pinterest-7bf66.html Reviews by Peter: September 2017

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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 debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 

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Friday, 29 September 2017

Author/Novel Spotlight: Nathan Allen Olsen

Today, I am highlighting novelist Nathan Allen Olsen. I met Nathan in a Facebook group and showed interest in his novel, Death Is Not The End, Daddy. I offered him an Author/Novel Spotlight to encourage exposure to himself and his short stories. Nathan's short stories and novellas show speculative themes that make it very thought-provoking and show his journey of faith from a painful past to one of increasing transformation through allowing God to work in him.

So sit back and explore the mind of this emerging author, as he has been described. But first a little about Nathan: 

Since starting off on this journey nearly ten years ago at the age of sixteen, Nate Allen has three works of fiction under his belt as well as a collaboration with M.J. Elliott nearing release. He currently lives in South Carolina with his wife of nearly five years and his two-year-old little girl.

Nate's mission in life is to use the pain from his past to bring hope to as many as will listen. There is much more to come. If you want to join him on this lifelong journey, you can find (and follow) him here: (

Now let's have a look at Death Is Not The End, Daddy and a review. This novella is available in e-book format. Click on the title to be taken to the Amazon book description page, to buy or view using the Look Inside feature:

Death Is Not The End, Daddy

John Doe

John Doe is a killer. Fourteen children in the last twenty-six years. Teddy tells him to and he listens. He has to listen. He is parked across the street from the elementary school in Payne, North Dakota, waiting for Teddy to tell him the name of the next child. He hasn’t yet, but he will… 

Matthew Mills 

God is good. It's the only truth Matthew Mills needs. But, pain is still pain. It has only been a week since his wife had her second miscarriage in the last three years. She has become a shell of who she was. Only his daughter Marcy is a light in his life.

What would happen if she was taken away?

I asked Nathan why he wrote Death Is Not The End, Daddy and what are the Christian/Biblical themes.

I wrote Death is Not the End, Daddy to be an experience that shows how God can use even the most hopeless of situations and turn it around for His glory.

Nathan has kindly provided an excerpt to whet your appetite and the reason he chose this: 

These are the first two pages of the book. I believe it entices while giving very little away and sets up what's to come beautifully.

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

John Doe

I don’t remember much before Teddy, but I do remember the laced leggings I found in the backseat of dad’s Buick. They weren’t mom’s. She was already sick by that time. Sick and dying. But, he was out sticking his piece in someone else…

He stuck his piece in me, too. That was the day Teddy came into my life. He wasn’t just my faded brown bear anymore. He was Teddy. He understood the pain of watching mom die; he understood the hate growing in me after daddy stuck his piece in me. He helped it grow.

Even before mom died, Teddy told me daddy didn’t deserve to live. At her funeral, he cried. The fake! Those tears attracted someone else, who he stuck his piece in later that night.

After mom died, I only had Teddy. He has never spoken in the way a person does. But, he does talk. His voice is constantly in my head. The bear just sits. And when I look into his eyes, I see blood. Lots of it. Blood and pain. I fill with tingles. Teddy says that’s as normal as the hatred I still feel for daddy. Sometimes I question it, though. And sometimes, Teddy gives me horrible nosebleeds, where my eyes feel ready to pop.

Teddy told me to come to Payne, North Dakota, and park across the street from the elementary school. He hasn’t given me the name of the next child yet. But, he will. He always does. My identity is what Teddy tells me to be. When I question it, he makes the blood I see in my head come out of me. He told me to kill daddy. With mom gone, there was no one else. It was just Teddy. Daddy didn’t even say a word to me anymore. He was gone most of the time. And when he was home, he scared me.

Teddy promised me that it would help. I listened. He was only protecting me. Teddy told me when to kill him, and what to use. There was blood. Lots of it.

Matthew Mills

God is good. It is the only truth I need. It has kept me afloat through my wife’s second miscarriage in three years. But, pain is still pain. It’s only been a week since she lost the baby.

Sometimes I wonder how Job felt when everything was taken from him. He made it through and came out a better person. The Lord uses pain to mold us—

I worry about my wife. The light has left her eyes. She used to profess her faith. Now it seems like she is drowning, and no matter how much scripture I read, the light doesn’t return. I am the pillar of this house. The Lord gave me that job, and I will stand even as everything else crumbles around me.

The devil has filled my head with thoughts of suicide. He tries to convince me that the razors from her shaver will be the death of her. He tells me to leave the bathroom door open when she showers, just in case. And I do, just in case. There is weakness in me. I’m not afraid of the enemy. My victory is through Jesus Christ. But, sometimes I fear her death is in His plan. Anyone who tries to tell me He would never allow that, I refer them to Job. The Lord takes away, sometimes for reasons we can’t understand.

My bible is out; the highlighter has already run across a few Proverbs, and a comforting piece in John. I have found quite a few verses that reassure me of my place in Him. I believe I have two sons in heaven.

I cling onto my Marcy. She is eight and a bundle of silly and sweet. I feed her the Lord daily. And His light shines from her in every way. I love her more than I thought possible. She is my little princess, and I try my hardest to make her feel that way, especially now that Janet has shut down…

Something is stirring tonight. I can feel fear trying to slip into my house. It’s trying to claw up the back of me and enter through the front. I have a job to do tonight. My bible is highlighted on almost every page. If a battle is coming, then I will win, because greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world. I am the pillar, and I can feel the pieces beginning to crumble. Help me stand tall, Lord. Help me stand tall.

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

Nathan has one positive Amazon review: 

I love books that give me a glimpse into somebody else's mind, compassionate books about authentic characters. This novel is just awesome. We look into the minds of Matthew who's daughter has been kidnapped and in John's, the kidnapper's, mind. While Matthew is struggling to keep his faith and trust in Jesus, John experiences that freedom and forgiveness are possible. A surprisingly good book about faith, fear, trust, forgiveness, God's plans, the invisible world and God's unconditional love.

This is not the only novel Nathan has authored. Here is another:

Andrew Jeffery Stephenson, a stupid man, by his own admission, is in critical condition from gunshot wounds. He’s entirely alone. His wife left him for someone more successful, someone better. When he’s honest with himself, he knows he’s just waiting to die…

And he does. With the sound of a fading flatline beep and the post-life urging of the woman he still loves, he finds himself in a paradise of his own making. He wakes up on a beautiful beach with her by his side. Oh, paradise indeed!

Shortly after, a man simply named D comes onto his property. A self-proclaimed “realtor for your post-life needs” D quickly shows Andrew just what this paradise is. It’s not heaven; it’s a miraculous accident. Paradise doesn’t belong to the religious but to the creative, to men of logic and reason. And because of this, his beach is just one small piece to an endless collection of beautiful properties, or “timeshares” as D calls them.

D’s game is realty. And the piece of property Andrew brought with him is an excellent bargaining chip. Andrew’s interested in choices; D’s interested in getting him the best deal possible. 

There’s only one problem. While searching out different timeshares, they come across a man on the side of the road who’s dressed like an angel. He’s holding a cardboard sign that reads:

3 Days…

And the countdown continues.

They say that the world will end when the countdown hits zero. Are they “crazy” as D claims? Or are they trying to warn Andrew that the end is near?

Nate wrote this novel with this idea in mind: 

The Counterfeit tackles the idea of paradise without God. 

Here is an excerpt:

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

There are many things I want to do with Angie on this beach. I start to untie the slim string on her top half, as she kisses me deeply, moving her hand downwar—

“Welcome, friends!” a strange voice interrupts us as if nothing were about to happen. Angie immediately stops kissing me and uses her forearm to hold her top half on as she gets up from lying on top of me. I get up too. A black man with dirty dreads and a greying goatee is running toward us from inland. He is wearing black swim trunks and a red plain t-shirt.

“Who are you?” I ask as I walk toward him. I am beyond confused. What is anybody else doing here?

“Just call me D. I am here to welcome you. It’s always interesting to see the expansion. It’s always getting bigger, always adding new territories, new places to lease. You brought with you a pretty piece of land. I love the beach. Great attention to detail, by the way.”

