Monday, December 28, 2009

CSFF Tour - Digital Dragon Magazine


Do you have a hankering for hearty tales? Do you fear a lack of family values in your fantasy fiction? Well, look no further.

The CSFF (Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy) tour is having as our last feature for 2009 The Digital Dragon Magazine. The tour is a little discombobulated this month, as our fearless leader, Becky Miller, has a busted computer, so we don't have our typical list of participants. However, that doesn't take away from a quality feature.

Digital Dragon Magazine has a specific mission:
To seek out quality, family-friendly speculative and fantasy fiction, to find new talent in these genres and present that talent to a new, growing audience.

It started in June of 2009, with monthly issues featuring short stories, reviews, author interviews, and discussions about speculative fiction. The Vault page shows the quality art submissions they have had for their covers. Pretty impressive visuals for a brand new project.

I'd like to specifically highlight some stories from my comrades in the CSFF Tour.

Angel Wings by Fred Warren was developed from a flash fiction story he wrote. It is a poignant look at the future and some things, like teenagers, that won't change much in the future.

The Seeker by Brandon Barr is an imaginative tale of an intergalactic creature that is picked up in camouflage form by a young school girl. Her empathy brings provides the way to healing for our mysterious seeker.

Second Site by Grace Bridges uses a little word play and an unexpected twist when a problem student visits his professor.

I haven't read all that Digital Dragon has to offer, but many of the features that are easy reads that provoke some thought into life. The stories have little weaknesses, but overall they are entertaining enough, and perhaps important in the Digital Age, short enough to capture our short attention spans. The site specializes in stories less than 1500 words, so it is more of a fiction morsel to snack on rather than a full meal deal.

Usually I end with a list of participants. Like I said, I don't have an official list, but I'm posting the "usual subjects" where you have a fair chance of finding more on Digital Dragon Magazine. Since it is during the holidays there might not be as much as usual, but I know that Fred Warren has a couple of posts on it.
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Friday, December 25, 2009

O Holy Night

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Writing Software

I've had a few suggestions for writing software in the past. When we did the tour for Curse of the Spider King, the authors Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper recommended Scrivener, but apparently that is only available for the Mac.

Back to the drawing board for me.

Now Randy Ingermanson has release a software version of his famous "Snowflake" method of writing a book, titled aptly enough, "Snowflake Pro" . He ran a promotion for it on his Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine (the ezine is free if you want to check it out), and I couldn't resist.

If you click on the Snowflake Pro link, you can see how it looks. The basic method is starting with a simple overview statement of your novel idea, and slowly expanding it, like a snowflake fractal. It helps you expand the summary statement into a summary paragraph, and further on until you supposedly have a great outline ready to be filled in.

I have Randy's Fiction 101 lecture and have read his Snowflake method before. It seemed logical, but I had trouble sitting down and doing it. So far the Snowflake Pro is making it easy to do so. It includes audio clips from Randy as well as text notes. It has helped me get some dull coals fired back up again, and I'm hopeful it will help me plot out further so I can really attack the story this winter. The software is simple to download and install, and with the help features, it is pretty intuitive so far.

Does anyone else know about writing software and have recommendations? I will post more about Snowflake Pro as I use it more, but for now it seems quite helpful. I'm sure there's a ton of products out there, so if anyone has experience with them, I'd love to hear about them.
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Last Minute Christmas Gifts?

I'd like to provide the Spoiled for the Ordinary 2nd annual Alternative Gift Giving Guide. If you're having trouble finding the perfect something for a loved one, maybe it is because they don't need anything!

Instead of buying another unwanted trinket, consider donating on behalf of others and benefit those who really need it.

International Justice Mission - an organization providing justice, rescue, and rehabilitation for victims of the slave trade and sex trafficking.

World Vision - providing food and medical care around the world for years. One of the most respected charities out there.

Wonderfully Made Jewelry - do double duty! Find a beautiful jewelry piece for someone, made by rescued victims of trafficking. The jewelry may seem a little expensive, but it is not coming at the expense of sweat-shop labor.

Angel Tree by Prison Fellowship - Angel Tree provides presents to the children of prisoners, and is a way of showing hope to both the prisoner (who often feels guilty about not being able to provied for their kids) and the family left at home. Prison Fellowship offers many outreaches and services to prisoners all year.

Mercy Ships - these ships travel the world to offer medical, dental, and community development services to some of the poorest of all.

There are other worthy organizations out there, but most of these I've had experience with, and I know there is good return on your investment.

Be a blessing this Christmas season, and God bless you!
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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Blog Redux - A Modern Love Story

I'm off to enjoy the Winter Wonder Slam tour with Tobymac and Relient k tonight. Since 12/8 is a special day for me, here's a post from December 2006 that highlights why:

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Ten years ago, a modern love story began.

Two people had grown up together, through church and school. Her mother taught both of them in Sunday School and youth group. They didn't run in the same crowd at school, but being in an area of few Christians, they had a connection there because of their faith.

She was popular, in student government and choir. He was a little awkward, in band and drama. He wrote some weird creative stories that could get him kicked out of school nowadays. He was pretty shy, and asked her to prom - only because he knew she was so nice she wouldn't say no. Otherwise he probably wouldn't have had a date! They had fun, but it was just as friends.

She was actually a year older than him in school. When she graduated, she went to Youth With a Mission for their Discipleship Training School in Lakeside, Montana. He was a little lost without his good friend that year, but ended up following in her footsteps, also going to YWAM after his graduation.

When he returned, they both attended the local university, actually carpooling together the first year. She didn't like it when he was snooty about having to listen to country music. He wasn't amused when she and her friends all got in the back of his car and treated him as their chauffeur. Sometimes they seemed to bicker like brother and sister, but they remained friends through it all.

She found that she could even call on him when he was about to sit down to a hot plate of homemade macaroni and cheese, when she was being chased by a vicious spider. He arrived at her house, only a few blocks away, to find her standing on the kitchen counter using a broom to fend off the ferocious arachnid. A well-placed sandal ended the threat.

After a couple of years he decided he needed something radical in his spiritual life, and signed up for a Bible school program through YWAM - in Australia. She is one of the last people he spends time with before leaving. He even calls her from Oz, since he has some extra time on his phone card. She wasn't quite expecting a call from overseas, since they were just friends.

After 9 months he came back from Down Under, and their friendship resumed. She noticed that he had actually matured in his time away. He had always honored their relationship so much that he never dared to make it more, because he didn't want to scare her off.

Over the next year, they continue their friendship. Best friends now, they even start working together at a local restaurant. But when asked if he's ever thought of dating her, he replies that "they're just like brother and sister." When you're both in your early twenties, and some of the only Christian singles around in a small town, that automatic pairing is inevitable. However, they both share a strong passion for the Lord, and they try as best to let Him guide their lives.

