Book Review: Awake & Alive to Truth

Awake & Alive to Truth
by John L. Cooper

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Christian nonfiction

Skillet lead singer John Cooper presents a thoughtful look at today’s culture, both from Christian and secular mindsets. The main focus is on truth–where does truth come from, how do we distort it, and what happens when we let each individual decide what’s true for them? With relativism pervading the society around us, is it any wonder so many are unhappy? Broken? Searching? This book provides some insight.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with the book. It wasn’t published traditionally, though presumably Skillet’s John Cooper could have gotten a publishing deal if he wanted one. As he put it, “I decided to release this book myself so that I would have the freedom to write something that I believe in and know to be true. I didn’t want to be pressured to write the book that someone else wanted me to write, or to write things that I don’t believe in.” I respect that a lot; he didn’t want to compromise. It seems to be a common theme for him. As a result, it does have typos and errors throughout, but even for someone like me who really picks up on that kind of thing, it isn’t enough to distort the message.

I think that what is within this book could ruffle some feathers, but he doesn’t pull punches or water down what the Bible says. His lays out some hard truths about today’s culture making “love” a god, ignoring parts of the Bible we don’t like, and shying away from God as judge. Depending on where you are in your life, you may find this book unnecessary or too shallow. But if you’re unhappy with the noise and chaos around you and aren’t sure what voices to listen to, this is a great book to pick up. It also has a great message to unbelievers or those undecided about God. The only downside is that this book is not widely available. The only place I know of to buy it is here, and I believe it’s currently out of stock. If you’re interested, though, it’s really worth the wait.

Find out more about Awake & Alive to Truth and Cooper’s band Skillet

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Weekly Writing Update: 1/17

I’ve started to focus more on revision again finally, after the slump that started around the holidays. I had a conversation with the younger sister of Leahna, one of the main characters of book #3. Somehow that ended up involving the sisters’ brother too, and in the end, I had so much more insight on both of these two side characters, especially the sister. And then I finished one of the brand new scenes that I’ve slated to add into the story, all of which focus on Leahna and her family, a group of characters that were sorely under-represented in the previous drafts.

Over the next week, I will probably continue to work on the new scenes, saving my new full revision until after all scenes I’ve already planned are done. Then I can start at the beginning and get an idea of how things are flowing so far.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).


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Book Birthday!

Pithea cover, Kindle

Guess what! Today is my book birthday! One year ago today, my first full-length novel, first in a series I’ve been working on for many years, was released out into the world! Eleven months later, I did it all over again with book #2, but nothing will ever be quite as exciting as the day that Pithea was released. (Go here to see what the book is about.)

I know many people were looking forward to the end of 2020 and the beginning of a new year, but let’s not be too quick to dismiss last year. I have a feeling that, despite the mess the year became, each of us could find something to celebrate from 2020. What’s yours?

Weekly Writing Update: 1/10

I didn’t do much of any revision work during the holidays at all, and only just finally managed to get back into it. So far, all I’ve done this year, mostly during this last week, is a character interview with one of the main characters of book #3, Leahna. She’s one that I always thought I had a decent handle on, but has always been in the background. Now that I want to bring her to the front more, of course I realize that my understanding of her is far too shallow. So I spent some time fleshing her out a little.

I did learn some details that I think will give her a lot more depth in the book. I also realized that I need to conduct another interview, though, with Leahna’s sister. Though the sister will only be in the book a little, I’m noticing how much she has to do with the Leahna’s background and her dynamic arc. I’ll work on that this coming week, and hopefully take some time to finish writing the first new scene for the book that I’ve started on for this revision, but didn’t get very far with due to Christmas-related activities taking so much time in December.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).


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Weekly Writing Update: 12/20

I’m not even going to pretend that I did much work on book #3 in the series this last week. I put the new order of scenes that I came up with the week before into Scrivener, and then I started writing one of the new scenes I have planned. I didn’t even get that scene finished, as various things, mostly related to preparing for Christmas, took up much more of my time than I’d expected. Plus, I’ve been having headaches more often lately, which makes focusing on writing difficult.

This coming week, of course, will hold even more Christmas prep, plus the day itself. I will attempt to spend at least a little time in Pithea, even if it’s not official revision. I have a character interview in mind, so maybe I’ll do that in little snatches of time throughout the week.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).


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Weekly Writing Update: 12/13

I worked on book #3 in the series this week, and I think I have figured out the best way forward. I’ve cut off the last 15k words from the previous draft to be part of book #4, which basically means I’m going to be making the main story goal for book #3 different than how it’s been for many years now. This means that I need to revise a lot to make sure the new story goal is coming out enough. It also means I can put back in some longer scenes that I’d removed to shorten the story and to allow the old story goal to come to the surface earlier in the book.

Actually, this book has been giving me trouble for quite a while. I always worried that the last 1/3 of the book was such a different plot from the rest, and that the plot that is set up in the first 2/3 sort of goes nowhere. But I kept moving forward, thinking I just had to live with it. Then when I had the sudden realization that those 15k words would be better off as part of book #4, it gave me the chance to fix all of that. It’ll be a lot of work to fix, though.

So I started by doing something that helped me a lot during revision of Outcast earlier this year–putting all of the existing scenes onto little slips of paper, color-coding them by story arc, and then filling out new slips for new scenes I think should be added.

