Category Archives: Random

Author Interview: H.C. Beckerr

H.C. Beckerr writes Christian science fiction. His recently-released novel, Shadow of Tunguska, is the second and final instalment in the Hill of Great Darkness series, “an epic sci-fi thriller that spans two millennia and two galaxies.”

Janet: Welcome, H.C., and please tell us a bit about yourself.

H.C.: Well, Janet, I’m just an old-fashioned farm boy from the midwestern area of the U.S. I grew up in a time where folks sent their children to Sunday School to learn about Jesus and learned the difference between right and wrong.

Janet: That’s not too long in the past, but we’ve sure seen changes. Are your novels set in the near future, or farther distant?

H.C.: The entire story line of Hill of Great Darkness/Shadow of Tunguska is set in the spring/summer of 2037. So, it’s just around the corner and, truthfully, the world isn’t much different then, than it is right now.

Janet: Twenty years from now! Where did the story idea come from? [May not need this one if you were inspired by those locations I ask about next]

H.C.: Here is where y’all will go…WHAT???? Believe it or not, the idea for this story came from The Davinci Code. Yup…. that book. I gotta admit, when I read TDC I was inspired by the writing style of Mr. Brown. Especially since I had just finished a Church History class at Brookes Bible Institute (now College) in St. Louis, Missouri.  I saw how the author took real history and ‘twisted’ it into a lie (a technique I call twistery). You see, fiction is always better when based on truth. And, in my case, I wanted to bring glory to God, not shame.

Janet: Fiction based on truth feels more real, doesn’t it? The Hill of Great Darkness books are science fiction and venture into space, yet they’re tied to real but mysterious locations on earth. What kind of research did that involve?

H.C.: That was the fun part. Book 1 is all about a location here in the Midwest known as Cahokia Mounds Historical Site, an area of earthen mounds built by the Mississippian culture between about eight hundred to twelve hundred AD. Somewhere in the latter years the entire culture disappeared without a trace. Sounds like sci-fi to me (or, as I like to call what I write; Chri-fi…Christian science fiction).

Anyway… Book 2 picks up three months after the end of Book 1. It really is not a sequel so much as the end of the story. I wanted to go somewhere else on Earth that would be just as much an enigma as Cahokia so I (more or less) immediately turned to the Tunguska Region of Siberia where, in 1908, some sort of cataclysmic explosion occurred. We are talking of a blast that was one thousand times bigger than Hiroshima. This event leveled over seven hundred square miles of deep forest. Now, there’s something to lie…um, I mean, write about!!!  

Janet: In your research, what’s the strangest bit of trivia you’ve picked up?

H.C.: That’s easy…. Cahokia Mounds at its zenith was a metropolitan area that was only equaled in size by Paris, France, which happened to be the largest city on Earth at that time.

Also worth mentioning is Lake Cheko in Siberia, which, according to eyewitnesses to the Tunguska Event, did not exist before that fateful morning in 1908.

That’s some cool stuff to think about!

Janet: Indeed! Now, your novels include strong female characters. Are they more difficult to write, as a male author?

H.C.: Not at all. The dynamics are individualized to the point that each character is a joy to create. And, if I may; the story itself is what allowed the characters to come alive. To be real.

Janet: Do you have a favourite character in the books?

H.C.:  That’s easy. Simone Sytte (that’s See-yet-tea). I don’t remember if I have shared this with you before, but Simone is a confluence of three people I have ‘met’. Her lineage as a Ugandan is from a young woman that I had taught alongside in a preschool class at my church. She was, if I remember correctly, from Kenya. I loved to hear her speak English with her deep African accent! Another person who is part of Simone’s soul is another lady from my church who was involve in our music ministry. A very strong Christian with the reality of not always being perfect. And…never hiding that fact. Thirdly… Simone’s physical stature is borrowed from a fictional character from (I know you’ve been expecting this) one of the Star Wars movies; Episode 2, on a planet where clones were being made into an army by a race of tall, slender aliens (and NO… I don’t believe in aliens. Ask me about that one sometime when you can afford the time…. Ha!).

Janet: Simone is my favourite character, too, as a reader, likely in part because she’s exceptional but not perfect – and she trusts Jesus even when there’s crisis all around her. Why is it important to you to include faith in your fiction?

H.C.: That’s probably the easiest question of all, Janet. My faith in the God of the Bible through His Son Jesus Christ is the only reason I write! I want to share the glorious hope of the Gospel message in any way I can.

Janet: Jesus used story, too! What got you started writing?

H.C.: Here is where you will get a laugh; In grade school!!! I can remember writing short little stories in 5th or 6th grade and selling them for a few pennies so I could get an extra half pint of chocolate milk… always an entrepreneur, LOL!!!!!!!

Janet: My friend, Kimberley Payne, would call you an authorpreneur. I love it. What do you like best about the writing life?

H.C.: Creating. That is the plain truth. To sit back, come up with an idea and start writing; all the while letting God have the reins to take the story where He wants it to go.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

H.C.: I think the main driving force behind Hill of Great Darkness was the fact that I refused to one day find myself lying upon my death bed wondering; What if I had only just tried? If a person has an idea or the urge/dream to write… write! Don’t worry about whether or not it will sell. Don’t listen to naysayers…WRITE!!!!

Janet: Simple advice, and wise. We never know until we make the effort. Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

H.C.: I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me. One day we will see our Savior face to face and I long/hope for Him to look at me and say, “Well done!” or…in the words of the President of the United States at the end of the movie Independence Day, “Not bad…not bad at all!!!

Janet: I love that song, too. And yes, one day… Now, from the profound to the superficial: Chocolate or vanilla? Morning person or night owl?

H.C.: C.H.O.C.O.L.A.T.E.  And not ‘white’ chocolate…I call that vanilla!  Morning or night, hmmm…that’s a tough one. Try getting back to me on that one after a gallon of coffee…

Janet: Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

H.C.: Gotta say, the beauty of God’s world where I live. The midwestern United States has a beauty all its own and I am so blessed to live here. Not to mention the fact that I grew up going on picnics to the Cahokia Mounds Site. Always loved that place… the mystery and grandeur of it all.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

H.C.: You know, even Jesus needed some down time to recharge! I like to hike and bike ride out in the great outdoors. There is something ever so precious about being alone with the Lord, outdoors in His creation! Then, there is also worship. Whether alone (in the aforementioned outdoors) or corporately with my brothers and sisters. Life is so good when you are in love with your Creator and God! Amen!!!

Janet: Amen indeed. Thanks for visiting, H.C., and sharing these behind-the-scenes details. All the best with your writing and with life!

===

Shadow of Tunguska, by H. C. Beckerr

Shadow of Tunguska: Hill of Great Darkness Book II presents the final chapters of a saga that weaves together the tale of the surviving crew members of the space craft Magellan as they wake up in a top-secret lunar base station. On Earth, tensions mount as the nation’s masses face a worldwide economic takeover. Meanwhile, a small contingent of American explorers braving the Siberian wilderness make a startling discovery at the site of the 1908 impact of an errant black hole.

Shadow of Tunguska website: shadowoftunguska.com

H.C. Beckerr’s blog: shadowoftunguska.com/blog

Save $2 on Ebook Pre-orders

A Year of Tenacity: 365 Daily Devotions is finally available for pre-order, and now’s the time to save for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks etc.

Preorder sale details for A Year of Tenacity: 365 Daily Devotions, by Janet Sketchley #ebook #sale #kindle #kobo #nook #ibooks Ends May 30, 2017

Right now, you can get an ebook copy for $2.99 USD / $3.99 Canadian (other international pricing is based on the US price). After May 30 (release date) the price will go up to $4.99 USD / $5.99 CAD.

The print book will be releasing on May 30 as well, for a list price of $14.99 USD. Amazon doesn’t let me specify a Canadian price, so it’ll be whatever the exchange rate dictates.

Details and buy links are on my A Year of Tenacity page.

Updating these devotionals from my blog for the book has been a true blessing for me. It was like God was whispering in my ear, “See this? Remember… and learn it deeper.” We never really “arrive,” do we?

As we continue learning, I’m heading back to work on my Green Dory Inn mystery series. I’ve been missing my imaginary friends!

Schedule Change

Things have been different here on my blog lately, and it’s time to redefine the schedule. On Tuesdays, you may find a book review. On Fridays, another post or guest post. Some weeks there may be a gap, if I don’t have anything particular I’d like to share.

Almost nine years ago, I started posting weekly devotionals, and every week God showed me something that I could share, usually something I needed for myself as well. Sometimes it didn’t come until Tuesday evening for a Wednesday morning post, but it always came. (Except for the one week when He sent me back to a previous post I needed to re-read, so I re-posted that.)

It reached the point where I didn’t stress if nothing had appeared yet, because He always provided. That’s how I knew the devotionals were something He wanted me to write, and I committed to share them every week as long as He gave them.

When nothing came even by bedtime on a Tuesday not long ago, I thought, okay, this is a new stretch. Maybe first thing in the morning. I like to schedule my posts ahead of time, but perhaps the lesson was in flexibility.

Wednesday morning’s reading and prayer time brought nothing: no insight to share, no stress, just a surreal sense of… nothing.

My prayer for these posts has always been, “Lord, let me hear what You say. Don’t let me make anything up.” So there was no devotional post that day. Nor has there been one since.

Not that He’s stopped teaching me, but there’s been nothing to share here. It feels like that door has closed, and I’m okay with that. Surprised, but okay.

Is this an end of a season, or a hiatus? I guess we’ll find out in time. For now, I’m grateful for the privilege to have been part of what He was doing in this way, and I’m grateful to those who’ve occasionally let me know how He used something I said in their lives. Those are the reward moments for a writer.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. I’m still writing, working on my first Green Dory Inn Mystery, and there’s a nonfiction project in the works, too.

Devotional-wise, God will continue blessing and teaching and challenging you through other voices. His love, mercy, and saving power is greater than we can imagine.

If you haven’t yet discovered them, here are my three favourite devotional resources:

I can’t pass up the opportunity to share one last song. There are so many to choose from, but let’s go out with one that celebrates God’s character and His tenacity: “God Undefeatable,” from Todd Agnew.

Without Proof Short-listed for Award

Without Proof [Redemption's Edge 3]The Word Awards short-list is out, for work published in 2015. I’m excited that Without Proof is one of the three novels in the Suspense category.

I’ve read the other two novels in that category, and they’re excellent reads: Shadow of a Butterfly, by J.A. Menzies, and Desperate Measures, by Sandra Orchard.

You can see the full list of books, articles, songs etc here: The Word Awards short-list. Results will be announced in June.

Cocoa White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Each novel in my Redemption’s Edge series has a recipe that’s significant to one of the characters. In Secrets and Lies, Carol does a lot of baking, at the café where she works, at home, and even a private catering stint. Baking is one of her coping mechanisms, and if she can give away the results, it’s less for her to eat. These are similar to the cookies she dropped off at Joey’s radio station for him and his co-workers. Recipe: Cocoa White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies (from Secrets and Lies, Redemption's Edge Book 2)

Celebrating Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Here’s a song you may not have heard: A Day of Glory, from Austin Stone Worship‘s album of the same name. (One of my favourite Christmas albums)

 

If You Love Christian Music

I think it was 2008 that I first heard Geoff Moore sing. I went home and forgot his name, his songs… but I remembered this guy who sang like he loved the Lord, so much that he practically glowed with it. When he came back to Halifax with Steven Curtis Chapman in 2011, I didn’t recognize his name. When he started to sing, I knew him.

I loved the songs he sang that night, bought his new album, Saying Grace, and loved it so much that I ordered some of his older material online. Buying a CD when you’ve just experienced a live performance is risky, as a couple of dusty cases in my stack will prove. But his songs fit into my soul at first hearing like they’d been there all along.

If you’ve followed many of my Wednesday devotionals, you’ve noticed I end each one with a YouTube video of a song related to the message. These are often songs I’m especially fond of, and every so often one of those songs is from Geoff Moore.

He’s planning a new album, and he’s funding it through Kickstarter. It’s called New Stories, and this is what he says in summary:

This August, 31 years after making my first album, I will be heading into the studio to make my 15th album. It will be an album of songs that explore the things I love; about the thoughts on my mind, the people in my heart, and the God in whom I believe in.

This project is only open for funding until August 30, so check out the details now while there’s time. If the video clip below doesn’t work, or for more details, head over to the Kickstarter campaign page. [If you’re not familiar with Geoff Moore’s music, he’s offering Saying Grace free at NoiseTrade for a limited time. Listen to the music: “I Believe,” “Loved” and “The Wonder of Kindness” are my favourites. If you love it, support this next album.]

If you’ve never been part of a Kickstarter campaign, it’s painless. It’s kind of like pre-ordering the final product. There are various levels of support, and if the project isn’t fully funded, you don’t lose your money. I’ve picked up a few albums and other products this way.

[Note: if you support this campaign, I gain nothing — except that when it’s fully funded, I’ll get the CD that I pledged for.]

Our Part in the Whole

Some of us like teamwork, and others prefer to work alone. As an introvert – and a writer – I’m used to solitary efforts. Even there, it’s good to know I’m connected to friends and co-labourers. We need one another, for support, encouragement, and perspective.

Volunteers painting a concrete barricade wall in Saint John, NB, May 2015

I took this photo when my husband and I were in Saint John, NB, in May. These volunteers worked together to repaint the city’s Marigolds Mural and turn it back into a feast of colours for locals and tourists to enjoy.

Nobody’d want to do the whole thing, but together 150+ volunteers did it in a day. I don’t think any of them were professional artists. It doesn’t matter. They saw a need, and they met it. (You can read CBC’s coverage here: Marigold mural revived in Saint John.)

Here’s more of the wall:

Volunteers painting a concrete barricade wall in Saint John, NB, May 2015

What could you or I do, that may not seem like much but could be part of a greater whole? Little contributions add up.

Tea and Spontaneity

My husband and I can offer visitors over 50 varieties of tea, from one of perhaps 10 pots, in any of a frighteningly large number of mugs or cups. [If that worries you, well it worries me too and I’m on a new mission to downsize our tea capacity — since I don’t want to open a tea room!]

Suffice to say, we love our tea. So this building was iconic to me when I saw it recently in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Red Rose Tea Building, Saint John, NB

Red Rose Tea Building, Saint John, NB “Only in Canada, you say?”

Here’s a link to Red Rose’s history of tea.

You can’t read much of this photo, but part of the text explains that King Cole tea originated with Barbour’s General Store.

Harbour Passage's tourist information: A Legacy of Tea

Here’s a link to Barbour’s history of King Cole tea. Writing this post, I discovered there’s actually a tea museum in the General Store. That would have been fun to explore when I was wandering around the city. (I did have a mighty fine cone of gelato, though.)

On a somewhat related note, check out what my brother and sister-in-law gave me for my birthday.

Teacup-shaped planter with pansies

So that’s the tea. Where’s the spontaneity? We were in Saint John for a Barbershop competition (my husband co-directs the newly-formed Halifax Harmonizers (who took second place) and sings in two quartets (September Sound competed and also took second place in their event). The competition was held in the gorgeous and historic Saint John High School. The school has flat, wide, marble banisters. Without those nasty impediments most schools put at the bottom to discourage sliding.

Blurred image of Janet sliding down the banister

Janet in action: moving too fast for the camera!