Their college studies are coming into focus: she is majoring in education, and he is trying to get into the physician assistant program. Come December, and he's dealing with finals in fun classes like anatomy, physiology, organic chemistry, etc. English papers aren't the highest priority, so that's why on a Sunday he is holed up in his basement most the day to research and write his next assignment. He might have been farther along, but his mind was distracted by what she said after church.

"I need to talk to you about something. But I can't do it right now."

Isn't that maddening?

"Well, when are you going to tell me? What if I call you when I get my research done?"

"Okay."

He finds that he can't concentrate, and his active imagination is spinning with different possibilities. Finally he gets enough done where he figures he can take a break and give her the long awaited phone call. Despite all his imagination, he can't expect what would happen next.

"Remember how you said we were like brother and sister?"

"Yeah?"

"Well, my feelings for you have changed."

Pause. "What do you mean?"

"I like you more than a friend."

That may not be the most amazing line ever spoken in a romantic film, but it was the most wonderful thing I have ever heard. This woman, who was my ideal, had just opened a door that I could not have ever hoped would open. She is beautiful. She loves the Lord with all her heart. She is sweet and kind, tender and caring. Her smile lights up a room, but she could also speak with God's fire when moved.

So our courtship began. Being good friends, we knew that this wasn't a trifle. The next day I fasted and prayed and the Lord spoke Proverbs 18:22 to me. Wow.

It wasn't easy to be single and waiting. Both of us railed against that at times, but mercifully Jesus kept us hidden in His hand, keeping us from any serious entanglements, keeping us pure.

March 28, 1998, was the day that we were joined into one, and that day will always be special. But our journey started 10 years ago. The day we fell in love.

I love you Beccy. Always and forever.
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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Christmas Thoughts

Psalm 82:3-4

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

CFBA Tour - Loss of Carrier

Jason sez: This book arrived too late to review, but I'll try to get to it soon.
This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Loss Of Carrier
BookSurge Publishing (October 27, 2009)
by
Russ White


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Russ White is an internationally recognized internetwork engineer. He has co-authored eight books in the field of network design and routing
protocols and is a regular speaker at international networking conferences.

In addition to working on several expert and senior-level network engineering certifications, he is a certified firearms instructor.

Russ, his wife, and their two children live in the Raleigh area of North Carolina, where they enjoy spending time on Jordan Lake and attending Colonial Baptist Church. Loss of Carrier is his first novel.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Bright yellow cables against a blue shirt? Carl never would have approved of that color combination. Why was his face so white? His eyes should be closed, not open. Why hadn’t one of the security guards seen this and reported it to the police? The lights were off, the cameras were useless in the dark.

Of course, the cables wrapped around Carl’s neck explained why the server wasn’t working. Loss of carrier.


Jess Wirth lives a dreary life. He spends most of his time crammed inside a cubicle, toiling as a network engineer and stewing over the details of his ugly divorce. But when he finds his co-worker dead in the basement of their office, Jess’s life takes a surprising—and unpleasant—turn.

The police quickly declare the death a suicide, but Jess isn’t so sure. Not long after he begins digging into the victim’s work, another co-worker turns up dead, convincing him once and for all that something sinister is brewing behind the cubicle walls.

His investigation leads him to a mysterious woman name Leah, who pushes him to entrust her with the information he’s collected about his dead colleagues. Wary of Leah’s motives yet inexorably drawn to her, Jess keeps her at arm’s length...until an attempt is made on both their lives. Realizing they are close on the trail of a dangerous criminal, the pair race to expose a data theft ring before they become the killer’s next victims.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Loss Of Carrier, go HERE

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Friday, November 20, 2009

CFBA Tour - Eternity Falls

From one blog tour to another, from Elven lands to cyberpunk, where there's books, Spoiled for the Ordinary will go!

This week the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is featuring first-time author Kirk Outerbridge and his book Eternity Falls - A Rick Macey Cyberthriller. I mentioned this book last month due to its excellent cover art, and today is my review.

In the year 2081, no one has to die. Thanks to the Miracle Treatment from Gentec, people never age, and can actually be restored to any time in their life they want. But when spokeswoman starlet Greta Darling dies from apparent natural causes, this could destroy the product and company.

When the lovely VP from Gentec, Sheila Dunn, wants to find a reason that would show it wasn't due to the failure of the Miracle Treatment, she turns to Rick Macey, a retired government operative who has secrets that match his formidable skills. He will need all his experience and abilities to deal with the various forces that want Ms. Dunn and Gentec to fail.

I've not read a cyberpunk type novel before, and it's not surprising that this offering in the Christian fiction realm comes from Marcher Lord Press. Jeff Gerke's publishing company is the perfect vehicle for a book that doesn't fit with the mainstream of CBA novels.

Outerbridge has a solid first effort here. He sets a very interesting dystopic future, with the wonders of the Miracle Treatment nicely contrasted with areas of Los Angeles that are home to cybergangs due to the neglect from the government. Futuristic touches such as neural nets that provide instant messaging and computer searches with a thought, holographic ID's, and other technological advances are well-thought out and used throughout the book.

Rick Macey is a good protagonist with some surprises in store for the reader. He is a complex individual, and he wrestles with his past and his future throughout the story. Other characters such as the mysterious Virgil and the mobster Pooly add to the colorful landscape of the story. Sheila Dunn is mixed, appearing strong, petulant, spoiled, and a damsel in distress at various times, never consistent enough to be terribly believable.

The plot overall moves at a pretty suspenseful pace, but there are several points where the narrative could be edited to keep the story sharper. There's too much introspection, dialog, and description at times that bog the story down. The imagery of "eternity falls" is potent, but gets overdone at the end of the story.

Overall, I wasn't sure how "Christian" cyberpunk would play out, but Eternity Falls is an interesting read that has flaws, but is nonetheless entertaining. Fans of near future sci/fi and cyberpunk should check it out, as well as suspense fans. I think Outerbridge has the potential to be a strong player in the development of Christian speculative fiction in the future.

If you would like to read an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Eternity Falls, go HERE
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CSFF Tour - Curse of the Spider King Day 3

Batson and Hopper weave an entertaining web of adventure and suspense.

This is the final day of the CSFF Tour, featuring the new book from fantasy authors Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper, Curse of the Spider King. On day one I gave a short synopsis of the story, and day two featured the authors and their mission (though I neglected Wayne's love of nachos...).

This book is the first in the Berinfell Prophecies series, written for a middle school audience, but with enough packed into it to make an enjoyable read for adults as well. Spider King as Batson tells on the Amazon page for the book, is not in either his voice or Hopper's, but their voice together. It is quite a feat for two strong writers to meld together so well.