This allowed me to play with the order of the scenes and move some forward when I realized a plot arc was getting started too late, and that starting it sooner could help avoid monotony in the earlier scenes. Now it’s pretty much time to get to revising, which I think will start with a read-through to refresh myself on the story, cutting down bloated scenes and writing the first draft of some new scenes along the way. I’ll also need to make the scenes flow in the order I’ve changed them to, but I’m not sure if I’ll do that now or later.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).


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Weekly Writing Update: 12/6

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I’m back to other writing work. Well, sort of. I spent most of this week doing preliminary work on my NaNoNovel before filing it away for now. Sometimes I’ll spend the first few days after November ends doing a quick clean-up of what I wrote–mostly removing things I marked as NaNo fodder and at least doing a quick spell check. This is usually better to do while the story is still fresh, and then it’s good to let it sit for some time.

I did start on revision of book #3 in the series today, but didn’t get very far. I have some large structure changes to figure out, but first have to decide how to figure them out.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).


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Outcast Released!

My second full-length novel, book #2 in a series of futuristic speculative fiction with a Christian worldview, is now available to purchase as both an e-book and a paperback! I’m so excited to see this series continue! See synopsis below and go here to buy the book.

Outcast on Goodreads

OUTCAST

Deep in the desert of Pithea lives an order of mercenaries. Assassins, thieves—they’ll do anything for a price. They are known in whispers and rumors as the Class of Morano. To this unconventional family belongs one Natos Morano, a member since birth. When a woman he’s never met kidnaps him in order to convince him to leave the order, he will be forced to choose between the only family he’s ever known and his true family that is long gone.

Remiel Azrael thinks his choice is easy when he discovers a woman in desperate need. But sometimes the noblest intentions result in the most unfavorable repercussions. And when the woman’s situation turns out to be more dangerous than he realized, Remiel comes face to face with a demon he thought he’d buried.


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New Mailing List

In advance of my new book releasing in a few days, I’m doing something I’ve been putting off for long time: starting a newsletter. Most news I do share here on this blog as well, but I know how bad I am at checking blogs that I follow regularly, so I’d imagine others are too. There will also be some extra tidbits now and then that are only in the newsletter. At most, these emails will be monthly. At the least…is there a term for every 6 months? As I think of it? Really, though, if you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any big news or announcements I have to share, enter your email address below and join my mailing list:

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Book Review: Unclaimed Legacy

Unclaimed Legacy
History Mystery #2
by Deborah Heal

My rating: 2.5 / 5
Genre: YA Christian sci-fi

Spoiler notice: The following review may contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, Time and Again.

Abby’s summer tutoring job continues, but the computer program that allowed them to “time surf” the history of her pupil’s house has stopped working. When they house sit for a relative of a friend, though, the program invites them to view the history of a whole new area, this time alongside the handsome John Roberts. They get much more than they bargained for.

This second installment in the series is, to me, a step down from the first. While the story that they dig up in the lives of the past occupants of the house is more in-depth than what is shown in the first book, it’s also a lot darker. What bothers me more, though, is the story in the present time.

I’ll start with some good things before I get to what might seem like a rant. I really liked the little name game that John and Merri, Abby’s pupil, played throughout some of the story. I liked that the little boy with the deaf mother has people who care enough about him to help with his speech issues. And I did like the “Old Dears” as characters–maybe just a little over the top, but generally cute (the big secret between them notwithstanding). I also really liked Merri’s connection with the Old Dears. It was nice to see her come out of her shell more, even as her mom ignored her more than before and her dad acted like a typical fictional deadbeat dad (not quite so typical in the end, though).

However…if I wasn’t a fan of Abby (the main character, mind you) in the previous book, I just plain disliked her in this book. Her best friend, with whom she talks on the phone a few times throughout the book, refers to Merri as “chubster,” as well as several other unflattering, harsh terms, which she uses because Abby had previously used them in referring to Merri. Abby chides her friend, but only because Merri is trying to do better now, not because Abby recognizes that those were just horrible things to say about the 11-year-old girl she’s tutoring, who already has huge issues! If Merri had heard any of those terms, would she have just accepted that they were okay to use in the past, before she was “trying”? No, she’d probably be devastated.

Then there’s the developing relationship between Abby and John. The problem is that he tends to take off when things get a little intimate. This leads Merri’s mom to speculate that maybe he’s gay, because goodness knows he couldn’t possibly have any other reason to not paw a girl he likes. But thank goodness he checked out her butt so that we can lay that question to rest. Seriously? And there’s a friend of John’s who’s basically a 90s tech geek, right down to the 90s lingo. It was really strange.

This book, like the previous, has absolutely nothing in the way of mid-chapter scene transitions, which can be really jarring when you’re reading and suddenly it’s another day, location, etc. Overall, though, it’s the characters and present-day plot that make me not so sure I want to read the final book in this series. Especially since the synopsis involves Abby’s best friend who almost seemed offended when Abby told her not to call Merri a chubster, and who otherwise is a bit pushy and annoying to me. If you’re really into history, you may still find this series to your liking if the things I mentioned above don’t bother you. Definitely start with the first book, though.

Find out more about Unclaimed Legacy

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