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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, 30 July 2016

Nikolai The Penitent: A Novel of the Brotherhood of the Cross by Mark Carver

Nikolai The Penitent: A Novel of the Brotherhood of the Cross


SALVATION MUST BE PAID IN BLOOD.

The Black Death ravages 14th century Europe. Kingdoms crumble, cities fall, family members abandon one another. God has forsaken His children and now chaos reigns.

A young man who has lost everything is swept up in the turmoil and finds his calling in the Brotherhood of the Cross - groups of pious men and women who viciously whip themselves as they parade through the streets of sinful cities, hoping their sacrifice will atone for the iniquities of the people. As the scars grow on Nikolai's back, he purges himself of lust, fear, and doubt, but the price he pays will threaten his very soul.


The Guru's Review: 


I looked forward to this novel when Mark Carver announced it earlier this year. Even at that stage its premise intrigued me. I remember in secondary school how fascinated I was while learning about the Black Death (Bubonic Plaque). Even the history book that we studied from brought to life this period of dark history and portrayed the devastation and decimation of the human population as it spread over Europe. It was this vivid recording that grew my fascination for this period. 

Well, I can say that Mark Carver has brought to life in a much more dramatic and a very rich way the life of this period. Through the eyes of Nikolai Solberg in the fall of 1333 A. D, the reader experiences life in his village, and the mental imagery of this is very powerful. I found myself there, and was not aware of my surroundings, but very much aware of Nikolai's.

I found the section of this novel that described Nikolai's life from 5 years of age to age 20  almost a novella on its own, and it serves well to lay some solid foundation for the rest of the novel. It was this structure and development of the setting, that not only shows Nikolai finding his vocation in life, albeit a dark, extreme, almost mystical one, but also gives the reader a first hand experience of what the Plague was like and how it decimated his community, destroyed some families, strengthen others and increased the fear and anxiety overall. Carver successfully portrays, how this pandemic brought some to embrace the spiritual side in a negative doomsday style attitude, with even the Catholic church shunning their communities and blaming them for this scourge while doing nothing to help them except cloister themselves in their monasteries and cathedrals to avoid contracting this disease. 

For Nikolai, it sparked a quest to better himself and overcome his sinful nature. Carver portrays this well through an example of sexual desire that awakens in him at his age of 20 where he succumbs to this desire and fornicates with the only girl that he has become attracted to. Here Carver shows the depth of Nikolai's determination in his quest by describing in a little graphical detail this sex act.  I questioned the author about this in my interview with him,
Peter: What sort of criticism or feedback are you expecting from the sex scene you have included? I did not consider it too graphic and I can see why you included it as you have, to show the intense struggle of sexual temptation when one believes that any sexual activity outside marriage is spiritual impurity (sin) and therefore not receive the favour of God or freedom from this plague. Do you think you could have achieved the same effect or outcome without the graphics of this scene?

Mark: I expect some people to be critical, and I definitely wrestled with this scene and how much to describe, but because it is such a crucial scene in the story, I didn't want to rush through it. Hopefully it won't be an issue with too many people.
By showing some graphic and describing Nikolai's panic, remorse and shame during and after the act, Carver successfully shows how the effect of his sin deeply affects him leading him to accept a mission to help break the curse of this plague and in the process lead him to a level of righteousness and favour of God.

I can see that some Christians are going to be critical of Mark for including the topic fornication, let alone including some graphics as well. The debate about the merits of any Christian author doing this will not end until the return of Christ Himself. It is the hottest potato of an issue in Christianity and specifically Christian fiction. All I can say is that Carver has depicted this to the degree that it does not detract from any part of the story or stand out like a sore thumb, derailing the plot, but becomes an essential part of Nikolai's motive to overcome his sinful nature. I would expect that most people would agree that it is not included for the sake of including a sex scene, to glorify fornication or to appeal to an audience that expects sex in the novels they read. As Carver states, it is a crucial scene to the story relating to Nikolai's quest.