The book starts off in an intriguing manner, immediately setting up the mystery. After this peek into the Elven world of Allyra, teenagers on Earth are introduced to a special book that has magical properties. When the text is touched, they are transported to the actual history of the Elves and the fall of Berinfell, their ancient capital. Most of the book is taken up with introducing the seven teens who are actually refugees from this other world, unbeknownst to them, with a climatic confrontation at the end as they try to gather together.

The action keeps the story propelling forward, and there are few times when the book slows at all. The various children are unique and have different backgrounds that feels real and not forced. They all stand out individually in their character and actions, which is a difficult task with so many "lead" characters. My only complaint with characterization is some of the names are too similar (Jimmy, Johnny, Tommy, etc.). There are also different Elven "protectors" who masquerade as teachers or librarians, and they all seem to run together at the end, but the individual interaction of teens and their protectors seems genuine.

The bad guys are sufficiently creepy, and the spiders provide an excellent fodder for setting a mood. This book shouldn't induce arachnophobia, but if a reader already suffers from that, this may not be the best book for them in the first place! The kids seem to be in real danger, and not every good guy makes it out alive, it seems.

Other than the similar names, my only other problems were some occasional head-hopping, where the authors would suddenly switch to another character's point of view for a time, and abruptly switch back as well. This caused some confusion as far as "who's the voice here." Also, one of the teens, has to flee danger suddenly, and her circumstances are not very believable as far as how she flees and dealing with her parents.

Overall, the book is a very enjoyable read for the intended reading audience, intermediate readers and up, as well as the parents or adults who like a good fantasy. There are grand themes of courage, endurance, self-sacrifice, and what it means to be a family, so there is a treasure of values in it as well. I'm looking forward to reading it to my 9 and 8 year olds as the next book on deck. Batson and Hopper deliver an entertaining, well-crafted world with engaging characters that will keep readers waiting for the next book, Venom and Song, coming May 2010! To paraphrase my middle son, "They are SO imaginative!"

If you want to see some other opinions, see Becky Miller's blog for links to all the updated posts.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

CSFF Tour - Curse of the Spider King Day 2

Wayne Thomas Batson
Teacher of middle school students, spinner of pirate yarns, doorman for The Door Within, husband, father.





Christopher Hopper

Author, musician, pastor, traveler, visionary, consumer of sushi, husband, father.

The CSFF tour for November is featuring a collaboration between these two authors, Curse of the Spider King, first in the Berinfell Prophecies. I introduced the book yesterday, and will review it tomorrow. Today I wanted to tell you about these men, as there's more than just a book involved here.

Unfortunately, Spider King is the first book I've read of either author (a problem I shall have to remedy). However, I've known about and followed these guys for a while. I am very pleased that the CSFF is featuring their work because they are serious about reaching a young generation with the love of Jesus and the love of literature and creativity. These are two things I can certainly get behind.

Wayne is a public school teacher, who decided to write for those he worked with day to day. Christopher has grown up in ministry, and among his many hats he works with teens and college aged folk. If you check out their sites, they are not shy about wanting to reach kids. They also do their part to foster a greater appreciation of reading, especially fantasy. They've done tours, spoken at schools and churches, and supported other authors, hoping to make a difference in their realm of influence.

Wayne asks on his blog for people willing to pray and support their work, that doors will be opened. As he points out, in a battle artillery is needed to weaken the defenses of the enemy. As Christians our weapons are spiritual, and our warfare is through prayer and the Word. I encourage all interested in the next generation and in good art to support these guys, as they walk out their hearts.

A few more points of interest:

Ryan Heart has a great interview with Wayne and Christopher.

Robert Treskillard has a good opening for the Berinfell Prophecies (even if he is biased ;-)).

There is also a special contest by Wayne and Christopher, and if you are going to point young readers to their books, you should also direct them here!

Finally, check out the rest of my tourmates, as Becky Miller keeps an updated list of who has posted, and I'll have my review tomorrow!
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CSFF Tour - Curse of the Spider King


"That is SO imaginative!"

That's the quote from my 7 year old when Curse of the Spider King arrived at my house. This book is the first in the Berinfell Prophecies series, a collaborative project from Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper.

The book is a nice quality hardback, with a glossy cover and an engrossing image of soldiers riding on spiders. What could be creepier than spiders big enough to mount?

The Spider King is hunting for 7 children on Earth who are really refugees from the world of Allyra. As these children turn thirteen, a battle erupts over them between the remnants of Allyra and the soldiers of the Spider King. Will they return to Allyra and face their destiny, or will their loved ones pay the price in this world?

These two authors are no stranger to the world of speculative fiction, both having written their own successful series. Seeing them come together promises to be an imaginative storm unleashed on the literary landscape.

Come back tomorrow and Wednesday for more on this exciting youth series, and be sure to check out my fellow tourmates for more on Curse of the Spider King, as well as the official site for the book.

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Amy Browning
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Tina Kulesa
Melissa Lockcuff
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Nissa
John W. Otte
Cara Powers
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
KM Wilsher
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fiction Reviewing

Forensics and Faith, the excellent blog by Brandilyn Collins, had a guest post from Jake Chism regarding reviewing fiction. He gives 10 quality tips for writing a review. He talks about writing an appropriate size summary, staying away from spoilers (pet peeve of mine), and not shying away from the negative.

This is a good post for all my fiction buddies out there. Thanks Brandilyn and Jake! You can find more from Jake at Fiction Addict. Sound like my type of place!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CFBA Tour - Fit to Be Tied


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Fit to Be Tied

Zondervan (November 1, 2009)

by

Robin Lee Hatcher



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Whispers from Yesterday), the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance (Patterns of Love and The Shepherd's Voice), two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon



ABOUT THE BOOK

Cleo Arlington dresses like a cowboy, is fearless and fun-loving, and can ride, rope, and wrangle a horse as well as any man. In 1916, however, those talents aren’t what most young women aspire to. But Cleo isn’t most women. Twenty-nine years old and single, Cleo loves life on her father’s Idaho ranch. Still, she hopes someday to marry and have children.

Enter Sherwood Statham, an English aristocrat whose father has sentenced him to a year of work in America to “straighten him out.” Sherwood, who expected a desk job at a posh spa, isn’t happy to be stuck on an Idaho ranch. And he has no idea how to handle Cleo, who’s been challenged with transforming this uptight playboy into a down-home cowboy, because he has never encountered a woman succeeding in a “man’s world.”

Just about everything either of them says or does leaves the other, well, fit to be tied. Cleo Arlington knows everything about horses but nothing about men. And though Cleo believes God’s plan for her includes a husband, it couldn’t possibly be Sherwood Statham. Could it?

Their bumpy trot into romance is frustrating, exhilarating, and ultimately heartwarming.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Fit to Be Tied , go HERE.

