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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading new author's novels or author's who have not had many reviews or exposure and giving them much needed encouragement where appropriate.   
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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Gorgon: An Alaska Iconoclast Mystery, Book 3 by Mary Ann Poll

Gorgon: An Alaska Iconoclast Mystery, Book 3

An accountant is gruesomely murdered in Anchorage. The hag tree guarding Ravens Ravine is chopped to the ground. Two separate events hundreds of miles apart are the harbinger of a new battle for Ravens Cove--and a new enemy. Some people are destined to be warriors against what most of the world cannot see. Some battles are eternal. Welcome back to the Cove…..

The Guru's Review: 

I am so glad I did not have to wait for this novel to be released to read it. The only delay I had was due to other books I was requested to review first. 

Gorgon follows the same formula as the previous two novels but has 6 new characters and a different supernatural entity-a gorgon/succubus-and new demons. 

It is very noticeable from these changes that this novel is more complex, action-packed and suspenseful. Everything has a greater depth than previous. I found myself having to concentrate much more compared to the previous two novels. I am not saying that this is a bad thing either, just a natural effect caused by this complexity. Of course, this also means that the entertainment value is also increased and at a deeper level. Now, that is a good thing!

Poll is very successful at depicting the richness of Alaska and that of Ravens Cove. She depicts the many layers of what makes up a small town tick with its characters and their small-town mentality. This shows their cohesiveness and ability to band together when they need to including taking on other roles. An example of this is Doc Billings being the GP and Medical Examiner. They even have a town gossip but instead of being one who is scorned and hated for the trouble she causes, she has the townsfolk's respect! I find this rather comical!

Poll has used this backdrop to focus on the demise of a previous resident, Mandy Thomas. She left the Cove many years ago for Anchorage and has returned due to her involvement in a murder. She seeks the help of her best friend, Kat, who we know from the previous two instalments.

It is what is involved in this murder that brings the demonic elements back to the Cove. By default, this involves the lives of Kat, Bart, Ken, Grandma Brines, Pastor Paul Lucas, Josiah, Wendy, Doc Billings and others. It also brings new characters into this situation such as Detective Dayton, investigating the murder Mandy is implicated in. Grandma Brines believes he will return to Ravens Cove in the future. I am interested to see if he surfaces in the next instalment, Dullahan, which has just been released. He seems to have had a similar, but shocking, initiation into the supernatural and Ravens Cove as Ken did in the previous two novels. 

The supernatural elements in this instalment are similar but different. Poll introduces the same demonic characters and some new ones. Thus, this demonic plot line becomes much more complex with the introduction of the entity, gorgon, manifested as Lilith. It is well established in both biblical and extra-biblical texts and depicted in fiction, that there is a hierarchy of demons. Poll shows that a gorgon does not fit into this hierarchy, but exists separate to this demonic one. Both hate each other and compete against each other for dominion over the other and the human race. 

I am a little familiar with Lilith. She is described as the first wife of Adam in the abovementioned texts, but not included as Canon in the Bible. She is described well in these texts and has one colorful history. Her inclusion in this story line intrigued me to do a Google search to see what these texts had to say about her. I can see why her story has provided a rich and intriguing plot line in this novel where Poll has exercised some poetic licence. It all adds much suspense and tenseness to this story. The characters seek to find out who this new supernatural entity is and if it is causing such horrific deaths. They also need to discover if it is causing the demonic forces to regroup and attack Ravens Cove again in the demon's attempts to rid themselves of the gorgon. 

The battle strategy between the demons of Iconoclast's forces against those of Gorgon adds a deeper layer of tenseness and depth to the overall battle for the dominion of Ravens Cove. Such betrayal, double crossing and swapping allegiances between these two evil forces test the faith and resolve of Kat, Bart, Grandma Brines, Pastor Paul, Ken and Josiah. 

As I have stated in previous reviews of Poll's novels, she has depicted spiritual warfare biblically. It is integrated throughout the poetic licence of her story lines. She has not allowed this poetic licence to alter this biblical depiction. It is this that makes this series worth reading and not just for its entertainment value. This latter function is not the only role Christian fiction has. One of its many attributes is to educate the reader and Poll allows it to do this by adhering to biblical principles. 

One of the spiritual themes in this novel is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This is not depicted much in Christian fiction (that I have read or not for any specific reason that I can determine). The Bible regards this as the one and only sin unforgivable by God, 
Mark 3:28-30: "Truly I tell you, all sins and blasphemes will be forgiven for the sons of men. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin.
These are the following verses that also mention this sin: Matt 12:32; Luke 12:10. These say the same thing as the verse mentioned above.

The Amplified Bible defines to these verses being as "whoever intentionally comes short of the reverence due the Holy Spirit".

The website Got Questions refers it as,
"....defiant irreverence. The term can be applied to such sins as cursing God or wilfully degrading things relating to God. Blasphemy is also attributing some evil to God or denying Him some good that we should attribute to Him. This particular case of blasphemy, however, is called “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” in Matthew 12:31."
Poll's depiction of this is in line with the above. Kat witnesses the character involved calling the Holy Spirit obscenities and other horrible things. Like Pastor Paul, I felt the sadness and the stark reality of what this means to the character when he realised this sin had been committed. Admittedly, this character is demon possessed but the end result is the same. 

Taking these verses in context, Jesus was addressing the Pharisees accusing Him of being demon-possessed instead of being Spirit-filled, 
The Pharisees, having witnessed irrefutable proof that Jesus was working miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit, claimed instead that the Lord was possessed by a demon (Matthew 12:24). Notice in Mark 3:30 Jesus is very specific about what the Pharisees did to commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: “He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an impure spirit."
This segment is the most dramatic and saddest in this series so far. It is even sadder when the final outcome for this character is revealed. 

Poll introduces a different aspect of spiritual warfare in each volume. This is another aspect that adds to the appreciation of this series. In Ingress, it was the sin of pride being an obstacle to God's involvement. In Gorgon, it is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This illustrates my point about Christian fiction being educational as well as entertaining.

