And Now For Something Completely Different

As the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour concludes our May feature with the science fiction book Numb by John W. Otte, I have something to share.

This is the last time Spoiled For The Ordinary will be in the CSFF Tour.

Yep.

I’ve been involved since almost the beginning, but some things are showing their age, and it is time for something new.

Don’t take that wrong. The CSFF Tour is going strong and needs to continue.

I’m talking about my Blogger home.

I’ve been doing Spoiled since 2006. There have been ups and downs with my blogging, but I’ve stuck with it.

But it’s time for a new home.

Spoiled For The Ordinary 2.0 will be at www.jasoncjoyner.com/blog starting May 1st.

The focus will still be on Faith, Fiction, and Fun, but it’s time to move to a cleaner WordPress layout and my own domain name. Oooh, fancy pants.

I hope you’ll join me there.

Look for the first post on May 1st, and I’ll announce a giveaway at that time.

Thanks for the memories CSFF Tour. I’ll see you at my new home.

CSFF Tour – Numb Day 2

Usually, being numb is not fun.

I can attest, as I currently have a pinched nerve that is affecting a couple of fingers on my right hand. BTW, if you see any typos, I blame it on not feeling the keys.

But one author saw something different in that idea. Thus, the new adult science fiction book Numb by John W. Otte.

Crusader is numb.

He doesn’t feel emotions or pain. This makes him the perfect instrument of God’s divine judgment, as divined by the Ministrix. If he stays obedient, he will earn his justification and receive pardon for his sins.

As one of the Ministrix’s top operatives, he is used to success. But when he is charged with killing Isolda Westin, something happens.

A rush of emotions.

Suddenly Crusader can’t process with his usual clinical coldness. Instead of killing Isolda, he kidnaps her to discover the secret of this strange failing. But doing so will damn his soul.

What is a holy assassin to do?

What an intriguing premise! The good news is that John delivers on all fronts: characters, plot, and the science fiction setting. Set against a war between the atheistic Praesidium and the holy church Ministrix, the novel finds Crusader striking down heretics and protecting the Church’s interests.

His name is appropriate, yes?

Crusader is a driven character and his resistance to emotional or physical pain is something he leans on heavily to accomplish his mission. When he freezes with the feelings that Isolda triggers, he doesn’t know what to do. The conflict keeps the reader guessing and intrigued throughout the book. The action keeps careening through space stations and starships.

Not only does the action hold attention, the characters have depth so they aren’t just plot puppets. Isolda has strengthens and doubts, and Crusader wrestles with these pesky feelings that he hasn’t had to deal with before.

Finally, the ideas that Numb introduce are very thought-provoking. The Ministrix believes that Christ came down from the Cross as a conquering Lord, ready to impose His will after defeating death. This idea gives the brutal treatment of Ministrix opponents a logical justification. There’s a fringe group that has different beliefs, and their quest to avoid the heavy hand of the Church plays into the conflict as well.

Overall, John Otte has written an intelligent and exciting science fiction novel with a sincere wrestling of spiritual issues. Any sci-fi fan should enjoy this book.

If you’d like more on this book, see Becky Miller’s post for all of the participants and updated info.

CSFF Tour Day 1 – Numb

“Are you my mummy?” photo by Karen Barnett

Hello science fiction fans. The Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour for May is featuring a great book by an awesome guy.

But for some reason he chose to wear a mask in this picture.

We are featuring Numb by John W. Otte, an adult science fiction book.

Tomorrow I’ll get into the book, but I’m blessed to count John as a friend. We’ve interacted through the CSFF Tour for years, and then we met at the ACFW Conference in Dallas in 2012.

It was my first contest, and having a familiar face in the crowd kept me hanging with John and the cool speculative fiction crowd, even though my WIP was suspense.

We met up again at the same conference in Indianapolis last September and continued to have a blast. So when I review the book, know that there is some bias, but I’ll try to be objective.

Here’s some fun facts about John Otte to get us started.

He stands out in a crowd. Or should I say, above a crowd.

He might be something of a conspiracy theorist.

John is an ordained Lutheran pastor.

He is the organizer of the infamous game nights at the ACFW Conference. Once Upon A Time, there was a Fiasco

He’s written a YA superhero series: Failstate, Failstate: Legends, and the third book due later this year.

John knows how to suffer. (He’s a Minnesota Vikings fan.)

He’s an avid gamer. (“Shepard.” “Wrex.”)

John is a great brainstormer to help other novelists. We gathered by the elevators in Indy to talk stories, and if John got an idea, his hands would shoot to his head like he was miming putting on a hat (or doing a moose impression). I’ve got trademark pending for his tagline: Don’t modify your story, Otte-fy your story.

One last link: here’s his tale on how he came up with the idea for Numb.

See all the people below? Those are my fellow tourists on the tour. See what they have to say about Numb and check back tomorrow for my review.

Julie Bihn
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Pauline Creeden
Vicky DealSharingAunt
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Nikole Hahn
 Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Amber McCallister
Shannon McDermott
Shannon McNear
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Faye Oygard
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Jojo Sutis
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

CSFF Tour – A Draw Of Kings

Welcome, those who desire adventure.

The CSFF Tour has that today in the March feature, A Draw Of Kings, the third book in the Staff and the Patrick Carr.

Sword series by

The series comes with a lot of praise. The first book, A Cast Of Stones, was listed as one of the best Christian fiction books of 2013 by Library Journal. I have heard praise about it from many of my Christian fiction writer friends.

Perhaps the best praise is from my 13 year old, who just finished the middle book, The Hero’s Lot, in two days after getting it this weekend. I have a feeling A Draw Of Kings will meet a similar fate.

I didn’t get to read this in time, but check out the folks below for more. As always, our leader Becky Miller has the whole update on the latest posts here. 

Gillian Adams
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Mike Coville
Pauline Creeden
Vicky DealSharingAunt
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Nikole Hahn
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Jennette Mbewe
Amber McCallister
Shannon McDermott
Shannon McNear
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble
James Somers
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Jill Williamson

End It Movement

Today, February 27th, is being used as a day to highlight the scourge of modern day slavery.

Why the 27th?


For starters, best estimates of the number of slaves right now is 27 million.

That is 27 million people that don’t have the freedom to come and go as they please. People that live under fear and coercion, who suffer violence or the threat of violence daily.

They may be child sex slaves in southeast Asia or eastern Europe. It might be a family stuck in bonded labor in India, trapped on a brick kiln. It could even be an immigrant held against their will in the United States.

I’ve long advocated for the fight against modern slavery. It breaks my heart to know that their are people caught in such a horrible web. It hides in the dark, so it takes a lot of people shining the light to help expose it.

Please take a moment today to educate yourself a little on this issue. In my sidebar on the right I have listed several organizations that work in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.

Twitter is a great place to find organizations that fight this. Some that I know about are:
@IJM – International Justice Mission
@EndItMovement
@NFS – Not For Sale
@SavingInnocents
@AgapeIntMission – Agape International Missions
@TraffickingEnd
@TheSoldProject
@TheA21Campaign
@ECPAT – ECPAT International
@F2W – Free2Work
@SomalyMam
@Polaris_Project
@Love146
@FreeTheSlaves
@GEMSGirls
@CNNFreedom – CNN Freedom Project

There are others out there. It only takes a minute to look one up and find out what you can do in daily life to make a difference. If nothing else, put a red “X” on your hand today. When people ask you what it means, tell them you’re shining a light on modern slavery.

Most of all, pray for the victims. Pray for those on the front lines of the fight. Pray for justice from the God of justice.

We can make a difference!

Let’s do it.
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The Locust Effect

What are you reading?

My goal for 2014 is to read more non-fiction. I read fiction all the time to study the craft, support friends, and review Christian speculative fiction. I want to balance it out more this year.

My latest book I’m reading is The Locust Effect by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros.

Imagine living in a world where if something horrible happens to you or a loved one, such as an assault, rape, or other injustice, you have no place to turn for redress. No one to stand up for justice.

That happens too often in the world, and that is the subject of The Locust Effect. Their premise is that without effective justice in the form of appropriate and honest law enforcement and judicial system, the issues of global poverty, human trafficking, and violence will never see resolution.

This Thursday, February 27th, is a day to focus on the scourge of modern slavery. I will be posting in support of his initiative, and if you are interested in the fight against injustice and modern slavery, I believe The Locust Effect will be a key factor in the future battle.

I’ll post more when I’m finished. If you want to know more, go to the Locust Effect website.

CSFF Tour – One Realm Beyond

Hey, is it time for the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy tour again? 

Yes, yes it is.

This month the feature is One Realm Beyond by Donita K. Paul. She is a steady and sure hand for speculative fiction. I’m too involved in other projects so I didn’t get to read this new book, but here’s a little magnification of the message. 

See all the folks below? Check them out for the latest and greatest on this new series.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

Cantor D’Ahma waited his whole life for this day. Born with a gift to jump between worlds, the young realm walker is finally ready to leave his elderly mentor and accept his role as protector and defender of the realms. But mere hours after he steps through his first portal, Cantor discovers that his job will be more dangerous and difficult than he ever imagined. The realms are plagued with crime and cruelty, and even members of the once-noble Realm Walkers Guild can no longer be trusted. To make matters worse, his first assignment—finding a dragon to assist him on his quest—has led him to Bridger, who is clearly inept and won’t leave him alone. With the help of his new friends Bixby and Dukmee, Cantor must uncover the secrets of the corrupt guild before they become too powerful to be stopped. But his skills aren’t progressing as fast as he would like, and as he finds himself deeper and deeper in the guild’s layers of deceit, Cantor struggles to determine where his true allegiance lies.

Julie Bihn Keanan Brand Beckie Burnham Mike Coville Pauline Creeden Vicky DealSharingAunt Carol Gehringer Rebekah Gyger Janeen Ippolito Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Emileigh Latham Jennette Mbewe Shannon McDermott Meagan @ Blooming with Books Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews Rebecca LuElla Miller Joan Nienhuis Nissa Donita K. Paul Audrey Sauble Chawna Schroeder James Somers Jojo Sutis Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Shane Werlinger Jill Williamson Deborah Wilson

CSFF Tour – Outcasts Day 3

Hey-o boys and femmes.

I’ve talked about Jill Williamson and her cool series The Safe Lands, and our feature book Outcasts, book 2 in the series. My recap of the first book Captives is here, and my review of Outcasts is here.

The series is geared for Young Adult audiences. It also falls under the category of dystopian fiction, which is all the rage right now. Think The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Steelheart as recent stories that fit the genre.

So what is dystopian fiction?

If utopia is the term for a perfect place, then dystopia is the opposite. Dystopian stories take place in a setting where something has gone wrong. Either society has broken down and there is chaos, or there is a controlling factor which rules society in a dysfunctional way.

Even though it has become popular lately, it has been around for a while. Classic books like 1984 or Brave New World are dystopian. It’s the opposite of the idea behind Star Trek, where humanity progresses to higher standards and behavior. Instead, things get worse. It relates to fears that humanity is going to mess things up. Maybe we ruin the planet, or a yet undiscovered virus will wipe out a majority of the population, or we turn to dictatorships for control. Somehow, things are going to go bad.

Some may ask, “Why is this a genre for Christians to write about? Don’t we have a future hope? Aren’t things going to get better?”

Valid questions, but I would argue that it is precisely the Christian who needs to be speaking into this genre. A lot of writers in this have a pessimistic view of the future. Christians can provide the hope and light needed to balance things out. With the caveat that it can’t be preachy.

Consider the Garden of Eden. This could be considered the first dystopian story. Adam and Eve lose fellowship with their Creator over their sin, and now they live in a harsh world. Noah is very much in this vein as well.

How about some of the stories in Judges?

Would the Israelites raised on stories of King David think that exile and being ruled by Persia, Greece, and Rome would qualify as dystopian?

Christians have survived the fall of the Roman Empire. Our faith has survived centuries of conflict in Europe and around the world.

Finally, what about the Apocalypse? No matter your interpretation of the Book of Revelation, it is clear that the story reflects a dystopian time that is overcome by the Prince of Peace at the last.

Christians can truthfully write about a future where things have broken down in some way because we recognize that we live in that now. The world is not as it should be, and a ragamuffin group of rebels against the status quo is running around claiming a man rose from the dead and can bring living water.

A series like the Safe Lands just amplifies it for dramatic effect. The cool thing is that Jill does it without the preachy aspect. It will make teens think, seeing examples of good and bad, without pointing to a character and saying, “See that? That is what is bad for you. So stay away from the bad.”

It’s what I love about speculative fiction. The “what if” questions that you can ask when you suspend reality, whether through fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, cyberpunk, time travel, or plain old dystopian. So for Jill and other writers venturing into such places, go for it. It’s awesome.

If you want to see some more feedback about Outcasts, then Becky Miller has a list of all of the participants and their posts.

What do you think? Is there something about the dystopian genre that we should be wary of as Christians, or are there ways to work redemptively through it? Share below.

CSFF Tour – Outcasts Day 2

Hey-o boys and femmes!

It’s day 2 of our featured book, Outcasts by Jill Williamson, the second in the Safe Lands series. Yesterday I recapped book 1, Captives.

What about Outcasts? Does it avoid the sophomore slump? Is it another Empire Strikes Back?

The story follows the remnant of Glenrock, a village that survived the thin plague but stayed out of the walled, totalitarian Safe Lands nearby. In Captives, they were forcibly taken into the Safe Lands.

Levi, the oldest brother who had to take over eldership of the Glenrock remnant, is hiding out in the underground with his group. He’s working with Rebel leaders, but he doesn’t know if he can trust them with his people. They have their own agendas, and it may not be what Levi thinks.

Mason, the middle brother, continues to work and act as an undercover spy for his people. He’s trying to get information out of Ciddah, the head medic he works for. His heart is betraying him, but what if she betrays him first.

Omar is the youngest brother who opened the door for the Safe Lands enforcers to come to Glenrock. He regrets his actions and tries in his own way to atone for them, but his addictions developed from the Safe Lands hinder his progress.

Together they need to free the Glenrock children from the boarding house before they can find a way out of the Safe Lands. But with powerful enemies and questionable allies, will they survive or will they be caught and prematurely liberated from this life?

Jill Williamson is a dynamo of a woman. She is full of energy and imagination in real life, and it shows in Outcasts. There are tons of fun touches in the futuristic world that make the Safe Lands come alive. There are many futuristic novels out there to compete, but Jill puts a unique spin on many things. The reader will enjoy making connections with some of our real life items and how they develop in the future.

As Becky Miller pointed out in her first post, Outcasts deals with real life issues head on, from drug addiction to sexual desires, but it is all handled in a realistic and honest fashion without glamorizing any of it. The negative consequences of vices are clear, but not in a preachy manner. This book has ideas that give it a heft that some other books miss in dealing with teens and twenty-somethings. The characters anchor these ideas, as they wrestle in different ways with the issues. Omar gave himself over to pleasures that he realizes is damaging, but he has a hard time getting past them. Some of the consequences come out at very inconvenient times, which keeps the plot twisting. Meanwhile Mason, the reasonable brother, still deals with some real temptation.

Overall the book is a very enjoyable read. There are a few sequences where a lot of characters are doing things and it gets confusing for a little while. The book is the second in a series, so there are things that a person would be confused about if they started with Outcasts. The solution is simple – get Captives and read it first!

Becky Miller has all of the posts from the tour updated on her blog. Be sure to check them out, and I’ll be talking a little deeper about the book tomorrow.

CSFF Tour – Outcasts Day 1

Hey-o boys and femmes. Welcome back to the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy blog tour, where the best in Christian speculative fiction is highlighted.

This month we’re featuring the book Outcasts by Jill Williamson. It is the second book in the Safe Lands series. 

In the first book, Captives, we learn about a post-pandemic America. The Safe Lands is a walled city that has survived and has developed its own culture and lives by the philosophy of “find pleasure in life.” The problem is that they can only control the thin plague – they can’t cure it. And it is making their women sterile.

Glenrock is a village that exists outside the Safe Lands and lives in a much more rural existence. The villagers have a patriarchal society, continue to fellowship with God, and do things on a natural level.

When leaders from the Safe Lands decide to ask Glenrock to join them to help with their fertility issue, they assumed the villagers would want to join for the benefits of technology. But the plan goes awry and many villagers are killed.

Three brothers, sons of Papa Eli, must make their way in the Safe Lands. Eldest Levi has the mantle of village elder and wants to rescue his people from their clutches.

Mason was trained as a healer in the village, and now is placed in the medical system of the Safe Lands and looks for a way to not only save his people, but stop the thin plague as well.

Omar, the youngest, delivered his people to the Safe Lands in exchange for power and prestige, things he couldn’t accomplish on his own in the village. However, his acceptance of Safe Land life will come with a cost.

Captives starts an intriguing young adult trilogy with adventure and thought-provoking commentary on our modern life. I’ll talk about Outcasts in a later post.

For more information, you can check out my prior posts on Captives. The folks below will be discussing Outcasts during the tour as well, and Becky Miller is our tour master and will update with all the latest. 

Red Bissell
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Pauline Creeden
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
 Julie Bihn
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Writer Rani
Chawna Schroeder
Jacque Stengl
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Deborah Wilson

Legal mumbo-jumbo:  In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. 
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