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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 
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Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Revelation (Realms of Our Own) by Stanley Dixon


The Revelation (Realms of Our Own)
Sophie sees things that no one else can and has behaved very oddly after these episodes. Her parents and even she, herself fear for her sanity. After one of these episodes, however the truth is revealed.

The Guru's Review: 

All I can say is, 
"Stanley Dixon, what are you doing to me? You write well, drop me in an supernatural, spiritual warfare environment, the action flows, and then you leave me hanging wanting more!"
Seriously, this is one very good short! And his d├ębut story as well.  I am impressed! I hope Dixon has considered developing this further as this would really make a great series or full length novel and be an effective platform to further him as an author. 

As short as this short is, Dixon achieved a good plot structure that flowed well and kept you interested. A real page turner. This all added to the cliff hanger ending.

In an interview I facilitated with Dixon and the other authors of the Realms of Our Own (ROOO) anthology, that this short belongs to, he states the following about his experience writing this short and his debut experience, 
I really enjoyed this collaboration because it gave me a chance as an absolutely new author to work with established, published authors. I got to get at least one of my ideas out of my head and into a format that someone other than myself can enjoy it. One challenge I had was to use other characters in my work when some of them did not fit the initial story I had in mind. I had to stretch my creative muscles right away. This, I think, will make me a better author in the future.
Yes, Stanley Dixon, I feel it has made you a better author. I would love to see you submit another short for the next ROOO anthology. 

Highly Recommended. 


Thursday, 29 January 2015

Interview with the Authors of the Realms of Our Own Anthology Part 1


I discovered the anthology of Realms of Our Own (ROOO) through the Facebook group, Iron Sharpens Iron. This is a group
"for authors, would-be authors, or just fans of Christian speculative fiction to exchange ideas, brainstorm, and swap experience and advice about navigating the difficult road of being a Christian author in a predominantly secular genre." 
The only other anthology I have read is the Crossover Alliance Anthology, but in that anthology, it is stories that fit in the edgy Christian speculative fiction genre and are not related to each other in plot, characters, worlds, or time frame. When I read about the concept of what ROOO was, I found this to be very innovative, unique and was very curious to see how this worked. So I bought the first 7 books in the 10 book anthology (the remaining 3 to be published very soon) and have reviewed the first 5. It is from reading and reviewing these, that I felt it was worth exploring more about this concept and to see what the challenge was like for the authors involved. 

So instead of myself as interviewer asking the questions, I have let the authors be in the driver's seat and let them describe their experiences of being part of this unique anthology. In doing so, it will give potential readers the background and encouragement to check out this innovative concept. 

Part 2 of this Interview, will be published when the remaining 3 books are released within the next month or so. 

So grab a coffee, relax, and be transported into the imagination of these pioneering authors. Enjoy!

The Concept of the Realms of Our Own Anthology. 

Realms of Our Own (ROOO) was conceived as a unique spin on a popular genre. Collaborative anthologies in Speculative Fiction were truly popularized by Robert Asprin in his Thieves’ World series. The city of Sanctuary was created as a common setting, and a collection of Fantasy authors came together, created their own unique characters, and wrote short stories set in Sanctuary. These stories would occasionally feature characters submitted by other authors, although usually only in support or cameo roles. The success was far greater than anticipated as fans loved to see different aspects or viewpoints of the same characters viewed through the perspective of other, different Point Of View characters.

Others went on to emulate this model, such as George R.R. Martin’s Aces High,
 which was set in an alternative future New York City, after an alien engineered virus gave random mutations to humans, many of which became superhero-like (Aces) while others horribly twisted mutations (Jokers). The fact that this concept was not only extremely popular among Fantasy fans, but that it could cross genres within Speculative Fiction was the genesis behind the idea.

So the new “twist” in ROOO is that, rather than a single, unified setting with different characters interacting within it, the characters themselves would be the constant, while the stories, settings, and sometimes even embodiment of the characters themselves would be the variable. This will allow authors to truly use their creativity in creating unique stories, while stretching their imaginations as they figure out how to incorporate nine other characters into their story and setting. The only requirements is that each character must appear and be recognizable (preferably at least named) in each of the stories, but it is up to the individual author which characters will take the leading roles in their story, and which characters will be supporting or cameo characters. 

Click on the book cover, to read more about the book and buy from Amazon.com.


David G Johnson

Author of Time To Change.

Developed the Character of Molan Hawkins.

Wow, what can I say about ROOO? Honestly, you ever see those classic Sci-Fi B (or maybe C) movies where the mad scientist creates something that grows completely out of control? That's a bit how I feel about ROOO. I have LOVED collaborative anthologies ever since I first read Robert Asprin's Thieves' World. What a brilliant concept, a shared setting with each author writing their own characters and stories within those bounds. One day I got an idea. What if we took this to the next level and created characters, but all authors had to use the characters in their own worlds. The possibilities were staggering, but I had no idea how truly cool this would be.

ROOO was riddled with frustration for two years. How do we post it, how much do we charge, how do we all claim credit for the same book? That plus the limitations of self-publishing, royalty splitting, etc just brought it to a standstill. I was still sold on the idea, but was very frustrated at the inability to execute it. Then, it hit me. The stories are set in a multiverse, right? Well let's publish as a multiverse. We have each author publish their short story individually, charge the minimum Amazon will allow, and cross promote. It seemed to be the answer, and the idea of ROOO was resurrected and has become a reality.

What strikes me as the best thing about this project, now reading half the 10 stories already out and looking forward to the other half due out soon, is how unique and engaging the stories are. I was afraid people might get bored seeing the same characters over and over, but since each author "reimagines" the characters in their multiverse, and in their unique setting, it is not repetitive at all. It is like digging into a box of chocolates and waiting to discover what amazing filling is inside this one. You kind of know what is coming, yet are still surprised at the delicious new taste each time. Each author brings their unique flavor and imagination to different stories, and each author selects different characters as main and supporting cast, so you get a delicious mix in the end.

Honestly I am excited to see the remaining five stories in their final versions, but I also have already begun gathering authors and characters for ROOO2. I can't wait to do this again. This is without doubt the most unique and fun project I have ever gotten to work on, and seeing the results is worth every bit of the trouble we went through to get it done.


Jeremy Bullard 

Author of Rewind.

Developed the Character of Grayson Floyd.

For me, ROOO was a completely unique experience. I presumed that having so many characters pre-made for me would make the story-writing much easier, as with writing fan fiction, but in fact, the opposite was true.

When you write fan fiction, you do have pre-made characters, but you generally have had weeks or months to get to know the characters -- their personalities, their flaws, their quirks and strengths -- so even if you write a completely unique story involving them, the characters themselves remain roughly the same. You do have to craft the story a bit, but it can   till be incredibly organic.

Further, when a writer writes his own story from scratch, EVERYTHING -- each character and situation -- comes from within himself, so he has a front row seat with their development. It's even easier to disengage the mind and allow the story to write itself. Because the story and the characters come from you, it's totally your rules. You can go in ANY direction with your story (so long as it remains consistent), without restrictions.

But with ROOO, each writer had only one character that was actually theirs. The other nine were total strangers, so you're effectively writing a story about characters that even you as the author don't know! It made writing my story extremely difficult. Still, I considered it an amazing experience, and am eager to participate in the next round.



Kessie Carroll 

Author of Soul Thief.

Developed the Character of Indalrion "Indal" Tay. 

I signed up for the ROOO anthology on a whim, because I thought it sounded fun. I had assumed we'd be trading around two, maybe three characters. What do you mean, ten characters? I have to tell a coherent short story with ten characters? I wrote down all the characters and their profiles, and stared at them for a while. Then I grouped them into pairs that made sense to me--the wolf anthro and werewolf, the two tortured teens with second sight, the homeschooling mom and the weird kid, the shapeshifter and the autistic savant. That left the angel and the woman in the wheelchair--and as my mystery plot began to take shape, I found places for them, too. In the end, I think Soul Thief worked out satisfactorily, clocking in at 8000 words.



Parker J Cole

Author of Godforsaken.

Developed the Character of Natasha Genesis.

For Book Trailer go here: Godforsaken

My major works are in romance so what’s a romance writer trying to do, hanging out with the speculative fiction powerhouses?

Working on ROOO was an exercise I thoroughly enjoyed. My first love is speculative fiction, with an emphasis on horror and sci-fi (thanks Stephen King and Gene Roddenberry). I didn't discover romance till I was fourteen years old. So when this opportunity came, I wanted to see if I could blend all my loves into one story.

When we were presented with the characters, I had the toughest time working with these various people. A wolf, an angel, an AI, an assassin, just to name a few, had to be included. What was I going to do with them? It was a hard question to answer. Yet, after a while, it became a wonderful exercise as I molded them into what I wanted them to be.

The best part about this project has been reading the final product from the other authors in the series to see how your character faired. In one of the books, my character Natasha Genesis had her soul stolen. In another, she’s the underground connection for illegal activity. In still another, she works with outcast angels who left Satan to right the evil in the world. How cool is that to see your baby portrayed in different ways. 

The sky’s the limit to what we can do and I look forward to contributing to more.

Zerubbabel Emunah, www.onetorahforall.com

Author of A Time To Play.

Developed the Character of
Karyn Littleton.

I have been a writer/author for most of my life. However, this is the first time for me to venture into the realm of fantasy. It was a very fun challenge.

The reason I choose to get involved in this project is that I hope to one day write a novel. This project helped me put into perspective some of the challenges of doing that. While this short story is not anywhere near the length of a novel, it still had some of the same elements within it.

Probably the greatest frustration to me personally was the editing process. I lost track how many editors we went through. My story saw at least five editors, each one different in his/her approach, some of the later ones pointing out possible corrections that were the result of previous editing changes. Now if that doesn’t frustrate a person, I don’t know what would. I am used to working with proof readers/editors, so that was not really a difficulty here. It was the fact that they were not consistent.

My particular story is a challenging one, in that, in order to portray the particular message behind the story, it needed to be written in a style that is not common. Thus, most of the editors balked at the style, rather than to look at the possibility there was purpose in it. I saw no other way to write this particular story.

