A Christmas “Story”

“You saved my life.”

I’ve heard these words before. Usually, they come from a total stranger through an email or a letter; someone who has picked up “Hope Again” and the LifeFilters and found them an answer to a desperate prayer for help. Let me be honest. I NEVER take such a statement lightly. Every time someone expresses this to me or to Mark Sutton, I am equally shocked and humbled.

This past Sunday, I shared a story with my family at our annual Hennigan Family Christmas Party. I won’t detail the story. Just know that the point of that story was to share with my family how a seemingly painful and potentially fatal encounter in my childhood served as the source for something I did later in life that had a profound influence on the lives of others. In this case, four veterans of World War II and an elderly woman who had lived in bitterness for years because of anger over losing her brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor. In both cases, a simple scene in one of my plays echoing that event in my childhood had the unexpected consequence of bringing these people profound peace and reconciliation.

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“The Shock of Night” Book Review Day 1

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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Coherence

I just love it when a plan comes together!

If you take all of the world building and character development we see in Patrick W. Carr’s “The Shock of Night” and judged them solely on their merits, it would be enough to make this book a thrilling fantasy. But, the real magic of a great author is in making all of those moving parts work together seamlessly in one cohesive whole that takes the reader by surprise and pulls him/her into the narrative.

My favorite writers have the uncanny ability to make me want more. They give me just enough of the story to entice to me to step into the dark forest. They show just enough of the superficial qualities of the character to make we want to know more. They dangle the proverbial carrot and I follow it into wonderful goodness.

In “The Shock of Night” the story starts off obscurely with Elwin, a Servant, journeying to the kingdom of King Lairdir with a carefully hidden secret. As abruptly as we meet Elwin and his companion Robyn, we awaken with Lord Dura, the king’s reeve who is taken to the scene of the murder of a “churchman”. Here we learn that Lord Dura has his own tortured secrets to hide, but what are they? We find out he is fascinated with what lies beyond death and desires to look into the eyes of the near dead. It is during this encounter with the dying Elwin he receives something that changes his life forever.

And, this new gift sends him into the arms of the Vigil, a group of gifted who have a secret themselves. It seems the Darkwater Forrest is growing and engulfing the surrounding land and from this Darkwater Forrest an evil is growing. And, we soon learn that the secret Lord Dura is hiding has to do with something horrific that happened to him, wait for it, in the Darkwater Forrest.

Let me stop there and not give any more of the story away. Just know that the story elements start out seeming to be not related but in time, Patrick W. Carr pulls these threads together and the story coheres, it holds together tightly and seamlessly.

I cannot recommend “The Shock of Night” highly enough. It is a joy to read, a journey to embark upon and a world built very smartly and fully. Enjoy!

Don’t forget to visit everyone’s book review and leave a comment!
The Shock Of Night — Amazon
Author Website — Patrick W. Carr

Participants Links:

Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Carol Bruce Collett
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rani Grant
Rebekah Gyger
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
 Nissa
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Robert Treskillard
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

If you are looking for great Christmas presents, there are four books now in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel and can be ordered from this website. If you know someone suffering from depression at this time of the year check out my book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” at conquering depression.com.

 

“The Shock of Night” Book Review Day 2

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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Correspondence

For me, the strength of a good fantasy tale lies in the ability to take me away from the mundane nature of everyday reality. Who wouldn’t want to fly through the air on a broomstick and play Quidditch? Or, cast a spell with a few choice words and teleport fro one place to another? As attractive as these prospects are the story loses its relevance if it is not rooted in reality. Without a foundation in what is NOT possible in our reality, we would not appreciate being able to experience the IMPOSSIBLE.

Patrick W. Carr creates a very viable, realistic alternate reality with the elements of the church as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. In a telling scene in “The Shock of Night”, the main character, Lord Dura is summoned to his king’s chambers. Being the king’s personal “reeve” he has unfettered access to the king. But, to his surprise, King Laidir is surrounded by representatives of two of the church’s factions. In a shocking development, the King is instructed to stop Lord Dura from investigating the murder of Elwin, an elderly Servant killed at the beginning of the novel. How can the church exercise this kind of control over a king? Is this a realistic development? Patrick W. Carr does a masterful job of creating a reality in which the church can exercise this kind of power. It is not unprecedented and our own history demonstrates the power of the Church to dictate how a ruler should conduct the state’s business. As the story progresses, the reader is drawn into this conflict and it is believable.

How about Aer’s “gifts”. Suppose in our reality, one could read another person’s mind merely by touching them? We’ve seen this kind of device used in many fantasy and science fiction novels. It is not an unusual device. But, in “The Shock of Night”, Lord Dura receives such a gift. Patrick W. Carr slowly introduces the reader to the “shock” of the reality of having this kind of gift. Rather than making such a gift sound like a wonderful skill, we see the power of such a gift and the drawbacks. In painstaking detail, Lord Dura is pulled into the power of his gift and not only is devastated by its strangeness, but is also damaged by the depth of the memories he does not expect to accompany such a gift. The reality of the double edge sword of such a gift is deftly demonstrated.

The beauty of a well told story is the correspondence of the story with enough of our own reality to give us relevance as readers and at the same time, create an alternate reality that is believable and sustained by the author. Patrick W. Carr has done this in a powerful and immersive tale that builds and builds toward a powerful face off between the forces of good and evil.

Tomorrow, I will finish my review and tie all of this together with a discussion of coherence.

Don’t forget to visit everyone’s book review and leave a comment!
The Shock Of Night — Amazon
Author Website — Patrick W. Carr

Participants Links:

Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Carol Bruce Collett
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rani Grant
Rebekah Gyger
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
 Nissa
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Robert Treskillard
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

If you are looking for great Christmas presents, there are four books now in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel and can be ordered from this website. If you know someone suffering from depression at this time of the year check out my book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” at conquering depression.com.

 

“The Shock of Night” Book Review Day 1

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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I have not finished this book. Why? It is long, true. But, it is immersive. I’ve found myself going back and re-reading chapters after I have understood more about the world in which this story is told. Again, this is NOT a criticism. Rather, it is a reflection of a dense, multilayered, well developed world. At the heart of every science fiction and fantasy novel is world building.

I’ve read many novels in which there are weaknesses in the world framing the story. Such contrivances can torpedo a story, especially when “deus ex machina” swoops in to save the day. In my own writing, I’ve adopted some ideas from a surprising source.

Ravi Zacharias is an amazing speaker, preacher, and author whose efforts in the field of apologetics provides thinking Christians with tools to defend the truthfulness of the Christian faith. In his organization’s teaching series, “ASK” he talks about the concept of a worldview: a set of assumptions you have made through which you look at every choice you must make in life to shape your values and your spiritual condition as you live our your every day life. He then goes on to instruct us on how to test a worldview. It must have: logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. Finally, in testing a worldview it must have correspondence (that is corresponds to reality) and coherence (holds together).

I would like to focus on three key concepts of “world building” executed brilliantly in “The Shock of Night” by Patrick W. Carr. These three concepts are: Logical Consistency, Correspondence, and Coherence. I’ll talk about each topic on each of the three days of this book review.

Logical Consistency

In our postmodern, relativistic culture, logic tends to get lost in our daily thoughts. And yet, it is fundamental to our thought processes. We still look both ways before we cross the street! And, particularly in storytelling, logic is essential. Many fantasy novels utilize magic or metaphysical powers from some magical source. In “The Shock of Night”, Patrick W. Carr does a masterful job of creating a world of “gifts” given by “Aer”, the divine source of everything. These “gifts” are desired by different division of the “church”. The principle of “Tolerance” allows these competing factions within the church to present their argument for how “gifts” should be used by those few who are blessed enough to receive them. These “criers” present in the public square their opinions and this device serves to establish the logical foundation upon which everything in the story occurs.

The “Servants” say “The purpose of man is to serve others, placing them above himself. If every man looks to use his gift in his own interest, we will descend into selfish barbarity.”

The “Vanguard” say “I must take issue with my brother. While service is a noble goal, there will always be evil in this world. Unless we are bold in confronting the enemy’s malice, servanthood will only provide fuel for its excesses. The gifts of Are are given so that we might eradicate evil from the world.”

The “Absold” say “While I can sympathize with the desire to serve and to fight evil, as my brother and sister so eloquently express, I must disagree. Our principle purpose here is not dependent on what we do, but on what we are. We are all fallen. Only by extending forgiveness freely to each other, in imitation of Aer’s forgiveness for us, can we free ourselves from those internal chains that make us less than we are. Then you will see your gift shine forth.”

The “Merum” say “The strictures are these, You must not delve the deep places of the earth, you must no covet another’s gift, and above all you must honor Aer, Iosa, and Gaoithe in all.”

And then, there are those who say, “How many of you have waited on your knees with your prayers turning to ashes in your mouth, hoping that somehow your talent and work might be enough? . . . what are you hoping for? That someone will die unexpectedly or without an heir and somehow a gift will come to you? I speak for the Clast, and I’m here to ask you this: What right does some rich man’s family have to hoard their gifts from generation to generation and keep you poor?”

In this powerful scene in the public square, Patrick W. Carr has laid out the logical progression of how tension and strife over the possession of “gifts”, fueled by divisions within the church become the foundation for the drama that will unfold throughout the story.

Is this logical? Yes, in the realm of the Christian worldview it is. We know all about the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit given by God. We know how these gifts work with our God given talents and our life’s experienced skills and wisdom to serve as tools for God’s work. Here, in this story, this gifts become the “magic” abilities needed by the characters to give this wonderful fantasy a believable and logical foundation. It makes sense and it doesn’t have to rely some arbitrary change in rules to continue the story. Most of us can readily identify with different attitudes about spiritual gifts and how Christians should exist in a world increasingly hostile to our faith.

The main character, Lord Dura, serves as King Laidir’s “reeve” to investigate crimes in the kingdom. As Lord Dura investigates the violent death of an elderly Servant, he journeys to the House of Passing where the injured man has been taken to die. As the Servant dies, something happens to Lord Dura that alters his life forever. Does it have something to do with the Servant’s gift? Has Lord Dura, an ordinary man without the backing of wealth or position most gift possessors have, acquired a powerful gift? Who attacked the Servant and why?

Within this world of inter-church conflict and the struggle to hoard and acquire gifts a powerful story unfolds as a great evil has led to the death of this powerful Servant. Patrick W. Carr has used a powerful tool of worldview construction to build a deep, immersive world in which the story logically provides foundation for a powerful story!

Tomorrow, I will talk about Correspondence. Does this story and the world in which it takes place correspond to reality?

Don’t forget to visit everyone’s book review and leave a comment!
The Shock Of Night — Amazon
Author Website — Patrick W. Carr

Participants Links:

Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Carol Bruce Collett
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rani Grant
Rebekah Gyger
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
 Nissa
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Robert Treskillard
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

If you are looking for great Christmas presents, there are four books now in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel and can be ordered from this website. If you know someone suffering from depression at this time of the year check out my book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” at conquering depression.com.

 

A Memory of Evil

I could not breathe.

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That is the only way I can describe how I felt. Before me stood a huge, red twisted chunk of metal; three pieces squeezed and bent in agony, taller than my house. At the top of these joined, painful metal struts, the ends were bent outward over me like a shattered umbrella. The plaque told the simple story. These were the metal girders of the 93rd floor of the World Trade Center where Flight 11 impacted the North Tower on September 11, 2001.

A massive square hole opens into the earth where each tower once stood. Into this abyss, water streams from the edge of the hole and flows into a black pit in the center of the fountain. Around the edge of each fountain, names are etched in somber dark brown illuminated from beneath. Each is the name of a victim of the terrible tragedy that took place on September 11, 2001. The memorial site is large and open with dead trees shaking their brown leaves into a brisk, cold November wind. Our friend, Denise takes us to one tree. It is not very tall but its leaves are still green in the midst of autumn as if the very life force lost in this plaza imbues it with hope. It is the Survivor Tree.

IMG_1689Beneath these fountains, deep in the earth below where the water pours into that black box lies the museum and the memorial. We walked through this cavernous space surrounded by the roots of the metal trunks once holding the World Trade Center aloft for the world to see. Shorn off at ground level, these rusty brown squares mirrored the empty square above. There is a room breath taking, quiet, still and filled with a hushed kind of reverence. The four walls are covered with color photos of each person who died on that day. Some died in the airplane crashes. Some died in the rescue attempt. Some died in 1993 in the first attempt to bomb the World Trade Center, an event most of us have forgotten. But, the vast majority of the faces belong to the innocent people who came to work that day expecting a day like no other.

I have stood in front of theVietnam War Memorial and wept. I have gazed upon the Korean War Memorial and felt moved. These memorials testified to the men and women who fought in wars against tyranny and evil. These men and women chose to fight for our freedom. But, the innocent faces looking down upon me in that room, most filled with laughter and hope never once planned on fighting an invisible enemy. When they came to work on September 11, 2001 it was not as a warrior in a battle against evil. It was to live and laugh and love and grow and hope and look forward to a rich and full future in America.

I cannot breathe! As we move through the actual exhibit reliving those days, I am paralyzed with fear and paranoia. I am in New York City just a week after another horrific attack by terrorists in Paris. I never know when the next bomb will explode or if the person walking in front of me is bent on killing innocent people he or she assumes is a non commissioned warrior in the battle of ideals. I cannot breathe! My heart is pounding and in a panic, I try and find my way through the exhibit. Voices from that day echo around me. Images flash and move. The World Trade Center towers explode and bleed smoke and collapse over and over on an endless video loop. I must get out of here! I push my way through the story, through the rescuers who represented the best of God’s people, through the young men and women agape at such horror and never understanding it because they have not lived it, through the old men and women who remember the price of freedom and know the crush of tyranny and long for a world in which the face of evil was simpler and more easily recognizable. I rush through the exit door and hurry past the crushed fire truck and the remnants of the broadcast tower from the top of one of the towers and into the restroom.

I wash my face and gaze at the reflection of this aging man in the mirror. Evil triumphed here for a season on that day. I remember the night before September 11. I had returned from a trip to Los Angeles where the narcissistic longings and attitudes of those around me led me to conclude in a conversation with my pastor, “God is going to allow something to happen to our country to get our attention.” I sat in the gate waiting to board our flight back to Louisiana and saw a couple with Middle Eastern “appearance” and for reasons I could not fathom, was convinced they were going to hijack our plane! An airplane had not been hijacked in years. And, the night before 9/11, in a sweaty, restless sleep I had dreamed I was standing on tall mountain on the east coast looking out upon our country. From the west, a shadow arose and assumed the shape of a huge, red serpent. In that dream this serpent devoured everything as it came toward me until all of my country was gone, eaten, digested by the face of the Enemy.

The morning of 9/11, I awoke tired and discouraged. I told my wife, Sherry, about the dream and this is what I said to her. “Sherry, something terrible is going to happen to our country today. I don’t know what it is, but it will be devastating.” She was so disturbed, she later when to check on a friend of ours suffering from cancer. They were together when the towers fell.

I went to work at my hospital near Barksdale Air Force base. I had not been working long when my friend, Gray Cooksey, now gone on to be with the Lord, beckoned me into the transciptionist’s office in radiology to see the television. My heart fell as I saw the first tower on fire, smoke billowing into the air. Around me, the Xray technologists and secretaries were talking about this “accident”. How could an airplane fly into the World Trade Center? “This is not an accident.” I said. “It is deliberate. We are under attack.” They scoffed at me until out of the edge of the image on the television, the second airplane struck the tower in a cloud of fire and smoke.

Later in the morning, I walked outside to get some air. In the distance, I watched a white and blue airplane take off from Barksdale Air Force Base. It was Air Force One. President Bush had been taken to the base and it’s underground silo for protection. I went back inside to tell everyone and Dan Rather, on CBS news was pointing to a map of Louisiana telling the world where the president could be found. It was like putting a huge bullseye on our city! Shortly after that, Bush addressed the nation from Barksdale Air Force Base. Only, he was no longer there. He was long gone. We were now a potential target!

That evening, I sat down with our children, Sean, age 17 and Casey, age 14 and told them the world had changed forever. Nothing would ever be the same. And, it wasn’t. For the next six weeks, the face of America changed, focused on finding some reason to hope; some enemy to destroy; a God to trust in. But, I knew it wouldn’t last. By Christmas, the humility and lessons learned were gone. America was itself again; narcissistic, self centered, godless.

All of these remembrances flooded my mind as I stood in the stark restroom beneath the earth, beneath the site of terrible evil. What lesson was to learned here? What would people take away from this place? Hopelessness? Paranoia? Evil being a faceless force in our universe? What did you learn from that day?

Often, I am asked how could God exist if such evil exists? Why would a loving, benevolent God allow such horrific acts to occur? Where was God on 9/11? The answers are not easy to come and even more difficult to understand. For I am convinced that evil originates not from a loving God but from us; rebellious, selfish humans who have the capacity to twist and deform any system, no matter how good, into an instrument of our own personal agenda. Throughout the story of how God has dealt with man in the Bible, we see a God who uses people many times to fulfill His purpose. Why would he use such flawed instruments? Because, like steel exposed to the fire of the blacksmith’s pit, the heat removes the impurities; burns away the nonessentials; leaves behind metal that is stronger for its ordeal. This was my hope on the days after 9/11. Would we grow stronger as a nation? Or, would we forget?

The hope of the 9/11 Memorial lies in its unrelenting presence; its testimony to the truth that evil is among us and can prevail if good men and women do not rise up to resist it. The silence that reigns in those stone hallways screams to our consciousness the need for remembrance; the necessity of understanding if we do not learn from our past, then such disasters are truly a failure of humanity. Only when we remember and choose to not repeat the mistakes and evil deeds of the past can we triumph over pure evil. This is what I took away from my evening immersed in the aftermath of such tragedy. We cannot forget. We must remember. We are the instruments of God’s battle against evil. He chooses to work through us to make this world a better place.

So, we must remember and learn from the past and kindle the flame of hope for the future.

Order “The 10th Demon” NOW!

eBook and print copies of the “The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone” are now available.

Book Launch Delayed

I will not have a book launch on Friday, November 13th because my printed book is not yet ready. BUT, you can order the ebook from Amazon, Nook, etc.

Depression

First, my print books need some minor revisions and I will not be holding a book launch on November 13th. I’ll wait a couple of weeks. But, the ebook is available for pre-order now!

Next Saturday, November 14th Mark Sutton and Dr. Bruce Hennigan will be conducting their Conquering Depression Seminar at Brookwood Baptist Church from 9 AM to Noon. If you attend the seminar, you will receive a copy of the book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression”, a set of deluxe LifeFilters, and a workbook for the cost of $25. For more information, check out our website, conqueringdepression.com. Or, if you attend Brookwood this weekend, there are information brochures and cards at the welcome center. We hope to see you there as we head into one of the worst times of the year for depression. Find out how to avoid the holiday blues and how to find Hope Again as we teach you how to conquer depression.

The 10th Demon is Close By!

10th Demon Book Cover5

I just approved the final proof for “The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone”. I am so excited to announce the fourth book in the “Chronicles of Jonathan Steel”. My tentative plan is to have a book launch at Brookwood Baptist Church on Friday, November 13th from 630 to 8 PM pending the arrival of my books! So, keep in touch and I’ll keep you posted for details. In the meantime, look up for EVIL REIGNS FROM THE SKIES!

Grimvox Intercept #12Alpha64 Iteration Gamma

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I’m floating in space wearing a white space suit attached to a tether. I should be excited beyond words. I was in space hovering over the most beautiful sight in the solar system, my planet. But, instead, I am fearful I may not live through the next thirty minutes. My job is simple. These spindly creatures are assembling some kind of huge, transparent sphere that will sit atop the space station. Imagine a giant transparent spherical egg sitting in the golden Eagle’s Nest. That’s what the space station is called. My job is to hang here by tether a hundred yards above the apex of the sphere and block any stray pieces that may break lose during the assembly process. Not to worry that a huge chunk of that sphere might sever my tether and send me sailing off into space like that astronaut from the movie Gravity. So, I am praying these creatures know what they are doing.

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