yet sympathetic musical rapport. By 1979 they had enough material together to release an album. “Short Stories” spawned the British hit “I Hear You Now.” A second album followed in 1981: “The Friends of Mr. Cairo.” This album featured their second British Top Ten single, “I’ll Find My Way Home,” as well as the song “State of Independence” which Donna Summer later covered. Around this time, Vangelis, hit the Hollywood big-time with his Academy Award winning soundtrack to “Chariots of Fire.” He followed up this success a year later with his highly-acclaimed score to the film “Blade Runner.”

Today’s featured song is the title track of Jon and Vangelis’ second album. It’s a 12 minute homage to classic movies, with particular attention to the films “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Thief of Bagdad,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The song consists of two distinct but related parts. The first part is upbeat, relating story themes common to many of the films of this era. It starts like a classic gangster movie with squealing tires and gunfire, followed by dialog reminiscent of such films. These voices return at various points throughout, adding to the ambiance of the piece. Part two is slower, more reflective, talking about how much these films mean on a personal level. The novelty of part one first drew me to the song as a child, but it’s part two that got me hooked to it. It’s not particularly complex musically, and even relatively simple in its arrangement. But it has a lovely, solid tune sung so passionately, and backed with an equally stirring Vangelis arrangement, its worth every moment of the seven minutes of part one it takes to get there.

I think I’ve mentioned before that when I was first learning to play, and I was not nearly as confident in my musical ear as I am now, I used to hunt down sheet music to songs or pieces I wanted to learn. Living in a small city with limited resources, and prior to the advent of the World Wide Web, it wasn’t uncommon for me to search in vain for my favorite music. I remember my Dad had a book, almost like an almanac, of hi-fi equipment and music resources. The copy I remember was from 1978, and I believe he had just finished working in a retail electronics store around that time, which might be how he came upon this book. In any event, one day as I was trying to figure out how to get hold of much sought-after sheet music, I was thumbing through this book when I noticed a section at the end listing the addresses of music publishers. Many of the names I recognized from Smash Hits, the popular music magazine I collected that printed the lyrics to Top 40 songs, crediting the writers and publishers for each song. It dawned on me that these publishers would probably have the sheet music to the songs, and might even be willing to sell me copies. I then did something that would be unheard of today, especially for a teenager:

I started writing music publishers. Hand-written letters. In envelopes. With stamps.

I would write something along the lines of: “Dear Sir or Madam, Do you have the sheet music to I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats? If so, could you tell me how much it would cost for me to purchase?” I knew it was a long shot, and I didn’t expect a response. But not only did I get responses from nearly all the publishers I contacted, almost every response came with a copy of the sheet music I requested. Most of the time it was a hand-written lead sheet, but that was good enough for me! Some even had a note attached saying something like, “With compliments.”

One of the publishers I contacted was Warner Bros. Music asking for the sheet music to “The Friends of Mr. Cairo” by Jon and Vangelis. Here’s what they sent (click on the picture for the complete pdf):

FriendsOfMrCairo

This is clearly not the full 12-minute song, but is essentially part one. Even so, this was beyond my wildest expectations.

OK, this post is getting long, so here are the words and chords to the entire song, minus the spoken-word parts (click on the picture to download a three-page pdf):

FriendsOfMrCairo_Chords

Part one was released as a single in Canada where it got to number one. DailyMotion.com has the music video that accompanied it.

Here’s the complete song:

As usual, if you have any questions or comments about the music for today’s song, please leave them in the comment section below. Also, if you have any requests for future Music Monday songs, let me know in the comments!

Flash Fiction Friday

For this week’s 100-word story, the Random Word Generator has given me:

  • straw
  • marble
  • tomb
  • winner
  • torrent

Here’s what I came up with:

“Same again, Sam.”

Billy caught the glass as it slid down the marble counter. “And the next winner to come in here taking a crack at me—”

The doors swung apart and Long Joe Casey strode in. He scanned the room and noticed Billy at the bar. Joe tried to suppress a laugh.

