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Fantastical Battles

Yolanda Ramos Author Interview

Yolanda Ramos Author Interview

The Seventh Sentinel takes readers on an incredible modern day journey where the purpose of angels is still alive and well as they commune between man and God. What was the inspiration for the idea behind this entertaining story?

I’ve always been intensely fascinated by angels. According to the Bible and other ancient manuscripts angels are powerful, highly intelligent beings commanded by God to serve man. Being an avid reader, I grabbed up any books featuring angels but they were always portrayed as the bad guys and demons as the good guys, which rattled me. So I decided to write a novel where the opposite is true and based on as many historical facts as I could find about them. I wanted to show angels interacting with humans in a good way, in the age old fight between good and evil with epic fantastical battles, great tragedies and moments of joy.

Cristiano is raised in an orphanage and has no apparent past. I felt that his character was well developed. What was the ideals that drove character development in this story?

Cristiano was brought up in a loving, but strict environment where religion is important but not in a shove it down your throat way, and until his world is turned upside down, he’s had it fairly easy. When matters take a turn for the worse, he has to make that simple choice between good and evil, and the sacrifices that go with each path. Cristiano’s ideals can be summed up in one sentence. Meet the expectations placed on his young shoulders by God and the people who love and look up to him for leadership, with courage and humility. And to never give up, no matter what. (Okay, that’s two sentences).

I felt that the world the characters live in is very intricate yet subtly built. What was your approach to world building in The Seventh Sentinel?

I researched how many levels of Heavens there are from a variety of sources. Some say there are nine, some say five and some seven. Who really knows? I settled on seven because it fit the title of my book. Seven archangels, seven sentinels, seven continents and seven Heavens. Most of the descriptions of the Heavens are inspired from the Bible and The Book of Enoch. Then I had to figure out a way for my hero to fight in the spirit realm, and every hero has to have a weakness or several weaknesses, right? That’s where transmutation came in, which left Cristiano’s body open for attack in the physical realm, and hence the need for paladins.

Everything and everyone has a history, known or unknown and I love stories that include orders like the Templars, St Johns, The Golden Fleece and many others. There are so many stories with the Templars, so I went instead with the once famous Order of Calatrava, in Spain, which turns out, had links with the Knights Templars, and threw in the ancient Celts for added mystery.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m working on the third book in the series (no title yet) and hope to have it out by the end of the year. Due to serious illness last year I’m way behind schedule and trying hard to catch up. I’ve just finished my short story, titled the Igigi Chronicles, which is going through a round of beta reading as we speak. This tale is a spin-off from False Gods, the second book in the Sentinel Series, featuring the Eljo and all manner of mythical beings set in ancient Sumer and modern times.

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The Seventh Sentinel (The Sentinel, #1)

“Moments before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the seven Archangels remove powerful, ancient artefacts from the Jewish temple. These are given into the safekeeping of seven men. Throughout the ages, these men and their descendants become known as the Seven Sentinels.

In medieval times, the Seven Sentinels formed various military Orders as a cover for their activities. Today, of the Seven Sentinels, two are dead and two have turned rogue, which means only three remain to carry out their roles.

A war rages between Heaven and Earth. It is up to the newly empowered Seventh Sentinel to stop the rogues and Fallen Ones, from using these artefacts to gain control of the souls of mankind. Can the Seventh Sentinel endure?”

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The Shadow Of The Almighty

Sharon D.  Moore Author Interview

Sharon D. Moore Author Interview

Hidden in Plain Sight follows Jason White as he discovers a devastating family secret about the identity of his biological father. This is an intriguing setup to a well-developed novel. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this book?

The inspiration was a reoccurring dream I had for over a year starting in 2001. I quite literally had the dream every single night, sometimes multiple times per night. It was very disturbing not just because of the imagery but also because of HOW I experienced the dream. As I went through the mental movie each night I would become a character. For example, one night I would be Jason. I would have all of Jason’s thoughts and memories from birth to present. I would think like Jason and see things the way Jason saw them. Not only that but I would dream the exact same dream with the exact same dialogue but from Jason’s perspective. The next night I may go to bed and become Lucy in the dream!

The dreams were so incredibly vivid that when I awoke it would take a few seconds for me to come back into myself again. I experienced phantom pain and the emotional residue of the character as I regained consciousness. I honestly thought I was cracking up! Long story short I tried and failed to journal the dream in a notebook. I sat down at the computer and began to type it out instead. Months later I finished and had over two million words. It was a story! I knew the name was Under The Shadow Of The Almighty because it deals with living in the shadow of the ‘almighty’ celebrity types but also living under the Shadow of an Almighty God as outlined in Psalm 91 (Bible). I was advised that I had a series on my hands and needed to break the book down into smaller books. The first installment is Hidden In Plain Sight.

I thought you did a great job drawing the reader into the culture surrounding the life of the families that make these super churches function. Is there any moral or idea that you hope readers take away from the story?

I would like the readers to realize that religious leaders are people too with families and lives to live. Leaders have histories and not all of them are pretty.  I want people to develop a compassion for leaders rather than being so quick to tear them down. At the same time I also want people to understand that no person is worthy of a pedestal. Respect is one thing but worshipping a person is another. We live in a church culture that has created rock stars out of their leaders. Even if the leader is a good, honest person, the rock star mentality is dysfunctional and often corrupts sparking a sense of entitlement.

Mega churches are essentially large corporations and due to the size of the membership need to be run as such to make sure every ‘I’ is dotted and every ‘T’ crossed. That being stated, some neglect the faith aspect in favor of the dollar which causes situations like Bishop Stewart. Others neglect the business side in favor of faith which often results in IRS charges, church foreclosures and other financial embarrassments. As with everything else, there needs to be a balance.

I also need for people to realize that just because someone calls themselves a pastor, bishop (or whatever), does not mean they are called to that role. It also does not mean they are honest, good, operate in integrity, etc. Too many churches are led by Quincy Stewart-types. It is obvious to the naked eye but the members choose to remain blind to it or if they see the shenanigans, they makes excuses because it is easier to ignore than to confront.

 I felt that Jason White was a complex character. What were some of the trials that you felt were important to highlight the characters development?

Ah, yes. Jason. It was important to understand the slights Jason experienced in his childhood with regard to his sister’s fathers and the majority of his external family. He was unwanted and they had no problems telling and showing him how they felt. An impoverished childhood with an oft absent mother who worked three jobs put a very large chip on his shoulder. That chip caused him to also strive to be the best which he accomplished thanks to educational intervention from his aunt. Then his mother’s sudden lifestyle switch had her turning to God when he was a preteen. That change rubbed Jason the wrong way. It made anything dealing with faith a turn off for him because he saw it as a intrusion into his life that took more than it gave. All of those things also speak to Jason’s misogyny in the form of using women as a means to an end. It also speaks to his resentment of men in authority / father figures.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be published?

I am currently working on the second (yet unnamed) installment in the Under The Shadow Of The Almighty Series. Although it was written 14-15 years ago, it requires a lot of clean up. Now that I have  been through the publishing process once I am viewing it with fresh eyes and a better understanding of what it takes to tell a story. I have no idea when it will be released I hope it will be out  at least by this time next year but that all depends on how long it takes me to complete it as well as my publisher’s timeline.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

When Philly-born playboy, Jason White, discovers a devastating family secret about the identity of his biological father, he launches an angry quest to find and confront the man. A lengthy investigation into his father, a prominent pastor of a large church in North Carolina, spurs a quick, covert, out-of-town visit to the pastor s church on Easter Sunday. Will Jason follow through on his desire to destroy the man he believes left him alone and in poverty? In Raleigh, North Carolina, the greedy and lecherous Bishop Quincy Stewart’s less than discreet history of deceit and all around messiness is threatened with exposure when he loses control over his manufactured persona. A chance encounter and life-changing lunch unlocks the chains holding Stewart s wife, Lucy, hostage and sets the stage for a much needed shift in her life. In a desperate act to break his wife s spirit and force her into compliance, Bishop Stewart does the unthinkable. Will he go down for his horrific actions? Will Lucy ever be set free from the pain he has caused her? The Camelot-like existence of popular and honorable Bishop James Collins becomes shrouded in an indefinable dark cloud when his wife, Victoria, invites an unstable element into their lives. Will Bishop Collins overcome being blindsided by the ugly truths he s forced to face or will his life and ministry be forever changed?

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Not Alone

Not Alone3 Stars

Not Alone is a modern retelling of the biblical story of Job, in which a man’s faith in God is tested by having everything but his life taken from him – his family murdered, his crops burnt, livestock slaughtered, and his physical self covered in boils and sores. Not Alone brings this story into a modern-day setting with Joe Moretti as Job. Joe, with his wife and five children, is mostly content with his life and hopes he is a good person. However, unbeknownst to him, there is a war being waged for his soul between the highest of angels and the lowest of demons. Joe suffers similarly to Job, and has most everything ripped from him. He and his wife must suffer immense pains to see if humanity and faith itself can survive anything.

