Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Black Earth: Broken Daisy by David Alderman review

Black Earth: The Broken Daisy
4.5 stars

First off I would strongly recommend reading Black Earth: End of the Innocence before checking out this book.  Also this review may contain some minor spoilers to who have not read book one.

In Black Earth: The Broken Daisy David Alderman continues his tale of the end of the world. Since this is the second book in the series I won't really say anything about the plot so I don't give away anything from the first book. In Broken Daisy the religious aspect of the story becomes a bit more pronounced. The background of a lot of the main characters is also exposed a little bit more and some important questions from book one are addressed and answered. He also talks a little bit about the origin of the Legion and covers some of Evanescence's background. The book really ramps up the some of the drama involving Nathan, Heather, and Cynthia and I feel this is a very well done sequel. I will be reading this series to the conclusion to find out what happens with all of the characters.  There is also some more exploration into the history of the Wedge characters and  a big surprise about Griffin.  

Picture Perfect
In other David Alderman news he has combined the two books in the Black Earth series into one Kindle volume Black Earth Double Pack for a little money savings.  He is also still very active on his blog where he is talking about his Expired Reality series.  The first book from that series is due out very soon.  In related news his teaser novella for the Expired Reality series recently underwent a cosmetic change with a slight update to the cover (on the left).  

Buy his books on Smashwords

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My guest spot and info on Blog Tour do Troops

Stuart Aken had a special post featuring me that posted yesterday on his blog.  It is pretty crazy to see me featured anywhere since I claim no unique work.  It was still very cool to see and thanks to my friends who stopped over there and showed your support.  I will also be posting an interview with Stuart here in the near future so keep an eye out for that.

I have also "sponsored" 2 authors in the Blog Tour de Troops event this Memorial Day weekend.  This is a great even sponsored by the Indie Book Collective that is giving away ebooks and kindles to troops stationed overseas.  All you have to do is visit the participating blogs and leave a comment with your email address and you will receive a copy of their book as well as one being sent to an overseas soldier.  If you know anyone serving overseas you can even specify the recipient.  There are over 30 authors participating (including Arshad Ahsanuddin and Jennifer Provost) so you can get a ton of free books and help out our soldiers.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Frozen Prospects by Dean Murray Coupon and review

Read it yourself for FREE!  Smashwords coupon AZ28V plus Dean is sponsoring a contest until July 1st (details at the bottom of the post)

Frozen Prospects (The Guadel Chronicles)
4.5 stars

Frozen Prospects (The Guadel Chronicles) by Dean Murray follows Va'del in his quest to find acceptance. It is set high in the mountains where all the communities are based in large cave systems and it is death to wander outside unprepared. Born from a lowlander mother and orphaned at a young age is enough to make him an outcast and a target for the bullies in his community. Constantly beaten by the headman's son Jas'per he once again awakens to find himself in the healing area being taken care of by Sara. While in recovery he learns that some of the mysterious Guadel have arrived to test the youngsters of his community to see if they will be taken away to the Capital. When Va'del is tested he is given the choice to stay where he is and continue his miserable existence of getting beaten up and not having anyone willing to take him as an apprentice, or he can accompany the Guadel for training and possibly become one of them.

Getting into anymore of the story would start to give spoilers so I'll just say that when he arrives at the Capital under less than ideal circumstances his life becomes just as miserable as it was and he is constantly thinking about suicide to end it all. There were times that I really was not a big fan of Va'del as a character, but he really grows as the story develops and at the end I was left wanting to see more books about him. I really enjoyed a lot of the support characters, especially I'rone. 

That brings us back to Thawed Fortunes (release date June 10).  I was lucky enough to get an ARC for this book and let me tell you I really enjoyed following Va'del through this adventure as well.  I don't want to spoil either book so I won't go into many details, but I will say that Va'del is still struggling to become a Guadel.  I am of the opinion that this book is better than the first and I continue to look forward to more to come. 