I found this novel to be one that is unique, different, dark, brutal, gritty and disturbing. This mainly applies to the second part of the novel that describes Nikolai's time in the Brotherhood of the Cross. It is here that I found it hard to read, as the flagellation routine of the members of the Brotherhood, especially of Nikolai, and the effect on them physically and mentally, is the brutal, gritty and disturbing part of this section. There were many times where I nearly gave up reading. Some of the flagellation and the gruesome descriptions of what Nikolai experiences made me angry, frustration and despairing! I had similar reaction to the whipping of Jesus in the movie, The Passion of the Christ. I can fully understand Carver feeling nauseated as he wrote these accounts as he stated in my interview. It is definitely not for the faint hearted.  

In my occupation as a Registered Nurse, I found some of the effects of the flagellation and the malnutrition that Nikolai and the members of Brotherhood a bit too far fetched. I based this on the following from my interview with Mark,
Peter: You have Nikolai flagellating himself from early morning to dusk most days describing a lot of blood loss from Nikolai's body on a daily basis. Based on the fact that the total blood volume for an average 70 kg human (150 pounds) is approximately 5.5 liters (or a little more than 5.5 quarts, (this can vary depending on various factors) in their blood, Nikolai would have suffered from chronic anaemia and its associated serious health problems and together with the lack of food that you have portrayed, he (and his members of the Brotherhood) would have been malnourished as well, which also has serious health issues. From my Nursing background I found the description of this chronic blood loss and malnourishment just a little hard to believe or have much credibility.
Did you include the physical/medical side of the effects of flagellation (such as I have mentioned here) on the human body in your research? I ask this as I am sure many readers might come to this conclusion as well.
Mark: I did consider this, but I didn't want to spend too much time on the medical minutae of the story because that would drag it down. I do describe the incredible fatigue suffered by the flagellants, but I also hint at supernatural sustenance that allows Nikolai in particular to endure more than would seem humanly possible.
This is one reason I interviewed Carver, there were so many controversial and unique elements/issues in a novel like this that I needed to know what made this author write this novel and more of what went into constructing it. It has been well worth reading this novel, and especially interviewing him. I think readers would agree that he has wielded his research well into the construction of this novel in reproducing the essence of this dark period in history.

I consider it would be a minority of readers who would have come across a novel of this type. I find it a daring move on Carver's part. Many authors, including Christian ones, would pass on a topic like this as too hard or too controversial and I can imagine even damaging to their reputation as an author.

One other aspect of this novel that I feel Carver has depicted well is the ignorance of the spiritual in this era. I covered this in my interview again, focusing on the subtitle of the novel,
Peter: The subtitle of this novel is “Salvation must be paid in blood”. The Bible states that this was achieved by Jesus' death on the Cross, but your research, as portrayed by this flagellation practice of the members of the Brotherhood of the Cross was a common event. Was the truth of salvation not taught in the Church in the 1300s? I ask this as I believe that the majority of Christians would not know if this was or was not taught in this era unless they have studied Church/bible history formally or informally. Were you surprised at this as well?
Mark: The book takes place in the Dark Ages, and most people were spiritually ignorant beyond what the church taught them. The church in this story is very "Catholic" in that works are required for salvation, more than just faith in Christ and His death and resurrection. Monetary penance, pilgrimages, and self-abuse were lauded by the church as means to achieve salvation, and the church in those days wanted to maintain power over the people as much as possible, and these "extras" were an easy way to do this.
I found that Carver handled the antisemitism very well in this novel and depicted a realistic attitude of the times as displayed through Nikolai, especially seeing that very few of the Jewish population in these European countries were affected by the Plague. He has been very respectful to them and depicted them realistically and I appreciate that in a novel like this. I do understand from reading this part of the novel why he needed to include a Preface on this issue. 

The only other aspect that I did not like was the ending. After all Nikolai went through and how he came to the end of himself and his final decision at the end, I felt that it ended far too quickly and I was left hanging expecting more to close off this tale. After the emotional ride that Carver had put me through, I needed some closure! 

I have read some of Carver's books and love what I read. This novel reveals another versatile side of him and shows that he has reached a level of expertise and maturity as an author that he can write about difficult subject matter and make it unique, successful and worthwhile. 