The novel has a lot going for it, but it’s held back in many regards. There is an intelligent sincere voice in this novel, but there are many spelling and grammar errors. Many of the scenes are thought provoking, but there are jumps between narration that cause the reader to stop and ask what is happening. The overall pacing hinders otherwise great character development – the jumps in dialogue and setting cause far too much friction to enjoy the areas of the book where the flow moves the reader well. The story really draws you in with the depth of characters and tense scenes, but there is a lack of focus – the book will take its time to describe the visuals of the various angels and demons in the war for Joe’s soul, but then rush through other crucial scenes. A good example of this is when the news of his business being nearly destroyed hits Joe the same time as he is told that his five children have been viciously slaughtered. The whole scene flies by, with the police telling Joe that his children have been murdered in a ritualistic killing and then leaving moments later, with the whole exchange coming off nearly robotic in its utter lack of emotion from either party involved.

While the various descriptions help the reader visualize the setting and characters of the story, I often felt that the focus was on the wrong subjects, for example: pausing to inform the reader how tall every single fantastical entity they meet is really hinders the book. I often found myself engrossed in this novel and Joe’s life being torn apart, but I was often thrown off by common terms used in incorrect ways, like saying ‘beamer’ in non-speech text without capitalization to indicate a BMW, or misspelling the main female character of the original Star Wars (it should be Leia, not Leah, it could be that I’m too much of a nerd to even notice this). Not Alone is brimming with potential, there is nothing in here that a good editor cannot fix, so that this novel can be the truly great novel that I know it can be.

Not Alone is a re-skin of a morality tale from the Good Book; a conglomerate of descriptions; a hope by the author to show how much faith and understanding in a higher power can be pushed to the breaking point, only to bounce back. The author has a fantastic understanding of Christianity and how it can help people.

Pages: 242 | ISBN: 1633063194

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Jesus and Magdalene

Jesus and Magdalene by [Cerqueira, Joao]4 Stars

What would it be like, if more than two-thousand years later Christ walked this earth again? Would he be confused by the spread of technology or would he already know about it from having watched over mankind from above? João Cerqueira tackles this idea and more in his novel Jesus and Magdalene. There is much for Jesus to consider when he returns to the world of man. Such logical concerns as his paternity and the vehicle he decides to use to come back to earth. Scarcely is Jesus walking among men once more then he meets Magdalene. She is the newer version of her biblical-self: wrapped up in an environmental movement with Judas, Mary, Peter, James and others she works towards renewal of the earth. As if it was simply meant to be, Jesus joins her on her mission and we are left to wonder how much of the stories in the bible will play out again.

If there is anything Cerqueira does well in this book, it is describing situations and surroundings. There is an explanation at the beginning of the novel where our author lays out his experience with Christianity and his thoughts on the matter. This is beneficial for those who cherish their faith and may take issue with the idea of a modern-day Jesus Christ. This should come as a comfort to those readers as Cerqueira certainly means no disrespect.

However, while the writing is a plus, it is also a minus. Cerqueira is almost too descriptive or flowery with his language. His metaphors and similes are beautifully written but they cause the story to feel heavy. This, in turn, causes the read to be quite heavy and rely on the intellectual prowess of the reader. While this is not completely a negative for the reader who prefers something a bit more intellectual, for the casual reader this can be a detriment.

The portrayal of technology and the development of character relationships is well played throughout the entirety of the tale. If you have never been an avid reader of the bible or studied any sort of religion while in school, you will not be lost. You can think of Jesus and Magdalene as a tale of two young adults who are trying to make a difference in the world. If you are familiar with these texts, you will find that there is much that overlaps with Cerqueira’s story. It is evident that the man has done his research and is not afraid to use that in his works.

The language that author João Cerqueira uses is beautiful. For a reader looking for something heavier, thought-provoking and requiring footnotes, you cannot go wrong with Jesus and Magdalene.

Pages: 324 | ASIN: B01IS20VQY

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Pearl of the Seas

Pearl of the Seas4 StarsIn this delightfully imaginative tale, two children, Chris and Kate, find a log of driftwood on the beach. They decide to build a boat and sail across the ocean. Whether by magic or imagination, the two friends and their little dog Holly build their ship, name it the Pearl of the Seas, and begin their journey. Like any fairy tale, there are obstacles to overcome, dangers to face, and kind strangers to help them along their way. They rely on friendship, faith, and kindness to see them home to a happy ending.

Intended as a prequel to Black Inked Pearl, a romance novel, this story is dedicated to young teens. I believe it would also appeal to middle-grade youth as well. There’s a real sense of youth-centered discovery and the freedom to let creative fancies bloom into epic adventures. And I don’t use ‘epic’ lightly; the author weaves in themes, events, and allusions borrowed from the Bible, the original Greek epics, tales of Aladdin and Orpheus, and classic narrative poetry. Indeed, poetry is the heart of the tale, and to me, it read less like a novel and more like a prose poem:

“All things stayed silent. Harkening. The gulls sat in white lines along the rocks; on the beach, great seals lay basking and kept time with lazy heads; while silver shoals of fish came up to hearken, and whispered as they broke the shining calm.”

Poems in traditional form are often combined with the prose. Finnegan creates a language that can take some time to get used to the unusual sentence structure and sing-song pattern of the words. In some passages, the child-like way of chaining words together lends an air of playfulness. Since readers (especially young readers) may be inspired to learn more about the poetry and prose of the book, the author includes a section of notes at the end. She offers more information about key phrases and events, poetic references, and the inspiration for some of the key events in the story. I found this to be a big help in deciphering some of the words and concepts of the book.

The characters are charming. Kate and Chris have their own problems in the real world. Kate is perplexed by math and the nuns who teach her; Chris has lost his mother and is being raised by a foster father. Holly, the dog, finds every opportunity for danger and gives both children a chance to play hero and rescue her. Once they’re sailing the sea of dreams, they meet Yahwiel with his riddles, as well as the benevolent King and Queen who live on an Eden-like island. These characters all have an air of the divine, and the lessons they teach are steeped in the Christian faith.

If you’re looking for a unique book for a young reader or a short chapter book to read to very young children, Pearl of the Seas is a unique story that goes beyond mere entertainment. It’s an excellent introduction to poetry, classic literature, and imagination.

Pages: 138 | ISBN: 1625902557

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The Empty One: The Fallen Conviction

The Empty One (The Fallen Conviction, #1)4 StarsIf there’s one thing I can guarantee about this book, it’s that you’ve absolutely never read anything like it before. And that’s no small thing—fantasy as a genre has a bad habit of being predictable, and this book certainly is not that. If you’re looking for new form, experimental writing, and a very unique voice, then this is the book for you.

The form is really intriguing: it’s written like a cross between the Bible and Beowulf, with annotated lines and a very deliberate rhyme scheme (all the lines are end rhyme, which is certainly unique in the modern fantasy genre market). The book is biblical in the sense that a lot of the sentence structures seem to mirror the historical books of the Bible, i.e. “1.2.29 For whosoever believed in other than Lialthas was surely deviant, as was the plain truth as seen by his narration!” The text is also reminiscent of Beowulf in that it has a very tried-and-true formula of an “epic”, with a lot of focus on character development throughout the story. Quite a few of the names have pseudo-Scandinavian roots and the focus is very much on masculine honor, value, etc.

The actual plot is a bit hard to follow, which is the only thing I wasn’t crazy about in this book. Typically, fantasy novels are very plot-driven and follow a certain pattern, but this book completely breaks that pattern (which, don’t get me wrong, can be very good sometimes, but I’m not sure if it works here). The central idea is that there are two groups of people who worship two different gods: the Alakans worship the goddess Akala (who are presumably the good guys), and the others worship Lialthas (definitely the bad guys), and they wage a centuries-long battle that, on the surface, looks like a religious war, but, as we continue to read, we learn the reasons for their fighting are much more complicated. The plot moves incredibly quickly, with at least one major plot event per five pages, so anything beyond that will be a spoiler alert. Suffice to say there is quite a bit of action—it is an epic, after all—and definitely not for the faint of heart, since there are definitely some violent and gory scenes. If you’re a fan of old Norse mythology or Anglo-Saxon epic poetry, you’ll feel very comfortable reading this.

That typical “pull” you get from regular fantasy books is still lurking here, but it’s a bit more obscured than, say, Lord of the Rings or A Game of Thrones. I found myself staying up late because I was so engrossed in reading the book; however, not for the typical reasons I would with other novels… more because I appreciated the uniqueness of the structure and freshness of the author’s voice than the fact that I was attached to the characters or really cared about the movement of the plot. Readers who feel bored with the current state of the fantasy genre: this is for you.

Overall, I’d absolutely recommend this book if you love fantasy but would like to move outside of the typical fantasy novel and into something more unique (“avant garde fiction”, if you will). Even if it’s not something you may personally enjoy, I can definitely see this being a great read for a reader who wants to learn more about using narrative poetry and other old-school fiction elements in modern fantasy.

ASIN: B0198UC43I

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