Mr. Murray will be hosting a review contest for Frozen Prospects and Thawed Fortunes.  So you get a free book and if you write a review and e-mail him a link you get entered to win more stuff!  The rules are pretty simple for every review you post for either of his two books on a major review site (Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony bookstore, Goodreads, Apple bookstore, or even a blog review) you get one entry.  On July 1st he will draw three lucky winners that will choose from these three prize packages (only one of each package will be given away first come first serve):

First Package
A copy of Darkness & Light
A $20 iTunes gift card

Second Package
A copy of Darkness & Light
Advanced copies of Broken and Torn (the next two books to be released, different series)

Third Package
A copy of Darkness & Light
A sneak peek of plot points planned for the third book in the Guadel Chronicles 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rise of the Deva'shi review

Repost for the Blog Tour de Troops
Rise of the Deva'shi (A Chronicle of Parthalan)
3.5 stars

Rise of the Deva'shi (A Chronicle of Parthalan) tells the story of Latera a princess who is kidnapped to the realm of Faerie.  She escapes her captors and starts her life anew as a humble horse groomer at a small village inn.  One day Aeolmar the First Hunter of Parthalan comes through on a training exercise and asks for Latera to accompany him and his men to the forest so she can care for their horses while they train.  During the training there is a demon ambush and Aeolmar is injured fairly badly.  He is returned to camp unconscious while his men go to hunt the vile demons that attacked them.  When the men leave demons attack again leaving only Latera to defend Aeolmar and herself.  She manages to kill two demons and injure the third when Aeolmar wakes up and finishes it off.  This being a totally unheard of feat for someone who has absolutely no combat training Latera is invited back to the castle to train to become a huntress.  

This begins the story of a growing affection between Aeolmar and Latera as well as a Parthalan being in danger from increased demonic activity that must be stopped.  Along the way Latera learns the truth about her past and why mysterious things keep happening to her in the land of Faerie.  

Overall the book was good.  The story was entertaining for the most part and the characters were well written and engaging.  The biggest drawback to me was the romance aspect of the book.  I don't mind their being romance in books that I read, but this had a bit to much for my taste.  If you enjoy stories of love with fantastical elements then this book is for you, and honestly it was well written enough that if there is another book in the series I will check it out for sure.

I have to say that I really do enjoy Jennifer's writing style a lot.  Her action sequences were fantastic and the "beasts" that the demons had were described almost frighteningly well.  Well done for sure for more news check out her website.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sunset by Arshad Ahsanuddin review

Sunset: Pact Arcanum: Book One (Volume 1)
5 stars!

Sunset is an amazingly detailed look into the society of meta-humans living hidden in North America.  I usually don't enjoy vampire books, but this one is an exception.  There are three races in the hidden society Nightwalkers, Daywalkers, and Sentinels.  Nightwalkers are the typical vampires, Daywalkers are vampires that have been cleansed of their demonic taint and reclaimed their souls, and Sentinels are the soldiers that are genetically designed to kill vampires.  Daywalkers are a fairly new race, but Nightwalkers and Sentinels have been at war for thousands and thousands of years.  In North America however there has been a truce reached between the three races and they now live in relative harmony.  

When a terrorist threatens to nuke L.A. Nick, a Daywalker, reveals himself and exposes the hidden society to the world.  Arshad Ahsanuddin has created an intricate political structure involving all three races.  The vampire society is divided into houses that all have alliances and enemies as well as Nightwalkers hating Daywalkers and Sentinels killing all vampires regardless (outside of the alliance).  The story is action filled and intense.  This book is fantastic and I cannot wait to read book two and book three (this summer hopefully).  

Arshad maintains a website that is very informative about the various houses and alliances in his world.  He also has a newsletter that you can download in pdf format that is has a breakdown of the three meta-human races as well as a major character breakdown.  From what he has told me book 1 is very story based in order to draw the reader into the world book 2 has more of a character building aspect.  This book does have a gay romance aspect to it.  I am not a huge fan of romance, but Arshad does it very well and the romance stays pretty much PG-13 (other than vampire blood drinking).  

Other works by this author:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blog Tour de Troops!

Hey all I am just taking a second to update everyone on a new event I will be participating in.  It is called the Blog Tour de Troops!  This event is being organized by the people at the Indie Book Collective and is a great thing.  I believe any authors that are interested can still get involved.  Check out their site for all the info on becoming involved.  There are also review sites sponsoring the authors by posting reviews on the work that is available.  I have been asked to sponsor Sunset (Pact Arcanum) by Arshad Ahsanuddin (review posted tomorrow) and Rise of the Deva'shi (A Chronicle of Parthalan) by Jennifer Allis Provost (review posted Friday).