It seems that Poll has set the stage for more instalments in this series with a new spiritual role appointed to one of the characters. I am looking forward to seeing this take shape in Dullahan. 

I can definitely see why some reviews consider this novel to be the best. I would tend to agree even though I have not read the newest release, Dullahan. That one may prove to be the best. Will have to wait and see!

Another thoroughly enjoyable visit to Raven's Cove. I am at least happy I have one more to read. I pray that there is more to come after Dullahan.

Highly Recommended. 5/5 Stars

To read an excerpt of this novel or to buy it, click on the BUY or PREVIEW icons on the image below: 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Ingress: An Alaska Iconoclast Mystery by Mary Ann Poll

Ingress: An Alaska Iconoclast Mystery

The dark and cold of an Alaska winter settled over Ravens Cove. To boost the sagging economy, Mayor Thomas Orthell brought in a new tourist attraction—an ancient town abandoned for almost a century. The Forgotten Place is rumored to be cursed and to hold the threat of death for any who enter. Now, the town and its curse have made their way to Ravens Cove. As mysterious deaths, legendary entities, and folklore come to life, the town is hurtled into a spiritual battle with a familiar nemesis. The lessons learned during the Iconoclast siege are going to be put to the test—along with the small troop of warriors that have been brought back together to learn a better way to fight and defeat a shrewd and dangerous enemy.

The Guru's Review: 

Reading this second volume in this An Alaska Iconoclast Mystery series just reinforces that it is a great series with a very talented author. 

It is so good being back in Ravens Cove with all the characters from the previous volume and a few more added in this one. I did not realise how much I had missed them until I started reading this much-awaited story that has sat in my To Be Read list. I feel very much a part of the Ravens Cove community and not just as a reader, but as if I was there with them. Poll has constructed this setting that makes it real for the reader. I definitely want to visit Alaska after reading this series. Add this to my bucket list. Looks like the application of the resources listed in the Acknowledgements has worked in depicting the rich heritage of Alaska. Kudos to this author for being committed to depicting Alaska as it is and thus making this a very memorable read. 

Poll shines in further developing the characters and progressing their relationships from the Ravens Cove volume. It is good to see the fractured relationship between Ken and Kat restored. It is predictable that this would come to the conclusion that I no doubt believe every reader, including myself, wanted and expected to see. Sometimes predictability is necessary and has a nice place in a plotline. It is not just romance between these two characters but a few others as well that add further layers to charactersation. This pleased me immensely. I look forward to these existing romantic relationships and these newly forming ones being developed further in Gorgon, the next volume in this series. There is nothing like romance to soften but strengthen a suspenseful but serious plot. In this novel, it is good versus evil, spiritual warfare over the battle for the souls of mankind, demonic versus the angelic. It is these themes that underscore this novel. 

I love the character of Grandma Bricken. I never knew a Grandmother in my life but Bricken would fit the bill very nicely. She also is very similar to a very close friend in the same age group who has been a spiritual mother to me for the past 30 yrs. Bricken is so much like her it is not funny! It seems that every family or community needs strong spiritual leadership and/or mentors. The main characters are blessed with a trinity of them: Pastor Paul Lucas, Josiah Williams and Grandma Bricken. These three provide Poll with the necessary platform for spiritual truth to be added to the storyline in dealing with Iconoclast and his minions. 

This novel flows seamlessly on from the cliffhanger ending of the previous volume, Ravens Cove. Seeing what happens to Josiah in his confrontation with Iconoclast gives closure to this first volume. It then sets the stage for the next incursion that Iconoclast and his circle of eight demons have with the townsfolk of Ravens Cove. The Prologue gives the history of The Forgotten Place with its demonic heritage and establishes the background for this volume. The stage is set for another action packed, suspenseful and engaging read, complete with the demonic activity and spiritual warfare that was established from the previous volume. 

Any spiritual warfare novel that is based on the Bible and its spiritual warfare principles need to reflect these. Poll has done so again in this novel. She has also taken this to the next level. She has shown what is an obstacle to these principles being effective and how this prevents God from acting. What Poll shows is a common sin that everyone falls victim to and that is pride.and arrogance. This is shown in the Bible as something that God hates and deals with severely. The following links from biblegateway.com show how God deals with this, 

When the main characters' attempts at spiritual warfare do not work, Josiah states that they have been praying. He does not understand why God won't stop the demonic onslaught. Upon introspection, he realises the battle for the souls of men is with God, and their sin of arrogance and pride has prevented God from acting. He states,
"I think the evil foe knows his battle for the souls of men is with God. But people arrogant as we are, think we can fight that battle for God. Maybe God wants us to know for a fact that He is the only one that can fight this battle. Not us." 
then later, 
"I can't believe my own arrogance........I have been acting as if I was calling on God. I was calling on God and expecting myself to fight this evil myself. I am a fool." 
and Pastor Paul admits the same sin, 
"I am too. I have been doing the same thing."
They then act on what they have to do: repent of their sin, 
"Lord", Josiah began, "help us. We have sinned against You. We have forgotten we are weak and cannot fight any battle without you. Please, God, help us. Please fight for us. In Jesus' name. Amen" 
Paul sighed. 
"Pride is such a deceitful thing-the heart of man laps it up like water."
Later, Doc Douglas, the veterinarian, humbles himself before God and beseeches Him to act on their behalf. God sends His angelic warriors to defeat Iconoclast. This humbleness is born out in the above biblical verses and is what God honours. 

Adding this obstacle to such an important spiritual warfare principle not only adds suspense and tension to the final confrontation scenes. It also adds to the entertainment value. This is very effective. However, it achieves another aspect of what Christian fiction can achieve: educate the reader. I always appreciate this educational inclusion. It shows that an author is willing to honour God in their writing by revealing more about His Word. It also shows they are willing vessels to allow their God-given talent to be used by Him for His purposes. And those purposes will be different to each reader as God reaches them where they are at. This is the second novel by Poll that I have read where she allows herself to be used like this. 

From this novel, Kat, Bart and Ken have now been through two demonic and supernatural events. They have seen both the destructive power of the demonic and the omnipotent power of God. I was hoping that by the end of the first novel, they would be convinced of the Gospel of Christ and become Christians. I am sure the author had reasons for not allowing their conversion thus far and that this would occur in this novel. However, Christian fiction needs to portray life as it is if the former is to be credible. Just as in real life, how many times have we witnessed to someone over a consistent period of time and they still do not accept the Gospel and the salvation that Jesus achieved on the Cross? 

Again, this adds more tension and suspense to the plot and spiritual warfare. However, after the defeat of Iconoclast, Poll has Bart and Ken stating that they now believe. This depiction is brief and more head knowledge than a heart transformation. I will have to wait until reading Gorgon to see if this is becomes a fully fledged conversion of the heart with accepting Jesus as Saviour. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed this novel and this has encouraged me to now move onto the next novel, Gorgon. This series keeps getting better and better! I can see why Poll is described on Amazon as "....America’s Lady of Supernatural Thrillers...." Quite a badge of honour but this one is less that the honour she shows in honouring the Word of God and keeping these novels biblically based. 

Strongly Recommended. 4/5 Stars

To read an excerpt or buy Ingress, click on the BUY or PREVIEW icons underneath the cover below:

Monday, 17 April 2017

Day Moon (Tomorrow's Edge Book 1) by Brett Armstrong

Day Moon (Tomorrow's Edge Book 1)

In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen-year-old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global software initiative his deceased grandfather helped found. Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge. All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure: a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather. Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria. The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”. When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for. There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose. Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him. Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria. All of history past and yet to be depend on it.

The Guru's Review: 

The author asked me to review Day Moon as he felt I would enjoy it as it is similar to a novel I recently reviewed. The description grabbed me so it was not a difficult choice to make. Day Moon is not his debut novel: he has a previous one, Destitutio Quod Remissio. This novel is in a totally different genre, Historical Fiction, while Day Moon is the Science Fiction & Fantasy and Futuristic genres. 

Looking at just these genres, it shows that this author has diversity in his writing talent. Destitutio Quod Remissio won the 2013-2014 CrossBooks Writing Contest. Admittedly, I have not read this book (I plan to, despite that fact that I don't read historical fiction) but it has enough merit to meet the criteria for this win. I am not surprised at his win as reading Day Moon shows this author has flair for writing and one that he does well. 

Apart from this, Armstrong has created a well-developed plot. No peaks or troughs, just a steady pace that keeps you coming back for more. I was kept guessing about what was going to happen next as Armstrong unfolds the next plot development. Armstrong is careful to not provide too much information along the way that would only serve to derail these developments. Just enough to support the events that are happening at the time or what is going on with the characters. 

Some novels are plot driven while others are character driven. Not sure if there is a fine line between the two or even if there should be, but for me, I found this novel to be very character driven. In saying that, I am by no means saying that this is a weakness or that I prefer plot driven structures. I enjoy both. In Day Moon, it is all about Elliot and how he reacts to being plunged into the betrayal, deception, and intrigue of those behind Project Alexandria and even those in his own party. The events of the plot and the backdrop of the futuristic society and its technology only serve as a platform for Elliot to solve the mystery set out by his grandfather to shut down this Project. 

When a protagonist has both Federal Government agents and those within his own party being deceptive, betraying him and derailing his attempts to do this, it is not surprising that this novel succeeds by being character driven and focussed on the main protagonist. All this does is endear the reader to Elliot and engage the reader's full attention and support for this character and what he has set out to achieve. You empathise with his despair, doubt, frustration, rejoice when he successfully problem solves and even chuckle at the awkwardness of budding romance (maybe this bring back memories!). You rejoice when his faith in God increases and when he takes a stand for God and Truth. The same applies when he learns to trust God more during the events that are set in motion to thwart him.

Romance always succeeds in softening any action and adventure, mystery and suspense plot line while at the same time strengthening it. And so it does in this novel. I am not a romance reader but when this an author includes it as a subplot, I enjoy it and so I did in this novel. I love romance being written by male authors, maybe I relate to romance from the slight male perspective nuances that a male author includes intentionally or unintentionally. Maybe the romance here is depicted without the degree of sickly sweetness that is in some female-authored romance genres! Armstrong has depicted young romance in all its awkwardness and joy as realistically as I have experienced it and expect it to be. Maybe he is drawing on his own experiences which is a wise thing to do as an author. Write what you know!

One thing I have picked up from reading this novel and investigating the author's background is that he has a passion for writing. This shows in everything to do with this novel's construction. This is also shown in the development of the clues placed by Elliot's grandfather for him, John and Lara to discover and decipher. I know from an interview the author was in that he loved Shakespeare in high school. It is no surprise then, that this novel is influenced by Shakespeare. Armstrong even created a Shakespeare like sonnet, Day Moon, which this novel pivots around. This is also a major clue to the shutting down of Project Alexandria. It is why those behind this project together with the Federal Agents want this sonnet destroyed and seek Elliot for it. Unbeknownst to both these parties, there are Christian classics, (Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrim's Progress, Mere Christianity, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Chronicles of Narnia) that contain further clues and information to do this. It seems some of these latter books form part of the plot for the two remaining novels in this trilogy. 

