Tuesday 18 September 2018

Blog Tour: Richard Spillman: The Background Story to The Awakened (The Lazarus Chronicles Book 1)

Today I am hosting Richard Spillman as part of his blog tour to promote his debut novel, The Awakened, to be released on October 1st. If you like books in the genres of Christian inspirational, speculative, fantasy, supernatural, action and adventure, you’ll love this thriller and suspense novel. The miracle surrounding the biblical figure of Larazus has fascinated me since childhood so I was very much interested in reviewing this novel when Richard asked me to do so. 

So sit back and explore The Awakened by Richard Spillman.

Click here to pre-order your copy of The Awakened.

Before we start, here is a little about the author: 

Richard Spillman is a retired Computer Scientist who typically writes Christian non-fiction (Do What Jesus Did) is available on Amazon as well as a Christian blog (spillmanrichard.com). His latest passion, however, is Christian fiction. His first novel, The Awakened, will be released on October 1. The story asks the question: “What if Lazarus didn’t die a second time?” He was led to write it after avoiding being kidnapped by ISIS in the Philippines and then receiving death threats (to behead him in standard ISIS fashion) during the rest of his missionary service there. Besides the blog, he is active on Twitter and Instagram where you can see pictures from his missionary travels around the world.

Now before Richard explains this novel's origin, here is what The Awakened is about:

Everyone dies once. But what if a chosen few were raised from the dead?

Two thousand years ago Jesus resurrected his friend, Lazarus, who founded a secret organization: SOAR. Since then Jesus has added to the resurrected—The Awakened—to aid Lazarus in SOAR's battle against Satan's slaves, the UnVeilers. The threat is escalating. The UnVeilers have stepped up their attacks on mankind through a charming leader and a devastating series of bombings in Dubai and Tel Aviv.

But the invasion doesn't stop with international terrorism. The UnVeilers are searching for a secret that Jesus embedded in Lazarus’ journal that not even Lazarus knows—and it will determine the fate of mankind. After a failed cyber-attack against SOAR's computers, Lazarus and his team of experts must find the secret before the UnVeilers do. What clue is he overlooking that could turn the tide of this ageless conflict?

The souls fighting with Lazarus are weary, but the war against evil is far from won. Can Lazarus and his team set aside their longing for heaven and put a stop to these satanic attacks before it's too late?

Richard gives the following account of how The Awakened came about: 

Novels begin as an idea in the authors mind. An idea that won’t go away. An idea that pops up at the most awkward times. An idea as relentless as it is captivating. If it is truly The Idea for your next novel, eventually you will sit down and start writing. The question is where does that idea come from? What happened that made it suddenly appear and become so persistent?

Though many writers would hope there is a general answer to that question waiting to be discovered, I fear that it doesn’t exist. Of course, we must acknowledge that Jesus is the ultimate source of these creative ideas, but all that answer does is tweak the question to: What did Jesus use to birth it in your mind? And…we’re back to square one.

While the answer may elude us in the beginning, as the writing comes to an end, most authors have some concept of the force behind The Idea. But, in the case of my new book, The Awakened, I didn’t have to wait until I finished it to know where The Idea came from. I knew from the very beginning that The Idea grew out of an obscene threat to my life and that of my friends.

I was scheduled to lead a team of five to the Philippines to minister at remote villages in the jungles of Mindanao. It was something I’d done once a year for almost ten years. In all that time we never encountered any serious problems but this time was different. Just before we were scheduled to fly out, Pastor Ronald, our point man in the area, texted me to say that the pastor, Pastor Danial, in one of the villages we were planning to visit had been kidnapped by ISIS but had escaped and he and his family were safe. Pastor Ronald was hiding them in his church in the Davao slums.

My first thought after a “thank you, Lord,” was if ISIS had waited a few days my whole team would have been at that church. We all would have been kidnapped. I had a big “thank you, Lord,” at that realization. We had dodged a serious bullet. 

Later that day I met with my team in the USA to fill them in on the latest twist. I told them that Bonnie and I were going but if any of them felt uncomfortable then they could stay home. As I suspected every one still wanted to go. And go we did knowing we were covered in prayer.

When we arrived the situation got even more serious. Ronald reported that ISIS had Pastor Danial’s cell phone containing contact information for all of us and notes about our visit. ISIS knew when and where to find us. Not only that he warned us that the ISIS commander had called him several times demanding Pastor Danial be returned or he would hunt us down and, in typical ISIS fashion, behead us all.

Once again, in light of this new threat, we had a decision to make: stay or leave. We all decided to stay but to be cautious. So we change our schedule and the places we were to visit. During the week we continued to get threatening phone calls and text messages but we ignored them and went on with our work. There was a certain amount of tension every time we went to a new church or visited a new family. The question on everyone’s mind, but never voiced was “would this be the village, the church, the family where ISIS would finally find us?” But, we usually settled down and were able to do what God asked of us without fear. The week ended and my team flew home with nothing more than a strange story to tell. 

When I got home, I started to think about the evil we had encountered. The ISIS commander knew nothing about me and my team yet he spent the week plotting our death. I take that back, he knew one thing about us – we were Christian and that was enough to fuel his murderous rage. And what had we done to set this off? We distributed Bibles, brought food and, sometimes medical supplies to remote villages. We preached the Gospel. We never hurt anyone. Yet someone wanted to kill us for doing precisely those things. It was pure evil that had repeatedly called us during that week.

In order to come to terms with this, I felt like I had to write about it but not the event itself because something in what I encountered transcended my discomfort during the trip. I had to come to an understanding of the broader concept. I had to write about the global clash between good and evil. I had to understand what could lead to such evil and how to best respond to it. After some thought, the plot for The Awakened began to take shape. Ideas flooded my mind. I eventually came up with The Idea: what if Lazarus never died a second time and today he was battling the kind of evil that had crossed my path. I took that idea and ran with it. 

In the process of writing The Awakened, I saw two major forces at work: (1) demonic forces influencing man to hate through lies and (2) God’s people working to counter those lies with truth. As I started to write I began to see God’s forces not hating the men who fell under the influence of demons but loving them and attacking the underlying lies. In the process, my feelings about the ISIS commander changed. I expressed them in the words of one of my major characters as she looked at a captured terrorist. “Shiri had seen men like him before, men full of hate, men who had long ago lost any sense of the value of life, men caught up in a continuous cycle of revenge. What she didn’t see was her enemy. 

He’s not my enemy, but he might know where my enemy is. 

The ISIS commander was never my enemy and by ignoring him and going on to minister in the villages I was attacking my real enemy. 

An excerpt that conveys the theme of the novel: 

“Ah…yes. And to be clear.” Matthew stood and started to count down on the fingers of his left hand. “You want me to solve a murder, stop a terrorist leader, and recover what would be the greatest archaeological find in history before a secret that could change the course of the end times gets out. And start all that today.”

“Our job is not to rid the world of evil; it’s to fill the world with good.”

Richard can be found at the following social media platforms: 

To preorder The Awakened, click on the icon link below: 

Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader who reads in the genres of Christian inspirational, fantasy, speculative, supernatural, action and adventure, thrillers and suspense to consider reading The Awakened 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).