Tuesday, September 29, 2020



This is a well-written murder mystery that also expands one's knowledge of church history, as one would expect in this series.

The story is not as fast paced as other mysteries and suspense tales, but it is well worth your patience. When it gets going, it's like a train traveling from one end of the continent to the other. There are plenty of mysterious occurrences starting in England and through out a train trip across Canada. As far as the mystery, you have no idea who to trust. No, let me rephrase that. With the exception of the lead characters, there is no one above suspicion. In addition to the main story, you also hear several stories of church history - enough for you to know it's not a boring subject.

This is the sixth part in a series, but if you haven't read the other books, you can still enjoy this one. Likewise, if you read this first and want to read the earlier stories, this novel doesn't spoil its predecessors.

There are books that I enjoy sitting back with a warm cup of coffee (though Father Antony and Felicity might recommend tea instead), and this is one of them. I highly recommend it.

One thing I'm going to do on this blog in my reviews is to look at the value of the book apologetics wise. One theme developed in this book is the balance between a unity of the whole body of Christ and standing firm on its convictions. A regular feature in this series is Father Antony sharing stories of church history, and included this are illustrations of standing in the face of death and not being willing to renounce one's faith.

I received a copy of the book from the author for my unbiased review.

Saturday, September 26, 2020


In 2006, I discovered two Christian legal suspense authors who had four or five books out each. 

The first I read was Randy Singer's debut novel, Directed Verdict, which included praise on the back cover from fellow attorney Jay Sekulow. It started out with a single, unsaved, male attorney successfully defending a person charged for blocking access to an abortion clinic. That client then referred a friend, and that case became the major emphasis of the plot.

Immediately after that, I read Craig Parshall's debut novel, The Resurrection File, which included praise on the back cover from fellow attorney Jay Sekulow. It started out with a single, unsaved, male attorney successfully defending a person charged for blocking access to an abortion clinic. That client then referred a friend, and that case became the major emphasis of the plot.

Two things to point out.

  1. The two novels went completely different directions after that point and had little similarity to each other. In fact, I enjoyed one much more than the other.
  2. I wouldn't be surprised if the authors' mutual friend Jay Sekulow suggested the above opening and see how different authors do completely different things with the same starting point.

Years later, in an ACFW class on point of view, a Romantic Suspense writer told of a novel that used four Point of View characters. After reading that novel, I picked up another novel by a different author - this one being pure suspense. Out of curiosity I checked out the number of POV characters. Yes, it was once again four. Not only that, but the female leads had different spellings of the same name (one with a C and the other with a K), and they both ended up shooting the villain, but not fatally in either case.

A few years later, I read a cozy mystery about a female character who had a struggle with her mother about career choices and had a phobia of clowns. Next novel I read was a romantic suspense by a different author. In this one, the female character had a struggle with her mother about career choices and had nightmares of being chased by a clown.

Okay, again there was nothing else in common. The daughters had completely different careers. The reason for their fear of clowns were both from childhood but for completely different reasons. Still, the similarities amused me.

Of course, there's only so much you can do in a genre. Except for fantasy. In these worlds, you will find each novel has a completely unique world and situations. Right?

I read in a short span four different fantasy series (one being a Sci-fi Stars Warsish fantasy) where one of the minor characters was in love with the female lead but knew her heart was with the male lead, so he decided not to create a triangle and let the other guy win. The funny thing? I haven't seen that work that way in any other genre I read!

Then, there's the king that marries someone that scandalizes the country - I saw several of those. Then, there's when either the male or female lead dies but doesn't stay that way.

The most recent case? Two novels I read close together (in this case, I read one in between the two) happened to have the same last name for the villain. Pure coincidence. Villain #1 was introduced in the first chapter, and you realized he was the villain in the first chapter. Villain #2 was introduced later in the book and you didn't know he was the bad guy until the climax.

Any chance they were brothers? Maybe, and if so, Villain #2 would have been scared by Villain #1. Or it would seem that way. You see, villain #2 already has planned how he's going to kill his brother.

Have you read novels close together that had coincidental similarities? 