It is quite a feat to compose a sonnet in true Shakespeare-like fashion. While I am no expert on this famous classical author, it appears that Armstrong's motivation for this sonnet is to be a tribute to Shakespeare. He even composed this sonnet in the iambic pentameter method that Shakespeare used. This is defined as
a commonly used type of metrical line in traditional English poetry and verse drama. The term describes the rhythm that the words establish in that line, which is measured in small groups of syllables called "feet". The word "iambic" refers to the type of foot that is used, known as the iamb, which in English is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. The word "pentameter" indicates that a line has five of these "feet".
Iambic pentameter is the most common meter in English poetry; it is used in many of the major English poetic forms, including blank verse, the heroic couplet, and some of the traditional rhymed stanza forms. William Shakespeare used iambic pentameter in his plays and sonnets.  
I featured Brett Armstrong in an Author/Novel Spotlight post in this blog recently (click here to view). I was impressed by his reasons for the spiritual themes that he included, 
I feel like as western society moves further from toleration of Christianity, Christians need some encouragement to stand against the tide. I feel very strongly that what we read and watch can and will influence how we behave in our real lives, so Elliott really struggles to do just that. He knows resisting the current is far from the easiest path available to him and that it could well end in his death, but he persists. And he does so following clues left by his grandfather whom he knows well, but cannot communicate with face-to-face to know he’s right about what he’s doing. Elliott has doubts about himself, his grandfather’s intentions, whether all of it is worth it. It’s somewhat like how we interact with Christ. We know Him and have guidance He has left for us, but most of us will never get to look into His eyes this side of eternity and draw our reassurance from there. We have to walk by faith and Elliott, from one terrible setback and betrayal to another, has to choose to keep pressing forward.
There are some other allusions as well. Project Alexandria hearkens back to the world just before the Tower of Babel dispersion. The temptation to pursue a desired cause without considering the consequences is a huge theme of the book and the creation of Project Alexandria by Elliott’s grandfather is reminiscent of Adam and Eve’s fall.
Armstrong certainly portrays these themes and I hope he continues to include these and others in future novels. I appreciated Elliot's short prayers of help and guidance interspersed throughout the novel when he, Lara, John and company were attempting to decipher these clues and thwart their pursuers. This reflects the Christian's response to the nature of this fallen world, in all its good, bad and ugly forms. It also shows that we are to be reliant on God and not on our own strength. 

I wondered why this novel was called Day Moon. I knew the author had a reason for it, especially since he composed the sonnet. Not a very attention grabbing title. Apart from this sonnet being one of the clues to Project Alexandria, I thought throughout reading the novel that there would have to be more to it than just this. I wondered if it had any spiritual message or theme. When my wonder was confirmed I was blown away by its simple truth but deep meaning, but also dumbstruck at how easily it would be to miss this or just not realise it all together. I applaud Armstrong for this message and outlining its importance. It has real meaning in today's world where everything is being redefined or truth suppressed and distorted. This is what Christian fiction can do, not just entertain but outline the truth of the Gospel or what is currently happening in the world we live in. It seems that the message behind the definition of what Day Moon is, ties in directly with the reason Armstrong wrote this novel that he outlined in the Author/Novel spotlight post I mentioned above.Too long to include in this review, but it can be read here.

For a debut instalment in a new series, this novel sets a really good foundation for a very enjoyable future. I look forward to the above themes, plot structure and characters being developed further and even the spiritual involvement such as prayer, use of the Word from the characters, with hopefully more obvious involvement from God or the Spirit being included as well. I say this as there is great potential for this to enhance this type of plot. 

Strongly Recommended. 4/5

To read a preview or buy this novel, click on the BUY or PREVIEW icons below.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Author/Novel Spotlight: Brett Armstrong

Today I am highlighting Christian novelist, Brett Armstrong. He contacted me through this blog to review his new novel, Day Moon (Tomorrow's Edge, Book 1). I readily accepted as the description grabbed me. Upon investigating Brett on his Amazon Author page, I discovered he has a previous novel, Destitutio Quod Remissio (translation: And removing the Remission) which has rave reviews. 

I offered Brett this Author/Novel Spotlight to promote his new novel, Day Moon, which was released on March 26, 2017.

So without further ado, sit back and explore the world of Brett Armstrong. 

First off, a little about Brett: 

Brett Armstrong, author of the award-winning novel, Destitutio Quod Remissio, started writing stories at age nine, penning a tale of revenge and ambition set in the last days of the Aztec Empire.  Twenty years later, he is still telling stories though admittedly his philosophy has deepened with his Christian faith and a master’s degree in creative writing.  His goal with every work is to be like a brush in the Master artist’s hand and his hope is the finished composition always reflects the design God had in mind.  He feels writing should be engaging, immersive, entertaining, and always purposeful.  Continually busy at work with one or more new novels to come, he also enjoys drawing, gardening, and playing with his beautiful wife and son.

Let's have a look at Brett's debut novel, Destitutio Quod Remissio:

For decades, Roman Senator Marcus Servius labored to become a wealthy and admired patrician man. But now, his world is shattered. After he is exposed as a Christian during a time of intense persecution, his home, wealth, and prestige are stripped from him. The most painful loss of all is that of his beloved wife, Cassandra. Destitute and wary, Marcus prays he will be delivered from his enemies’ hands as he struggles to realize a new path.

In desperate need of help, Marcus disguises himself and embarks on a dangerous journey to find Benjamin Truvias, the leader of a hidden church and the man responsible for Marcus’s conversion. After Benjamin offers aid, Marcus’s life finally finds needed direction. Yet, the more he helps the church through persecutions, the closer he comes to finding who betrayed him. Caught in a maelstrom of intrigue and deception, should Marcus discover the awful truth of who caused his fall, he must choose between vengeance and forgiveness—a decision that will affect the fate of all the believers in Rome. 

Destitutio Quod Remissio is the timeless epic tale of a man’s struggle to rebuild his life amid ancient Rome after he loses everything he loves and his faith is tested in ways he never imagined.

