Monday, October 31, 2016

An Interview with Reagan Colbert

Two weeks ago I posted a review of Reagan Colbert's The Hidden Soul. This week the nineteen-year-old award-winning author was kind enough to grant me an interview.

Describe your childhood home. Does your childhood influence your work? If so, how?

Well, I didn't really have a “childhood home”. My family moved a lot when I was a kid, and I suppose that did influence my writing, because it gave  me something to do. I remember sitting in the car with nothing but a pad of paper, and I couldn't really draw, so I turned to words. I also read hundreds of fiction books when I was young, and that mostly shaped my love for writing it.

How did you first get into writing?

Well, like I said, I adored fiction ever since I could read. I would always daydream and come up with little stories that, to me, were the books I wished I could read. I wrote songs as a kid, but writing a book never even crossed my mind, until one day when I was fourteen. I came up with the idea for a story, and it was so detailed and exciting that it suddenly dawned on me, “Hey, why don't I write it?”
     I label that as the day God called me to write, and I'm convinced He gave me that story to set me on the path to become a writer. That was five years ago, and He's still making things happen, so I guess this is where He wants me!

What is your writing process?

It is very, well, different from most! It's pretty simple, too. After initially being inspired with a story concept, I'll mull it over in my head for days, even weeks, before writing it down. Once it takes on a rough shape, and really feels like it could be a complete story, I write an “info dump (the pantster's form of an outline)."*
     That cements the idea in my brain, and once I feel ready, I write. Scene one, sentence one, and I just don't stop until I finish the book. As I write scene one, I don't know what scene two will be, but as I finish that scene, it just kind of keeps playing in my head. I view my books as movies, and they play out in front of me as I write them. I'm usually surprised by what happens!

Where do you write? Is it always in the same place, or do you mix it up?

I write wherever I happen to be, but that's usually in my bedroom/office. However, I've been known to take my laptop pretty much anywhere and start writing!

What has contributed to your success?

I credit 100% of my success to the Lord, who called me here and keeps me going. He has used several people – fellow writers, mentors, teachers, and family members – to get me this far, which is farther than I ever could have expected. Without Him, I wouldn't be anywhere close to here.

Who inspires you?

Knowing that God has a plan for my stories inspires me, mostly. Seeing how much other writers have accomplished (Those who “taught” me, like Joe Bunting of The Write Practice, Jeff Goins, and Jerry Jenkins), makes me believe I can do the same. There are several Christian artists (Tobymac, mainly), whose music inspires me and keeps me focused on my writing.
     But #1, actually, is my readers. Reading their reaction to my stories, hearing what The Hidden Soul did for them, how God used the words He gave me to inspire someone, lift them up, or point them to Him is so astounding. They are my biggest inspiration and motivation to keep writing.

What do you love most about writing?

The power of feeling God writing through you is the best feeling in the world. I've spent hours writing before, then when I go back and read what I wrote, I don't recognize it. When I can read the words and say “Wait, I wrote that?” I know it's the Lord. 
     I really don't know what I would do if I didn't write. One of my favorite quotes is by Flannery O'Connor, “I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.” Since becoming a writer, I have really found who I am, and especially who I am in Christ. I look back at myself before I became a writer, and it's nothing like who I am now. Just seeing what words have done in my life, and what they're doing in others' lives, is the best part about being a writer.

Which do you prefer, print books or ebooks?

Definitely print books! Even though I write e-books, my goal is to get them in print someday, because nothing beats a good book in your hands.

Are you traditionally published or self-published? Do you recommend one over the other?

I'm currently self-published on Kindle (which is more self than actual self-publishing!), but I definitely want to go with traditional publishing once my books are ready. I have spent years researching both options, and actually attempted self-publishing with a company a couple of years ago, but based on my minimal experience I would recommend traditional.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Well, that doesn't happen often! Usually I'm either writing or thinking about writing, but when I'm not doing either, I spend time with my family. I also catch up on my favorite TV series, StarTrek. (Yes, I'm a Trekkie :). And when I'm not doing “real” writing, I write fan fiction with my sister.

Do you remember the first thing you wrote?

Wow, it's been awhile, but I think the first thing I wrote was a song when I was nine or ten years old. I first tried my hand at writing fiction based on a book series when I was around twelve, but didn't seriously write until I was fourteen. 

What are you working on now?

I'm currently writing the final installment of my “Roman Soul” series, Soul's Redemption. The series is set in first century Israel, and tells the story of Jesus' last days on earth and the start of the early church, from the eyes of Marcus, the Roman who crucified Christ. 
     In this third book, Marcus returns to Jerusalem three years after escaping the legions to find his friend has been murdered. He then seeks revenge, but it leads him to the most unexpected and life-threatening experiences yet, bringing him back to the truest meaning of forgiveness.
The book is almost finished, and I'm shooting for a November 1st release. 

Follow Reagan

You can learn more about Reagan, her writing, and her ministry at her website:
Find her books at
Follow her on Facebook:
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* "Pantser" is a term for an author who writes "by the seat of the pants." It is the opposite of an Planner, who outlines each event of a story before writing details like description and dialogue. 

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Musings on the Big One

by Bruce Carroll

It would be hard to see, were it not for the sunlight reflecting from the clouds. It gives off no light of its own. But while it may be hard to see, no more than a dot in the darkness as you look at it, it is easy to hear, if you know how to listen. It groans and quavers in the 0.6–30 MHz range. [1]

If you were to go there, you would doubtless notice the banded clouds. While not particularly colorful – mostly ochre and various shades of brownish-orange – the cloud bands are quite distinctive. As you get even closer, you would doubtless notice the clouds are moving. The whole thing rotates every ten hours or so, and you would easily be able to tell by following the famous “red spot,” a storm which has been churning in the upper atmosphere for at least two hundred years (and probably much, much longer). If you watched closely, you would see that the alternating bands of clouds move in opposite directions as the whole thing rotates.

As you keep getting closer, you begin to realize it is big. Very, very big. In fact everything in the solar system, other than the sun itself, could easily fit inside it, if it were only hollow; every planet, every comet or asteroid, all of the dwarf planets, bits of rock and ice and dust, all would fit inside with room left over. No wonder it is named after the king of the gods!

It is also cold. The mean temperature there is around minus 232 degrees Fahrenheit. It has impressive auroras and massive lightning storms (which make its radio signal “spike”).

It has been known as Marduk, Dias, Zeus, Jove, and the name by which we know it today, Jupiter. Not that it cares; it goes on rotating as it revolves around the sun, its storms roiling, its auroras shimmering, its lightning flashing, belching forth radio signals no human ear can detect.

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

October Update (My life as a monster)

Photo by Patty Murphy

by Bruce Carroll

Every year, for five or six weekends in September and October, monsters invade the theme park.

It is all part of Fright Fest, a spooky celebration at SixFlags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. I have worked as one of the scaractors (scary actors) in the park for five seasons, now. I’ve played a zombie pawn shop owner, a demonic “Founding Father” figure, and a clown (or as we scareactors like to refer to it on social media, a klown). There are monsters in haunted houses and monsters on the midway (not to be confused with the Chicago Bears). I’m usually one of the “street actors,” delivering my scares on the midway.

Last season, there were two major changes to Fright Fest. First was a new guideline referred to as #NoMercy. The monsters come out at six p.m. Anyone in the park after that time is a fair target. We are allowed to scare anyone, of any age, virtually anywhere in the park. The second change was the addition of a new character, Nox, the Demon Overlord of Fright Fest.

Nox is big. Nox is scary. At just a tad over seven feet tall with a strong baritone voice, Nox easily inspires terror in the hearts of nearly every guest in the park. But he also inspires admiration.

Two weekends ago, a little girl came to the park. She met Nox and became a huge fan.

That night, she went home. She had an idea; a creative project she wanted to do. She asked for her parents’ help, and they gladly gave it.

The very next day, the little girl came back to Fright Fest dressed as Nox himself! Her parents had helped her modify a mask to look like the Demon Overlord. Nox saw her, and was pleased. (His response was, “I have no words.”) He dubbed this new junior demon Nyx.

I don’t know what other name you go by, Nyx, but I am glad to have you as a part of our monstrous family. Let the scaring begin!

Update on the Update

A different child created this:

Clearly, Nox has his fans.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Hidden Soul

Reviewer: Bruce Carroll
Author: Reagan Colbert

Retelling a familiar story has got to be one of the most difficult things an author can do. Many make the attempt, but few pull it off successfully. Nineteen-year-old award-winning author Reagan Colbert is one of those few.

In The Hidden Soul, Colbert retells the story of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection clearly and simply, yet compellingly. Everything is seen through the eyes of Marcus, a reluctant Roman soldier. Marcus is lost, out of place as both a soldier and as a person. He hates Rome, hates the violence he and his fellow soldiers are required to dish out. He also doesn’t believe in gods.

Then Marcus meets Simon, a former zealot who has given up his violent rebellion to follow a certain Jesus of Nazareth. Shortly after that meeting, Marcus’ life takes a turn and follows a path from which he can never return to the man he once was.

Marcus serves as an everyman, allowing the reader to experience the events of Christ’s Passion in a very personal, intimate way. He also serves as a reminder that God not only loves all of us, but each of us. As pastor Greg Bostrom has said, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us to love.” Marcus is an excellent example and illustration of that steadfast love.

I have only two complaints about the book, and they are both minor. There are a few typos (or possibly spelling errors) that a copyeditor should have caught. They were neither so glaring nor so frequent as to detract from my joy of reading the book. My other complaint is that the book is apparently only available as a Kindle book. I hope both of these situations will be corrected in future editions.

You can purchase The Hidden Soul HERE.
Learn more about Reagan Colbert, her writing, and her ministry HERE.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Why I Love Being an Indie Author

by Bruce Carroll

Being an author is fun. I love being able to create stories. There is a great satisfaction when I create a particularly good one.

Being an author allows me to share my creative endeavors with others. My heart leaps each time a reader tells me how much she enjoyed my writing. And being an indie author allows me to be published. Without the power of indie publishing, I’d reach a much smaller audience.

But what I love most about being an indie author is the support I get from other indie authors. There is a real sense of camaraderie among them. Most of them are eager and willing to offer encouragement and feedback. Some even become fans. Without that network of authors, I doubt I’d be a writer at all.


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Monday, October 3, 2016

Song for October

Lyrics by Bruce Carroll

Music yet to be written, but should be a gentle country tune with acoustic guitar

The sun shines down upon my face
And life moves at a slower pace
In the summer, in the summer
Though the sounds of summer laughter I hear
I long for a different time of year
In the summer, in the summer

The leaves turning colors so prettily
As I sit on the porch drinking pumpkin spice tea
Wearing a cozy sweater knit by mother
The smell of a campfire from the neighbor’s yard
Though life isn’t easy it doesn’t have to be hard
October is a time like no other

We remember fallen soldiers as children return to school
And the weather is no longer so hot, though not exactly cool
In September, in September
And though it’s been a fruitful year
My favorite time is drawing near
In September, in September

The leaves turning colors so prettily
As I sit on the porch drinking pumpkin spice tea
Wearing a cozy sweater knit by mother
The smell of a campfire from the neighbor’s yard
Though life isn’t easy it doesn’t have to be hard
October is a time like no other

After the harvest some like to rest
But after the harvest, what I like best is...

Zombies rising in the dead of night
The quiet broken by screams of fright
Thinking of Norman Bates and his mother
The blood of the neighbors on the picket fence
The glowing eyes of vampires looking so intense
October is a time like no other

October is a time like no other

Sometimes I think of you.... Sometimes I think of you....

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