Thursday, September 24, 2020


Title: Everyone loves a rose, but are you grateful the the thorns?" 

Besides being a novelist, I have written a whole batch of songs in the past. My favorite classes in high school were Creative Writing and Art. I attended Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus my first year out of high school and took classes including Ceramics (2 semesters), Art Theory and Design, Drawing, Stained Glass, Photography, Creative Writing, and a Poetry Workshop. (I also took English, Economics, and Literature of the Bible.)

Did anybody know I'm an artist?

Thus, it excited me when I attended the Indiana Southern Baptist Convention several years ago and looked at the board promoting church planters. I got excited when I noticed a card for a couple that was working specifically with artists. Becky and I were able to get to know Kerry and Twyla Jackson as a result.

Kerry has a ministry called Drawing On The Rock, which he describes in the below interview. He was at Arlington Avenue Baptist Church and did the below picture (pardon the reflection of the lights and window. I've included a link to a video of that ministry at the bottom of this blog.


JR: Greetings, Kerry. Let me start with asking how you got interested in the arts. Are there any favorite painters who were an inspiration?

KJ: Hi Jeff, thank you for the opportunity to share a little about myself and my ministry. I honestly can’t remember exactly how my interest in art began. I’m old and it’s been a very long time! However, it may have all begun with my childhood interest in comic books. I was fascinated by them and would try to draw and replicate the storyboards. I was always drawing as a child. I find it ironic that when I was sitting in church as a young boy and drawing on the bulletins, my mom would lightly slap my hand and tell me to pay attention. Little did she know that years later I would be drawing and painting in churches and getting paid to do it!

Besides being influenced by comic books, or graphic novels as they are called today, the artists of Mad Magazine influenced me a ton! As I got older, I can say that Michelangelo, Andrew Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell influenced my style and subject matter choices.

Could you tell us about your ministry Drawing To The Rock?

KJ: Drawing to the Rock is a ministry God blessed me with over 30 years ago. It involves the creation of art with a spiritual message or a testimony of my faith journey. It also involves traveling around the world leading in what I call “visual worship.” I bring a creative element to church worship services. I create a large piece of art in front of the congregation while music is played. I also take my ministry to Christian schools and outdoor evangelistic events. I’ve even done a few corporate events.

JR: You have done church planting with the focus on the artist community. Here in Indianapolis, the church met in the Art Bank (a gallery) and Indy Fringe Theater (which sounds like the type of place people typically plant churches). What doors has your artistic ability had on outreach ministry? 

KJ: Yes, for eleven years I was involved in church planting among Cultural Creatives in Atlanta, GA and Indianapolis, IN. I can honestly say that church planting is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to accomplish. Yet, God in His power, did some amazing things in the lives of our little congregations. We saw lives changed and artists from all kinds of creative disciplines come to the understanding of how their art and their faith connect and intertwine.

As a professional visual artist, most other artists I meet first see me as a colleague. Then as our relationship begins to grow, they look past my talent and begin to see who I truly am. They begin to see me as a Christ follower and my role sometimes turns to that of a “chaplain.” Eventually, if God so leads, I become their pastor. My spiritually themed art has always been designed to invoke questions. I can’t tell you how many times my work has led to spiritual conversations. When asked to explain my work and the subject matter, the chance to share my faith and what God has done in my life comes so natural and non-threatening.

JR: What are your current endeavors, both on the ministry side and as an artist?

KJ: Well, the Coronavirus pandemic shut my live performances down completely. All of my remaining 2020 bookings were cancelled after everything locked down last spring. So, I’ve been collaborating with a fellow minister to make some s

hort videos based on some of my pieces and posting them on social media. I call them “Art Devotionals.” I’m just trying to keep my ministry in front of folks. I’ve also been blessed with a few commissions to help bring in some income during this period. I also teach art to high schoolers at a local Christian academy.

JR: Thank you for your time, Kerry. May the Lord Jesus Christ richly bless your ministry.

KJ: Thank you Jeff! I really appreciate your friendship and the way you’ve supported and encouraged me through the years. God bless you and Becky.


Again, below is a link to a video for Drawing On The Rock: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9cK3SBhs9s

 What ways have you used art in teaching or defending the faith?


Tuesday, September 22, 2020



 Starting with this note - I have read six of the ten parts of this series. I missed the opening prequel and first novel as well as the final two. The ones I read were:

  • Act of Valor by Dana Mentink,
  • Blind Trust by Laura Scott,
  • Deep Undercover by Lenora Worth,
  • Seeking the Truth by Terri Reed,
  • Trail of Danger by Valerie Hansen, and 
  • Courage Under Fire by Sharon Dunn.

I find novel series fall into three categories:

  1. A series of stand-alone novels that have a common setting and recurring characters where you can read them in any order and still enjoy them.
  2. A series where each book is an installment that stands on its own with an over-arching story that connects the three into a unit.
  3. One big story broke up into several different books.

This series is somewhere between one and two. Each is a story with its own hero, heroine, main villain, and K-9 star, with a clear resolution at the end. However, this series also deals with the murder of the unit's chief, Jordan Jameson, and the search for his missing dog Snapper. That big story picks up more and more steam starting with part 6 - Seeking The Truth. Also, you see the same characters pop up through the series, and each story ends with a hint of what the next story will deal with. Considering its 11 stories are written by 9 different authors, you have a well done set.

One fascinating thing is that there are several different breeds of dogs throughout the series: German Shepherds, a Beagle, a couple of Labs, a Springer Spaniel, a Bloodhound, and a Rottweiler in the mix. No, these dogs don't have the same responsibilities as each other. Some are trackers, some sniff for drugs or explosives, as well as those who catch and bring down the crooks.

Yes, you have a male writer who is hooked on Harlequin's Love Inspired Suspense. But I really have enjoyed this series.

Saturday, September 19, 2020


 Anybody else here familiar with the 1982 Oscar nominated "Missing" starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek? 

For those who aren't, the story takes place during the Chilean coup of 1973 and the US' involvement. It focuses on a man who disappears and the efforts of his father (Lemmon) and wife (Spacek) to find him. 

SPOILER ALERT. At the end of the movie, they find the body of that individual. The father tells the embassy that he's going to sue the US government over it, where a worker replies, "That's your right."

"No," the father replied, "it's my privilege."

The first thought that crossed my mind was "Good for you, standing up to those bullies." My second thought was "And that's what the movie's director wanted me to think." I left the theater feeling manipulated.

True, the director was on the left end of the political spectrum. However, my ideological opponents don't have the monopoly on playing emotional puppet master. I've seen some videos recently which are promoting a message I whole heartedly agree with that are poorly written and unashamedly try to play on one's feelings.

Many sermons are designed to trigger an emotional response. There's a popular Christian song that left me feeling my feelings were used. I've read a couple of Christian novels recently where the faith element seemed to be included for the sole purpose of the book being for the Christian market.

Can you get a message across without that manipulation? Yes. I read the novel Jurassic Park. By the time I finished it, I got the strong feeling that author Michael Crichton had written the story as a warning against genetic engineering. But his appeal went to my mind, not to my emotions. It made me think; it did not make me react.

I am an artist, but I'm also a preacher at heart. My creativity is channeled through my Christian worldview and has a purpose to communicate as well as to be quality product. So I do have the concern of trying to get the message to the brain as opposed to tugging and playing with one's heartstrings.

In the novel I'm writing, I have characters with different viewpoints. One way to keep from manipulating is to present more than one perspective and to avoid to stereotypically have the good guys agree with me and the bad guys disagree. 

Are there examples where you feel manipulated by a work of art or a non-fiction book or reporting? Are there examples where your thinking is challenged but where you don't feel manipulated?

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Interview With Kerry Nietz

Late October 2013. With less than a week before posting date on the Hoosier Ink blog I then contributed for, my scheduled interview fizzled at the last minute. What do I do?

I then remember seeing an ad for a book that just came out that not only sounded interesting, but it also fit the Halloween season. This novel, the first of the Peril in Plain Space series, was Amish Vampires In Space, written by Kerry Nietz (pronounced Neets). So I contacted Kerry and a week later I posted one of my favorite interviews.