Please everyone stop by their websites and thank them for participating in such a wonderful cause.  I have read both books and they are both excellent.

Sunset: Pact Arcanum: Book One (Volume 1)Rise of the Deva'shi (A Chronicle of Parthalan)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Indie Book Blog exclusive coupon!!!

Hemlock and the Wizard Tower
B Throwsnaill author of Hemlock and the Wizard Tower is giving this blog another exclusive.  This one is a coupon code to download his book FREE!!  This coupon will only work for about a week, but in celebration to all the changes he made (see his blog for his upgrades including editing, mapping, and a new cover) he is offering his book for free.  He wants anyone who purchased his book to have a chance to get the new and improved version without having to buy it again.  This will be the only place the actual code for the free download is posted so I am very excited and honored that he has chosen me for this.

Coupon code:  ZG78M click here to download your copy and once again I would like to say thanks to B Throwsnaill for this very cool exclusive for my blog.  If you do pick up a copy make sure to stop by his blog to leave him a comment for his generosity.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review for Friends of Orion

Friends of Orion (The Orion Alliance)
5 stars

Friends of Orion (The Orion Alliance) follows Ben Asterman an artist living in a fairly small town. Ben is not only gifted with a paint brush, but he can also read peoples minds. Throughout his life he has tried to ignore his gift as much as he can. Sitting in the park one day he begins to hear a voice talking to him in his head. The voice turns out to be Orion, a hawk who become his teacher and friend. Through Orion he meets some local children who share his gift and becomes friends with their family. While out with their father he "overhears" the Lancers communicating about some stuff that seems pretty shady. They notice his intrusion and begin to take steps to take care of him by any means necessary. 

This book really pulled me in quickly. Ben is a guy who is very easy to relate to and understand. The character interactions are well done and I found myself rooting for Ben and Sarah to work things out. When the Lancers become a part of the story there is a sense of tension added to the story that kept me hitting the page turn button as fast as I could read. Overall the story was very well done and I would love to see some more from Regina.

Quick update

Hello everyone,

I am now back home from my mini vacation.  I had hoped to have a few posts auto post while I was gone, but unfortunately blogger was down right before I left and I wasn't able to do it.  I didn't have access to a computer on my trip so I really couldn't post anything on the fly either.  The good news is I did get a pretty good amount of reading done on the trip and wrote a few basic outlines for some reviews.  Starting today I should get my posting back on schedule.  Thanks for your patience.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Interview with Jeffrey Pierce author of Escaping Destiny and The Awakening

Today's interview takes place with Jeffrey Pierce in honor of his book The Awakening hitting "shelves" today.  It should be live on Amazon and Smashwords (I didn't use links since I am probably sitting in a plane right now and had to pre-schedule this post lol).  There is still the option to check out his website and pick up an autographed copy for only $15 as well.

Escaping Destiny (Tapestry)

When did you decide to become a writer?

I began writing short stories the moment that I learned to write.  Where most kids leave Lego’s strewn around the house, I'd leave hand-written pages, bits and pieces of stories that I'd created.  Just before graduation, my high school writing teacher handed me a letter that he'd written, encouraging me to pursue a career as a writer.  It was then that I realized that I could do something with my passion.

If you are not a full time writer what do you do to pay the bills?

After eleven years working in IT, my wife and I switched places.  I'm a stay at home father and run the kids to and from school.  In the spaces that my schedule provides, I take care of the domestic end of things and write.

What was your route to Indie authoring?

I've actually been represented by two different literary agencies and, while we had some close calls, we weren't able to place any of my manuscripts.  My manuscripts have been read by a pretty wide circle of friends and co-workers, who in turn passed them on to their friends and family.  One day I decided, "The only regret I'll ever have is looking back and having not published my novels on my own."  I have a background in graphic design and my wife has laid out countless publications for different employers, so we put our heads together and gave it a shot.  We make a pretty good team.

Any tips for your fellow Indie authors?

The first thing I'd encourage my fellow indie authors to do is to think outside of the box.  My wife and I are constantly coming up to each other and saying, "I have this idea."  No matter how crazy it may sound, if it brings your book to a larger audience, it's worth taking your time to explore.

I'd also recommend using the Internet.  We blog, twitter, use Facebook - any medium where you can tell more people, "Hey! I've got this book."  Don't be afraid to blow your own horn on these sites.  If you get a good review, let your online social networks know.  We encourage everyone who reads Escaping Destiny to write a review.

