Friday, May 31, 2013

Afloat by Erin Healy

An interview with Erin Healy,
Author of Afloat

We live in a world where a spiritual battle between good and evil is continually raging around us, whether we are aware of it or not. While supernatural fiction portraying the battle between light and darkness has become a popular genre in recent years, best-selling author Erin Healy hopes readers recognize a difference between her books and the others out there. “The secular paranormal genre is preoccupied with darkness. As honestly as I can, I try to be preoccupied with light.” In her latest release, Afloat (Thomas Nelson/May 7, 2013/ISBN 978-1401685522/$15.99), Healy’s characters are faced with the fight of their lives, in a desperate search for the light.

Q: How would you describe your latest book, Afloat?
Afloat is a supernatural-disaster survival story. An eclectic group of people stranded in a floating house grapple with the question of whether love can rise above self-preservation instincts.

Q: Is there a “moral to the story” in Afloat you hope readers will walk away with?
I hope they’ll have a renewed sense that for believers, death is nothing to fear; our survival is guaranteed. How we love each other, however, is entirely up to us.

Q: How did you get into writing supernatural suspense?
Ted Dekker is partly responsible for that. He invited me to write two books with him, Kiss and Burn, that contain supernatural elements. But the genre is a natural fit for me. I appreciate many stories that have supernatural elements, and I’m a person who believes the physical and spiritual parts of our lives are far less compartmentalized than we think they are.

Q: Because you write in such a unique genre, do you think it’s harder for you to come up with ideas than some other authors or does the supernatural element give you more ideas to play with?
I don’t believe I have more or fewer ideas to play with than any other writer, just different ideas, and different expectations to meet.

Q: Some readers feel really uncomfortable with the thought of reading supernatural fiction. Is there anything you would tell them to invite them over to what they would consider to be the dark side?
I respect their discomfort. There are certain genres that I’m not comfortable reading. But to those who are curious I would say that the supernatural world is real, it is biblical, it has a profound effect on our physical reality, and it is more bright than dark. I believe it’s no more terrifying than the physical world, because the same God rules over both. I write from a Christian worldview and make every effort to honor the Lord through my stories, to whatever degree they might be viewed as “supernatural” or “paranormal” or (as I think of them) “metaphorical” or just plain weird. So while I can’t speak for every supernatural story, there should be nothing to fear in mine.

Q: In your own experience, what causes a crisis to bring out the best character in some people and the worst in others?
I believe our behaviors are informed by our values. For example, in Afloat, one of my main characters values his authority and leadership, another values the lessons he’s learned from his past, another values the stability she’s able to provide for her son. None of these values is inherently bad. What makes the difference is whether a person holds his values to serve his own sense of security or others’. Extreme pressure proves the truth.
Q: What are some of the things give you a sense of security? Love in my home, locks on my doors, and money in the bank. That doesn’t sound very spiritual, does it? I also crave approval, accomplishment, and a clear sense of purpose. Again, none of these is bad, but I do notice that my trust in them (in the form of fear that they will fail me) rises to the surface when I feel threatened. In Afloat, the disaster strips most of the characters of everything they thought would keep them safe. Learning how to trust in the only lasting security of God’s perfect love is a lifelong spiritual journey.

Q: Is it possible to love another person without sacrificing something of yourself for him or her?
This is the question at the heart of my hero’s story in Afloat. Vance has experienced sacrificial love but is reluctant to accept or to give it. I do believe it’s hard to love another person well without sacrifice. Jesus Christ, of course, is the ultimate model of what this looks like. He gave up absolutely everything of worldly value to love us. He even gave up his supernatural identity as the Son of God. For me, the definition of true love is the ability to care about another person’s needs more than I care about my own.

Q: For some people, there are there times when they feel the need for certainty that God is real. Are there times when you live comfortably with doubt?
When life is painful, doubt is like a blister that puts a barrier between the wound and the world. The protective layer—maybe God isn’t real after all—is undesirable but normal and maybe even part of our healing process. In my experience, God has the greatest opportunity to reveal himself to us in the deepest valleys of life. Doubt is never comfortable for me, but I’m learning to value seasons of doubt as a chance to know God more fully.