I've read several of his novels as well as his auto-biographical Fox Tales: Behind The Scenes Of Fox Software, and thoroughly enjoyed each one. He also is a contributor to a devotional series which I'll mention later. So here's my interview with Kerry Nietz.

*    *    *

JR: I believe your most recent project is a contribution to the second volume of the Faith In Fiction Devotionals (you also wrote the foreword in the first volume). That series is exactly what I'm trying to deal with in this blog. Could you tell us about that series, and are there plans for more?

KN: I’d be happy to, Jeffrey. The Faith in Fiction devotional series is the brainchild of author Christopher Schmitz and is geared toward the large segment of Christians out there that enjoy science fiction and fantasy. About a half-dozen authors contributed. Each of us created devotions based on speculative stories we’ve enjoyed in the past (e.g. The Hunger Games or Dune) along with our own stories. In my case, I took some of the short stories that have stuck with me—by classic authors like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Jack Finney—and connected them to Biblical wisdom to form, I hope, concise inspirational messages. I think it’s a fantastic series. I’m glad Chris asked me to be part of it.

JR: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing your best-known project is Amish Vampires in Space. One thing that impressed me in the Peril in Plain Space series is the emphasis on our responsibility to community and that our community may be larger than we think. How do Christians develop a stronger community, especially dealing with pandemics, protests, and political division?

KN: Wow, good question. The times have certainly made many aspects of community more difficult. I know I find myself, even when I’m outside the home in public spaces, wanting to isolate and withdraw. Just putting on headphones and going about my business, oblivious to those around. (Plus, it’s hard to communicate when everyone is wearing masks!)

Even online community can be difficult. There’s a lot of fear, uncertainty, and anger out there. It’s tempting to withdraw from that altogether—and for a season that might not be a bad thing, especially if you have people nearby who you should be connecting with. In Acts 1:8, Jesus talked about first reaching those closest to you and moving outward in your witness from there. I have younger kids, and I know I’ve enjoyed hearing and seeing more of them during these otherwise trying times—especially since I know they won’t always be this young. My oldest just signed up for drivers training!

I guess if I had any advice, it would be to be sensitive to those God puts in your path—either in your local vicinity or online. There’s a lot of hurt and insecurity out there. It’s a great opportunity to put faith in action. Find ways to serve and console!

JR: Maybe it's just me, but I also believe your dystopian works (the Dark Trench Saga, the Dark Trench Shadow Series, and the stand-alone novel Mask) also point to community in a more hostile society. (Does that mean vampires, zombies, and werewolves are less hostile?) Any lessons we can learn from Radial, Sandfly, and ThreadBare?

KN: I think the wisdom there too is to thrive in whatever environment you find yourself in. Be the encourager and the problem-solver. Steer clear of the negative as much as possible. Resist complaining and squabbling. Find like-minded folks and work toward a common, righteous goal.

One advantage Sandfly, Threadbare—and to a lesser extent—Radial have is that they are in near-continual communication with their support team. Whenever there’s a problem, there’s always someone available to talk to. Normal humans like us are invited into something similar with God himself. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all situations.” If there’s one thing I think the world needs more of right now, it’s prayer.

JR: I know Amish Werewolves of Space came out late last year. What else is in the pipeline?

KN: I just sent a story off to the publisher. I’ve written a handful of stories in the Takamo gaming universe over the last couple years. It’s fun, because their universe is so vast that there are a lot of story ideas to play with. (Takamo started as a by-mail game in the 80s and is now being developed into a massive multiplayer online game.) It’s pure escapism. So far, my stories have revolved around a society of aliens that look like man-sized rats. This latest entry involves them too, but there’s a bit of an alternative history angle.

JR: Thank you very much for your time.

KN: You’re welcome, Jeffrey. Thanks for inviting me. May God bless all your endeavors! 

 *    *    *

Who do you consider your community? Are there those who you should consider part of your community you tend to overlook or ignore? How do you get them involved in community? 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Killing Time Among Other Things, or a Look At Novels About Assassains


How many of you have dreamed of becoming a professional assassin? Or at least hanging out with them? I don't see many hands raised.

Most stories tend to have a positive protagonist: a police officer, a soldier, a doctor, a parent, or just an all-around decent person. There are some that have a negative protagonist, on the other hand. An assassin would probably fall into that category.

There are exceptions like The Godfather, but negative protagonists are usually redeemed. Probably the best known story with a negative protagonist is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Above are a trio of Christian novels featuring assassins. All of them are stories of redemption. Interestingly, all were originally published by Marcher Lord Press, which now is known as Enclave Publishing. The two in the back are still available by that publisher, the third can now be purchased via Freeheads. 

Let me look at them in alphabetic order by title.

Mask by Kerry Nietz (pronounced Neets) looks at a post-apocalyptic era where citizens still have the right to vote. However, don't think of voting as going to the polling place and picking who you'd like to lead the country (or more often picking who you would less dislike to lead the country). Instead, picture the reality TV show Survivor. Except those voted off don't join a jury or even go back home.

Technically, Radial is not an assassin. He's a collector. His job is to pick up people voted away as inconvenient. Then, he has an assignment that makes him reconsider his method of living.

Numb by John Otte (pronounced Ah-tee) is also set in the future, but unlike the earthbound Mask, this tale takes place in outer space. The Crusader does the dirty work for the Ministrix, the kind of government left-wingers fear if the Religious Right took over the country. One thing that helps Crusader is that he is numb, both physically and emotionally. Then, like Radial, an assignment shatters the life as he knows it and changes him from hunter to hunted.

Son Of Truth by Morgan Busse (pronounced Bus-see) is actually the second part of the fantasy trilogy Follower Of The Word. Caleb Tala is introduced in Daughter of Light as an assassin, until he encounter truthsayer Rowan Mar. Rowan is the main character of the series, but Caleb's journey is developed throughout as well.

Of course, there's another Christian story about an assassin. His name was Saul, and he came from a place called Tarsus. Anybody familiar with him and his story?

Has there been anybody that you think God couldn't do anything with and He proved you wrong?


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Interview With Donna Fletcher Crow, Author of Against All Fierce Hostility














Allow me to travel down memory lane. When I was a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), the first book giveaway I entered and won was for A Very Private Grave, the first of the Monastery Murders series by Donna Fletcher Crow. 

Later, I started posting writer interviews for the Indiana ACFW Chapter's blog Hoosier Ink and later Sleuths and Suspects blog, and the first novelist I interviewed was Donna Fletcher Crow, who had just released the second installment of the same series. 

Since then, I served as an influencer for four books of this series (including the newly released one, Against All Fierce Hostility) and a couple of her other mysteries, and am interviewing her for the fourth time.  

Thus, it's fitting that the first interview I'm doing for this blog is with Donna Fletcher Crow. 

 *          *          *

JR: The latest installment of one of my favorite series, The Monastery Murders, is out. Can you tell us what Father Anhony and Felicity are up to these days?

DC: Thank you, Jeff. I’m so glad you enjoy Father Antony and Felicity’s adventures. Against All Fierce Hostility is rather a departure for me because Felicity and Antony are off to monasteries in Canada, rather than their usual galavanting around England. It was great fun for me to work in a new environment, and I hope my readers will enjoy it as well.

JR: One focus I have for this blog is to focus on how we can defend the faith in novels and the arts. Could you ask Father Antony if he has any thoughts on the subject? (I'd like to hear yours as well.)

DC: Oddly enough, Father Antony and I seem to agree on that subject. My goal is to show characters living consistent, faithful Christian lives—especially my clerical characters. Of course, Felicity had to come to appreciate that in Antony because her original view of Christianity was quite different from his. I also like to emphasize the similarities in the various expressions of Christianity. Although Father Antony is very high church in his worship practices, he is evangelical in his attitudes—therefore, his work on the ecumenical council and his including stories of faith from various branches of the church. It is my goal to show Christian readers from across the spectrum that believers with different ideas can work together. I want non-Christian readers to see a winsome, loving faith that works in my characters’ lives and has stood the test of time throughout the ages.