The Editorial Reviews are very encouraging: 

"Destitutio Quod Remissio by Brett Armstrong had a definite wow factor to it. It's a strong story about a subject that is perhaps a little too close for comfort right now, given world events, but I have to say Mr. Armstrong has done a fine job here. It's a really well-written book, clearly the product of a great deal of work and research and it shows. It was one of those books where you put it down at night wondering what's going to happen next and where the book is going to take you. Amazing story, excellent writing."  - Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers' Favorite

"Armstrong paints his scenes with brilliant figurative and sensory brush strokes. The reader feels the depravity and the fear of the characters among the multitudes in Rome. This effect is balanced by the depiction of immense wealth and beauty of the affluent. Armstrong illustrates the narrative with strong and insightful metaphors and analogies." - Cheryl Rodriguez for Reader's Favorit

"Set against the background of ancient Rome, Destitutio Quod Remissio by Brett Armstrong tells a compelling story about a man's loss, suffering, betrayal, faith, self-rediscovery, and purpose. The plot is thick with tension, mystery, and suspense, delivering a gripping historical novel that had me reading non-stop in a bid to see how it all played out. "  - Faridah Nassozi for Readers' Favorite

"...Armstrong does a skillful job of mingling a plot about the testing and strengthening of Marcus Servius's faith with a plot about him eventually discovering who it was who exposed him in the first place. The book's period details are unobtrusively well-researched, and the dialogue has a natural feel to it... On the whole, this is solid, meaty work, and the climactic courtroom scene is well-handled."  - Joanna Uruqhart, The Historical Novel Society

Now, let's investigate Brett's latest release: 

Day Moon (Tomorrow's Edge, Book 1)

In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen-year-old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global software initiative his deceased grandfather helped found. Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge. All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure: a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather. Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria. The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”. When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for. There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose. Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him. Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria. All of history past and yet to be depend on it.

Brett has a book trailer to further pique your interest: 

I asked Brett why he wrote Day Moon and whether there are any Biblical themes:

There were a number of reasons, but perhaps the most relevant is I feel like, to an extent, western society is regressing socially and morally to ancient Greco-Roman paradigms. My previous book, Destitutio Quod Remissio, was set in 4th Century AD Rome and a lot of the themes and nuancing is similar in spite of the vast setting differences. Rome had a problem with indulging in a theatre culture. If I may, I’d like to apply the term “surreality”, to this practice. It’s the idea that we foster a surreal or surrogate reality in the public sphere and rather than face the true world, we focus on this foster world. Every day we’re making choices and advancements in society that have consequences, but we don’t necessarily weigh in the balance the costs associated with these choices. We prefer to live in our perceived reality rather than calculate the sums of our decisions. Day Moon features a kind of extrapolation of that behavior and one example is in the self-driving cars in the novel. There are essentially no accidents, everyone is free to relax and do whatever they please while riding to each destination, and it is much faster. However, the unaccounted costs are a loss of freedom to choose our path so to speak. Not to mention a loss of awareness of the world around us. It just seemed like in all the dystopian literature I’ve read, the dystopia is imposed on the people. Through catastrophe or governmental edict, etc. In Day Moon, the world is as it is, because the world has chosen this path and people are blissfully unaware of what they’ve given and really don’t want to think they shouldn’t be content with how things are turning out.


I feel like as western society moves further from toleration of Christianity, Christians need some encouragement to stand against the tide. I feel very strongly that what we read and watch can and will influence how we behave in our real lives, so Elliott really struggles to do just that. He knows resisting the current is far from the easiest path available to him and that it could well end in his death, but he persists. And he does so following clues left by his grandfather whom he knows well, but cannot communicate with face-to-face to know he’s right about what he’s doing. Elliott has doubts about himself, his grandfather’s intentions, whether all of it is worth it. It’s somewhat like how we interact with Christ. We know Him and have guidance He has left for us, but most of us will never get to look into His eyes this side of eternity and draw our reassurance from there. We have to walk by faith and Elliott from one terrible setback and betrayal to another has to choose to keep pressing forward.

There are some other allusions as well. Project Alexandria hearkens back to the world just before the Tower of Babel dispersion. The temptation to pursue a desired cause without considering the consequences is a huge theme of the book and the creation of Project Alexandria by Elliott’s grandfather is reminiscent of Adam and Eve’s fall.

If what you have now read has whetted your appetite for more, here is an excerpt and Brett's reason for choosing it: 