Strongly Recommended. (4/5 Stars)

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Interview with Author Mark Carver

I came across the author of today's interview about 4 yeas ago after being intrigued by his first novel, The Age of Apollyon. I loved this novel and had found another author to add to my increasing favourite author list. Since then, Mark Carver has been prolific in his writing and has set himself a goal of publishing 30 novels in his lifetime. His latest novel, Nikolai the Penitent: A Novel of the Brotherhood of the Cross, is about to be released on July 26th. It is a very unique, different novel, dark, brutal, gritty and disturbing, set in a time in history of spiritual darkness. It is because of this, and having read it, that I decided to find out more about this novel, its author, and what led to it being written. 

So sit back, relax and let Mark Carver, talk about his life as an author and this latest novel.

Mark, thanks for stopping by. Let's start by you telling us a little about yourself.


Thanks Peter. 

My name is Mark Carver and I live in Atlanta, GA with my wife and three children, I previously spent more than eight years in China. I graduated from Toccoa Falls College in 2005 with a B.A. in English. Currently, I am currently an ESL teacher. 

I have written seven novels and several short stories. My novels are dark and edgy that tackle tough spiritual issues. I am currently working on my next novel. Besides writing, I am passionate about art, tattoos, heavy metal, and medieval architecture.

What inspired you to become an author?

I've been writing since I was a small child, but I became serious about writing about five years ago. I hadn't written anything for years, but there was a story welling up inside of me for a long time, and one day, I decided to let it out (The Age of Apollyon). I haven't looked back since.

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

Definitely a pantser. I write a collection of story ideas and character profiles in a separate document, but when I write, I don't use an outline or any plotting software. I just write scene by scene.

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

I have explored many themes that I didn't give much thought to before, and every book I write deals with some issue in my own life or something that I was wrestled with. My latest book, Nikolai the Penitent, is definitely the most "spiritual" book I've written, but there are biblical principles and personal issues in all of my stories.

Do you have a favourite genre that you read?

I love the classics, particularly medieval and Victorian-era stories. Dante Alighieri, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe are some of my favorite authors.

What have you learnt about becoming an author?

Try to write as regularly as possible, only line, paragraph, page, and chapter at a time. Patience and persistence are just as important as inspiration.

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

Writing isn't the "struggle" for me that it seems to be for some other writers. I've never had writer's block, and it's never taken me ages to write a story. Hopefully my good luck continues :-)

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

I don't really know. Just whatever feels right. I try to avoid names that sound like they were made for a book ("Dirk Pitt," "Jack Ryan," "Alex Cross," etc.).

Have you ever written people you know as characters in any of your books?

I've used real people's names for characters that were nothing like them, and I've used attributes from real people and changed the names, but I've never written a real person into a book.

When did you decide to make a career of writing?

When I started my second book :-)

What do you do when you are not writing?

Working, hanging out with my family, reading books and watching TV, and thinking about writing.

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

Many of the issues my characters face are based on my real-life experiences but the stories are from my imagination.

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

Two writers (both now deceased) gave me two pieces of advice that have stuck with me: Write emotively, and write the kind of books that you want to read.

What are you reading right now?

Black Earth: Broken Daisy by David Alderman

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Never full-on writer's block. There have been times when I didn't know where to go next, so I wouldn't write for a couple of days, and then I would know, so I would get back to it.

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

I find Facebook the easiest and most enjoyable. Twitter and Instagram are good but feel limited.

Now Let's Talk About Nikolai The Penitent (NtP):


Before we begin, my apologies if some of these questions seem negative or critical, not intending them to be, they are just in response to this novel being dark and not your typical Christian fiction novel, not even typical of what you would expect in the genre of edgy Christian fiction; and also it being set in a time of spiritual darkness with its many atrocities and horrors, including the mistreatment and persecution of the Jewish population in Europe.

How long did it take you to write this novel?

One year for the first draft, then a few months of editing after that.

What obstacles did you encounter in this endeavour to write NtP? How did you overcome these?

I had never written a book in this setting before so I had to do a lot of research before I could even begin. It was fascinating, though, to learn about this medieval world.

What was the motivation or inspiration to write NtP?

I downloaded a free e-book from Project Gutenberg called The Black Death and the Dancing Mania, written in the 19th century. When I came across a passage about the Flagellants, I immediately knew that I wanted to write a book about these people.

From my study of European history in secondary (high) school, the plague you describe would be the bubonic plague or Black Death as it was known then, and the disease the Nikolai's mother dies from would be tuberculosis. Am I correct on these two accounts?

The Black Death was the bubonic plague, and I never determined what disease it was that killed his mother, but tuberculosis would be the most probably cause.

It is a well known fact that every author needs to include some poetic licence to their novels. You have portrayed the flagellation practice with great intensity and graphically. Was this to increase the suspense and drama for the plot or is this a direct portrayal of your research?

Both. The accounts I read described very brutal and vicious scenes of self-abuse, but in order to immerse the reader in this world, I wanted to paint a very vivid picture for them.

Following on from the previous question, you have Nikolai flagellating himself from early morning to dusk most days describing a lot of blood loss from Nikolai's body on a daily basis. Based on the fact that the total blood volume for an average 70 kg human (150 pounds) is approximately 5.5 liters (or a little more than 5.5 quarts, (this can vary depending on various factors) in their blood, Nikolai would have suffered from chronic anaemia and its associated serious health problems and together with the lack of food that you have portrayed, he (and his members of the Brotherhood) would have been malnourished as well, which also has serious health issues. From my Nursing background I found the description of this chronic blood loss and malnourishment just a little hard to believe or have much credibility. Did you include the physical/medical side of the effects of flagellation (such as I have mentioned here) on the human body in your research? I ask this as I am sure many readers might come to this conclusion as well.

I did consider this, but I didn't want to spend too much time on the medical minutae of the story because that would drag it down. I do describe the incredible fatigue suffered by the flagellants, but I also hint at supernatural sustenance that allows Nikolai in particular to endure more than would seem humanly possible.

What sort of criticism or feedback are you expecting from the sex scene you have included? I did not consider it too graphic and I can see why you included it as you have, to show the intense struggle of sexual temptation when one believes that any sexual activity outside marriage is spiritual impurity (sin) and therefore not receive the favour of God or freedom from this plague. Do you think you could have achieved the same effect or outcome without the graphics of this scene?

I expect some people to be critical, and I definitely wrestled with this scene and how much to describe, but because it is such a crucial scene in the story, I didn't want to rush through it. Hopefully it won't be an issue with too many people.

The subtitle of this novel is “Salvation must be paid in blood”. The Bible states that this was achieved by Jesus' death on the Cross, but your research, as portrayed by this flagellation practice of the members of the Brotherhood of the Cross was a common event. Was the truth of salvation not taught in the Church in the 1300s? I ask this as I believe that the majority of Christians would not know if this was or was not taught in this era unless they have studied Church/bible history formally or informally. Were you surprised at this as well?

The book takes place in the Dark Ages, and most people were spiritually ignorant beyond what the church taught them. The church in this story is very "Catholic" in that works are required for salvation, more than just faith in Christ and His death and resurrection. Monetary penance, pilgrimages, and self-abuse were lauded by the church as means to achieve salvation, and the church in those days wanted to maintain power over the people as much as possible, and these "extras" were an easy way to do this.

You state in the Author's Note that there were times when you would feel physically nauseous after writing some of the more gruesome scenes. Do you feel that readers might be turned off finishing this novel once they experience these scenes or not recommend it to others?

I hope not, but I understand if they might.

Many times during this novel Nikolai hears a voice encouraging him, other times condemning him, judging him and one time you have this voice as his conscience. I found this a bit confusing working out the origin of this voice.

This is a frequent technique that I employ in my writing, hearing the character's thoughts. The voice is Nikolai's conscience but its tone changes as times as Nikolai draws nearer or further from God.

Nicolai interprets the presence of the crow as a symbol or sign of demonic influence on his life and ministry. Why did you include this?

It was an easily understood visual metaphor, and it also makes the evil external, since there isn't a "bad guy" per se in the story.

What take home message do you want readers of NtP to embrace?

That salvation is indeed paid in blood, but Christ's blood, not ours. There is absolutely nothing we can do to earn God's forgiveness.

Anything else you would to say about NtP?

I hope you pick up your copy when it comes out on July 26th.

I really enjoyed a radio interview you participated in on 19th July where Parker J Cole  discussed with you about NtP where you were able to expand more on the themes of this novel. I have included the link below in case anyone reading this wants to investigate in more detail about NtP and more of what you have discussed here in this interview:

The Write Stuff With Parker J. Cole/Nikolai The Penitent 

What’s next, do you already have a new project in the works?

I am working on a mixed martial arts/Mississippi hoodoo story called Balor. It should be ready early next year.

Where can readers find you?






Any closing comments?

Thanks Peter for this opportunity to talk about myself and my books.

It is my pleasure Mark! I pray that our discussion will give readers a greater understanding of the background of your new novel. 

If you are interested in purchasing Nikolai the Penitent, it is already available for pre-order on Amazon and its release date is July 26th.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

When The Watcher Shakes by Timothy Huguenin

When The Watcher Shakes


The walls were meant to keep evil out–but they only hid the evil within.

John has given up his ordinary life to find wisdom traveling the country and enjoy the freedom of living as a nomad. But when he stumbles across a mysterious town tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains, walled off from modern society, he discovers a group of people who could use some freedom of their own. Are they a harmless religious sect, or is there something less benign underneath the surface?

The townspeople are initially wary of their new visitor, but as John questions their way of life, some of them begin to have questions of their own. As the leadership’s tight control unravels, men and women break free from the chains of legalism–some literally, and some at the cost of their own lives.

The Guru's Review:  


I was asked by the author a few months ago, to review this debut novel before it was released but was unable to due to my review schedule. I did add it to my personal To Be Read list for later reading. It was only when the author made it free that I decided to download it instead of buying when I planned to read it. Out of pure curiosity, I started to read the first page or two and I was hooked. I then decided to rearrange my entire weekend to reading it. I simply could not put this down. I realised what caused this and it is multifactorial. 

First, it is the plot and the secluded setting. A pseudo Christian community (the word sect comes to mind) set in the mountains of West Virginia that is walled from the outside world with its own interpretation of living out the word of God and corrupted with man made rituals and extreme forms of punishment for sinning.

Second, the sense that all is not as it seems and that is something lurking in the background that keeps you wondering what this is or could be, and sometimes thinking "Where is the author going with this?"

Thirdly, how does all this affect John, the Outsider and how does John's influence affect this community that has no idea of what the outside world is like except that they are indoctrinated that is is evil? 

Fourth, it is Huguenin's writing style. He writes well, it is crisp, to the point, specific and he describes the events really well. This transported me to this walled community, I could picture the town, the clean ordered streets, the behaviour and attitudes of the people in their interaction with each other and the air of deception, fear, oppression that hangs in the air.

Fifth, this novel is well constructed and everything fits together very nicely. Reads like a very finely tuned engine. Smooth, consistent, one event building onto the next. No peaks or troughs in the pace or plot. 

For a debut novel, you would never know it. It seems that Huguenin has a combination of talent and good mentoring. One has only to read the Acknowledgements to see where some of this comes from. It has paid off exceptionally well for him. If this is the quality of his first novel, then I am very much looking forward to everything else coming from his pen in the future. He sets a high standard from the start. 

I usually find novels where there is spiritual oppression and deception hard to read as it angers and frustrates me but in this novel, it was not the case. The way Huguenin constructed this is done well with enough intrigue and suspense to keep you wanting to find out more and to see what is behind this deception. However, as much as the author has constructed this deception based on abuse of the
Word of God and the Letters and Journals of Abe, the Esteemed One, founder of this community, I would have appreciated more of what these Letters and Journals contained to explain the basis of this grand deception of this community and to back up the enforcing of the (legalistic) rules and regulations/rituals that the community live under. It would also have provided more of the background to this community and how it came to be like it is. This is not to say that the absence of this was a weakness of this novel, or where it falls short, just that it would have added more depth and credibility to the deception that Huguenin successfully develops. 

Through all this, the author has done a great job of showing how abuse of power, distortion of the Truth, in this case the Word of God, and basing a government on a
Pharisaic legalism style is evil, self serving, oppressive, demoralising and destructive. One characteristic of control of the masses in this system and is also characteristic of it being a cult, is to suppress, ban, block the masses from questioning the way things are, but to only concentrate on the what, the when, the where, 
The people of Abestown did not care to speculate on the whys of any given topic, only the topic itself: the what, the when, the where. Rarely did they even concern themselves with the how. This was strange to Isaac, who had come to think that the why was the most intriguing, if not the most important, question to concern himself with.
This is the icing on the cake of oppression and deception, where the masses are not encouraged or taught to think for themselves or to question any element of their lives. This is epitome of control, power and its destructiveness. Huguenin does not just leave it there either, he shows what the consequences are in this deception and legalism when someone steps out of this mold and does question the order of things and it is this that adds more suspense and darkness to this novel. 

Huguenin definitely shows what happens when a society is ruled on legalism and grace is totally absent. Jesus exposed the dangers of this and so did Paul in his Epistles. There is no balance between these two elements in this novel as there is in the Bible and in how Jesus taught us to live. Not sure if this is one of the messages Huguenin wanted to portray but it definitely stood out to me as I have seen this inbalance in some of the churches and behaviour of Christians over the years. Either extreme is just as destructive as the other.
 

When the control of the community began to get out of control and two main characters started to see the truth of this oppressive legalistic regime and rebel against it and its perpetrators, I would have expected these characters to have found the truth in the Gospel, seeing that their spirituality is based on this and they did know this but part of this oppressive regime enforced by the Head Historian and the Council of Historians was that the Bible was not encouraged to be read or studied by the community and instead the Council and Head Historian were the ones that interpreted and instructed them in it, albeit a corrupted interpretation, that further supported the legalistic regime. Very much reminds me of the denomination of the church of my youth. However, I would have loved to have seen this community find the salvation and freedom found in the true Gospel message and show the power of this Gospel unto salvation. This would have made a great ending or epilogue.

I really liked this novel and I look forward to more from this author. I feel he is one to watch. He has made a great debut with this novel for all the reasons I have mentioned above. 

Strongly Recommended

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 3/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 3/5

Average Rating 4.2/5



Monday, 18 July 2016

Guest Post: Paeter Frandsen and the Spirit Blade Audio Drama Trilogy

Recently, I discovered on my Facebook feed a post from one of my friends promoting the third and final instalment of an audio drama called SPIRIT BLADE, (described as a full-cast Audio Drama series that uses cinematic sound design, an epic film score, and dynamic performances to unleash an action-packed Christian science fiction experience).

I checked out this link and I was very impressed with what I found. This audio drama is in one of the genres that I love to review. I listened to the audio sound clips and was further impressed with the quality of the production and the atmosphere and world that this series transported me to. I decided there and then to buy the first instalment. I also then decided to offer the creator, Paeter Frandsen, a guest post to promote this series and its third and final instalment, Spirit Blade: A WORLD OF SHADOWS and about Spirit Blade Productions that produced this series. 

First, a little about Paeter's bio: 
 
A fan of comic books, sci-fi and fantasy since childhood, Paeter Frandsen is the owner of Spirit Blade Productions LLC. He received his bachelor's degree in vocal performance from Arizona State University and was employed by Red Mountain Community Church in Mesa, Arizona for four years, serving as the church's worship pastor for two years. In 2006 he created Spirit Blade Productions and now lives in Mesa, AZ with his wife and two sons while continuing to serve as a volunteer at Red Mountain Community Church. Though not formally trained in scripture, Paeter has a love for studying God's Word, seeking out truth with the most reliable resources available, and encouraging others to join him in that journey.

So now please allow me to hand you over to Paeter Frandsen: 

Thanks Peter! In 2006 I launched "Spirit Blade Productions", a very small company dedicated to telling very big stories in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. I've always been a huge fan of comic books, role-playing games (both video games and "paper and pencil") and fantasy novels. Sharing the truths of the Bible has been another passion of mine for a long time. So "Spirit Blade Productions" is really the inevitable result of combining my passions and the various facets of who I am.


Through Spirit Blade Productions I produce science fiction and fantasy stories, like The Spirit Blade Trilogy, in audio drama format. Audio drama is different from an audio book in that it is performed by a full cast of actors and is completely fleshed out with sound effects and a musical score. In fact, its very much like a movie, except without the picture. Ideal entertainment for when you're driving, exercising or doing mindless work.

The Spirit Blade Trilogy is an action packed, "cinematically" produced story that takes place in the distant future, when the government has decided that all spiritual belief systems that make absolute truth claims are illegal. The ensemble cast centers on Merikk, a "has been" musician looking for meaning in life. Merikk discovers that he has a very important role to play in The Underground Liberation, a group of men secretly trying to put the concept of absolute truth and the quest for answers about God back in mainstream circulation.

