The Blog Exotic.
Ideas and Things I Geek Out About.
All titles by Brian L. Braden are either on sale or free in e-book from now until 15 July.
the illusion exotic in e-book is FREE through 11 July! This diverse short story collection is a great introduction to the style and prose of Brian L. Braden.
Brian L. Braden presents six tales of souls turning life’s corners. From the Old West, to the edge of space, six people must learn to abandon the illusions that feed their fears, and trust in love, friendship, and their own courage.
The end of the world is bad enough, but its worse when you’re a kid. For little Anant, hope comes in the most unlikely of forms, the voice of Captain James T. Kirk. However, in "Spaceship Name", hope does not come without a price.
In "Green", a young pilot’s courage and fledgling skills are tested to the limit in the pitch black skies above a treacherous battlefield. In one terrifying moment, she will either lead her crew to triumph, or perish.
A former Civil War soldier embarks on a quest on behalf of his former commander. He expects to find outlaws and gunslingers in the high deserts of New Mexico, but instead stumbles upon death incarnate in "The Cave."
After a long day, second grade teacher Margaret Nichols only wants to go home, run a warm bath, and open her wrists. Fate has other plans, however, in the form of a bloodstained Bible and "The Boy in the Hole."
On a Saturday night, high school nerd Mike faces a tough choice: pursue a chance for romance with a popular cheerleader, or hang with Todd, his best friend and notorious loser. What he doesn’t know is his decision will mean life and death, and forever go down in history as the "Incident at the West Flatte Dairy Queen."
"Carson’s Love" takes the reader into the lives of the Campbells, a family falling apart. Megan and Rob have become so lost in their own lives, they’re about to lose each other. Then, while giving their baby a bath, Rob Campbell makes a startling discovery, and their world suddenly turns upside down.
THE GOLDEN PRINCESS is free on e-book through 11 July! Enter the world of THE CHRONICLES OF FU XI with this stand-alone prequel to this ground-breaking epic fantasy series.
"Escape the City of Gold, or live forever in chains."
Raised in splendid isolation.
Betrothed to a man she despises.
Destined to rule over the greatest city on earth.
She is the Golden Princess.
Sarah dreams of love and adventure beyond her gilded prison, but tonight her dreams come true in the most terrifying way imaginable. A bloody power struggle erupts for the throne, and dawn finds the princess on the run with a bounty on her head. Alone and hunted by guards, criminals and a ruthless slaver who will stop at nothing to burn his brand into her flesh, Sarah must summon courage she never knew she possessed.
Hope, however, comes in the form of two lowly thieves. Driven by a secret, they race through Hur-ar’s underworld to find Sarah before her enemies do.
Before the next sunset, Sarah’s fate, and that of empires, will be decided with gold, steel and blood.
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The fish have disappeared from the sea. The animals have vanished from the land. All humanity, and even the gods, tremble under the specter of a pending cataclysm. The demigod, Fu Xi, races home from the edge of the world bringing news of a looming god war, but finds his land under attack by monsters he once called his children. He discovers a terrible curse has been cast, one intended to destroy the gods and all life. To his shock, Fu Xi learns that mankind's last hope rests solely on him, a simple fisherman, and a banished slave girl.
Beset on all sides by ancient foes, both immortal and mundane, Fu Xi knows he must act quickly and races west to rescue the saviors. Unaware of the real doom that awaits, Aizarg the fisherman and his party begin a perilous journey across a dangerous steppe. They seek the last of the Narim, the legendary Black Sea Gods, who hold the key to their salvation. Leading them is the rescued slave girl Sarah, the only one among them who knows the path to the land of the god-men.
Over seven days, the defining struggle of gods and humans begins under the onslaught of a powerful force whose true objective and origin remain a mystery. Fu Xi knows the secret to victory resides in the fisherman and the slave girl, whose lives he must protect, even if it means the rest of the world must perish!
If you enjoyed any Graham Hancock's books, you will love BLACK SEA GODS. BLACK SEA GODS transforms recently re-discovered Black Sea legends, possibly the root of all Eurasian mythology, with ancient Chinese mythology to create an unprecedented epic fantasy series. Find out more about this series at blackseagods.com
(Here is another episode in my continuing exploration of the Bible. You can read my series introduction here. All scripture quotes are NIV and may not be copied for commercial purposes. Read copyright information here.)
Before I get to the commentary, here are a few facts from Genesis 7 & 8:
Before I leave the subject of the Great Flood, there are a few points regarding this epic tale I need to cover. First is the subject of “clean” versus “unclean” animals. This is clearly from Jewish tradition. However, nowhere in Genesis before the flood does it define “clean” and “unclean”, it’s just assumed. God uses the terms to classify the animals, but other than sacrificial uses, there is no reason given why the animals are divided such. Therefore, the term is likely provided by the person writing down the tale (Moses?) many centuries later. The author obviously assumes the reader is familiar with the terms and customs.
This is the second time the Bible mentions an animal sacrifice to God, the first of which led to the falling out between Cain and Abel and the first murder. Why does God demand sacrifices, and why must those be of flesh? I covered this topic in a previous episode. It is to atone for sins, and as a symbol of bringing one’s most precious treasures before God as an offering of service, gratitude and love. However, it’s important to mention it again because 1) now we have a trend, and 2) God is visibly pleased with the sacrifice. I find it odd in this case because the vast majority of land-based animal life on earth has been wiped out, and the first act upon leaving the Ark is to kill a few more. As a 21st Century man looking back to the Bronze Age, I understand the perspective in those days was vastly different then it is today. An animal sacrifice would have been downright tame compared to some bloodthirsty cults of antiquity, but it is still blood and begs the question as to why an entity as powerful as God demands death as a rite of worship? At the end of the sacrifice God promises never to wipe out all life again.
I promised when I started this journey into the Bible I would take the scripture as it was, not as I wanted it to be. In Episode 10, I discussed God’s statement of regret in Genesis 6 regarding the creation of mankind. After reading Genesis 8:21-22, it sounds like God regretted the Deluge. Comparing God’s words at the end of the flood to his words before the flood, it appears God undergoes a change of heart regarding his relationship with humanity.
Yes, you heard me right…God seems to change, or at least changes his approach, to humanity. I can hear many of you screaming at the computer now…“God is eternal and unchanging!” Please, hear me out before you start lighting the heretical bonfire.
Did the Deluge make a single difference in the hearts of men for the generations following Noah? If history or the rest of the Bible are our guide, then humanity hasn’t changed an iota. Yet, Genesis 6:5 clearly states God’s reason for sending the Flood was mankind’s wickedness. But the Flood didn’t change that. If God knew the Flood wouldn’t result in a more righteous human race, why did he send it? What was the purpose of humanity’s cataclysmic suffering if God knew mankind would soon slip right back into its wicked state?
Maybe the answer lies in Genesis 8:21
The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.” (NIV)
In the scripture it says “The Lord…said in his heart…” That is the ONLY time in the entire Bible the Lord is quoted using that term. When God says something is from his heart, it doesn't get more real or genuine. How do I take this passage? I take it that the horrors of the Flood, wrought by his own hand, deeply affected God. It changed him.
The next clue is in this statement. “…even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”
“As I have done.” The implications of this passage are staggering. Once again God takes full responsibility for the Flood and then promises to never do it again. From his heart he declares he KNOWS mankind is wicked, but he won’t do that again. Ever. We know from Genesis 6 God can feel regret. Genesis 8:21 sounds a lot like regret, though the term is not explicitly used. Why would God feel regret over the Flood?
If he is an omnipresent god, then he had to have heard the screams of the drowning as the waters covered the highest hills. God had to feel every bit of their suffering as the last survivors huddled together against the pelting unrelenting sheets of rain. God must have seen the children ripped from their mother’s arms by the tsunami’s power. How does a loving, merciful God feel about such destruction knowing he will be unable to forget any of it for all eternity?
Here, my imagination departs from scripture. Please indulge me just a little speculation. If Noah was a truly righteous man, then I think he must have prayed for those outside the Ark. Perhaps he prayed for God to turn his wrath, and, when those prayers met silence, he then resigned himself to pray for God’s swift mercy on behalf of those beyond the Ark.
Perhaps Noah’s prayers turned God’s heart. Perhaps God’s love for Noah brought him to a place of reflection. Here, I think God finally comes to terms with his feelings for humanity, both the disappointment and the hope. Like a true parent, God’s anger passes with the storm, and he finally accepts that we are flawed, and will always be flawed. I will go even farther and say in the aftermath of the Flood, God’s love evolved from a covenant (and therefore conditional)-based to an unconditional love. Don’t misunderstand, God doesn’t accept (or tolerate) our sin, but he loves us regardless. That doesn’t mean a free pass, it only means that in the history that follows God takes a different approach.
When taken in entirety, I can almost hear a whisper, if not an apology then perhaps an acknowledgment of suffering, hidden in the poetic beauty of Genesis 8:21-22.
21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
22 “As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.” (NIV)
Brian Braden is the author of THE ILLUSION EXOTIC, the historical fantasy novel BLACK SEA GODS and several other exciting books. Please support this blog with your patronage.
Here is another episode in my continuing exploration of the Bible. You can read my series introduction here. All Bible quote are NIV and cannot be used for commercial purposes. Read copyright information here.)
When my oldest child was just a toddler, I remember giving him a Noah’s Ark play set. It was composed of a big, fat plastic ark with stickers for windows and a ramp on the side. All the plastic animals (sheep, giraffes, elephants, zebra and such) came in pairs, with one animal in each pair having thick eyelashes to let everyone know it was a she. Naturally, my kid put it in the tub, it tipped over and sank (if you’re going make a toddler Noah’s Ark, the kid is GOING to put it in the tub). The stickers came off. Animals went missing. Kids grew up and Noah’s Ark and its surviving crew sailed off into a Garage Sale sunset. That’s how I think most people think of the Great Flood today, a nice story about a kind old man, a boat full of cute animals, and a happy ending.
Those who know me, know I’ve done a lot of research into The Great Flood. The vast majority of Northern Hemisphere civilizations have a Great Flood myth. Some believe it goes back to the end of the last Ice Age when the earth’s massive glaciers melted rapidly in a series of continental floods. Maybe. Maybe not. This isn’t the place to speculate. Myth or fact – the realities of such an event wouldn’t have been cute; the fluff off children’s toys and coloring books. They would have been horrifying beyond belief, think 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami on a global scale.
Genesis 6 is a turning point in the Bible. For the first time God raises his hand against humanity. What drove God to almost wipe mankind from the face of the earth?
Wickedness in the World
6 When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. (NIV)
In my opinion, this is one of the most fascinating verses in the Bible, but I am at a loss to understand it. Essentially, earthbound angels mated with women and spawned a race of superheroes. I deduce these “Sons of God” were angels of sorts. (Are all angels male? Why were they on earth?) The Bible doesn’t answer on any of this, though it is discussed to some detail in non-canonized scripture. For some reason, these earth-bound angels mated with women and had super-human children, the Nephilim. That’s it, that’s all we know.
If the Sons of God and the Nephilim were good or bad or had any role in God’s decision on what was to follow, we’ll never know. The scripture doesn’t explain why these “heroes of old” are important, nor do they seem to have any lasting impact on the Old Testament, or the Bible in general, though they are briefly mentioned in a few other places.
Lots of people have written books about Genesis 6:1-4 (and I am one of them.) You can’t watch an episode of Ancient Aliens and not hear something about this verse. I could talk about this piece of scripture all day long, but I’m not because, while it would be fun, it would just be speculation. In my opinion, this is an odd footnote. The more important aspects of Genesis 6 are to come.
One more thing to note before moving on, here the Lord limited the years of human life to 120 years. This is interesting because God places this squarely on the lingering influence of his spirit on mortal flesh. I speculated about that in the last episode, but it also got me thinking.
In Genesis 3:22, God removes the Tree of Life from Adam and Eve’s reach expressly to keep men from living forever. Now, in Genesis 6, God says men have been living so long because of the lingering influence of his spirit. Logically, this implies that the Tree of Life is simply another aspect of God Himself, another side of the same divine Creator. This reinforces my analysis of the Tree of Life from Episode 6. If this is true, I believe the Tree of Life truly is a symbol of something much greater, a transcending life-giving force that has significant importance to the rest of the Bible.
Let’s get back to God’s reason for destroying the world.
5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” (NIV)
This is perhaps the most stunning passage I’ve read in the Bible so far, and a disturbing insight into the nature of God. Yes, you heard me right - I said disturbing. People were so wicked they despoiled all of the earth and everything on it. Everything had to go, not just people. What horrors could humanity have perpetrated in those ancient times that merited that level of annihilation? It would seem to me God would have flattened the planet several times over since then if the wickedness of men were the yardstick for a global purge. Yet, its not the decision to destroy humanity that really disturbs me, it’s how God came to his decision.
I have heard it is a sin to test God, but it is good to test God’s word through the Bible. Here, in Genesis 6, God’s word tested me. Words mean something, especially the Word of God. That’s why I had to read this passage over and over, to make sure I was reading it correctly.
Deep breath, here we go…
NOT WHAT I LEARNED IN SUNDAY SCHOOL: I was told all my life in very clear terms that GOD IS PERFECT AND DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES. The dictionary defines “regret” as “to feel sorrow or remorse for an act.” “Remorse” is “deep and painful regret for wrongdoing.” Let’s look at Genesis 6:6 again: “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”
One does not regret doing something right. One regrets doing something wrong. Does God believe he made a mistake? Does God make mistakes? Genesis 6 certainly sounds that way. Genesis 6:7 says “ - for I regret that I have made them.” God clearly puts it into the form of a personal regret. I don’t know about you, but I never look back at the things I did right in my life and say “I sure do regret that.” The only word I usually hear in conjunction with the word “regret” is “mistake,” like “I regret I backed into that car” and “I regret I drank that last margarita” and “I regret not going to the gym more often.” Before you start yelling “heresy!” and let loose the stones in my direction, its not me saying this…it’s the Bible. I just don’t know how else to interpret except the most logical and direct way. Like I’ve said before, I am not a Bible scholar, I’m just a guy asking questions.
How does the idea of the Lord making a mistake make me feel? First, he’s calling all of us a mistake. That’s kind of like your dad walking into your room with a disgusted look on his face and saying, “You suck and I wish you were never my son. I’m divorcing your mother and I’m jetting off to Cozumel with my secretary to start over. Oh, and there is a wrecking ball about to come through your wall in a minute to kill you. Bye.” Yep, that really sucks.
On the good side, maybe even God is not too big to admit he made a mistake, even if it’s your species. If we are truly created in his image, and his nature is that of a loving parent, maybe that is a good thing. Seriously. Think about it for a moment. God’s words sound like those of a parent, and parents often say mean things to those they love in times of anger, words they wish they could take back. Parents only want what’s best for their kids, and they want their kids to love them. SPOILER ALERT: God later admits to jealousy issues. I’m not kidding or being flippant. It’s true.
As crazy as it sounds, in my mind, this humanizes God. It makes him more accessible, more relatable. I don’t know how evil people were back were then compared to now, but I suspect a just and righteous God would be pretty disgusted with people nowadays, too. I also think he’d find islands of goodness, like he did back then, because just when we think there isn’t any hope….there is hope.
8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (NIV)
God pulls back his full wrath, and humanity gets a second chance, but only after the terror of the Cataclysm. We’re going to learn more about Noah, and the disaster to come, in the second part of my look at Genesis 6.
Brian Braden is the author of THE ILLUSION EXOTIC, the historical fantasy novel BLACK SEA GODS and several other exciting books. Please support this blog with your patronage.
I'm interrupting my blog series on the Bible for a brief update on my writing progress.
As a way of saying "I'm sorry this is taking so long" to my readers, here is an unedited sample from my upcoming novel THE CHRONICLES OF FU XI, Book 3: THE BASTARD GODS.
I'm making slow but steady progress and I am still hoping for a 2018 release.
The Demon Fish
The two men stood, side-by-side at the barge’s edge, in comfortable contemplation as if pondering something so casual as an afternoon swim. Arms crossed, Levidi rested all his weight on one leg like a crane, scratching the back of his calf with his toe. Ghalen leaned lazily on his crooked spear and scratched his nose. They talked softly as the enormous fin sliced slowly back and forth in the gentle waves a few yards away.
“They’re not serious, are they?” Ezra whispered to Sana. “It’s almost a third the length of the barge.”
“Yes,” she replied flatly. Sana had seen this scene many times before among her people, the Scythians. It was the way men spoke to one another before the hunt, or before battle. These were murmurs of strategy, scheming or just mischief.
A crowd of men and boys gathered behind Sana and Ezra, careful not to get close enough to the edge, lest they unbalance the barge.
“It’s too far,” Levidi kept his voice level, but Sana could detect his excitement at the size of the monster cruising just below the surface.
“I wonder how it tastes?” Ghalen squinted, as if in deep thought.
“I bet its wondering the same thing,” Sana remarked just loud enough to ensure being heard.
Ghalen ignored her.
“Its hide looks tough,” Levidi pondered.
“Yes,” Ghalen raised his eyebrow. That it does. The spear may not penetrate.”
“Perhaps its hide is tough enough to repair our deck bindings.” Okta stepped alongside Sana, followed by Alaya.
“Don’t encourage them!” Sana gave Okta a not-so-gentle shove to the laughter of the crowd.
Okta shrugged. “It’s just a fish.”
“Men are all the same. Not a shred of sense.” Sana remembered how a much smaller demon fish had sliced a sea dog in two with just a bite. This one looked like it could swallow a man whole. Sana looked around for Aizarg. She spotted him on the opposite end of the barge, back to them and staring off into the distance.
He will be of no help, she thought.
The demon fish began to slowly cruise closely alongside the barge. Levidi, Ghalen and the gallery followed.
“We’re going to have to jab it if we stand any chance of puncturing the skin,” Levidi said.
Ghalen’s shook his head. “It’s too far for a spear jab, I’ll have to throw.”
Levidi pursed his lips and looked as if calculating the distance. “You’ll just lose the spear.”
“That twig isn’t going to penetrate that thing’s skin.” Arms crossed and losing her patience, Sana followed a few paces behind. Behind them, the Lo straggled along, heads craning and murmuring expectantly.
The sun lorded high above, the dappling reflections making it difficult for Sana to see. The big gray fin, three hands high, sliced back and forth as if daring the men to attack.
Ezra leaned toward Sana and spoke in a low tone, “Even if they do spear it, how are they going to get it on the barge?”
“I have no idea.”
After a few more minutes of discussion, they agreed to let Ghalen throw the spear.
“Remember, that is my spear,” Levidi reminded.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Ghalen screwed up his face in concentration and brushed back his thick blonde hair. Then, he cocked back his arm.
Ghalen’s skill with the spear always amazed Sana, and was legendary among the Lo. If any man here had a chance of slaying the beast, it was him.
The wooden tip hit dead square behind the shark’s head, and bounced off harmlessly. It landed with a weak splash before beginning to drift away.
Levidi shrugged. “Tough fish.”
Ghalen nodded. “It will take metal to punch through that hide.”
They looked at one another and, as if reading each others’s thoughts, grinned knowingly.
“I know that look.” Alaya grabbed Sana’s arm. “He’s about to do something stupid.”
Ghalen and Levidi simultaneously drew their daggers from their loin-cloth straps.
“They’re not…” Sana looked on in disbelief.
“They are!” Ezra smiled broadly and snatched the knife from his loincloth.
“One of us takes the top, the other the bottom,” Ghalen said.
“Fair enough, stay clear of its tail,” Levidi gave each of his legs a brief shake to limber up.
“Another good point.”
“Levidi! Stop this foolishness,” Alaya screamed.
“It’s okay, my song bird. Me and Ghalen know what we’re doing.”
“Ghalen?” Sana asked incredulously.
“It’s just a fish,” he winked at her.
“It’s a fish as big as a wooly rhino with the teeth of a lion!”
Ghalen and Levidi nodded at one another and, knives drawn, a moment later jumped on top of the beast.
A mighty cheer went up from the Lo.
Ezra scrambled to join them, but Sana snatched him back by the arm. “Don’t be stupid. You swim worse than I do.”
Knife between his teeth, Levidi dove deep as Ghalen grabbed the beast’s dorsal fin and plunged his blade just ahead of the fin.
The water exploded in spray and blood. The beast rolled and thrashed, and Sana finally saw the monster’s true size... and its teeth. Each bigger than a lion’s tooth, they stood in jagged rows. If either man lost their grip, the creature would spin about and rend them to pieces. Just as bad, its crescent-shaped tail would smash them.
Sana shuddered as she finally got a look at the beast’s eyes, which were unlike anything she’s ever seen in a fish or land dwelling creature. They were like obsidian stones, lifeless and cold.
Every roll revealed Levidi clinging to the pectoral fin; each stab created a brief red bloom on the it’s underbelly before the sea washed away the blood. Ghalen held on to a dorsal fin and sliced bloody ribbons down the beast’s back.
Okta looked on, though to Sana he didn’t seem concerned. “Ezra, go fetch one of the two good coils of rope from my raft.”
Ezra slowly backed away, as if unable to take his eyes off the battle.
“Go, son. We’re going to need that rope soon.”
The beast suddenly snapped its body into a “U” shape, shrugging Ghalen off its fin. Before Sana could register what was happening, the fish snapped the other way, slapping Ghalen with its tail so violently he sailed out of the water and onto the deck, bowling over several men lined up along the edge. His knife skittered along the deck and stopped as Sana’s feet.
Okta clenched his knife between his teeth and dove in, followed by most of the Lo men. Soon, men covered the demon fish like ants, knives piercing and slashing.
Ghalen lay unmoving, a large red abrasive rash on his chest weeping blood in some places. Sana dropped to her knees beside him, shaking his chest.
Alaya knelt beside her. “He’s not breathing!”
“Ghalen!” Sana pushed on his chest, trying to rouse him.
Ghalen reached up and grabbed Sana by the back of the neck, pulling her down and kissing her hard. He rolled over on top of her, and pressed his body against hers. At first, she resisted, but Ghalen pressed her arms over her head, and inserted his hips between her legs. She began to melt as his tongue, and the tang of salt and blood, filled her mouth and ignited her Scythian blood.
He pressed harder. She pressed back, and let a moan escape.
Alaya scooted back and giggled.
“Sana?” Ghalen whispered tenderly.
“Yes?” Sana panted and fought the urge to push her pelvis harder against his.
“Where’s my knife?”
She looked at him oddly, wondering if she heard him correctly.
He glanced left and his face lit up. “There it is!” He snatched it off the deck, scrambled up and leapt back into the water to join the melee.
Cool air invaded the spaces where hot flesh once covered. Sana exhaled and covered her face with her hands. “I hope the beast bites his head off.”
Alaya giggled again.
Did you like the sample but haven't read any of my books? Begin the adventure with the historical fantasy novel BLACK SEA GODS.