Q: Do you believe the Bible condemns you for your mistakes or frees you to embrace God's love?
This question names a defining struggle of my life. In the beginning, Danielle (Afloat’s leading lady) reads condemnation and judgment into the message delivered to her. She can’t hear it as a message of love until it’s almost too late. I have read the Bible both ways, only lately discovering that the Word takes on whole new meaning—giving freedom, defeating fear, increasing joy—when read through the lenses of God’s love.

Q: Most authors include something of themselves in each book. What parts of you show up in Afloat?
I’m a totally fretful parent. You’ll see me in Danielle’s and Mirah’s parenting.

Q: Given Alfoat’s survival element, one would have to ask—are you much of an adventurist? How long would you make it away from civilization?
A friend once said that anything less than three stars is roughing it—I think that pretty much describes me. I like the kind of adventures that come with hot running water and clean socks. I like seeing new places, trying new things, eating new food, meeting new people… but you won’t ever find me in a Survivor lineup.

Q: If you were set afloat, what three items would you make sure were set adrift with you?
Tom Hanks, Wilson, and a copy of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, a great survival story that would remind me how to catch seagulls and sharks with my bare hands.

Readers can enter to win an iPad Mini from Erin Healy and Thomas Nelson. Watch for more details on her Facebook Page. Click here to view the book trailer for Afloat.

Visit Healy website at to sign up for her newsletter and learn more about her books. She’s also on Facebook (erinhealybooks) and Twitter (@erinhealybooks).

Erin Healy is celebrating the release of her latest novel Afloat (Thomas Nelson) with an iPad Mini giveaway.

One winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini 
  • iTunes gift card
  • Afloat by Erin Healy 
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 15th. Winner will be announced on Erin's blog on June 17th. Save the date and click HERE to see if YOU won the iPad Mini!

Don't miss a moment of the fun; ENTER today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Visit Erin's blog on the 17th!

January Justice by Athol Dickson

Reeling from his wife's unsolved murder, Malcolm Cutter is just going through the motions as a chauffeur and bodyguard for Hollywood's rich and famous. Then a pair of Guatemalan tough guys offer him a job. It's an open question whether they're patriotic revolutionaries or vicious terrorists. Either way, Cutter doesn't much care until he gets a bomb through his window, a gangland beating on the streets of L.A., and three bullets in the chest. Now there's another murder on Cutter's Mind. His own.

I would have to guess, if it really ever matters, that this book will be hugely successful.  And what would I be basing that assumption on, you might ask?  Well, since my birthday is in January, and the title of this book has January in it, then it only seems correct to say that anything associated with January is going to be successful.  Now you follow my logic, don’t you?  I bet you wish now that you had something to do with January, don’t you.

Malcolm Cutter is a man that time has forgotten.  He’s lost his wife (ssshhh, don’t tell anyone that he was married) and he’s lost his memory of what happened that awful night.  He’s also lost months of his life as he tries to recover from that event.  We find out that Malcolm is a driver, of sorts, for various clients in Los Angeles.  One of those clients, Haley Lane, became more than just a client.  Haley wasn’t just another pretty face and great actress.  She was also had a great business sense and was very open about her charitable work.  Malcolm, on the other hand, was ex-military.  Ex, because he had been dismissed from the service and court-martialed for a highly publicized event that took place with his unit during a raid.  As their relationship grew, Malcolm did not want to see all of the hard work that Haley did get muddied with his past, so he begged her that their relationship never came out publicly.  So here we are, he’s back to driving, living in the guesthouse and trying to unravel the hazy memories from the night that Haley died.  Malcolm is made aware that the bulk of her fortune, estates, and assets has been left to him over his objections.  He takes a job driving some visitors around Los Angeles only to find out that they want him to look into a kidnapping and ransom that happened 7 years earlier.  As he is still hiding from his past, he only wants to get his life back together quietly and move on.  Before long, though, he sees that it isn’t possible to ignore this case.  With his trusty butler, Simon and his knowledgeable gardner, Teru, by his side, Malcolm delves into this new chapter in his life.  Will he find out the answers to the kidnapping and ransom?  Does his memory ever become clear on what happened to Haley?  What does he do with all of her stuff?  Did he really commit those atrocities overseas?  Questions, questions, questions!!!!  Just buy the book already and find out for yourself J

I will admit that I didn’t really like Malcolm at first.  I wasn’t real clear on what happened with his character and Haley, but as I read the book I began to understand that that was on purpose.  This is the first in a series of books, so I’m sure that as the books progress, so will his memory of that night.  He did tend to grow on me as I continued reading and the supporting characters, Simon and Teru, made the story line even more enjoyable.  There isn’t a very clear “Christian” theme in this book.  Malcolm does have some interaction about faith and talking to Jesus, but the theme throughout this book was more of a clean suspense/mystery novel.  I find it refreshing that someone can write a book with this type of action and intrigue and do it with no foul language or gratuitous sex scenes.  I would hope that this character continues to build off of the relationship that his wife had a searches for his own answers through Jesus.  The storyline is very smooth and believable.  There aren’t a lot of characters that would cause you to become confused or hard to follow.  The interaction that Mr. Dickson has between Malcolm and Simon and Teru is riveting at times.  They all seem to bring something to benefit the group, but there is just enough mystery about their characters that I look forward to more being revealed in future books.

Is this a "guy's book"?  The main character is ex-special forces military.  There’s plenty of action and suspense to keep anyone’s interest.  This books is definitely one of those, “just one more chapter and then I’ll go to bed” type books.  Yes, this is a book that any guy would enjoy reading.

Mr. Dickson was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions in a quest to get to know him a little better:

What is your favorite bible verse and why?
It’s hard to narrow it down to one, but I guess if I had to pick it would be “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) I love that, because it comes right after Paul’s famous description in Romans 7 of his spiritual struggle against evil, and his confession that sometimes evil gets the upper hand. I’m comforted by that confession, because if even a spiritual giant like Saint Paul the Apostle finds that “when I want to do good, evil is right there with me,” then it means my own ongoing failure to be the kind of man God wants me to be is probably okay. Not okay in the sense that I should be comfortable with it, of course, but okay in the sense that it will all work out well in the end. Romans 8:1 means God isn’t sitting up in heaven judging my every move. God knows I have sinned, still sin, and will sin, and he has loves me and has mercy on me anyway.

What has been the most important thing you hope your readers will get from your books and why?
The first goal of every novel ought to be to entertain. If a story isn’t interesting at the very least, and hopefully a lot of fun to read on top of that, then nobody’s going to care about anything else the book might have to offer.

Besides writing, what are some of your favorite hobbies? 
I love boats and boating. Every kind of boat from a canoe to the Queen Mary appeals to me. I love boat designs for artistic reasons, and I love learning how they function. I own two or three boats at any given moment. I have a small library of books about things like boat design, boat history, and cruising on boats. I love how it feels to sleep on a boat. I love waking up in the morning at anchor in some secluded cove. I love that boats can take me all the way around the world if I choose to go, which of course you can’t do in a car. I love the fact that you don’t have to follow roads in a boat; you can steer in any direction you like. I love the fact that it’s so easy to get off by yourself in a boat. I love the instant contact with nature you get in a boat. And I love the sense of adventure I feel whenever I set out in a boat.

What advice would you give to a beginning writer?
The best advice is to write a lot. If you’re not writing, you’re not learning to write; you’re just fooling yourself. The next best advice is to find someone whose opinion you respect, and who knows a good book when they read it, and who you believe will be brutally honest, and then let them read your writing and listen to what they think. Be ready to change anything and everything. Never be defensive. Welcome negative critiques. They person who points out what is wrong with your work is the one who’s helping you get better; not the one who’s telling you how wonderful it is.

Favorite memory from childhood?
When I was ten, my parents took my little brother and me on a one month road trip. We covered most of the western States, from Texas to California, up to Washington, over to Montana, and then down again. The year after that we did the same thing, except we went east. Those two trips opened my eyes to how big and exciting the world is.

Favorite comfort food?
Pecan pie. No, wait. Peanut butter on Ritz crackers. No, wait. Pulled pork barbeque. No, wait. Cheese enchiladas. No, wait….

About the Author:

ATHOL DICKSON is a novelist, teacher, and independent publisher. His novels transcend description with a literary style that blends magical realism, suspense, and a strong sense of spirituality. Critics have favorably compared his work to such diverse authors as Octavia Butler (Publisher’s Weekly ), Hermann Hesse (The New York Journal of Books) and Flannery O’Connor (The New York Times). One of his novels, River Rising, is an Audie Award winner, and three have won Christy Awards. His most recent novel, The Opposite Of Art, is a mystical story about pride, passion, and murder as a spiritual pursuit. Athol’s next release will be a “Christy award collection” of his four best selling novels, updated and with new forewords. Athol lives with his wife in southern California.

Read more:

Friday, May 3, 2013

Fear Has A Name by Creston Mapes

My review of "Fear Has A Name" can also be found in the May issue of the Book Fun Magazine (  If you haven't had a chance to check out this fabulous online magazine that is full of interesting articles, hop over and check it out.  Best part is it's FREE!

"Fear Has A Name" - by Creston Mapes

It was more than a break-in. More than a stalking. It was personal. When a stalker targets his family, journalist Jack Crittendon must uncover who the person is and what his motives are--if he is to protect the ones he loves. It will lead Crittendon into a world of behind-closed-door secrets and faith gone awry, as does his investigation of a missing pastor, whose apparent suicide is more than it appears.

 Each move Crittendon makes weaves him tighter and tighter into a web of lies, greed, hypocrisy, sin, and danger. He believed he'd never give in to fear. But that was before. And holding on to his faith won't be easy. Nor will keeping his family safe, and ending the terror. Because that might require him to step over lines he never dared to cross.

 Following his highly successful, “Nobody”, Creston Mapes brings us the first in a new series. Thanks to his earlier books, Mr. Mapes has been a finalist in both American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year awards and the Inspirational Readers Choice awards.

   Ace reporter Jack Crittendon has been handed a self-interest story about a local Senior Pastor, Evan, who has seemingly disappeared. All signs point to a mental breakdown or worse, that he’s run off with one of his congregants that he has been counseling after the death of her husband. As part of the story, Jack interviews the pastor’s wife who is sure that none of those are true, especially the last reason. While Jack is trying to track down the missing pastor, a stranger has been targeting his family. After several break-ins and searches by the police, they discover pornography hidden on Jack’s home computer. After some investigation, though, it turns out that whoever is stalking the family planted that on the computer in an attempt to discredit Jack. Cleared of those charges, Jack is now not only on the hunt for the stalker, but still trying to find the missing pastor. As the police continue their investigation into the stalker, they discover that he is a childhood friend of Pam, Jack’s wife. As the hunt continues, Pam takes her girls away to visit her folks to keep them out of the danger. While there, though, she runs smack into her stalker, Granger Meade. Granger kidnaps Pam and starts on a cross-country journey to “make the life he never had” with Pam by his side. Meanwhile, Jack has discovered evidence of the church elders skimming money from the tithes and offerings, something that Evan had found out too. Evan, we find out, has given up on himself and God and is on his way to end his failures to his wife and to his church. Jack is notified that his wife has been kidnapped, so he heads out to stop Granger from destroying all he loves. Where does Granger take Pam? Does he convince her to leave Jack and the kids behind and be with him? Will Jack find Pam and stop Granger before it’s too late? Where is Evan and what does he do with his life? Great questions and even better answers when you BUY THE BOOK!

 This book grabs you from the start and it never lets go. From Granger breaking into the house, the investigation into the missing pastor, the discovery of missing funds at the church, the cross-country chase to the explosive ending. You never have a chance to breathe with all of the excitement and you definitely will never want to put this book down. All along the way, too, we get to see how the characters rely on Him to help them in all of their times of trials and tribulations. We get to see faith in action of Pam and Jack. We get to see the feeling of hopelessness addressed by the “lost” pastor and we get to see the acceptance of God’s love in Granger.

 Is this a "guy's book"? This has the earmarks of a great guys book. The pace is quick and refreshing, the twists and turns keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what more could happen. Any guy should pick up this book and be thoroughly entertained by the time the action is all over.

 Creston took a few minutes of his time and answered some interview questions for me in a chance to let us see a little about who he is and why he does what he does:

 What is your favorite bible verse and why?
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Jesus Christ now lives in me. The life I live in the flesh, I live with faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). It is so tempting to try to live this life in our own strength. This verse reminds me to die to that concept, to remember that when Christ went to the cross, I was there with him, dying to my old self and my old ways. Now, I live, not with faith in Creston, but with faith in Christ. It’s not me who’s living this life…it’s Him in me, the hope of glory.

What has been the most important thing you hope your readers will get from your books and why?
 In each book there has been a different “takeaway” factor for the reader. It’s not that I go into each book with a plan to get the reader to think a certain way. Each book simply reflects where I am in life, what I’m going through personally, mentally, spiritually, etc. I want readers to be thoroughly engrossed with my books and to have a lot of fun turning the pages, dying to find out what happens next! I also want them to be challenged to think about some of the major issues in each book and to really contemplate how those characters and stories might actually impact the way they live their lives on a day-to-day basis. But I don’t think about that as I’m writing…I think about writing thrilling stories that play like fantastic movies in the reader’s mind.

 Besides writing, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
 We have a very close-knit family, so much of my time is spent with them, helping coach baseball, watching drama productions, teaching them to drive, visiting them at college, going to their events, and just hanging out as often as possible. I also love painting, reading, watching sports, photography, going on dates with my wife, watching movies, cooking a little bit, and being with friends.

 What advice would you give to a beginning writer?
 There is so much to learn about the craft of writing fiction. To do it well, there is a whole lot to understand before you really get serious about writing a manuscript. Things like ‘point of view,’ ‘telling not showing,’ pacing, premise, and other things really need to be understood if the author is going to write a fine book. I suggest reading all you can about the craft of writing fiction. There are some tremendous books out there by the likes of Donald Maass, Noah Lukeman, Stephen King, James Scott Bell, Penelope Stokes and others that will really help the beginning writer.

 Favorite memory from childhood?
Going across the street to the local pharmacy in our small Ohio town to buy candy and baseball cards. Being around my dad’s furniture store and hanging with friends/family.

 Favorite comfort food?
 Cheese and pretzels. A fine cup of coffee. (Not together.)

 About the Author 

 Creston Mapes has spent the past nineteen years writing in the freelance and marketing arenas for major corporations, colleges and ministries nationwide. A graduate of Bowling Green State University with a BA in magazine journalist, Mapes’ impressive list of clients includes Coca-Cola, TNT Sports, The Weather Channel, Focus on the Family, Bell South and The Urban Alternative. Mapes’
extensive work in marketing copywriting for higher education has led him to work with more than 120 colleges and universities. He also served cas creative director of Walk Thru The Bible, while under the leadership of New York Times bestselling “The Prayer of Jabez” author, Bruce Wilkinson. With an early background in newspaper reporting and photography, Mapes’ feature stories have appeared in numberous magazines including Private Colleges and Universities, In Touch, Leaders for Today, The Hockey News and Physician. He has authored three books, “Dark Star”, “Full Tilt” and “Nobody”.

 I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.