The stakes are very high and the journey is a wild one. Characters travel in and out of the spirit realm, battling demons, while also struggling in a conflict with humans in the physical world. Aliens, cyborgs, science-fiction and the supernatural all collide in a genre-bending experience.

One thing I've loved about producing these stories is the opportunity to thread worthwhile themes throughout the narrative. Science fiction and fantasy have always been wonderful playgrounds for philosophy. Good and evil can be represented in dramatic ways not possible in realistic stories. Important, sometimes controversial ideas can be explored in fantastic environments that take the pressure off the audience for the very fact that they are far removed from our day to day reality.

If you look at films like Star Wars, The Matrix, Man Of Steel, and many others, you'll see imaginative fiction dealing with extremely relevant spiritual issues. Now and then we'll see a stronger Christian influence in movies like "The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe", but most times Buddhism, a form of Hinduism or "pop-spirituality" are the main schools of thought presented.

More than half of the time, science fiction is a platform for atheistic assumptions. Theological issues, like those in Tron: Legacy and The Matrix, are more symbolic than actually a supernatural element in the story. I wanted to challenge this paradigm by creating science fiction that is driven specifically by biblical thought and that also breaks the mold of the standard sci-fi genre by incorporating the supernatural as well.

The challenge isn't so much in the development of this kind of story as it is in the marketing of it. First off, it's a futuristic Christian story that has nothing to do with the "end times". Secondly, it's very violent and would likely be given an R-rating if it were a visual story. Because it is limited to audio it feels more like a PG-13 experience. Even so, many Christians are stuck pretty firmly in "family friendly" mode, so what we're doing definitely isn't for everyone. But I've found that the listeners we do have are very devoted to the series and grateful that content like this is being created.

The Spirit Blade Trilogy starts with "Spirit Blade (Legacy Edition)", which you can download for free for a limited time at spiritblade.com beginning July 18th, 2016. "Spirit Blade (Legacy Edition)" introduces the ensemble cast and has an energetic, adventurous feel to it that echoes the feel of animated shows geared toward young teenagers and adults. (But with more blood and gore sound effects than you're likely to have heard on a Saturday morning.) It's the story of someone discovering the basic truths about Jesus for the first time, but from a fresh perspective uncluttered by the churchy lingo we take for granted today.

The trilogy continues with "Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual (Legacy Edition)", where the tone shifts toward (as the title suggests) sobering darkness, as our heroes quickly discover that the choice to trust in The Only (their most commonly used name for God) does not mean life becomes a bed of roses. Suddenly our heroes find themselves overcome by a far superior force and subjected to pain and suffering like they have never known. The action ramps up and the supernatural threats become even greater. Like the Harry Potter series, the Spirit Blade Trilogy leans toward older ages as it progresses. And the dark and disturbing themes of "Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual (Legacy Edition)" are intended mostly for listeners who are 16 or older.

I'm thrilled to finally be bringing this trilogy to a close with "Spirit Blade: A World Of Shadows (Legacy Edition)". In the wake of the events of "Dark Ritual", our heroes are trying to figure out the "new normal", and are asking hard questions about the nature of evil and why God allows suffering. The scale of the action has never been bigger than it is in this story. But at the same time the characters have never been more grounded in relatable human emotions and concerns. As they count the heavy cost that will have to be paid, they can't help but ask if following The Only is worth all the suffering that comes with it.

It's my hope that this trilogy will be exciting and entertaining to all who hear it, and also give them reason to re-explore, or consider for the first time, some elements of their faith and relationship with Jesus.

You're invited to find more information and listen to our trailers at spiritblade.com!

If this has whetted your appetite for more, here is a sound clip of Spirit Blade for you to listen to:  

Spirit Blade Trilogy Promo MP3

If you want to investigate this trilogy more, go to these social media outlets: 

 


Youtube- youtube.com/spiritbladevideos

Thanks Paeter for a very insightful account of your ministry, and the Spirit Blade Trilogy Audio Drama. I will be going to the website to buy the remaining two instalments without any hesitation! Really looking forward to being entertained and my faith strengthen by this series. I love your passion for this ministry and for using this to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ.