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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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Monday, 27 April 2015

Interview With William Woodall (Author of The Last Werewolf Hunter series, Stones of Song Series and The Tyke McGrath Series)

Today, I am interviewing William Woodall, author of teen and young adult, edgy Christian speculative fiction. He has written three series, The Last Werewolf Hunter, Stones of Song, and Tyke McGrath. William requested that I review The Last Werewolf Hunter series. I had bought this series last year and had not read it since. His request gave me the incentive I needed to read it now and not later. I am glad he did as I loved it so much, I felt it was worth interviewing him to see where his ideas come from, discuss the ins and outs of this engaging series with a unique take on the werewolf story. 

I found William to be a person with a great love of God, a vivid imagination and a passion to entertain, uplift, encourage and educate in Christian living and biblical principles his teenage and young adult readers in the three series mentioned above. I would have loved to have had these series when I accepted Christ at 19 years of age. It would have contributed to my learning to be disciplined in living the Christian life and increasing my faith in God.

So, allow me to introduce to you, William Woodall! 

William, thanks for stopping by! We are all eager to learn about you as author and story teller extraordinaire! 

How about we start with you telling us a little about yourself?

Well, let’s see. I’ve lived my whole life in Arkansas and Texas, and I became a Christian at the age of sixteen. My relationship with Jesus is the most important thing in my life, and it’s my dearest wish that my life and my writing will give Him glory and be a blessing for my readers. I’ve worked as a high school science teacher, a child abuse and foster care worker, a family counsellor, and even as a real estate agent for a while. I studied family counselling and molecular biology at college, which I guess goes to show what eclectic tastes I have. I’ve taught English in Russia, survived two tornadoes plus a vicious bout with cancer, and witnessed some answered prayers that were nothing short of miraculous. God has taught me a lot of things over the years, sometimes in very colourful and turbulent ways, and I hope to share some of that with my readers.

What inspired you to become an author?

I’ve always enjoyed telling stories, ever since I can remember. I still have a few that I wrote with a green crayon in first grade. I started out writing poetry for the most part, and I’ve been told that now and then some of that lyric quality still shows itself in my novels. For example, when Cody McGrath (in Many Waters) says things like “In the beauty of love may life be finished; to the glory of God may all things come to completion”, then that’s just poetry, of the same type you’d find in the Psalms, the reflection-with-variation type which the Hebrews used. You wouldn’t necessarily recognize it as such because it’s buried in the text with nothing to mark it off, but it’s definitely there.

Were you expecting your books to have been so successful?

At first I really didn’t think much about that aspect of things. There’s not a big market for a Christian werewolf story, unfortunately. I wish the series received more attention than it does (as any author would), but then on the other hand I’ve had dozens of readers who wrote to me to say what a blessing the stories have been to them. Even if I’d never sold a single copy, it would have been worth it to me just for that.

Do you think there is anything significantly different about Christian Fiction as opposed to non-Christian Fiction?

The only principle that unites all the different varieties of Christian fiction is the desire to honour Christ, which is also the only thing that separates it from all other fiction. It’s the intent of the heart which matters, and not the content. A book could talk about Jesus on every single page and it certainly wouldn’t count as Christian fiction if the only reason it mentioned Him was to curse and blaspheme His name or to mock His teachings (either explicitly or implicitly). On the other hand, a book which teaches readers to follow His words (even if it never mentions Him by name), is something which honors Him.

Do you prefer to extensively plot your stories (plotter), or do you write them as they come to you (pantser, that you write by the seat of your pants)?

Some of both. I don’t write down a lot of plans ahead of time, but I’m always turning things over in my mind and figuring out how I want them to work. I’ve been known to scrap an entire book and start over if I decided it wasn’t going to work out the way I wanted it to. I mostly write the first draft in pantser mode, and then come back to it for several major rewrites after at least two or three readings by people I know I can trust to rip the book to shreds with the harshest and most nitpicky criticism they can think of. I want them to be meaner than snakes, because I know in the end it will make my story a thousand times better than it could have been otherwise.

What was the hardest part of writing your books?

I think for me it’s the fact that stories can get uncomfortably real sometimes. There are times when characters encounter situations that make me uneasy and which I’d really rather not deal with if I had my way. Readers often have the idea that an author can write a book any way he pleases, but that’s not true at all. Within reason, yes; we can choose our characters and settings and the genre we’ll use and those kinds of things. But after the story is begun, it tends to take on a life of its own and sometimes it leads us to places we never would have willingly gone. Writing a book is one of those humbling experiences which will force you to do a lot of soul-searching you never anticipated. You can’t really live inside a character’s head for months or years without learning what it’s like to feel their pain and sometimes even cry with them.

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

One of the most important ways that writing has deepened my relationship with Christ is through simple vicarious experience. The more my characters suffer and yet still hold on to their faith in Jesus, the stronger my own faith becomes. Walking with God is a beautiful thing, full of excitement and wonder and love, which is something I try to display in my stories. But writing about these things is also a way of experiencing them myself in fresh ways that never would have been possible in real life, and I find that those vicarious experiences draw me closer to God just as they would if it happened in real life. That’s exactly what I hope they will do for my readers, too. Another thing writing has done for me is that it encourages me to study the Scriptures more often than I might if left to myself. Part of what I try to do in my work is to teach my readers (mostly kids) some truths about God, and for that I have to study. The things I learn for the sake of writing a story don’t just disappear when the book is finished, though. They enrich my life as a Christian in all kinds of ways I never could have foreseen ahead of time.

Do you have a favorite genre that you read?

Mostly the same kinds of things I like to write. Science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and similar genres. I prefer Christian fiction when I can get it, or at least relatively clean stuff. Some science fiction is so openly and relentlessly hostile to Christianity that it’s like slogging through a blistering desert of atheist propaganda just to read it, so I try to avoid that kind. Other than that, I read a little bit of everything from time to time, even classics. I like Victorian novels and Romantic poetry, even Shakespeare on occasion.

What do you like doing when you're not writing?

I like to read, and fish, and spend time with my children. I like most of the things Zach and Cameron like, actually.

Why target teens/young adults in your writing?

Mostly because that’s what I like to read myself and that’s the age group I spend the most time with in everyday life. I’m a high school teacher and I’ve always enjoyed working with kids, so it was natural for me to write for this age group.

Do you think you will ever write for adults? If so, what type of novel would you write or genre?

I like to think my work appeals to adults as well as to young people. A child can read it on one level as an entertaining adventure story, but there are always more subtle themes under the surface which are there for more experienced readers. Kids won’t catch them, but adults will. There are jokes that only adults will understand, and nuances that only someone who’s been a parent himself, or been deeply hurt by a romantic partner, or struggled with questions about God, would ever spot.

Where did the idea for werewolves come from for The Last Werewolf Hunter series?
 
The original seed for this series came from watching “Teen Wolf” when I was a kid, and even though the two stories are a lot different, sharp readers might detect the same light and humorous approach in both of them. I knew I wanted some comic relief now and then, and that I didn’t want to write something dark and scary. I wouldn’t have enjoyed that, and I don’t think my readers would have, either.

In your research on werewolves, did you come across any convincing evidence that they exist?

No, but I have no intrinsic reason to disbelieve in such things, either. I don’t doubt that Satan has the ability to grant such powers to human beings, nor that there are human beings who would be glad to accept those kinds of powers if offered the chance. That’s why I deliberately didn’t keep the traditional werewolf folklore about the curse being passed on through getting bitten or inheriting a gene for it. I wanted it to be a deliberate choice on the part of those who accepted it. If such things really exist, then that would be my best guess as to how they came to be. I’m not by any means trying to say that I think my story is a true one, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility, either.

In Behind Blue Eyes, Book 2, you have the solution for the breaking of the curse something simple and biblical rather than something more spiritually complex such as what can be found in other Christian novels of similar ilk. What was your motive for this?

This was mostly because I wanted to move gradually from simpler situations to more complex ones as the story progressed. Zach needed to learn his “milk lessons” before he was ready to accept or understand the meatier ones. I also thought it was important to show that solutions don’t always have to be complicated and difficult.

What was your rationale for keeping the werewolf mythology/tradition regarding the use of silver bullets and knives to kill werewolves, and silver crosses to ward off werewolves?

I kept quite a bit of traditional folklore about werewolves, because it seemed to me that it added to the realism of the story. The idea that silver is poisonous to werewolves already exists out there in the world, so it wasn’t a thing I needed to make up and then convince readers to believe. The story about the Beast of Gevaudan is also real, and so is Mont Mouchet and many of the other things. If any reader became curious and decided to look these things up on the internet, he or she would find plenty of background information, just as Zach did in the story. All the settings involved in the story are real, too, including Wolf Mountain, Coca-Cola Lake, and all the other places Zach visited. It was my intention to add the smallest dose of fantasy possible, to make the illusion stronger. Local people would have no difficulty instantly recognizing almost every place I described.

You specifically leave out the blood and gore that typifies other werewolf stories. This seems to be appreciated by many readers even some who would not read other werewolf stories. What was the rationale behind this?

This was partly because I don’t care for blood and gore myself, and partly because I didn’t feel that it would be appropriate for my younger readers. I feel that in a way it’s my job to protect them from things like that, just as any adult should protect any child he knows. I also didn’t feel that a lot of gratuitous blood and gore would honor Christ in this case, which must always be the first question that anyone should ask about anything he’s thinking about doing. The key word is “gratuitous”, of course. There were a few bloody scenes when that was appropriate, such as when Cameron was shot in Behind Blue Eyes and when Gabe Garza attacked Zach in Truesilver. Those scenes wouldn’t have been effective if I hadn’t done them the way I did, so they were necessary. But I did try to keep it to a minimum.

You have created a very convincing background to the Last Werewolf Hunter series. Some would call this world building where an author creates an infrastructure to make the world of the novel realistic, believable and credible for the reader. You have achieved these three criteria in The Last Werewolf Hunter. You have created this by showing:
  • the nature of the curse,
  • how it is invoked/created,
  • its effects,
  • history going back two centuries,
  • Related mythology,
  • prophecy,
  • spiritual solution including “supernaturally empowered” artefacts and substances,
  • characters in your three series related genealogically to each other in some way and the series' are interlocked.
Did you find this difficult to develop? I can imagine that you would have also had fun doing this regardless!

I did have a lot of fun with the world building for this series. Much of the back story I didn’t actually have to invent myself, since it already exists as part of various mythologies. The rest of it took several years of hard work, and even though it was mostly enjoyable it was never easy. One thing that became really difficult as the years went by was to keep my story straight. That is, to make sure I didn’t contradict something I’d already said in a previous book. That puts some pretty rigid boundaries on where you can go with a story, and those boundaries narrow down still further with each new book that comes out because there are more and more facts that have to be conformed to. I think that’s one reason why sequels are so often not as good as the first book in a series. They get progressively harder to write every time. That was something I never understood until I tried to do it myself, but the challenge was fun.

You write very well in the first person narrative, it really does bring Zach alive, makes him relational and very three dimensional. Experiencing this series from his point of view, draws the reader in and keeps them engaged throughout. Was this your intention to use this type of narrative when you were planning TLWH?

It was partly intentional, and partly just that it made it easier for me as an author to get inside Zach’s head and think the way he would have. I was able to project myself into his shoes and imagine what I would have done in his place, and that made the story much easier and more fun to write. I actually enjoy reading the story myself occasionally, even though I’m the one who wrote it.

The Last Werewolf Hunter series is your first published work, have you written in second or third person in any of your unpublished work, if you have any?

I’ve never written in second person because I don’t like it, frankly. But I’ve written three books in third person: Nightfall (Book one of the Tyke McGrath Series), Unclouded Day (Book One of the Stones of Song series), and Bran the Blessed (Book Three of the Stones of Song Series). Everything else (so far) is in first person. Cody McGrath tells his own story, and so does his grandson Tyke. There are particular reasons why those three books are done differently, but it would be hard to explain them without giving away spoilers.

