Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Silver Lining

When I first learned that the bookstore chain Borders would be closing its doors for good, I was bereft. Gone would be the days when I would slip over to the Eastgate Borders after school and browse its many shelves for new stories to fill my head and rescue me from the monotony of everyday life. (The closest Barnes and Noble was and is too far away for me to visit with regularity.)

My husband and I made countless visits to Borders during its final weeks in order to take advantage of the massive discounts. We bought what may have amounted to dozens of books--I say "may have" because I never counted them. It was a lot. A WHOLE lot. I ran into a problem, however. I cleaned out the Dean Koontz shelf and didn't know what else to buy, so I drifted over to the Christian Fiction section to see what, if anything, they had to offer.

This was possibly one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Up to that point, I had always been hesitant to try out new authors because I was afraid I wouldn't like them. Heck, I never would have even read any Koontz if my sister-in-law hadn't bought me two of his books for my birthday one year. But since Borders had marked everything down so much, I didn't feel like I was taking much of a risk when I purchased Never Let You Go by Erin Healy and Showdown by Ted Dekker. They sounded interesting. What could it hurt?

As it turned out, it didn't hurt a thing, because I happened to discover two of my newest favorite authors. (Hi, Erin!) And, through them, I discovered many other accomplished authors of Christian fiction whose work I have come to love, namely Tosca Lee, Frank Peretti, Eric Wilson, and Robert Liparulo. I also discovered a whole community of like-minded bloggers and book reviewers who not only have informed me about other amazing stories to read, but about writing/storytelling tips and facts about the publishing industry as a whole. I have learned so much from them in the past year, and I know that through them, I will continue to learn and grow as a writer.

Sometimes I wonder: If Borders had not gone out of business, would any of this have happened? I don't know. Yeah, I'm still sad that Borders is gone and that so many people lost their jobs, but I'm very grateful that the chain's demise indirectly led me to some amazing people who have helped me out in more ways than I can count.

One of the themes of my novel The Land Beyond the Portal is that good can come out of any negative situation. It's true. Maybe you've recently lost your job. Maybe a loved one has passed away. Maybe a significant other has left you. Or maybe nothing in your life seems like it is going the right way. You may feel like your whole world is ending. But stay strong, and keep your chin up. It might be God's way of closing one door so that another one may open for you. So when you find it, step through that door. And embrace whatever you find on the other side.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Meet the Author: Michael C. Humphrey

Good afternoon, fellow lovers of the written word! Are you surviving the heat wave? No? Well come inside where it's cool and meet author Michael C. Humphrey, who I am pleased to feature here today as he talks about writing his recently released novel All Living, which marks the beginning of the Seedvision Saga--a series in which Humphrey places a speculative twist on Biblical history by telling the story of Kole, Adam and Eve's firstborn son, who is still alive. (What? you may be thinking. Who is this Kole, and why is he so old?) You'll have to read All Living to find out.

Now here's Michael, in his own words.

First of all, tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? When did you first start writing?

Hi J.S. My name is Michael Humphrey. I currently live in Indiana and for the most part grew up here. I have lived in several different states including California, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas. I was born in North Carolina and have also lived in Panama while my dad was in the Green Berets. I can’t remember when I began writing, I just always have. I do remember around 6th grade, age 12, writing a poem for a school competition, which I won, and got to eat lunch with the Mayor. I think that event solidified for me the notion that writing was pretty cool and encouraged me to set that as an aspiration for myself. So I have been a “writer” now for over 30 years, but it’s only been the past couple of years that I can claim the title of author. Check that one off the ol’ bucket list.

Have any specific authors or books been an inspiration to you? If so, which ones?

I spent a good portion of my early reading years immersed in the fantasy genre. Tolkien (of course), Brooks, Eddings, Weis and Hickman. I then branched into sci-fi and read lots of Asimov, Anthony, Bradbury, etc., as well as more contemporary authors. Mystery, history, horror, dystopian, the classics…I enjoy them all. I try to read a book a week, at least, but with 5 kids, two jobs, and an inherent desire to “veg”…it’s tough sometimes. Some of my favorites are and have been: Sarum, The Frontiersman, Replay, Battlefield Earth, The Stand. Quite an eclectic selection.

What inspired you to write All Living?

I have a degree in Theology and the Bible is one of those books that you can continuously go back to and find things that you’ve “never seen before.” It was during a study of Genesis that an idea occurred to me that became the seed of the story. I mulled it over, let it germinate, discussed it with several other authors, and finally began to tinker with it. The scriptures provide a reader with a brief synopsis of events, a sketch, a skeleton. It is up to the individual to flesh out the details, to draw comparisons, form conclusions, and challenge opinions, by comparing scripture with scripture and other outside sources. “…Here a little, there a little…” There are so many ambiguities to be found in the biblical details if you only “surface read,” and too many Christians become dogmatic about their own speculations. I wanted to challenge that by saying, “here is a work that is CLEARLY fiction…now go prove or disprove it for yourselves. And while you’re doing that, have fun.” It’s entertainment that will hopefully lead readers to pursue an enlightened self-education process.

The ending of All Living indicates that a sequel is in the works. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I suppose it could be called a sequel, but I see it more as a continuation. My publisher gave me a word limit, 115,000 words, so as I approached that point, I had to find a way to “wrap it up.” Originally I had envisioned a trilogy, but now I sense each book as representing one day of “present” time and 1000 years of “past” time, thus the biblically significant number of seven volumes. The next book, SPARK OF LIFE, will deal primarily with the mad genius of Tubal-Cain, the love affair between Kole and Keziah, and figuring out exactly how they make it through the flood (of Noah). Kole’s family was obviously NOT ON THE ARK.

What kind of research did you conduct when writing your novel? How long did it take?

There are several sections of the book that I had no idea how to write. I knew what I wanted to say, but had no idea how to approach the subjects plausibly. Things like historical anachronisms, genealogies and timelines simply required study to establish proper frameworks. “Fringe” concepts such as alternative energies, music therapy, auras, harmonic frequencies and vibrations, etc. were fun to research but definitely demanded more time to carefully position with the narrative. Then there was the technology that I knew needed to be incorporated into the distant past. One of the most enjoyable was the scenes about flight. I joined a website,, and began posting questions in the forum. Things like, “If you lived in the distant past, prehistoric or antediluvian, what materials would you use to build your own hang glider?” The responses were overwhelming and awesome. I got so many good ideas from those folks and can’t thank them enough.  

Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?

When I write, I write at night. My best times to write are between midnight and 3am. However, it makes it tough to get up in the morning and make it to work when I stay up that late. I function pretty well on 4 hours of sleep, but it’s still hard to “give a rip” that the alarm is going off. I have never had the luxury of an entire “typical day spent writing.” I’m mostly a dabbler, tinkerer. I go over and over each paragraph, tweaking it and re-tweaking it. For me, it’s not just about conveying a message, but doing so in a way that is beautiful and poetic. I am as concerned about meter and flow as I am about context and content. I rarely ever want to use the same word twice on one page. It happens, but I’m seldom happy about it. =)

What do you do when you aren't writing?

Between working a job at Purdue University, operating a window washing business, serving on the local library Board of Trustees and projects around the house that I can barely keep up with…I try to visit family, play with the kids, date my wife, and serve God. (not necessarily in that order)

What are three things that your readers would be surprised to know about you?

I published a book but didn’t get rich from it. (I know…surprises me too.)
I never liked avocado growing up…but now I love it!
I’d rather be stuffed up than have a runny nose.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you hope to have with you?

Well, a genie lamp would be my first choice but probably not what you meant…
Obviously food and water, but I hope that’s a given. I’d love to have my wife with me too…I mean, it’s a desert island after all. ;)
How about a knife, a lighter, and a SAT phone.

What are you reading right now? 

I always seem to have several books in the queue. Last night, I finished NUMBERS by Rachel Ward. Today I’m starting STARTERS by Lissa Price. I do love YA dystopian!

And last of all, where can readers find you and your novel on the Web?

Hopefully the first place they will go is my website
Lots of good stuff posted on Facebook, including book signings and speaking engagements, at
Twitter is @novelmethod
Links to Tate Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble on my website.

The first born son of Adam and still alive.

He has one week to reveal his secrets to his best friend, Lester, before he moves to the Middle East for one final divine task. But with a ruthless secret society of shadowy evil, known as the Lightmen, closing in, time is in desperately short supply.

In order to survive he is going to need Lester's help. But first, Lester needs a history lesson. With God's permission, Al finally tells his life as it is and once was.

As Al recounts his story to his only confidant, Lester not only learns the secrets of his mysterious best friend, but the story behind the world's beginning—and in the process, he may even find faith for himself.