“Hey, kid!” he said, barely concealing a smile. “Still playing—?” A torrent of gunfire ate the rest of his words. Billy blew the muzzle of his weapon and holstered it.

“Save it for your tombstone,” he said, biting his straw for another pull of milkshake.

Have a great weekend!

Death Ex Machina Out Today

The newest installment of Gary Corby’s “Athenian Mysteries” series, DEATH EX MACHINA is out today!

As a fan of this series, I pre-ordered my copy back in January. I expect it to arrive later today, which means I haven’t read it yet so I can’t give you my thoughts on it. But here’s the official blurb:

A theatrical murder sends classical Athens into uproar.

It’s the time of the Great Dionysia, the largest arts festival of the ancient world, held each year in honor of Dionysos, the god of wine. But there’s a problem: A ghost is haunting Athens’s grand theater.

Nicolaos and his clever partner in sleuthing (and now in matrimony), the former priestess Diotima, are hired to rid the theater of the ghost so that the festival can begin. With the help of Theokritos, the High Priest of Dionysos, they exorcise the ghost publicly, while secretly suspecting that a human saboteur is the actual culprit.

Their efforts to protect the theater go rapidly downhill when one of the actors is found hanged from the machine used to carry actors through the air when they play the part of gods. It’s quite a theatrical murder.

As they dig into the actor’s past, they root out several possible motives for his public demise, ranging from blackmail to religious divergence. As the festival approaches and pressure mounts on all sides, can Nicolaos and Diotima hunt down the killer in time? Or will they simply have to hope for a deus ex machina?

Publisher’s Weekly said:

In Australian author Corby’s superior fifth whodunit set in ancient Greece (after 2014’s The Marathon Conspiracy), the city of Athens is preparing to host the Great Dionysia, “the largest and most important arts festival in the world.”

But the success of the event is in doubt after a series of accidents on the set of Sophocles’s play Sisyphus. The cast members believe this is the work of a ghost. Pericles, the city’s most powerful man, asks Nicolaos, his inquiry agent, to get rid of the ghost.

Unfortunately, not long after Nico arranges for an exorcism ritual, one of the actors is murdered, suspended from the machine designed to hold the character of Thanatos, the god of death, in midair during the performance.

Under pressure to find the killer quickly as the festival start date looms, Nico resorts to a clever and amusing ploy to buy more time.

Corby again manages to effortlessly integrate laugh-out-loud humor into a fairly clued puzzle.

Here are a few places you can get your copy:

 

Sunday School Notes: Revelation 7:9-10

9 After these things, I saw and behold a great crowd which no-one was able to number it from every nation and tribe and people and tongue standing before the throne and before the Lamb, having been clothed with white robes and [with] palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cry out with a loud voice saying, “Salvation belongs to our God, to the one sitting upon the throne and to the Lamb.”

Last time we looked at the 144,000, and concluded first that this was not a literal number, but a number representing a vast number of people encompassing both Old and New Testament saints (12 x 12 x 1,000–12 tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles, multiplication and “1,000” indicating a very large quantity). We also concluded that John groups the 144,000 according to the 12 tribes of Israel to make the point that this is fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that their seed would be vast in number. See the notes on 7:4-8 for more details.

Verse 9 presents us with a great innumerable crowd from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue. It would be easy to think of this crowd as a different crowd from the 144,000. First, we are given a number for the first group, yet no-one can number this group. Second, the first group are described as “sons of Israel,” whereas this group are from all tribes and nations across the earth. But if we bear in mind the meaning behind “144,000,” its perhaps better to see these two groups as the same vast number of people but looked at from two different perspectives. The first view (4-8) shows us this group as a fulfillment of the Abrahamic prophecy–something that’s picked up again in v.9. God’s New Covenant people are not different from His Old Covenant people. Christ is the fulfillment of the Covenant: that which was anticipated in the Old Testament came to pass in Christ. The OT saints looked forward to the cross, we look back at it, but we’re all looking to the cross. John’s point is to emphasize that continuity both in the numeric symbolism and in the division by tribe. In verses 9ff., the emphasis seems to be on the quantity of the redeemed–their large number and their diverse origin, though the Abrahamic promise is still in sight.