“What are you talking about, D?” I ask as I look out toward the ocean.

“This world is always expanding. Just as life was a wonderful accident, post-life is an even better accident. Everyone who makes it here brings with them their own paradise, their own little piece. By itself, it would be an adequate final destination. But, as a piece to a much bigger puzzle, we are in the process of something amazing. You brought with you this beach. Someone else brings a mountain view, or even the mountain itself. We have a colorful variety. Cabins on the lake. Mansions as far as the eye can see. We have the most beautiful skies, both night and day. An astronomer has a very simple paradise. He had a small house, far away from everyone else, so that the night sky would come to life. His paradise is studying the stars with his trusty telescope.

“Some people are touchy about visitors though. I hope you won’t be like that, friend. This beach is plenty big enough to share, don’t you think?”

“Share?” I ask. “For how long?”

“Well, indefinitely, friend. You share your land, others share theirs. For example, if you let the couple next door, who have a stunning view of the Himalayas, come to your property, they lend you time in theirs. I’m sure they would love a beach getaway.” he smiles. “Think about it as a timeshare. Post-life is a vacation that never ends. But, everyone likes to change the destination from time to time.” he chuckles, seeming to expect me to do the same. 

“D? Me and my wife just got here. This is all still very new—

“Say no more,” he interrupts. “I just want to know that you’ll be open to a timeshare deal in the near future. I know quite a few interested clients who would love to rent out a place as nice as this.”

“We’ll see,” I say, hoping he takes the hint to leave.

“Good.” he smiles strangely. “What was your name? I forgot to ask.”


“Good to hear, Andrew. Just know one thing. No matter how wonderful your little piece of paradise is, there is always the opportunity for more. With the right planning, I could get you into two or three more pieces of paradise. One is kind of boring, wouldn’t you say? There are quite a few vacancies at this time.”

“How are there vacancies? People willingly give up what they own?”

“Not exactly,” he says as he begins to walk away.

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

One Amazon review shows the positive nature of this novel and the potential of Nate as an author:

ByAlexander Preston September 19, 2017

Heat: There were a few scenes of sexual innuendo. They were comparatively minor and not gratuitous, but the word pictures were just enough to make me uncomfortable. In retrospect, I see how their presence actually served the storyline, but it’s just something to be aware of for more sensitive readers.

Profanity: None.

Violence: Some frightening imagery and references to violent acts.

Genre: Christian Paranormal

Age recommendation: 15 and up, due to imagery and sexual innuendo.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Counterfeit with a request for an unbiased review.

The Counterfeit turned out to be a singularly fascinating read. The opening had me immediately hooked through its stream-of-consciousness narrative style depicting the inner thoughts of a man in a coma. The framing was artful and taut, with a fast-moving pace and clever use of minimalistic language. I immediately found the main character (narrating the story from the first-person) to be real and relatable. The backstory of his marital and self-image problems is spot-on in portraying the struggles of many people in the real world. There was also an immediate sense of suspense as we see him awaken in a “Paradise” realm that is stated to be neither Heaven nor Hell. He is told by others he meets there that this is the “real” afterlife as opposed to those other, “imaginary” places. But various clues begin to indicate that things are not quite what they seem… I read on with an intense curiosity as the mystery behind this strange place. What followed was a very intriguing scenario, suggesting the afterlife could have more levels of detail to it than we are inclined to think; highly speculative, yes, but clearly well thought out and perfectly compatible with Biblical orthodoxy.

There were some weak points, of course, many of which could have been addressed through a longer, more detailed narrative. The sequence of events seems a bit rushed and forced in places, with the protagonist’s actions and decisions not seeming to logically follow from one another – this cropped up several pages after his first entry into the “Paradise” realm. The dialogue started out strong but became progressively more wooden towards the middle and downright syrupy towards the end – for some reason, the characters seemed to be selectively avoiding contractions in their speech (i.e. “he is” as opposed to “he’s”, etc). This made things a bit awkward and stilted and seemed out-of-place given the established characterization. I also noticed that protagonist became increasingly weepy and emotional as his character arc progressed – a lot of this made sense giving the story itself, but I often found myself cringing and wishing he would grow a spine.

The story structure itself turned out to be a bit different from what was suggested in the synopsis. I was expecting a steady build-up of suspense culminating in a “Twilight Zone”-style twist ending. The big “reveal” turned out instead to be at about the very middle of the narrative, but the author did a good job of providing another, equally significant source of tension until the very end.

Throughout the entire 66 pages, this novella is suffused with thought-provoking, highly spiritual themes that make it in many ways a masterwork of Christian Fiction in the tradition of C.S. Lewis. I was particularly fascinated by the portrayal of God as representing ‘fullness’ and the Devil representing ‘emptiness’ – it reminds of J.R.R. Tolkien’s thoughts on the ‘nothingness’ of evil. When imagining Hell, we often think that simple ‘non-existence’, ‘annihilation,’ or ‘oblivion,’ would be a preferable fate for lost souls – the truth, I think, is that Hell is all of these things. It represents complete and irrevocable separation from the very Source of existence. To experience nothingness is to experience torment beyond imagining – what Christ meant when he used imagery of a ‘lake of fire.’ The author explores this idea not through didactic lines placed in characters mouths, but by weaving it into the very fabric of the story. I will also continue to ponder his thoughts on maintaining a heavenly as opposed to earthly perspective when it comes to reaching the lost with the Truth.

At the same time, he features extremely vivid and well-imagined descriptions of what Heaven will likely be, masterfully portraying what many of us tend to think of as indescribable. Christ himself makes an appearance and is portrayed in the same manner. I will say that I’m instinctively sceptical of attempts to ‘humanize’ God and Christ and put words in their mouth as story characters, and I might have preferred a more subtle or ‘poetic’ approach that recognizes their place above human understanding. But this is a minor quibble in comparison to everything else.

All in all, I give this book four stars and will readily recommend it to any Christian reader who wants to see their beliefs explored and re-confirmed in a new and original way. An excellent tour de force by an emerging author!

Let's take a look at Nate's latest Work In Progress that is to be released very soon: 

Nate has described his new work as 
Think of TV seasons. Each tells a singular story, provides a climax, and sets up the arcs to come. I will be releasing A New Beginning in parts or "seasons". Once the story is done, I will release the entirety as a book. I wouldn't do this for any other story but no other story I am working on is as timely or spiritually relevant as this.
A New Beginning. 

A new beginning? With the Credit Chip, anything is possible! Buried in debt? Erase it! Terrible credit score? Start over! In trouble with the law, now weighed down by a felony charge? POOF! There it goes… 

Ken Cardiff only wants to see his older brother get better. He can only hope the Credit Chip can help, but he can’t escape the chill settling on his spine. Since his brother got the Chip two days before, something in him has changed. 

Kyle Cardiff is lured in by the promise of a new beginning but he doesn’t know the cost. Only twenty-two years old and already more than familiar with the inside of a jail cell, he will do anything for just one more chance.

Rosy Matthews knows what the Credit Chip is. Trying to convince Ken, her Ken, that it’s the mark of the beast has brought more scoffs than anything else. She hopes it isn’t too late for Kyle, but she knows that it already is. 

When President Francis Abraham Pummel was only six years old, he should have died. But, the day he should have died was the day he lived. Now forty-two years old and approaching his second year in office, he has a plan to bring real change to anyone who will listen.

To buy or preview more of these novels, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icons under the covers below:

Death is Not the End, Daddy can be purchased at the following links:

Smashwords    Barnes and Noble

The Counterfeit can be purchased at the following links: 

Smashwords    Barnes and Noble 

Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader who likes reading in the genres of Christian science fiction and fantasy, to consider reading Death Is Not The End, Daddy or The Counterfeit 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).

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Lost Medallion (Christian Fantasy Series, Book 2) by Bryan M. Powell

The Lost Medallion (Christian Fantasy Series Book 2)

The Lost Medallion

Beneath the Hill of Endor is a Temple,
Inside the Temple is a Chamber,
Inside the Chamber is a door,
Behind the door … the abyss.

And the key to the door is the witch’s medallion.

Former sheriff Randy Baker steals the witch’s medallion. Using the Book of Incantations, he summons the powers of darkness to open a passage which takes him in search of the Temple of Endor in Israel. His intentions ... to use the medallion to unlock the door to the abyss and unleash legions of evil spirits. 

Knowing they only have days to stop the former sheriff, the three wise men follow him. Unbeknownst to them, Colt O’Dell stows away in the cargo hold of their flight. Once in Israel, the four of them race into action, but quickly find themselves caught in a desperate battle for their lives. 

Top-selling author Bryan M. Powell adds yet another gripping novel to his impressive list of Christian Fantasy spell-binders. He once again peels back the veil and gives his readers a glimpse at the spiritual war being waged over the souls of men. Using tragedy in the lives of his characters to demonstrate the power of faith and forgiveness, he skillfully weaves a captivating tale that builds to a breathtaking climax. If you liked Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, you will love The Lost Medallion.

The Guru's Review: 

If I thought that The Witch and the Wise Men was a gripping tale, this one is even better. Powell continues the storyline from the previous and never lets you go. It is gripping and engrossing.

Powell definitely knows how to hook you into his plot. He combines the plot and characterisation together well so that you do not see any demarcation. The result is a fast-paced ride that you cannot get out of and when life takes you away from this novel, you are annoyed and cannot wait to return. 

Again, in Powell style, he is brilliant at the spiritual aspects just as he did in The Witch and the Wise Men. He places a great emphasis on prayer as a weapon against satanic/demonic attack and relying on the Spirit and not on your own strength. Again, he has those Wise Men falling into this trap but they also take measures to get themselves out of this as well. What do they do? They repent of their foolishness, they spend time pouring out their hearts, confessing their dependence upon the flesh and trust in human "instrumentality" as Powell call it. Then they pray specifically for their charge's needs and plead God to protect them and these charges with angelic hedges. Important here is not just repentance and specific prayer but praise and worship. This latter can be a deficit in our prayer life and one that is not to be neglected. How many times are we encouraged to add this in our prayer life and living? For some, this would be a given but others not so. 

In some novels concerning spiritual warfare, the Christian author portrays the demons or evil entities as stronger and more devious than the angelic hosts and/or the Christian characters (and I wish they would not, there is no such need for this). I did not find this to be the case in this novel or the previous one. Yes, he depicts them as devious, evil and powerful but only as far as Christians and the angelic host do nothing or very little or in their own strength. However, looks what happens when both these parties are in tune with the Spirit and fight in the way set out in God's Word and with His instruction? The demonic forces do not stand a chance when this happens and it is very powerful. This is all based not only on the victory over sin and death that Jesus' achieved on the Cross but through the fact that God is God and sovereign over all, is all powerful, all knowing and ever-present. I loved the instance where Prince Laina (in human form of Sasha) confronted Beelzebub and the disembodied spirits with God's instruction and Word, 
"The Lord God Almighty liveth and commands everyone, everywhere to bow the knee, whether it is in heaven, or earth or things under the earth."
Despite their objections and resistance at first, Laina holds his ground under God's instruction and finally these spirits 
".....joined in forced subjection acclaiming Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords"
All the instances Powell depicts showing this type of spiritual warfare principles as outlined is available to all who are in right relationship with Jesus and novels like this outline how we need to be living like this 24/7 and not just when demonic attack arrives or is identified. Kudos to Powell for including this in his novels not just to add entertainment but to edify and educate the Body of Christ on how to live in Him. As a side to this, it also bears great witness to those readers who are searching for their meaning or are disillusioned with life or have dabbled in the occult as it highlights the deceptiveness, destructiveness, and bondage that being involved in the occult is characteristic of. More importantly, it also highlights what is the end result when one allows themselves to be totally taken over by the demonic forces and reject the saving grace of Jesus.

I like the fact that Powell also shows the relationship between the angelic hosts and God. They are depicted truly as they are in the Word, they are messengers and warriors and only act in complete obedience to God and not of their own volition. In this manner, it is easy for the reader to see that angels are in submission to God and not an authority in their own right and separate to God as sometimes depicted by non-Christian authors. This is one reason why I included in the criteria for why I read Christian fiction on my blog, that I want to see angels depicted as they are biblically and not to be worshipped at all or as a detraction from the main object of our worship being that solely of God for whom we were created to worship. 

In all the spiritual warfare novels that I have read from Christian authors, they have depicted these angels as relational, personal, friendly, firm, authoritative and combative (when required). I cannot see how they would be any other way as we are created to be relational with each other, with God and even towards animals so to be understood by angels in their mission towards us as directed by God, they would need to be so. This is depicted as such in the Bible as well so Powell has depicted them correctly here and forms one of the many strengths of this series.

Powell seems to not just concentrate on spiritual warfare between the demonic, angelic and humans but also on how we are prey to this through our own shortcomings and rebellious/sinful nature. I loved one example of this when Glenn O'Dell was in a coma and God ministered to him in this state and gives Glenn an opportunity to right himself with God. While this is happening, He is working on Karen, his wife and Colt, his son as well. And these events are not individual, separate events to fluff out the length of the novel (Powell does not do this) but are included solely to show how God weaves all these events into His purposes and to deal with the sin that so easily ensnares us and separates us from God and then places us in line for demonic influence. When this brings us back to God in a righteous relationship we are then better equipped to be an instrument of warfare by God and through God.

Powell shows this very well with the conversion of the doctor who was part of the coven from the previous novel. I appreciate how Powell showed the internal conflict with the principles of his profession that he swore an oath to on graduation and his own conscience. It is good to show that not everyone involved in the occult has a hardened heart like Randy Baker towards God and humanity. Not only was how this doctor converted uplifting and joyous, but the spiritual warfare that ensued showing deliverance from demon possession was portrayed realistically.  

Sadly this was dampened by an event that showed the extent the ministers of the occult will go to when one of their former converts is freed from their satanic bondage. 

Powell again showed another aspect of how to witness to a Jew/Israeli through the character of Simon Levi. I loved this conversation. It was worth the page or so of Melchior's explanation and witness. Beautiful and inspiring. I was near tears with this conversion account especially with Powell's depiction of the angels folding their wings and bowing their heads as God sang His song of redemption in celebration. If this is what happened when I accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour then it shows more of the depth of His love not just for me but for all mankind.

I thoroughly enjoyed the spotlight being on Colt in this novel. I viewed him as one courageous but neutral character in the previous novel, but Powell has developed him as a warrior of God in this one.  He shows much more of his relationship with God and is prepared to count the cost of this in dealing with the demonic and taking responsibility for what he feels is his for the medallion falling into the wrong hands thus contributing to events spiralling out of control in his town and family.

Powell shows the Wise Men adapting sometimes somewhat awkwardly to modern life. He adds humour to their efforts to understand the modern lingo, not wearing shoes but sandals only, taking the modern idioms literally and of course Melchior and Balthazar ganging up on Gaspar when he complains or is impulsive especially towards his love interest, Felicia. These three are further developed and even spiritually they press forward in their faith and being of the Brotherhood of Wise Men. I love the spiritual prowess they show in confrontation with the demonic and the remaining members of the Coven from the previous novel, especially towards Randy Baker. 

One aspect relating to Balthazar that was hinted at with his genealogy in the previous novel, is further expanded in this novel and is very touching and moving. Especially at one pivotal moment where the plot twists. This twist I was not expecting and another other relating to it. This leads very well onto the next novel in this series, The Last Magi, to be released mid-October 2017. And Powell has ended this novel based on this very well. 

Powell has included some current topics in this novel. He depicted well, the resistance towards Christian students praying on school premises and biblical creation being taught in the same premises by the Wise Men. This attitude is interwoven into the spiritual blindness and rebellion towards anything to do with God and how this is enforced in the demonic control of the town and its people. Such is happening in today's world and I note it is progressing in my own country of Australia. The other topic portrayed is what happens when a wolf in sheep's clothing is allowed to be in ministry in a church. I loved how this was handled biblically and the perpetrator exposed and dealt with. It shows the importance of spiritual discernment in choosing church leaders and relying on the Spirit to direct a Church's path here. Again, this event was interwoven in the plot to show how the demonic are all out in destroying the Christian church and anything relating to God. 

A very successful sequel and continuation of this series from the Witch and the Wise Men debut. Powell is definitely on a winner with this series. I am looking forward to reading The Last Magi in a few days time, ready for its release mid-October.

Highly Recommended. 

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 4/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 5/5 

Overall Rating 4.8/5 Stars 


Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,

A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that The Lost Medallion contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Redemptive Fiction outlined in this booklet, I award Bryan Powell with

The Reality Calling 
Redemptive Fiction Award

Displaying Peter-Redemp-LostMedallion.png

Congratulations, Bryan!

To buy or preview this novel, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icons on the image below:

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Guest Post: The Catastrophic Thunderstorm of Christian Fiction by Anthony R. Howard

Today, I welcome Anthony R. Howard, an author who is a Christian (he explains this distinction below!). Anthony approached me to either review his new novel, Devil's Diary: The Coming, interview him or allow him to provide a guest post. After reading the book description, I chose to review this novel and allow Anthony to provide a guest post concerning a topic relating to his novel or Christian fiction.

Well, he has not disappointed at all in this guest post. I have had similar discussions myself and read much more concerning the status of Christian fiction today. This topic has even led in part to the creation of The Crossover Alliance publishing company that I belong to. 

So sit back and be challenged by what Anthony has to say about his own experience as an author, his novels and what he currently sees afflicting Christian fiction and provides one solution to this issue.

But first just some shameless promotion of Anthony's new novel that I am very much looking forward to reading: 

What Would Happen If The Creator Returned Tomorrow?

In the current world plagued by war and civil unrest, the divine arrival of the Son of Man restores hope to mankind. Like most others, Oniva Mering is not prepared to face judgment or the violent threat of an ancient secret society. Left in the company of her smooth and streetwise high school friend, Oniva must bear witness to the most catastrophic turn of events humanity has ever experienced. The stage has been set. Sides are being chosen. Angels and their worst enemies prepare for The Coming.

Are You Ready?

Each reader will face their own internal journey as they are enticed to look inside themselves, and realize where they stand in the battle of Good versus Evil. We are all a part of the book of life. But what if there was another book...The Devil’s Dairy.

Now onto Anthony's post: 

The Catastrophic Thunderstorm of Christian Fiction

Beyond the Bible, do spiritual and Biblical Christian stories sell? As we are now being pummeled by several powerful hurricanes and tropical thunderstorms (Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Jose), I couldn’t help but see a metaphor as I write this, as I see cities being devastated, and lives being tragically lost. According to weather experts, there are three key ingredients in the creation of a catastrophic hurricane. Similar elements are alive in the Christian fiction arena and have a similar effect. 

In an online Christian magazine Relevant an author titled his article: Where is all the great Christian fiction? Basically, the author of the article is disappointed in the state of Christian fiction, indicated that innovation is needed and specifically “Christian fiction authors need reprisal”. It was interesting no one had written a response to this article, not even one comment on the popular website. I don’t have the golden solution, I do have some ideas. More importantly, I wanted to open a conversation that’s currently not being had. It’s uncomfortable for many to even talk about this. There are rules. There is a wall of silence and conformity. 

This is the first step in the tropical thunderstorm: Convergence. In this stage, a low-pressure area must have formed in the low levels of the atmosphere to start winds converging. This is a metaphor for the reason of the current state of Christian fiction. To many folks, the fiction that Christian authors are putting on shelves and marketing as Christian fiction isn’t great art; it’s popular, genre fiction. What causes this state is the Christian Fiction paradigm, or thunderstorm, that many authors get caught in. 

The book that got me my first book deal was Devil’s Dairy: The Coming. With the civil unrest going on now, the novel is about what would actually happen if the Lord returned tomorrow. How would we receive Him, and what would His enemies do? The publishing house decided to come out with the spy series (The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox) first as a business decision, because of my background with technology, the Dept of Defense, plus the degrees and awards behind my name. I speak at technology conferences on a regular basis but I wasn’t a famous ordained minister, nor did I attend seminary. In their minds, I didn’t have a guaranteed platform to generate book sales. The spy books hit two bestseller lists, so in hindsight, they weren’t necessarily wrong. 

However, because of the spy series success, I ended up having to start my own publishing company to put Devil’s Dairy: The Coming out, and have it edited by the Harvard Divinity School. The point is, even though they knew it was a great work (we know this because that’s the book that got me signed), it was considered too much of a risk in the end. There are simply not too many folks with the ready-made platforms (guaranteed book sales) publishers want to see to get the great Christian work out there. This is the convergence of the storm. Convergence onto profits, and onto mass media behavior - serving up readily available fast food dogma, easy consumed, economical, profitable, but not much nutrition. One of the key purposes of literacy is to bring people to something new. Something great. One of my goals in writing is to broaden the experiences of my reader community and add to the literary art form. It’s key to not only present a fascinating story to the reader but to bring value to the reader aside from entertainment. I thought I was a Christian author. But that has very specific man-made rules (such as no aggression, no kissing below the neck, etc). Many of the rules prevent an author from being different, or fascinating. Then I became an author who is a Christian (which is different from a “Christian Author”) so I could keep writing fascinating stories and bring the Word to everyone. 

I believe this is one of the key differences of my style of Christian writing. This is component #2 of the hurricane: Impermanence. In other words, low stability or volatility. In a hurricane, this will allow deep convection or cumulonimbus clouds to build to great heights in the atmosphere. Because of this decision to keep writing fascinating stories, I was banned from Christian bookstores and Church bookstores. This poses the question: If you are ONLY writing for the Saved (as the Christian Author rules dictate) – who are you ministering to? One of the primary purposes of ministry is to spread the Good News. The rules make many books in Christian fiction very similar, and less popular to wider audiences. I’d rather not be the same. This causes a disequilibrium, taking the storm to new heights. I write to take the reader deeper. Topics where you finish the book and want to know more. If a writer isn’t different, why should anyone invest the time to read the book? Christian writers cannot continue to recycle what is already out there as Hollywood does. 

This brings us to the final conundrum. Divergence. Air Divergence in the upper atmosphere intensifies the storm. When publishers and many audiences are focused on books like the Da Vinci Code, divergence comes to life. The Da Vince Code touched on religious history (okay, some say pseudo-history), and was an interesting story (I read the book, never saw the movie). Though Christianity was discussed, there was no ministry or spirituality in the novel, nor discussion of salvation. It was popular because it was controversial. It even challenged the Vatican in some ways and disputed traditional Christian history, which also highlights the volatility storm element (#2). If you want to sell, be different. With the divergence factor, the success of these kinds of books push publishers to look for more novels like this (no ministry, no salvation, etc) and inspires writers to create a book like this to try and be popular and gain a following. This creates the perfect storm. Convergence, Impermanence, and Divergence. 

So what’s the solution? My particular solution was to start my own publishing company to release Devil’s Dairy: The Coming, put my own capital behind it and produce my own cinema trailer (below). 

I encourage others to do that. If I didn’t, the book may never have seen the light of day, even though it was great enough to land a publishing deal, which is no small feat. We have to be different if we want the Christian fiction genre to thrive. Just as hurricanes take lives, think of those who will not pick up Christian fiction, even by chance, because the rules in place don’t make them relatable to readers outside the church, which limits ministry. As a teacher of the Bible, this storm is serious and takes lives in the way of those who don’t reach salvation, because they never picked up the book. Let’s have a discussion.

About Anthony R. Howard:

Bestselling, Award-Winning author Anthony R Howard has studied Christianity for over 15 years, as well as secret societies, basic theology and angelology (the study of angels).  Howard has won several awards, appeared on many national media outlets and is also the bestselling author of The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox and The Invisible Enemy II: Vendetta. Howard also has a passion for Christianity, prophecy and spirituality.  Howard has served on ministry teams and religious leadership groups, each which give astounding insight into many of the characters developed in Devils Diary. Presently in Atlanta, he is a leading Technology Specialist for one of the world’s largest Information Technology firms where he was rated #1 IT Super Hero by InfoWorld and ComputerWorld, was the winner of the National Federal Office Systems Award (FOSE - Nation’s Largest Information Technology Exposition Serving the Government Marketplace), and the winner of Government Computer News Best New Technology Award. Several case studies have been published on Howard’s solutions across the Information Technology industry. Currently, he provides enterprise technology solutions and advisement for America’s most distinguished clients including a sizeable amount of work for the U.S. Defense Sector, Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

Pump Up Your Book Blog Tour Interview - Day Moon (Tomorrow’s Edge Book 1) by Brett Armstrong

Today, I am participating in a Blog Tour with Pump Up Your Book featuring Brett Armstrong and his novel, Day Moon. I previously had Brett on this blog with an Author/Novel Spotlight, then I reviewed Day Moon.

When approached by Brett to be part of this Blog Tour, I jumped at the chance as it meant I could interview him, seeing that I had already promoted and reviewed his novel. So read on!

Author: Brett Armstrong
Publisher: Clean Reads
Pages: 389
Genre: Christian/Scifi/Dystopian
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 dependent on it.


Amazon | Barnes& Noble

Prologue: Inheritance

The drizzle tapped on the coffin with an increasing intensity. A steady rain
soon began, its great droplets gently touching the mourners with icy
insistence. None of it seemed real to Elliott. He looked at the mounded soil,
the great wound in the earth where the coffin was positioned, ready to be
lowered at any time. Rain was sliding off its slick grey surface, as though
nature wished to wash all of this away.

Arranged in a semi-circle around the casket were all those who cared enough
about Elliott’s grandfather to make the trip out to this relatively obscure
plot of land. No one gave it much attention throughout the year. Buried deep in
the woods atop a steep, Appalachian hill, the cemetery had no road. Even the
paths were overgrown. Every one of the attendees had been forced to make the
trek in their uncomfortable finery. Like shadows dancing from a flame, they had
made the journey, full of complaints.

Elliott glanced at those gathered: aunts and uncles, cousins, and a variety
of other relatives whom he couldn’t identify. His parents were somewhere,
speaking with the attendees, trying to hold the family together in light of the
sudden affair. No one had expected the accident. There wasn’t even an
opportunity to look at the body; so charred and mangled had his grandfather’s
body become as his vehicle careened off the road.

Everything about the accident felt so impossible. Nothing more so than this
moment. With the rain’s persistence, they were already beginning to lower his
grandfather into the gaping, muddy maw.

Soon the arguments over who got what would begin. His grandfather had a
will, but no one cared what it said, so long as they got their fair share.
Elliott had already overheard grumbles that he was getting a rare item, one of
the few enduring volumes of Shakespeare’s works. It had been a favorite of his
grandfather. Even for its rarity, it wasn’t worth anything. The global
initiative his grandfather had been working on, Project Alexandria, required
all print materials to be recycled as soon as their contents were added to the
system. A single repository of human knowledge, from the beginning of recorded history
to the present. Whoever had the book would simply have to part with it sooner
or later. It didn’t matter.

A tear tried to fight its way through Elliott’s rigid guard. Clenching his
hands into fists, he took a shallow breath, and blinked it back. There was only
one other person who could have felt close to what he did. Shortly, all of the
others wandered away, seeking cover. In their absence, Elliott could clearly
see his cousin stood by the hole, planted like the many stone fixtures around
them. John was twenty-seven, almost ten years older than Elliott, and had
already lost his father, Elliott’s uncle, some years earlier. John’s attention
was fully on the descending form of their grandfather’s casket. The thought of
this forced Elliott’s head round, briefly, to look in the direction of his
uncle’s tombstone. It was in danger of being overtaken by honeysuckle vines.
Even in the strengthening shower, the scent of the buttery hued blooms filled
the air.

Elliott was tempted to walk over to the small granite block and push away
the encroaching plant. Try as he might, he couldn’t bring his legs to move in
that direction. If no one acted soon, the messages on the stone would be


“Pursued Greatness.”

“Born: September 30, 1982.”

“Died: June 18, 2035.”

Uncle Al had died four years ago, to the day, of some exotic respiratory
disease that had spread from central or southeast Asia; a mini-pandemic. If he
hadn’t been overseas on business, he might never have contracted it. Now, all
that would be remembered of him was that in his fifty-two years of life, he
pursued greatness, to say nothing of ever laying hold of it.

Rubbing his arms, to bring warmth to them, Elliott turned back around and
finished his journey to John’s side. The brawny man was still looking down into
the hole to where the casket had finished its descent. John’s blue eyes never
wavered from their hold on the burial pit. Slowly, John reached out his large,
work-worn hand, gripped a handful of the dirt in the mound beside him, and
stared at it a few seconds, before gently lofting it into the grave.


Now sit back and enjoy the interview with Brett as we discuss him as an author and his novel: 

Welcome, Brett! Let's start by telling us a little about yourself. 

Thanks for having me on your blog, Peter! Well, first off, I'm extremely honored to get to be doing an interview with you. 

I'm a Christian, as many readers may have guessed, and I just turned thirty on August 25th. I'm still adjusting to what that means exactly. It seems the more people I tell my age, the more people mount up on either the side of a divide about it. A fairly large number of people have told me thirty is the beginning of the end. Conversely, a handful have said it's a blessing because it means you've had another year. I tend to think along the lines of the second. The Lord has been very good to me in so many ways. I have a beautiful, supportive, and fantastically creative wife; and have a wonderful little boy who is growing up way too fast. We all live in an area of West Virginia that is a fairly big city for us but more of a small town to most other places in the US. And I don't often get the chance to say this publicly, but I also have an awesome pair of parents who have supported me in my writer-ly pursuits since I could first hold a pencil.

Oh and we also are kind hosts to one vagrant cat.

What inspired you to become an author? 

This is going to take a bit of explaining, but I feel like my inspiration to be an author is an ongoing process.

I had been a writer for a long time before deciding to become an author if that makes sense. Writing my own stories as a kid just came as what seemed like a natural offshoot of reading. When I was nine and wrote my first original story, I made a binding and cover art for it, because that's what books have. So early on I had this perhaps naïve notion that when you write something, you publish it and then people read it. I was asked a few years later what I'd be doing in 10 years, and I said writing novels. Of course, I also said I'd be an archaeologist and electronics inventor. Not long after I discovered how hard it is to make a career of archaeology and have a stable family life (and also that it's not as glamorous as Indiana Jones makes it look). Much like archaeology and inventing, the first 12 years of my life were about dreaming without limit and the next six or so were about grounding myself in a much more conservative reality. So I kept writing but held no illusions of others reading it.

All the same, by the time I got to college I already had a sense that others thought my writing was pretty good. I took a couple creative writing classes and then something really crazy happened. I submitted a short story for workshop critique and thought it would be torn apart. It wasn't, in fact, I've only ever heard this once in all of my workshops, but my classmates offered to help me make it into a novel. My professor told me it was beautiful. That story was Destitutio Quod Remissio, which became my first published novel, some years later.

My classmates and professor so enthusiastically believing DQR was worth being a novel revived the long-buried dream of being a novelist. At the same time, I was slowly coming to realize writing wasn't like other things I enjoyed. It just felt so natural to slip back into telling stories again and I utterly dreaded having to give it up when the semester I was in ended. I know I say this all the time, but there was a moment where it all just suddenly clicked for me, where I felt like Olympian Eric Liddell when he said, "God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure." 

Like most things, writing has its ups and downs, and often I've questioned whether I understood God rightly. I have to ask if this is really what He wants me to be doing? Over the years, every time I've gotten to that point, something has happened to convince me it is. A stranger contacted me once to say he heard about my first book and just felt like God was telling him to send me a message of encouragement to keep writing. A couple readers have told me they gave copies of my first book to loved ones because they thought it would help them through dark periods in their lives. Those bits of encouragement and a score of others inspire me to keep going.

So, I had moments that concretely set me on the path, but it's a continuous process of deciding to keep moving forward. I'm still being inspired to become an author daily.

What obstacles did you encounter while writing your first novel? How did you overcome these?

Well, I don't know I can call these obstacles, but there were things that placed a certain amount of distance between me and the story, so I suppose dedication to the story was the obstacle I had to overcome. When I first envisioned it, I was finishing up undergrad school in 2012. I had two other novels I wanted to focus on completing first. Then I got my first job as a programmer analyst for the WV DHHR and had to get acclimated to working full-time. Then I happily rushed with my then fiancée into house hunting, wedding planning, and learning to be a decent husband (I try anyway). Next came the start of grad school, and settling into a new home my wife and I bought. Time was tight, as you can imagine.

Two+ years had passed by the time I got started on the first chapter of Day Moon. The incredible thing is that without writing a word of it for those two years, it had become even more vividly fleshed out in my imagination. I suppose when I first encountered the story, I wasn't ready yet to write it. Everything is in the Lord's timing, of course, but I can see now that I really needed some things to develop me as a writer and to supplement the story before I could write it. The world became even more like what I had imagined and helped reinforce the value of telling such a story. Also, a number of the emotional aspects of the book, the family conflict and some of the crestfallenness just hadn't found their way to me yet and absolutely needed to be in there.

How has writing and being an author impacted your relationship with Jesus Christ? 

I think it has really deepened my relationship with the Lord. There's an incredible amount of humility that has to come with being a writer; if you can't learn humility you're in trouble. Not everyone is going to like your writing. People won't always understand what you're getting at and at times they'll tear it to shreds. At the same time, some people will love it and drown it in compliments. In the good and the bad, a writer really needs to keep the focus on why he or she is writing. For a Christian, I think it's easier because whatever we do, we do it for the glory of the Lord. At least that should be our goal and the one I'm always working towards. It's also made me painfully aware of some of my shortcomings. Like forthrightness in telling others about Christ. I mean Christians have the most phenomenal news in all of history—God has paved the road to eternal fellowship with Him—and we often treat it as just another bit of knowledge we've gotten. But when I'm about to release a new book, I'm so excited, I want to tell everyone and then I am brought short as I remember, no news in all the world could be in comparison to the God of the universe personally loving and longing for each person of His creation to come to Him. So I suppose writing has helped me experience a measure of transcendence and understanding about just how very small I am in the infinitely large God's plans. Yet, I've found myself feeling far more valuable, knowing my small part. A humbling that lifts you up so to speak.

Do you have a favourite genre that you read? 

I suppose my reading preferences are indicative of my writing ones. There isn't any one genre I tend to gravitate to more heavily than others. A good story is a good story, regardless of the genre. Though I have to bite my tongue a bit as I say that because I've never been much of a romance reader. I like for there to be romance in the books I read, but I honestly don't look for a lot of books where romance is the primary focus. I suppose now if someone recommends a good one to me I'll have to give it a chance. 

What have you learnt about becoming an author? 

It's an incredibly time-intensive vocation. There is never enough time in any day to accomplish all the writer-ly things I should be doing or even want to be doing. When you add in other absolutely necessary and good things like spending time with my family and God in Bible study, then it suddenly becomes an almost insurmountable task to just keep above the waves as they come into shore. Again, I think Christian authors have an advantage in that there are eternal implications to what we're doing, so it's "redeeming the time", but no one tells you before that first book comes out how much time it will take just to keep afloat as an author. My TO-DO list has three novels in it in varying stages of the writing and pursuit of publication, not to mention social media, enhancements to my website, marketing, and posting on my blog. No complaints, only the lament that there aren't 48 hours in a day and there's no neon sign warning you to brace yourself for it.

You write well. Have you always found this to be an easy feat? Some authors such as Tom Pawlik engaged in a writing course with popular and prolific Christian author Jerry B Jenkins before they wrote their first novel. What have done, anything? Would you encourage other budding authors to do so? 

I've been writing original stories since I was nine, and all through school my writing was treated as being exceptional. My teachers always seemed to try to encourage me to keep writing. I know my high school creative writing teacher really doted on me and expected me to pursue writing seriously, even if I didn't at the time.

I think as a product of having rediscovered my love of writing in college, I've really come to gravitate towards academic sources of writing instruction. I completed a minor in it in undergrad schooling and then went on to get a Master's degree because I felt like the workshop atmosphere is fantastic for helping you grow as a writer. It's where I've gotten inspiration for most of my novels. I've found in absence of it I sorely miss it. A byproduct is that my writing tends to bridge the gap between genre and literary fiction, which seems to be a bit off-putting to some. All the same, I would have to recommend it to anyone who can afford to experience it. I'm still being exposed to non-school writer-enriching avenues, but I have to say, traditional courses in creative writing really seem to preserve that notion of writing as art, which appeals to me profoundly, in a way others don't do so emphatically. 

When did you decide to make a career of writing? 

I know I've kind of answered this already with when I become an author, but I'll just add, I try not to get too caught up in the notion of it being a career. I aim to treat it as seriously as though it were my only vocation. In a lot of ways, it is my true vocation. But before Destitutio Quod Remissio won the CrossBooks Writing Contest in 2014 and went into print and I crossed that invisible, but significant divide from writer to author, I really had some deep conversations with God about what I wanted to do as a writer. I want it to be about Him. It was a very narrow decision for me to even use my real name on books (though I might argue Beau is more my name than Brett, because of my family knowing me by it).

Essentially, my aim is to give, not receive. I know I receive so much through writing, but my hope is to do more. So, I promised the Lord that if He would use my writing for Him, then I would do all I could to not make it about me. Which includes working a "day job" to support my family, so I never become consumed by the financial side of writing. I want writing to remain art and craft, a signpost to point back to God, not me. It makes for some rough hours sometimes and can be precarious to balance, but I feel very blessed and I'm hopeful that my writing is becoming a blessing for others as well.

What do you do when you are not writing? 

Chase my two-year-old son around the house mostly (and he just keeps getting faster). Though hobby-wise, my wife and I like to read books together and we raise a modest garden (we have some fantastic pumpkins this year). I very much enjoy drawing and watch my fair share of movies—I think that might be part of where I get such a visual bent in my writing. 

Is anything in your books based on real-life experiences or purely all imagination? 

Apart from the obvious parallels to reality in terms of social and cultural developments that make the book dystopian, there are some elements of more personality reality present. I like to pepper my novels with real-life experiences, at least in the little things. They make for nice little details and characterizations along the way. There are also some "glamorized" versions of real-life things, like Elliott getting the hard sales pitch from the hologram in the mall. 

Most of my novels have plots involving big, life-altering and potentially world-changing events, which have much smaller real experiences to give the emotion in them an essence of reality, but for the most part, those are imagined. I think there have to be glimmers of reality in fiction, to help keep a reader there. Kind of the way CS Lewis talked about the things we love most in our world now being glimpses into the more real world of eternity to come. My philosophy of writing is that fiction can and should be escapist, but by the end, it should better prepare a reader to face the real world. So it's imperative that they see the real world embedded in the stories.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author? 

Hmm, the best piece I received and followed or in general? Ha. Well, I'll go with followed: Don't get caught up in the reviews your writing receives. Unless you're writing purely for the pleasure of seeing five stars attached to your name, it isn't the point of the writing. It wasn't why you started, so don't let it be what finishes you're writing career. Keep moving. I'm paraphrasing, but that was the general sentiment.

What tools have you found most successful in advertising/marketing yourself and your books? 

It depends on what you mean by success. If it is measured in pure sales, then the daily book advertisement services like Fussy Librarian, My Book Cave, Christian Book Heaven, etc. seem to have a fair amount of success. In terms of building lasting relationships that lead to other opportunities down the road and finding a great support network, then by far it is book bloggers. Writing is one of those professions where it is easy to feel like an island and find discouragement all too easily, so having discerning readers out there rooting you on, that is truly something special.

Did any specific author(s) motivate you to begin writing? 

There were plenty who influenced me as a young child. Jack London, HG Wells, Daniel Defoe, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, and, of course, William Shakespeare. Then there are some who I admire particularly, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis are big ones. I really think a lot of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games in terms of telling a lot of story in compact space. But in terms of sheer motivation to write, I find music and the Bible give me the most fuel of late. Though occasionally I'll hit on a book here or there that re-energizes me to write.

Now let's discuss Day Moon.

How long did it take you to write this novel? 

It just depends on how you calculate the time. I first had the idea in Spring of 2012, but I didn't write the first page till October of 2014. My rough draft was done in August of 2015 and I polished it till around June of 2016. And the publisher picked it up in October 2016 for publishing in March 2017. It just depends on how you'd like to count it, but from idea to in-print, it was five years.

How did you develop Day Moon, by extensively plotting it out (plotter), or as it came to you (pantser, that you write by the seat of your pants) or was it a bit of both?

Day Moon came together much like most of my novels do. There was an initial scene that captivated me, and I just kept asking questions about it, became enamored with it, and decided I had to explore the world of that scene. So as question led to question, I got a sense of all the peaks that lay ahead for the story, which is more or less a skeletal synopsis of the story. In that sense, it was planned. Until I have the skeleton and what I feel are the beating heart and mind of the story (its themes and motifs and core messages), I can't move forward.

Once I have the anchor scene and an idea of what sort of lands I've discovered and where they're headed, I strike out exploring and let the story kind of lead itself. My philosophy about characters and plot is to let the characters be faced with a set of events (the plot) that is much bigger than them and let the plot shape them. Over time, the characters develop and begin to shape the plot in turn. That kind of balance and mutual influence makes the whole process feel more natural to me and leads to surprising discoveries for me as a writer. So, in that sense I'm a pantser because I think to an extent, writers are just discovering the lay of landscape more than even creating it consciously. I know that may not ring true for all writers, but it's very much a part of how I approach the craft and art of writing.

How do you come up with the character names in Day Moon? 

Some names I borrow from family and friends, like Elliott and John in Day Moon who draw their names from my grandfather (John Elliott Carroll). Other times, I just like the sound of a name or how it pairs with other characters in the novel, like Lara. Then another third or so of characters get their names because I play with the sound of them till I hit on something I think sounds unique but with a pleasant ring: Theodore Ohlmstadt, Victor Almundson, Evelyn Lily. 

Did you find it difficult to write the sonnet you have created in Day Moon? What assistance or resources did you have for this? 

It was a little tricky. You begin to have enormous respect for Shakespeare when you attempt to constrain yourself to iambic pentameter and then realize it has to also sound good. Then add in not just sounding good, but saying something meaningful. I had a web resource that listed the various poetic forms Shakespeare had used in his sonnets, and examples of the breakdown of each foot in some of his work, but beyond that, it was just the years I've spent reading Shakespeare weighing in and the fresh exposure I had to all of the different plays from which I drew the quotations in Day Moon. Probably the thing that helped most was when I realized that since "Day Moon" was written by Grandpa McIntyre in the novel, it didn't need to actually be of Shakespearian quality. Just have the right meter and general sound to pass off as Shakespeare's at first glance. In fact, being far out-shined by Shakespeare is one of the ways Lara first, and later Elliott, recognized "Day Moon" to be an aberration. At least that's what I've told myself to bandage my ego.

Have you had positive feedback concerning this? 

That is a tricky question. I would say there have been a little over thirty reviews of Day Moon from GoodReads and Amazon and bloggers. Bear in mind, I'm the kind of person who always wanted straight A's in subjects I enjoy, and writing I enjoy immensely. For Day Moon, the reviews have been mixed to positive. A lot of it owes to the pacing. It's not like most books in the genre or even most books today outside the literary fiction circle. I think people have visions of The Hunger Games and Divergent going in and run up into something more akin to 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. It's for a YA audience, but I didn't write it like most other entries out there. It's meant primarily to be a thoughtful read. Elliott's preference in books is like a warning to readers. He likes books with "slow starts to a brighter finish." I'm sure those who did not like the pacing of Day Moon would beg to differ, but otherwise, it's been very positive. People really seem to love the characters in the novel and there are a good number of people who very much enjoyed the story all around. I think its the plot that draws people in most and the primary concerns it bears for the future. Which is good, that's what a dystopian novel should do. I've been pleased with how well the spiritual themes have resonated with Christian readers, though a good many of the readers who have left reviews haven't necessarily been Christians. All in all, I have no complaints and feel very blessed. 

What are these Biblical themes in Day Moon? 

There's a lot of Biblical parallelism going on. Which I suppose are more motifs than themes, though one stands out in particular. Elliott has a relationship with his grandfather that is a lot like most believers have with God. There are instructions left behind for him, waypoints to direct Elliott, but Elliott really has to follow that guidance without further interaction from his grandfather or assurances that all the forces come at him from all directions and are trying to stop him aren't right to do so. There are a lot of compelling voices out there trying to convince him to give up and a lot of setbacks that might justify it if he loses focus on what's at stake. Faith in the midst of all that comes against it is a key spiritual theme of the book. 

Another major one is the notion of whether the ends always justify the means. Grandpa McIntyre and his co-worker Evelyn Lily got so caught up in trying to do something good through Project Alexandria that when they were tempted to "sell out" so to speak, they took it with both hands. Evelyn points out the parallel to Adam and Eve explicitly in the novel. They let their desires get confused with God's design and embraced temptation, venturing into a great evil.

Project Alexandria as it has developed into is meant to be kind of a modern-day attempt to return to the Tower of Babel, where all knowledge was held in common. A defiant sort of unity among men. So again it's the idea that intentions and attitudes of the heart weigh heavily into the nobility or villainy of an act.

Since Elliott is a Christian, much of what he does is meant to reflect Biblical attitudes and principles. He constantly is faced with the dilemma of forgiving others or bearing grudges. He often has to choose to risk being hurt over and over again because he cares about those around him. He's trying to live out Christ's love and forgiveness in some awful circumstances. And perhaps equally as important, he has to wrestle with the fact that as many dreams for the future as he has, there is an equal number of anxieties he carries. He feels massively under-qualified to be doing what he is, and is reminded regularly of his deficiencies by others. But he just keeps plugging along. I've felt that way more than once and I think it is a key tool for growth. A song I liken it to is Toby Mac's "Beyond Me". We're all called to things beyond us and when we step out in faith God carries us the distance, but in a way in which we realize we're about five steps beyond where we could've gotten on our own. Then God gets the glory that is rightfully His.

You have included some romance in Day Moon. Are you a romantic at heart? Would your wife agree with you? 

I think I am a romantic at heart and I hope my wife does agree with me. I have a very high view of love. It isn't a word to use lightly or flippantly. It's most profound when used as a verb, and necessitates a continual dedication and enactment to sustain. That's why after almost ten years from when we first started dating till now, I give my wife a drawing on anniversaries, birthdays, and some holidays. I never give my artwork away. Writing is nice in that you can share it very readily without losing the original. But my hand drawn pictures are something I reserve for her. It's a way of saying there's a part of me that is special for her. 

Have you based any of the male characters on yourself? What about the grandfather in Day Moon? Is he based on your grandfather? 

Elliott is a lot like a slightly younger version of me in some ways. But like all the characters of my novels, I try to keep the tethers minimal and let the characters be their own people. Grandpa McIntyre is like that too. He's a bit of a mash-up of what I remember about my grandfather and my Dad. But there's so much of who Grandpa McIntyre is that is unique to him. I was never nearly so close to either of my grandfathers as I would like my son to be with my Dad, so there's a little bit of hopefulness embedded in that relationship and a fondness I didn't quite ever get to experience. It was also important that Grandpa McIntyre be the dominant influence on Elliott's life. Because it says something about the society of Day Moon. One blogger noted that Elliott's parents don't come up and thought it strange that I forgot to mention them. I didn't forget. It was intentional that they were distant. Society really is moving in a direction that disengages parents from genuine interactions with their kids, or so I feel. Day Moon's world takes that trend a step further. So Elliott's parents, while loving, are distant and it is his grandfather who had the most impact on him, who molded him the most. Part of the magic of who Grandpa McIntyre is lies in the fact that he quite intentionally took up that role because he knew there would be a void and he saw the potential in both Elliott and John.

There's a little of me and others I know in just about every character I write. But I try not to make one-to-one matchups. I shoot for either starting with a shell of someone I know and letting the character develop from there or doing an amalgamation of people I've met/known to form a character. Terrence, for instance, is loosely based on a friend of mine, but only in the character setup and then rare moments spotted through the whole Tomorrow's Edge series. Otherwise, Terrance is his own person in many respects.

As a writer, I think you have to have some traits in your characters that remind you of real people in order to follow those characters. It's a kind of icebreaker for the writer so that thereafter you're more invested in them and hopefully because they are partially real and have such care attached to them by a writer, the readers will come to care for them as well.

Is the technology you include in your novel solely from your imagination or have you researched this? 

Since I have a computer science degree and job, it really behoves me to keep an eye on tech trends. Virtually all the technology in Day Moon is in some phase of development and integration into daily life as we speak. The most extravagant indulgence I took was in the proliferation of mag-lev cars. Mag-lev cars are a technology being researched, but it's the element I'm least sure about seeing fruition. It makes good sense though to make use of such cars both in terms of the light and dark sides of technology present in the novel. I'll try not to get bogged down in the details of it, but if you want to eliminate human error, then having a machine manage traffic, much the way an operating system does processes, could accomplish that. At the same time, the speeds you could achieve coupled with the distractions of enjoying all that extra free time would make you oblivious to the world around you most of the time. And would bind you to a very defined set of places you could go. It is a huge form of passive control for the more sinister forces of Day Moon.

What’s next, do you already have any new projects in the works?

Ha! So many projects, so little time. I have a few projects simmering on different burners, with me flipping up the heat on one at a time as it strikes me. Quest of Fire is an epic fantasy series, The Fire and the Fount is a historical/speculative standalone, and then I have DQR: A Light Undimmed, a historical fiction novella. Not to mention the sequel to Day Moon, which I call Veiled Sun.

Tell us about Veiled Sun, without giving away too many spoilers? 

I'll try to tiptoe around spoilers for both books, but give a good gist:

Veiled Sun picks up shortly after Day Moon ends. The fallout from Day Moon's end is still causing problems for Elliott and the others, but now they have to survive out in the open. No more lurking in the woods and caves to keep from Agent Amar. More to the point, they realize if they're going to have any shot at all of stopping Project Alexandria and using this program Elliott's grandfather developed, The Veiled Sun, then they need some more sophisticated allies. Finding those allies is a bit of a challenge, especially doing so in such a way as to not bring down the federal authorities on them. So they split up, in groups aided by couriers of rogue programmers Grandpa McIntyre had known from before the Cloud Wars. Of course, things don't go as planned and Elliott gets kidnapped. Everyone believes he is the key to The Veiled Sun, except him, and he's faced with some even tougher questions this time round. Can he really go it alone if everyone else is gone? Is the world worth sacrificing himself to rescue? Is any of what he's experiencing even real? 

The lattermost becomes a chief question of the novel because it deals with the dangers of another aspect of modern technology: virtual and augmented reality. Though, the entire Tomorrow's Edge series is addressing the fundamental conflict of how we engage reality. I use the term surreality to describe the prevailing practice in the world of the series to deceive one's self intentionally with a reality of one's own imagining. A "surrogate reality". Kind of a psychological response to the harsh realities of the world that people can't or won't face. After a time, it becomes like a mask they put on so that they can't even see the truth when it is there to be seen. It's modelled after ancient Rome's theater culture, which we emulate so well today. Veiled Sun takes it step further though, and offers the question of what happens when that surreality can be superficially enhanced through virtual reality and suddenly you can live in a world where your desires are enacted. What reality would you choose? How would you eventually be able to tell the difference?

Do you plan to write any other novels in the Historical Fiction genre as you have done with Destitutio Quod Remissio? 

Forgive me if I'm giving more information than needed, but I have three historical works in development.

A surprising number of people have asked me about a sequel to DQR, though I didn't plan one initially. But the more I thought about, there were some themes that I wanted to explore but really couldn't fit in the context of that particular period. A couple decades later, however, fits them nicely. So I have the story that involves characters from DQR, but it really isn't a sequel. There are maybe thirty or so pages written, but it's got to compete with a lot of other stories for writing time. 

I just finished the final rough draft of a companion novella for DQR, A Light Undimmed, which explores the story of some of the smaller characters, and more notably the depth and intricacy of the intrigue Marcus faced, which I didn't have the opportunity to explore in DQR. I'm hoping to self-publish it so I can offer a free download as a way of saying thank you to everyone who has been supportive. I've also never really self-published a book before so this will be kind of fun experience...I hope.

The Fire and the Fount is the one I'm probably most excited about right now. It's about a Spanish conquistador, Lorenzo, and a modern archaeologist, Steven. Lorenzo is forced to turn in his brother, a priest, to the Inquisition. After that, he can never find peace and goes to the New World. While sailing in the Gulf of Mexico he is shipwrecked and finds himself on an island with a group of peculiar natives who guard a golden treasure. Steven, in turn, is broken as well. He was fixated on tracking down the historical El Dorado, not a golden city per se, but the source of the legends. He lost his wife to his work and his work to his grief until he stumbles on a journal that leads him to a strange island in the Gulf, where he encounters Lorenzo and the two have to protect the island's secrets from force's old and new that would misuse its powers. 

Have you been surprised by the success of both your novels?

You always hope that what you write will be well received, but I have certainly felt very blessed by the response to both novels. Especially Destitutio Quod Remissio. Anytime you hear that what you've written has had an impact on someone in a fundamental way or that they've experienced beauty in writing or found encouragement...there aren't words to describe that feeling as an author. It's always a little surprising to hear the kinds of impact the words I've written had. But then again perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised. My prayer, passion, and purpose is for the Lord to be able to use me to write words that will do just what I listed. Words to help people face and navigate this life and words to honor Him. I've been very blessed to get to see it happening.

What take-home message do you want readers of Day Moon to embrace?

In general, keep a weather eye on developments in society and culture around you. There is a price to be paid for every advancement and sometimes it is higher than we realize or would like. Don't turn a blind eye to hard things in the world around you. There is nothing to gain and everything to lose by letting yourself get swept up in the current of modern philosophy that only what feels good and pleases us is best. Know that the world is changing and soon it will happen faster than most of us are ready for.

For my fellow Christians, never stop fighting the good fight of the faith. Even when you feel like you are the only one left believing, don't stop, press on. If others let you down, lean on God and be open to forgiving them because we're all flawed on my levels and sometimes you have to be open to being hurt in order for a relationship to be restored. That's what the God showed us in Christ, isn't it?

Where can readers find you? 

I'm fairly active on Twitter, so that's the best place to find me, but I do try to post regularly to Facebook and my website. I also have a Pinterest where I post pictures related to the worlds of each novel I write, including those that are in the works.

You can find me here:

Anything else you would like to say about Day Moon or being an author?

I've stressed most of the other parts of reading and writing, but I hope everyone who reads Day Moon enjoys it as well. When I write, it is such a visual experience for me, I tend to get lost in the environments I'm writing about a bit, and I hope that readers get to do that as well. Each setting has a sense and a tone about it, and my hope is the richness gets conveyed because it's so much fun for me to explore these worlds, I can't help wanting others to as well.

Also, never be afraid to tell an author, however big or small in terms of "importance", what you thought of his or her work. Whether that's a review, which is appreciated, or through a message on social media. You cannot imagine the encouragement it brings just to hear someone say he or she got a copy of your book and reading it made a difference. 

May the Lord bless you and be with you, Peter. Thanks for a great interview!

My pleasure, Brett! I have enjoyed this. I should have interviewed you before I reviewed Day Moon! You have given us some great insights into you as an author and your novels. I am looking forward to Veiled Sun. 

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.

His latest book is Day Moon (Tomorrow’s Edge Book 1).