We had some great characters to work with in putting these stories together. I have noticed that the next ROOO project that the characters will be more restrictive in what one can change and not change. I personally thought that the characters in this first project were great, but if certain traits needed to be tweaked just ever so slightly, then the author should have been able to do that, as long as the character was still recognizable. What I would like to have seen would have been something along the lines of an author having the ability to change one major characteristic or two minor ones, if needed, but beyond that, all the details of the character stays the same. A lot of the details were left out on purpose, which was good. However, as an author, I felt that this one area of control over our stories was taken away from us, control over our characters. But then, that is just me.

The time element of this project was quite a challenge. Getting ten writers, who are naturally loners, to work together in a timely fashion was really something to be a part of. This project has been two years in the making. It was not supposed to take that long, but between changing editors, losing focus, and the monetary issues, it came close to not happening. Losing focus? Yes, at one point the focus was taken off of the ROOO project and placed upon a magazine, which I was not interested in doing. Every one became excited about the magazine and as a result the ROOO project suffered and fell by the wayside. At that point, I gave up and figured that this was one project that would never see the light of day. I still followed along, but my heart was not in it any longer. Then with the monetary issues, that all but killed it. But I was wrong, thankfully. I am really glad to see that it is being completed.

The greatest blessing I had in this project is that two of my sons are also in it. We had lots of fun sitting around talking about this project and still do. I had that unique situation in which I could discuss the project face to face with other collaborators. I hope one day that my sons and I can do a project together.

Would I do this again? No. Why? The logical perfectionist within me has taken a few hits along the way in this project and I am not interested in repeating those hits. Thus, I will let others play in this room. I do believe that it is a worthy project, a worthy idea to pursue. It is just not for me.


Stanley Dixon

Author of The Revelation

Developed the Character of 

Sophie "Sophie" Sanchez.

I really enjoyed this collaboration because it gave me a chance as an absolutely new author to work with established, published authors. I got to get at least one of my ideas out of my head and into a format that someone other than myself can enjoy it. One challenge I had was to use other characters in my work when some of them did not fit the initial story I had in mind. I had to stretch my creative muscles right away. This, I think, will make me a better author in the future.


MICHAEL CARNEY, 

Author of Then Again.

Developed the Character of Jesse.

For Book trailer go here: Then Again

For me, the Realms Of Our Own project was very much a case of right place, only just right time. I was approved to join the Iron Sharpening Iron Facebook Christian writers’ group mere hours before the deadline (to take part in the collaborative project) was due to expire, with one author slot left to fill. I had no idea that there was even a project on offer when I applied to join the group – but as soon as I was approved as a group member and went and had a look around the group posts, I discovered the ROOO project. Sudden decision time: it was a case of “act now or miss out”. I grabbed the chance, offered up as my character contribution Jesse (one of the supporting characters in my Outcast Angels series-in-development), and off we went.

CHALLENGES & OBSTACLES

I guess the biggest challenge for me was that before writing this story, I hadn’t written any fiction for around 25 years – and what I wrote back in those days was stage plays. I’ve been writing professionally (i.e. writing and getting paid for it) since I was 17, which is now forty-something years in the past. But most of that writing has been advertisements, brochures, newsletters, blogs and so on. These days, I write online training courses about topics such as Social Media, Mobile Marketing and eCommerce, all of which need constant updating, so I’m writing almost every day – I’m just not writing fiction.

I’ve authored two non-fiction books (three if you count a book I ghost-wrote) and I’ve been pondering a book series about my Outcast Angels for a couple of decades, but it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve actually been working on creating the Outcast Angels universe.

Writing novels and short stories is different from writing plays (doh!), particularly in terms of characterization (in the plays, I simply cast people who matched my mental image of each individual part) and setting (I have to describe things a little more fully than EXTERIOR: CASTLE). On the other hand, playwriting has given me a solid grasp of story structure, plotting and dialogue.

GETTING STARTED

The first challenge for me in terms of the story itself was shaping the diverse range of contributed characters so that they could coherently inhabit my alien-less universe. In line with the rules of engagement for ROOO, I was able to conveniently ignore any extraterrestrial backstory and attribute most individuals’ powers to genetic experimentation (radioactive spiders being unavailable). Perhaps the most significant constraint was the existence of a chronomancer, which effectively demanded that the manipulation of time be included in the storyline. I chose not to try and invent a scientific explanation for that ability.

Once I’d assembled the cast of characters, I then looked for some task that might tax their collective skills. I like working with existing historical facts and giving them a tweak, so I decided to set my story on Millennium Eve and then went Googling to see what happened on that day. I quickly stumbled across the early resignation of Boris Yeltsin and that provided fertile ground for my imagination. I tossed in various bits of backstory from my Outcast Angels world and the story began to assemble itself.

Once our stories were written, we authors were assigned partners with whom to swap manuscripts for a first sweep through the editing process. That part of the process seemed to go relatively smoothly, with the biggest casualty being several of the dashes that I usually sprinkle far too liberally through my writing. Many more dashes and ellipses gave their lives valiantly in subsequent editorial exterminations.

ON TAKING PART

I’ve loved every minute of being part of this project. My collaborators have shared some wonderful characters with me, the reviewers have been kind and the result is a finished story that I’m delighted to have created as the first step in bringing my Outcast Angels to the world.

THE FUTURE OF SUCH COLLABORATIONS

Is there a future for multi-author collaborations such as Realms Of Our Own?

Absolutely – but there are always practical considerations when assembling such collaborations. The fact that this first ROOO endeavor has proven as successful as it has is a real tribute to the creator/co-ordinator David G. Johnson. 

Conceptually, the idea of a shared cast of characters is a fabulous one. In practice, one is faced with issues such as:

Who chooses the participating authors, if there are more who wish to contribute than can be effectively accommodated? 

Do contributors have the necessary writing skills (and is each of a comparable standard)? 

Will the authors deliver on time, creative muses being notoriously tardy? 

If those types of issues can be satisfactorily addressed, then concepts such as ROOO should enjoy a glorious future.


Thank you all ROOO authors for allowing us to get an insight into what you faced in bringing this new type of anthology to life. It has given me, and I am sure our readers,  a greater appreciation of you as authors and a greater love for this new, unique and innovative type of anthology.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in the very near future. 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Then Again (Realms of Our Own) by Michael Carney



It's the last few minutes of Millennium Eve, December 31 1999. But whilst the rest of the world is celebrating, Outcast Angel Jesse and a ragtag bunch of genetically enhanced trainees are desperately trying to save a Russian politician from an unknown assassin. 

The crowd is counting down the last few seconds till the new millennium -- and then suddenly everything changes. What just happened, will it happen again and is there anything that Jesse and his team can do to prevent the assassination? 

THEN AGAIN is one of a collaborative series of short stories published under the collective banner REALMS OF OUR OWN. 

Realms Of Our Own is a new model in Science-Fiction anthologies, inviting each author to contribute a single character to be shared by all, reinvented by each contributor for use in a completely different universe. Ten authors, ten universes, ten core characters, one collaborative effort. 

This story, THEN AGAIN, features characters and concepts from the Outcast Angels series by Michael Carney. If you’d like to know more about the Outcast Angels series, please visit http://OutcastAngels.com.

The Guru's Review: 

Special ops meets the angelic meets time travel! Three of my favourite genres. Mix them together and you have one cohesive, fast paced thriller! I honestly felt that this was longer than it was and that is a great quality when you know it is a short story! If it felt like this as a short imagine the potential if this was a full length novel! I would love to see this. 

In this short, Carney was responsible to describe the character of Jesse. I have come to be very fond of Jesse from the other Realms of Our Own episodes but, because this one specifically focuses on him, I feel he comes into his own in this short. When I discovered that Carney has made him one of his Outcast Angels characters from his series of the same name, I was very pleased and also very intrigued with the concept of this series. Carney explains this concept in this short, 
Jesse and Ravid were angels who had been part of the Great Rebellion against God and had been sent into exile as a consequence. However, Jesse and Ravid and several hundred other exiles had subsequently repented and so had not joined Lucifer and his demon followers. This splinter group, who called themselves, Outcast Angels, chose instead to stand against evil wherever they could. The resulting guerilla warfare, former angels against angels-turned-demons, had continued over thousands of years and the Outcast Angels had suffered many causalities along the way. 
Because the Outcast Angels were so few in number compared with Lucifer's multitudes, Jesse had also recruited from the human population, encouraging them to join the secret organization he had created, the LOA. This group was named for the institution under whose guidance it was originally founded, the Library of Alexandria. Like its namesake, the LOA's primary purpose was information. However occasionally direct action was required, especially to combat the activities of subversive groups....To meet this need, the LOA had set up several rapid response teams around the world. 
If this short is an example of what his Outcast Angels stories are about, Carney has  gained a devoted fan. This concept really does grab me and I have subscribed to Carney's website http://outcastangels.com to be kept up to date on this series. 

Carney writes well and I can see that he is very thorough in the construction of this short. Plot flows well and keeps the reader's attention focussed. Plot is also well developed and I felt as if I was in the middle of a special ops, military type coup happening. Action and adventure, battle strategy, urgency and well controlled demeanour when things go pear shaped and the battle strategy has to change instantly. Jesse is depicted as having the respect of his team and comes across as a true leader. I find all this as strengths of this novel. Despite the ending being rather sudden, I still feel he wrapped it up well and I did not feel that I was left hanging as if it was unfinished. I really do want more of this short and especially of the Outcast Angels series. 

I really did love the roles and situations he placed all the other characters that are a part of all the other Realm of Our Own episodes. All well placed and well balanced. 

My only negative and it is a small one was that at first I did not understand why Carney had used the electronic device called aernote which used Morse code to allow Grayson Ford to communicate with his team seeing he was mute. My first thought was that why not just use the text messaging (SMS) function of a mobile phone? Then I researched this and it was after the year 2000 that text messaging really took off so in the time of this short, it was a relatively small percentage of mobile phone users who were using SMS. But despite this, Carney may just have decided to create his own device for this short well within the realms of poetic licence and his imagination. 

Highly Recommended. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Soul Thief (Realms of Our Own) by K.M. Carroll


Soul Thief (Realms Of Our Own)


Indal and Molon are private detectives in Phoenix, Arizona--except Indal is a chronomancer werewolf, and Molon is an anthropomorphic wolf. Together they make a great team, with Indal covering for Molon's wolf face with a variety of excuses. 

When they receive a strange email from an employee at Southvista software, claiming that his boss's soul has been stolen, they are plunged into a strange mystery involving supernatural powers and beings from other worlds. 

Now they must unravel the mystery, before the stolen soul is turned to nefarious uses by a ruthless criminal who will stop at nothing to accomplish his goals. Can Indal and Molon stop him, or will their wolfish natures get the better of them? 

This is a short story as part of a project between ten authors who each contribute a character, then write a story with all ten characters. The other stories in this series are available on Amazon under Realms Of Our Own.


The Guru's Review: 

This is the fourth book I have consecutively read this week from the Realms of Our Own Anthology and I must say that I have come to love seeing the same characters depicted in different settings, environments, and plots. At first, I thought I would not like it, but I have come to love this whole concept. Soul Thief only reinforces how well this concept works.  

I especially loved this short as it has two of my favourite characters, Molon and Indal as main characters working together as a team of detectives. They work well together and seem to compliment each other. They make quite the detective team. Interestingly, David G. Johnson, the author of Time for Change (Realms of Our Own), one of the other instalments, also depicted Molon team up with another character, Karyn, and they worked together well too in that short. 

I am really taken with the plot and I can see the potential for more episodes of Molon and Indal and their detective agency solving crimes, even those of the supernatural nature. As I have said about the other shorts, this would work well as a full length novel. I am encouraged that Carroll states at the end of the story that the original story of Indal can be found in Storm Chase (The Spacetime Legacy Book 1), of her Spacetime Legacy and continues in Chronocrime (The Spacetime Legacy Book 2) which is a young adult fantasy series. 

This is the first I have read of Carroll's works and she writes well. The plot of this one flows smoothly with the investigation of clues in logical order leading to a very satisfying ending. 

Highly Recommended.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Godforsaken (Realms of Our Own) by Parker J. Cole


Godforsaken (Realms of Our Own)


The prisoners of Godforsaken are fighting for survival. Trapped on a wandering planet run by a sadistic warden, they have no sun, no moon, only the terror of a flesh-eating menace and no way to escape. When a clerical error sends a new form of destruction their way, where will they find salvation?







The Guru's Review:

Should I compare these shorts with the other author's stories in this anthology? I don't know, but what is unique about this Realms Of Our Own anthology is that each story has the same characters and the author has poetic license to depict them as they are in different worlds, and plots and environments, called in this Anthology, a multiverse. But it is this very unique feature that I find myself doing just that, now that I have read Godforsaken. Without thinking I find myself, while reading this short from Parker J. Cole, that I have enjoyed this one better than the previous two. Is this fair seeing that I have not read the only other two that have been released (and 5 more yet to be released)? Not sure, but I can only base this on what I have read so far. 

This is the first work of Cole's that I have read and despite it being a short, I am very impressed with her writing, characterisation and plot development. This is one tight, well constructed short that grabbed me and kept me focussed and totally absorbed for the two sittings I had today (to and from work on public transport). This short really felt like it was the Surprise Me feature from the Look Inside function on Amazon for a full length novel. If this were true, then it  would be a no brainer to buy the full length novel. 

I felt that all the plot lines were treated with depth and detail. I was totally sympathetic to all the characters and the situations Cole placed them in. I learnt more about what makes Molon tick and behave, and what Natasha is capable of, the self sacrificing of Cathair, and his grief over the death of Weebles and the despair and urgency in motivation of Sophia to rescue those imprisoned on the Godforsaken planet. I even got annoyed and frustrated that Jesse was imprisoned in submission to Natasha and longed to see him free and to be able to be restored to his former glory. Despite Natasha being an evil and sadistic so and so, and I pitied her, despised her, but I really loved the romance between Molon and her. I am not a huge fan of the romance genre but when it is done properly it does engage me and I want more. Hint, hint, Parker J. Cole!! 

As I have said with the previous two shorts, Time for Change (Realms of Our Own) and Rewind (Realms Of Our Own), I would love to see this short developed into a full length novel. I would be the first to buy all three! 

This unique concept in Anthologies is very enjoyable and innovative and really does engage the reader. I feel it does showcase the author's skill when you do read them all consecutively. Now, you other five authors who have not published your work yet, get a move on, I am waiting to continue my enjoyment of this endeavour!

Highly Recommended

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Rewind (Realms Of Our Own Book 1) by Jeremy Bullard



An assassination gone wrong. An evil plot with horrific consequences. 

In a future where even people of virtue must live in the shadows, a ragtag group of mutants and miscreants may be all that stands between life-as-usual in the Unified American States and the untold horror of nuclear holocaust. 

But for them, there's something equally important at stake -- the lives of two of their own. 

Realms Of Our Own is a new model in Science-Fiction anthologies, inviting each author to contribute a single character to be shared by all, reinvented by each contributor for use in a completely different universe. Ten authors, ten universes, ten core characters, one collaborative effort. This short story, Rewind, is the ROOO Multiverse installment written by Jeremy Bullard, author of Gemworld, Book One in the Facets of Reality fantasy series. Other contributing authors are as follows (will update as they are published)..