Watch the book video Trailer:

Thursday, November 05, 2009

CFBA Tour - One Fine Season

Jason says: I haven't had a chance to review this book yet. There is an interesting review at Mocha with Linda that suggests there are questionable ideas in the book. I'm not sure, but I wanted to point it out as Linda has read the book.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Fine Season

AuthorHouse (November 25, 2008)

by

Michael Sheehan



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michael Sheehan is CEO and founder of BioResource, a company that distributes natural remedies including the popular INFLAMYAR ointment for sports injuries. He wrote One Fine Season to honor the memories of two childhood friends who died young, before they could realize their dreams.

One Fine Season is true to life. It draws on Sheehan’s religious education at a Catholic seminary and his experience as a high school baseball and collegiate soccer player. A graduate of Santa Clara University, Sheehan also earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University. He lives in Northern California.


ABOUT THE BOOK

ONE FINE SEASON tells the story of a promising young athlete who must rise from the ashes of devastating personal loss to fulfill a pact made years earlier with his best friend.

Best friends Pete O’Brien and Danny Grace are gifted college athletes, both hoping for careers as professional baseball players. When tragedy strikes, Danny struggles to cope with his overwhelming grief and fulfill a pact the young men made years earlier: to play in the World Series.

Events unexpectedly thrust Danny into the spotlight with the new expansion team in Sacramento. Three guides – an aging catcher, spiritual centerfielder and wise manager – plus a beautiful woman lead him on a healing journey, revealing that even death cannot break the bonds of true friendship.

If you would like to read an excerpt from the first chapter of One Fine Season, go HERE

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Asking Batgirl for a Date - Part 3

The harrowing (sort of) conclusion to my story, "Asking Batgirl for a Date." See part 1 and part 2 first!

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I think the crowds followed her in. I could barely get a glance at her between bratty kids and haggard moms. Vampire girl just stayed at the cash register and glowered. Frank kept stocking new merchandise, so Batgirl and I did the customer service and clean up.

I tried to act nonchalant, but the leggings starting to chafe made it harder each minute. I'd bide my time, find the right moment. Hopefully one without a wedgie.

The right moment would be after my buddy Goose left.

He bobbed a head above the crowds. I couldn't miss him. I didn't need him here.

“Dude, what's with the...”

“Don't! Just, don't go there.”

“Okay man, chill. So how's the working man?”

“You know,” I looked at the last item I'd picked up. “Gotta keep up with the bloody chainsaws.”

“Dude, who's that superchick over there?”

What was her name? I can't believe my nerd breakout cut her off from giving it to me. Brilliant.

“You think I'm going to tell you? You'll just blab about some embarrassing moment.”

Goose thought about it. “Like the time you choked on the communion wafer at church?”

“Exactly. Now go look for a costume. The manager doesn't seem to like me talking.” And if I'm going to be talking, I want it to be with her.

“Okay, I'll let you get back to...” he looked at my get-up one more time, “work.”

I heard him muttering something about a pirate hook hand on his way to the food court. Finally, I could work my way over to Batgirl. I had to at least get her name! Now, where was she?

I turned around and saw her in the Star Wars section as an unhappy looking patron turned from her and stomped toward the monster manager.

I had a bad feeling about this.

Two rambunctious kids dueled with lightsabers by me. I chased away the padawans and took the toy weapons over toward Batgirl as the woman returned with our boss.

“This is the rude girl. I can't believe what she said to me!”

Frank's green lips frowned. “What did you tell her?”

Bat's eyes filled her mask holes. “She asked me where our Star Wars stuff was, and when I brought her here, she wanted to know the sizes we had in the Slave Leia outfits.”

The woman cut her off. “She said I was too fat for it, to not bother with trying it.”

The image of this lady in a metal bikini shivered my spine.

“I didn't say that! I suggested that it might not fit and recommended an alternative.”

“It came across that I was fat. My boyfriend wanted me in the slave outfit, not Leia's stupid white gown. Now our Halloween will be ruined!”

The discontented customer wailed loudly at this, as Batgirl looked dumbfounded at the accusation. Frankenstein stood with an expectant glare. I thought he was going to blow his fake bolts off.

“Do you have something to say?”

“I'm sorry she's upset, but I didn't mean to insult her. I was trying to help.”

“You know this is the second complaint I've had this week.”

“That lady was going to let her little boy be Freddy Krueger! All I said was I didn't think that was a good idea.”

My hands shook the lightsabers as I watched the back and forth. I couldn't believe the scene developing.

“If you're going to insult my customers, maybe you don't need to work here.”

Her bottom lip trembled a little as she responded. “Mr. Stein, I am not trying to insult anyone, but I am not going to lie about things. I have to be true to who I am.”

Was his name really Stein?

Not important. Frank huffed at her strong words for a moment, struggling for an answer. The wanna-be Leia goaded him. “If this type of miscreant is working here, I'll take my business elsewhere.”

“I'm afraid you'll have to be true somewhere else. Get your things, clock out, and go home. You're fired.”

Her jaw dropped. “But Mr. Stein, I don't have a ride until the mall closes today. Can't we all calm down and talk about this?”

“No, I can't lose business in this economy. You'll have to find somewhere in the mall to wait, I guess.”

“Dressed like this?” she asked with a quivering voice.

“Not my problem.”

She burst into full blown tears walking to the back room for her things. I didn't realize I was standing there slack-jawed, but Frankenstein turned his anger toward me. “I don't think this concerns you. Get back to work.”

I turned to put the sabers back when Batgirl came out of the back, still crying. She had her mask off, but even with red, puffy eyes she still radiated a beauty and a strength. I couldn't believe Frankenstein was such a monster.

My chance with this angel was walking out the door. A split-second decision.

“Wait up...Batgirl! I'll give you a ride home.”

Frank glowered at me. “If you leave, don't bother coming back.”

She looked at me, hopeful.

The game?

Or the girl?

“Let me get my jacket.”

I ran to the break room and back out as fast as I could manage in my outfit. Frankenstein stomped a boot as I ran past, shouting that I must not have needed the money that badly.
No, I just had a new priority. Goodbye football game.

“Hello Batgirl.”
---

Any feedback? I'm open to any comments!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Asking Batgirl for a Date - Part 2

Here is part 2 of my short story, "Asking Batgirl for a Date." Part 1 was posted yesterday. Enjoy!

---

I pulled into the Grand View Mall, wishing for a handicap permit to dash in with the least amount of people staring and laughing. Instead I wandered up and down the aisles for ten minutes, looking for a close spot. No such luck. I swear this grandma pulled a “Tokyo Drift” move on me to hustle me out of the best spot left.

I parked at the end of a row.

Should I walk cool and confident or sprint in and draw more attention? I ended up with an awkward jog, then slow, speed up, slow down, that only magnified my loser status. I know Granny Speed Racer even pointed me out.

At least I was finally here. Yeah, people snickered walking by me, and I still felt like a freak, but it made sense when I walked into the Boo House, the temporary Halloween store. Where the required uniform was some type of costume.

The source of my embarrassment.

Being penniless, I didn't have money to buy something in the store, even with my 5% discount. The manager, (dressed as the Hulk), needed me the next day, leaving no time to hit a thrift store. I sped home, hoping the deep dark recesses of storage would hide a cool surprise.

Rather than a cruel disguise.

Dad had an ensemble wardrobe of polos and khakis, so he was no help. The younger siblings had mini Star Wars stuff. The Force was not with them. But good ol' Mom and her theatre days...
---
My boss (now as Frankenstein) showed me the break room. Time to doff my jacket, revealing the rest of my gruesome ensemble. I put on my pointy hat, adjusted my belt and dagger, and prepared to brave the crowds.

The game better be worth it.

Frankenstein showed me the cash register and gave a quick tour. Fake weapons there, masks behind the counter. Blood, gore, and makeup on aisle 13. Except – they were all aisle 13. Lots of goodies to make any Halloween creepy or goofy.

The first half hour passed uneventfully. I seemed to blend in – no one laughed in my face at least. I wondered for the hundredth time how women could stand wearing tights. Or superheroes for that matter. I felt so exposed.

I kept busy cleaning up after kids trying out the props and leaving swords and guns everywhere. Helped me learn the layout quickly. Besides Franky, another employee stood by the cash register filing her nails. Blood red nails. I didn't think they were fake, and I wondered if she only looked like a vampire today or if she dressed that way all the time. She fit in here at least.

I bent over to pick up a dismembered hand when I heard a musical voice behind me. “Let me guess, you're looking for your shadow.”

Not my best side showing. I wheeled up and around.

Holy fireworks Batman!

I mean, Batgirl. I faced an angel in black vinyl. Her blonde hair cascaded onto her cape, while pools of azure peered out from her mask. Her spiky-heeled boots elevated her petite frame to almost eye-level with me. I felt a huge grin spread on my face as I noted her soft cherry-scented lips smiling at me.

I wanted to say something witty and charming. I think I stared dumbly and drooled.

She giggled. I melted.

“I hope you're the new guy. If you dress like that all the time, I'm in trouble.”

“Why would you be in trouble?”

“Because you look better in tights than me!” She laughed again as my face flashed crimson at record speed. Gotta recover.

“So you're, uh, Batgirl?”

She glanced around slyly. “Smart AND a snappy dresser. Frank knows how to pick 'em.”

Breathe. Stay cool. “Are you Stephanie then?”

Now she looked puzzled. “I'm not Stephanie. My name is...”

“Oh, my mistake. Since you're blonde, I thought you were the new Batgirl, Stephanie Brown. Of course, the original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, was a redhead. But I'm sure you knew that.”

Another confused look. “Actually I didn't know that. I just thought it was cute.”

Way to go, geek! “Oh, you're very cute. You don't even need red hair, and, um...”

Mayday. Going down in flames here.

She grinned. “I'd better go check in. Catch you later in Neverland.”

She headed for the back, her skirt sashaying all the way. I wanted to gaze at her forever, but I caught an irate Frankenstein in my peripheral vision. Time to get to work.

Tomorrow, the conclusion!
---

Monday, October 26, 2009

Asking Batgirl for a Date - Part 1

So this is a blog that deals in large part with fiction and writing. You may ask, "Does this dude ever do more than talk about writing?"

Sometimes I do.

I do have a major work-in-progress, but with four kids and life in general, I can't say that I'm going strong. I seem to write in spurts, which I know is not the disciplined writer's life. A friend recently gave me some motivation though, so I hope to make some real progress this winter.

Still, I wanted to offer proof that I do write. Recently I had a silly little encounter inspire a goofy short story. Nothing too deep or profound, except a desire to make someone smile. Without further ado, I give you part one of "Asking Batgirl for a Date."

---

I must have been desperate.

Even though no one could see my green tights and pointy shoes in the beat-up minivan, I still felt like dying every time I passed a car. My jacket camouflaged my upper body, but I knew how dorky I looked underneath.

My cousin Matt was so excited when he called three weeks ago. “Dude, I won tickets to the San Diego/Dallas game at the new Cowboys Stadium in December. Dad said I could take you if you can get down here.”

No way!

I'd been a Cowboys fan since I was five years old, and I'd been waiting to see a game there as long as I can remember. After twelve years, I wasn't going to miss this game.

Then reality landed.

My folks would let me go, but there was no money in the budget for a plane ticket. If I could earn the money, then it was a deal.

Too bad I'd blown all my summer lawn mowing money on a new MP3 player. I guess I could listen to the game...

No big. I'd get a job. Fall meant no more lawn jobs, but I'd do anything for the cash.

If there was anything.

I hit every place in town over the next two and a half weeks. No one was hiring, at least not a teenager. With the bad economy, too many people hunted for a paycheck.

Time ticked away. Halftime to the game, and I had nothing. I considered panhandling, but “Will work for a ticket to Dallas” probably wasn't the best tactic.

Trudging through the mall after another rejection, I stumbled across a new store needing help. Their busy season loomed, and the manager wanted me to start right away.

Sweet.

Except for the uniform.

To be continued...
---

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CSFF Tour - Haunt of Jackals Review

So the payoff day for my part in the blog tour - what did I think of the book Haunt of Jackals by Eric Wilson?

The book starts off with a rush of action in Romania as Gina Lazarescu is fleeing from a battle with some Collectors, the Undead freed from an ancient Jerusalem cemetery. Having struck their leader a fatal blow, she has to survive the wrath of his follower.

The mysterious Cal Nichols and teen orphan Dov Amit are also engaged in a conflict with a Collector who has taken on a bear as a temporary host. Cal has to protect Dov as he is one of the Nistarim, 36 hidden ones who bear the burdens of the world. If he were to fall without someone to take his place, it could usher in the Final Vengeance.

As Gina, Cal, and Dov face their foes, other Collectors are on the move, doing their part to try and bring down the human race, in order to inflict some revenge on the Almighty who banished them into the Separation from physical sense, the reason they take on human hosts.

If Gina survives, will she be able to fulfill her destiny? How will she heal from her years of wounds. Could there really be power in Nazarene blood, as Cal has claimed?

As Cal maneuvers to protect Gina and Dov, what will happen as his greatest adversary seeks to complete his work in bringing about the destruction of the Nistarim?

--

There are things that Eric Wilson gets right. When the heroes are in conflict, there is real danger. He keeps the suspense high on whether they will survive or fall. Not every sympathetic character makes it. Gina is a strong protagonist with a complex background. She's not perfect. She is strong but has doubts. She tries to do what is right but struggles. She continues to be the strongest part of the novel. Cal Nichols is also a very good character, and there are interesting insights about him after being so mysterious in the first book, Field of Blood.