This great crowd “that no-one is able to number” appears to be a reference to the promise first given to Abraham, and later reiterated to Isaac and Jacob. In Genesis 13:16, after Abram and Lot go their separate ways, God promises Abram that his seed will be so numerous they will be like the dust. If the dust can be counted, so can Abram’s seed. This is a positive way of expressing the same idea in 7:9: they will be innumerable. We see a similar promise in Genesis 22:15-19, after Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice. A further indication that John is deliberately referencing the Old Testament here is the fact that there’s a grammatical anomaly. We’ve noticed this before, where John deliberately introduces a grammatical inconsistency to make us stop and pay attention to what he’s saying, usually to flag that he’s pointing us back to the Old Testament. In this instance, there is a disagreement between “every” (pantos, which is singular), and nation (ethôn, plural), tribe (phulôn, plural), people (laôn, plural), and tongue (glôssôn, plural). Each of those should be singular to agree with “every.” Also, you might notice in my translation I said, “a great crowd which no-one was able to number it.” This is a literal rendering of the Greek that would make the skin of every English grammarian crawl. That final “it” is redundant, both in English and Greek. But this is an acceptable Hebrew grammatical form. Why might John suddenly switch to using a Hebrew expression? Could this be a further indicator that he’s pointing us back to Genesis 13?

John describes this vast multitude as being clothed in white robes and holding palm branches. I think we understand the “white robe” symbolism by now. The saints under the golden altar in chapter six were given white robes, for example. It’s clear this represents purity, particularly righteousness before God, being spiritually clean. And this is a robe given to God’s people with which they are clothed. The use of the passive voice here reminds us that this is not a righteousness they earned, and it is not one that comes from their own effort. Rather, it is a righteousness given to them by God by virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection. It was the Lamb who was slain to provide them with robes of righteousness. As a result of being clothed in Christ’s purity, they are able to stand before the throne without fear.

But what of the palm branches? This sounds a bit like a Palm Sunday service! The best explanation we can come up with is that this is a reference to the Feast of Tabernacles. In Leviticus 23:40, we are told that this sabbath, or feast, was to be celebrated with a variety of offerings, and with palm branches. For the duration of the seven day festival, the participants were to dwell in tents, or booths, as a reminder of the wilderness wanderings of Israel after their escape from Egypt. Tabernacles was both a reminder of God’s faithfulness, bringing them deliverance from the hands of the Pharaoh, and a reminder of God’s judgment upon His people for their lack of faithfulness, even though God remained true to them and brought them into the Promised Land. We’ve already noted how the picture of Christ as the Lamb of God draws a parallel between the Passover lamb whose blood saved Israel from death, and Christ whose blood redeemed his people from the death penalty of sin. The palm branches here celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death on our behalf, and also serve to remind us that even in the midst of God’s judgment upon the earth, He remains faithful to His people.

The song of the saints in verse 10 declares that salvation is God’s, but it does so in an interesting way. There are two parts to this verse:

  1. Salvation belongs to our God
  2. to the One who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb

It’s tempting to join these parts together with “and”–but there is no “and.” Indeed, in the Greek, these two parts are in apposition. In other words, they share grammatical similarities such that we should take the second part as a further description of the first part. An English equivalent would be, “That wheel belongs to the bus, the big, red, and noisy one.” “Big, red, and noisy” give further description to “the bus” telling us more about the bus in question. In this song of praise, the saints around the throne are telling us:

  1. Salvation is God’s and God’s alone–He is the One who saves.
  2. The One who sits upon the throne that we’ve referenced since chapter 5–in case anyone missed it–He’s our God.
  3. The Lamb is also our God, since only God saves and salvation also belongs to the Lamb. But he’s not a separate God–He’s the same one.

In other words, this is another affirmation of Christ’s deity, and also of the unity of the Godhead.

As we talked about the 144,000 and the great multitude, we noted that good and godly men have disagreed over how these verses should be understood. Some are convinced (as I am) that these are the same group of people, yet some are equally convinced they represents two different groups. Some believe the first group is a literal remnant of Israel, while others (like me) believe they are figurative of all God’s people. What’s important, however, is what John is telling us through this imagery. Revelation is a letter of hope. In the midst of the sin and decay that’s around us, where violence, injustice, and persecution are every day experiences, we need to keep our eyes on the end game. Your church may be small and struggling, you may feel as if you’re the only believer left in your town, you might feel isolated as you make a stand for Christ in the face of overwhelming pressure to conform. In Revelation 7, John pulls back the heavenly veil to remind us of what’s promised to God’s people. We are not alone. Indeed, we are an innumerable multitude spanning centuries of time. We may feel like we stand alone, but there is a vast number of our brethren standing with us. And as we glimpse into eternity, we see them before the very throne of God, praising Him for the victory He has wrought over sin, death, and Satan on our behalf. That’s what we have to look forward to. The victory has been won, and one day, we will all join that mighty throng singing the same song of praise: “Salvation belongs to our God!”

We’ll start at verse 11 next time, and get as far as we can!

Music Monday: Prince Charming

PrinceCharming_SingleWe’re staying with the Eighties this week on Music Monday and an unusual tune that hit the top of the charts in the UK late in 1981. Adam and the Ants were born out of the noise that was punk rock in the late 1970s. They struggled to gain popular appeal until they re-imaged themselves with Native American-inspired costumes and make-up. This along with a strong rhythm section featuring TWO drummers each playing their own kit found a responsive following at a time when putting on make-up and fancy dress was the in-thing to do. They found chart success with the singles “Dog Eat Dog” and “Antmusic” in 1980, following this with their first British number one, “Stand and Deliver” the following year. Today’s featured song, “Prince Charming” was their second number one in a row. In 1982, Adam Ant, the lead singer (born Stuart Goddard), went solo with the song “Goody Two Shoes” which I believe managed to get airplay in the States.

My older brother was a huge Adam and the Ants fan, at least for the few years they were popular. I enjoyed their music, but wasn’t nearly as into them. Of all the songs I heard on the radio and through my brother’s bedroom wall, this one is probably my favorite. There’s something about the simplicity and yet quirkiness of it, the way each chord drops a half-step creating an unusual feel, the four or five key changes, and that “Prince Charming, Prince Charming, ridicule is nothing to be scared of” repeated at the end.

Some have suggested the song is a response to allegations about Adam Ant’s sexuality. According to Ant, the song was actually inspired by Beau Brummell, the famous tailor of Regency England who revolutionized men’s fashion. But the message of the song seems to me to have fairly broad appeal: “Don’t you ever lower yourself forgetting all your standards,” “Respect yourself and all of those around you,” “Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.” At a time when young people were experimenting with different forms of expression, such a message couldn’t help but resonate. Indeed, for anyone who struggles with being their own person, going against the tide of popular taste,  trying to hold their own against peer pressure to conform, these few lines say a lot.

As I said, musically there’s not a lot to the song. The tune is essentially this, repeated in different keys (click to enlarge):

PrinceCharmingLead

Here are the words and chords. Sorry guitarists, but this is a song that is best played with barre chords (click to enlarge):

PrinceCharming

Unfortunately, the music video is not available on YouTube, however the audio is. Here’s the song:

Flash Fiction Friday

It’s time to kick the Random Word Generator! Here’s what we get for today’s 100-word story:

  • Cabin
  • Nose
  • Relative
  • Warehouse
  • Fork

A strange set of words can only mean a strange little tale. So here it is:

Mad? Sane? ‘s all relative, ain’t it? An’ I’m as sane as the next man. ‘cept ‘e’s dead. Cabin fever got ‘im. An’ then there’s Bob. Well, there was Bob. Broke ‘is nose an’ bled to death. Didn’t think that could ‘appen. Some blood disorder or something. And then there was Jim, but ‘e was clubbed to death by Tobais. Now there’s a mad man if ever I saw one; nutty as a Snickers.

That’s why ‘e had to go. I found the fork in the warehouse. ‘E never saw it comin’.

Now it’s jus’ me. Till the cops come.

Have a great weekend!

Music Monday: Ashes to Ashes

AshesToAshes_SingleThis week we give Music Monday a big kick up the Eighties with this unforgettable song from David Bowie. Released in August, 1980, it reached number one in the UK and made the top ten in a number of other countries. It didn’t do much in the US, but I’m not entirely surprised. I find the British charts have a lot more wiggle room for a wide and eclectic taste in music. Sometimes this means deserving songs get a lot of attention they wouldn’t get elsewhere. Other times the Brits end up rolling their eyes and hoping no-one else is watching (I mean, “Mr. Blobby”??).

I’ve always liked this song. This was my kind of weird! For a 10-year-old, the fact it isn’t a love song was a plus (way too many of those in the charts), and the quirky and melodic nature of the song appealed to my developing musical sensibilities. And then there’s the music video. We’ll get to that in a minute.

But what’s the song about? I don’t know that Bowie’s ever giving a definitive answer, but it seems to me to be self-referential. Perhaps it’s meant to be an assessment of his own career to this point. The references to “Ground Control” and “Major Tom”–themes featured in Bowie’s first hit from 1969, “Space Oddity”–certainly seem to suggest a self-prod. The first line, “Do you remember a guy that’s been in such an early song…” also appears to set up some kind of retrospective. Beyond that, though, I leave you to figure it out for yourself!

Naturally, one of the things I like about the song is the chord progression and the way it changes keys. These are not particularly unusual key changes, but they flow well with the tune and add to the odd nature of the song.

Right from the get go we have the introduction throwing in an Ebm where we might have expected an Eb:

AshesToAshes_Intro

I also want to point out the ending fade-out. While Bowie sings, “My mother said to get things done, You’d better not mess with Major Tom,” the introduction chords are playing in the background (Bbm-Ab-Ebm-Bbm). Except they actually start after the last line of the chorus, so by the time you get to “My mother said…” you’re already on the Ebm. He then merges the last Bbm and the first into one, so the chords are actually: Bbm, Ab, Ebm, Bbm, Ab, Ebm, etc. This means when he comes to repeat, “My mother said…” he’s actually on the Bbm, not the Ebm. And when he comes around a third time, he’s hitting, “My mother said…” with an Ab. This creates an interesting effect, made all the more eye-opening by the fact that the tune fits this changing chord sequence.

Here are the words and chords both in the original key, and also for playing with a capo on the first fret to avoid a lot of barre chords (click the pictures to enlarge):

AshesToAshes AshesToAshes_CapoI

And here’s the music video. This video is quintessentially 80s–early 80s particularly. It has that mix of video effects, stream-of-consciousness directing, and strange images, that is distinctive of the period. Enjoy!

Flash Fiction Friday

It’s time for our weekly flash fiction fix! Today’s 100-word story is brought to you by the following five random words pulled from the Random Word Generator:

  • Gallows
  • Anchor
  • Judge
  • Train
  • Roulette

Josiah Higgins considered the roulette wheel of justice as he walked toward the gallows. The case against him was weak, but the murdered man was the judge’s brother.

He stood on the stage and bowed while the noose was draped over his head. He didn’t acknowledge the hangman, but kept his eyes trained upon the old wooden platform.

Josiah breathed deeply, waiting.

Thunk.

The floor fell open beneath his feet. He dropped like an anchor, the noose unraveling from his neck. He landed hard but smiled, watching the rope swing empty above him.