The Guru's Review: 

This is the second book I have read in the Realms of Our Own Anthology and the first work from Jeremy Bullard. I like his writing style and this encourages me to read his Gemworld (Facets of Reality Book 1) series. 

Rewind keeps you interested and focussed. I can tell that Bullard likes his sci-fi and even fantasy genres as it shows in this short. I loved the romance that exists between Karyn and Indalrion Tay. In developing the characters that are common in all the shorts in this Realms Of Our Own anthology, I have discovered further character traits of those just mentioned, and more of those from A Time For Change. I like this feature, that each author in this anthology will show more of or different personality traits, abilities and powers of these characters. Bullard does this well in this novel. 

Another aspect I liked in this short was the blending of the military style action with the presence of the supernatural in the form of an angel called Jesse and also the mention of aliens. 

I did not like the character of Grayson in A Time For Change but I did not mind him in this short. I loved the description of Intalrion battling with his Garwaf nature in trying to save Karyn by travelling back in time to reverse the catastrophe she is involved in. 

I would have loved this to have been longer than its 22 pages, maybe double the length.  However, a very enjoyable instalment in this unique concept in Anthologies. 

Highly Recommended.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Time For Change (Realms of Our Own) by David G. Johnson


Time for Change (Realms of Our Own)

An ageing bounty hunter is looking for a quick and easy payday. Jackpot! A lucrative contract pops up with a huge bonus and a short time frame; the perfect formula flipping to an eager-beaver hunter for a few bucks. When an old rival shows up willing to pay ten times the normal flipping fee, the veteran hunter knows there is more to this contract than meets the eye. Teaming up with his rival, the reluctant pair set off across the galaxy to unravel the mystery of the bizarre contract and the fugitive running from the galaxy’s biggest weapons developer, Chronotech Industries. The hunters find themselves locked in a web of temporal technology and galactic politics in Time for Change. 

Realms Of Our Own is a new model in Science-Fiction anthologies. Rather than a single, shared story setting, the common element in Realms Of Our Own are the characters. Each author in the series reinvents the ten recurring characters in their own unique, multiverse story and setting. This short story, Time for Change, is the installment in the ROOO Multiverse by David G. Johnson, author of the Christian Speculative Fantasy series Chadash Chronicles (Saga of the Everking, Fool’s Errand, Mystic’s Mayhem, and Paryn’s Gold). 

The Guru's Review: 

This is an exciting venture for the authors involved in this new and unique concept. 

What excited me was not just the description in the Amazon blurb about this new concept, but how Johnson describes it from his Introduction,
What about a collective anthology?...An anthology? No one likes anthologies, Besides, this has all been done before.....Not another "common setting, contributing authors" anthology made famous in the speculative fiction genre....but something new. What if, instead of a constant setting with varying characters, the characters were the varying characters, the characters were the anchoring constant while the settings were allowed to flow freely, bound only by the borders of the realm of speculative fiction?
....we need to collect ten to twelve contributing authors....each pitch a unique character with no set restrictions, then have each of the contributing authors write their own unique speculative fiction story involving all ten characters in some way. The result would be like a picture of alternate realities or parallel universes where these same characters had very different lives, experiences, and adventures. The normally unpopular format of an anthology would take on a life of its own as a doorway, which would transport the readers from world to world, from reality to reality, giving them a tour of the multiverse while also providing a tasty showcase for a collection of authors or would-be authors of speculative fiction.  
So based on the above, I set out reading this volume, only because it is the first published days, I think, before the current three volumes had been released.  

I really enjoyed this first story. This is the first story outside of the Chadash Chronicles trilogy where Johnson has a different writing style and it adds to the versatility of the talent of this author. Despite it being short, 41 pages, it grabbed me and I was instantly transported into this world of the bounty hunter. The main characters of Molon Hawkins and Karyn Littleton are very well cast and developed. Molon has lots of attitude and this adds to liking him as a loveable rogue while Karyn is very competitive and considers herself just as good as any male bounty hunter. 

I loved the banter between these two as they sought to hunt down Indalrion Tay. Despite some angst between them at the beginning, they end up working very well together and make quite a team. 

In true Johnson form, the world he creates in this short, is well thought out and developed. I loved the description of the Lubanians and the Garwafs and like the Chadash Chronicles, shows Johnson is a master of creating very convincing species and creatures. This helps in forming the basis of this world in this short. I also loved the political and economical landscape of this world being created in the mind of the reader by the account of Indalrion Tay as he describes his reasons for the theft of the weapon from Chronotech Industries.  This had me totally absorbed and due to this, I was frustrated when it ended as I was very content being in this world and I really wanted more of this. It would make for a really great full length novel if this was expanded into this length. 

I am very impressed with this unique concept and I look forward to reading the next one, Rewind by Jeremy Bullard, again, only because it was the next one released after this short. 

Highly Recommended.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy by Kevin M. Kraft

 S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy 


Satariel Grigori is a devil. No, he's THE Devil, and he wants to repent and return to his Father in Heaven. But can he? Is it even feasible? The answer may lie in one unconventional preacher at the verge of losing his church. And Satariel, known as "S" to those closest to him, has his work cut out for him in, convincing Thomas of his identity and convincing him to act as his advocate before GOD, all the while concealing his plans to defect from the other Grigori brother, those angels who fell with him long ago, who would most certainly take exception to this. Deadly exception. For while Satariel might have once been the highest angel, that does not presuppose him to be the most powerful. S's change of heart could spell his doom, as well as that of Reverend Abernathy and his family.

The Guru's Review: 

This is the second novel of Kraft's that I have read. MOMO being the first. I read this one for three reasons, I loved MOMO and wanted more of this author, he writes in the edgy speculative Christian fiction genre which I love, and S is by its description, one interesting and potentially controversial subject matter and one that I guess very few authors would dare to play with in Christian fiction. 

I guess anther reason was that I wanted to see how Kraft would treat this controversial subject of Satan being repentant of his sin and wanting to be forgiven and would God forgive him? 

Pondering about this, led me to consider that this could be a difficult novel to construct. With this controversial/questionable topic as the main thrust of the novel, the author would have to keep the reader's attention all the way through as the last thing an author needs here is to loose the reader before they have discovered where this topic is going and have lost the motivation to read more to find out. Kraft succeeds in keeping the reader focussed and wanting to turn the page to do just that, find out more and how is this controversy going to be handled by this author.

Kraft has obviously researched this novel well and this shows in his depiction of the fallen angels; physically strong, able to morph into human form, disappear and reappear at will, influence or tempt people's will, and be masters at deception. One aspect of this research that I am glad he included is the doctrine of being healed by a fallen angel comes with the price of bondage. Depicting the truth of demonology such as described herein adds credibility to this novel. 

I must confess, I did think during the course of reading this novel, that I wish Kraft had depicted Sateriel (Ess) with more depth in his arrogance, evilness and deceptive, fallen nature, but then I remembered that he had addressed this in the recent interview I conducted with him concerning this novel, as he states, 
....while many might take exception to making Satan a sympathetic character, I would remind them that this is a fantasy, hence the subtitle: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy.
and this gave me some consolation as I knew then that this depiction was there for a specific reason and not due to the author showing poor character development from flawed/poor writing skills, all of which Kraft does not suffer from, quite the opposite in fact.  

Getting back to this novel being of a controversial topic, I feel it would be beneficial for readers if I were to include here Kraft's answer to my question relating to this in my recent interview with him:
Can you tell us a little about how your previous novel, S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy came about? I can foresee that this could be quite a controversial topic seeing that Jesus died for the human race only and that Hell was created initially for the satan and fallen angels. 
Controversy? Downright vitriol in some cases! Not many, but...some. S came about one day when my youngest daughter said, “Daddy, you know how the Bible says we’re supposed to love our enemies?” I said yeah. “Does that mean were supposed to love Satan too?” Just like me, her imagination is rich with why’s and what-ifs. The conversation grew from there. We discussed whether it was possible for the Devil to repent and how the Devil is a person and a personality and imagine what kind of personality he might have to do what he did and would God forgive him if he repented and should we pray for Satan’s repentance. We discussed the fact that Satan was an angel, one of the sons of God, and didn’t that imply that God loved them all as their Father and what about the angels who fell with Satan. We also talked about role and nature of sin and why do Christians STILL sin? Jesus died not just to save us from the curse of sin but the YOKE of sin. Why would we be instructed against sin, if it wasn’t possible for us to avoid it? And we discussed if is there ever a time when a believer has no choice but to sin...and couldn’t come up with any examples in the affirmative. We sin because we choose to go against our nature—our new nature—willingly and what does that make us? Also, what is the depth of God’s grace? How vast is it? 
Anyway, all these questions are addressed in S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy. And while many might take exception to making Satan a sympathetic character, I would remind them that this is a fantasy, hence the subtitle. I’ve actually been amazed that, with only a couple exceptions, most people responded very, very, very enthusiastically and positively to S and re-examined their own lives accordingly. Odd as it may sound, it is surprisingly light, was fun to write and is probably my most profound work to-date. 

Personally, I am glad I had interviewed Kraft and got this answer before I read this novel as I may have been one to not accept so well the premise that Satan could be forgiven for his sin in this fantasy. It is always good to know the motivations of someone before the event despite this not always being the case. However, even without this explanation from the Kraft interview, I do feel a deeper explanation of why satan is repentant and wants forgiveness would have been more persuasive for me in understanding the author's reasoning and increase the credibility of this novel, which is strong despite this. 

Kraft has presented a very interesting argument through the main character, Thomas Abernathy, resulting in the release of his book, Sympathy for the Devil. Abernathy believes that the devil gets blamed for our sin while Christians take very little or no responsibility for their own actions, as Abernathy states, 
We are told not to sin. That is clear......In fact, I'll bet, if you thought of it, every sin you've committed since you were saved was not something you were forced to do, but something you simply chose to do..... which speaks more about the sinner than his capacity to avoid it. 
One of his parishioners then states, 
What about the devil? He makes us do wrong.
Abernathy replies, 
My Bible.....doesn't give the Devil credit for making anyone do anything. All he can do is tempt us, attempt to persuade us......I think Satan gets a bad rap. We blame him for our unfaithfulness, for our mistakes. We do something stupid and 'the devil made me do it! It's the Devil!' I believe that life is a series of choices-a single big choice, if you prefer, about how we will live in light of the existence of God, as the Bible represents Him. A sinless life is ours, if we decide to live it. Satan can't keep us from that which the Lord has already provided us, which is the ability, the license, to live free from the yoke of sin, all of us.
And then, later, when he is called to explain his controversial book to his Superiors, Bishop Landry states, 
You're telling people that Satan has nothing to do with us sinning. 
I am saying he can't make us sin, Tom replied. 
Then what of cases of demon possession? You can't believe people under such influence can control their actions. 
I'm talking about the believer. The unbeliever is not protected by the Lord, except at His pleasure. The believer is no longer subjected to either Satan or sin. That's why we are instructed to abstain from sin according to our new nature-that of Christ Himself......Does not the Bible teach that Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross for us? Do we not have the Holy Spirit to empower us to live the way Jesus instructed us? Are we not taught to abstain from sin? Is a sinful life compatible with Christian living?....You try to intimate that I'm heretical, when I'm merely teaching basic Bible, people. It isn't arrogance or pride. It's that I'm simply correct-only because the Bible is correct. 
Are you implying, in your message, Tom, that sin is simply a matter of choice for the believer?
Yes, Tell me one time, since you were saved, that you were forced to sin. We don't sin because we have to. We sin because we simply choose to, in spite of the consequences sure to follow. 
Tom...... think of the bondage of guilt we would put our parishioners under by telling them they have within themselves the power to stop sinning.
Did you just hear yourself? That's the message of Jesus Christ...imagine how much more effectual the Body of Christ would be if they adapt to the fact that sin has no more dominion over us, that through the work of Jesus Christ, the shackles of sin are broken, and our new nature in Him gives us the ability to live just as Christ demonstrated we can. Imagine how we could strip power away from...Satan, by simply choosing the truth of the gospel and the freedom and power over sin Christ provides...I ask you..... And if the leaders in the church won't take seriously the Bible on the matter of sin, how in the world can we expect those who are lost to? 
Hmm, if I had read these snippets before the Kraft interview, there are a few questions I could have included about this and I bet Kraft's answers would have been very revealing or highlight that the above attitudes of the parishioners and clergy exist in churches today. I loved these snippets, as this was not only entertaining where it fitted in with the plot, but also reinforces biblical doctrine. This is why I expect Christian fiction to do for me as a reader: educate, edify and entertain. Kraft does this very well in this novel. 

It is also due to Kraft depicting Abernathy as strong in the Word and in his faith in the Lord that Sateriel chooses him to be his advocate before God,  a great example being where he says to Abernathy regarding his book, Sympathy for the Devil, 
You have managed to grasp a significant truth, not rarely if ever preached from the pulpit. And even when it is, it's never been done adequately enough so as to leave no room for excuses: that sin has no hold over the true believer....can you imagine the impact the Church would have, if everyone adopted that truth as his or her own? The Spirit of the Father would move across the face of this globe in ways you couldn't imagine. Such power! Such freedom. And not just for men, perhaps. 
Ess saw Thomas' gaze changed, soften just a bit with new understanding. Yes, you understand.  
However this choice of Abernathy takes a humorous backfire with one of Sateriel's fellow fallen angels, Pehel. He sets Abernathy up to fall to sexual sin but resists this temptation causing Pehel to be physically thrown from watching this "encounter" about to take place, and Pehel indignantly recounts to Sateriel,
He has proven most resistant. More than most.... I moved the pieces carefully. Created a situation whereby Abernathy and a woman he clearly finds alluring would be in a situation conducive to an act of impropriety....I needed to apply the lightest suggestion a tiny thought, for any man of flesh and blood to succumb to primal lust, completing his fall from grace...he resisted me.....and he resisted the temptation....the sheer force of it knocked me off the house! I fell flat on my gluteus maximus- I believe I've bruised my tailbone! I was delighted none of the other brothers witnessed my utter humiliation. Abernathy must die, High Brother, There's no trifling with this man....the Spirit is strong in him.  
The above is just one example where Kraft has successfully added some humour with Satariel's fallen brothers, Level (pronounced Lev-el) and Pehel amoungst their seriousness and devious, evil ways to tear the Abernathy family apart. I loved the way he has depicted them, each very different and one more devious than the other. I also loved the character of Mike and he is one loveable homeless man whose role I knew would be revealed in the second half and made me chuckle. Very clever, Kevin Kraft! 

This novel is very well put together with plot flow, characterisation and all the loose ends tied up very well and tight at the end, which I am not going to spoil here. The reader can make their mind up for themselves, but just remember, this is a fantasy novel, as Kraft states. I feel Kraft has achieved what he said in his interview, that, 
it is surprisingly light, was fun to write and is probably my most profound work to-date.
It was a fun, but serious novel to read and very entertaining. 

Strongly Recommended.