In a previous interview, you were asked is there anything you would change in the TLWH series. You answered that you might tone down the opening ritual scene in Book 1 as some readers felt this was too graphic. I personally did not find this scene overly graphic and I had to read it again to see if I had missed something when I read this feedback. I then realised that the edition I had read had this ritual scene modified. Just wanted to ask that instead of considering toning that original scene down, could you not had added a warning or disclaimer at the beginning stating that some readers might find this scene disturbing but you have developed it this way to add realism and credibility to the werewolf curse to show how it is accepted?

In the first edition of Cry for the Moon, there was a short additional scene on the second page in which Zach’s grandmother killed a rabbit, and it was this scene which some readers had thought was too graphic. It was only one paragraph long, and after thinking about it I agreed with the readers and removed it because it gave several people the mistaken impression that the book was much bloodier and more violent than it actually is. The scene was never crucial to the plot, and no one has noticed anything missing since it was removed several years ago, so I think it was the right call to make. The first few pages are much more representative of the book as a whole at this point.

I stated in my review of Behind Blue Eyes that I felt Zach was based on you as a teen and Justin as you as an adult. Any truth in this observation?

There’s a lot of truth to that, actually. Zach is very much me as I was at that age, although maybe a little wittier at times. It’s always so much easier to come up with exactly the right comment when you’ve got plenty of time to think about it. And Justin is me too, a little older and wiser perhaps. Not everything is the same, of course, but enough that those who know me well wouldn’t have any difficulty spotting the resemblance. It’s very much there, even down to little details like the kind of truck I like to drive and my fondness for EasyCheese, bass fishing, and marshmallowy-soft beds. You’ll learn all kinds of things about me by reading my books if you pay attention, even though you might never know which details are real and details are real and which are not!

In More Golden Than Day, you have further developed the history of the Werewolf curse and this necessitated the solution outlined in Book 2 to be applied in a more complex way to the final solution of the werewolf issue worldwide. I found this a really clever development and I can draw a correlation to the reason of the incarnation of Christ. I cannot say it any other way without giving away spoilers for potential readers of the series. I see this as a subtle way of connecting the message of this series to the bible and spiritual truth. Your thoughts on this?

You’re absolutely right. As Brandon Stone says in another book, “God loves reflections”. The world is full of hints and images, things that remind us of something bigger than themselves. Not a single snowflake or grain of sand is ever identical in all the world in all of time, but yet we never fail to recognize sand or snow. This method of endless variation on a few central themes, this spiritual counterpoint, is the very idiom by which God writes the story of the world. Therefore I was only imitating Him when I took an idea from a previous book and used it in a slightly different form for a new purpose. That’s what He does all the time, and it’s something which will be seen again throughout the other books that follow these. There are a lot of Scriptural references like this, such as the use of blood sacrifice to give life and the use of the werewolf curse itself as a symbol for sin.

You use items that were blessed from God (the sweet water, the crystal rings and Guardian stones) to be the vessel/method of breaking the werewolf curse instead of other direct spiritual warfare/biblical methods such as using the name of Jesus, praying against the curse, using the Word of God etc.?

Yes, and that was intentional also. While there’s definitely a place for the kind of direct spiritual warfare that you mention, there’s also a place for the indirect kind. As Dr. Anderson mentions in Bran the Blessed, God likes matter. Jesus healed a blind man by putting mud on his eyes, even though He could certainly have done it directly just by speaking the word. The lame were healed by bathing in the Pool of Bethesda when an angel stirred the water. Moses brought forth water from the rock by striking it with his staff. We see God using material things as a conduit for His power in this way throughout Scripture. No one should make the mistake of thinking the objects or substances have any kind of intrinsic power themselves, but no one should overlook God’s liking for indirect methods, either. I wouldn’t venture to try to explain why He sometimes chooses to work this way; I only know that He does. There’s a mistaken tendency among some people to think of God as something purely abstract and spiritual, which makes Him seem less real and less involved with the world. By having Him use material things to exert His power I was hoping to partly counteract that false impression.

In a Facebook discussion we were involved in relating to what is edgy Christian speculative fiction, you state,

"I have written about werewolf curses, witches and sorcerers who have real power, Christian characters who have true dreams about the future, and other things like that. But still, my work is deeply Christian both in outlook and in content. My opinion is that there should be no topic whatsoever which is off limits to a Christian writer, and that we need to fight the enemy on his own ground, without fear and without apology. That said, I don't put any sex or cussing in my work. My books include The Last Werewolf Hunter series, the Stones of Song series, and the Tyke McGrath series, which form an interlocked set of twelve books with overlapping story lines."

What do you consider is characteristic of edgy Christian speculative fiction (ECSF)?

For me, ECSF is any type of Christian fiction which deals with topics or situations one doesn’t normally find in that genre. Christian fiction has a reputation for being an unexciting genre, to put it mildly. And even though I can respect and understand that readers often use regular Christian fiction as a kind of sweet escape from the ugliness of the modern world, I don’t think it should be limited to that purpose. There are real monsters in the world, and as C.S. Lewis once said, since it’s so very likely that our children will meet cruel enemies, at least let them have heard stories about heroes and saints who conquered the Devil and the World through Christ our Lord. Then let them remember those things and find courage in them when they have to face their own battles with darkness, which they will surely have to do sooner or later. This, to me, is what edgy Christian fiction is really for, to train the minds and strengthen the hearts of those who read it. It’s a kind of spiritual battle-training, if you will. Here we can meet the worst that evil can throw at us and learn not to be afraid.

I have not read the Stones of Song series or the End of Days, (The Complete Tyke McGrath series), but I plan to very soon!. Are these series also in the ECSF genre?

Yes, they are, although not quite in the same way. Tyke McGrath is science fiction, which deals with the relationship between faith and science and follows the journey of one boy (Tycho “Tyke” McGrath) from a kind of lukewarm Christianity which he rarely thinks about to a living faith which can work miracles. Tyke himself is the nephew of Cameron and Joan from The Last Werewolf Hunter. The Stones of Song deals with some very harsh topics like child abuse, alcoholism, and teen pregnancy, but this is done in order to illustrate another Scriptural principle – that however deeply we’re crushed, to that same degree God will exalt us if we keep faith in Him. This series is largely the tale of Brandon Stone, the youngest of the Curse-Breakers and undoubtedly the one who suffers the most for his calling, but also the one whom God entrusts with the greatest gift and responsibility of all. He’s also Tyke McGrath’s great-uncle.

What take home message did you want readers of TLWH to embrace?

That God is great beyond imagining, and that He can and will turn even the most terrible things into blessings for those who love Him.

You have 3 series that are interlocked with overlapping storylines, The Last Werewolf Hunter, Stones of Song and the Tyke McGrath series. Would you mind giving an exclusive glimpse of what we are to expect next?

Right now I’m working on two projects at once. The first one is a non-fiction study of the Law of Moses compared to the slightly different form of it found in the New Testament. I have to admit, that’s been a fascinating study which yielded a lot of surprises. I discovered I didn’t know half as much about the Law as I thought I did, and I hope some of the insights I came across will prove to be as useful for my readers as they were for me. My other project is a new science fiction series which will involve Camber Carpenter, Stephen Stone, and a few other of the younger characters from the Tyke McGrath series. So it will be another continuation of the same basic world, just with different focus.

Anything else you would to say about your books or specific series?

Each series is quite different in tone and focus, even though all of them deal with the adventures of the five Curse-Breakers and the ways in which God has called them to fight evil in the world. Their stories are tightly linked in both simple and complex ways, and all five of the Curse-Breakers are related to one another in various ways. I’ve provided family trees on my website so interested readers can see these relationships at a glance. I’m often asked in what order my three series should be read. All three of them are written to be self-contained, so it doesn’t really matter in which order you read them. Chronologically speaking, The Last Werewolf Hunter would come first, then Stones of Song, and finally Tyke McGrath. But even if you started with Tyke McGrath, it would only mean that the other two series would be background story for you. It wouldn’t keep you from understanding anything.

Any closing comments?

Interested readers should definitely visit my website, which contains a wealth of information about me, the three series, and other things. You will find family trees displaying how all the characters are related, a glossary of terms and places, free downloadable discussion questions for each book, quotable quotes, photos of several characters and locations mentioned in the series, music files where you can listen to songs mentioned in the text, links to free novels and short stories, and many other things. It’s a huge site which is easy to navigate, and well worth exploring.

Where can readers find you?

Website - http://www.williamwoodall.org

Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/bluearkansascowboy

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2876219.William_Woodall

Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/William-Woodall/e/B002FQ9VZM

William, thank you very much for a very insightful look into your world as an author and the background and structure to your 3 series. This has enhanced my appreciation of your novels especially The Last Werewolf Hunter series.  I pray that more teens and young adults will investigate your series and be encouraged in the way of the Lord as they read them.  I am looking forward to your next novel and I am sure your fans are as well.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Guest Blogger, David Alderman on The Crossover Alliance and Kickstarter Campaign

Today I would like to allow David Alderman, author and founder of The Crossover Alliance to talk to you about this Alliance and its exciting new venture. But before I do, I would like to explain why I am doing this. 

Not too long ago, I came across a book, Black Earth: End of the Innocence by David Alderman and I was intrigued by the mix of genres: fantasy, science fiction, supernatural, alien invasion, demons, apocalyptic. Little did I know then that I was reading a book in a new genre, edgy Christian speculative fiction. I loved the Black Earth series and then realised I loved this new genre. Soon after, I was asked by David to join his new community, The Crossover Alliance, and this introduced me to more books in this genre. It has been encouraging seeing it transform "from community to website to, now, an online publishing company" to quote David below.

I have read some great books from the authors in this new company, such Mark Carver, Jess Hanna, Nathan James Norman and Donovan Martin Neal. This has motivated me to seek out others as well. This review blog contains a  lot of my reviews from this genre. Now, I am a strong supporter of edgy Christian speculative fiction from reading and reviewing these books and getting involved. I enjoy the real world content, the Christian worldview, the depiction of Christian characters being real, not being shy in showing their flaws, their failings, their struggle with faith, coping with real life situations and showing God for who He is and that He is still relevant in today's secular and humanistic world.


I will now let David speak about this new Publishing company, how it was formed, what it means for the future of Christian fiction and to encourage readers and authors reading this to consider supporting us in raising funds to get this Company up and running and making a positive impact in the world of Christian fiction and beyond.

The Crossover Alliance and Kickstarter Campaign
by David Alderman.

Publishing has come a long way since the dawn of books, and I’m not just referring to the method of publishing. Sure, we have digital e-readers now and we can print-on-demand. The beauty of those methods though is that they have opened the doors for self-publishing. And self-publishing has opened the doors for brand new genres that nobody thought existed before now. As readers, our options for obtaining a book in a genre that we’ve always wanted to read is no longer laser focused. And as writers, we have more freedom in finding our target audience. It’s a beautiful match made possible by technology and our ever increasing desire to make everything digital and everything easily accessible.

This being said, I think Christian fiction – both traditionally published and self-published - has been behind the 8-ball when it comes to breaking new ground in the realm of genre. Most Christian fiction has traditionally fallen into a handful of narrow categories, including romance, allegory, and apocalyptic. Until recently, science fiction and horror were never really considered ‘appropriate’ genres in the Christian marketplace. Authors are breaking that mold a bit by proving that Christ-centered themes can indeed be placed in edgier frameworks without performing a sacrilegious travesty.

When one gets beyond the genre issue, Christian publishing still finds itself almost always restrained by a specific set of rules that governs its titles: no cursing, no sexual content, no gritty violence, no ‘dark’ tales, no unhappy endings. Traditional Christian fiction has always been more prone to shy away from revealing the very ugly, very messed up side of life. Most stories are injected with redemptive themes – sometimes forced, and most Christian fiction stories tie up the end of their tales with a neat and tidy little bow that would more than likely never exist in the real world.

It’s not to say there’s anything wrong with these types of stories. There’s a market for them, and audience for them, and an obvious demand for them. But there are many readers out there who enjoy reading secular fiction but would like to see more Christ-centered themes, and many readers who enjoy reading Christian fiction but would like to see less ‘fluff’ and more real-world content. They want to see the rules be broken, not for the sake of breaking the rules, but for the sake of reading and creating real, unapologetic stories.

I broke the rules in 2009 when I self-published Black Earth: End of the Innocence, the first installment in my apocalyptic Christ-centered fictional series. I felt like a fish out of water when I wrote and self-published the manuscript, but many Christians and non-Christians supported my storytelling endeavors, stating that it was time for Christian authors to start writing edgier stuff. My isolation in this strange vacuum prompted me to find a unique name for this type of fiction. Edgy Christian fiction was already taken up by most of the romance genre, so I made a point to differentiate myself from the crowd and came up with edgyChristian speculative fiction.

At that point, I began networking with other authors who specialized in this
homegrown genre and created The Crossover Alliance



TCA was originally started as a community for readers and writers of edgy Christian speculative fiction to gather and network with one another, but has since gone through a few transformations from community to website to, now, an online publishing company.

To this end, I just recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the first year of The Crossover Alliance’s publishing costs - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2054728317/the-crossover-alliance-first-year-fiction-catalog



This includes professional editing, cover design, and other various business expenses. If you want to support this type of fiction, please consider pledging to our Kickstarter campaign. You can score some awesome Kickstarter rewards, including subscriptions to our publishing catalog, unique bookmarks, and other goodies. Not to mention, you’ll also be responsible for changing the very face of publishing by opening up a market for edgy Christian speculative fiction.


David N. Alderman is an indie author of two speculative fiction series—Black Earth and Expired Reality. You can find all of David's work at www.davidnalderman.com. He is also the founder of The Crossover Alliance (www.thecrossoveralliance.com), a publishing company specializing in edgy Christian speculative fiction. He participates in National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) each year. When he’s not writing or spending time with family, you can find David gaming on any number of different consoles.



Christian Fiction photo by Beatrice Murch https://www.flickr.com/photos/blmurch/134916897/

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Truesilver (The Last Werewolf Hunter Series Book 4) by William Woodall



Zach looks forward to a quiet summer after finishing off the werewolf curse for good, so when Jolie and her cousin Matthieu ask him to help with waking up the sleeping ex-wolves in the store room, he thinks nothing of it at first. They're not dangerous anymore, right? But Zach soon discovers that some people don't need a werewolf curse to make them do evil things. Zach, Jolie, Cameron, and Matthieu quickly find themselves locked in a fierce battle with an accidentally-awakened sorcerer who is also a brilliant scientist. Only this time, they have nothing to fight him with.

The Guru's Review: 

I believe that most readers would have mixed feelings about reading the last book in a series. They are excited to see how the series will end as it reaches its climax but then comes the downside, once this has happened, there is the inevitable conclusion to a great journey the author has taken them on and it is over. Excitement and sadness. Such a sense of finality. It can be hard to return to the real world without this in your life now.

I felt like this when I read this final book in The Last Werewolf Hunter series.
I guess that is a good thing as you know that all the books before it have kept your interest and added to the entertainment factor that an author has set out to achieve.

So with these mixed feelings I came to the end of this series! What a finale it was too! All the elements that I became used to in Woodall's writing were all consistently there and working well, well developed characters, consistently paced plot, a twist always around the corner, an ever deepening knowledge and revelation into the history and background of the werewolf curse, Zach and Cameron maturing into mature teens and wiser in the process, Woodall's successful and engaging first person narrative, and Zach's pearls of wisdom interspersed throughout the narrative and in response to specific plot developments. 

Woodall introduces the reader to a new evil in this last installment. It is bad enough that someone accepts the werewolf curse, but to have an evil and twisted mind as well existing in your siblings is a magnification of evil like no other. Such is case when three siblings are awakened from the breaking of the curse by another ex-werewolf and their sister at large and unaccounted for! Led by Andrew Garza, the older brother, these are sorcerers and were the most dangerous when they were werewolves as well.

Woodall also takes the role of werewolf hunter to the next level in this installment, and it is very appropriate as a result of the awakening of the Garza brothers. When two werewolf hunters retire, Cameron and Zach officially take their places and are anointed with oil by a senior werewolf hunter from Jolie's family and are now known as Avengers, sworn by solemn oath to fight evil wherever they found it, to the utmost of their power. A new name for a new purpose. They come into their own in this new role as they seek to neutralise the power of the Garza brothers, especially that of Andrew, the most dangerous and evil of the three. 

Against this backdrop, does this installment take the reader to the final outcome in this series. The danger to Zach, Cameron, Matthieu, Jolie increases and even extends to Justin, Eileen and baby Josiah. One last piece of "arsenal" that the Avengers are able to use is discovered and is effective in being used for their protection. It is here that much to my delight, the action, adventure, mystery and suspense is increased and allows the plot to take on more twists and turns.

If everything leading up to this novel has taken Zach and Cameron out of their comfort zone, Woodall is not finished with them by a long shot. One of Andrew Garza's evil schemes is total control and he invents a time machine. At first I thought this was a bit out of place, but as I read on, it then fitted in nicely into the plot and then realised this is part of what launches this series into the next.
Yes, just when you think the Werewolf Hunter series comes to an end, Woodall has two other series that continue this plot line with one character from this series being transported to the future, but it is not the near future either. This is where the family trees that he has created on his website that I have mentioned in the previous two reviews of this series become very useful and adds cohesion to the plot. It really does pay for the reader to check these family trees out as they will obtain a better understanding of the characters once they see where everyone fits in. The Glossary on this same page in his website is also very useful throughout this series and for the other two from looking at it.

As mentioned in my previous reviews, this is part of Woodall's world building that forms a great foundation for this series and the ones to follow. 

Spiritually, the Christian/biblical themes are subtle and this by no means lessens their importance or impact. One example is where Cameron is very despondent and depressed about losing Joan and this loss was like rubbing salt into an existing sore from other losses in his life, and he was tempted to allow this self-pity to lead to bitterness. Zach identified this and decided to nip it in the bud, 
"Don't, Cam,"

"Don't what?" he asked

"Don't be bitter. Remember who you are and what you believe,"
Although this is not obvious here, but from reading the other three novels, Woodall is referring to who we are in Christ and what we believe (who God is, what He has done, and we can overcome our struggles with His victory over sin and death). Most of the snippets of wisdom from Justin and Zach that are interspersed throughout these three novels are based on the bible and how to live the Christian life and of course come also from the author's experience of living this as well. I did mention before that I believe that Justin is based on Woodall as an adult and Zach as a teenager. Although Woodall does not depict the power of God directly defeating the werewolf curse and the evil of the Garza brothers during this series, but has the sweet water, crystal rings and Guardian Stones empowered with His power and blessing to do this instead, these three books seem to have the message of faith, standing firm in your convictions, being true to yourself, honouring God in His promises, not giving in, trusting God, accepting consequences as the Christian message here and for teens and young adults these are lessons to be learnt and practiced in their lives. As I said previously, Christian living.  

I know it has been said by readers and the author that the third book, More Golden Than Day, seems to be a favourite amoungst them, and I said this too, but having read this last installment, I feel this is the better one, my favourite at least.

Woodall brings everything to a very nice close, from this series being that of Werewolf Hunters and has developed this plot line to follow onto other series that will give the reader further opportunities to savour the writing and creative imagination of this very talented author. He is in his element writing for teens and young adults which he does extremely well. I reckon this audience is very blessed.

Highly Recommended.  


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

More Golden Than Day (The Last Werewolf Hunter Series Book 3) by William Woodall



Zach always thought he'd play ball for the Texas Rangers someday, or maybe become a writer.  But when the beautiful and mysterious Jolie Doucet pops up out of nowhere and asks him to become a werewolf hunter, he's suddenly faced with a choice he never imagined.

For Zach remembers all too well what happened the last time he tangled with wolves, and he's not sure he wants to get involved with something like that again.

But when Jolie is betrayed into the hands of the werewolves, Zach decides there's still work for the Curse-Breaker to do.

Only this time, there's no turning back from the path he's chosen, and somehow Zach must find the courage to make an end of the Curse forever.  Even if it costs him everything.

"More Golden Than Day" is the third book in "The Last Werewolf Hunter" series, which begins with "Cry for the Moon" and then "Behind Blue Eyes".

The Guru's Review: 

Every novel in this series seems to be an improvement on the previous and that is not saying that the previous two are not good at all, in fact as I have mentioned in my previous two reviews, they are excellent.  In this one, the action is faster, the plot deepens, we learn more about the history of the werewolf curse and its origins, we discover that there are more werewolf hunters and more about the worldwide growth of the curse. Woodall has introduced more twists and turns that deepen the plot and add to the increase in action. All this does is further anchor the reader in this engaging series and you are left hungry for more. The author has stated that this novel is the one that the majority of readers like the best and I can see why. Having not read the fourth one, I would agree that this is my favourite too.

Consistent is Woodall with his first person narrative and now in this third novel, it is still working very well and I would not have it any other way. This gives this series full impact of what Woodall wants to create and depict. It is the perfect fit for this series. 

I remember one reviewer saying that she loved the wisdom and philosophical insights concerning life and the various situations that Zach has to deal with in the ridding of this curse and I totally agree. These make Zach one very three dimensional character and a very relational one. They also make this series credible. In this instalment, Justin and Eileen take more of a back seat as this storyline is entirely focused on Zach and his quest to break the curse world wide.

Another aspect I love about Woodall's writing is that he exhibits one major characteristic of a successful author and that is that he shows and does not tell. Showing engages the reader and connects them to the story and you live this with the main character(s) while telling keeps the reader at a distance and they are not connected with the story or main characters. Throughout this series,  this characteristic makes you relate to the characters and the story line and you want to read more and you want to know what happens next. I value this in an author and Woodall has now joined this value club! 

The story line concerning the worldwide curse, other werewolf hunters such as Jolie, just adds more depth to the entire werewolf plot throughout these three novels. World building can make or break a novel or series and Woodall is successful here. If the world building just involved the curse and its breaking, then this would be one rather shallow story line and only mildly entertaining to a degree. But Woodall, goes beyond this in these first three novels and it reaches its peak in this third novel. The blinkers are removed and we are exposed to the broader history of this curse, a deeper level its effects, and more danger for Zach and Jolie as they are now teamed together to break the curse permanently. A nice twist is the betrayal of a member of the werewolf hunter clan and Zach delves into the nature of the curse and how to destroy it for good. The world building is contained in all the history and structure of this curse and its solution, all the genealogy of the families involved. The latter I mentioned in the review of Book 2 where these family trees can be found on Woodall's website. I recommend any reader to investigate this resource while reading this novel and Woodall's other series, The Stones of Song and Tyke McGrath. 

This third instalment is a very good springboard into the fourth novel in this series and showcases Woodall's talent extremely well. I am looking to this next novel immensely. 

I would love to see this series continue but like all of them, they have to come to an end. 

Highly Recommended.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Interview with Anthony Hilling, Author of The Voice of Aedistamen


In this interview, I am talking to Tony Hilling about his debut novel, The Voice of Aedistamen. I discovered Tony from a Facebook post from Helping Hands Press promoting this debut novel. I was intrigued with the plot and him being a new author so I expressed my interest in reading this short volume which was soon to be released. I really liked it, very much worthy of 5 stars in my review and decided it would be worth interviewing him to see what made this new author tick and where his inspiration for this engaging novel came from.

So, with no further ado, let's see what Tony has to say about himself and his
new novel, The Voice of Aedistamen. 

Welcome, Tony! Thank you for allowing yourself and your book to be put under some scrutiny!!

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


I was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the first child of the union of James Hilling (also born in Glasgow) and Frances Duggan from the South of Ireland. We were a Catholic home and from an early age I had a sense that God had called me to be a priest. I went to a junior seminary in England run by a religious order called the Salesians. I stayed there after high school and entered their novitiate program, but left a few years later. I studied law at Queen’s University of Belfast in Northern Ireland and practised there as a barrister. But the bright lights of Canada beckoned and I came over here in 1976. I worked for a few years at a trust company and a two law firms before hearing God’s call again to return to my initial vocation. I was ordained for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary on May 29, 1987, and served as a priest in Medicine Hat, Calgary and Drumheller, all in the Canadian province of Alberta. I worked as a priest for seven years (biblical!!) before returning to the practice of law, and eventually planting two churches as a reformed pastor. As of this weekend, I am retired!
While I was a priest, I had a desire to write and composed a short story (yet unpublished) called, “Milo the Mule”. It was a gospel story modeled on Orwell’s “Animal Farm” (without the Marxist agenda, of course). Then about fifteen years ago, I was stirred by the Harry Potter phenomenon to write a fantasy story that would somehow honour God. Thus, “The Voice of Aedistamen” came to be.

You have had one very interesting vocational life! Two diverse occupations that have some similarities but in also some very different ones as well.

How do you come up with the character names in your books?

Interesting question! I use a number of techniques, including just picking them out of my sub-conscious. I chose a theme of Latin/Roman names in Aedistamen and just stuck with it for the Davarenge Aristocracy. The names for the enslaved people came from Semitic roots where I used the prefix, ‘“Ban”. Some of the names also come from my Celtic past. For example in Scotland there is a town called, Cambuslang. I named one of my characters, “Camberlang”. But that’s part of the fun in writing a fantasy novel: you get to make up your own names.

This shows some depth to your imagination and clever creativity on your part, Tony!

I hear that you are a musician, specifically a balladeer! Tell us a little about this.

I have written a number of songs. As well as aspiring to write good prose, I have always felt the call of the poetic. But somehow, the “scattered verse” was never quite finished until I had put it to music. In this respect, I have found the work of other writers critical in inspiring me to wax creative. A few years ago in Drumheller I read a Christmas story about a man coming to faith through trying to save some birds lost in a storm. The song that I wrote was called, “The Ballad of the Birds”. Also in the early part of the 20th century, Myra Brooks Welch wrote a piece of prose called, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”. I rewrote it as a poem/song called, “The Old Violin”. And just recently, a young playwright called Andrew Kooman composed an Easter play called “That Towering Cross”. The title stirred me and I wrote a song with the same title.

Priest, Lawyer and now song writer/musician/balladeer. You are a man of many talents!

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

The best piece of advice from another author? I remember being discouraged and asking the Lord whether I should continue with Aedistamen. I heard just one word: Persevere! I think the Lord is the Author par excellence! So I persevered. Therefore I suppose this also answers your next question. I remember an old priest saying to me when I was a boy, “Dinnae gie in!” (translated, “Never give in!”). No matter what, and especially in heart matters (i.e. calling, gifting and self perception) never give in or give up. Keep at it! Persevere!

I am glad you have, or else we would not be having this interview about yourself and your book!

Who are you reading right now?

I am presently reading a “Whodunnit” series by Margaret Coel which is set in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and concerns the detective exploits of a clergyman and a First Nations lawyer. I also have enjoyed Sansum’s “Shardlake” stories where the context is Tudor England. 

Are you sure the Margaret Coel books are not about you? You have been both a clergyman and a lawyer! LOL

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

All the time! That’s when some of my best writing happens. Sometimes I have sat at the computer with nothing at all in my head (go on, laugh!), and then this idea comes, “as small as a man’s hand”, and I just follow it. Writing is a discipline. I think Writer’s Block is a necessary part of the process.

This "problem" seem to go with the territory or being an author doesn't it? Occupational hazard so to speak. Well, at least you are not the only author to have experienced this!

Now, let's discuss you new release, The Voice of Aedistamen.

Where did the idea for the Voice of Aedistamen come from? 

The idea of Aedistamen came from a simple desire to write a liberation story. Many of our works of art and literature are about liberation. Whether you contemplate Van Gogh’s “Prodigal Son” or watch movies like, “Avatar”, “Exodus”, or even “Chicken Run”, the theme is the same.

Very true, Tony, and in this novel is seems to be taking on a refreshng, different take.
 
What does Aedistamen mean?

“Aedistamen” is the Davarenge word for “The Great Orb”, i.e. fantasy world.


I struggled at first to pronounce it or even consider how, but Giovanni Gelati pronounced it well in the radio interview he had with you!

What language is the name Ghaedesh-Mor?

“Ghaedesh-Mor” is the word that the Ma’apone (or Bladowrete in the Davarenge language) use for God. It means the “Holy One”. It is pronounced by a hard guttural sound from the front of the mouth culminating in trace of a “y”, not unlike the “ll” sound in Spanish or French. The word is a variant of the Hebrew word, “Kadosh” (Sorry Peter, for the detail with the pronunciation, but I love this stuff!) which also means, “holy”.

Tony, don't apologise, all good, this detail in pronunciation shows you have a solid basis for the foundation of the language in this story. Tolkien developed an entire language, grammar and pronunciation for Lord Of The Rings, so feel secure in this endeavour!

Why did you decide to release this novel in volumes (short story length, this one 33 pages)?

My publisher had the sense that it was a good idea to release the story in short segments. I had written it in different fonts so I have spent some time reformatting it. 

This seems to be a common practice now. I have many novels that I am
following being released like this. Preacher Man and The Name of the Hawk by Murray Pura follow in this practice and it does enable the reader to complete the novel in stages when they may not have time to read it over days, weeks. This definitely keeps the reader hungry for more!

When will the next volume be released?

The next 10,000 words or so should be released by April 16.

Tony, I just discovered that Helping Hands Press has just released an advanced reading of volume 2, The MA'APONE! It can be viewed here.

Releasing your novel in this way, over what period of time will it take to have the entire novel released?

Subsequent volumes will probably take us up to the end of 2015.The entire paperback should then be available.

Great news on this front! Hmm, would that include the e-book as well? I hope so!

In your radio interview on the G-Zone with Giovanni Gelati you state that this novel took 15 years to write. What took you so long? Sorry, could not resist that line! LOL

When I first wrote the story, my wife and I were planting a church in Western Canada which kept us quite busy. Also, I revised the story three times in those fifteen years. At times, I would set it down and then come back to it. I must admit that there was some procrastination in this. If I was writing today, I would try to be more disciplined. The greatest obstacles in getting to publication are not so much what it going on out there, but in here! There are indeed many obstacles externally, but the one that I struggled with was internal. But once I had decided to push it through, the Lord opened a door for me.

In one sense, Tony, there is no surprise there, as many authors, new or seasoned take years to complete their books. One author I reviewed took 36 years to complete his first novel! I am glad you persevered as you and your readers can now revel in a great work that glorifies God!

In the same interview, you state that The Voice of Aedistamen is an allegory, a liberation story with enslavement to freedom featuring a chosen race. It has an Old Testament feel with the New Testament running through it in a concealed way. This sounds very much like the the account of the Hebrew enslavement in Exodus. Was this your inspiration?

With respect to allegory, I remember someone quoting Tolkien as spurning any allegory in his writings. I can understand his desire to avoid the allegorical in the same way that the Apostle Paul did not want to build on anyone else’s work. I have this picture in my mind that Tolkien wanted his work to stand on its own. On the other hand, everything we do can be seen as allegorical. We carry in our genes the same thought patterns of our parents and grandparents. Is there any work of literature, art, music etc that is absolutely original? I have found the work of other artists stimulating. We write in community, not in isolation, building on each other’s insights.

I have this desire to express the Gospel in new ways. When I first turned to Jesus and declared Him as my Lord and Saviour, the scriptures took on new meaning for me. I wanted to imagine another world where there was a chosen people struggling to be free, calling on God to liberate them.

To me, Tony, this is very encouraging, your story is based on solid ground, the Bible, and not just on imagination only, however, these two in combination can be strong elements of world building, which you have started in this volume.

Any significance as to why you chose the religion of the Davarenges to be based on the number 5? You have depicted this as Five Ordinances, Five Elements, Five Seers etc.

I chose the number five somewhat at random. I remembered the biblical significance of certain numbers: seven, four, twelve, etc. Thus there are seven days in creation, four corners of the earth, and twelve tribes and Apostles. So I chose a number that I thought would be significant for an ancient race of people, cognizant that given our decimal system, five is a multiple of the next zero, be it 10, 20 etc. I tried then to see this numbering system being reflected in every facet of their existence: e.g. the Five Seers, the Five Elements and the Five Ordinances. It gave them a sense of control, management and understanding of their existence.

Again, this is part of world building, and for me, this adds depth and structure to the story and makes the world you create three dimensional.

You mention about a war between the two races, Ma'apone, and the Davarenges. Will this be further explained in future volumes? 

This war between the Davarenges and the Ma’apone is a major theme of the
Trilogy and will follow it right through the other volumes.

I look forward to seeing how you develop this, there is nothing like history or war to add structural background to the races, or peoples, created in any story, it gives these people many reference points to their heritage and roots and gives them a reason to defend this heritage which throughout history has involved war in most cases.

I mentioned in my review of The Child's Arrival that there is murder, conspiracy, bribery, deceit, abuse of power, one race dominating the other and slavery. Those are some powerful themes running through this volume. I can imagine that this will be a common thread throughout this entire novel. Does this get any worse before it gets better?

Yes, indeed, Peter. Though the book is a fantasy, I tried to be realistic in the writing of it. In life things frequently get worse before they get better and it is the same in Aedistamen. There are also so many twists, turns and challenges that the Ma’apone are tempted to wonder if the Ghaedesh-Mor has forgotten them. Faith then, is another major theme. I have tried to test the boundaries between unbelief and faith.

Well, you certainly started this well in this volume! I look forward to seeing how much of your Pastor heart and experience being the same comes out in these issues as the story progresses.

What can we expect in future volumes without giving away too many spoilers?

I have specifically written in a style juxtaposing many action scenes with other more contemplative ones. Also, I have brought as much humour into the work as I can. It’s part of being an old Celt, I guess. Even when times are bad, we survive by keeping our sense of humour. There is one section coming up with some heart-thumping scenes combined with reflective commentary on the human condition, interspersed with comic relief.

I knew your answer would whet my appetite for more! Agree with you about humour, it is an element of our survival instinct. Good to hear that there is some heart-thumping scenes ahead. Looks like we are in for a treat!

What message did you want to convey in The Voice of Aedistamen?

C.S. Lewis has Aslan stating that he brought the children to Narnia to know him, so that they would better know him in their own world. I wrote Aedistamen for that very reason, that folks would recognize God in a fantasy world, and so respond to Him better in this world.

I reckon you have set the foundation for this in Volume 1. It is going to be satisfying to see this further developed in future volumes. I believe that Christian fiction, in all its sub genres, such as this one as fantasy, should encourage, exhort and build up the Christian reader or challenge in a positive way the reader who may be a non believer. You have done this for me being the former reader I mentioned.

Any plans for a sequel?

The writing of the book followed quite quickly after the idea came. The finishing of it took a little longer, as I explained above. I have left the conclusion open for a sequel but I have not planned it yet.

I pray the readers that follow this story to the end put pressure on you in a positive way to consider a sequel. I am impressed so far with these 33 pages so I am hoping you will consider this.

Any other novels that are dying to be unlocked by you?

I have another story called, “The Caves of the Kananaskis” which tells the tale of a bunch of children exploring new worlds under the mentorship of a mysterious first nations person. This has yet to be finished. I have also this desire to write a “whodunit” mystery series.

Both these sound good, Tony! This gives us something to look forward to in the future!

Anything else you would like to say before we finish?

Again, I want to thank you, Peter, for the encouragement your review brought to me and for the opportunity to discuss my work today.

Tony, it has been my pleasure! I have enjoyed discussing you debut novel and yourself as a new author. You have given us some very encouraging insight into yourself and the world building of Aedistamen. I am excited that the next volume is only a few days away so we can see this engaging novel develop further. I am eager to see your progress as an author and see some 4 and 5 star reviews from the rest of the volumes in The Voice of Aedistamen!

Before you go, where can readers find you?

I can be found at: (Click on the underlined links)

Blog: http://godscollie.wordpress.com

Twitter: Tony Hilling

Facebook: Tony Hilling

Google+: TonyHilling

Amazon Author Page: Tony Hilling Author Page

You can purchase, The Child's Arrival, The Voice of Aesdistamen from Amazon: