Thursday, February 28, 2013

The End Of A Season

It's been a long season, spiritually speaking, filled with discipline, learning, growth, and dream-shaping.

It was 3 1/2 years ago when I was wrongfully fired from my 9-5 data entry job. It was then that God set me on a path to pursue my writing career. 7 books later (6 novels, 1 novella), and I cannot even recognize who I was at the beginning of this path.

When God whispered the promise that that particular data entry job would be the last conventional job I would work in before my writing took off, I wasn't aware of the context God spoke the promise in. I figured the day I walked out of that building was the day I would see my sales soar and my income balance out to where I could at least pay the electric bill with one of my royalty checks.

But God had other plans.

And isn't that how it always ends up? Very rarely - if at all - do I find that I completely understand God's intentions when He gives a promise. I had no idea it would take 3 1/2 years for my wife and I to get to a place where we would be able to handle my writing career taking off. This season has been the most difficult of my entire life, a constant stretch and pull of my spirit. My intentions have been questioned and refined, my purpose has been chiseled and hacked, my perception of who God is and what He really wants has been clarified.

I've been caught up in reflection lately, looking back over my shoulder to take account of the path God has brought me along. I see now how the pieces of my life fell perfectly into place to bring me to where I am now. I see now how God guided me along some ridiculously narrow ledges, how He carried me over dark pits I didn't even know were there, and how He comforted me when I had to give up some baggage - like bad friendships, counterfeit opportunities, and selfish motives. The path, stretches back farther than I can see, revealing to me that He was working even in my childhood to bring me to this day, to this spot in time.

Ephesians 2:10 - "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

And now I'm at the end of this season. I know it in the very core of my being. The door that I've been standing in front of all these years - the door I've been knocking on until my knuckled bled, the door I've attempted to pick the lock on at times, the door which I spread my tears upon, the door I've attempted to kick down in my darkest hours - it will be opened. The door will be opened, and this dream will be birthed, and it will happen quicker than I could have imagined, and it will bring about a fulfillment of the promise greater than I could possibly have fathomed.

Habakkuk 2:3 - "For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay."

Today marks the end of one season, opening the way for a new season. Opening the way for the fulfillment of a promise.


In today's post, I want to talk a bit about Anaisha - the planet my Expired Reality series takes place on. Anaisha's origins are a mystery, but the manner in which humanity built a civilization upon the planet is not. It is revealed through the Black Earth series (which is a prequel series to the ER series) that Strangeways Silver, owner of SilverTech Industries, 'founded' the planet and claimed it as humanity's next inhabitable world. For years, Mr. Silver sent teams of scientists, architects, builders, and other personnel to begin establishing a major city on the planet. This city is Lysallis.

Lysallis eventually stretched into outlying areas, and after some time the continent of Enera was colonized. During the events of the Black Earth series, Legion and the Dark Army invade Earth and humanity is forced to flee in SilverTech shuttles to Anaisha. The ER series takes place 80 years after this event, and by this time most of Enera is populated and under a government that mimics much of the government in our own United States, with a presidential elect, and a solid judicial system.

Anaisha has a sun much like Earth's, and a blue moon. The planet enjoys a steady pattern of four seasons. Anaisha's atmosphere is filled with an element known as rhodenine - possibly debris from a recently destroyed planet, and the continent of Enera is dotted with wedge-shaped machines called Anaishan Purifiers which were put in place to clear the air of the harmful chemicals that were released while SilverTech Industries colonized Enera.

Enera isn't the only continent on Anaisha though, and as the series unfolds, new areas of the planet will be revealed. So far the Far Lands has been mentioned. This is an area of extreme wilderness where very few venture and even fewer return from.

Fun fact: When I penned the first novel in the Expired Reality series - Endangered Memories - I had originally spelled the name of this planet ANASHA. My intent has always been for the middle 'A' to be pronounced the same way the 'A' is pronounced in the word 'Aim'. But when people started pronouncing it as it's spelled, I realized I needed an 'I' in there to correct things.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

When We Least Expect It

Over the last year, I've really been getting into the Old Testament. I find many of the stories incredibly relevant to our times, and I realize as I read through the OT that I gain a better understanding of God's character and a better view of the plan of salvation He had been putting together to save humanity with the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Last week I read through 1 Samuel. Samuel was a prophet over the Israelites, and by chapters 8 and 9 his sons have turned away from God, and the Israelites themselves are in fear of their future - they don't fully trust that God will continue to lead them once Samuel passes. So, they ask for a king. And after warning them what will come with having an earthly ruler, God rolls out a plan to bring them a king.

The scene shifts to Saul, who has been sent out by his father to find their missing donkeys. After traveling a while from town to town, and finding no sign of the missing animals, he comes upon the the land of Zuph where Samuel resides. It is mentioned that the day before, Samuel was told by God that the same time the next day, the man to become king (Saul) would enter the town Samuel was in.

What I absolutely love about this passage - and about God - is that Saul was busy doing something mundane - searching for missing donkeys - when God decided to interrupt his life and make him king. Saul was going about his day-to-day business when God changed the course of his life forever.

Many of us who are waiting for God to move, to do the miraculous, to pull us out of the mire, to bring us into our next season and give us rest from the harsh weather of this season - sometimes we all stand, stop what we're doing, and look to God, waiting for Him to move. And sometimes that's what God wants us to do. But I think there are many times God chooses to bring about His promises, to fulfill our greatest desires, to open the door to the next season, when we are simply living our lives, day to day, doing what we're called to do.

I remember I was barely a teenager living in New Mexico when a brand new video game system had just come out: the Nintendo Entertainment System, complete with Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. Having grown up with a Commodore 64 and an authentic Atari 2600 system, I had an appreciation for video games. When the NES came out onto the market, I almost peed my pants with excitement. And I remember begging my parents to get me the system for my birthday.

It was well before my birthday the day my parents left me at home while they ran errands, and I remember sitting in front of the television watching some old black and white horror movie about a giant spider attacking a house. There was nothing magical or spiritual about what I was doing. I was simply watching a movie, holding onto hope in the back of my spirit that when my birthday did come around, I would get the NES I had asked for. That day, while I was in the middle of watching the spider movie, my parents came home and surprised me with an NES. They got a kick out of how much I screamed and jumped and raced around the house, excited to play Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. It was a day - a moment - that is burned in my memory forever. It was a day that the unexpected and incredible happened while I was living life.

And I think many times, God wants so bad to surprise us. Matthew 7:11 asks if we as human parents know how to give good gifts to our children, how much greater are the gifts that God gives? I think that's why many times our breakthroughs happen when we let go of trying to control the when, the how, the why. When we leave it to God to surprise us, and we focus on the things we're called to focus on - like helping others, working, cleaning, raising our children, loving our spouses, being involved in the church - then God is open to surprise us and bring about a joy we had no idea was coming. He wants to blindside us with gifts, with His promises.

Today I want to go about my life and do what I do best and let God do what He does best.

An Introduction To The Expired Reality Series

Many of you have enjoyed the books in my Black Earth series, and for that, I am grateful. What many of you may not know is that the Black Earth series isn't where I began my story telling. When I was eleven, back in 1990, I began penciling a story about a young boy - David - who crossed paths with a criminal mastermind - Mr. Big - and stopped him from kidnapping his sister and killing hundreds of innocent people in a hotel bombing.

That story eventually became the very first novel I finished when I was only sixteen - Mission: Australia. And over the years, Mission: Australia has evolved in the Expired Reality series. The Black Earth series is actually the prequel series to the ER series, as it details the destruction of Earth and how humanity came to be on the planet known as Anaisha.

I figured it was about time to properly introduce all of you to the ER series. This series has gone through many revisions, and a number of cover designs. For a very long time - since its creation - the series was touted as young adult. Then, as it evolved, content cropped up in the series that was not so young adult - suggestive content, torture, violence. After taking a long look at my Black Earth series and then figuring out where I want to go with the ER series, I realized I couldn't keep the young adult moniker on it any longer, and now it is filed under the genre known as Edgy Christian Speculative Fiction. For a detailed description of what this genre is all about, go here.

Different cover designs for the first novel in the series (Endangered Memories)
The Expired Reality series takes place nearly 80 years from the time Nathan Pierce (from the Black Earth series) battled the alien entity Legion, and Satan's Dark Army, in their attempts to destroy Earth and all of humanity. Through great struggle, bloodshed, and terror, humans managed to flee the planet in space vessels that brought them across the universe to an earth-like planet called Anaisha, where they settled and began to rebuild.

Now, humanity's close call with extinction is but a memory. Legion's suffocating alien darkness and any reference to the Great Witch Evanescence - lieutenant of the Dark Army - are but a terrifying memory to those who are able to recall their dark past.

Despite the fact that Anaisha was founded and colonized by the sadistic madman, Strangeways Silver, to be a utopia, the planet - especially the main continent of Enera - is far from flawless. In the years prior to the Expired Reality novels, criminal mastermind Mr. Big has set claim to the city of Lysallis and its outlying areas, filling the community with acts of violence and fear.

On one fateful day, one teenager - David Corbin - interrupted Mr. Big and his plans to murder hundreds of people in a hotel bombing. David's interference that day created a chain of events that put the child hero and the notorious villain head to head for many years to come. Eventually, David - at this time the head of a team of teenage heroes known as the Lazerblades - captured Mr. Big and detained him in prison, bringing virtual peace back to Enera.

The Expired Reality novels begin at the end of this virtually peaceful period, when Legion - the same alien entity responsible for Earth's destruction - reveals its presence upon Anaisha, and the Great Witch Evanescence actively seeks to satisfy her hunger for humanity's ultimate extinction. The teen heroes are called on once again to save the world, as ancient artifacts, humanities ugly past, and otherworldly species intersect in a final battle against the forces of evil.

The Expired Reality series is a series of novels, short stories, and novellas that can be read completely separate from the Black Earth series, and is a long-running series that will stretch out into many mediums of entertainment for many years to come.

In coming posts, I'll be introducing some of the characters from this series, discuss the layout and structure of Anaisha, detail some of the religious beliefs in the world, and give some sneak peeks into where I plan on taking this series in the near future.

Friday, February 15, 2013

What To Expect...

As many of you know, my Black Earth series has come to its conclusion (in regards to full-length novels) with the release of Exodus. However that doesn't end the story of humanity's struggle against the alien force known as Legion or the Dark Army under Satan's command. Planets are still being engulfed in Legion's darkness, and the Great Witch Evanescence and her cohorts are still pushing  creation toward the brink of extinction.

The storyline that the Black Earth series set up continues in my other series, Expired Reality. Expired Reality is the series that I first began writing in when I was eleven - back in 1990. The characters, the plots, and the main feel of the series has gone through many revisions, but now that the Black Earth series has been established as a foundation for the master storyline, I know (for the most part) what direction I want to go with the Expired Reality series.

In the upcoming weeks, I'll be writing posts that give you more information about my Expired Reality series, including -

- An introduction post to get you acquainted with the series as a whole, including a brief intro to certain events and characters that carry over from the Black Earth series.

- Character introductions which will include background on many of the main characters of the ER series, including David Corbin, Carrie Green, Turquoise-Wedge, and Mr. Big.

- Posts that go into depth regarding the world structure of Anaisha (An-ā-sha) - the planet that the ER series takes place on (initially).

- Posts that go into the religious (or lack thereof) aspects of Anaisha.

- Other fun/interesting posts that come to mind.

I will also be cross-referencing my posts with the official Compendium, so if you ever want to reference the topics discussed in the future, they will be easily accessible from the official website. Additionally, I will be continually adding to the official timeline - a handy reference for those of you who are fans of both series and are interested in having a visual guide to where each of my books fits (chronologically) into the Black Earth/ Expired Reality universe.

I'm looking forward to bringing everyone up to speed on a series that has been close to my heart since I was a mere child. Stay tuned for the posts to begin next week!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Abortion Of A Dream

To be honest, if there's one thing I never want to carry with me through this life, it's regret. Regret tastes sour in my mouth, and leaves me with an acidic sensation in my stomach. As I've matured (spiritually) over the years, I've learned to build my life around a particular attitude: live with no regrets. This doesn't mean I party like there's no tomorrow. It means I never want to look back at my life and wonder what could have been. What could have happened had I just taken step #1001 and passed into the great thing God had been preparing for me the whole course of my journey instead of giving up and calling it quits at step #1000?

Travis Clark, the pastor of Canvas - the church plant my wife and I are taking part in in San Francisco - came and spoke at our church a number of Sundays ago, and he went into detail about how King Saul threw away the things God had for his life because he wanted things his way and not God's way. The pinnacle of Saul's downfall can be found in 1 Samuel 13, but the verse that gets to me is verse 13 - And Samuel said to Saul, "You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. (Taken from the New American Standard edition)

Samuel's statement is pretty clear - God would have blessed Saul's reign as king over Israel forever. FOREVER. But because he disobeyed God and moved in fear and impatience, God stripped him of what could have been. Those words are painful. What could have been. It indicates something in an alternate reality, or in a black hole somewhere - something that could have come to fruition, could have come into existence, but didn't. The abortion of a dream. Of a purpose. Of a plan. God's plan.

In verse 14, Samuel continues - "But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as a ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you."

I don't want to be the subject of why God had to turn to someone else to get His will done. Because make no mistake, God's plans will come to pass regardless if He has to go through a million people to make it happen. But I want to be the man after His own heart, I want to be the one God turns to to walk out His will, to be given responsibility over His people, His things, His blessings.

My heart broke when I read that verse the same way it broke when I read the verses surrounding Moses and the fact that he was able to see the Promised Land from a distance but was not allowed to enter it. Because of disobedience, these two men were never able to experience the full beauty of the promise that God had been leading them towards.

How unfortunate and depressing.

I don't want to live my life, to walk this narrow path, to obey rather than sacrifice, just so I can see God's fulfillment of His promises from a distance. I want to be in the center of them, dancing, singing, and praising God for coming through in everything He said He would.

I've heard from many pastors over the years that many people never make it to their Promised Land because they give up along the way. They either succumb to thinking that God won't come through, or they get tired and lazy and complacent and give up. Some follow different paths to disobedience along the way. Others simply think they can do things their way without direction from God and still reach all that God has in store for them.

I want to reach the other side. I want to breathe in the air of a new land, to see all that God birthed in my heart so many years ago come true. I long for the fulfillment of God's promises in my lifetime. I don't want to be like David and leave the completion of the temple to my children. I want to take part in it with them.

As the end of this season in my life draws near, I know - KNOW - that God is about to move in a powerful way in my life and the life of my family. And when He does, that movement is going to impact everyone around us. I've been waiting for so long, I've been praying for so long. I've been obeying for so long. And I know I will see the Promised Land, I know I will dwell in the midst of the fulfillment of God's promises, because He is not a God who would allow us to be deceived all these years, and He is not a God who lies, and He is not a God who does not know how to give GOOD gifts to His children.

As the pages of this chapter in my life come to a close, I eagerly and expectantly turn the page to the next chapter in my life - the chapter of God's blessings. I don't have to worry about what might have been. I don't have to look back on my life and wonder what God might have done had I only walked in obedience and right relationship with Him. No. I have run the race, and I will now grab hold of the prize...

Picture Perfect Now Free!

Now that my Black Earth series has come to a close - at least in regards to the full-length novels - it's time to pick up the torch that is the Expired Reality series and start busting out more of the storyline that began my entire writing career.

Last week I released the new cover designs for the first two novels in the series - Endangered Memories, Lost Birth - along with the new cover design for the first novella in the series - Picture Perfect.

And in celebration of the reemergence of the Expired Reality series, I've made Picture Perfect available for free via Smashwords. This is a permanent price change. For those wondering, Picture Perfect is a novella set before the Expired Reality series and gives background to Drather, a bounty hunter from the series.

My hope is that Kindle and Nook follow suite by making Picture Perfect available for free - neither site allows an author to set their books for free as a permanent price - however most of the time they will price match, so once they realize Picture Perfect is free on Smashwords, hopefully they will fall in line. The good news is you can grab any and all digital versions of the novella at Smashwords, including Nook, Kindle, PDF, Apple, Kobo, etc. Go grab your copy here! And enjoy!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New Expired Reality Covers

With my announcement a couple weeks ago regarding my exit from the young adult genre and the pulling of the young adult labels from my Expired Reality series, I've been at work on some new cover designs for the series - simple, colorful, and easy to create as the Expired Reality series continues to grow over the course of the next decade - at least.

Here's the brand new cover I designed for Endangered Memories (book 1 in the series)

The new cover for Lost Birth (book 2 in the series)

And the new cover for Picture Perfect (a novella in the series)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Stage Is Set...

Years ago, in the murky fog of my adolescent years, dreams took root within me. Dreams of a massive writing career that would span the globe with success and influence. I remember watching the success of J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series unfold with each novel she put out, and I couldn't help but wonder - if content like the Harry Potter series could impact a generation so heavily, why couldn't work with Christian themes do the same or more? (For the sake of time, we'll disregard the arguments regarding Christian themes apparently found throughout the Harry Potter series.) My question - my desire to see success fall on the side of God - was innocent enough, although probably partly motivated by jealousy for J.K. Rowling, and partly motivated by incredible hope and belief that God could - and would - do the impossible through me and my own writing. At the heart of it, my desire was birthed within the dream that God planted within me - success and influence through my writing. Given by God for God's glory.

Years later, I find myself standing near the end of a long and brutal season. This season has been particularly harsh, with its gale force winds of discipline, its massive rain storms of teaching, and its sometimes blistering cold bouts of desolate financial and provisional status. To sum it up would be to call it a season of sacrifice and obedience.

The beginning of this season had God placing a promise within me, whispering in my ear that the dead-end job I had walked into back in 2007 would be the last 9-5 job I would work until my writing took off well enough to pay the bills. Little did I understand the context of that promise. In 2009 I was wrongfully fired from that job. But I remembered God's promise, and my wife and I walked out the next stage of our season by living off of my wife's income, which was $9/hour for 27 hours a week. Our bills came to significantly more than our income - in fact each month for two years we had a $300-$600 deficit.

But we held onto God's promise.

And for two years, God covered the deficit. One month, the church helped us out. Other months, friends and family stepped in. One month, we found money on the ground - just enough to cover the bills. Another month, money miraculously appeared in our bank account - just enough to cover the bills. One month, my wife and I heard the same message from God but interpreted it differently and came to a point where we received an eviction warning from our apartment complex - but then we realized our mistake, came together on the same page, and found where God's provision was the whole time.

We came out of that two year period with so much blessing -  in the form of stronger discernment, a healthier relationship with God and each other, and a greater understanding of God's love for us. We learned how better to manage money, how to give until it hurt, and how to focus on things more important than money - like friendships and our God-given purpose in this life.

Once we entered our third year of this season, we still hadn't seen the fulfillment of God's specific promise of my writing taking off, but we continued to hold onto His word, knowing that the promise would be fulfilled in God's timing. One of His other promises had already been fulfilled by this point with the birth of my son, Nolan. Then Michal received a raise that put us in the black, breaking barely even with our bills every month. It was a sigh of relief that escaped my lips when this occurred, but I wouldn't be satisfied until God's promise was fulfilled.

We are now at the 3 1/2 year mark since I was fired, since Michal and I stepped out in faith to call God out on His word. Months ago, we were drawn to a church plant in San Francisco called Canvas. My reluctance to move to San Francisco was only outweighed by my confusion - what would a church plant have to do with the promise God made me so very, very long ago? And why San Francisco?

But now the pieces are falling into place.

I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as coincidence. And this belief has led me to some conclusions about my current walk with God -

It's no coincidence I decided to venture out into a brand new genre I call edgy Christian speculative fiction to reach believers and non-believers alike. This genre - and my writing in general - is PERFECT for reaching San Francisco.

It's no coincidence that my wife and I have had a burning desire to move to California in general for the last 5+ years. I was born in Mountain View, California, and have always considered California my true home. (It also helps that my grandfather lives somewhat close to the city.)

It's no coincidence that we are about to enter a season of blessing and influence while at the same time joining with a fantastic group of believers who are proud to call Canvas their home, and proud to call us family.

There have been nights I have cried, days I've laughed, and moments I've wanted to throw in the towel and give up on this writing dream. We've reached $0 in our bank account many - MANY - times, while also having moments where we've had more than enough to give to others. I can now confidently say - as Paul did - "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Philippians 4:12. I have learned what a relationship - a real talking, trusting, confiding relationship with God is like. I know what it is to speak to a mountain and watch God uproot it and move it to the side. I know what a mustard seed of faith looks like and how incredibly difficult it can be to look past the flesh and circumstance to see it. I have learned, in the midst of everything, that God's 90% is better than my 110%.

And now, here at the end of this season, I am worn out, exhausted, exhilarated, and elated. So many emotions, all swirling around the core of faith that has been refined within me all these years. As I close my eyes and listen, I can hear God whispering to my spirit, telling me He is moving, about to fulfill His promise. He is moving ahead of us into San Francisco, getting the Canvas church plant ready to sweep over SF with His love. He is moving behind us, tapping us on the shoulder, reminding of us how far we have come from who we used to be. He is beside us, walking us through each and every single step of faith, from the packing up of our apartment, to the giving away of half of our furniture, to the very end (literally) of our finances.

It's been said to me lately - by a number of different individuals - that our walk of faith, our testimony, our story has all been coming together to craft a monumental stage for God to move on. I couldn't agree more. We are in a perfect position - friends and family are watching with expectant breath, waiting for God to do the miraculous, while our enemies are lying in wait, anticipating that single slip up they think will bring our downfall like a house of cards swept by the wind.

The thing is, my God won't fail me. He is true to His word, and I have seen with my own eyes His mighty hands at work in my life and in the lives of those around me. As I look over my shoulder behind me, I see a very narrow path filled with obedience and sacrifice, tears and laughter, discipline and blessing. All the makings of a grand testimony, a grand story, a grand stage.

And when God finally moves on this stage, when He does come through with His promises, I won't hesitate to move to the side, to give Him room under the spotlight to do what He does best. Because even though I've walked the walked, and talked the talked, this journey - this story - hasn't been about me at all, but about Him and His faithfulness and His love. His love for me, for His creation. This is His story, and I have had the honor of being chosen to take part in it, to walk it out, to write about it.

Keep watching, good friends. You're about to see God move in a way that is unknown in our times...