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

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

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

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

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

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



What Would Happen If The Creator Returned Tomorrow?

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

Are You Ready?

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

Now onto Anthony's post: 

The Catastrophic Thunderstorm of Christian Fiction

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

About Anthony R. Howard:

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



Monday, 18 September 2017

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

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

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



Author: Brett Armstrong
Publisher: Clean Reads
Pages: 389
Genre: Christian/Scifi/Dystopian
In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen-year-old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global software initiative his deceased grandfather helped found. Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge. All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure: a book of Shakespeare's complete works gifted him by his grandfather. Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria. The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled "Day Moon". When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for. There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose. Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him. Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria. All of history past and yet to be dependent on it.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon | Barnes& Noble


Prologue: Inheritance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“ALVERSON MCINTYRE.”

“Pursued Greatness.”

“Born: September 30, 1982.”

“Died: June 18, 2035.”

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

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

BOOK TRAILER:



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

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

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

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

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

What inspired you to become an author? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a favourite genre that you read? 

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

What have you learnt about becoming an author? 

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

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

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

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

When did you decide to make a career of writing? 

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

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

What do you do when you are not writing? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now let's discuss Day Moon.

How long did it take you to write this novel? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you had positive feedback concerning this? 

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

What are these Biblical themes in Day Moon? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where can readers find you? 

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

You can find me here:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:



Friday, 15 September 2017

Daniel and the Triune Quest (Sons and Daughters Book 2) by Nathan Lumbatis


The past year of Daniel’s life has been anything but normal. Adoption by his Heavenly Father? Check. Become the Vessel for the mystical Sun Sword? Check. Charged with a quest to fight the source of all evil? Check. But hey, he made it look good. Now it’s his best friend, Ben’s, turn to become the Vessel for the Triune Shield, and Daniel’s ready to lead the charge on another adventure. But, they only have three days to find the shield before the Enemy catches up, and obtaining it will require the last thing either of the boys is ready for: self-sacrifice. Daniel must die to his pride, and Ben must pay the ultimate price. They’ll need a miracle if they hope to survive.

Daniel and the Triune Quest is a young adult/Christian fantasy exploring redemption through Christ’s sacrifice, adoption into God’s family, and eschatology. It is the second book in the Sons and Daughters series, which includes Daniel and the Sun Sword.

The Guru's Review:  

Every author and every reader anticipate that a sequel will be just as good or better than the previous. I am sure Lumbatis is no exception here. Well, I can say that this is a better story than its predecessor (Daniel and the Sun Sword). Lumbatis have used the success of the previous to improve not only his writing skills but also concerning plot development and characterisation.  But the most noticeable improvement is the spiritual aspects. These not only impact greatly on the plot but further expand on what the author established in Sun Sword.

Lumbatis has shown more of the biblical aspects of who God is, the Trinity and the Gospel message. I really enjoyed how Lumbatis has done this. There is no overt preachiness that would interrupt the plot or make it disjointed and these inclusions are seamlessly incorporated into the plot as part of the plot arcs. And because Lumbatis' novels are geared towards the teen/young adult audience, this is very appropriate and works well. This age group switches off instantly when preachiness is present. Lumbatis again portrays the relationship between The Father and himself as a relational one and where he gets frustrated due to his age and maturity, Lumbatis shows very well how God encourages us to trust Him and lean not on our own understanding but His. Again, for this reader age group, this is very appropriate and needed.

The relationship between Daniel and Ben is more complex than previous and shows Lumbatis understands adolescents and their dynamics. The conflict between the two is typical of their age and maturity and one I could relate to well. In my case it was reversed, being the younger sibling, I experienced the jealousy from my older brother. I definitely understand what Daniel went through. 
The account where Daniel meets Jesus is powerful but gentle and bypasses the head and ministers straight to the heart. Very memorable and I loved through this account, Jesus leads Daniel to a greater understanding not only of the Gospel message and of who He is and His death on the Cross but of the quest Ben has in seeking the Triune Shield, but what he had to do to resolve this conflict between them. Daniel matures when understands this dynamic. And Ben matures throughout this adventure and earns Daniel's respect and vice versa. Lumbatis shows more of these instances where they are connected to the spiritual aspects of the novel. As I stated in my review of Sun Sword, you can see why Lumbatis has done this. His occupation of a child and adolescent therapist (working with adoptees, foster kids, and children from broken homes) lends the Gospel to this demographic very well. 

While on this issue, Lumbatis also includes some very illuminating messages on dying to self, being self-sacrificing all based on who Jesus is and the reasons why He encourages us to be like this. I loved how this is challenged by The Enemy and his rationale seems convincing but is very deceptive and Jesus shows Daniel the truth of His message and the Enemy's deception. Lumbatis shines here as well. 

My only concern remains the same as I stated in my review of Daniel and the Sun Sword. It is that through all the interaction with angels (Granny, Inti, Chandra and Candi), The Father, Jesus (Champion) and The Holy Spirit (The Blessing) and the Gospel message, and other detailed explanation of some of the sub Gospel themes and doctrines,  Lumbatis does not have Ben, Daniel taking the final step of accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour. I cannot even see any implication of this. Lumbatis has them acting as if they have accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour. This type of novel lends itself to this natural progression with all these aforementioned factors including those of spiritual warfare, demonology, demon possession and oppression and spiritual bondage.

The pace is faster than the previous novel and I must confess, I had to take a break as I felt I was affected getting breathless the more I read. The spiritual and physical warfare is also frenetic and further developed than previous. I know Lumbatis researched well the mythology and culture of Sun Sword and it is evident from this current novel that he has done the same here. In both, he has translated this research into the plot and setting of the novel very well. It is great world building. This allows this plot to flow well on this backdrop and environment. Makes it very credible and real. 

The spiritual warfare aspects are the same as in the previous; relying on prayer and the use of the supernaturally empowered weapons to deal with the demons. The demonology aspects based on the culture is very convincing and any poetic licence Lumbatis has employed only strengthens this and the plot. Definitely, adds to the plot and action. I love the deception the manifestation of these demons as local gods show and is reflective of the current environment that exists today.

I loved how one plot arc from Sun Sword left dangling was further developed in this novel and becomes a major part of the plot. Its resolutions at the end set the scene for a third instalment in this series and provide for even more complex development from this novel.

You might be wondering if anything further happens between Gabriela and Daniel in this novel and where is Raylin?  Don't despair, Lumbatis explains but it may not be what you are expecting. And the new character introduced adds more suspense especially the next novel. This novel really is pivotal for the series so far. I cannot wait for the next instalment. 

Fans of this series are not going to be disappointed with this novel. Lumbatis proves more of himself as an effective, competent and talented author in this novel. 

Strongly Recommended. 

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 4/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 4/5 

Overall Rating 4.6/5 Stars

To read an excerpt or buy this novel, click on the BUY/PREVIEW  icons below: