Hurricane season has arrived for the eastern seaboard. And every other coast of the US, too. As we see the hints of the season change toward autumn and the slight temperature change in the evenings and nights, the new strains of prevalent viruses.
You may ask yourselves, “Where is he going, and what will the topic be today?” My answer is a shift in gears. Christian Sanity will review a newly released novella and discuss my recommendations.
As a special bonus, the author graciously answered a few questions from me on your behalf. After the spoiler-free review, keep reading for the Q&A session with Mr. R.L. Smith.
So storm preppers, illness-ready, or literary connoisseurs, prepare for my review of “Dream Warrior” by R.L. Smith. For my returning readers, you know the drill. For my new readers, keep hands and feet inside at all times, remove your hat and glasses, and please, no flash photography. Yes, I’m talking to you. Don’t pretend I’m not …
You know the drill. Buckle up, sit back, relax, and ensure the spiritual airbags are turned on. Because here we go.
Novels and poetry in both categories of fiction and non-fiction flood today’s marketplace.
A tidal wave of literature could drown and crush readers and make finding the hidden gems impossible. I could hold a single grain of sand in the palm of my hand. And then drop it on a beach. It would be an impossible task to find the original grain.
We would have a better chance of winning the lottery than finding the original piece amidst the multitude of sand in the same granular category.
Literature is the same way.
Each novel needs something to set them apart—a unique facet to grab a reader’s attention. The particular “it” factor can launch the labor of love to heights of success.
This brings us to the critical question.
Is it worth it?
“Dream Warrior” Review by Yours Truly
The novella begins with an intimate and personal setting—an enclosed set piece of lonely solidarity. Slowly, we are introduced to the protagonist and experience the routine of everyday life. Mr. Smith methodically expanded the initially narrow setting by teasing morsel substance.
The main character’s perspectives in “Dream” and the “Real” are easily seen separately through the author’s description.
“Dream” settings engage the readers and their senses with surreal base fears. We have an innate fear of the dark. And the author takes advantage of it. We slept peacefully in our beds as children, but a night light was left to dispel the darkness.
Many adults still carry the illogical fear of the dark. There is nothing there, but there could be. Something unseen. A predator waiting for the perfect opportunity. Mr. Smith amplifies these feelings of the unknown from a spiritual background.
The author repeatedly drives home this lesson. We may have enemies, foes, and adversaries in the flesh, but our greatest enemy is the one who seeks all of our destruction and damnation.
As I read deeper into the story, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Frank E. Peretti and his spiritual warfare duology. However, Mr. Smith brings us further by including several non-canon books/scriptures, such as the Books of Enoch.
This first peek into the Ashwood Chronicle universe lays some groundwork with the protagonist learning about the days of Noah, the Sons of God and daughters of man, the Nephilim, giants of old, fallen angels, the watchers, and evil spirits. We, the readers, learn alongside the main character.
As I finished “Dream Warrior,” I was frustrated and disappointed. Not in the novella, but I now have to wait until 2024 before I can read further into the Ashwood Chronicles. Thankfully, Mr. Smith has a few non-fiction books released that we can purchase and read here and here.
If you are looking for an adventurous read within the boundaries of Christian fiction, then check out this book. A bonus is even non-Christians have been reading and consuming stories with a spiritual background and morality, which exposes them to biblical truths.
There is a hunger for truth today. Kids, youth, young adults, and elderly adults can feel the vacuum of emptiness that only salvation and Jesus Christ can heal and fill. These starving people are searching for the answer and trying to fill the void in their lives by any means necessary.
Frank Peretti battled for the minds of people thirty years ago. Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins railed against the darkness with their Tribulation series over a decade ago. And today, “The Chosen” streams on nearly every possible outlet to get the message to a starving world.
The hunger is still there—a need and desire for more truth.
I believe God is raising up men and women who can capture their attention so He can heal and fill their hearts.
Mr. Smith is one of these servant-soldiers of God.
So go grab the novella “Dream Warrior” and enjoy.
But before you do, check out the interview with RL Smith.
(for more information on RL Smith, check out his YouTube channel here)
And you can watch the Book Trailer for “Dream Warrior” HERE.
Q&A with RL Smith
1.) First, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions today. Amusingly, I stumbled upon your novella because of our shared identical initials. R.L. and a shared job description of author/writer.
My first question is, how has your Faith shaped and encouraged your writing?
A: You are most welcome. Thank you for taking an interest in me and my book. My faith has shaped every facet of my writing. I want to sow truth regardless of the genre. My goal is to shine light in dark places and doing that with both non-fiction and fiction is very satisfying. As a Christian, my job is to share the gospel. That doesn’t always look the same for everyone, though. I am using the giftings and talents the Father has given me to bring glory to His name.
2.) What made you want to write and publish books?
A: I have wanted to write and publish books since elementary school. I think being an avid reader is what led me down the path of becoming an author. I’ve always had a wild imagination and have wanted to create my own stories and build my own worlds for people to explore and get lost in. Thankfully, as an adult, I can do what I only dreamed about as a child.
3.) What have your roles as husband and father inspired in your daily walk with God and with your writing?
A: Being a husband and a father has definitely led me to a more enriched prayer life. I don’t want to just be a husband and a father; I want to be the husband and father that THE Father has called me to be. I want to steward the gifts, my wife and daughters, that he has given me and make sure that I lead them spiritually by example. My main characters are actually named after my daughters. Kara, in Dream Warrior, is named after my youngest, and Olivia is named after my oldest.
4.) You have two nonfiction books out at this time. Why did you step into the world of fiction with your third book?
A: The goal was always to write a fiction series. However, I saw a need to address topics that rarely get addressed, and decided to put my talents to use in shining some light on topics that aren’t deemed safe for Sunday School. After my first book, Lifting The Veil: Signs & Symbols, I began writing The Ashwood Chronicles. I started with book one of the trilogy and didn’t get very far before I felt the burden to write my second book, CONstellations: Biblical Cosmology & Why It Matters. By the time I finished CONstellations and came back to The Ashwood Chronicles, I had hit some major writer’s block. My wife had a genius suggestion that leads into your next question perfectly.
5.) How did you conceive your idea for “Dream Warrior” and the continuing storyline of the Ashwood Chronicles?
A: So, my wife’s suggestion was to write a short story of one of the many ideas playing in my head. It’s definitely “busy” up there. I immediately knew that I wanted to write Dream Warrior as a novella/prequel into the Ashwood Chronicles series I was working on. The idea for Dream Warrior was actually birthed from…and don’t judge me…the song by Dokken, titled Dream Warriors. It is from the third installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Not that I recommend watching those at this point in my life, but when I was younger, I was fascinated. I’m driving down the road one day and the chorus to the song just starts playing in my head, and I’m like: “Oh yeah, that was a very cool concept. I wonder what a story of someone who battles in their dreams would look like if I wrote it as a Christian?” Now, some years later, I was able to pull that shelved idea out of the library in my head and bring it to life.
6.) Your website says Book One of the Ashwood Chronicles is due in 2024. Do you have any other projects we might see before then?
A: I wish I had something coming out before then, but this one is taking my full attention at the moment. I have some other projects in the pipeline for after the release of book one, but you’ll just have to hang around and find out what those are. Nothing I can talk about currently.
7.) Can you name two authors who, through their work, left a lasting impact on you?
A: Ted Dekker has had a big impact on me. His stuff is amazing. I would also say Frank Peretti, just because his take on spiritual warfare is amazing and spot on in many cases. If I may name a third… Laura Gallier is a newer author that also writes about spiritual warfare, and she has a fresh take on the topic in her series, The Delusion, that is so close to the truth in many cases, it’s a bit frightening.
8.) