Monday 23 February 2015

The Great Thirst One: Prepared: an Archaeological Mystery by Mary C. Findley

The Great Thirst One: Prepared: an Archaeological Mystery

Small town science teacher Keith Bradley climbs into a red Tesla with English teacher Talia Ramin for the field trip of a lifetime. At stake is a missing copy of the Scriptures on gold tablets. At risk is the trust of an ancient order sworn to keep the tablets safe.
Talia's archaeologist aunt and uncle may have lost their last clue to artifact thieves. A government ultimatum might undo every lesson they have taught their students about keeping the Word safe.
from Chapter Eighteen – “Are You So Selfish?”
“What?” Keith jumped up. “What are you saying? We’re supposed to take the kids’ Bibles away from them? Their prayer journals? Their memory cards?”
“There’s no need to be defensive.” Doctor Williams glared up at him. “Please be seated. You will only be borrowing them, to get them scanned. And we want materials from everyone in the community. Parents, grandparents, ministers – Anyone who studies the Bible. Don’t you see? This will become a resource people all over the world can use, for all time. Mr. Bradley, your prayers, your thoughts, your study of the Bible could teach someone in Thailand, Mali, Alaska – someone in a spaceship travelling to Mars – these insights will become eternal.”
“But it’s voluntary, right?” Talia asked. “People don’t have to give us their Bibles, do they?”
“This program fails if it doesn't accomplish the critical goal of gathering all the possible data,” Doctor Williams insisted.
“What exactly do you mean by ‘this program fails’?” Keith’s dad demanded.
“It doesn't fulfill the requirements,” Doctor Williams said. “It doesn't qualify for the grants.”
“You mean we lose everything we've gotten from implementing the Bible as Literature program?” Principal Bradley choked.
“Really, there’s nothing scary or unreasonable being asked for here. Are your Bible studies secret? Why does the idea of sharing them with the world disturb you? Are you that selfish?”

The Guru's Review:

This will be the second novel I have read of Findley's, the first being A Dodge, A Twist, And A Tobacconist but under the pen name of Sophonia Belle Lyon. This new novel was supposed to one full-length work, but Findley decided to break it up into three novellas.  This move has one very nice effect and that is to whet your appetite more than enough for the next instalment. 

I really enjoyed this novella. What attracted me was the subject matter, a missing copy of the Scriptures on gold tablets and the quest by those in the know to find and protect it. This sparks off in me mystery, suspense, intrigue, good versus evil, spiritual warfare and a motive to show the importance of the Gospel and what it means for all mankind. So I am excited about this series. 

Findley successfully hides in plain sight the main character, Talia Ramin, as the new English Literature teacher. Findley also has Talia teach a subject as Bible as literature as a sub-plot and this provides much spiritual aspects in this novel, as Talia explains, 
.....we will not just be explaining how ancient literature compares to the Bible. We are going to learn how to be discerning about ancient writings-how to tell the truth from error in what's being taught by historians, archaeologists. This course will prepare you to know truth when you see it. 
Findley then provides more sub-plots with romance between Talia and Keith, Talia having a unique connection with Keith's disabled sister. Then there is the hints to Talia's past, Talia talking out loud while she is alone about protecting her identity and her true purpose, a Sprinter van that is trying to scare and intimidate her. Reason unexplained, but adds to the mystery and intrigue about her past and the link between this and the search for the missing Scripture scrolls. 

This is one easy read and very entertaining. It is structured for young adults and I can see them enjoying this, including the young adult that still resides in me!

Knowing some of Findley's background for teaching and evangelising the message of the Gospel, I can see her including some wonderful teaching moments while still making it very entertaining without being preachy. Youth love being taught when it is fun so she has a wonderful platform here for this. 

I feel this is one very promising series and I am very much looking forward to the complete package. 

Strongly Recommended.  

Sunday 22 February 2015

The Fist of God (Agarthi Conspiracy Book 1) by M. E. Brines

The Fist of God (Agarthi Conspiracy Book 1)

What if the Second World War wasn't just the largest war in history, but a supernatural struggle between spiritual entities? 

It’s 1940 and the fires of war have set Europe ablaze, but America remains blissfully neutral. To please his parents, sceptical Stuart Mackenzie studies to become a minister. He has about as much concern for the outcome of the war as he does for South American sports scores. But his idealistic brother, a former bootlegger with ties to the Purple Gang, volunteers for the Royal Air Force. And when his Hurricane is shot down, Stuart abandons his studies to seek bloodthirsty revenge. 

But what he discovers unravels his world-view. Can a confirmed sceptic defeat a coven of Nazi sorcerers on their home ground? What chance will the mundane weapons of the Allied powers have against ancient magic and an artefact said to have slain the very Son of God?

The Guru's Review: 

This is my first book of Brines and it was the plot and genre that really attracted me to this. I had originally bought his short, The Spear of Destiny, which is a sub-plot of this novel, but when The Fist of God was reduced in price, it was too good to pass up. 

The first impression I received is that Brines writes extremely well and this novel is such a joy to read from that perspective. He is also very good at the first person narrative and this makes the main character Stuart Mackenzie one very three-dimensional character and very relational. Two strong pillars on which to build a very entertaining novel. 

Brines obviously has a passion for two main topics, WWII and the supernatural. Hardly surprising seeing he comes from a military background and has also grounded himself in the study of the occult and Christianity, being a Christian himself,
M.E. Brines spent the Cold War assembling atomic artillery shells and preparing to unleash the Apocalypse (and has a medal to prove it.) But when peace broke out, he turned his fevered, paranoid imagination to other pursuits. He spends his spare time scribbling another steampunk romance occult adventure novel, which despite certain rumors absolutely DOES NOT involve time-travelling Nazi vampires! A former member of the British Society for Psychical Research, he is a long-time student of the occult and a committed Christian who sees himself as a modern-day Professor Van Helsing equipping Believers for battle against the occult Principalities and Powers that rule a world in darkness. (Ephesians 6:12) The author of three dozen books, e-books, chapbooks and pamphlets on esoteric subjects such as alien abduction, alien hybrids, astrology, the Bible, biblical prophecy, Christian discipleship, conspiracies, esoteric Nazism, the Falun Gong, Knights Templar, magick, and UFOs, his work has also appeared in Challenge magazine, Weird Tales, The Outer Darkness, Tales of the Talisman, and Empirical magazine. 
Reading the Fist of God, it is easy to see that this passion and knowledge of the occult and the supernatural both from an occult and biblical point of view is very evident and makes for very absorbing reading. It is well known that Hitler was obsessed with the occult and the supernatural and amassed himself with an incredible hoard of religious artefacts. Brines uses this fact very well and it is one of the central themes of this novel that becomes more evident once the reader gets to the 60% mark. It is really at this point that this novel really takes off and the reader's interest deepens and becomes more of a "cannot put this book down" experience than the previous length of the novel up to that point. 

With Brines' writing style and well-developed first person narrative, his recreating of the WWII world, really does place the reader there. I felt as if I was an invisible character following Mackenzie and being part of what he experienced throughout his upbringing, the events that led to him joining the army, his quest for revenge and his subsequent many missions as a secret agent. All these events take up the majority of the novel and sets the stage for his most serious and risky mission, to steal the Spear of Destiny and thus deprive Hitler of the supernatural power that the Spear is believed to possess. It seems that these two plot lines are intertwined and despite the former aforementioned plot line taking up to 60% of the novel it does balance out the remaining 40% that deals with the attempt to steal the Spear. At first I was annoyed that this former length being this long but then realised that this story continues in Book 2, The Unholy Grail (available summer 2015), so it works out well. The ending is definitely open for this next instalment. 

My parents lived through WWII and I remember my mother saying that from the evilness that the Nazis perpetrated, she believed it was more of a spiritual war than a physical one. Brines is more than convinced of this. In the last 40% of his novel, he introduces the background to the evilness and spiritual aspects of this novel. He starts by having Mackenzie witness the satanic rituals performed by the Nazi sorcerers and their quest for more power from other deities. This provides proof to him that if these deities exist, then God exists and he has his faith in God restored and becomes a spiritual warrior quested to defeat them and destroy their attempts to win this war and extend their power worldwide. From this basis, it leads the plot into the next book. I felt Brines has depicted this satanic ritual really well and this supports what is known of Hitler being obsessed with religious artefacts and being involved in the occult. Brines' knowledge and study of the occult really shines here. He also shines when Mackenzie meets members of a resistance group (The White Rose) and one member, Sophie, presents the Christian world-view in this war very succinctly that stimulates Mackenzie's faith further and also exposes the behaviour and lies of Hitler and the Nazi theology back to the fall of Lucifer. Again, Brines' grasp of the occult here is accurate and true to the biblical account of the fall of Lucifer. The following account from Sophie (Christian resistance group) connects Hitler's motives to the occult and to Lucifer,
Every word that comes out of Hitler's mouth is a lie. If he says peace, he means war. If he, in his outrageous way, uses the name of the Almighty...what he means is the source of evil, the fallen angel, Lucifer. They are not just a political party wanting to introduce a few reforms. The Nazis are a totalitarian cult seeking to impose itself upon everything and everyone. This war is not a war for land, to move a notional border a few kilometres one way or another. It is a war for the soul of humanity. If the Nazis win, once they have crushed all opposition, a new Dark Age will begin, a Dark Age protracted by an incestuous alliance between ancient evil and modern technology.
I love Brines depiction of Sophie as one totally focussed and determined spiritual warrior, a real terrier who won't compromise her convictions as she shows how well grounded in God and the Bible she really is,
If you want to make a difference in this world, you can't do it just prattling good intentions from a sofa or a church pew. You have to go out onto the battlefield and do your part, no matter how small, because in this world, in the struggle against wickedness, we are the hands of God. 
And this leads to the book getting its title, The Fist of God, when Mackenzie states, 
Yeah?....well, little girly, in this world right now, what God really needs is a fist. 
And the rest of the novel shows Mackenzie becoming just that, The Fist of God, and continuing as such in the two future novels that will complete this  trilogy.  

I loved Sophie continuing to show her spiritual warrior nature as she continues her narrative of the Christian world-view and I found this compelling, 
We can take a stand against evil. That's more than our politicians ever did, more than the army generals, more than most in the church. There have been a few: .....Bonhoffer, Niemuller... but most of them have been arrested, so now it's up to us to continue the struggle until the victory. 
(Mackenzie): Or until you've arrested, too
(Mackenzie): You don't seem very concerned. 
What's the worst the can do? Kill me? So I will miss out on a few short years on this Earth, and get to Heaven earlier. Should I love this life so strongly that I would betray both my country and myself and refuse the very calling of God? I think not. One cannot remain neutral. You must choose a side, for in not choosing to oppose evil you choose to embrace it. Did not Christ himself says, whoever is not for me is against me? Well, Herr Hitler has done the same. Whether you truly agree with him or not, your tax money goes to fund his world conquest anyway. Our children are conscripted into his armies. The produce of our farms and factories go to support his regime of evil. 
The Nazis go slowly now, on tiptoe, retreating from opposition. When they first began executing those in nursing homes and asylums, the outcry forced them to stop. Now, they continue as before, but secretly. Even with their control of newspapers and radio, they try to conceal the mass murders of the Jews and the atrocities on the Russian front. But the truth gets out. Still they continue, more and more boldly as they gain strength, and as active opposition fades or disappears completely into the night and fog never to be heard from again. Eventually, when they have crushed all opposition, their true nature will emerge from the shadows and be revealed for the Satanic cult that it is. By then it will be too late.  
Brines develops the spiritual theme further towards the end when Churchill has a confidential talk with Mackenzie. I found Churchill's narrative compelling and a great account from this novel,
Mackenzie: Sir, I've seen things you would not believe. I've seen supernatural powers at work. I've seen Nazi sorcerers and their pagan rituals. They have power. The Dark Gods favor them. Nobody believes me, but they'll listen to you. You've got to do something. 
 Further on Churchill states to Mackenzie
 I am not a what is considered a religious person.....come Judgement Day, I will have a lot to account for. But what I have done as Prime Minister will weigh heavily on the other end of the scale. I grew up in the Church, and I've read the Bible, and I know this: by invoking supernatural forces to slaughter the Jews, the Nazis have sealed their own doom. This war is no longer merely a struggle between the very gods themselves. God will not allow the Nazis' supernatural assistance to go unchallenged. 
Their compact with the evil gods has sealed their fate.....the Nazis have ensured their defeat and a terrible punishment to be metered out upon the German people: destruction of their cities, plundering by enemy armies, starvation and death on a Biblical scale. Their satanic rituals have not summoned the spirits of victory, but the Wrath of God and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In the end God will triumph.....
But until then, we must do our part. He demands from us nothing more than blood, toil, tears and sweat. The war will be long and terrible. This is not the beginning of the end, only the end of the beginning......go back to your regiment and do your best for King and Country. You believe in the power of the evil gods. Can you not trust in the power of the good? 
When the reader finishes this novel and discovers Brines' A Concise Timeline of World War II, the author asks the reader a question, 
Did the Nazis have supernatural assistance in World War II? Did the outcome of the war turn on the attempted genocide of the Jews? Watch the events and decide for yourself. 
Well, I did read the events as he outlined them in this Timeline and it clearly shows that when the Nazis started exterminating the Jewish people the events from then on, turned against the Nazis. So from this, I can see where Brines has based the account from Churchill and developed a very clever plot line. 

All in all, I really enjoyed this novel and it has whetted my appetite for the remaining two instalments. Despite having not read any of his previous non- fiction and fiction works, for any new reader new to this author, The Fist of God would be an excellent place to start. I am glad I started here. 

Highly Recommended. 

Monday 9 February 2015

Interview with Alessandra Dagostino, author of Murray Pura's Preacher Man Series II, Wicked Christmas Complete Series

Preacher Man Series I, was a great reading experience for me. Written by Murray Pura, well constructed, 4 short episodes involving spiritual warfare, satanism, devil worship and standing firm in Christ, using the power of Christ's victory over sin and death. Some great lessons for every believer in spiritual warfare. Very edgy Christian speculative fiction at its best!

At the end of this Series, there was a general feeling amoungst readers of this series that there needed to be a second series. All of us fans were excited and heaved a sigh of relief when, so soon after the finish of Series I, it was discovered Series II had been released and surprised that there was another author in the helm instead of Murray Pura! And what a wonderful surprise and authorship Alessandra Dagostino has turned out to be! This second series has been well received and I know from myself and another fan that Dagostino has taken this to the next level, more anticlimaxes, more spiritual warfare, more victories in Jesus name and by His Spirit, and more edgy, speculative plot lines. 

Now that Series II is complete and having enjoyed this immensely, I am impressed with the talent and creativity that Dagostino has shown in creating this series, so I really felt it would be great to discuss this with her. 

So sit back, kick your feet up, grab your favourite drink and let yourself enter Alessandra's world. Be prepared, she is very passionate about her spiritual warfare and this lends itself very well to Preacher Man Series II!

But before we begin, here is what all the excitement has been about: 

Murray Pura's Preacher Man Series II, Wicked Christmas Complete Series 

Volume One - Sweet Evil 

A castle in Germany. Christmas is on the way. Snow is on the mountain peaks and carols are in the air. But the castle holds a dark secret. So dark that Preacher Man has to be reactivated and sent into the thousand year old citadel to put things right. But this time the evil is above and beyond anything he has experienced before. It is so powerful and so invasive it is enough to bring a strong man to his knees. Even a saint. Even Preacher Man.

Volume 2 - Bad Angels 

The atheists want to take the Christ out of Christmas. So does the secular crowd. So does all the Wicca and pagan organizations. Now the satanists do as well. They want Christ out and the devil in. And they have sent some very fallen and very lethal angels to make their dream of a Christless Christmas come true, a Christmas where Satan and overindulgence rule and love and goodness cease to exist.

Volume 3 - Carpe Noctem 

Angelika was a devil worshiper and raised to hate him and trained to kill him. But now, to her shock and surprise - and anger - she has fallen in love with him, Preacher Man, the great enemy of hell and the devil and all the children of darkness. Now she is a cauldron of confused loyalties and mixed emotions. Now she has to choose between destroying the man she loves and staying faithful to Satan or turning to God and fighting by her lover's side. As the supernatural battle within the Castle boils out onto the mountain slopes of the Brocken, Angelika has only Christmas Eve to decide where she will place her heart. 

Volume 4 - Christwalkers 

The battle to prevent Satan's incarnation moves quickly from Germany and then to Rome. Soon even Angelika is taken from Preacher Man's side and he is all alone. Exhausted, weakened, having spent hours and hours without food or drink in the midst of vicious spiritual warfare, he must face a devil at the peak of his powers, a devil strengthened by the spells of his followers and the blood flow of their human sacrifices. Preacher Man is a christwalker and will make his final stand in the power of the Christ. But will his faith, tied as it is into his very human soul, be enough in his fight against the Prince of the Power of the Air?

Alessandra, thanks for allowing me to interview you! After reading Preacher Man Series II and being totally entertained, I wanted to find out more about you as a new author and discuss Series II. So let's start. Tell me about yourself! 

I am a very private person so my bio will reflect that but you’ll still learn some things about me.

I became a Christian at nine. I may have been young but I knew what I was doing and it was a significant experience for me. My commitment has been life-long and I attend a vibrant church in Florida that has real depth.

I began modelling as a child in Italy. I was ten and my father had a two year sabbatical. Mostly we hung around Roma, Caserta, Napoli, Firenze, and Perugia. I now have my own small modeling 
agency in the US.

Martial arts began when I was 12. First I learned judo, then Shotokan Karate, and then Tae Kwon Do. To that I added BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), kick boxing, and Krav Maga. My nickname is “Letale” in Italian and מֵמִית in Israeli, both of which mean lethal or deadly. I move quickly, I win 99% of my fights, and that includes against men. A man usually does not take a woman martial artist seriously until she has him in a hold where he must tap out or pass out. I find flying kicks, arm bars, leg scissors, and rear naked chokes most effective in bringing my (generally) bigger and heavier opponents to submission.

I am also trained in the use of various 9mm and 45 handguns, the M16/AR15, the AK-74, HK MP5, and various shotguns. I also know how to use and defend myself against a knife.

I use my martial arts skills and weapons skills in my part-time work with a private security firm.

I began writing stories in high school but am only now beginning to write for publication.

I became involved in Christian deliverance ministries on a visit to Italy and Europe when I was 18. I stay connected with reputable people who undertake this ministry in the USA and frequently assist.

For various reasons I have to use different names and different portraits. Catch me if you can. The real Aless is out there and writes the stories you read and many of the pictures are her. 

And I really am 24! Just like the TV show with Jack Bauer!

You have one very interesting background! What was the motivation to be trained in martial arts, and the use of guns and defence in being attacked with a knife? These disciplines are not common for women to embrace, but I feel both genders need to be able to defend themselves.

Bullying from girls in school made me want to get fit and defend myself. And I had a couple of boyfriends in my teens who were into martial arts so I started learning about it with them. I continued long after they had left. Being fit and strong made boys challenge me in the schoolyard so I had to keep pushing myself to be faster and stronger than them. I learned the knife skills in a special self-defense component at a Shotokan Karate dojo. Learning about that and how to us swords (katanas) naturally led to wanting to learn the necessary skills for other weapons like firearms. 

In your bio, you state that you started writing stories in high school. What was your motivation or inspiration for this?

It was the bullying and survival experiences that got me journalling. Then I started writing stories where the chick was strong enough to defeat all bullies, physical and supernatural. It was my way of coping.

What has surprised you the most about becoming an author?

I have been surprised that people can relate to my stories, stories that originate from my heart and imagination. Wow, that is very encouraging to me!

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

Remember that cool line from Chariots of Fire? “When I run I feel His pleasure” – yeah? That’s what I feel from God when I write with all the power and passion I have welling up inside of me.

Can you divulge to your fans something that you like to do when you're not writing?

Well, when I work out, I train very intensely and it’s 7 days a week. When I do heavy bag punching and kicking, the sessions are 2 hours long. But I also like long worship evenings where there’s lots of sincere and genuine spontaneous prayer and music that is inspired, I believe, by the Spirit of God. When I am out with friends or on a date, a good time is drinking coffee at a nice café & talking the night away.

How did you come to write the Preacher Man Series II?

I got to know some authors who wrote for the publisher and they asked me to submit some material. Murray Pura did not have the time to devote to writing Preacher Man 2, and because he liked my writing style, he asked me to consider writing the series. Believe me, I was anxious going in!

This series has been long awaited from what Murray Pura started in Series I, how did you feel about continuing this from the standard Pura set and him being such a successful and prominent author in Christian fiction?

Yes I was spooked but he was encouraging; so was the publisher. It became easier as I continued. I know I imitated his style a lot at first, so I worked hard to break free and develop my own style, one that is uniquely mine.

Was there any challenges you faced writing Series II?

I wanted to up the ante and make it more intense than Series 1 on as many levels as possible. That’s just me. I have the same attitude when I fight in martial arts and when it comes to my other disciplines. My friends call me Octane and Maxxed Out or Maxx for short. Wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Looking at the reviews, it appears I may have! 

All reviews have been 5 stars, indicating that Series II has been very well received. Were you expecting this and how does this make you feel as a new author?

Oh I am surprised, and it’s so encouraging! I thank God I can be myself in my writing, expressing the extreme and “maxxed out” attitudes I have from my fighting experience, and show my crazy Italian-American personality, and yeah, have my readers accept me like this. 

I presume that Murray Pura would have handed over plot developments from Series I for you to further, did you have any say in these before you wrote them?

He asked me to work from the castle in the Germany setting and with the Incarnation of Satan at Christmas storyline. There were supposed to be pretty sinister femme fatales and Preacher Man was supposed to get into some real hot water from the powers of darkness. I took it from there.

What kind of reaction were you hoping to receive from readers of Series II?

Well, I was hoping that my reader could handle the intense portrayal of evil that accelerates from each Volume. I did have my doubts. I actually thought a lot of readers would dislike that intensity even though, IMO and in my experience, it’s accurate. We do not advertise the series on traditional Christian book sites for this reason. So I guess the positive response did rock me a bit - but in a good way.  

Preacher Man Series I and II are classified in the edgy, Christian speculative  fiction genre. You have started your writing career in this relatively new and evolving, but not currently, well accepted or understood, genre of Christian fiction. Had you considered writing in a safer, better accepted and recognized mainstream genre of Christian fiction first?

No, I personally don’t like the cookie cutter or formula writing that I see in some other Christian fiction genres, so I have no desire to go there. I find that in some of these genres, it isn’t anything like the real world and sometimes that includes the equally real paranormal world of angels and demons. 

Your bio states that you have been involved in deliverance ministry since you were 18 yrs of age. That would imply that you know about demon possession/oppression, devil worship and satanism, I guess collectively the occult. Can I presume that what you have described in the volumes for Series II relating to the occult is based on what you have experienced and know? Any part of your description of the occultic practices are poetic licence?

Yes I draw on my personal experiences when I write about spiritual warfare but it’s still fiction and although fiction is based on real experience, it is still about what might happen, not always what did happen. For instance, I have never seen a clash of celestial beings on the level of what I describe in the bowels of the castle on Christmas Eve, but who knows? It might look like that.

One of the expectations I have of Christian fiction, all genres, is to not only entertain but to educate. I feel that Series II (and Series I) does this very well. However, there are, sadly, some Christians that would steer away from a series like this due to its occult themes, being ignorant and/or fearful of the occult, and therefore miss out on the spiritual insights into biblical spiritual warfare and the reality of the occult. What are your thoughts on this?

My thoughts? If someone does not want to read about spiritual warfare, that is their decision. If they don’t read about it because they're afraid, then they are putting their head in the sand and missing a golden opportunity to learn about this. It’s like a Navy Seal being afraid to tangle with ISIS or the Australian SAS being intimidated by local terrorists. Christians are the first responders when it comes to spiritual warfare. If they are afraid to fight the powers of hell then no one will be available to stand and defend the human race. Through Christ's death on the Cross and His victory over sin and death, He has given us the power of His Name and His Spirit alone to defeat the power, rule and dominion of Satan and whoever stands with him. Why should any Christian be afraid of the enemy when God is on our side and has equipped us? 

What message do you want readers to obtain from reading Preacher Man Series II?

I want the reader to realize that the danger is there, it’s real, and can be defeated, but not without faith and courage. “The whole world is hostage to the devil,” Paul tells us. It’s our job as Christians to rescue the hostages. Our job. No one else’s. So let’s put our boots on the ground and boldly go in Christ’s name and in His Spirit where angels fear to tread. 

Your readers want to know if will be a Preacher Man Series III. Any comments? If there is not to be a PM III, what is your next writing challenge? Would you mind giving an exclusive glimpse of what is to come?

I had no idea I’d write PM2, so I haven’t thought much about PM3. However as Murray Pura may be moving on to other projects, the opportunity for me to do PM3 has been hinted at. I would do it if I were permitted to hijack the series a bit and make the ex-devil worshipper, Angelika, a principal character, as strong as Preacher Man (or stronger). In many ways, because of her background, she is far more lethal than he is against the powers of darkness. I’d like to see him, as her man, get taken hostage by the Evil One and she becomes his only hope of being rescued from hell alive. So she literally tears up the Kingdom of Darkness to save her lover and fellow spiritual warrior. And I mean tear up. It would be the ultimate KA Chick story but way more than SALT (2010 movie with Angelina Jolie) or Agent Carter (Captain America) because she is fighting on both physical and paranormal levels, no holds barred. If they would let me run with that plot for PM3 I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?

If you want edgy, if you want real Christian and real christwalker (see Volume 4), if you detest formula fluff fiction, if you want high octane and super maxxed out thrillers that are deep and that stimulate, encourage and edify your spirit and imagination, and if you’re not afraid of some great romance along the way, then consider giving this young Italian-American author chick a try! Grazi mille! (Thanks a million).

Any final words?

If I don’t do PM3 (or even if I do) I’d like to write a series about a female bounty hunter who deals with fugitives who exist on both the physical and supernatural planes. The justice she brings them to is sometimes earthly but more often than not, it is justice that is executed from the throne of God. She has extraordinary powers and astonishing martial arts skills but frequently has to battle evil in environments where only her human skills and abilities serve her well. The fugitives she hunts are the most ruthless mix of both the demonic and corrupted humanity. These are hardcore paranormal killers who spawn wars and murderous epidemics and global terrorism and who feast on human suffering and bloodshed. Yet she tracks them without hesitation. Even angels fear to tread where this BA Christian chick goes. But if you think the black hats are scary wait till you see her take them on in the full power of the fire of God. Beautiful, strong, fearless, no wonder hell has two words for her and only two words – Sudden Death.

Anyone interested?

Where can readers find you? 

Sorry I don’t have all the stuff below set up yet but I am on Facebook, please friend me there. I am looking for all sorts of new friends and readers, and I don’t care about your background or where you’re coming from, just be real and we’ll have a great Facebook friendship.  

Well, Alessandra, thanks for showing us a glimpse of your life and discussing how you came to write Preacher Man Series II. You have had a successful debut as a writer and you have taken Preacher Man Series II to the next level. We look forward to the prospect that Preacher Man III may become a reality and your future writing endeavours, especially about the female bounty hunter will continue to be edgy, Christian speculative in nature and very exciting! Keep up this great standard! I pray that your description of spiritual warfare has encouraged the Body of Christ to embrace this in their relationship with God and to be used by Him to rescue and free those bound in captivity to satan and his schemes. 

Saturday 7 February 2015

Interview With Timothy Moynihan, Author of No Greater Love: An Afghan Memoir

Today, I am interviewing Timothy Moynihan, author of No Greater Love: An Afghan Memoir. I was asked by this author to review this book, after he found my blog on my Amazon Review Page. 

I found this novella a compelling read with an important message. It really touched my heart. It's been a real blessing. Whenever a book does this, I am very curious to find out more about the author and what led to this story having the impact it did. I also wanted to review No Greater Love: An Afghan Memoir (NGL) as new authors needs all the encouragement they can get. Just like Moynihan's novella, this interview is also compelling and gives some valuable insight into a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that is, sadly, very common with veterans and is not well understood or accepted by the general public.

Timothy Moynihan has a lot to say and he really engages you as you read this interview.

So sit back, close out the world and let Timothy Moynihan introduce you to his world of writing and his book No Greater Love. 

Book Description: 

Special Forces soldier turned author, Colonel Mike Sanchez, survived the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and converted his military experiences into a new career as an "inspirational" motivational speaker. But his heroic demeanor and outward confidence mask a burden he carries on the inside, the agonizing memory of two brothers with whom he served in the war. Caught off-guard at a public speaking event, Sanchez is compelled to expose the ghosts of his past and his searing memories of a bloody battle on a blasted Afghanistan hilltop where love conquered fear forever.

Tell us a little about yourself, your work and how you got into writing.

Well, Peter, let me begin by thanking you for the opportunity to share my story. I have always been a voracious reader, since I was a child, and I always had a creative bent but I was all over the map – writing fiction, drawing cartoons, writing songs and playing guitar in punk rock bands. But I was undisciplined and unfocused. I basically joined the Army because ultimately I wanted to be a soldier. I saw the movie, Apocalypse Now, in 1979, and decided I wanted to be Captain Willard, the character portrayed by Martin Sheen. That meant being an Army Ranger and going into intelligence or Special Forces like his character. I wasted no time, enlisted in the Army when I turned 18 and was in boot camp three days after my high school graduation. I received an Army scholarship to college where I majored in political science. I found I could get by on the strength of my writing skills as poli-sci is all essays and papers. Mostly I played pool and wasted my academic years in sin. I eventually graduated and was commissioned as an officer. I didn’t get saved until 1991 at the age of 26. It was years later, when I began making up stories for my kids, that my wife encouraged me to write. 

When did you decide to make a career of writing or what lead to you becoming a writer? 

With my wife’s encouragement I enrolled in the Institute for Children’s Literature (ICL), one of the finest correspondence courses around, and learned my craft. I also learned that I didn’t really enjoy writing for children. That was 10 years ago. It’s taken me a while to get moving, really. I’ve always had two jobs – church ministry and government work – plus one wife and two sons. It takes most of my time just to do those things right never mind writing! My church is small by California mega-church standards but writing can never be my priority when people have needs. And the world is a needy place! 

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

I ask questions of every writer I meet. Seriously. So I have a couple mountain peaks of wisdom people have given me over the years and would be embarrassed to leave someone out. But early on my first instructor at ICL told me to read Stephen King’s autobiography, On Writing, “if you don’t mind some salty language,” is how he put it. He knew I was a believer! But that book was tremendous – if you can get past King’s “salty language.” Stephen King may not be a believer but I can’t fault his craft or his work ethic. And his life story will make you want to pray for him. 

Do you have any advice for others wanting to start writing? 

Don’t do this because you want to become famous or rich. Write because you have stories in your head that won’t let go. Don’t wait for inspiration to write. Just write. And if you are a Christian, you better be grounded and involved in a good local church. Writers have egos and live in very private worlds – that’s why so many secular writers have issues – you need to keep your feet planted in Christ! 

What are you reading right now? 

I read everything, including lots of non-fiction, theology and some secular fiction. In the last month I finished The Shinar Directive by Michael Lake, The Pilgrim Church by E.H. Broadbent and I am now in the middle of a Nero Wolfe short story from a collection called Masterpieces of Mystery and Suspense, compiled by Martin Greenberg. I read my Bible every day and I rotate between a 1599 Geneva, a 1611 KJV and a NKJV. 

What reaction have you had from your congregation when they discovered you were a fiction writer? 

My congregation is completely unfazed and unimpressed, HA! HA! HA! No Greater Love is on Kindle and most of them don’t read on a Kindle – we are talking an average demographic between 19 and 30, lots of military families, ex-gang members and working class people here. And I am pretty low key about it with them. I have a “Pastor’s Recommended Reading List” on our church website I encourage all of the men to read through and it doesn’t include my fiction. But my church website is linked to my author website and I share No Greater Love in .pdf format with my interested combat vets who I believe will benefit from the message. They get the story and love it. 

What has the reaction been from those of your congregation who have read the book? 

Those who have read it say they like it but I am their pastor – maybe they think they HAVE to like it! 

In my review of NGL, I made the following statement, 
“I also feel that Moynihan has used his experience as a Pastor to develop the character of Mike Sanchez. I wonder also if some of the events described in this novella are based on his military experience or from other Christian soldiers as well to develop the character of Daniel. I would not be surprised.” 
How much of my statement is true? How much of yourself and what you experienced is Sanchez or Daniel based on? 

It’s absolutely true. Mike Sanchez is based on a real person I know but he’s a combination. His thoughts are my thoughts. The brothers in the story are loosely based on my sons, pastor’s kids who struggle with their faith. I wrote this out of love for them and love for the veterans I meet every day. But one thing I need to make clear: I have never been to Afghanistan. Nor have I been to Iraq. My Middle East experience is confined to Turkey and Israel. And my area of military experience in field operations was primarily “east of Pakistan.” 

The question asked by the female youth triggered an episodes of Mike's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and him recounting the story of the Taylor Brothers. This question concerns why veterans seem to be very angry once they return to civilian life. Is PTSD and its various symptoms such as anger, something that you are passionate about and why is it so poorly understood by the general public? 

Yes. Military PTSD is not exactly like other PTSD. There is a cultural angle. Most military people are put on an unrealistic pedestal by some or treated as fools by others. The military culture is completely alien to the comfortable, civilian, egalitarian world of pleasure and self-indulgence we have in Western culture. Any veteran returning from a deployment, even if they never engaged in combat, has to make this overnight bizarre adjustment from military operational status to going to the shopping mall with their spouse to pick out a living room set. It’s surreal. Now couple that with combat trauma that comes in various degrees – from guys in intense, house-to-house fighting for weeks on end, to those who “only” experienced an IED attack on a convoy, to one who sat in a logistics compound and played video games, to another who was sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier and you can begin to understand why no civilian can really relate to what is going on inside the head of the returning veteran. On deployment, camaraderie, mission focus and the possibility of shared danger reduce life to a very basic level that is easy for the well-trained military mind to process. It only takes a couple of weeks home among well-meaning but complicated people (loved ones) who “don’t get it” to make the veteran wish they were back in the war zone. Sadly, it is the disconnected civilians back in civilization who, as politicians, are making short-sighted policy decisions about the conduct of the war. Or worse, are rendering judgements about military people they can in no way understand. 

You have written NGL based what you know of the military, did you find this hard or does knowing your subject matter make it easier? 

As I stated previously, I never deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. I became a subject matter expert on them from afar but my operational focus was elsewhere. Having a variety of military experiences at every level, in every possible capacity, means I can write credible material whether the story is set in Kabul, Washington DC, Mexico City or Beijing. I also have extensive travel experience. I am one of those nuts who gets obsessed by a subject and immediately reads 3 to 4 books on it until I feel like I understand it. I love exotic people, cultures, places and history. I have a naturally high reading comprehension and retention level which helps. I love veterans and I love to hear their stories. But my “boots on the ground” knowledge is out-dated. I need to study just to keep up. I have church members, friends and family members who help. 

Reading your bio on your website, you have one chequered career, very impressive! If I have it correct, you were not a Christian while in the military. Looking back now, can you identify any events or experiences that you can see that God used to lead you to Him? Briefly account how you became a Christian. 

Several things pointed me to Christ. I was raised Roman Catholic and attended Catholic schools for 12 years. As a result, by 18 years of age I believed intellectually in Jesus but hated organized religion and stopped attending church. But in 1983 or so I read Countdown to Armageddon, by Hal Lindsay. It got my attention. It fit an apocalyptic world view I had carried with me since I was a kid (Shaped by science fiction -- Planet of the Apes movies and Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth comics). I couldn’t figure out why I never heard about Bible prophecy in Catholic School! In 1991, I fell off a cliff at Ranger School and cried out to God. At the critical moment someone saved my life. I was unhurt -- but something changed inside. A month later I was sneaking into Christian bookstores and looking for more Bible prophecy books. Desert Shield was taking place and I was beginning to realize it was all so true. A chance encounter with a Christian in my unit led me to his church where I was gloriously saved in March 1991. I have never been the same. 

You are now a Pastor. Based on your military experience, have you ever considered being a military chaplain? From reading NGL, I can see you making a great impact on both those in the military now and on veterans. 

I never felt called to the chaplaincy. The first church I pastored was in Hawaii and everyone was either Hawaiian or Micronesian. My current church is mostly military and we are reaching them quite well from the outside. I let the LORD decide where He wants me and it’s always an adventure! 

The statement that Sanchez makes at the end of the novel, 
That God does care, even if nobody else does. God cares, because God knows, God loves and God grieves...for us. 
Is this based on what you experienced while in the military or since you became a Christian? 

It’s a message I wanted my sons to read. So they could come to grips with their own faith struggle. It’s a message for every veteran as well. I love working with men. Most church ministry is too feminized to reach thinking men. 

The message of NGL is based on John 15:13, 
No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. 
What prompted you to write a novella based on this verse? Was it because it intriqued you and thought this would make a great story or is it based on what you have seen and know from your time in military service? 

I find it’s a definition of love that men can relate to. Most Christians view love as a “feeling” and this has sabotaged the church’s mission in reaching the lost. From what I read in the Bible, God really doesn’t care about our feelings. But Jesus gave Himself for us. If Christians could get that it would change the church in a decade… and the church could finish the work of world evangelism in a generation. And it would reduce the church’s un-Biblical dependence on psychological counselling to solve people’s “issues.” Many Christians simply haven’t been taught to love like Jesus does – sacrificially. 

What kind of reaction were you hoping to receive from readers of NGL? 

Well besides the inherent message in the story I wanted to use this novelette to establish my bona fides as a writer who can be taken seriously. I intentionally linked it to Prodigal Avenger, my novel, which I actually wrote first but hadn’t been able to get published. I really learned to write fiction with Prodigal Avenger. From an author’s perspective, I wanted to be taken seriously as a writer of thoughtful, inspirational fiction both men and women could enjoy. Yet this is men’s fiction and it needs to have the honesty and edginess that men can relate to. I hope my fiction fills a critical void in Christian publishing. 

Congratulations on Prodigal Avenger being a Finalist in the ACFW Genesis suspense-thriller category. Are you working on having this published? After reading NGL, I am more than interested in reading this. 

It’s still been shopped around by my agent, Les Stobbe. He is a tremendous blessing to me and has kept me encouraged. Publishers are interested but not committed yet. That’s all I feel comfortable saying. 

What’s next, do you already have a new project in the works? 

Yes, my follow up to Prodigal Avenger is called Double-Tap Angel and is about the conflict with ISIS. Also working on some non-fiction. A Bible study in Genesis and a study of Revelation 13 are all in my heart. Stay tuned. 

Where Can Readers find You? 

You can usually find me at my church, or on the road, or overseas; or maybe with my sons on an adventure; or off with my wife having fun. Or they can get to me via my websites below. Sorry, I am too sketchy about Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to go there. Pray for me! 


Timothy, thank you so much for providing us with an insightful account of your military experience and what led to you becoming an author and specifically the background behind your novella, No Greater Love: an Afghan Memoir. I pray that others with find your account here encouraging and enjoy NGL and its sequels. 

I look forward to reading them as they are published. I am sure readers of this interview share the same sentiment. We look forward to reading about your future success as an author.

Friday 6 February 2015

Murray Pura's Preacher Man Series II - Wicked Christmas - Complete Series by Alessandra Dagostino

All FOUR stories in Alessandra Dagostino’s series are now together in one ebook: 

Volume One - Sweet Evil 

A castle in Germany. Christmas is on the way. Snow is on the mountain peaks and carols are in the air. But the castle holds a dark secret. So dark that Preacher Man has to be reactivated and sent into the thousand year old citadel to put things right. But this time the evil is above and beyond anything he has experienced before. It is so powerful and so invasive it is enough to bring a strong man to his knees. Even a saint. Even Preacher Man. 

Volume 2 - Bad Angels 

The atheists want to take the Christ out of Christmas. So does the secular crowd. So does all the Wicca and pagan organizations. Now the satanists do as well. They want Christ out and the devil in. And they have sent some very fallen and very lethal angels to make their dream of a Christless Christmas come true, a Christmas where Satan and overindulgence rule and love and goodness cease to exist. 

Volume 3 - Carpe Noctem 

Angelika was a devil worshiper and raised to hate him and trained to kill him. But now, to her shock and surprise - and anger - she has fallen in love with him, Preacher Man, the great enemy of hell and the devil and all the children of darkness. Now she is a cauldron of confused loyalties and mixed emotions. Now she has to choose between destroying the man she loves and staying faithful to Satan or turning to God and fighting by her lover's side. As the supernatural battle within the Castle boils out onto the mountain slopes of the Brocken, Angelika has only Christmas Eve to decide where she will place her heart. 

Volume 4 - Christwalkers 

The battle to prevent Satan's incarnation moves quickly from Germany and then to Rome. Soon even Angelika is taken from Preacher Man's side and he is all alone. Exhausted, weakened, having spent hours and hours without food or drink in the midst of vicious spiritual warfare, he must face a devil at the peak of his powers, a devil strengthened by the spells of his followers and the blood flow of their human sacrifices. Preacher Man is a christwalker and will make his final stand in the power of the Christ. But will his faith, tied as it is into his very human soul, be enough in his fight against the Prince of the Power of the Air? 

The Guru's Review:

At the end of Preacher Man, Series I, I asked Murray Pura if there was to be a Season II. He was undecided but agreed that it would be good. I accepted his decision. Then lo and behold, within weeks of that brief conversation, it is discovered that Series II is released and with a different author! But this was no deterrent to jumping into this second series. And I am glad I did! I now have a new author to add to my favourites list. 

Dagostino has developed Series II extremely well and taken this series to the next level. It is definitely darker and I guess seeing how Series I finished, this was inevitable. In taking it to this next level,  Dagostino has included more anticlimaxes, more spiritual warfare, more victories by the Spirit of God and in the use of Jesus name with increased edgy, speculative plot lines. We still have the same Preacher Man but he has a different persona due to the increased threats on his life as the occultic forces seek to capture and sacrifice him in order for satan to be incarnated into human form and then succeed in total world dominion. 

Dagostino has proved in this debut, that she knows her subject matter. In an interview that I have conducted with her, she states that she has been involved in deliverance ministries since she was 18 years of age and still assists in this. I find that when an author writes from personal experience and from what they know, the reader has one very credible and sound story. When it is a Christian author who does this, then we have one very biblically sound novel. Such is the case here. This also means that Dagostino has shown her credibility and integrity as an author and committed Christian.

I have said this before in previous Christian fiction reviews that I believe one of its aims should be to not only entertain but educate 
as well, and any reader cannot come away from reading this complete series (including Series I) without any knowledge of the reality of the occult and biblical spiritual warfare principles. In this way, this series achieves this very well and is a credit to Dagostino for adhering to these principles. 

This is one very intense and powerful read on one very serious subject and Dagostino has very cleverly lightened this without detracting or watering down this subject matter by adding romance element heavily embedded in the plot. I loved this side of the series. This romance seems to give Preacher Man some balance as a man, preacher, spiritual warrior and christwalker (this latter term and spelt with a lowercase "c" is described well in Volume 4.) I am really hoping that if there is a Series III that this romance will be further developed as such but also further embedded into the spiritual warfare side of this series.   

I know that by saying what I am about to say is almost cliché, but the way both authors, Pura and Dagostino, have developed both series, it would make one very enjoyable and educational, action packed movie on par with some of the secular movies involving occultic themes.

I totally agree with fellow reviewer, Marian Baay, who ended her review with the following, 
If you enjoy some good and intense writing and are not afraid to be drawn into a powerful story that deals with evil and wickedness that can only be conquered by God’s holy power and Christ’s work on the Cross, then this is an excellent read for you!
This is one highly recommended series and expertly written debut novellas. I look forward to more from Alessandra Dagostino. She has proven to be a force to be reckoned with in edgy speculative Christian fiction.  

Thursday 5 February 2015

No Greater Love: An Afghan Memoir by Tim Moynihan

The Guru's Review:

I was asked by the author to review his debut novel after finding me on my Amazon review page. Being a new author and the genre being one of many that I love, Christian military, I agreed. Encouraging new authors is one criteria that my blog exists for. I also love encouraging Pastors who become authors too. 

My first impressions after reading this short (estimated 31 pages as stated by Amazon) is that Moynihan packs a lot in a short space. Another is that he knows how to write well. His command of the English language makes this novel flow well and is very smooth. This, coupled with a strong plot development and very real characterisation makes for one all-absorbing and believable story. I was totally transported to the military base in Afghanistan and all reality of my life did not exist as I was there, observing all that went on, experiencing the fear, anxiety, the despair of the characters and also the brotherly love that existed between brothers Daniel and Zachary Taylor. I also felt the care and concern and genuine Christian love from Mike Sanchez towards Daniel and Zach and from Daniel to his unsaved brother. Mike not only comes across as an experienced leader but also as a father/Pastor figure.  I felt very close to Mike in this novella. I won't forget him in a hurry. 

I have heard from other authors that in some circumstances, it is easier and more successful to write what they know. This shows in this novel. Moynihan definitely knows his subject matter and I can see from this novella that his description of the warfare, tactics, military hierarchy, jargon is all very real and convincing and adds strength and credibility to this story. I also feel that Moynihan has used his experience as a Pastor to develop the character of Mike Sanchez. I wonder also if some of the events described in this novella are based on his military experience or from other Christian soldiers as well to develop the character of Daniel. I would not be surprised. I will be interviewing Tim later this week so I know what some of the questions will be! 

Another writer's method is to show not tell. Showing engages the reader and telling disconnects. Moynihan succeeds here, he shows and I was engaged. This was also another reason I was transported to the military base in Afghanistan and I experienced what they did. 

I had a feeling from the title that I knew what this story would involve. From the plot, I thought that I had it worked out and was not unhappy about this, but I did not expect the way it did turn out. I got the message the author intended and it is powerful. I cried at the end. I pray that I could do the same if I was placed in a similar situation. And this is a message that every Christian grows up with in Christianity. I wonder how much for some of us this message is head knowledge and how much is heart action? I applaud Moynihan for this message.

I felt for Mike with what triggered what appears to be his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A question from a female youth during one of Mike's inspirational talks to a church congregation. It is one very important question that he tries to answer with the story of the Taylor brothers. And the telling of this story has a healing effect on his mind and heart. It is a great story and powerful. 

I also loved the message that Moynihan leaves us with, what Mike has learnt from war, 
That God does care, even if nobody else does. God cares, because God knows, God loves and God grieves...for us.
Highly Recommended

If you would like to investigate this novel further, click on the image below: