The warm morning sun glinted into my room. The fire was long out. Chairs were not exactly comfortable places to spend the night. Small pops crackled in my neck and shoulders as I stretched.
There was no school today, due to a teacher in-service. I’d have one last critical day to prepare for tomorrow; my first real hunt.
I hit the shower.
Dressed in a fresh white V-neck and blue jeans, I strolled down the hall toward the elevator. Each of the resident families lived on a different floor, which made it easier to live together. The fifth floor was my dad's and mine until . . . well, until a few weeks ago. Now it was just mine. My chest tightened with an ache of loss, and I fought it off with a deep breath.
Originally our hotel, the Pink Hippo, was built in 1848 to house the miners working the nearby coal mines. Some wealthy baron owned all the land surrounding the mines and wouldn’t allow houses to be built within five miles. Instead, he collected rent from the men in the inn. He charged a ridiculous amount, what some might consider extortion, but paying that was better than making the long trek up the mountain from the sleepy village of Ashley Meadows each day.
The inn shut down in 1860 when the coal mines dried up. Well, they didn't dry up. There was still plenty of coal down there. Closing the mining operation was in relation to my line of work and the reason for stationing a chapter of the Society here. It was also how the Baron lost his fortune.
“Greed gets you,” McGarrett said when he told me the story.
The Pink Hippo was fifteen miles east of Ashley Meadows, deep in Theodore Woods and located at the base of Kinley peak. It was the Eastern United States Regional Headquarters for the Society.
The Pink Hippo had seven floors, a grand lobby, a massive dining hall, a kitchen, two libraries, a clock tower, and an indoor-outdoor pool. Several outbuildings also dotted the property: a chapel, horse stable, sheds of varying sizes, and a large workshop. The workshop, built in 1983, was a new addition in comparison to the inn. The Society commissioned the workshop when the Pink Hippo became regional headquarters. It housed our command center and was filled with the latest in surveillance technology and the laboratory used to design and build new gadgets and equipment.
McGarrett was the commander of our chapter of the Legion der Dämonjäger, or Society, as we referred to it. I would have called us an operations team, but the Society preferred the term chapter.
McGarrett often joked that he could run a small country from there. Ike thought there was enough technology and weaponry to take over a small country. And he was right; we had everything from powerful explosives to micro drones and high-speed jetpacks. It’d have to be a surgical strike, but if we hit the right government targets, it would be effective enough. Ike and I might have had more than one conversation about taking over some small Caribbean island nation and settling there to retire.
“Good morning,” I said, stepping into the 19th-century style caged elevator. Ike forced a smile. He wore his smart glasses, as I called them. His blond hair was tousled, and his blue button-up was half tucked into his khakis.
I recalled my rudeness last night. “Hey, I’m sorry, man, about what I said last night. I’ll buy you a doughnut to make up for it.”
The fake smile turned genuine. Ike’s blue eyes brightened behind the square black-framed spectacles. “No problem. You want to go to the workshop with me?”
Ike was like that; instantly forgiving, especially when it came to me.
“All ready ate with my dad at five. He and McGarrett are checking over the gear again.”
Five in the morning was not an option for me. Ever! Anything before seven thirty was the middle of the night.
“I’ll be over as soon as I get a bite to eat.”
The lift stopped, and the metal door clattered open.
“See you then.”
Mrs. Riley was the only one in the large dining room. She wore a crisp, clean white apron over a flowery purple dress. Her gray hair was tied into a tight bun.
“Good morning, Taylor,” she called, flipping several plate-sized pancakes onto a dish. The table was set for one: me, but you’d think she was preparing for the president. A white cloth napkin was folded into a squirrel, silverware was arranged perfectly on either side of my plate, and a centerpiece of leaves and gourds was set as decoration. There was a glass of orange juice, water, and a mug waiting to be filled with her hot, spiced, home-squeezed apple cider.
“Good morning.” I smiled.
Mrs. Riley was McGarrett’s wife. You would think McGarrett was a last name, but Riley is a first name, so McGarrett’s parents decided a kid needed one of each: McGarrett Riley. His parents were an eccentric sort I gathered from Mrs. Riley’s stories about her husband’s family.
Mrs. Riley loaded a second plate with a few more homemade specialties: sausage, an omelet, and cranberry-apple oatmeal. Everything she made was from scratch. A large greenhouse full of fruits and vegetables and pens of livestock made sure there was a ready supply of fresh ingredients. No matter what time of year.
Sure, this was a lot of food, but a guy needed to eat. I mean come on; I was fifteen and growing. The workouts and training ignited an appetite in me like I never knew could exist.
Yesterday Ike repeatedly called me “a ravenous wolf,” until Mrs. Riley reminded him that a HowlSage embodied physical traits like a wolf. After that, he simply called me insatiable. I asked Mrs. Riley what that word meant after Ike left.
The definition suited; I was always eating. Yet, according to my body mass index, I wasn't gaining extra fat, just muscle weight. All the exercise combined with the protein-loaded meals caused me to bulk up quickly, something I took note of in the mirror every morning. I wore a medium size shirt now, and for a fifteen-year-old, I sported muscles that had the football coach asking me to join the varsity team. But this year, this season, I didnt feel like playing any sports. And I wouldn’t have time for it, if I wanted to.
“How’d you do last night?” Mrs. Riley asked, a note of concern in her sweet voice. It was no secret I wasn’t sleeping well, and she thought it was too soon after my father’s death for me to hunt.
But I was after revenge, and I wanted to be the one to banish the HowlSage and catch the Cloak.
“Uh, good,” I said.
“Well, I’ve been praying without ceasing for you. He is watching over you,” she promised. “You’re in good hands.”
I shrugged. “I know.”
She wasn't talking about McGarrett and Olson Swigart watching over me. However in that regard, the two of them were arguably two of the top experts in the Society. At least that’s what my dad told me once he revealed who he was and what he did for his job.
I’d only learned what my dad, David Rivers, really did this April. He’d waited until my fifteenth birthday to tell me about his new job. Initially, I’d been okay with his reasoning for waiting to tell me. Now I questioned it. I often felt a guilty sense of anger at him. Guilty because he was dead, angry because he had kept what he really did from me for so long.
“Well, I’ll let you eat. McGarrett is anxious to see you.” Mrs. Riley headed for the kitchen humming “Great is Thy Faithfulness” as she disappeared through the swinging doors.
I dug into the steaming plate of home cooked goodness.
The cool October air sent a shiver over my bare arms as I stepped out of the Pink Hippo. The leaves were changing and falling. Hundreds tumbled across the driveway’s damp, gray cobblestones in the chilly autumn breeze. The fountain in the center of the circle drive was long shut off for the soon to arrive freeze. The sky was gray and cloudy. I shivered and pulled my arms across my chest. A lot of people liked harvest season. I didn't. Give me a hot sandy beach, some waves, and a freshly waxed board any day.
An image of the Australian coast flashed in my mind. It was summer. I was thirteen, and my girlfriend had a killer accent. She and I sat for hours on the warm sand watching the waves and sipping cherry colas as the blazing orange sun set in the distance.
A gust kicked up a swirl of leaves and swept away my dreamy memory. I shivered. The jacket I’d left in my room would have been nice about then, but I was too lazy to go back for it. Toughen up.
One of the workshop’s garage doors was open. Blue sparks flew onto the stone driveway. Ike and his dad were tweaking my gear to perfection. The workshop was where Ike and his dad experimented, built, and fixed their inventions, and where McGarrett did research and tracking. Our weapons and vehicles were secured there. It was also the last place I saw my dad alive; the last moment when I still thought of him as an invincible demon-fighting-superhero.
It turned out he wasn’t invincible.
The feeling of loss twisted in me like a screw. My throat constricted. A deep breath and sprint to the garage were futile attempts to bury the thoughts.
“Hey Mr. Riley,” I said, entering the command center.
“Taylor, my boy. Again, call me McGarrett.”
McGarrett was what his chapter called him when he hunted, instead of using his last name like a team might usually do. I’d always been taught not to call adults by their first name because it was disrespectful.
McGarrett turned in his chair, a mug of coffee in one hand. The wall of the command center across from the door was nothing but huge video displays. The center screen showed a thirty-mile radius around Ashley Meadows; encompassing the abandoned coal mines, Coal Chase Lake, Fifteen Mile Lake, Kinley Peak, Elsie Peak, Waverly Peak, Declan Peak, all of Theodore Woods, and the Bone Fields.
“Still no sign of our mysterious Cloak.” McGarrett rubbed a hand through his steel gray hair. “Neither the cameras nor sensors have picked up any elevated levels of demon aura at the mines.”
“Maybe they gave up. Maybe there won’t be a rising,” I said with misplaced hope.
McGarrett cleared his throat. “Possible.” But I knew he doubted it. “We’ll expect the HowlSage to go right into town. It will venture into populated places until it’s banished. It feeds off sin, like a tick sucks blood from the back of a dog’s neck.”
“Thanks for the visual.”
He chuckled. “Yes, well.” He pointed to another screen.
His words “Until it’s banished,” hung in my mind like a storm cloud. Doubt crept in. He didn't think I was ready. That I was strong enough to defeat it quickly. That’s what he meant by “until.”
“Taylor, I’ve been part of many hunts, as the hunter and as support.” McGarrett’s green eyes were large, his graying eyebrows arching.
I knew the coming speech; I'd heard it every day since I became a hunter. It was the speech where he emphasized the importance of ‘The Sword’ and how the fight was as much spiritual as it was physical.
McGarrett cared for me; I knew he felt responsible for me now that both my parents were gone. But I couldn't take any more speeches. I'd begged McGarrett and Mr. Swigart to let me search the tunnels and find the new den, but they wouldn't let me. They said it was too dangerous. As if fighting a hairy wolf-like beast with razor fangs wasn't dangerous. I’d rather get it in its nest then after it rose with an appetite.
McGarrett clicked his tongue. “Taylor, are you listening? This is important. Why do you think I keep mentioning it?” he asked about his ‘The Sword’ speech.
Thankfully our conversation was interrupted by Mr. Swigart, who entered, Ike in tow. Mr. Swigart wore a white lab coat over the top of a thermal shirt that matched his light blue eyes. His coal black hair was slicked back and parted to the right. He wore squared silver wireframes. They weren't ordinary glasses. I sneaked a peek through them once, and the lenses were enhanced screens providing real-time data. For example, if he was working on an engine, the lenses came alive with labels for each part. Mr. Swigart could even reorder a part from a Society supply depot just by winking or pointing at the part.
Once though, a case of hood ornaments arrived, apparently something got in Mr. Swigart’s eye, and he’d blinked a dozen times while looking at the hood of McGarrett’s car. He updated the glasses ordering application to require that the word "confirm" be said to place the order.
“The J-Pak is ready,” Mr. Swigart said.
“I guess it’s time to train,” McGarrett said.
Mr. Swigart was a well-known inventor in the Society. He'd come up with a wide range of weapons, gear, applications, and chemical agents, including the glasses I just described. He and his wife chose Ashley Meadows as their home, and most of his work was first field tested here. That was a lot of what my dad did in between missions. They’d been here for at least fifteen years. Ike knew about his father’s occupation from when he was born.
“Taylor, you ready to fly?” McGarrett asked.
I nodded. “Of course.”
“I’ve also finished up a new neutralizing agent created specifically for the HowlSage,” Mr. Swigart said. “But we’ll have to wait to test that when you face the demon.”
HowlSagen were notoriously difficult to mask from the public's knowledge. That was half our job, keeping the demons’ physical presence hidden from the public.
Fortunately, HowlSagen were not a common occurrence, they rose once or twice a century at most. That was also a problem, because there was so little known about them. Even the Society archives were sparse on information about the demons. And most of the stories or articles related to them were not written by Society members, but instead by newspaper journalists retelling someone’s account of an encounter with a ‘werewolf,’ or a colonial farmer’s journal entry about a large beast stealing their livestock.
The J-Pak sat on a table in the laboratory portion of the workshop. Mr. Swigart and Ike worked on it for four months. My dad never had the chance to use it. I would be the first. Testing it made me a little nervous, but Mr. Swigart was the most thorough person I’d ever met. I was sure he’d run a million computer simulations on it and checked and rechecked his design and assembly.
“We’ll take it down to the lake to test,” McGarrett said. “No prying eyes.”
“And a safe place to crash,” I added.
McGarrett and Mr. Swigart gave off nervous laughs.
“Hitting the water at full speed would feel like concrete,” Ike said factually. “You’d break several bones and possibly die.”
The three of us stared at him, and Mr. Swigart squeezed his son’s shoulder with a sigh.
“Shall we?” Mr. Swigart asked and grabbed the J-Pak.
We piled into McGarrett’s old World War II army Jeep; a Willy’s MB, a point McGarrett made evident at each use. The J-Pak sat between Ike and me as the Jeep bounced down the narrow dirt road leading to Coal Chase Lake. ‘Private Property’ and ‘No Trespassing’ signs ringed the lake as did a series of remote sensors that warned McGarrett of unwanted visitors.
Fifteen minutes later and halfway through a war story, the Jeep rolled onto the rocky shore of the lake, sending a flock of mallard ducks into the air. They flew a few dozen yards over the lake and landed on one of the many small islands.
I slipped on a spare black coat I took from the command center, and Mr. Swigart hefted the pack onto my back and secured it. He ran over the J-Pak’s controls which were embedded on the backside of a pair of black gloves. Though it was my first time up, I didn't have the same anxiety of test flying the J-Pak as I did facing the HowlSage, even though both could easily kill me.
McGarrett handed me a black helmet with a chin strap and a pair of goggles that looked like they belonged to a World War I fighter pilot. I put on the goggles and information flashed across the lenses; modern tech with a 1917 look. The lens tech was exactly like Mr. Swigart’s. I slipped on the helmet last.
“There’s a mic in the chin strap, and ear piece in the right side of the helmet,” McGarrett said. “We’ll be in communication the whole time.”
“Ready?” Mr. Swigart asked as he stepped away.
McGarrett looked me over and grasped my shoulders. Ike scanned me, touching the components on the jet pack. I saw him double checking his tablet.
“Okay, son, it’s time.” I heard the words in my dad’s voice, but realized Mr. Swigart was talking to Ike.
What I would have given to have my dad there as I took on the HowlSage. Of course, if he was here, I wouldn’t be the hunter.
Ike backed away.
“Taylor, take it up slow,” McGarrett said.
I nodded and pressed a green triangle on the backside of my left glove. The two wings expanded from the pack. The triangle turned red. If I pressed it again, the wings would retract.
Both gloves had the exact same controls, but I was right handed, so I tended to rely on the controls on the back of the left glove. I pressed a green flame icon, and the J-Pak engines ignited in near silence.
“We have ignition,” Ike said aloud.
I slid my finger up a green flashing line, and the thrust of the engines increased. My body lifted slowly at first. The lift off was smooth and almost unnoticeable as I rose over McGarrett’s head.
“And launch,” Ike added.
Mr. Swigart gave two thumbs up.
My altitude and speed displayed on my goggle lenses. I increased the thrust and soon I was fifty feet above the ground; it was weird looking down at the Swigarts and McGarrett. I was higher than the nearest trees. I kicked my legs. Nothing, just air. So, this is what birds see when they soar overhead?
“More thrust before you try to fly forward,” Mr. Swigart’s voice squeaked through the earpiece in my helmet.
At fifty miles per hour, I leaned forward. The shore shifted under me and disappeared as I zipped above the lake. I was about three hundred feet in the air and nearing eighty miles per hour. This was freedom like I’d never felt before. Millions of people flew each year in airplanes, but this was different. I was exposed. I felt almost naked in the sky, with nothing holding me back or protecting me. The jealous grasp of gravity wanted to rip me back down to earth, but the jets fought on my behalf.
“Once you’re comfortable, make a wide turn,” Mr. Swigart said.
Flying was easier than I imagined. I turned in a full circle over the wide lake then zipped past McGarrett, Mr. Swigart, and Ike. My confidence grew with the long turn and the ease of the controls and navigation.
I turned again, and this time I twisted like a corkscrew, Kinley Peak, the sky, and Coal Chase Lake, all became a swirling blur as I spun. I straightened and pulled my head up to gain altitude. Momentary dizziness overcame my mind. I took a breath, and my heart pounded with a surge of adrenaline.
I maxed at one hundred miles per hour and five hundred feet altitude when McGarrett called me back down. I slowed and then straightened so that I was vertical. I dropped a bit too quickly and increased the thrusters to slow my descent. I hovered in mid-air for a moment just over everyone’s heads, then continued decreasing thrust and lowered to the rocky shore.
“Well done, Taylor,” said McGarrett as he helped remove my gear.
Mr. Swigart typed into a handheld device. “Yes, excellent. The J-Pak performed better than expected. You’re a natural pilot.”
“What did you expect?” I asked.
Caution hid behind Mr. Swigart’s eyes. “The turning was the spot that posed the highest danger, and you perfected that. Secondly landing, but again here you are. Well done!”
“Well let’s head to the gym for some sparring,” McGarrett said.
Part of me wanted to take a second flight, but I knew that would come soon enough. It was exhilarating to fly so freely, so unconstrained by an airplane’s fuselage.
After dinner, I went to my room with no intention of going to sleep yet. My mind was buzzing with the excitement left over from flying. To quiet my mind, I flopped down with an episode of my current graphic novel, The Howling of Hamburg, and waited for the tenth gong of the clock tower. I needed to do one last thing before I went into battle tomorrow. I donned a black fleece jacket and athletic pants and then tied up my sneakers. I slipped my sword into its sheath and strapped it to my waist.
The window was made of two sections filled with dozens of diamond-shaped panes. I pressed the window open at the center, and a cold breeze swept into my room carrying an eerie silence. The lights in the workshop were out, and the lawn was empty. I slipped out the window and down the five-story trellis.
Crouching, I crossed the front lawn, passed the fountain, then headed toward the workshop. I tapped in the passcode and entered. The lights went on automatically, and I spotted my target. The jet pack sat on the table of the lab, my flight gear was next to it. I grabbed the pack and gear and sneaked out the back door leading to the woods.
I planned to head to the lake, but I changed course for the basketball court. There were no branches overhead to get snagged on, and with near silent engines, no one would hear me. The night vision goggles were enhanced with thermal imaging, so my vision was nearly as good as in daytime.
A few minutes later, I was over the lake cruising at one hundred miles per hour and headed for the mines. The flight was smooth, and I landed inside a tall chain-link fence meant to keep trespassers out.
The mine entrance looked like a mouth waiting to swallow me. A large, steel barrier was permanently bent backward from some teenager and their truck, or my dad’s assailant.
I walked toward the hole and slid my sword from its sheath just in case. I wasn't there to fight, and I wasn't there to hunt. I was there to mourn my dad one last time.
“Dad, I know you’re not in these tunnels. I know you’re with Jesus in Heaven. I only wanted to see where you walked your last few steps,” I said aloud. It felt good to talk to my dad like he could hear me, even though I knew he couldn't. “I know you never expected me to wear your shoes so soon, but I am, and I’m going to make you proud. I’m going to banish the HowlSage, find the person that lured you into the tunnels, and then kill every SwampSagen I find.”
The chain-link fence rattled behind me, and I spun around to face the threat. My night vision flared from a flashlight.
“Taylor, I knew you’d come.”
I stared at my feet.
McGarrett pushed open the fence, the rusted lock long broken. “I know why you came. I even expected it. I’m here for the same reason.”
I lowered my sword.
McGarrett stepped past me. We stared at the tunnel entrance. “Your dad was a brave man and an excellent hunter.”
Silence. I felt tears welling in my eyes. I tried holding them back.
“I’m going to destroy it.”
“I know.” McGarrett put a hand on my shoulder. “I know.”
And then the tears broke free.
So begins the release of the first 15 chapters of HowlSage. These are still not 100% cleaned up and edited. But you're getting the first look at new content, new scenes, and even some expanded character roles. Enjoy and mostly comment what you think, or if you find a mistake, or have a question!
A bright green flash exploded across the screen accompanied by the sharp pang of metal. Then a cloak darted across the live feed.
“What is that thing?” I asked.
No one spoke.
“He can’t hear us,” Mr. Swigart said. “His earpiece is damaged.”
The image from my dad’s body camera jerked up and down. My dad’s labored breaths echoed over the speakers.
“Coordinates?” asked McGarrett.
“Last triangulation put him in tunnel K56, section 91,” Mr. Swigart said.
“If you can . . . me,” my dad said, the transmission cutting out. “I’m not . . . what . . . is . . . appears to . . . but I’ve not. . .”
The screen flashed as my dad deflected another strike.
Dad twisted, and the video bounced as he sparred. An unearthly screech sent shivers over me.
Dad backed away, his weapon before him. His opponent stood disarmed. Its image was grainy and cast in shadow. Its face remained hidden beneath a hood. The assailant bumped against the hewn rock wall behind it.
“What . . . you?” asked my dad.
A wheezy laugh filled the tunnel.
“Wh . . . are . . . y. . . called, demon?” Dad asked again.
Its teeth flashed a smile. They shone bright green through the night vision.
“Then . . . gone in the name—” the video feed jerked. A glimpse of a scaly arm and torso shot across the screen, and the camera went black.
“Dad!” I cried.
Gasping for air, my eyes burst open. My chest heaved. My white V-neck was soaked, and I wiped sweat from my forehead.
Embers crackled in the hearth. I’d fallen asleep in the blue wing-backed chair in my room. It wasn't the first time since my dad’s death that I’d had this nightmare. The memory of his last moments alive.
I rubbed away several tears. Don’t cry. You’re stronger than that.
I stared into the burning coals. A book laid open in my lap. I shoved it to the floor.
My stomach ached. My shoulders felt tense. Anxiety consumed me like a beast with cornered prey. My heart thumped. My mind felt numb, and it felt as though at any moment, I’d succumb and be forever mindless. The last two weeks were nothing but training, and now the Day of Rising was almost here.
After dinner, I went to my room to prepare. Not how you might think someone would get ready for a death-match-fight with a demon: sword practice, physical training, or test flying my jetpack. No, instead I read scripture. Scripture! I glanced at the Bible on the floor; it was my dad’s.
These stories were told to me all my life. Every year in Sunday school the teacher made the rounds: creation, the flood, Moses, Samson, David, and Goliath, etc. What did they expect me to learn now? This text was thousands of years old, and it wasn‘t changing today, or ever. A fact my trainer, McGarrett Riley, said should give comfort.
A piece of firewood popped. I could lose hours staring at the hypnotic dance of the flames. A trance might have been precisely what I needed to take my mind off of the nightmare. Off the helpless feeling that filled me.
A knock on my door ended hope of that.
“Taylor?” Ike asked.
“Come in.” I shifted lazily in the chair.
The door creaked. Ike’s footfalls were soft on the wood floor in his moccasin slippers. “Were you reading?”
“Naw.” I recalled the nightmare about my father. “Relaxing.”
Ike stood behind my chair. “I can’t sleep,” he said.
“I know the feeling.” Though our reasons were different, I couldn’t sleep because I was anxious; he couldn’t sleep because he was excited.
“I sketched a picture of it for you.” Ike handed me a drawing. “I drew it based on a description in that old journal we found: The HowlSage Haunting.”
I straightened as I looked at the grizzly, unsettling image in my hand.
“Have you read it yet?”
I paused guiltily. “No.”
“You should. You can learn from the mistakes the hunter mentioned in the journal. He was a veteran of twenty years before he got maimed.”
Ike meant well, but the fact that a twenty-year veteran got maimed despite his experience and training was what my mind focused on. I was not a veteran. I was hardly a trainee.
“If you’re going to bug me, at least bring good news.” My face flushed with frustration. As the words left my lips, I wanted to take them back. I wasn’t angry at Ike.
Without a word, his footsteps padded away and the door shut. I should have gone after Ike, but pride held me back. I pulled my knees to my chest and stared into the hearth. Scenes from the last few weeks’ crash course training flashed through my mind.
At my dad’s memorial, I overheard McGarrett talking to the head of our society, Sir Raven Grey. He had the title sir because the Queen of England knighted him.
McGarrett said, “He is the youngest hunter I have ever trained.” He seemed unsure of himself as he said it, as if asking Sir Grey to offer a different trainee to McGarrett instead of Taylor.
But Sir Grey replied, “We believe he is the youngest in all our history. But it is clear; Taylor is chosen. And you are the one to train him.”
McGarrett looked at me and then straightened when he realized I was listening to their conversation. He tried covering by calling me over for an introduction. It wasn't my youth as much as my lack of experience that put me at a disadvantage. And that’s what seemed most concerning to McGarrett at that moment.
The next day McGarrett started my formal training to become a demon hunter. He asked if I wanted to train. But a demon had just killed my father, and I wanted revenge, so there wasn’t much doubt that I would accept.
You see, the specific demon I was training to hunt wasn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill demon that stole candy and pinched babies to make them cry. No, a HowlSage was one of the deadliest, one of the most effective demons to walk the earthly realm. The HowlSage embodied the fierce qualities and abilities of a wolf, with the strength of ten men.
But none of that mattered. What mattered was getting revenge for my dad’s death. To banish the demon, and find out whoever summoned it, and make sure they could never do it again. We called that person the Cloak because that’s all we saw that night through my dad’s video feed: a dark figure in a dark cloak. Not much to go on, and we were already out of time.
The next full moon was in two days, October 3rd. HowlSagen, as was the plural form, rose only on the full moon before a full moon that occurred on Halloween. A full moon on Halloween was never a guarantee a HowlSage would rise, but with the increase in goblin activity at the old coal mine tunnels and the presence of the Cloak, a HowlSage rising was likely. My dad discovered the den for the HowlSage which the Cloak had built. The den had all the ceremonial items used to raise a HowlSage on the full moon. Before my dad could destroy it or tell us the den’s location, he was killed.
When we went back, his body was nowhere to be found. I still wasn’t over that. I didn't even have the chance to lay him to rest.
We searched for the HowlSage den, but it was moved. So we didn't know where the HowlSage would rise. The mines were extensive and peppered the mountain range that shadowed Ashley Meadows. And because I was still training, McGarrett wouldn't let me explore alone, stopping any chance of finding the new nest before the HowlSage rose.
I stared at Ike’s sketch, this was a HowlSage. This demon was what I would find and banish.
The Last Runner (Runners of Abra 1)
The five islands of Abra have always been home to Runners -- sent on missions by their owners. When Eric is conscripted as a Runner and discovers an incredible power, he must race against an evil Queen to rescue a mysterious girl who has power of her own.
Laura Martin has released her third book, it's not from the same world as Edge of Extinction (Remember #Dinosaurs) but it's equally as exciting and as inventive! Float is an inspiring story that helps us find the hero within, even when we feel like an outcast. A great story for all ages and for families to read aloud together.
From the Publisher:
From the critically acclaimed author of the Edge of Extinction series comes this fast-paced, action-packed, and heartfelt adventure about a group of kids with uncontrollable abilities, perfect for fans of Gordon Korman, Lisa McMann, and Dan Gutman!
Emerson can float…he just can’t do it very well.
His uncontrollable floating is his RISK factor, which means that he deals with Reoccurring Incidents of the Strange Kind. The last place Emerson wants to be is at a government-mandated summer camp for RISK kids like him, so he’s shocked when he actually starts having fun at camp—and he even makes some new friends.
But it’s not all canoeing and capture the flag at Camp Outlier. The summer of fun takes a serious turn when Emerson and his friends discover that one of their own is hiding a deadly secret that puts all of their lives in danger.
It’s up to the Red Maple boys to save themselves—and everyone like them.
Praise for Float:
“A fun, funny, and fast-paced summer camp romp full of pranks, plot-twists and goofy superpowers. Emerson’s adventures (and misadventures) teach us that the greatest power of all comes from the friends who push us to overcome our perceived limitations and make the most of every moment.”
- John David Anderson, author of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day
“Simply superb. Martin’s novel feels exactly like summer camp should; the antics of the boys and the friendships they develop will make readers wish they were roasting marshmallows in the woods with their best friends.”
“With lots of action, great dialogue, and plenty of humor, Martin’s style and tone are reminiscent of Gordon Korman and Dan Gutman.”- School Library Journal
“Martin conjures a sense of wonder and whimsy.”- Publishers Weekly
More from Laura Martin - DINOSAURS
Readers can make all the difference to an author's success. If you've read The Quest for Truth and enjoyed it, would you consider doing all or at least a few of the below items. Reviewing a book lets others know that they should invest their time and money it the book! I'm hoping to get The Quest for Truth books up to 500 reviews each. Would you help?
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This mountain is so inspiring. And today I'm working on the final revisions to Hope. Thanks God for the big dose of BEAUTY!
Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring Moving Target
Praise for the Elite Guardians Series
“A thrill ride from the first page until the last. Set aside some time, because you won’t want to put it down.”
--RT Book Reviews, 4½ stars, Top Pick
“With each new novel, Eason continues to get better. Always Watching is among her best.”
“A stellar beginning to what promises to be another terrific series from this inspirational author.”
“Lynette has written another fast-paced book--lace up your tennis shoes and grab a water bottle. It’s a race against death.”
--DiAnn Mills, author of Deadlock
“Readers will be looking forward to book #2 with a great deal of anticipation, which is exactly what happens when #1 is as good as this one.”
“Eason’s second Elite Guardians novel draws readers in with the mystery and warms their hearts with romance.”
In January, bestselling author Lynette Eason releases book three of the explosive Elite Guardians series that has readers hooked and asking for more. Eason’s heart-pounding suspense reaches new heights in Moving Target with a madman who has a dangerous game to play.
Quinn Holcombe’s friends throw him a surprise party—only Quinn doesn’t show up. They search and find little beyond evidence that Quinn and Maddy McKay just decided to take a long-overdue vacation. But it soon becomes apparent that they left against their will.
Maddy awakens in a cement room, dazed and confused as to where she is. It’s not long before she realizes that she has been captured by a madman, someone who chooses hunting humans as his method of revenge. Maddy faces the terrifying truth—if she doesn’t do something fast, she will become nothing more than helpless prey.
Maddy and Quinn are forced to run for their lives, hoping to find the killer before the next game begins. Because if they don’t win this game, they will lose their lives.
Continuing the Elite Guardians series, Eason hardly gives readers the time to catch their breaths before sweeping them away once again in this spellbinding suspense thriller. Readers will find themselves wracking their brains for answers and flipping furiously through pages in Eason’s newest novel.
Can you briefly describe your new novel?
Moving Target is a cross between Hunger Games and Survivor. At least that’s how it starts out.
What are some elements that you think need to be in every suspense novel?
Suspense! LOL. Conflict, a hero or a heroine or both, a goal, and someone who gets in the way of that goal (the villain). And, of course, a happy ending.
The Elite Guardians series is all about an all-female bodyguard agency. If you were in an all-female bodyguard agency, what would your special skills be?
Oh, this one took some thinking. I think reading body language. I’m really pretty good at it. LOL. I’m also a pretty good shot with a Glock 17 so . . .J
Where have you found the most inspiration for this series? Movies, books, music, etc.?
Lynette: I would say I’ve found the most inspiration simply from researching what bodyguards do, who they’re responsible for, and how they interact with their clients. Movies are always a good source of inspiration as well.
What faith message do you want people to take from Moving Target?
Lynette: Moving Target is about two people who have overcome so much in their past to get to where they presently are . . . and still have more to overcome. But it’s about seeing that God is in the small things. That he’s working in every aspect of our lives and is always waiting for reconciliation with those who desire it.
There is one more book coming in the Elite Guardians series. What can you tell us about this upcoming book?
Lynette: Chasing Secrets will release in the fall of 2017. It’s Haley’s story. She’s the last of the four bodyguard friends. I also introduce a new character, Steven Rothwell, who is Haley’s love interest—and the guy she allows to help her when it’s clear someone wants her dead.
Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice series, the Deadly Reunions series, and the Hidden Identity series, as well as Always Watching and Without Warning in the Elite Guardians series. She is the winner of an ACFW Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. She has a master’s degree in education from Converse College and lives in South Carolina. Learn more at www.lynetteeason.com.
Revell is a division of Baker Publishing Group. Each Revell publication reflects relevance, integrity, and excellence. For more information, please visit www.revellbooks.com.
Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring Ghost Heart
A brilliant transplant surgeon. A rogue organ broker. A ghost child.
And the legend that could destroy them all.
A brutal murder convinces surgeon Mia Kendall there’s more than she imagined to the mysterious spike in heart transplant rejections. Determined to find answers before she loses another patient, Mia gets sucked into a dangerous international medical web. With time running out for her youngest transplant recipient, Mia is forced to partner with a disillusioned ex-military pilot who flies brokered organs across East Africa. But searching for the truth will prove costly for the unlikely duo racing to stop a madman before he annihilates a rare and cursed bloodline.
From best-selling author Lisa Harris and award-winning author Lynne Gentry comes a chilling, hypnotic medical thriller that will take you from the suburbs of Cincinnati to the jungles of Africa.
"Ghost Heart delivers on every level! What a romantic, adventurous ride!!! This well-plotted action-packed thriller had me glued to the pages."
~Elizabeth Goddard, award winning author of Targeted for Murder
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for Ghost Heart?
Lisa: Just over a decade ago, a newspaper picture of a terrified albino caught Lynne’s attention. As she read about the horrors these fragile people face, she couldn’t believe such evil existed in the world. She called me because I live in Africa and asked me to find out if what she’d read was true.
To be honest, until Lynne wrote to me about the article she’d read, I’d never heard of these barbaric crimes. But after doing some further research, I discovered that what she’d read was true. Once we learned that the witch doctors use the pale skin and hair of these fragile people to make good luck charms and potions, we knew we had to tell their story.
Brock: True, many people from history have stories that have to be told. Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
Lynne: Dr. Mia Kendall is an American transplant surgeon who moves to Africa to find
herself in the surgical ward of a government hospital and in training health workers
in rural communities. She longs for a life purpose that goes beyond the lucrative
medical practice her father offered her. Both brilliant and beautiful, she fears the
senseless and ugly side of love, and hopes that giving her heart to the poor will be
Race Daniels left America to lose himself in Africa. An ex-military pilot, he wants to
get even with God, his country, and the medical community who failed his wife.
Smart and cocky, he justifies his transport of brokered organs because the dying are
being saved. But when this Midwestern son of a Nebraska farmer learns what’s
really in his organ transplant coolers, he will have a hard time forsaking his moral
Brock: Give us one fact about each main character that no one else knows.
Lisa: We made out some pretty extensive character profiles when we started the book. Here’s a couple that didn’t make it into the book. Race has a scar in his chin that he got in a bar room fight while in the Academy. As for Mia, she’s book smart brilliant, but not always common sense smart and is somewhat naïve about people.
Brock: Love working on character development. In three sentences, what is this book about?
Ghost Heart will take the reader on a death-defying adventure from the center of the American heartland to the treacherous African wilds. This glimpse into the potential for good or evil lurking beneath the surface of everyone's skin ends in a final confrontation which will either stop a madman or annihilate an entire people.
Brock: Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Lisa: Because we were co-writing this book, we did a lot of planning up front including an outline and in-depth character profiles. Then as we wrote the story, we continued to keep track and rework the storyline so it would come together in the end.
Brock: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Lynne: We wanted to explore the reality that no matter who we are or where we come from, beneath the color of our skin we are all alike. And I believe that’s something everyone can relate to.
Brock: Yes, we can. What is your favorite genre to write for?
Lisa: While Lynne has written a time travel series as well as contemporary small town series, I write romantic suspense which is definitely my favorite.
Brock: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
Lisa: We spent a lot of time researching everything from heart issues, to the black market organ trade, to the albino issues. So yes, lots of research—along with a lot of imagination of course!
Brock: How much leeway do you gives yourself with facts in a Historical Thriller?
Lynne: With this thriller, we tried to stay as accurate as we could with the facts. That’s why we did do so much research. So while something like this probably wouldn’t happen, it definitely could.
Brock: Where do you like to write?
Lynne: I have a cozy office, but when I need a change of pace, I love to sit outside. Especially, if I can find a place near the water.
Lisa: I don’t have an office, so I tend to move around with my lap top. I usually sit either at the dinning room table or in a comfy chair in my room.
Brock: Nice! What do you hope readers take away from the series?
Lynne: Beneath the color of our skin we are all alike. Because my novels always
speak to the intrinsic worth of each of us, I long for the day we can all learn to look
past outward appearances.
Lisa: In most of my suspense novels, I turn to real life events that affect our world
today. In highlighting things—like the issues facing albinos today, I hope that people
will step up and get involved in their own communities and make a difference.
Brock: In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
Lynne: I believe our faith is built in the dark, during times of foggy uncertainty when we cannot see what lies ahead. While not knowing the future can be terrifying, it has been in the valleys that I have felt God’s presence more than ever. I don’t have all the answers when it comes to faith, but I know God is using my struggles to make me into the person he had planned. Because I believe all of us are a work-in-progress, so to speak, I try to bring that hope to the struggling characters in my stories.
Lisa: My faith is always a part of the stories I write. And while it isn’t always overt, I often weave in issues I’m dealing with in real life.
Brock: Very true. Coke or Pepsi?
Lisa: Neither (I don’t drink soda)
Brock: Favorite season?
Lynne: I love fall. The smell of chili in the crock pot and a fire in the fireplace.
Lisa: We don’t have fall where I live in Mozambique, which means it primarily either really hot in the summer or almost perfect temperatures in the winter. So my favorite is definitely our winter.
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Lynne: Isa. 43 has sustained me on many occasions. Here’s my favorite snippet: “Behold, I am doing a new thing … making a way in the desert … streams in the wasteland so I can proclaim his praise.
Lisa: I love this reminder from 2 Corinthians 4:17 that says “ For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
Brock: Why did you feel that writing about the atrocities happening to albinos was a story that needed to be told?
Lynne: We both have a heart for those suffering prejudice and discrimination. People with albinism are not ghosts. They are human beings.
Lisa: And this issue goes far beyond the horrors facing albinos. All around the world people are discriminated against. Sometimes it’s for the color of their skin. Other times it’s for their faith or beliefs. But in the end, we are all human beings and we all bleed the same color.
Brock: How does co-writing a book differ from writing your own story?
Lynne: There is a creative give and take that makes the storytelling process more difficult, but in the end we believe also makes the story more powerful.
Lisa: This was the first time I’d ever done anything like this, but while it was challenging, it was also a huge blessing to me. It allowed us to each take our strengths and put them together, while also learning from each other.
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Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring Cardiac Event
Cardiologist Dr. Kirk Martin continually crosses swords with Dr. Cliff Hamilton, so he is surprised when Hamilton asks him to care for him after a heart attack. When he is ready for discharge, Hamilton is found dead in his hospital bed, and Martin is suspected of murdering him.
After another doctor is found shot to death, Martin’s girlfriend, nurse Janet Rush, reminds him to be careful because he may be next. Can he save his own life while searching for the identity of the real murderer?
“There is so much action in his latest release, with just the right amount of romance, it makes it hard to go on without finishing one more chapter.”
Romantic Times, 4 ½ stars, “Top Pick”
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
RLM: I was thinking about the various medical specialists who literally hold a patient’s life in their hands with certain procedures. One of these is the interventional cardiologist who performs cardiac catheterizations, inserts stents, uses balloons to dilate obstructed coronary arteries, etc. Then, as novelists do, I asked myself a question: “What would a cardiologist do if he had another doctor on the table, one with whom he had major differences? Would he be tempted to let something bad happen to them? And what if the patient died? Would the cardiologist be investigated as a murderer?” Once I came up with these questions and populated the story, I was off and running with this novel.
Brock: Yes, intriguing questions often inspire great book ideas. Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
RLM: The protagonist is Dr. Kirk Martin, and his girlfriend/near-fiancé is nurse Janet Rush. Martin crosses swords early in the story with Dr. Cliff Hamilton. We also meet nurse Anna Scott, who figures significantly in the plot, as well as the chief of staff, Dr. Ed Bardwell and a number of other characters. Each character depicts medical professionals and the behavior they might exhibit when faced with a given situation. I suppose their uniqueness lies in the fact that the reader need not suspend disbelief when they encounter their actions. This could have happened.
Brock: Give us one fact about each main character that no one else knows.
RLM: Dr. Kirk Martin has wanted to be a doctor since his teens, but he didn’t choose cardiology until he was a sophomore in med school. Nurse Janet Martin loves her work, but she longs for the day she can become a full-time wife and mother.
Brock: In three sentences, what is this book about?
RLM: How about one sentence? A doctor takes on the responsibility of caring for a colleague he doesn’t like, but when that colleague dies, the treating doctor is a suspect in his murder.
Brock: Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
RLM: I’ve always written “by the seat of my pants” so far as the flow of the story goes, but I start with an idea—a “hook” if you will. Then I populate the story, adding more characters as things develop. And I always have what I hope is a satisfying ending in mind, although I generally don’t know who the ultimate “bad guy” will be when I start writing.
Brock: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
RLM: Although people enjoy reading about the inner workings of a medical practice, there’s a lot here that’s applicable to how non-medical people handle problems as well.
Brock: What is your favorite genre to write for?
RLM: I’m not certain if what I write is suspense or a mystery or a thriller, but it will always be medical.
Brock: Where do you like to write?
RLM: Although some people take their laptops and write elsewhere (porch, living room, a coffee shop) I have an office in our home, and I do all my writing there.
Brock: Yes, sometimes changing your setting is the key to get your creative juices flowing. Are you a full-time or part-time author?
RLM: I’m not sure it’s possible to be a part-timer in this profession, because of the time necessary in marketing and writing the next book, but if there’s such a thing as a part-time author then I’m one.
Brock: I can understand that. How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
RLM: I usually can finish writing a novel in six to eight months. Novellas are shorter, but I find them harder to write, so they take about six months as well.
Brock: What is your "how I got published" story?
RLM: Although I wrote or edited a number of textbooks while practicing medicine, I had no ideas about writing outside that activity. But after the death of my first wife, I wanted to turn my journaling into a book to help those going through the same experience… but I had no idea how to do it. Finally, I attended a writer’s conference, where I not only acquired the knowledge to eventually write that non-fiction book (The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, which is still in print after a decade), but was challenged by a couple of authors to try my hand at fiction. After four years writing four novels that garnered forty rejections, I got my first contract for a novel. I’ve now had eleven novels and three novellas published, the most recent one being Cardiac Event.
Brock: What is the one author, living or dead, who you would co-write a book with and why?
RLM: I’d probably team up with the late Robert B. Parker, because he wrote clean, simple declarative sentences and kept the reader guessing until the end, both of them things I try to do as well.
Brock: Describe your feelings when you opened the box and saw the first published copies of your very first book?
Brock: Coke or Pepsi?
RLM: Dr Pepper (this is Texas)—when that’s not a choice, Coke.
Brock: Soft shell or hard shell tacos?
RLM: Soft shell.
Brock: Favorite place to vacation?
RLM: Although we’ve loved many places we’ve gone (especially the Black Forest of Germany overseas, North Carolina here in the US), lately I’ve found myself thinking, “There’s no place like home.”
Brock: Favorite season?
RLM: Spring (golf, baseball, moderate temperatures … need I say more?)
Brock: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
RLM: Mid-morning, I take a break for an energy drink, often blended with various fruits.
Brock: Favorite color?
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
RLM: Psalm 139, especially verse 4: “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all.”
Brock: A beautiful verse indeed! Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what are some examples?
RLM: No, I find myself getting involved in the music instead of writing, so I want quiet.
Brock: Yes, it can be distracting at times. What might our audience not know about you?
RLM: I played semi-pro baseball. (I could throw a curve ball but not hit one, so that career path was a dead end). And while in the Air Force I participated in a helicopter rescue, even though I’m afraid of heights.
Brock: If you weren’t a physician or a writer, what career path would you have followed?
RLM: In high school, I thought briefly about going to law school. I might have made a decent jurist, but the everyday practice of law probably wouldn’t work for me.
Author Website: http://rmabry.com and http://rmabry.blogspot.com
Author Facebook: http://facebook.com/rmabrybooks
Author Twitter: http://twitter.com/RichardMabry
Author Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/RichardMabry
Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring Second Chance Amish Bride
Caring for her late cousin's young kinder is Jessie Miller's duty—even if it means seeing their father again. Years ago, she thought Caleb King might be her husband—until he met her cousin and Jessie's dream was cut short. Laid up with a broken leg and a demanding dairy farm, Caleb needs her.
But Caleb wants no woman around…and not reminder of the wife who abandoned her family before her death. Especially since he fears Jessie will throw a wrench in his plan to remain a single dad. She's gentle and kind, and if Caleb isn't careful, she may be just what his little Amish family needs.
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for this series?
Marta: I really wanted to do a series of books about siblings who had all been affected by a single traumatic event in their family. It turned out to be the three King brothers, and I loved exploring the different ways each of them had reacted and how each of them found love and hope for the future.
Brock: Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
Marta: Jessie Miller is a single Amish woman who has given up the expectation of love for herself but who finds contentment in helping others, including her nieces and nephews. She is gentle and loving but also very firm in her belief as to what's right for the children in her care, even when her belief runs counter to their father's opinions. Caleb King has reacted to the abandonment of first his mother and then his wife by distrusting women, and he's convinced he can raise his two young children on his own. But when disaster strikes he's forced to accept the help he doesn't want, and in doing so, he begins to learn that only through forgiving the past can he find the future he wants for his family.
Brock: Give us one fact about each main character that no one else knows.
Marta: Jessie cherishes the memory of a single afternoon spent with Caleb, more than half in love with him before she realizes he only has eyes for her cousin. Caleb can never let anyone know that beneath his anger and lack of forgiveness for the wife who deserted him and their children, he harbors the deep guilt that it might have been his fault.
Brock: In three words, what is this book about?
Marta: How about three phrases? This book is about forgiving the wrongs of the past, learning to trust God in the present, and gaining hope for a brighter future.
Brock: Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Marta: The very idea of letting the characters take control makes me nervous. I always plan my stories in advance, but I leave enough freedom to take advantage of the serendipitous scenes that seem to pop up when I'm writing.
Brock: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Marta: I think most of us who have lived for a few years have experienced being let down by someone we love, and most of us have felt guilty about things left undone and wrong choices made. If it speaks to a few people who are struggling with these problems, then I'll have done what I set out to do.
Brock: What is your favorite genre to write for?
Marta: Since I write both romance and suspense, my favorite genre varies. When I'm in the midst of accounting for all the clues, secrets, and hidden motives of a suspense plot, I tend to think longingly of the more character-driven romances. And when I'm writing my way through the middle of a romance and trying to find new ways of making emotion come alive, I get lots of ideas for suspense! I guess a writer is never really satisfied!
Brock: How many books are planned for this series?
Marta: The Brides of Lost Creek series is planned for three books, although there may be other stories in the future that take place in Lost Creek.
Brock: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
Marta: Writing about the Amish always takes research, but since I have known Plain People for most of my life, much of the research has already been done. Even so, questions often come up in a particular book that send me off on a search for an answer.
Brock: How do you strike the right balance in your book?
Marta: I try to thread the romantic relationship in my books with the protagonist's inner and spiritual issues. I find that one will influence the other, sometimes in ways I don't expect, or perhaps a moment of understanding in one relationship will become reflected in the main romance plot.
Brock: Why did you choose to focus on a male protagonist?
Marta: In this particular series, I give fairly equal weight to the male and female protagonists, but I began this story with the hero, because he is the one with the critical problem that kicks off the action of the story.
Brock: Yeah, makes sense. Are you working on the next book in The Brides of Lost Creek series?
Marta: I have already written the second book in the series, although we're still discussing possible titles. I typically alternate between writing a romance and writing a suspense.
Brock: Can you give us a hint at the next book in the series?
Marta: The next book in the series is about Daniel, the brother of the hero in the first book. All three brothers were greatly affected by the fact that their mother deserted the family when they were young, and so each story shows how a particular brother comes to a resolution of that past relationship.
Brock: Do you plot or outline the entire series before you begin writing, or do your books take on lives of their own? Or is there a combination?
Marta: When I begin a series, I typically sketch out the general opening situation of each book, since I want to be sure I haven't repeated myself in any way. The books are connected through the characters and the setting, and so I need to have a good handle of those characters as they are presented in each book. Then I begin with the first book and write a detailed synopsis of that story.
Brock: How much leeway do you gives yourself with facts in a Historical Romance?
Marta: Since I'm writing Amish fiction set in Pennsylvania, I work very hard to be sure that every custom or event I'm describing is accurate to a Pennsylvania Amish community. The fact that some traditions and customs vary from one church district to another gives me a certain amount of leeway in deciding what those are for my fictional community.
Brock: Where do you like to write?
Marta: My family knows that I can write anywhere, at any time. In the car, sitting at the airport waiting for a flight, on vacation…wherever. I learned that when I started writing while my kids were young, and I had to write while waiting for kids to finish rehearsals, practices, lessons, etc. It was good training, but my favorite spot is in my recliner with a laptop in front of me and a hot cup of Earl Grey tea on the table next to me.
Brock: Are you a full-time or part-time writer?
Marta: Full-time, in the sense that I don't now have another job. However, I do try to pace myself, so that I always have time for grandkids, church work, and fun with my husband.
Brock: Yep. As authors, we have to keep adjusting writing to our lifestyles. And that brings us to our next question. How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
Marta: I usually plan on three months for a shorter book and four months for a longer one. However, life happens, and sometimes the schedule becomes skewed. I find that working steadily, even for a short time each day, keeps my mind in the book, so that I'm never really away from it.
Brock: What is your "how I got published" story?
Marta: I had long wanted to write, but I finally started actively trying to be published when I was working as a Director of Christian Education. I read so many of the short children's stories that were published to illustrate a Biblical theme that I began to wonder if I could do that, so I tried. To my considerable surprise, my first story sold on its third excursion into the world. I earned the magnificent amount of $16, and after that, there was no turning back. I owe a great deal to that first sale to Story Friends magazine!
Brock: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
Marta: When I was a child I read anything and everything, especially all the Nancy Drew books, but the book that stayed with me to be read and re-read was Little Women. Everything about it touched me emotionally, and I still love it.
Brock: In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
Marta: I have always, from those first children's stories for Sunday School magazines, had a spiritual truth that was at the heart of each story. Even when the story is not openly inspirational, that germ of truth is a part of it.
Brock: Love it when God works through your writing like that. Amazing, truly amazing! Favorite place to vacation?
Marta: I love to travel, but the place that is most relaxing for a vacation is at the beach. Or on a cruise ship!
Brock: Nice! Sounds fun! Favorite season?
Marta: Spring. I love watching the appearance of each sign of spring from the earliest bulbs through the perennials.
Brock: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
Marta: Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey tea and shortbread cookies.
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Marta: Now we see in a glass darkly, but then we shall see face-to-face. Now we understand in part, then we shall understand fully, even as we are fully understood.
Brock: Favorite pasta dish?
Marta: I'm partial to my own homemade manicotti, although I'll happily eat anyone else's if offered.
Brock: What do you hope for your children and grandchildren?
Marta: That they grow to be loving individuals, reflecting Christ to everyone they encounter.
Brock: Certainly a wonderful goal to strive for. What's coming in the next year for you in publishing?
Marta: The next book in my romantic suspense series will be out in November, and the next book in the Brides of Lost Creek series will be out in May, 2018. Also next year, the first seven of my Pleasant Valley Amish books will be re-released in mass market, so I hope they'll reach a brand new audience.
Interview by Ashley Eastman
Featuring Fatal Mistake
Each day could be her last…
Tara Parrish is the only person ever to survive an attack by the Lone Wolf bomber. Scared and emotionally scarred by her near death, she goes into hiding with only one plan–to stay alive for another day. She knows he’s coming after her, and if he finds her, he will finish what he started.
But not if he can help it.
Agent Cal Riggins has had only one goal for the past six months–to save lives by ending the Lone Wolf’s bombing spree. To succeed, he needs the help of Tara Parrish, the one person who can lead them to the bomber. Cal puts his all into finding Tara, but once he locates her, he realizes if he can find her, the Lone Wolf can, too. He must protect Tara at all costs, and they’ll both need to resist the mutual attraction growing between them to focus on hunting down the bomber, because one wrong move could be fatal.
"Serial killers, romance and bombs, oh my! Fatal mistake is a thrill ride from page one. Hop on, strap in, and prepare to be entertained!"
- Lynette Eason - bestselling, award-winning author of the Elite Guardians series
Ashley: What was your inspiration for writing the White Knights series?
Susan: The White Knights series was born during the six weeks I spent with FBI agents at the FBI Citizen’s Academy. I saw the agent’s incredible hearts for helping others. I also saw how that heart for others motivated them and also how it took a toll on them. When things turn ugly and law enforcement professionals can no longer control the situation, making them unable to provide the needed help, they take it harder than most people.
I thought about how a group of agents on a special team that deploys to particularly difficult situations might behave if they couldn’t provide help. Then I wondered how being a Christian might impact their actions and knew I had to put their faith to a test. To challenge these agents, I had to find really BIG problems that they couldn’t simply use their tremendous skills and abilities to solve on their own. I wanted them to realize they couldn’t rely on their own strength and training, but must turn to God and each other for help, only then could they succeed on the job and in life.
Since the team is a Critical Incident Response Team, I needed to look at news headlines to see the type of incidents these agents might respond to. For Fatal Mistake I chose a serial bomber who has struck so many times and escaped capture that the agent in charge of the investigation has learned he can’t bring in the bomber on his own and the reader sees him struggle with this realization.
Ashley: Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
Susan: Tara Parrish is your everyday woman who is faced with an extraordinary challenge. At first she runs from the seemingly insurmountable problem, but then digs in and starts to fight back. I think this is how many of us first face a challenge, and that the reader can easily see themselves in her and can imagine being in her shoes.
Cal Riggins is an FBI agent whose past lost of a person close to him has left him driven with the need to protect others. In Fatal Mistake that pushes him beyond reasonable limits to find the Lone Wolf bomber. And when God doesn’t respond in Cal’s timing, he takes things into his own hands. I know I do this at times and I’m sure readers do, too, and can relate.
Ashley: Give us one fact about each main character that no one else knows.
Susan: Tara grew up on a farm. As a child she wanted to be a farmer just like her father. That ended when her parents were killed in crash.
Cal must live in Washington D.C. for his job, but he secretly wishes he could live in the boonies somewhere without any neighbors and lots of land surrounding his home.
Ashley: In three sentences, what is this book about?
Susan: How about three phrases? Serial killer. Terrifying bombs. Learning to trust God through it all, even when all seems lost.
Ashley: Sad truth right there. It seems like we trust God the most during tough trials in our life. Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Susan: Though I at first I didn’t use outlines, after writing a few suspense books with intricate details that needed to be kept track of and resolved, I decided I would spend a lot less time rewriting if I started to outline. So I created my first outline and have never looked back.
Ashley: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Susan: Well, hopefully none of the readers will ever experience a bomb, but they can identify with Cal and Tara as they struggle with trusting God and others. They both must learn to trust God and leave the outcome up to Him. And, isn’t that the core of faith and something we all struggle with at times?
Ashley: Sure is. What is your favorite genre to write for?
Susan: Suspense, particularly romantic suspense is my favorite genre to not only write but to read as well. I love the combination of fast paced action. The mental challenge of figuring out who the bad guy is and a healthy dose of romance combined with all of it.
Ashley: How many books are planned for this series?
Susan: There are six members of the White Knights team and each book features one of the team members so there is potential for six books.
Ashley: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
Susan: There was a tremendous amount of research required about bombs and FBI investigative procedures for this book. I found myself being very interested and yet terrified at what I discovered about bombs, as you can easily obtain items needed to create a bomb.
Ashley: How do you strike the right balance in your Romance Suspense book?
Susan: I try to balance romance and suspense equally. I have the riveting, move along at a fast pace suspense, then I slow it down with character issues and romance. It seems to balance quite well in my opinion and readers often confirm that for me.
Ashley: Are you working on the next book in the series?
Susan: The next book is called Kill Shot and it is completed and will release in February 2018
Ashley: Can you give us a hint at the next book in the series?
Susan: Sure. Here’s the back cover copy.
Some fears haunt you forever….
As the ballistics and weapon’s expert for the FBI’s special task force nicknamed the White Knights, Rick Cannon has known the Department of Defense was developing self-steering bullets. Rick feared these smart bullets–which have one hundred percent accuracy that can turn even a novice into a lethal sniper–would eventually end up in the hands of the wrong people. But since the ammunition was still in the development stage, he figured they had plenty of time before that happened. He was wrong. Dead wrong.
Until they become reality.
When a homeless vet is killed with a smart bullet, it’s clear that the ammunition has been stolen, and the Knights are called in to find the thief and stop the killings. But they aren’t the only ones desperate to find the killer. Therapist Olivia Dobbs is well known for her success in counseling military veterans with PTSD. When she discovers one of her clients moments after he is murdered, she becomes both the FBI’s prime witness, and suspect.
Despite the mutual attraction that immediately sparks between them, Rick can’t–no he won’t–let Olivia interfere with his investigation. But when the sniper trains his rifle on her, Rick must recall all the skills he learned as a Marine sniper to make sure the next bullet fired isn’t a kill shot that takes Olivia out.
Ashley: Were any scenes or characters cut from the book? Can you give an example?
Susan: I had a scene where Tara and Cal visit the FBI forensic lab in Quantico but had to cut it due to word count. In prep of writing authentic FBI stories, I attended my local FBI Citizen’s Academy and graduated in 2016. The academy was a combination of classroom lectures, firearms simulator, shooting hand and long guns at the FBI shooting range with agent instructors, and blowing up and disarming bombs with their bomb experts. I loved every minute of the academy and am still a member of the alumni group. I hope to visit FBI Headquarters in D.C. in December along with a visit to Quantico where FBI agents train.
This academy inspired me to not only write about my White Knights, but to share details with readers that are authentic and convey the incredible integrity, compassion, and caring that FBI agents possess. This scene accomplished all of that. I loved sharing details like the biovestibules that serve as airlocks to keep contamination to a minimum, and the sheer magnitude of the 500,000 square foot building with over 500 employees all devoted to crime scene analysis. I think this allowed me to convey the big job the FBI crime scene employees have to do and the cost of crime in our country. Who knows, maybe the scene will be resurrected and modified for another book in the White Knight series.
Ashley: Where do you like to write?
Susan: I have rheumatoid arthritis and I often have painful joints so I mostly write sitting in a comfy recliner to minimize the pain. I have a view out over our backyard and my garden, and I am a gardening fanatic, so that is a very inspiring view for me. Of course, at times the garden calls to me, and I can’t resist so I go out there when I should be writing. But these little trips out into God’s beautiful world also helps me work out story problems, too.
Ashley: Are you a full-time or part-time author/writer?
Susan: I am a full-time writer. I had six books release this past year. If I didn’t work full-time, that wouldn’t have been possible. It was barely possible as it was. So far, I only have two books and two novellas releasing in 2017, which is a much more manageable schedule.
Ashley: How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
Susan: After I have plotted the book and written a synopsis, which can take weeks, I can get the rough draft written for a trade-length book like Fatal Mistake in a month. But my rough drafts are very rough, and what then follows is months of editing. During this time I work on editing the book, then set it aside and come back to it several times so I see it with fresh eyes. So all in all, I’d say it takes about four months to complete the book.
Ashley: What do you hope readers take away from the White Knights series?
Susan: Hope and trust in God. Simple as that. No matter how bad life can seem there is always hope. My wish is that the characters’ struggles resonate with the reader, and they can see the characters work their way out of a problem and move into the light of hope by trusting in God. Then the reader can see anything is possible, and they, too, have reason to hope.
Ashley: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Susan: I always wanted to write a book but like many people today, I was too busy to sit down and do it. Then I was struck with a chronic illness, and I was forced to sit for long periods of time. A type A personality, I couldn’t sit and do nothing so I started writing. As the disease progressed, I had to quit my job and I had more and more time to write. Soon I was writing full time and actively pursuing publication.
Ashley: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
Susan: As a child I didn’t have a favorite book, but I can tell you the Nancy Drew mystery series was my all time favorite series to read. I couldn’t wait until the latest book came out.
Ashley: What are your hopes for your future as an author?
Susan: I hope to continually improve my craft and hope to continue writing for publication as long as I can. I love writing and am so blessed that God has given me the opportunity to have this career.
Ashley: In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
Susan: My faith impacts my writing in that it is so woven into who I am that it slips into my books without me even realizing it. I recently wrote my Agents Under Fire series which is a clean read series for the general market not the Christian market, and I discovered that I couldn’t write a single book without making my characters believers.
Ashley: Coke or Pepsi?
Susan: Neither. I can’t drink carbonated beverages so my choice of drink is water. Okay, fine, I do drink like a zillion cups of coffee in the morning.
Ashley: Soft shell or Hard Shell tacos?
Susan: Funny you should ask. I was a soft shell taco person all the way, but lately I had a craving for hard shells, and so we had them last week. It reminded me that when I was pregnant with my first daughter, I had such bad morning sickness that I was constantly sick. The only food I could keep down were tacos and they had to be hard shell tacos from Taco Bell.
Ashley: Favorite place to vacation?
Susan: Honestly, I haven’t had a vacation in years as we have spent every moment of free time the last two years remodeling our house, and I would vacation just about anywhere if given the opportunity.
Ashley: Favorite season?
Susan: Spring/early summer is my favorite time of year for two reasons. We live in rainy Oregon. It’s a beautiful area of the country because of all the rain, but almost daily rain from October to July is a bit much. So when spring arrives so do sunny days, which signal the beginning of gardening season. Over the winter, I spend days drooling over seed catalogues and pictures of my veggie garden from the prior year. Coming up with a new plant rotation, buying fertilizer and seeds, and dreaming of the veggies I’ll harvest. And then spring arrives and yes…finally, I can get outside in the sunshine and dig in the dirt and I am a happy girl!
Ashley: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
Susan: When I am struggling to get words on paper for a rough draft and my late afternoon slump arrives, peanut M&Ms provide much needed brain power. LOL
Ashley: Do you listen to music while you write? If so what are some examples?
Susan: I never used to listen to music when writing, but lately I found that it helps me concentrate. Right now I often listen to oldies like Art Garfunkle’s Breakaway album or the Best of Bread.
Ashley: Is there anything about yourself that might surprise your readers?
Susan: 1. I once recorded radio commercials for a company I used to work for. It was so odd hearing my voice on the radio.
2. I once raced a turtle. I grew up in Turtle Lake where we held annual turtle races so it doesn’t seem as odd as it sounds, right?
3. I used to play trumpet. Not only in high school and college, but as an adult I also I played at church for years.
Ashley: How you create characters and are they are based on people you know?
Susan: Characters aren’t based on people I know, per se, but are from a lifetime of watching and studying people. I have a degree in psychology and have always been fascinated with what makes people do what they do, so putting together character traits to form a unique and complex person is really enjoyable for me.
Author: Evan Angler
Series Title: The Swipe Series
Readability Age Range: Recommended for grade 6 and up for content
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Year Published: 2012
Would you rather take a single oath of allegiance to your government or disregard the pledge and fall into a life of poverty and neglect? It seems like a simple decision, right? That’s the choice Logan Langly and all other Americans have to make on their 13th birthday. If Logan was any other twelve year-old on the dawn of his thirteenth birthday, he would be excited to finally receive his mark and begin his true journey into life, but Logan has one issue: when his sister Lily went to receive her mark, she never returned. Aside from his fear of turning out like his sister, Logan becomes nervous for a different reason: he discovers he is being watched. As the new school year begins in the town of Spokie, Logan encounters Erin Arbitor, the daughter of a government agent for the Department of Marked Emergencies or DOME. Erin doesn’t like Spokie, and wants to leave as soon as possible. She discovers information about a markless man named Daniel Peck, who seemingly kidnaps 12 year olds before they can take the oath. His next target? Logan. In a series of events, they try to find Peck and turn him in. However, as time passes, Logan suspects that Peck is actually be trying to help him and that the system he grew up under may contains dark secrets.
The Swipe Series is written in a manner that makes you relate to the characters and their situations, almost as if the world we live in is heading in the same miserable direction. This book reminds you not to blindly follow your leaders, but to question what powers you allow your government, and to make sure to pay attention to the ever-changing world we live in. I enjoy Swipe each time I read it. There are some darker elements such as disrespect and prejudice. I found the series a unique take on the biblical end times, each installment edging closer and closer to Jesus’ return.
The Swipe Series is a fresh new take on Christian fiction. It has all the action and dystopian feel from current popular fiction, and if it was sitting on a shelf, you might not even see the difference between it and your average teen fiction. However, unlike most other teen series, it maintains the censorship and standards most parents desire for their young readers. I first read through the series when I was in middle school. It has all the action, plot twists and thrilling scenes to keep you up reading all night. Whether you’re looking for a good read to finish off the summer or just something to keep the kids occupied during a long car ride, this could be your next favorite series.
Christian Beliefs/Non-Christian Beliefs:
In an era dominated by apocalyptic fiction, there is one clear truth- The prophecies in Revelations will eventually come to light. The Swipe Series focuses on a world where corruption and socialism are accepted and the populace is being cruelly deceived into receiving what could be considered the mark of the beast. Aside from the frightening, realistic truths, remember that this is written for tweens and young teens and isn’t written to scare you into paranoia. It is a simple work of fiction to encourage and guide you to question the decisions you make so lightly, and to live in a way to prepare for Jesus’ return. It is a definitive reminder that we are in the world but certainly not of it.
In a dystopian future after a major war, the American government decides to consolidate society into two groups: those who are committed to following the new authorities, and those who become outcasts. The system is simple: on your thirteenth birthday, choose allegiance and be rewarded with social security along with the ability to pay for food and necessities. Those who pledge an oath of allegiance are given a mark to bear on their arm, this mark acts like an ID and credit card rolled up into one. With it, you can purchase groceries or check in at events, but without it, you lack the freedom to gather food or make a decent living.
With this new government comes some disrespect, from markless against the marked authorities and the reverse clearly seen as well.
Kids in a group playfully wrestle and punch each other sometimes aggressively.
Phrases like “Screw it up” or “Sucks” are used occasionally, some name calling “Tightwad; cheapskate; misers; stingy skinflints” etc. is thrown around. One character talks in a clearly prejudiced way against the markless.
Living under a Corrupt authority, The Christian Response to Non-Christian Leaders, Prejudice
There is some disrespect against some authorities including sneaking out at night. Erin hates Spokie and regrets her father’s choice to bring them there. Unsure of who he can trust, Logan becomes lonely/depressed in the midst of his paranoia.
Jesse is a Writing and Editing Major at a Small Christian College in Kansas where he is a freshman. In His Free Time, He Enjoys Reading, Writing and College Theater.
For many decades, stories of betrayal and blood have surrounded the mysterious land of Aragnar, a nation inhabited by winged warriors. A bloodthirsty king has taken the Aragnarian throne, and he is now coming to claim the rest of the world for himself... Aragnar amounts to little more than legend within a small village on Whitecliff island, but not for long. When Maria Fellbane's quiet life is interrupted by strange visitors, her destiny is forever altered as the stories of Aragnar come to life. As prophecy and war collide, will Maria be able to stand strong in her faith, or lose everything she loves?
I am excited to announce that I have signed a 2 book deal with Harvest Kids (Harvest House Publishers in Eugene, OR.) The first Daddy's Favorite Sound is co-written by my eldest daughter, Kinley. The firs book will release in hardback in March 2019! The second book is still to be determined, but is currently scheduled for March 2020!
I look forward to sharing more with you about this book and the progress as we take it from idea to storytime in your home.
Read more about the book HERE
I want to introduce Lindsay Cummings to you. She just broke into the publishing world with two separate series releasing in the same year. The Murder Complex (Greenwillow Books/Harpercollins) and The Balance Keepers (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins). The imprint of the second series is the same that published Veronica Roth and the blockbuster Divergent series. I came across Lindsay on facebook and was immediately intrigued by her outspoken faith to the generally secular publishing world in which she reviews and writes for. Her husband is a youth pastor and the two of them love Jesus and animals, but you'll read a bit more about both of those in the interview below. A savvy promoter, Lindsay has created a presence by reviewing books and coming up with a catchy brand called #BookNerdigans. You can even buy #BookNerdigans gear. Alright so without further delay let's get to the interview.
Brock: Lindsay thank you for discussing your writing journey with us and how your faith influences your writing.
Lindsay: Thanks so much for chatting with me! It’s really cool to be able to talk about my faith so openly in an interview, so I’m excited about this.
Brock: Lindsay would you introduce yourself to my readers.
Lindsay: The short answer, is that I’m a 23 year old author at HarperCollins, who lives in Texas and loves God. The long answer, which I like more, is that I’m a 23 year old author who only got to this place because God took me on a crazy journey, and when I finally opened up my eyes and paid attention to His voice, He lead me home. I live in Celina, TX with my husband Josh, who is a first-time Youth Pastor at LifeWay Church. I’m an animal lover, with dogs, a wolf, a draft horse, tons of chickens, and a hedgehog. I love singing worship music, reading far too much to be cool, and I love my God.
Brock: I like the long answer too. Lindsay, when did you feel called to be a writer?
Lindsay: I was always a writer, even as a kid. My dad wrote a book when I was younger, and I always wanted to be like him. I wrote little short stories all the time growing up, but the real honest writing started after I graduated high school, and got sick with Chronic Fatigue. It was about 2 1/2 years of surgeries and being bedridden, sometimes so weak I couldn’t get up off of the couch without someone helping me stand. Writing was an escape, a way to explore freedoms that my own weak body couldn’t give me at the time. I never wanted to be an author, not as a career. But God lead me here, and now, I don’t want to do anything else.
Brock: Amazing the journey and plan he has us on at times. I too never expected to be a published author. Tell us about your writing journey and the milestones along the way?
Lindsay: It started with the Chronic Fatigue, and simply writing to escape. But by the time I had finished my very first book (a terrible book, I might add), I realized that THIS was what I wanted to do with my life. It’s funny, all my life, I’ve bounced around to different hobbies (guitar, ice hockey, horses, hair styling, and so much more), but writing always stuck with me. When I finished my first book, I went to a writer’s conference in Dallas, called DFWcon. This is where my journey really begin, as I met my agent, Louise Fury. My first book that I pitched to her, she didn’t want. I kept her email address, and about 4 months later, after I had another new book, I took a shot and sent her an email. She was very enthusiastic about reading The Murder Complex, which is the series that, eventually, 3 years later, finally hit shelves in bookstores. It’s been a rough journey. I struggle with depression, exhaustion, and I worry too much. But God is always there to get me through to the next day.
Brock: Were there any amazing/miraculous doors God opened for you?
Lindsay: My agent is incredible, truly. She’s a South African spitfire of a woman, who knows how to sell a book :) I just adore her, and honestly, I feel like God plucked her out of the massive pile of agents and saved her just for me. She knows I worry and stress, and she knows how to calm me down. We got a lot of rejections for The Murder Complex when it was out on submission with publishers, but Louise continued to remind me that there was a plan. It would happen. We just didn’t know when. Eventually we got the book deal, and then another about a year later (with my children’s series, Balance Keepers), and I can see God’s hand in every step of the way. Sometimes, I imagine He’s up in Heaven, chuckling as He looks down at me while I stress and stress and stress. I imagine Him saying, “Lindsay, Child, I’ve got this. Just trust me!"
Brock: I have been reminded on more than one occasion that Go's always got me. He's always carrying me and His plan is perfect. Lindsay, how does your faith impact your writing? You are writing for a secular audience, so in what ways do you intertwine your faith into your work?
Lindsay: The books that I write are not Christian, but strangely, The Murder Complex is my own take on a dark science fiction version of Revelation. Balance Keepers is just a fun fantasy book that kids can enjoy. While I don’t write Christian fiction, I do try very hard to let people know that I’m a Believer. On my social media accounts, I’ll post pictures of my Bible. I’ll post a cool shot of a verse. I always try to mention, when I’m speaking, that God is the ultimate reason for my success. I want readers to know that it’s “cool” to be a Christian. You can still write dark scifi, and fantasy, and love God! I’ve been able to talk to some teens who aren’t Believers, but have taken an interest in it because of my posts…and honestly, that’s the coolest part of it all.
Brock: Our mission field is around us everyday in all we do. Colossians 3:17 says, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (ESV) What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Lindsay: I write full time from home, so I like to sleep in. Once I’m up, I snuggle with my giant German Shepherds for a while, and then I write for an hour or two. I give myself a break, maybe take a nap (I have to nap every day because of my energy levels), and then write a little more. I also try to read every single day. Reading great books inspires me to write great books.
Brock: Any particular habits while you write?
Lindsay: I can’t write with music unless it’s instrumental only! (Lately, the Mockingjay Part One Score has been lovely). I also like to be alone, with no distractions.
Brock: Tell us about your blogging/reviewing?
Lindsay: I started book blogging before I was picked up by my agent and then HarperCollins. I think it just helped me have a solid start to an online presence, and I was able to stay up to date on the newest books and trends in the industry.
Brock: Tells us about #Booknerdigans
Lindsay: #Booknerdigans is a silly hashtag I created a few years ago. It’s just for people to use, if they love books. I didn’t realize it was going to explode in a big way. It’s been fun to see people using it all over Twitter and Instagram. I also started a booknerdigans.com site, for some teens around the world to post their thoughts about new book releases.
Brock: What authors have influenced your writing if any?
Lindsay: I loved CS Lewis growing up. His fantasy worlds are so rich and alive. I also loved JK Rowling, and Suzanne Collins. While the latter two aren’t Christian writers, they’ve definitely got God-given talents for creating incredible stories.
Brock: Alright now we'll switch gears from author life to the books you've just released. First share about The Murder Complex series with us.
Lindsay: The Murder Complex takes place in the futuristic Florida Everglades, in a walled-in city called the Shallows, where the murder rate is higher than the birth rate. It’s a dark story, but there are patches of light littered throughout. There is also a prequel novella, The Fear Trials, that’s out in ebook format, and book 2, The Death Code, comes out in April 2015!
Brock: Who is The Murder Complex written for?
Lindsay: It’s Young Adult, which typically means high school to college, but honestly, I think it’s a series that everyone can enjoy.
Brock: Who are the main characters in The Murder Complex?
Lindsay: It focuses on Meadow Woodson, a 16-year-old girl whose father has trained her to kill to survive, and Zephyr James, a 17-year-old orphan, whose job is to clean the streets of carnage once the latest murders have happened.
Brock: What elements of your faith are woven into The Murder Complex?
Lindsay: It’s my take on Revelation—with a futuristic, assassin twist.
Brock: Is there anything you wish for your readers to take away from The Murder Complex?
Lindsay: I simply want readers to enjoy the book. I want them to be able to connect with the story, and just have fun with it. I wrote this first book while I was very sick, post-surgery, and writing it was therapeutic for me. If one person is struggling with the same type of thing, and my book helped them get through it…well, that would be pretty cool for me!
Brock: How many books are planned for The Murder Complex, and can you give us any insight on what to expect next.
Lindsay: The Death Code is book 2, and it has the same fast-paced, short chapters that alternate between Meadow and Zephyr. It’s a fun book. It took me about 7 drafts to get it right, so now that it’s done, I’m really excited for readers to get it in 2015.
Brock: Now you also have a Kids fiction series. Tell us about Balance Keepers.
Lindsay: Balance Keepers is a fantasy trilogy, about kids who go to school in the Core of the earth. From there, they learn to harness one unique set of special powers through a Tile necklace they each get. In the Core, they train to enter hidden Realms that, when they are out of Balance, threaten the surface world above.
Brock: Who is Balance Keepers written for?
Lindsay: Balance Keepers is considered Middle Grade, so upper elementary through middle school. But again, it’s a fun, light-hearted book that anyone can enjoy!
Brock: Who are the main characters in Balance Keepers?
Lindsay: Albert Flynn is an eleven-year-old boy whose parents are divorced. He goes to spend the summer with his dad in Herman, Wyoming, where he discovers the Core. Albert is fun as most boys his age are. He has a companion dog named Farnsworth, a magical dog that has glowing blue eyes! Albert is joined by Birdie Howell, a spitfire of a girl who’s whip smart, and Leroy Jones, a somewhat nerdy, scaredy-cat kid who is the comic relief in every chapter.
Brock: What elements of your faith are woven into the Balance Keepers series if any?
Lindsay: Not many—but when I do school visits, I’m not afraid to tell kids who I put my trust in!
Brock: Is there anything you wish for your readers to take away from Balance Keepers?
Lindsay: I just want them to have fun while they read it. I want them to smile and laugh. It’s such a fun series, and I feel like the books can just make people happy!
Brock: How many books are planned for Balance Keepers?
Lindsay: There are 3 books planned for Balance Keepers. Book 2 comes out September 2015.
Brock: I noticed your acknowledgements in the back of the books mention Jesus. Why did you feel it necessary to give Him credit?
Lindsay: I am nothing without God, and I want the world to know that.
Brock: Tell us all the amazing ways readers can find you and connect with you.
Lindsay: I’m on Twitter @authorlindsayc, Instagram @authorlindsaycummings, and www.lindsaycummingsbooks.com
Brock: Thank you Lindsay for introducing us to you and for giving us a look into your work.
Lindsay: Thanks for chatting with me! It’s great to be able to openly talk about my faith, and just let people know that God is the reason for it all. God bless you, and everyone else who reads this!
You can read more about Lindsay Cummings through her websites lindsaycummingsbooks.com and booknerdigans.com.
Her three released titles are:
The Murder Complex (Greenwillow Books/Harpercollins)
The Fear Trials (A Murder Complex Prequel Novella) (HarperTeen Impulse)
Balance Keepers: The Fires of Calderon (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins)
Where Bear? by Sophy Henn is a fun imaginative book that takes readers on a journey from one place to the next to find Bear a new home. My kids enjoyed the sometimes silly and sometimes practical places where Bear could live, yet he always said "No.". The little boy and Bear finally try a snowy location and discover it's exactly where Bear belongs. My kids were pleased to learn that Bear and the little boy stayed friends and were even headed off on another adventure together.
Elsie says, "The toy shop is so silly. I like the cave the most." Then she makes her voice into an echo, "No, no, no, no, no." You'll have to read the book to understand that last part.
An interview with Sophy Henn:
Brock: Sophy thanks for joining us for this interview. We're always excited to talk to authors and illustrators of the books we love.
Sophy: I am so pleased your kids enjoyed Where bear?, that really is the best thing to hear!
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for Where Bear?
Sophy: I was playing around with some acrylic paint and absentmindedly painted a white bear in a forest. He looked a little lost and confused, "Where was this bear supposed to be?" Then I scrabbled around in a note book where, among a lot of other nonsense, I had written down 'Where Bear' as it sounded nice. Bingo! The story started from there.
Brock: Are bears your favorite animal? If not what is?
Sophy: I love all animals, I really couldn't pick a favourite, though as my next book is about a Panda you could be forgiven for thinking I had a thing about bears. I have a dog called Buster and a huge soft spot for guinea pigs!
Brock: Will there be a second Where Bear book?
Sophy: I am not sure, never say never! But I wouldn't want to do one for the sake of it and the right story just hasn't popped into my head. Yet!
Brock: My kids loved your illustrations. What artistic technique did you use for Where Bear?Sophy: Your kids have excellent taste!!!! I hand draw everything using plain old pencils, then I scan it in and put it all together on my Mac. But whenever I get the chance I love to play around with inks, printmaking, paints, you never know what might come out of it!
Brock: If you'd like to learn about one of Sophy's techniques you can see an illustrated guide on The Guardian about drawing expressions, and it features a bear.
Brock: Thanks Sophy for all the great answers.
Sophy: Thanks again Brock, I really appreciate your interest in Where Bear? and look forward to reading your review!
Order Where Bear? Here
From the Publisher:
This beautifully illustrated, fun read-aloud picture book will have kids everywhere asking the same question: “Where, bear?”Once there was a bear cub who lived with a little boy. But over time the bear cub grew . . . and grew . . . and GREW! And did things that bears do . . . and do . . . and DO! One day the boy looked at the bear and realized he was just too big and bearish to be living in a house. “I think it’s time we found you a new place to live where you can be bearish and big,” said the boy. “But where, bear?”So begins a delightful journey that reminds us that even when best friends are apart, they always stay together.
Praise for WHERE BEAR?:
* “[N]othing short of magnificent. Each page is absolutely charming and begs to be looked at again and again.”–Library Media Connection, starred review“[A] winsome debut . . . The catchy refrain, ‘Then where, bear?,’and Henn’s sophisticated matte-toned illustrations make for a zippy take on the ‘finding your place’ genre.”–New York Times Book Review“This gentle tale about friendship and home will give early readers and their grown-ups plenty of food for discussion.”–Kirkus Reviews“Simple illustrations in bold colors allow the bear’s repertoire of expressions — chagrin, boredom, and terror — to take center stage.”–Boston Globe“[C]hildren will gravitate to the rhythmic repetition and the graphic design. A notable debut.”–Booklist
Henry Finds His Word by Lindsay Ward was a fun read for my littlest one and as a parent it was ridiculously relatable; especially in the moment Henry finds his last word. With fun vibrant illustrations and a quick easy to read story, it makes a great read for your youngest listeners in the family. In our house Waverly is doing exactly what Henry does on the final page of the book. It's all about "MAMA!"
When I asked Waverly what she thought of the book, she simply said, "Mama! Mama! Mama!." I think that says it all.
From the Publisher:
New moms and their babies will love watching Henry say his first word
Baby Henry is under a lot of pressure to say his first word. His parents are all excited about what it will be, but Henry doesn’t see what the big deal is. He says things all the time like “bbbghsh” and “boop,” but no one seems to understand what he means. So, Henry decides that he better start searching for a word. Luckily, just when he needs it most, his first word comes looking for him.This picture book about learning to talk is the perfect gift for new parents and big brothers and sisters. Watching Henry hit this developmental milestone is a treat, and new moms will melt when they find out what Henry’s first word is.Order Here
In his retelling of the classic story Chicken Little, Robert Byrd gives a new triumphant twist to the story. Brave Chicken Little stays true to the story's characters and beginning, but takes us to a happier resolution that children will appreciate. In this richly illustrated version, the villain; Foxy Loxy, is defeated and our heroes (albeit not the wisest at first) escape to the tell the King the sky is falling. Your kids will enjoy hearing the story and meeting the large cast of characters along Chicken Little's way. They'll wonder what will happen when Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Turkey Lurkey, Piggy Wiggy, Rabbit Babbit, Natty Ratty, Froggy Woggy, and Roly and Poly Moley are trapped by Foxy Loxy, but will celebrate when the family of foxes is outfoxed by brave Chicken Little. It's nice to read an optimistic outcome to your kids that still teaches a great lesson.
Brock: It's my pleasure to have Robert Byrd here to answer a few questions about Brave Chicken Little. Robert, why did you decide to retell the story of Chicken Little?
Robert: I always liked the story of Chicken Little, and the sky falling, and how foolish all the animals seemed, but I felt the traditional telling of the tale didn't really go anywhere.
Brock: Is that why you added a more positive hopeful ending to the story?
Robert: In some versions the fox eats everybody and in others the king's dogs chase the fox away, and in others nothing really happens at the end. I thought the story could be told with Chicken Little - a very small animal - out-foxing the fox. Chicken Little is sort of a hero while all of the others are rather useless in a bad situation. I also liked the idea of introducing new characters into the story.
Brock: My kids loved your illustrations. What artistic techniques did you use for Brave Chicken Little?
Robert: I work with ink line drawn over pencil line, and then washes and layers of watercolor, on Arches water color paper. Thanks so much for your interest in my work. You can see more of what I do at Robert Byrd Art
Brock: Thanks Robert for answering our questions.
From the Publisher:
Could it be? A piece of the sky!
Chicken Little and his friends run, run, run to tell the king. Nothing stands in the way except…the sly Foxy Loxy. Surely they have time to stop for lunch with Foxy and his kits. But what happens when Chicken Little and company find themselves on the menu?
What this classic story needs is a new ending and a brave hero. And maybe this time, it’s Chicken Little!
Cleverly retold and exquisitely illustrated by Robert Byrd, Brave Chicken Little transforms a cautionary fable into a tale of triumph.
Praise for BRAVE CHICKEN LITTLE:
“Byrd’s rewrite of the Chicken Little story is a distinct improvement on traditional versions…pen-and-ink spreads drawn with a sense of lyricism [are] pleasantly at odds with the slapstick prose.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review“So much attention and detail has been lavished on each flora and fauna enhanced spread that children will want repeat viewings. That will give them more time to catch the humor that can be broad (CL cellar escape) or subtle (the range of expressions on the animals’ faces).” – Booklist, starred review“This is the most fun version of Chicken Little since Paul Galdone’s Henny Penny (Seabury Press, 1968).” --Library Media Connection“A handsome, most welcome addition to the…literature of folk and fairy tales.” --Kirkus
“Byrd upends both the classic tale’s conventions and its cautionary message; still, his revision works as an underdog-makes-good story, much abetted by his elegantly detailed illustrations.” --Horn Book“Alliteration, occasional rhyming, and poetic language add richness to the storytelling and strengthen the readaloud potential.” --BCCB
Perfect for a Spring Day: A Review of When the Wind Blows and interview with Linda Booth Sweeney and Jana Christy
An adventure that rhymes along the way. The style and free flow of the wispy illustrations match the rhyming flowing poem of this book perfectly. A fun and beautifully illustrated edition to anyone's library for their kids, When the Wind Blows by Linda Booth Sweeney and Jana Christy will take you to a seaside village on an early spring day. The adventure of the little boy and his grandma, reminded me of my childhood outings with my Grandma Swigart and while we did not live by the sea, we did find ourselves at the lake feeding ducks and flying kites in our hometown park.
Brock: And now an interview with Linda Booth Sweeney. How did you come up with the idea for the poem When the Wind Blows?
Linda: When my oldest son Jack was two (he’s now 16!), we went out to run an errand. It was bright and sunny when we left, but as we headed back home, a storm came in and the wind blew, and blew. His stroller was literally blown off the side walk! Jack loved the whole thing and kept pointing out to me what he saw — the sign shaking so hard it looked like it would fall off the post, the awnings billowing and snapping, the puddles shimmering…I had my head down trying to get him home safely but his excitement was contagious! I joined him in his wide-eyed awe of the wind and found myself laughing and skipping home, and loving every minute of it. That’s how the first draft was born. I just wrote down all the things we noticed. And then from there, I began to fill it out and develop the rhyme.
I wrote the book, in part, invite children outside, to keenly observe the wind, or the rain and snow for that matter! My guide here is the poet Mary Oliver. Here are her ““Instructions for living a life”:
Tell about it.”
What happens when the winds blows? The snows flurry? The rains falls? I want kids to get out there and get there noses in it, and be amazed and tell about it.
Brock: What a great motivation to create this tale. Is spring time your favorite season?
Linda: It is definitely one of my favorites. Spring is all about renewal and rejuvenation. It’s about faith too. Faith that the purplish asparagus crowns will find their way through still icy April earth, and those little green daffodil shoots will once again appear. We had six major snow storms here in New England so it definitely tested our faith that Spring would finally come. Even this week (the first week of April), my iPhone showed snow flakes for this week’s weather forecast!
Brock: I'm in Colorado, so I know all about the constant sometimes unpredictable changes in the weather. What is your connection to the ocean?
Linda: I do love the ocean and would spend time every summer in Truro, Massachusetts with my family in a tiny, one-room cottage. I have to say though, the beauty of the ocean connection in this book is really Jana’s inspiration. You’ll have to ask her!
Brock: What advice would you give to a future poet?
Linda: Quiet down. Be fully present wherever you are. On the soccer field, in the woods, even in the grocery store. See what words emerge and then go home and write them down. Start with four lines and see how it feels. Then, if you get hooked, become a student of poetry. Read as much as you can. My favorite guidebook is by Mary Oliver’s “A Poetry Handbook”. And then read other’s poetry. Two of my favorite poetry picture books right now are “The Forest Has a Song” by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and “A Rock Can Be” by Laura Purdie Salas.
Brock: Thanks Linda for the wonderful answers!Order Here:
From the Publisher:
Spring weather can be exciting!
When wind chimes start singing and clouds race across the sky, one little guy knows just what to do—grab his kite!
But as the kite soars, the wind picks up even more, and soon he and his grandma are chasing the runaway kite into town. As they pass swirling leaves, bobbing boats, and flapping scarves, breezes become gusts and the sky darkens. Rain is on the way! Can they squeeze in one more adventure before the downpour?
Scenes rich with springtime details for little eyes to follow and lyrical verse that captures the changeable mood of the weather make this perfect for spring story times.
Praise for When the Wind Blows:
*“Electric colors evoke the kinetic energy that crackles before a storm and the irrepressible excitement a good squall brings out in young and old. … The book’s exhilarating verse [is] metronomic and as succinct as the heartbeat throbbing in the cold ears of a child racing back to his dry house… Gale-force gusts of invigorating artwork and imagery will leave readers breathless in windswept wonder.”–Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“The rhythm of the book seems to mimic the steady blow of the wind on each page. Young readers will enjoy following the story in the supporting gorgeous watercolor images as they watch the winds pick up speed.”–School Library Journal
“The rhymes are fresh and unpredictable, and the narrative maintains a crisp rhythm throughout. Christy’s illustrations align closely with the text, effectively capturing swirling winds, swinging signs, and swaying tree branches.”–Booklist
A quick easy read with rhyming like Dr. Suess. Doreen Cronin and Juana Medina's Smick will make your kids smile as they flip the pages and memorize the easy text of this picture book. "Smick is a quick slick read."
From the Publisher:
Smick is a BIG dog.
Chick is a little chick.
So what happens when they see a stick?
Written by New York Times bestselling author Doreen Cronin and ingeniously illustrated by newcomer Juana Medina, Smick is a story of unlikely friendship, a sense of adventure, and a lot of wonderful wordplay.
PRAISE FOR SMICK:
“Maximum fun.” --Booklist, starred review
“Less is definitely more in this fetching, fun-filled mix of dog, chick and stick, guaranteed to tickle all.” --Kirkus Reviews
SnoozeFest Won't Put You to Sleep: A Review of SnoozeFest and Interview with Samantha Berger and Kristyna Litten
This dad says, "SnoozeFest will be your next bedtime hit," though we read it before lunch. The imagery in SnoozeFest is fun and engaging, taking you into the town of Snoozeville where we meet Snuggleford Cuddlebun a rather sleepy sloth. Samantha Berger and Krstyna Litten have created a fun little world to visit that your kids will connect to. For example the names of all the blankets 'Knit-Knit and Woobee' (At our house we call blankie Foofie) and the fun animals who visit the NuzzleDome for the SnoozeFest. My girls sat on my lap as I read the fun rhyming prose of SnoozeFest accompanied by engaging beautiful art. They enjoyed looking at the artwork in detail, talking about the silly things they saw. We read the book twice back-to-back because they liked it so much. I recommend SnoozeFest to moms and dads looking for a fun read-aloud story. When I asked my kiddos what they thought of the book; Kinley said, "Really good. My favorite part was the cats in the pajama parade." Her sister Elsie agrees about the cats in pajamas (we love cats) but adds the book was, "Silly."
A quick and awesome interview with the author and artist:
Brock: Samantha, how did you come up with the idea for Snoozefest?
Samantha: Snoozefest combines 3 things I absolutely love: sloths, music, and SLEEPING! Once upon a time, I took a trip to Costa Rica and stayed at a sloth sanctuary that helps rescue sloths and baby sloths. I met a sloth named Buttercup and held her in my arms. Here is a photo:
[caption id="attachment_4233" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Samantha and Sloth[/caption]I couldn't believe how slowly sloths moved, and how expressive their faces were (*Just look at that FACE!) and how much they liked to SLEEP! I knew I wanted to write a book starring a sleepy sloth someday. And, I also love music!There are, all over the world, these HUGE music festivals, where tons of bands play, and people gather to listen to music for days. (Some of the famous ones in the United States are Coachella, Lollapalooza, Burning Man, and South by Southwest). That gave me the idea to have a great big music festival for the world's greatest sleepers. What would the audience do at that music festival? They would sleep through the whole thing! And who would love that festival MOST? A sloth! (and ME!) That is how Snoozefest was born.
Brock: That's a fun story. I'm going to have to put, 'holding a sloth,' on my list of things to do before I die. Tell us one thing about Snuggleford Cuddlebun that was not in the book?
Samantha: Snuggleford Cuddlebun has six sloth sisters and brothers. Their names are Yawna, Dozer, Sir Crashington, Snora, Restacio and Droolian. All of them are also too tired to wear pants.
Brock: That makes me laugh. What advice would you give to a kid who wants to become an author?
Kristyna: Yeah, I love drawing animals so it was great to draw all the animal families that would be going to the Snoozefest. I’m glad they liked the three little kittens. Those mischievous three are actually on a number of the pages, right from the point they are waiting for the bus through to the performances of all the great bands. Where most of the crowd are chilled and mellow, the cats are running wild. One of them is even emptying the contents of an onlooker’s handbag, and another is riding a sheep across the stage.
Brock: My girls loved that (the cats)! My oldest had me flipping pages back and forth, while she was laughing. I wish I had a video of it. She was going on about the silly little kittens. What was your favorite part of the book to illustrate?
Kristyna: I really loved doing the PJ Parade. I love fashion and drawing clothes so that was really my favourite spread to do. And I also love colourful patterns so I block printed and drew lots of patterns that could be used through the book. So they all came in particularly useful when I was colouring all the unique blankets animals would bring to the festival.
Brock: PJ Parade was certainly the winning spread at our house. What advice would you give to a kid who wants to become an illustrator?
Kristyna: Draw as often as you can and draw what you enjoy drawing, the more you draw for pleasure the more confident you’ll become in drawing new things and develop as an illustrator. I’m still learning every day.
Brock: Great advice Kristyna, I'm no artist, but I do love to doodle. Perhaps there is even hope for me someday. Thanks Samantha and Kristyna for taking the time to answer these questions. We learned a lot and I know my family looks forward to your next books, hopefully we'll meet Snuggleford Cuddlebun again.
From the Publisher:Bedtime story meets Coachella in this adorable book about a sloth who packs up his pajamas to attends an arena festival for nappers, dozers, and the very best sleepyheads. Snuggleford Cuddlebun is a champion sleeper. In fact, she’s such a good sleeper that she decides to go to Snoozefest, an arena festival that celebrates sleep. There, she lounges in her hammock while bands like the Nocturnal Nesters and the Quiet Quartet serenade the audience with lullabies. There’s warm milk and honey to be had, designer pajamas from Diane von Firstinbed, and no one dares be seen without a baby blanket. But before she knows it, the nuzzling, snuggling, and dreaming are over—and Snuggleford has slept through it all. This hilariously endearing bedtime story is perfect for anyone who loves sloths, music festivals, and/or cuddles. Order Here
Your phone won't work. Water isn't coming from the tap anymore. Your car won't move. Your refrigerator is warming up. The lights won't turn on. There's no radio or television. THERE'S NO POWER!
I couldn't put this book down![/caption]While browsing book covers (which always helps to inspire me) I came across The Rule of Three by Eric Walters. After reading the book synopsis I was drawn in. I originally read the book on my Kindle, but have since purchased a hardback copy to sit next to the just released hardback of Fight for Power, Book 2 in the series. The Rule of Three made me consider my preparedness in the event something catastrophic happens. I began running through a list of questions on how I would protect and provide for my family should our world, as we know it, come to a sudden stop. Yes there has been a lot of focus on this in the entertainment industry in recent years and I'm not talking about dystopian novels like The Hunger Games, Divergent, or Matched. I'm talking about near-time dystopian stories like the current TV show Revolution or Jericho from a few years back. Add these TV dramas to the craze of zombie movies like World War Z and shows like The Walking Dead (which I don't watch because zombies terrify me) and a reality show like Preppers and you have to stop and ask, "Am I ready if everything changes in the blink of an eye?" All with the exception of Preppers the above shows and books are fictional portrayals of what could be around the next minute of our lives and you might shrug off the possibility something could happen. But if you've been paying attention to the news you'll find plenty of real stories that make these realities just hours away from possible. For example a mutation of the Ebola virus that became airborne, a cyber attack on our nation's power grid, a biological, chemical, or nuclear terrorist attack by Al Qaeda or ISIS, the Russians deciding Ukraine isn't enough and they want or need all of Europe so they strike us with tactical nukes, maybe the Chinese with their vast military and small but capable nuclear arsenal are hankering for more resources and territory so they have to bump off their biggest competitor in the region; us, a solar flare that takes out or disrupts our power grid and communications network of towers and satellites. So now that you won't sleep tonight take a moment and read the interview I did with Eric Walters author of The Rule of Three.
Brock: Eric, first of all thank you for answering these questions about your book The Rule of Three. I found this book to be an amazing tale of a reality just moments away at any time. What was your inspiration or motivation behind writing The Rule of Three?
Eric: I’ve always liked science fiction and dystopic stories so I thought I’d try my hand at writing one.
Brock: Good answer. I tend to do that when I start thinking of new stories. I center in on what I myself enjoy reading. The title to the book actually has a meaning inside the story, what is "The rule of three?"
Eric: You can last three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food.
Brock: In your words and three sentences tell my readers what The Rule of Three is about?
Eric: An event robs the world of computers, electricity, transportation and communication. A neighborhood bands together to try to create a safe haven where they can survive. Other groups try to take their survival away.
Brock: Well described. Eric, how many books are planned for the series?
Eric: The second, Fight For Power, is out in January, and the third – which I just finished editing today – is called Will To Survive and comes out in January 2016. There could be a fourth – we’ll see!
Brock: A whole year? Yikes I'm not sure I can wait. And if there is a fourth book I'll really be in trouble. It's a bit of a conundrum, I want the story to keep going, but I don't want to wait that long to finish it. The setting for the story is a place anyone of us in a modern society could find ourselves living. To me that makes the story all the more chilling. Why did you choose to place your story in the now instead of the far future?
Eric: Most dystopic novels seem to involve some undefined time in the future, a place in space, or hinge on something bizarre like zombies. This story is more disturbing because it happens right now, right here. This is what would happen if suddenly the lights went down. This is what would actually happen.
Brock: You're absolutely right about the "now" being the secret sauce on making it more disturbing. Readers can't help but place themselves in Adam's shoes and consider what they would face. I’ve recently read several news articles about how vulnerable the United States power grid is to terrorism, both cyber and otherwise. Were these articles an influence on your writing, or your choosing of this topic?
Eric: I think we like to believe we’re too ‘civilized’ to allow a complete disintegration of society. I think the power failure on the East Coast in 2003 and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans showed how thin that veneer of civilization really is. There is a greater level of vulnerability that any of us would like to admit.
Brock: True, when we're faced with survival and protection of the very ones we love, we can feel helpless, which can make us desperate. How real do you think the threat to our power grid is?
Eric: I remember clearly the blackout of 2003. That was simply a cascading series of accidents that nobody tried to make happen. What if somebody deliberately overloaded the system through a cyber-attack?
Brock: And not only are there large sophisticated countries that don't like us, but there are terrorist organizations, and groups of hackers. If our countries (United States or Canada) went dark, do you believe that the governments would be unable to respond? Does the book reflect what you truly believe would happen in the aftermath?
Eric: If civilization crumbled the way the book describes than no government would be able to respond. The responders would be reduced to simply trying to protect their own families and would be robbed of the tools to respond – no transportation, no communication, no computers.
Brock: We rely so much on electricity. This winter our power went out for a couple of hours and our heat wouldn't work because our thermostat unit runs on power and doesn't have a battery backup. I think of water, if we didn't have power here in Colorado for our water plants to pump the water to us, we'd be without. Unlike where I lived in Illinois, water isn't abundant. Tell my readers about the characters in the series. Why did you choose to focus on a high school boy as your main character? What makes Adam special?
Eric: There’s an exciting dynamic involved with being that age. Those of us who are older can all remember that time of our lives – the excitement, the uncertainty and trying to figure out the future. Adam possesses a morality, a belief in doing the right thing even when things are desperate. It’s his inherent morality that drives the story.
Brock: Herb is a very interesting character, and one whose secrets I look forward to learning about in the rest of the series. Tell us about Herb and Adam’s relationship. How do you see their bond? Why would Herb choose someone like Adam to invest in?
Eric: I love Herb as a character. The ‘old man’ who is more than some guy who yells at you for being on his lawn. I see so much of this story as not only Herb using his skills and experience but also him seeking redemption, trying to make up for the things he’d done in his life. Herb will continue to be revealed through the next two books.
Brock: Tell us about Lori and why you chose to include her character in the books? Can you share one fact with us about Lori that’s not in the books?
Eric: Lori is strong. Her strength will be revealed more in the coming books. She’s a much better shot than Adam and saves him on one occasion.
Brock: Further I enjoyed the short e-novella, Nothing to Fear, you wrote about Lori and Adam. Why did you choose to focus on their relationship in the novella?
Eric: Even with the entire world falling to pieces there are some things that are even stronger. Despite everything going on it wouldn't change how they felt toward each other.
Brock: What sort of research did you have to do for The Rule of Three? For example using Chlorine tablets to purify water and ultralight flying.
Eric: I read books about surviving disaster, consulted with engineers, airplane pilots and preppers to help with the authenticity of my story.
Brock: Have you ever flown in an ultralight?
Eric: I would never get into an ultralight! Those things are terrifying!
Brock: You did a great job or putting a few comedic moments in the book as well as a budding romance. Why did you find these two elements important to include in the series?
Eric: I worked in a hospital E.R. for 18 years. Bizarre, strange humor seems to be a part of the most desperate situations. I thought the story needed humor to temper what the characters were going through and form a counter-point to action.
Brock: What can we expect in Fight for Power?
Eric: The action heats up as the world becomes more desperate.
Brock: Will we meet any new characters in Fight for Power?
Eric: A few new characters but mainly twists with existing characters.
Brock: What is your thought on the ‘phenomenon’ of prepping or those people who we refer to as ‘Preppers?’
Eric: I can see where they’re coming from. Writing this trilogy has made me more aware about the possibilities and the need to prepare. My family has talked about what we’d do in the event of an ‘incident’. We know where we’d meet and what we’d do. Does that make me paranoid or realistically prepared? I guess you have to decide.
Brock: Can you give us the top five items you would stock up on in preparation for an event like what occurs in your books?
Eric: I hope there’s no possibility . . . but it’s better to be prepared.
Brock: Eric, how has your faith impacted your writing?
Eric: It’s amazing how much my faith and beliefs have found their way into my writing. Looking back at my books I realize that I’ve actually written sermons into four different books and the concepts of faith and hope are constantly there. I never try to ‘hit somebody over the head’ with my beliefs but they are fairly solidly embedded in the thoughts, actions and beliefs of my characters. Even in a book like Shaken – built around the Haitian earthquake – my characters questioning faith is the foundation on which his faith is ultimately confirmed.
Brock: Have you embedded any spiritual themes within The Rule of Three?
Eric: In The Rule of Three the concept of morality, acting correctly and not allowing situational ethics to overwhelm a belief system.
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse and what is it?
Eric: I’m very much a follower of James. I believe that your actions are the definition of who you are. It may sound strange for a writer to say, but it doesn't matter what you say, it’s what you do, that matters. It isn't a Biblical quote but my favorite from St. Francis, "Preach the Gospel every day and if necessary use words."
Brock: Can you tell me a little about Creation of Hope. What is it? How did that come about?
Eric: This program was founded by my wife and I and a family in Kenya, Ruth and Henry. We were visiting Kikima, Kenya and found an area with 25,000 people including 500 orphans – many living on the streets, sleeping in garbage dumps, living and dying without care or support. We started with one orphan, which became 4, then 40 and now close to 400 orphans and impoverished children are being supported on a regular basis. We have 55 children in our residence and 42 children in residential high school or post-secondary with the rest being in the homes of extended family members. We have 118 sponsored children – with 15 of these sponsored by Kenyans – as well as sponsors in the U.S. and Germany. Last year we had over 100 schools involved and we promised schools that 100% of funds would go directly to service and we show them exactly how we spent their money. We believe in complete accountability and transparency and through the website we try to show each month how money is raised and spent. My wife and I spent close to 30 hours per week administering the program. It is a great deal of work, but more than that, it is a true blessing for us. We are practicing our faith through our actions.
Brock: It's heartwarming to know that other authors are using their time and talents to share the plight of the orphan as well as to highlight the needs of these impoverished nations. I myself work for a ministry called Compassion International. It's a wonderful Christ centered ministry that provides holistic development for children in poverty in 26 countries.
Eric: I know Compassion International and the high standards it maintains. God bless you for what you’re doing!
Brock: Eric thank you for your answers and for shedding more light on The Rule of Three and Fight for Power. And thank you for being open about your faith and for the amazing ministry you founded and are leading in Kenya. You can learn more about Eric Walters on his website EricWalters.net and Creation of Hope at CreationofHope.com.
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