Eric does a lot of research for his novels, and his settings are usually rich with detail and vivid description. The deserts of Israel contrast with the wooded wildness of Transylvania and tranquil small-town Oregon. He throws in some intriguing plot points that intersect with history. Some of them pay off, while others are too much of a stretch with the complex interaction of mythology he has created for this series.

There's also a lot of spiritual themes weaved into the story that speak poignantly into today's world. The way anger, bitterness, or lust can intwine us in thorns that bind us may not be literal as in Jackals, but it is a powerful revelation nonetheless. Many people may be taken aback by the idea of "Christian vampires." One thing Wilson does is not make them sympathetic. The creatures are evil, and he never shows them in a light that plays down their terrible ways. The battle of good and evil is portrayed in vivid terms in the book, but this battle is a good metaphor for the spiritual and emotional battles of life today.

Unfortunately, the book is almost too ambitious to hold up everything he tries. The plot is exciting and driving in the first third or half, but the last section of the book is an underwhelming build-up for the third book, with some minor drama at the end to try and keep the suspense factor continuing. The classic "second act" in a trilogy is The Empire Strikes Back, where there are major obstacles for the heroes to overcome for the third, while being dealt blows that leave them very vunerable. Haunt has the bad guys joining forces in the end and the good guys hiding out. The third book (Valley of Bones, coming in 2010) should have a good climax, but this book was left wanting in the process.

Another drawback is the description being overdone at times. Wilson can paint some visual word images, but he can overdo the narrative. There is too much "thinking" by both good and bad guys that slows things down and makes the book too dense. Sometimes it seems all the research and knowledge he has pours out in excess. The plot becomes uneven at times due to TMI.

Overall, Eric Wilson is attempting an ambitious speculative story tied into Biblical themes and settings. There are strong elements that make the story an interesting read, but other aspects bog it down and keep it from its full potential. As far as the whole premise - I am usually pretty accepting from a theological standpoint with what the author is presenting to see if it can work. I am willing to allow some leeway in how things are interpreted. Some may find the mixing of demons (the Collectors) with a legend of Jewish mysticism being applied to verses in the Gospels too far to go for a story. I think it provides an interesting platform to share some profound truths regarding the battle we all face. I hope Eric can hit the home run with the third book.

Bottom line: Make sure you read Field of Blood first because there was too much established there to step into Haunt of Jackals. I still got lost at times due to reading Blood last year. It is an interesting premise with some definite points of suspense and near-horror that get the blood pumping, with some overly dense plotting and description that slows down other areas. If the premise makes you curious, I recommend it. If you're not into vampires or are sensitive to some blood and gore, it would be a book to pass one.

The whole idea of vampires and other supernatural archtypes in Christian fiction is an interesting point of discussion. I welcome thought on this book or the subject, and we can keep the dialogue going after the tour. Let me know what you think, and check out the other posts that are listed at Becky Miller's opening post of the tour.
---

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CSFF Tour - Haunt of Jackals Day 2

Yesterday's post gave a background to Eric Wilson's Jerusalem Undead series, Field of Blood and Haunt of Jackals. Today I want to highlight what people are saying about Wilson's books in particular and vampires in Christian fiction in general.

I've posted a couple of times on the topic of vampires in Christian fiction (by this term I mean fiction produced by the CBA, which focuses on the evangelical Christian market for the most part). There was some good discussion in the comments, so don't miss those.

Anytime you want a lively discussion on issues in Christian fiction, don't forget to look to Mike Duran, who caused a little stir with his Novel Journey post, "What's More Dangerous, Amish Heroines or Christian Vampires?" Again, don't miss out on a stirring debate in the comments. Don't forget about his classic "The Good Vampire" post either. He considers the possibility of "Stoker's Dracula as Christian Fiction." Finally, he discusses his take on "Christian Horror," which would certainly involve vampires (and it mentions Mr. Wilson).

For a different perspective, I ran across the site VampChix, where apparently they are fans of shortening and misspelling words. Or perhaps they are females who like vampires. In any case, they interview Eric Wilson himself, which is interesting to see him explain his series to a "non-Christian" audience.

There's many other posts I could find if I had the time. I know there's a few other books with a Christian outlook to hit this subject, such as Never Ceese or Shade. I hope I've provided some food for thought here. I'd be interested in other people's thoughts on the issue of Christian fiction and vampires, or if you know of other links worth investigating. Tomorrow I plan my review of Haunt of Jackals. See you there.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

CSFF Tour - Haunt of Jackals


The Undead are here.

At the CSFF blog tour, at least. The book of the month for the CSFF is Haunt of Jackals, by Eric Wilson. The Jerusalem Undead trilogy and its first book, Field of Blood, is a far cry from another Wilson book-the novelization of the movie Fireproof. Suspense and the battle between heaven and hell is an Eric Wilson trademark, and that's what a reader will find in this series.

Since we're starting in the middle of a series here, there's bound to be some confusion. Wilson builds an elaborate background for this tale, with a lot of characters and a lot of theology mixed with speculation. Today's post will explain some of the setting for the books.

The Jerusalem Undead series has been referred to as a "Christian vampire" tale. It doesn't deal in classic vampires, and they certainly won't sparkle in the sunlight.

Collectors: These are spirits who had rebelled. Separated from physical senses and pleasure, they can only interact with this world if they are in hosts, whether human or other forms. A special cluster of Collectors forms when the blood of Judas Iscariot ("the man from Kerioth") soaks a field outside of Jerusalem, the Akeldama or "Field of Blood", and seeps into a family's ossuary cavern.

The remains of two human families, the house of Ariston and the house of Eros, are reaminated when these spirits are able to access the remains. Due to the special evil of Judas, they are more powerful than other Collectors. They feed on human blood, but they won't die if they don't get it. They can also grow literal thorns in humans that can be harvested, keeping their victims in bondage and using them as pawns. Since "the life is in the blood," memories can be found in drinking it.

Nistarim: Jewish tradition says there are 36 righteous ones who, in humility and anonymity, carry the burdens of the world while staying God's hand. In the Christian Bible, we are told that saints came up out of the tombs after Jesus' death and resurrection. What happened to these people? Could they still be among us, hidden and immortal? Could they, in fact, be the Nistarim, "the Concealed Ones"? These stand against evil such as the Collectors, but if the Nistarim can be destroyed, will it usher in the Judgment?

Gina Lazarescu: We meet this Romanian girl as she is about to turn 12, the age of adulthood according to Judaism. She is central to the story as there are connections between her and both groups. As she grows, will she learn to take her place in this epic struggle, or fall under the weight of the burdens she carries?

Cal Nichols: This man is a mystery, with an unknown connection to Gina and the Nistarim. Is he there to watch over her, or will he be her undoing?

The story veers from Israel to Romania and the United States and back. It is a dense story packed with intrigue and mystery. Check back tomorrow for more on the idea of "Christian vampire" stories, and see my fellow tourmates below for their take on Eric Wilson and his books.

Brandon Barr
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Julie
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Nissa
John W. Otte
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
KM Wilsher---

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cover Art


Cover art for a book can make or break the success of it. If it fits the tone of the book and communicates that special "read me" to the customer. I've picked up many books just by the attraction to the front of the book.

I just received a book that I'll be reviewing later for the CFBA: Eternity Falls by Kirk Outerbridge. It is listed as "A Rick Macey Cyberthriller," and it is published by Marcher Lord Press. I've blogged about MLP before, when the independent publisher first launched. It is a unique venture in Christian fiction, and I wanted to highlight it again by noting the cover.

The cover of this book is so professional-looking. I didn't realize when I requested the book it was from MLP. Seeing it on the table when I got home from work, I looked it over with anticipation. Then I noted the MLP logo on the back. This is not the cover for a typical independent publisher. It truly is top-notch. Obviously I haven't read a word, since it just arrived, but I think the cover matches the description of the back-copy perfectly.

I'm looking forward to this book, and I'll have a review in November. I wanted to highlight the professional job Marcher Lord Press and Jeff Gerke is doing with the novels being produced. Keep your eye on this publisher - it seems he is doing something special.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Land of Smiles


I can't believe that it was almost 18 years ago that I spent 2 months in Thailand with Youth With a Mission. It was an amazing time of formation for me, being fresh out of high school. I changed from a wide-eyed Idaho boy to a wide-eyed Idaho boy with a sense that there is a big world out there that needed Jesus. The Thai people were incredible to be around, and I've never forgotten the experience.

A couple from our outreach team showed true sacrificial love by staying behind in Thailand on a long-term commitment. In that time they've just become the directors of YWAM Thailand. Thanks to Facebook, I've been in a little contact with them, and I'm so excited how far they've come in their ministry to Thailand. God has kept me State-side for the time being, but that doesn't mean I can't support them from afar.

Thailand is about 95% Buddhist, although for them it is very much a cultural identity. To be Thai is to be Buddhist, it is said. However, there is a strong mix of ancestor worship and spiritism as well. There is a sizeable Muslim population in the south, with some occasional breakouts of violence, and few Christians. Thailand has been a hard place for missions for a long time.

It is known for its beauty and its corruption. Thailand immediately conjures up images of beaches, the tsunami of 2004, and human trafficking and red light districts. There have been frequent governmental upheavals. It is know as the "Land of Smiles" because the people are very friendly and hospitable, but it belies a deep need under the surface.

My YWAM friends have called for 40 days of prayer for Thailand. It started at the beginning of this month, but it is never too late to pray. I'm asking for my friends and interested people to remember Thailand in your prayers for the next month or so. God can speak prayer needs to your heart. If you are still wondering about how to pray, a suggestion would be to pray through the Seven Spheres of Influence that shape a society:

Family/Home
Church/Religion
Government
Education
Arts/Culture/Entertainment
Business/Commerce
Media

I was also referred to Bless Thailand, where they are slowly translating a prayer guide into English. If you've been to another country, you know that it sticks with you. I want the Father's heart for Thailand, and I hope the people there will open their hearts to the love He has for them in this season.

Thanks for praying! Bless you.
---

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Help Out an Author (or Two)

Hey gang, for those of you interested in quality fantasy fiction, check out the new book Curse of the Spider King by Christopher Hopper and Wayne Thomas Batson. They are encouraging people to pre-order the book today to create an online buzz for it (better than an alcoholic buzz, right?) by having it jump the Amazon rankings. If you do it today, you can get freebies from the dynamic duo mentioned about. Here's Christopher's blog post about it, and here's the direct link to Amazon. It's a good price by pre-ordering too!

I ordered mine - where's yours?
--

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Review - Exposure

Oh no, she didn't!

Brandilyn Collins did it again. Her trademark is "Seatbelt Suspense" because she takes the reader for a ride, and that's not a lie with her latest book, Exposure.

In small town Wilmore, Kentucky, Kaycee Raye is known as the town paranoid. She plies her fears into a successful syndicated column, but she still battles demons at home. Is she being watched, or is it just her imagination. The local police force may think she plays it for her writing.

But what about the photo of a dead man on her camera?

When the bloody image appears on her computer and TV, she knows someone is really stalking her. However, the images vanish, leaving her no evidence to take to the police. When a tragedy strikes, she doesn't want to distract the police from her concerns, even though frightening events keep happening. Is she succumbing to her fears, or is there a real danger lurking?

I've been reading Brandilyn's books for a few years now, and I can expect some things: she has a unique vocabulary, she's going to put you in the protagonist's point of view so strongly you'll start to sweat, and she's going for the unexpected. When you're prepared for the unexpected, you won't be surprised, right?

She got me good this time.

I was actually getting a little frustrated with the book as it seemed to be moving along a few seemingly unconnected lines. The payoff was well worth it though, and I really enjoyed the "Aha" moment. I don't want to give away too much, because you have to read it for yourself.

Her strengths in characterization and keeping the suspense building are front and center as usual. I've noticed she has a few odd words she likes for certain situations, words I'm affectionately calling "Brandilynisms," and I guess they're losing a little of their uniqueness when I see them a few times a book. That is probably nit-picking, but that's the only thing I can really think of as a negative. The confusion of the plot lines early on was my negative point, but by the end I saw why it was done that way, and all my frustration melted when I got to the reveal.

She didn't really sucker me that much, did she?

Yes, she did.

Recommended highly for fans of suspense. There's a little blood and guts and a lot of peril for the faint at heart, but it serves the story and isn't there to shock. This book ought to win her new fans, and reward her stalwart ones.

Just watch behind you...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

We're Being Boarded!


This year on Talk Like a Pirate Day we were overrun with pirates!

First to report is the sneaky Mad Dog Matt, comin' over the wall and climbing the fort!

When we can repel the boarders, there'll be more pirate-y news for ye...


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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book Review - Through the Fire


A Hot Debut

Through The Fire is the debut novel by Shawn Grady. It was featured by the CFBA in June, but I didn't get it in time to review. It tells the story of Aidan O'Neill, a firefighter in Reno, Nevada, driven by a tragic past.

Coincidentally, Shawn Grady was a firefighter/paramedic in Reno. What are the odds?

Aidan O'Neill comes from a long line of firefighters, and he continues the family tradition even as he deals with the death of his father in the line of duty. The fire speaks to him, and he challenges the dangers past the point of confidence into recklessness. When a rookie fireman is severely injured, he is forced to take a break from the department.

He runs to Mexico, avoiding the introspection the break intended, but his suspension is cut short when an arsonist starts targeting Reno. Clues suggest a connection to his father's death, but his gift of reading fires has left him, leaving him with doubt about his livelihood and his life.

The new fire investigator Julieanne Caldwell comes to him with new information and a past connection. His attraction to her is matched by the way the flames seem to be seeking him out. The heat rises to a fiery conclusion as Aidan wrestles with his foundation as well as a danger that shows no mercy.

This is an impressive debut for Grady. The old adage is "write what you know," and in this case, he knows his stuff. I work at times with a fire department, and from my perspective, the gritty details of the fire and a fireman's life puts me on the scene, coughing and squinting due to the smoke. He does a very good job keeping description fresh, even as he has numerous fire-related scenes. It never gets old, and he even stretched my vocabulary. I like an author who makes me reach for the dictionary occasionally.

The suspense is palpable as well, and the twists and menance kept me off balance on who was the bad guy. He weaves a battle of faith into the the mix as well in a very fresh, organic way. There was one stretch where the pacing got a little bogged down, but overall he keeps the temperature rising throughout the book.

He writes believable characters, guys you'd want to go against a fire with, as well as crusty bosses and jilted love. The main characters Aidan and Julieanne are conflicted and imperfect, making mistakes along the way even as you're rooting for them.

In his bio it says he was named "Most Promising Writer" at a prominent writers conference. Through the Fire delivers on this promise. I really enjoyed the world of the firefighter, as you feel like you're in their boots. This book jumps into my favorites of the year list, and I'll be looking forward to more from Shawn Grady.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Sighting!

Yes, there has been a Jason sighting. I have been awfully busy at work and home, and I haven't had a lot of inspiration for posting lately, except for the occasional book review. I've read a couple of really good books lately though, and I'll be talking about them very soon. Plus, the official holiday of Spoiled for the Ordinary is coming up - stay tuned for some special reports shortly.

My friend had a saying: Real Life Interferes (TM). Too true.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review - Pirate Hunter

If I weren't a chicken in many ways, I'd love to be Tom Morrisey. Look at his biography: mountaineer, aviator, shipwreck diver, and explorer, who holds a Full Cave certification from the National Speleological Society - Cave Diving Section. Plus he is a great writer. He has won awards for his adventure-travel writing in magazines, and now he has become an accomplished novelist.

His first few books were a little more standard suspense fare, mixing his experiences into the stories. However, starting with In High Places two years ago and Wind River last year, he moved into more heartfelt dramatic stories, and the impact of this change is remarkable.

A few weeks ago the CFBA featured his latest book, Pirate Hunter, but I didn't get it in time to review it. It was worth the wait though.

ABOUT THE BOOK

High Seas Adventure Meets a High-Tech Quest for Pirate Gold

West Indies, 18th century Young Ted Bascombe is rescued by notorious pirate Captain Henry Thatch, finding himself caught up in a world of crime, adventure, and a daily fight for freedom....

Key West, 21st century Marine archaeologist Greg Rhode embarks on a treasure-hunting expedition in the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys, but he's as beguiled by a beautiful diver with different-colored eyes as by the lure of pirate gold...

The Hunt Is On!

Interweaving these two stories, pro deep-sea diver Tom Morrisey spins a multilayered tale of two young men's quests to escape their past by losing themselves to adventure on the high seas. Romantic and thrilling, this unique novel explores the timeless truth that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Tom Morrisey has become very good at combining complex, wounded characters with exotic locations and enough gritty detail of the setting that you feel you are living the adventure. Here, his experience in diving on shipwrecks gives deep authenticity to the settings in modern times. He's done enough research, and his knowledge carries over enough, that his 1700s pirate sections ring true as well.

He has done a masterful job of weaving the two threads together. Most times that he switches from past to modern, he uses the phrasing or imagery from the section he's just leaving to start the new segment. Maybe a regular reader wouldn't pick up on this, but it is such a clever touch and shows his thoroughness in his writing. He builds suspense throughout the book, and whenever something is crescendoing in one time period, you can bet there will be a flip to the other!

I think Tom Morrisey is the best writer I'm reading currently for getting into the hearts of men and showing the internal conflict and dealing with past hurts in such a realistic way. The protagonists may be heroic, but they are not bombastic. You can see yourself knowing them in your day to day life. My only complaint is that his pirate, Henry Thatch, seems a little too genteel for his time, but he is an engaging character and I liked him too much to really complain.

As this blog has a quirky affinity for things of a pirate nature, it probably isn't a surpise that I heartily enjoy this book. Still, Morrisey is one of the best writers out there, even though I don't think his name is well-known. Pirate Hunter is his best book yet in my opinion, and if you want modern drama, swashbuckling suspense, and deep characters, then this is a great book to dive into.
--
If you would like to read the first chapter of Pirate Hunter, go HERE

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Review of North! or Be Eaten

I'm piggybacking on another blog tour, the Children's Book Blog Tour, because my wife does say often sometimes I'm just a big kid.

Actually, I'm reviewing the latest book from Andrew Peterson, second book in the Wingfeather Saga: North! or Be Eaten.

I blogged about the first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness last year, and it was one of my top books for 2008. Does North disappoint?

Andrew Peterson is a singer/songwriter in addition to his authorial skills (dude's way too creative for his own good!), and he has created a memorable world that is immersive yet doesn't take itself too seriously. Last year I likened it the the movie The Princess Bride, and that continues to be an apt comparison.

The three Wingfeather children (the two boys Janner and Tink, and the young crippled girl Leeli) have faced some harrowing times escaping their hometown of Glipwood after the Fangs of Dang attacked. Their family is trying to make their way to the Ice Praries of Skree, because everyone knows the Fangs, scaly beasts that they are, don't like the cold. But they have numerous obstacles to overcome, such as snickbuzzards, Fingap Falls, and various other Woes.

The three siblings learn the importance of family and staying true to who they are as danger assults them on every turn. But will they be able to outrun the reach of the Nameless Evil, whose name is Gnag the Nameless...

The book continues the lighthearted fun and adventure of the first book. There are many plot twists, and the reader never knows who Janner and his family can trust. Peterson seems to delight in cliffhanger chapter endings, which always makes my boys eager for the next night of reading. The book may be a little heavier on the action now that he had established his fantasy world, and there are a couple parts that could be a little scary for the wee ones.

Overall, North continues the great beginning from the Dark Sea of Darkness, and makes a poor fellow wait for the upcoming conclusion to a wonderful children's series. I greatly enjoyed reading it for this tour, and my boys can't wait for us to start it. I'm sure they will be panting for more by the end.

If you want more information, check out my tourmates below:

The 160 Acre Woods, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Book Buzz, KidzBookBuzz.com, My Own Little Corner of the World, My utopia, Novel Teen, Olive Tree, Reading is My Superpower, Through a Child’s Eyes
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