Saturday, December 29, 2007

Best of the Year 2007

Listed below is my list(with links to the reviews) of favorites from the past year. They are in random order. It would be hard for me to say which is my absolute favorite.

The Shepherds' Prayer by Richard M. Barry
The Lost Sheep by Brandt Dodson
Fearless by Robin Parrish
A Pagan's Nightmare by Ray Blackston
The Door Within by Wayne Batson
The Root of All Evil by Brandt Dodson
A Bigger Life by Annette Smith
Coral Moon by Brandilyn Collins

What can you expect in 2008?

I would like to feature more interviews. A new interview with Brandt Dodson is already completed and will be published in early January.

More book reviews than 2007. So far I already have 2 reviews ready for the new year. They are Fallen by Matthew Raley and Bad Connection by Melody Carlson.

Finally I plan on reviewing more short fiction. We need to promote our short fiction writers. I will be reviewing stories from Wayfarers Journal, Haruah, and Mindflights. If you know of any other Christian short fiction magazines, please contact me.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

CFBA Tour-Distant Heart by Tracey Bateman

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Distant Heart

(Avon Inspire January 2, 2008)


Tracey Bateman


Tracey Bateman is the award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including Defiant Heart, the First in the Westeard Hearts series. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and recently served on the board as President. She loves in Lebanon, Missouri, with her husband and their four children.


In the second book in the Westward Hearts trilogy, will the promise of a new life out west heal the scars of Toni's past?

This series tells the stories of three strong women as they struggle to survive on the rough wagon train and lose their hearts to unlikely heroes along the way/ Thin Little House on the Prairie meets Francine river's Redeeming Love and you begin to get a sense of the riveting historical series that Tracey Bateman has created.

In this second installment, we follow Toni Rodden, a former prostitute who sought to escape her past and build a new life, and a new reputation, when she joined the wagon train. Despite much resentment and distrust from the other women, Toni has finally earned a place on the wagon train and found a surrogate family in Fannie Caldwell and her two siblings. For the first time in her life, Toni actually feels free.

But while Toni once harbored dreams that her new life might include a husband and family, she soon realizes the stigma that comes with her past is difficult to see beyond and that she'll never be truly loved or seen as worthy. As the trip out west begins to teach her to survive on her own, she resolves to make her own living as a seamstress when the train finally reaches Oregon.

But despite Toni's conviction that no man will be able to see beyond her marred past, Sam Two-feathers, the wagon scout and acting preacher for the train seems to know of a love that forgives sins and values much more than outward appearances. Will Sam have the confidence to declare his love? Will Toni be able to trust in a God that can forgive even the darkest past? Faith, love, and courage will be put to the test in Distant Heart.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour-Wayfarers Journal

Welcome to the our December tour featuring the Wayfarers Journal. Editor-in-chief Terri Main has graciously agreed to an interview. Today, I will let her answers tell you about the journal. Tomorrow I will review "Phobos" by Stoney Setzer.

1. What science fiction and fantasy books do you enjoy reading?
My favorite are "hard" science fiction books. These are books that are based, even if loosely, on actual science. I don't mind taking a few liberties with Faster Than Light travel or teleportation, but for the most part I like to stay mostly grounded in science for science fiction. I like books with strong characters and plots that make me think. I'm more about an interesting plot than an exciting action adventure. My favorite writers are the classic SF writers like Asimov, Clarke, Simak, Bradbury and the like.
When it comes to fantasy, I'm not a big sword and sorcery fan. I get a bit tired of seeing people trying to rewrite Tokien and Lewis. They did a fantastic job with their fantasies, but it's time for us to move on. I like fantasies that feel real. Perhaps my favorite ones are L.E. Modesitt's Recluse series. The "magic" is simply part of the natural physics of the planet with sensitives being able to manipulate them sometimes for very mundane things. The wizards of chaos are trained in controlling chaos fire by cleaning out the sewers of the towns. Then there are the character conflicts and the political stuff. He makes it seem natural.

2. Were you inspired by any existing magazines?
I don't know if I was inspired for WJ by any in particular, however, I would say I was inspired by the old classic SF journals such as Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fantastic Stories, Amazing stories, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. To a lesser extent, I found the slick, but now defunct, Omni to be a great example of what a speculative fiction publication could be.

3. What led you to start Wayfarers Journal?
Well, I was looking around for a science-fiction journal featuring stories with a spiritual basis. I found a lot of e-zines that had some science fiction, but were mostly publishing fantasy. Also, when I did see some science fiction, too many of them were sermons wrapped in a story. I was finding it hard to find stories which actually struggled with the moral, ethical and spiritual issues raised by current or future technology.
I always felt that defining a narrow focus was better than trying to be all things to all people. I love hard science fiction. I wanted to create a venue for writers to explore the spiritual implications of future technology and social trends in an interesting and non-preachy way. That's what resulted in WJ.