I chose the following passage because it gives a quick glimpse into the tension amongst the protagonists and Elliott’s continual struggle to sort out who he can trust. Every decision he makes seems like a wrong turn, so he really has to work to keep pressing on. His faith is fragile but holding him on a steady course, even if he doesn’t know where it is leading.

~~~~~~~~~~~~Start of Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~

Minutes later, John was out of sight and Elliott and Lara were almost to the library. Lara finally spoke up. “So, looks like we’re trusting him after all, huh?”

“As much as we can,” Elliott responded, feeling his chest tighten. This wasn’t a pleasant conversation from the tone of Lara’s voice. 

“We just gave him my car,” she stated, her voice as sleek and blunt as a baseball bat.

“To be honest it’s better if we don’t have your car anymore. They know we’re in the area. Terrance couldn’t have found us and the authorities remain in the dark.”

“You don’t know that. Maybe John tipped Terrance off.”

“I tipped Terrance off when I checked your phone,” Elliott answered, his voice low.

“Why did you by the way?”

“I just felt like I needed to.”

“You don’t trust me either.”

“No, I trust you, but… I don’t know what to think anymore. Everywhere I look there’s some kind of trap or clue to a puzzle I never meant to try to solve.”

“I guess I can understand that,” Lara said, a grimace on her face. 

“Are you sure?”

“No, but I like you enough to give myself time to figure it out.”

Elliott’s cheeks grew rosy and he wanted to apologize, to erase the hurt in her cocoa eyes, but he couldn’t begin to frame it in a way that would cover it justly. 

He couldn’t let it end on that note. He had to turn it in the right direction. The words came to him in a rush and, like a wave crashing on the shore and then receding, they escaped his grasp again. The only person I trust right now is Christ, but you’re the closest anyone else could come.

Those words remained out of his grasp because vexation descended upon him as he wondered at the truth of the words. Am I really trusting Christ? Grandpa used to tell me, “Perfect love drives out fear,” but that certainly doesn’t look anything like how I act.

More than Lara’s ire, this realization hurt him. He was truly failing everyone.

Before him stood the doors to the library. Elliott noticed Lara’s arms were crossed and tense. Grasping the door, he pulled it open and said, “Lovely ladies before bumbling, and apologetic, boyfriends.” The taste of iron drifted faintly onto his tongue as he bit down on his cheek in horror at what he had just said.

Lara rolled her eyes, but her posture relaxed as she strolled in. Elliott couldn’t be sure, but he thought she wore the ghost of a smile as well.

Inside the library, things looked much like their last visit, largely empty with lights dimmer than most buildings of similar purpose in more developed cities. Behind the circulation desk, Elliott caught a flicker of motion, as Rosalyn saw them and stiffened as if they were specters rather than patrons. 

Shooting Lara a quick glance, Elliott shrugged. Lara shrugged back and mouthed, “Go ahead.”

By the time the pair made it to the desk’s edge, Rosalyn had regained some of her composure. The librarian’s discomfort was seemingly displaced by confusion…and annoyance?

Before either teen could speak, she addressed them both in an even, but clearly strained tone. “Why are you both here?”

“We ran into some…complications following the tips you gave us,” Elliott replied, trying not to sound abashed over circumstances that were not his fault.

“And you think I can do something about it?”

“No,” Elliott rejoined, “but you can give us some answers. Like, what is going on, and what my grandfather was trying to clue us into.”

Rosalyn’s arms were perpendicular to one another and she rested her head in the palm of the vertical. A faint moaning sound escaped her lips. “You both think you can find answers here? Wonderful. We’re all as good as dead.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~End of Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~

You can find out more about Brett and his novel at the following social media platforms:


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Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader of Christian science fiction and fantasy, Christian inspirational, to consider reading Day Moon and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Interview with Authors of The Crossover Alliance Anthology 3: Superheroes

To celebrate the release of the 3rd Anthology of The Crossover Alliance: Superheroes, we have conducted an interview of sorts to showcase the contributing authors and to give some background to their stories to see where the edgy and speculative elements originate. There are no questions in this interview, just the authors being in the driver's seat telling of their inspiration that led to their stories.

Before we continue, here is the background to The Crossover Alliance for those visitors who do not know what we are about:

The Crossover Alliance is a unique publishing company specializing in Christian fiction that contains edgy, real-world content. We weren't satisfied with the 'rules' that many Christian publishing companies have tried to pin Christian authors in - however well-intended these rules were - and so we set out to create a publishing company that both breaks many of these rules and also adhere to biblical principles. Our fiction is fearless, sometimes scary, sometimes raw and edgy. But there in the middle of it all, you will find a light to help you find your way through it, you will more than likely find redemption within the darkness, and most importantly you will find fiction that is true to the story, not the rules.

What We Publish

When we say 'real-world content' in Christian fiction, you might be wondering what that covers exactly. Real-world content can mean a great many things - violence, cursing, sexual content, etc. But it can also represent themes that aren't always welcomed or addressed in Christian fiction, such as abortion, slavery, genocide, etc. We want to be a publishing company that specializes in compelling, true-to-the-story, authentic fiction while also keeping with Biblical standards. We don't try to be edgy just to be edgy. We aren't into shock-and-awe, but more into telling a story that entertains, enriches, and even sometimes digs to the deepest part of you and shows you the horrors of the world while also showing you the path through those horror

To investigate more about The Crossover Alliance, go here:

The Crossover Alliance Anthology 3: Superheroes

Some pursue heroism, others are thrust into it. Superheroes. They live among us, some hidden in plain sight, others as well-known celebrities. All carry a burden and a purpose: to destroy the evils of this world and keep the common man safe from harm. But evil is a strong thread that refuses to be cut. How much sacrifice will need to be made to destroy that which seeks to destroy us, and are there enough heroes to do the job?


Ok, sit back and let the authors of The Crossover Alliance tell you about their stories that comprise our 3rd Anthology:

Steve Rzasa

Author of Airfoil: Hotspots

I'm the author of eleven novels of science-fiction and fantasy, with a handful of short stories to my name. My professional career has been split between newspapers and libraries, but both have focused on the written word. It's always been my passion, whether reading or writing. Marcher Lord Press (now Enclave Publishing) printed my first two novels, The Word Reclaimed and The Word Unleashed seven years ago, and ever since I've been expanding my horizons, telling stories that carry messages of hope and redemption. The methods I use to tell those stories, however, have changed, and thus I've become involved with The Crossover Alliance.

Airfoil: Hotspots is an adventure my hero, Brandon Tusk, endures over the span of a week. He's juggling home life as a single father, work as a librarian, and friendships as he tries to stop a maniac arsonist. I wrote Hotspots last summer, when I heard about the proposal anthology, as a follow-up to the yet-unpublished but finished novel Airfoil: Origins. It's a self-contained adventure that takes its cues from the superhero tales I enjoy - DC's Arrow and The Flash, the Marvel properties like The Avengers and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. What always fascinates me is the clashing of the mundane with the extraordinary. How do you stop devastating evil, while making sure you have a job and can bring home a decent salary to support your family?

The Airfoil stories, couple with my latest novel Man Behind the Wheel, are my foray into a new type of fiction, one unconstrained by the rules that hamper traditional Christian story-telling. Taking greater risks makes all of us better writers - and readers.

Twitter: @SteveRzasa
Facebook: Steve Rzasa

Michelle Levigne

Author of  Living Proof

I've been a word addict since the Cat in the Hat and Weekly Reader Book Club. On the road to publication, I fell into fandom and am now a card-carrying recovering Trekker, with 40+ stories in various SF and fantasy universes. My training includes working in quality control in an advertising agency, support staff at a weekly newspaper, the Institute for Children's Literature, a BA in theater/English and MA in film and writing. My writing career became "official" when I won 1st place in the Writers of the Future Contest -- check the winner's anthology volume VII if you don't believe me! Since 2000, I've had 60+ novels and novellas published in SF, fantasy, YA, and sub-genres of romance. I freelance edit for a living, but only enough to give me time to write. I still hope to break into Hollywood, or at least convince SyFy to film one of my series.

How "Living Proof" came to be:

I created a shop full of magic called Divine's Emporium, and its mystical proprietress, Angela, for a short story. The town of Neighborlee, Ohio, grew around it. It's a combination of Roswell, Eureka, and Sunnyvale, but without the vampires or weird science. Lanie Zephyr, our heroine is one of the guardians of Neighborlee's magical weirdness. She is also based on my brother, a wheelchair-bound comedian. With a liberal amount of his totally bizarre sense of humor and doorknob-level view of life. When I figured out how and why Lanie landed in her wheelchair, I "discovered" she used to be a high school teacher and track/basketball coach. I also "discovered" the Neighborlee tradition, of Senior Prank Night -- when high school seniors make a last-ditch effort to avoid walking through graduation. Lanie was just doing her duty, as schoolteacher and guardian. And the rest is Neighborlee history.

Website: www.Mlevigne.com
Facebook: michelle.levigne.7

Kristin L. Norman 

Author of The Last Call.

Kristin was born and raised in the ‘forgotten borough’ of New York City. She has lived on each coast and now resides in the frozen tundra that is Northern Michigan. She is a pastor’s wife, mother of two, teacher, worship leader, and now…an author. The Last Call is her first published work but sees this story as only the beginning.

You can follow her at:


Glenn Odell (the main character of my story) came to me as I was driving to work at 7:30 am. I was passing a large farm and in the distance, I could see a couple of cows milling about and the thought came to me…what if someone had a superpower where they could smell everything they could see? At first, it seemed ridiculous and I enjoyed filling the duration of my car ride playing out what that might look like. As the thought developed, I found myself creating an entire character, story, and world. I realised that I needed to tell Glenn’s story. With that, my journey into becoming a writer began. I submitted my short story, The Last Call, but the writing did not stop. Within four months of my short story submission, I began and completed my first novel.  

Timothy G. Huguenin 

Author of The Bald Man

Timothy writes short stories and novels in the speculative fiction genre, generally leaning toward horror. He lives in West Virginia with his wife and dog. You can find his first novel, When the Watcher Shakes, on Amazon in ebook and trade paperback. His second novel, Little One, will be released in July. Visit tghuguenin.com to keep up with his life and writing.

I came up with the idea for The Bald Man when the superhero movies were starting to get big again. My wife sometimes argues about what technically makes a superhero—if a superhero doesn’t have super powers, doesn’t that just make him an ordinary hero? We have all these humans/aliens with strange powers that decide to use their powers for good. Then there’s Batman and Iron Man, whose powers are…being rich and smart, I guess. The super villains are usually the opposite: humans/creatures with extraordinary abilities (or lots of money) who decide to leverage their power for their own gain or amusement, to the direct (and usually intentional) harm of others.

But I wanted to explore a character who finds himself with an unnatural ability but wants zero attention or responsibility. An unwilling superhero—well, he has the super, but with only that, should he be called something else? And, in the end, will he be held accountable for what he does with his power?

Website: tghuguenin.com
twitter: twitter.com/tghuguenin

Rosemary E. Johnson 

Author of Fly Like A Bird

Rosemary lives in the beautiful foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. She’s known to sit in the sun and carry on conversations with her cat, make fairy houses, and run around barefoot. She’s fascinated by the Myers-Briggs personality types and finds them extremely helpful in coming to understand her characters (she’s an INFP). Music is a big part of her life—she plays violin in the Auburn Symphony and enjoys listening to music while she writes.

As a fantasy girl, Rosemary has a thing with dragons and thinks it would be cool to speak Sindarin. One of the reasons she writes speculative fiction is summed up in this quote by Lloyd Alexander: “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”
Rosemary has three short stories published in anthologies by Inspire Christian Writers, and she’s excited about her superhero story with The Crossover Alliance.

Fly Like A Bird was written because I was pushed off a cliff. Metaphorically, of course. My friend saw the submission guidelines and said, “You need to do this”. I resisted at first because it was a stretch and I don’t like cliffs, but she’s a pro at pushing me. So I poked around on Pinterest and found some random story prompts and took it from there. I thought it’d be fun to do a story where the protagonist gets a superpower and hates it. I wrote the story, edited it, sent it to my friend for critique, edited it, and finally submitted it. And guess what. I flew.

Website: rosemaryejohnson.com
Facebook: rejdragonwriter
Twitter: twitter.com/rejdragonwriter
Pinterest: rejdragonwriter

Adam Collings

Author of Chronostream's Father

Adam David Collings is an author of speculative fiction. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife Linda and his two children. Adam draws inspiration for his stories from his over-active imagination, his life experiences and his faith.

Adam is a great lover of stories, enjoying them in books, movies, scripted TV and computer games. Adam hosts the monthly youTube show 'Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Bulletin' sharing the latest news on releases from Christian who produce speculative fiction. He is also involved in mixing the live video stream for his local church.

Reason for this story: 

 I've been a life-long fan of superheroes, so when I heard that the Crossover Alliance were using them as the subject of their next anthology I knew I had to submit something. I started a story, and it was okay, but it didn't really go anywhere. Life moved on. Other projects grabbed my attention. As the deadline neared I knew that I had to get something together or forget about it. Then, in a way that I can only describe as God inspiring me creatively, the story came to me.

The story Chronostream's Father explored some issues I was struggling with. I have a son with special needs. I think all parents feel unqualified for the job sometimes, but this is heightened when your child needs that little something extra. I wondered what it would be like to raise a child with super powers. It seemed a fun twist on the genre to tell the story from the parent's point of view. I created a flawed protagonist. A Christian who doesn't quite have it all together. I'm sure we can all relate. Ultimately, the story reminds me that God's grace is sufficient for me.

I had to decide what type of powers my character would have. Time travel is another love of mine. I realised that the ability to pause and rewind time would be cool, but what really got my blood pumping was the idea that due to the wibbly-wobbly nature of temporal mechanics, this hero's origin story would not be at the beginning, but at some indeterminate time in the future.

As a bit of extra fun, I set my story in the same universe as an unfinished superhero story I had sitting on my hard drive. Good inspiration to get back and finish it. Finally, I set the story in my home state of Tasmania. Why? Because it's one of the most awesome places on earth. Trust me.


Jen Finelli

Author of Hierro 

God killed his son, but let Jen Finelli live. Since then, Jen has ridden a motorcycle in a monsoon, hunted down two secret societies, swum with sharks, betrayed an organization trying to control the news, discovered murals in underground urban city tunnels, and etc ad infinitum. She's going to be a superhero one day if God lets her, but for now, she's a multi-published sci-fi author four months away from her MD. You can read more about Carl from Hierro, and his teammates, at http://igg.me/at/BecomingHero, where a comic book character kills his author. Or you can follow Jen's upcoming movie, a pro-marriage comedy ala Pina Colada Song, at mysweetaffair.com. Or you can read some of her crazier works and meet the woman herself at byjenfinelli.com!

Why I wrote the story:

Hierro is about a Puerto Rican engineering student struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. As a medical student, I've not only helped treat patients with MS but also found deep inspiration in the lives of activists like the late Chris Klicka who made a difference despite their debilitating disease. Because I live in Puerto Rico, and I've worked in construction and studied engineering, in some ways Carl's experiences also reflect mine. If you enjoy the story, you can also read about the other heroes of the team Carl starts in "Origins: A Guardian Anthology" which you can get as an add-on if you order my book about the comic book character who shoots his author.

Clayton Webb

Author of The Trojan Initiative

My name is Clayton Webb. I grew up on a farm in Alberta Canada fighting whatever evil creatures were lurking nearby. Now I fight the evil creatures lurking in the imaginations of my 4-year-old son and my wife Trisha. I work as a communication technologist and spend the day dreaming of anything that isn't work.

You can find me on twitter at c2webb@87 and I hope to have my blog up and running in the next couple of months and it is www.c2wtales.com

I wrote this story because I love superheroes and I loving trying to encourage the readers of my stories to dig a little deeper into what being human is all about.

Free Audio Drama:

Enjoy a free audio drama of The Trojan Initiative by Clayton Webb, courtesy of our friends at the Untold Podcast! Click on the link below:

Nathan James Norman 

Author of Without Blemish: A Philosophy of Preaching.

I am a Husband. Father. Pastor. Storyteller. Reader. Comic Fan. Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Without Blemish: A Philosophy of Preaching is directly connected to my professional life as a pastor. I dedicated it to J. Kent Edwards, my ongoing preaching mentor because I wanted to give readers a grotesque image of what the state of preaching often looks like in the Western Church.

Several years ago, one of the main scenes came to me while I listened to a sermon that mangled the biblical text to suit the speaker's agenda (rather than God's). It was a great scene, but I couldn't figure out how to wrap a believable story around it. When the topic for this anthology was announced I realized the superhero genre was the type of universe this story belonged in. 

I also have an ongoing fascination with local folklore. Whenever I visit a new place I enjoy getting my hands on locally written ghost stories and legends. I've lived in Northern Michigan for five years now, and the legend of the Dogmen has fascinated me. They worked perfectly for a superhero story.

So, my love for good biblical preaching, and enjoyment of local legends resulted in "Without Blemish: A Philosophy of Preaching".

Nathan James Norman blogs at nathanjamesnorman.com

He hosts a speculative fiction podcast on untoldpodcast.com,

He preaches at the Orchard Church in Traverse City, Michigan— orchardchurch.net.

He can found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/untoldpodcast

Twitter: @nathanjnorm and @untoldpodcast

JD Cowan 

Author of Someone Is Aiming For You.

I started writing when I realized the stories I wanted to read were not being written. Not being a fan of modern fiction, I decided to try my hand at it. My blog, Wasteland and Sky, is mainly about entertainment and storytelling and musing on both.

Someone is Aiming For You started as a desire to tell a superhero story from a vigilante perspective. Old noir and detective pulps had always interested me, and this gave me the tone I needed.

I'm a fan of old heroes like The Shadow and The Question who add a bit of a thoughtful approach to heroes. What exactly is The Shadow? Is he a man? A demon? An angel? Justice incarnate? That mystery behind his origin always fascinated me into questioning just what he was. On the other side of the coin is The Question. The Question is a hero searching for Truth while evil crashes in on him from every angle. His struggle for Truth is just as engaging as his fight for justice. These two heroes inspired me greatly. The Seeker came from them.

Oh, and there was also Daredevil, specifically based on the TV version. His battle between God and Satan fascinated me. As a Christian, I wondered just how a hero who knew there was evil out there just outside his door would react to constantly being faced with it. Matt Murdock can go about his day as a lawyer; the Seeker doesn't have that luxury.

Those who want to find me can see me can do so at wastelandandsky.blogspot.ca, twitter @lonewolfandjd, and my e-mail at lonewolfandjd@gmail.com.

D. A. Williams 

Author of sinEater

D.A. Williams is a farmer’s wife and mother by day and a dark Christian fiction writer by night. She finds time to write between cups of coffee and is prone to bouts of procrastination and dreams of grandeur.

I wrote sinEater as an exploration of the lines of villainy and heroism. I wanted to blur the lines between the two and juxtapose true morality with that notoriously slippery sin, Pride. I hope that readers will find sinEater to be a different sort of superhero story that makes them question the roles we are assigned in life, and to seek discernment and wisdom, both.

I wrote sinEater as an exploration of the lines of villainy and heroism. I wanted to blur the lines between the two and juxtapose true morality with that notoriously slippery sin, Pride. I hope that readers will find sinEater to be a different sort of superhero story that makes them question the roles we are assigned in life, and to seek discernment and wisdom, both.


To purchase DRM-Free Digital Editions of this anthology, click on the links below:

Newer Kindle/AZW3

Older Kindle/Mobi



Also Available at the links below:


Thank you, authors, of edgy, speculative fiction for giving us a glimpse of the creative talent that God has gifted you! Readers always appreciate where a story comes from and it is even more real and special when you tell us of your inspiration! This only encourages us to read more of your work, and develop a greater love for this emerging genre.