JR: At present, I've started the novel, and I hope I'm not spoiling anything to mention that Father Antony speaks at an ecumenical conference about the persecution of Scottish Covenanters in England. Is there a balance of being tolerant of other forms of worshipping and theology and maintain other groups to hold
to their convictions and non-negotiables?

DC: Scripture and the creeds are basic. Of course, even that is sticky because interpretations vary so much among sincere Christians. I truly believe, however, that somehow it will all come together in heaven. God’s Truth is so enormous that no human mind can really encompass it all—therefore we need various expressions of it. No one can have more than a shard of the whole picture. On the other hand, it is all so simple that little children can grasp the essentials of love and trust.

JR: Besides the Monastery Murders, you also have a pair of other mystery series still continuing as well as other books. What's on the horizon with them? Any chance of Father Antony and Felicity aiding Richard and Elizabeth discover what happened to Lord Danvers? (For all your heroes to get together would require crossing over into sci-fi, wouldn't it?)

DC: Ha! What a great idea, Jeff! It would take quite an event to bring Danvers’ Victorian true-crime and Elizabeth and Richard’s literary suspense together in one of the Monastery Murder’s church history stories. Still, you never know what that great stew in a writer’s mind might produce.

JR: Thank you for your time, and I'll be looking forward to your next mystery.

DC: Thank you so much, Jeff, it’s been great fun visiting with you. If any of your readers want more information they can find all my books, photos from my research trips and my blog on my website. And I would be delighted to have them follow me on my Facebook page


Back to you, readers. Have you had the privilege of reading any of Donna Fletcher Crow's books? And have you had experience of working with other spectrums of the Christian faith?

Saturday, September 5, 2020

More on the method of encouraging others known as writing reviews -


As I'm writing this, I am in the process of being an influencer for one author, and when I'm finished, I'll be doing the same for another writer.

What is an influencer? My job is to read a novel by an author and then write a review and promote the book. I've been writing reviews on Amazon for years, and recently expanded to Good Reads, which I'm able to share on Facebook. This past year, the Indianapolis Public Library revamped their website so I can leave reviews there as well.

I now have a new tool - this blog.

I've been writing reviews before I ever served as an influencer (let alone knowing such a creature existed). I've had some people comment that my review helped them in their decision to purchase a book (including one who said my review - which was a positive one - convinced him not to buy that book).

In fact, I have a confession. For a couple of years I haven't been writing as many reviews. Yes, I do when I'm an influencer, but I don't make it a time priority. Shame. On. Me. Can I ask you to help me get back into that good habit?

Some reviewers have a policy of writing only 5 star reviews. One is a writer friend who knows first hand the benefit of reading a positive review has on an author and the discouragement of a negative one. Others come across as non-authors who are using that promise to get free books to review.

In practice, at least 95% of my fiction reviews are 5 star, because the authors earn it. There are times I read a book that isn't my favorite genre (I enjoy romantic suspense, but not romance; I like sci-fi but I'm not into dystopian). That doesn't effect my rating - I consider that a fan of that genre might enjoy that well-written book more than I did, so I want to encourage that person to try that book.

There are rare instances I don't feel the writer deserves 5 stars. For example, I read one book where they mentioned the government officials on the board, including the Senators of California, Massachusetts, and New England. Uh, New England is a region of a half dozen states and as a region doesn't have a Senator. The same author wrongly identified the singer of a pop song. My job is then to point out both the good and bad, so an unsuspecting reader won't want to throw a book against the wall.

I find similarities between writing reviews and serving as an evaluator at the Toastmaster clubs I've been in. The purpose of joining Toastmasters is to improve speaking, and the evaluator helps in pointing out what the speaker is doing right and what needs improvement.

If I ever become a published author, I would want to know the whys of the review. They loved the book? That's nice, but be more specific. Why did you love my book? Was it the plot? The characters? The use of the setting? My writing voice? The theme? The book cover? 

Have you written any reviews? Or for that matter, served as a Toastmaster evaluator? What can you do to help promote your favorite author?