It pays to be the hangman’s uncle.

Have a wonderful weekend!

2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge: Reflections

This was my fourth A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. I had such fun writing flash fiction last year, I decided to do the same for 2015. One of the lessons I learned from the first two years I completed the A-to-Z (2012 and 2013) was that short is good. I wrote a some stories for those two challenges, but they were over 1,000 words long (and some of them were rather good, if I say so myself–e.g., “Hourglass“). But as I hopped around visiting blogs I found myself spending less time on long articles, and going back to those who kept their articles short. It’s not that I’m impatient, but when you’re trying to visit as many of the 1,500+ participating blogs in 26 days, you tend to prefer the ones that are entertaining, informative, and less than 500 words long. So for last year and this year, I kept the stories to 100 words.

Why flash fiction? It’s a creative challenge. And I like writing stories. Another lesson learned over the past few years of A-to-Z: pick a theme and make it one you enjoy, one that will sustain you for the duration of the challenge. For me, flash fiction fits the bill.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to as many other blogs this year as I would have liked to. I was still writing articles after the challenge started, which is not good. Ideally, you want to have all your articles written and scheduled in advance so you can concentrate all your time on replying to comments and visiting blogs. That’s one thing I want to do better next year. Here are some of the blogs I visited more than once:

Dena’s Ramblings: Dena, a lawyer by trade, gave us an entertaining and informative A-to-Z of legal terms.

Letters from the Land of Cherry Blossoms: Romi taught us Kanji.

A.J. Blythe’s Cozies: A. J. posted inspirational writing quotes.

Elodie Nowodazkij: Elodie provided an A-to-Z of self-publishing.

Patricia Lynne: Patricia also wrote 100 word flash fiction.

Scarlet Embers: Scarlet’s theme was fairy-tale-related terms.

I’m not terribly mathematically inclined, but I am interested in statistics and charts (as in rankings)–things to do with data analysis, which I do a bit of in the day job.  So I looked at each of the articles I wrote this year to see how many hits each received, how many likes, and how many comments. One thing I found was that few people visited a post more than a day or two after its original publication. I wonder if in future I need to provide links to previous stories with each article? Something to consider for next year.

Here’s how my articles rank from “Most Popular” to “Least Popular” (Popularity = unique visits + comments + likes):

  1. Crab
  2. Lima Beans
  3. Dead Guy
  4. Zero
  5. Gold
  6. Iceman
  7. Balance
  8. Air
  9. Easter Egg
  10. Numb
  11. XXX
  12. Obsolete
  13. Faith
  14. Parchment
  15. Twitter
  16. Restroom
  17. Heretic
  18. Kale
  19. Magician
  20. Jeopardy
  21. Unique
  22. Waterfall
  23. Yahoo!
  24. Substitute
  25. Velvet
  26. Quart

Just to show how subjective taste is, my favorite story was “Yahoo!” which is number 23 on the list. And I thought “Crab” might be a little too nasty (in fact, the version I posted was a toned-down version of the story I wrote originally), but it’s number 1! If we rank the stories just by number of direct hits, the order doesn’t change too much:

  1. Crab
  2. Lima Beans
  3. Dead Guy
  4. Zero
  5. Gold
  6. Iceman
  7. Balance
  8. Numb
  9. Air
  10. Obsolete
  11. Easter Egg
  12. Restroom
  13. XXX
  14. Twitter
  15. Parchment
  16. Faith
  17. Unique
  18. Magician
  19. Yahoo!
  20. Jeopardy
  21. Heretic
  22. Velvet
  23. Waterfall
  24. Kale
  25. Substitute
  26. Quart

As you can see, “Yahoo!” moves up to #19, but “Crab” is still #1.

So there are some reflections on this year’s challenge. Thanks to the A-to-Z Challenge team, the hosts, the co-hosts, everyone who visited my posts, and everyone who helped make this year’s challenge fun. I plan to be back next year. What about you?

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