Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Telling - day 3

Zeph stared at the Indian. "We've met before, haven't we?"

"Ha!" Little Weaver clapped his gloved hands. "A shred of sanity!" Then he leaned toward Zeph. "At some point, Brother Walker, you will have to trust again."

Zeph's eyes were locked upon the Indian. Then his shoulders slumped. "That's what I was afraid of."  (p172)

When the people around town start behaving strangely, knowing who to trust becomes a challenge in this month's CSFF Blog Tour feature: The Telling, a speculative novel by Mike Duran, author of The Resurrection. And what's the story behind the town's mass suicide over a hundred years ago, and what truth is there to the legend about the ninth gate of hell?

Human grief and hubris unlocked it. Zeph Walker is the key that will close it once more.

If only he can overcome his past: a childhood marked by the gift of prophecy; manipulation and abuse by his mother and stepmother; and the grief and regrets that keep him locked inside a world of his own making.

You aren't a prophet, the phantom hissed. The blade proved it.

Sadness. So much of it inside him. Her words seemed to reawaken the venom of bitterness. Zeph swayed back, overtaken by a great darkness looming on the periphery of his mind.

You are the son of silence. Sickly glowing eyes peered at him from deep inside the mine shaft. And now you've gone and killed someone. (p213)

I could analyze this novel, and dive into spiritual applications or ramifications, but I won't. This is fiction, and anyone seeking a one-to-one correlation with the Bible will not find it here. There are no sermons. No allegories. There is a serious struggle between the darkness and the light, and flawed characters who are drawn into the fight. Some lose the battle, but some emerge stronger because of it.

For readers looking for suspense, action, a touch of horror, they'll find it in the pages of The Telling. It's an intriguing read. 

Anyone who has ever had to fight for his faith, has ever had to walk alone because of deep wounds, has ever endured abuse and struggled to find hope or love on the other side, will likely connect with Zeph Walker as he wrestles with truth, failure, forgiveness.

For other perspectives on The Telling, check out these stops along the tour:
Jim Armstrong Beckie Burnham Jeff Chapman Theresa Dunlap Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Emileigh Latham Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Lyn Perry  Kathleen Smith Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Dona Watson Shane Werlinger Phyllis Wheeler

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Telling - day 2

"According to the legends, on Planet Earth there are nine gates to hell. Most of the gates are scattered across America--insane asylums, cult clearings--"

"Retirement homes," Zeph deadpanned.  (p114)
One of the things I like about Mike Duran's novel, The Telling, is the wit. It's sideways, dry, often unexpected, and it rises naturally from the characters and the events. And some of it -- humor dropped into a dark situation -- has a Southern or country twang, which reminds me of stories told by older kin back home in Arkansas:
"Mr. Duty." The world seemed to wait for Zephaniah's words. "The Lord has this for you."

The congregation drew a single collective breath. And held it.

Zephaniah spoke the words just as he'd heard them.

Blaise Duty looked like he'd been punched in his soft, spongy gut. The color drained from his orange-tinged skin, and his bottom lip began to tremble.

..."Loree-e-e," was the last thing he said before spinning like a corkscrew onto the carpet and falling flat on his back, as dead as a possum on the center line of the 395. (p150)
 Or an armadillo in the ditch.

Despite the California setting, there's a Southern gothic feel to this novel. That's all right by me. Done well, that dark, moody atmosphere adds mystery rather than melodrama, and serves the story.

It also enables even the not-so-spiritually-inclined the reader to suspend disbelief and accept fantastical elements as if they were a matter of course.
"Ah! The dark angel craves one thing--to be like man. And to be like man, it needs but one thing--the breath of life. If this one had finished its feast, Brother Walker's body would have been disposed of--a fully formed ectype would have developed, an angel become man. It would have blended into your society without notice. In the case of Brother Walker, few would ever know it."

..."The world is growing dark. Soon the night will fall when no one can stand. All will become enemies. Friend and foe... ." (p169)
Little Weaver closed his eyes. He drew a breath and straightened. "My name is Little Weaver, heir to Big Weaver. He guarded the gateway to the underworld, heir to those before him. Long before the miners came with their tools and their lust for wealth. Long before the scientists with their calculations and careless tinkering. We watched. We waited for the wielder of wild magic. The Branded One who would close the gateway forever."  (p171)

And that is the crux of the tale.

But we'll discuss that further tomorrow.

For other perspectives and more in-depth reviews of The Telling, check out these other stops along the tour:
Jim Armstrong Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham Brenda Castro Jeff Chapman Christine Theresa Dunlap Cynthia Dyer Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Emileigh Latham Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Anna Mittower Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Dona Watson Shane Werlinger Phyllis Wheeler

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Telling - day 1

"Is this..." Zeph's voice was detached, his eyes fixed on the body. "Is this some kinda joke?"

The detectives hunkered back into the shadows without responding.

Goosebumps rose on Zeph's forearms as the overhead vent rattled to life, sluicing cool air into the room. He took another step closer to the cadaver until his thigh nudged the table, jolting the stiff and bringing Zeph to a sudden stop. He peered at the bizarre figure.

Their similarities were unmistakeable. The lanky torso and appendages. The tousled sandy hair. Thick brows over deep-set eyes. This guy looks exactly like me! (p4)

This month's CSFF Blog Tour offering is Mike Duran's speculative novel, The Telling, a compellingly creepy, sometimes funny, often intriguing read (with a cool cover, too).

I enjoyed Duran's previous novel, The Resurrection, so I needed no convincing to give The Telling a try -- and I'm glad I did.

The main character, Zeph Walker, is a young man scarred in many ways: physically, spiritually, relationally. He's almost a hermit, his world contracted to three acres, a book exchange (think community library, sorta), his painting, minimal human contact, and a past he'd rather forget.

I'll discuss the story further over the next two days. Meantime, for other perspectives on The Telling, check out these other stops along the tour:
Jim Armstrong Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham Brenda Castro Jeff Chapman Christine Theresa Dunlap Cynthia Dyer Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Emileigh Latham Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Anna Mittower Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Dona Watson Shane Werlinger Phyllis Wheeler

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Door Within -- a teenagers's review

I've challenged my eldest niece to write reviews of books she reads, and posting them on this blog and on bookseller sites, in exchange for food and drink from, say, Panera. (She's partial to their giant carrot cake portions and cold lemonade.) I figure that's a fair exchange for a teenager, especially one who point-blank says she can be bribed with edibles.

We went to the Air Force base library last week, and looked for the works of authors she's heard me discuss, and we found a few novels but no complete series, until we happened upon Wayne Thomas Batson's trilogy, The Door Within. I grabbed all three books off the shelf and plunked them into her arms. "Here. Read this."

She looked momentarily bemused then smiled and shrugged, and we kept looking for more reading material. However, upon returning home, she almost immediately dove into the trilogy, and completed it in two days, but took a few days to compose notes into an orderly review. Here it is:

When Aidan's family moves to Colorado, it seems like the end of the world. Aidan has to leave everything he knows, including his only friends, to live with his wheelchair-bound grandfather. But when Aidan decides to explore the basement one afternoon, he finds the Scrolls, and the Story within them which turns out to be very real.

Heeding his grandfather's advice, Aidan enters the Door Within, and embarks on the adventures of a lifetime.

I recently borrowed The Door Within Trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson, and found it to be both exciting and well-written. The characters and setting are realistic and vividly described, and the people are just that -- ordinary people who behave in ordinary ways -- making them easy to relate to.

 While there was a spot or two where I had to stop and think a minute before I could picture something (and I can't say I enjoyed the part in the spider den!), the books are definitely among my favorites.

There is plenty of adventure and suspense, but at the same time, an appropriate amount of wit and humor keeps the story fun in places where utter seriousness is not required.

Also, there are some very good lessons on courage and faith to be learned from these books.

Overall, I think that I would definitely purchase these books for myself to keep, and I would also recommend them to any other teens who are looking for good Christian fiction.

-- review by "Jamie", age 14, avid reader

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Saga of Davi Rhii, Books 1 & 2

Finding time for reading a book -- or a magazine, or all my e-mail -- shouldn't be such a fight, and it wasn't, once upon a time. I used to look at non-readers as if they were three-headed freaks. How could they live?

But now I've pretty much joined them. For a writer and avid reader, editing as an occupation is akin to a gourmet foodie making a living as a cook at a greasy spoon: one's hunger increases even as one's stomach sours.

Thanks to recent conversations with a friend who recommended a couple science fiction novels, a fantasy featured in a blog tour last month, and a few more SF offerings written by acquaintances, my reading taste buds have been reawakened.

So, beginning at the bottom of my reading stack, with the volumes that have been longest in my queue, I offer as hors d'ouvres the first two books in Bryan Thomas Schmidt's science fiction series, The Saga of Davi Rhii: The Worker Prince and The Returning.

Excerpt from The Worker Prince:

You’ve got to be kidding me,” Yao muttered.

Davi turned to the cab-bot. “Please outrun that taxi and take us to the north shore.”

The cab-bot’s facial LEDs lit up in the shape of a smile. “I am
attempting to adjust our velocity, sir.”

The taxi jerked as Bordox rammed them again. Davi leapt over the safety bar and pulled the manual override lever, pushing the cab-bot to one side and placing himself at the controls.

Do you know how to drive this?” Vivi said, alarmed.

Davi’s the top pilot in our class,” Farien said and smiled.

Let’s see what this thing is made of.” Davi began pushing buttons, bringing the air taxi to a much faster speed.

Bordox launched another run at them, but Davi braked, and then slid in behind him, taking an onramp back up onto the air highway overhead.

As he turned onto the onramp, Bordox’s frustrated face appeared in the rearview mirror. Bordox’s bulky body looked ridiculous behind the wheel of the air taxi. His dark beard couldn’t hide his aggravation as he struggled to turn the air taxi around.

As they merged into traffic, Davi couldn’t see Bordox behind them.

Maybe we lost him,” Bela said.

I doubt it,” Yao said as he and Davi exchanged looks.

In a moment, Davi saw another taxi racing up from behind. “Here he comes.”

Bryan takes the Old Testament story of Moses, sets it in the far future, and turns it into space opera -- with chase scenes. Some reviewers have complained about the overt Christian faith in the books, but I set those comments aside. After all, there are science fiction or fantasy novels with other religions, such as Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, pantheism, etc., as the dominant faiths, and I've read them just fine. (Hey, did any of those reviewers bother to point out that Moses is in the Old Testament, and therefore the faith of the workers/slaves would more closely associate with Judaism? Oh, well.) 

Although my internal editor itched to break out the red pencil and go to crazy, fixing misplaced or missing punctuation and such, the story itself is a quick, easy read that will appeal to adult and young adult audiences alike. 

Excerpt from The Returning:

ither his eyes were failing or the shadows were alive.         

Dru blinked as he listened to his fellow cadets breathing and snoring around him. He lay at the center of a row of seven bunks with seven more lining the opposite wall. All twenty-eight were occupied and no one else seemed to be stirring.
      As he lifted his head, he saw a dark shape like a shadow, slinking down the center aisle. The figure moved quickly, sliding between the bunks on the opposite wall and leaning over one of them. He saw a sharp movement. Did the shadow have four arms? Who could it be? His mind raced for answers. His clothes stuck to his body, an odd feeling. He never sweated at night. There was a gargling, then he watched as the shadow shot upright and ran back the way it had come. Dru heard wheezing coming from the bunk and sat up, planting his feet on the floor. What was happening with Cadet Kowl? He jumped up. “Kowl, are you ok?”
      No sign of the shadow. A metallic smell filled his nostrils. Others stirred around him. He heard a click as reflector pads flicked on overhead.
      Dru gasped and stepped back as he stared down at Cadet Kowl's slashed throat as blood drained from it into two pools on either side of his bunk on the floor. He shivered, a sudden chill coming over him.
       “Gods! He's dead!” The cadet behind him sounded as shocked as Dru felt. Cadet Walz was it? Dru couldn't remember. Then chaos erupted as someone pulled the alarm and he was shoved aside by arriving instructors.

In Bryan’s second novel, The Returning, new challenges arise as Davi Rhii’s rival Bordox and his uncle, Xalivar, seek revenge for his actions in The Worker Prince, putting his life and those of his friends and family in constant danger. Meanwhile, politics as usual has the Borali Alliance split apart over questions of citizenship and freedom for the former slaves. Someone’s even killing them off. Davi’s involvement in the investigation turns his life upside down, including his relationship with his fiancĂ©e, Tela. The answers are not easy with his whole world at stake.

Author Spotlight

Bryan Thomas Schmidt writes science fiction and fantasy, not only for grownups but for children, too. 

His goal? "To write family friendly, fun stories both parents and children can enjoy which inspire wonder and a desire for adventure and a lifetime of learning. To write the kinds of stories that inspired me when I was growing up, safe stories with fun, admirable characters, interesting worlds, humor and action that you can’t put down and won’t easily forget."

Bryan's favorite authors include en, C.S. Lewis, John Grisham, W.E.B. Griffin, Nicholas Sparks, Timothy Zahn, Gail Carriger, A.C. Crispin, Leigh Brackett.

He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Chat), a live chat with science fiction and fantasy authors, editors, etc., on Wednesdays at 9 ET on Twitter. #sffwrtcht also posts interviews and reviews on a blog, as well as at SFSignal, Grasping For The Wind, and other sites.

Bryan's work includes novels, anthologies, and more: 
The Saga of Davi Rhii: The Worker Prince (October 2011
The Saga of Davi Rhii: The Returning (June 2012) 
The North Star Serial, Part 1 (May 2009)
Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales 6 (editor & contributor)(April 2012)
102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (Forthcoming 2012)

The Worker Prince made Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011.

A member of SFWA, ASCAP, and CCL, Bryan is also available for conferences, and he moonlights as a freelance editor. He can be reached via his website, where readers can catch up on his blog or SFF Writers Chat, buy his books, and read excerpts of novels.