4. Based on the submissions you have received, are there any types of stories you are looking for but have not seen?
Actually, I have been supremely blessed by the stories I've received. Some miss the mark and I have to reject them. That's part of running a publication. However, most of the writers get the idea. I would like to see a few more that deal with possible aliens and alien theology. There is no Biblical reason to believe that God only created sentient life on this planet. I would love to see stories dealing with say the theological implications of first contact with another species or missionaries trying to minister to aliens who already know God but in a different way. Those sort of stories I would find fascinating.

5. What is your vision for the future of the journal?
Interesting that you should ask that. I am taking some time off from reading submissions until February to consider the future. I'm actually preparing my own review of WJ and I have to say there are some criticisms I have.
First, I am reconsidering the "magazine" model we use for online publications. That print model assumes that you will create a new "publication" every month, quarter, etc. and put all the other materials into an archive. I'm thinking of moving to a website model which is constantly being updated with new materials providing a new experience every few weeks but still featuring important stories from the past. The web, unlike print media, allows for such a dynamic model for content creation.
Secondly, I would like the journal to become more visual. WJ is weak graphically. Since this is currently a one-person shop, and that one person is not an artist, the site hasn't done much with graphics. Tony Qwade did a wonderful job creating a banner for me. I love it. But classic science fiction magazines were as much about the art, even if some of it was garish, as it was about the writing. I would like to have some of that in WJ.
Thirdly, I want WJ to become a destination site and build a community around it. For several months we have been hosting a discussion group in Second Life, a popular virtual world. That is on hold while I acquire a new location and "build" a new science fiction center there. I would also like to have live chats several times a week hosted by different writers and fans on different topics. I have build a "tools" page that people can use as a home page with search engines, news, science news, a calendar, to do list and weather.
Finally, I want WJ to develop a reputation outside of the Christian Speculative Fiction community. I attempt to keep the presentation low key and seeker-friendly. Even unbelievers are interested in the moral, ethical and spiritual implications of modern technology. This can be a gateway for many to start thinking about spiritual issues. Most of the stories at WJ would be of equal interest to Christian and non-Christian alike. I wouldn't be unhappy if more non-believers than believers visit the site.
Too many websites designed by Christians are created for other Christians. I have an internet evangelist friend who points out that 90+ percent of all Christian web sites are designed for other Christians. Yet, many of the owners of those sites think they are doing evangelism. I hope that WJ will act as a "bridge" website drawing in people to read some good science fiction, but opening the door for a conversation about spirituality as well.

I was impressed with her ideas for the Wayfarers Journal. With people like Terri involved, Christian science fiction looks to have a bright future.

Please take the time to visit the other sites participating in the tour.


Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Grace Bridges
Amy Browning
Jackie Castle
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Michael Heald
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika or Mir's Here
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Steve Rice
Cheryl Russel
Ashley Rutherford
Hanna Sandvig
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Coming Attractions

Things to look for...

I am evaluating the way I review books. An interesting discussion at SF Signal has me thinking about my reviews. Right now, I am leaning towards the type of review that Spider Robinson used to do in Galaxy SF Magazine.

In the near future will be my second interview with Brandt Dodson. He is the author of the one of the best noir series-the Colton Parker novels.

The next book review I will be doing is for Orson Scott Card's "A War of Gifts". It is a new Ender story. The focus of the book is on religion and holiday traditions being introduced at the Battle School. It will be appearing on the Speculative Faith site this Friday.

Next week will see the December Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy tour featuring the Wayfarers Journal. I will review a short story by one of my favorite Christian short story writers-Stoney Setzer.

The next book I will review on this site will be Fallen by Matthew Raley. This is a first novel that will be published in January.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CFBA Tour-What Lies Within by Karen Ball

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

What Lies Within

Multnomah Fiction (November 20, 2007)


Karen Ball


Karen Ball , bestselling novelist, is also the editor behind several of today's bestselling Christian novels. Her love for words was passed down through her father and grandfather - both pastors who shared God's truth through sermons and storytelling. Blending humor, poignancy, and honesty, Karen's writing style is a powerful force for revealing God's truth. She lives in Oregon with her husband, Don, and their "kids," Bodhan, a mischief-making Siberian husky, and Dakota, an Aussie-terrier mix who should have been named "Destructo."


Nothing’s going to stop Kyla…

until the ground crumbles beneath her feet.

Kyla Justice has arrived. Her company, Justice Construction, is one of the most critically acclaimed, commercially successful companies in the Pacific Northwest. And yet, something is missing. Not until she’s called on to build a center for inner-city kids does she realize what it is: her sense of purpose. Now nothing can stop her, not the low budget, not supply problems, not gang opposition, not her boyfriend’s suggestion that she sell her business and marry him–and most especially not that disagreeable Rafael Murphy.

Rafe Murphy understands battle. Wounded in action, this Force Recon Marine carries the scars–and the nightmares–to prove it. Though he can’t fight overseas any longer, he’s found his place as a warrior in the civilian world. So he soldiers on, trusting that one of these days, God will reveal to him why Rafe survived the ambush in Iraq. That day has arrived.

Kyla and Rafe both discover that determination alone won’t carry them through danger and challenges. When gang violence threatens their very foundations, there’s only one way to survive: rely on each other, be real–and surrender to God. In other words, risk everything…

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

CFBA Tour-Bluegrass Peril by Virginia Smith

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Bluegrass Peril

(Steeple Hill December 4, 2007)


Virginia Smith

Virginia Smith left her job as a corporate director to become a full time writer and speaker in the summer of 2005. Since then she has contracted eight novels and numerous articles and short stories.

She writes contemporary humorous novels for the Christian market, including her debut, Just As I Am (Kregel Publications, March 2006) and her new release, Murder by Mushroom (Steeple Hill, August 2007). Her short fiction has been anthologized, and her articles have been published in a variety of Christian magazines.

An energetic speaker, Virginia loves to exemplify God’s truth by comparing real-life situations to well-known works of fiction, such as her popular talk, “Biblical Truths in Star Trek.”



Local police had tagged single mom Becky Dennison as their prime suspect. But she'd only been in the wrong place at the wrong time...admittedly, with her boss's lifeless body. Sure it looked bad, but Becky had no motive for killing...even if she had opportunity.

When the director of the retirement farm for thoroughbred champions is murdered, Becky Dennison teams up with the handsome manager of a neighboring horse farm, Scott Lewis, to find her boss's killer. Soon the amateur detective are hot on the trail of the murderer...even as their feelings for each other deepen.

The amateur sleuths uncover a trail of clues that lead them into the intricate society of Kentucky's elite thoroughbred breeding industry. They soon find themselves surrounded by the mint julep set - jealous southern belles and intensely competitive horse breeders - in a high-stakes game of danger, money, and that famous southern pride.

And for Becky and Scott, this race on the Kentucky tracks has the greatest stakes of all: life or death!

Romantic Times awarded Bluegrass Peril
* * * * FOUR STARS! * * * *

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Shepherds' Prayer by Richard M. Barry

Very few books make it to my annual reading shelf. Of course, the Bible is number one. It is the only book that I read daily. Every Easter I find myself re-reading Suddenly, One Morning by Chuck Swindoll. Now I will be adding
The Shepherds' Prayer to my annual Advent reading.

The story follows a young man's journey to find his past. His adopted father found Anam when he was an infant. Anam's mother was already dead when he was found. The only clue to his past was the blanket he was wrapped in. A blanket that leads him to Bethlehem. Anam returns to his birthplace, hoping to find his family. The clue shows a connection to someone named Jesus.

When people think of Christmas, we think of the birth of our Savior. We think of Mary and Joseph, the angels, the manger, and times of great joy because of God's gift to us. This book takes at look at the shepherds and the all too human reaction of the residents of Bethlehem.

The author puts you in the place of the shepherds. Shepherds are referred to many times during Christmas but do you ever stop and imagine what life was like for them? This book will give you a taste of their life.

The most startling aspect of the book was the reaction of the townspeople. When Anam starts questioning the people about Jesus, he does not get the response he expects. The people of Bethlehem remember Jesus' birth as a time of pain and suffering. They remember the slaughter of the innocents by Herod. How would you feel if you lost a child or family member and a stranger asked you about the time it happened?

Based on what I have described, The Shepherds' Prayer sounds depressing. But it is not. It is a reminder of what happened during the time of our Savior's birth. The life of Anam is an uplifting story when it is finished.

Highly recommended.

You can read(or listen to) the first two chapters at

Sunday, December 02, 2007

FIRST Tour-The Minor Protection Act by Jodi Cowles

It is December 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:

and her book:

The Minor Protection Act
Musterion (December 1, 2005)


Jodi Cowles caught the travel bug when her parents took her on her first international flight at six months of age. Since then she’s been in over 30 countries. Along the way she’s gotten locked out of her cabin on an all night train to Kiev, helped deliver a baby in Indonesia, taught English in South Korea, gone spelunking in Guam, hiked the Golan Heights and laid bricks in Zimbabwe. Her interest in politics stems from hunting Easter eggs on the south lawn of the White House as a child. For her 30th birthday she ran the LA Marathon and promised to get serious about publishing. Jodi resides in Boise, Idaho and this is her first novel.


If the politically correct set was searching for a poster couple, they would need to look no further than Erik and Roselyn Jessup. In college they lit up doobies while attending passionate speeches about legalizing marijuana and freeing Tibet. Erik was even arrested once for helping break into an animal research center. Roselyn bailed him out. After five years of dating they decided to tie the knot. Seven years later, after Roselyn had enough time to get established in her career, she gave birth to their pride and joy, Jayla Lynn Jessup.

Both had satisfying full-time jobs that left them only enough time to pour themselves into Jayla. They attended every event at school, even if it meant working overtime and paying the after school program for a few extra hours. When Jayla made the principal's list or won a spelling bee, they were cheering, and filming, from the front row.

Jayla began junior high at a brand new school with a brand new curriculum. It was being called "progressive" in the papers; the first program of its kind implemented in California with plans for a nationwide rollout over the next 10 years. Praise poured in from around the country, applauding the straight talk about sexuality and focus on tolerance.

Erik and Roselyn were thrilled to have their daughter in this groundbreaking program. Granted, it took several phone calls to district authorities to accomplish the transfer and Roselyn had to drive an extra 30 minutes each morning to drop off Jayla, but it was quite a coup to brag about in their circle of friends.

Jayla turned 13 two years into junior high. For her birthday she told her parents she wanted to order pizza and hang around the house – there was something she needed to tell them. Over pepperoni and Coke, Jayla calmly informed them that she'd been discussing it with her friends and teachers and had decided she was gay.

Though she had never had a girlfriend, or a boyfriend for that matter, Erik and Roselyn were quick to affirm her decision and let her know she had their full support. Roselyn applauded her daughter's honest, courageous move and told Jayla how proud she was. Erik was also supportive and went so far as to tease Jayla about her best friend Sara.

There weren't too many lesbians in her junior high and Jayla had a pretty average experience, but she attracted attention when she entered high school wearing the rainbow buttons specially purchased by her mother. Soon she was 15 and seriously involved with Carla, the 17-year-old senior who was President of the Gay Pride Club. When Erik and Roselyn saw the relationship deepening they sat Jayla down and had a heart to heart "sex talk," encouraging her to be responsible and safe, and only to have sex if she was truly in love.

She was. However, when the year ended Carla left for college on the east coast and broke off the relationship in a letter.

Jayla was heartbroken. Erik and Roselyn were quick to comfort, as any loving parents of a shattered teenager, but their answers seemed hollow to Jayla, their comfort cold. At 16 she began dabbling in drugs - a first for her.

By the time her senior year began the family bond that was once so strong had disintegrated to the degree that she seldom spoke to her parents unless it was to strike out in anger. She had not entered into another dating relationship, as much as they encouraged her in that direction. Rather, she seemed withdrawn from the world and spent endless hours either locked in her room or suspiciously absent. Finally, Roselyn had enough and took her to a doctor who prescribed an anti-depressant for teenagers that had just been released on the market.

By Christmas the medication seemed to be working. Jayla was coming around, spending more time at home. She seemed calmer and more at peace. They were even beginning to talk about college. But New Year's morning they found her dead, her anti-depressant bottle and a quart of vodka laying empty in the trash and a mass of journals and letters scattered around her in the bed.

Erik and Roselyn were devastated. Jayla had been their whole life. They dove into the letters and journals, trying to make sense of it all. What they found only served to inflame their anger. Some boy named Nick had been telling their daughter that she was a sinner, quoting Bible verses that said her sexual preference was an abomination before God. Jayla's journal was full of self-loathing, page after page about her relationship with Carla, page after page of rambling, agonizing pain. Why was she made like this if homosexuality was a sin? Why would her parents have supported her if it were an abomination? Why had she listened to the seventh grade teacher who told her experimentation was the best way to determine her sexuality? What was wrong with her?

They could hardly stand to finish it but they read every word. In the end their grief found relief, as it so often does, in bitterness and hatred. The day after Jayla's funeral, attended by hundreds of students from Jayla’s school, Erik and Roselyn met with the District Attorney. A year later, bitterness not yet assuaged, they went to see a lawyer. In the culture of America, where there is rarely tragedy unaccompanied by litigation, they found a willing law firm. Someone would pay.