But most importantly, remember that your readers aren't just "fans" - they're customers.  It's important to always be polite, always be gracious, and to always say thank you for each little thing they do.  They'll remember and tell other people about your book.  Good customer service is not only effective, it's free.

What served as your inspiration for Escaping Destiny?

As strange as it may sound, I was in the mood to read something and couldn't find a book that caught my imagination - so I wrote one!  The concept behind Escaping Destiny is pretty simple.  In so many fantasy novels, there's a prophesy that everyone strives to fulfill.  What would happen if those who were prophesied about said, "Nope.  Not gonna happen," and went their own way?  Could they escape their destiny?  Or would the very act of trying to avoid it be the road that eventually fulfilled the prophecy.

What other work do you have available?

Escaping Destiny is my first novel and the first book in the Tapestry Trilogy.  It was released in February.  My next novel (The Awakening) comes out in May with a third coming out in November.

What sites is your work available on?

Escaping Destiny is available through Amazon.com and SmashWords.  The first three chapters of the novel are available to read for free on my site, www.virtual-coffee.com

Are you currently working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?

My next novel is called, The Awakening, and comes out in May.  It's the first book in a separate trilogy, a modern day supernatural thriller about the end of reality.  In November, a modern day fairy tale called, Remembering Tomorrow, will be released.  Each February and May I'll be releasing another installment of the respective trilogies with a stand-alone novel published each November.

Are there any authors that you really look up to?

When I have the time to read, I tend to pick up non-fiction titles.  Science and history are both passions of mine.  The fiction writer I found most influential was the young adult novelist, Susan Cooper, who wrote the award winning Dark Is Rising series.  I picked up the fourth book in the series, The Grey King, when I was in sixth grade, not knowing that it was part of a larger sequence.  The way that she took Welsh mythology and wove it into a modern setting really appealed to me.  I was hooked from the very first chapter.

What do you see the biggest challenge in being an Indie author as?

The biggest challenge in being an Indie author is the lack of exposure.  So far readers have absolutely raved about Escaping Destiny.  It's jokingly being referred to as, "The fantasy novel you'll sacrifice sleep to read."  My wife and I are marketing my novels on a shoestring budget and it's a constant challenge to widen our available audience.  We're intentionally looking beyond immediate sales and exposure and positioning ourselves to have a larger audience when the sequels come out.

Do you have a homepage/blog/twitter/facebook etc... that fans can follow your progress or contact you at?

All three actually.

What is your favorite book/series?

I love Startide Rising by David Brin.  The novel is filled with concepts that I wish I would have thought of.  It's one of my personal reminders to write in directions that have yet to be explored. 

Are there any specific sites that you visit for advice or inspiration?

As much as I use it as a networking tool, I spend surprisingly little time online.  Most of my inspiration for story ideas comes from watching documentaries and reading non-fiction.  Nature is pretty amazing in all of its diversity and I'll often find my imagination captured by a scene, wondering about the animal's perspective, why it behaves in a certain way.

I consciously look outside of literary channels for advice on how to market my novels.  For instance, I'll read articles on how independent video game companies are getting the word out about their projects long before I'll read about how books are being marketed.  My thinking is that it’s very easy for an indie author to get lost in the crowd if they follow everyone else.  However, if they take an approach completely outside of the mainstream, they just might have a chance to get noticed.

Which of your characters do you relate to the most? Why?

All of my close friends immediately chime in with, “Jeffrey, Kai is so you.”  Out of all of the characters that I’ve written, he’s the closest mirror of my base personality.  Kai is a warrior with a big heart, his path grounded in philosophy and his missteps generally happen only when his emotions get the best of him.  We discover that he makes the “hard but right choice” when confronted with a challenge, often at a fairly high cost that only he can pay.  I walk the same “gentle warrior” path that Kai embraces, which is the natural combination of being a traditional trained shaman with a background in military special operations.  Kai is a little more patient than I am; I’m a little more grounded than he is.   That said, we’re a very close reflection of each other.

Kai kind of took main stage in the first book.  Will that trend continue or will the other books focus more on the others?

When I read a series of novels, it often seems that the author wrote the first book and then asked themselves, “What should I write about for a sequel?”  Escaping Destiny is akin to the first act in a play.  Not only does the tale continue to build with each subsequent novel, but each character has their own story arc that spans numerous books.  Kai played such a prominent role in the first book primarily because he’s a natural leader and had to guide those under his care through a difficult situation.  As other characters come into their own and are called upon, they come to the forefront of the story.  Both the half-mer, Beltross, and the young warrior woman, Traela, will have significantly expanded roles in the second book.

Is there a teaser available about book 2 in the series yet?

Nothing yet, simply because I’m focusing on my next two novels that are coming out before the second book in the Tapestry series is published.  I haven’t even talked about it on my own blog yet, so you can consider the following something of a scoop.

The second book in the series, Lost Within, begins two years after the end of Escaping Destiny.  Kai and Ko’laru have given up the warrior’s path to start a family and Ko’laru is pregnant with the couple’s first child.  We discover that the pieces of prophecy that the characters followed in Escaping Destiny were only part of a much larger foretelling known only to certain sects of mystics and completely unknown to Kai.  The philosophy of non-intervention adopted by the maat has changed since the concept of healing themselves has entered their collective subconscious.  Conflicts begin to break out, threatening full-scale war as the maat begin to assert their authority and position themselves to take over the world of Tapestry.

In the second book in the series, we’ll learn more about Beltross and visit his mother’s people (the mer), Traela will step into her own and be sent as an emissary to the maat, and Leiron will discover that her power has grown as she hits puberty, her abilities maturing with her physical body.  Both Caraine and Sovay will be back.  Kai and Ko’laru will both have prominent roles, but they’ll share the spotlight as other characters come to the forefront.

Did any part of your spiritual quest as a young man play a part in the shaping of Escaping Destiny?

Only in small ways.  My next novel, The Awakening (which publishes on May 13th), was heavily influenced by that quest.  When I was seventeen years old, I decided to discover the divine for myself.  Twenty years later, having deeply explored most of the world’s major religions and been trained as a shaman by a Native American woman, I had enough answers to begin making sense of what I had seen, learned, and experienced firsthand.  A lot of Kai’s warrior philosophy, for instance, is a combination of Eastern perspective and traditional shamanism.

As we move deeper into the series, more of my background will appear in the novels.  For instance, Lost Within will begin to show the juxtaposition between how a shaman see the spirits of land and sea, illustrated in the unique cultures of the mer and the fae.  Integrating my own path in that way gives me an additional pallet of colors to draw upon when I paint a scene.  I really enjoy creating passages that unfold into greater implications as the reader reflects back upon them.

Any news on Remembering Tomorrow?

I’m finishing up my pre-publication checklist for The Awakening and then I’ll be shifting my focus to Remembering Tomorrow (November).  At its heart, Remembering Tomorrow is a love story – with a very significant twist.  Inspired by an old Celtic fairy tale, the main character escapes from another realm only to find that the modern world has moved on without him.  Michael left behind our modern world and returns to discover that more than sixty years have passed and society has fractured.  What’s more is that his fiancĂ© is living in this world – just as he left her – but she has a different name and has no memory of Michael.  In the midst of it all, a way of life is threatened and the other realm appears to reclaim Michael as their own.  The tagline is, “If you believe, your love will span lifetimes.”

Do you have any plans on mapping the world of Tapestry?

When I sat down to write Escaping Destiny, the first book in the Tapestry series, I based the geography on my native Pacific Northwest.  Starting with a survey map of the western United States that was drawn in 1848 and dumping it into Photoshop, I’ve slowly been adapting the map to fit the world of Tapestry. 

One of the challenges in writing Escaping Destiny was adhering to the geographic scale of the story.  The characters move from place to place on foot, which limited the story to a range of about one hundred miles.  If you picture the United States, Escaping Destiny took place in a very small area of Oregon, a distance that a person could cover in about a week.  By the time that the series, which has been extended to eight books, draws to a close, the map will stretch from the Pacific Ocean to the eastern part of Montana and from the Canadian border well into California.

The first map is finished and on my site.  (http://www.virtual-coffee.com/books/edestiny/edmap.html)  As each new novel in the series is published, the map will be expanded to include the new areas featured in that portion of the story.

For an Indie author you have a pretty good number of reviews (19).  Is there anything you recommend to get readers to leave them?

All of the credit for that goes to the readers – every last bit of it.  There are truly exceptional people reading Escaping Destiny that are absolutely passionate about the novel.  On the few occasions that someone has emailed me about Escaping Destiny and I’ve politely asked if they would mind writing a review, they have consistently replied, “I already have.”  And sure enough, when I check, there’s a new review.  I am immensely grateful to my readers – so much so that they are the first people that I thank in the acknowledgements of every novel I write.

If you could be any animal what would you be and why?

That’s a very interesting question to ask a shaman!  Part of the traditional shamanic approach to working with totem animals (very roughly translated to read “the animal’s spirit”) is to imitate the animal.  I’ve stood on windy cliff tops with my arms spread to get a peek at what Hawk feels, raced downhill through the forest at breakneck speaks (dodging trees and hurtling logs) to understand Deer’s flight, and spent time learning canine body language to learn how Wolf communicates.  I’m an avid backpacker and have spent time observing most North American wildlife in their natural habitat.

To be completely honest, I’d choose “human.”  We have our own version of a pack, have intensely interesting social customs, and an endless variety of ways to communicate.  It’s the one animal I could choose where I could swim with dolphins and whales one day, run with wolves the next, and still be accepted by a herd of herbivores – be they bison, wild horses, or just the cows down the road.  I like the versatility and ability to explore new horizons that “human” presents that can be found nowhere else in the animal kingdom.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review for The Door to Canellin

The Door to Canellin (Gatehouse)

5 stars

First off the cover art for this book is amazing. I was totally drawn as soon as I saw it, and happily the cover supports the story. The story follows Wes, a young boy who has some trouble in school. He is not a bad kid by any means, but he doesn't really try to reach his potential at all. This adventure begins by Wes getting suspended for fighting even though he defended another kid from getting picked on. This gets Wes into trouble and he spends the day with his grandparents doing chores for them. He eventually makes his way to the woods out back and finds the Gatehouse. From here he is transported to a whole new world (Canellin) where he is regarded as a savior. His father ends up following him into this new realm where he comes to understand his son a little bit better.

This story would be great for young adults. It explores the relationship between parents and children in a way that you empathize with both sides of the conflict. The story moves along well and there are some great supporting characters. I am completely looking forward to another book in this series!

This is the debut novel of E.H. Jones, but the way the Gatehouse works leaves a lot of room for story continuation.  I am really looking forward to another book to see how the father-son relationship changes in the real world.  I am also curious to see what changes this trip will bring to Wes's personality.  

Monday, May 9, 2011

World Premier of Thawed Fortunes cover art!!

Today Mr. Dean Murray (author of Frozen Prospects (The Guadel Chronicles) and Darkness & Light)(Smashwords) is giving me the first glimpse at his cover for the sequel to Frozen Prospects and letting me share it with you.  This is before it is being displayed even on his own website!!  His book Thawed Fortunes is in the final stages of editing and could be available in as little as 3 weeks.  I am also going to be lucky enough to get an ARC of his book so I will be posting a review to go along with the release, as well as an interview, and a guest blog by Mr Murray himself.

And now here is the never before seen cover to Thawed Fortunes the second book in The Guadel Chronicles:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Guest blog with Jeffrey Pierce author of The Awakening

Today's post is brought to us by Jeffrey Pierce author of Escaping Destiny and the soon to be released The Awakening. 

When a reader opens a novel and begins to immerse themselves in the story, they enter into an implied pact with author.  The very definition of fiction implies that is something other than the actual truth.  Each novel asks the reader to let go of reality and embrace a world created by the author's imagination. Part of this journey requires the reader to willingly suspend their disbelief.  It is up to the author to create a world that consistently functions within established rules.  Any step outside of this framework runs the risk of jarring the reader out of the story.

In my second novel, The Awakening, portions of the story are set in Heaven and Hell.  Many people have strongly held beliefs about the afterlife and I knew going in that I would face unique challenges in presenting both locations to the reader.

Getting a Little Psycho

I was in first grade when I discovered the films of Alfred Hitchcock.  The Birds was one of my favorite horror movies.  For years after watching it I would jar myself awake as I ducked dive-bombing crows and seagulls in my nightmares.  I discovered the brilliance of Jimmy Stewart when I watched Rear Window and I doubt I blinked even once during the climax of Vertigo.

However, it was the famous shower scene from Psycho that left me with chills.

Upon repeated viewings I realized that nearly the entire scene was implied rather than shown.  We never see the woman in the shower completely naked.  We never see the knife enter her body.  We never see her fatal wounds.

But we believe that we do.

When approaching a scene where a single misstep can eject the reader from the story, the safest approach is to not give them anywhere to step.  Rather than offering detailed descriptions that could trigger agreement or dissent, I chose to paint the scene with wide brush strokes, allowing the reader's own imagination to fill in the blanks.

Upon reaching the afterlife, one of the characters approaches a city that he sees in the distance.

A city sprawled between high walls, its towering buildings reaching for the sky, the architecture so awe-inspiring, so incredibly massive, that the buildings almost squared the cityscape, the metropolis as high as it was wide.  [The character] knew nothing of architecture, but realized that the construction was an amalgam of countless human eras, that the greatest human achievements had been woven seamlessly together.

That's it.  That single passage is the entire description of the city.  The blanks are filled in, not with details, but with the character's reaction to the place they find themselves in - their sense of wonder, their thoughts when they discover something new, and their reactions to the scale (large or small) of various landmarks that they encounter.

What this does is allow the reader to draw from their own beliefs, rather than confronting those beliefs with description.  This approach lets the reader use that single sentence above as a canvas.  When the character reacts to a new discovery, the reader paints the scene with images that would cause them to react in the same way.  As one of my proofreaders replied when I pointed this out to them, "Really?  But I have such a detailed image of what the city looks like."

No Dog(ma)s Allowed

Much of my adult life has been spent exploring the world's religions.  One of my goals when writing The Awakening was to present the end of the world from a perspective that embraced beliefs ranging from those held by major religions to the stories of indigenous peoples.  Considering the amount of disagreement that can occur between major denominations of Christianity, finding common ground that encompasses atheists and believers, ancient religions and new thought, would seem to be an impossible task.

To further complicate matters, I chose to make all of the events scientifically viable within certain parameters.  For instance, rather than disregard the laws of physics, everything in the novel had to conform to the Law of Conservation of Energy.

"The end of the world," she whispered to herself, staring at the exposed beams of the ceiling.  "What would it be like?  What would I think happened if I survived it?  Would I even know that the world had changed?"

She began to imagine countless scenarios.  A war, even on the scale of the biblical Armageddon would be simply that; a war.  How would the experience of surviving a final battle be any different from that of someone who had survived the First World War?  Or the Second?  And a natural disaster, even one on a global scale, would be something from which the human race would simply strive to recover.  They would never recognize it as the end.  She imagined the news reports, the body counts and dollar figures that tried to summarize the damage that had been done.  "But that's all it would be," she realized.  "Just news.  We'd never even know."  Jenny stared, unblinking, letting the thoughts drift through her mind, not realizing that she waited for the second phrase to reappear.

It was from her chemistry class.  "Matter can never be destroyed, only changed from form to form."  The two sentences revolved around each other in her thoughts, like reluctant dancers appraising a partner.

When the realization struck, it left her so shocked that she stopped breathing, that the only sound that filled her ears was the slow rhythm of her own heart.  The pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place, assembling themselves in her mind.

Once again, the solution was found in rejecting details in favor of themes.  Many of the world's religions embrace and promote similar concepts.  When writing The Awakening, I relied on these commonalities and, in order to include science in the mix, I exposed each theme to the light of logic. The divine is the embodiment of love - but love can take many forms.  Life can be described as two opposing poles (good/evil, yin/yang) yet reality is never black and white but endless shades of gray.  Each theme has an exception to the rule, replacing dogma with a balanced blend of emotion, intuition, and logic.  This created a rich landscape of beliefs without limiting any of them by assigning them labels.

When I write, I try to remember that I'm not merely an author, but I am also a reader.  The books that I love make me think, they set my imagination free, and they leave me wondering, "What happens next?" long after the novel has drawn to a close.  While my first novel, Escaping Destiny, relied on detailed descriptions to paint the landscape, I wanted to take a different approach with The Awakening.  When we think about spirituality and the afterlife, we all believe something - even if that belief is simply, "I don't know."  It was my goal to tell a story in such a way that the characters carried the tale while the reader made the world their own.

Thanks very much to Jeffrey for taking the time out of his very busy schedule to share this with us.  His book is available May 13th, with signed preorder copies available from his website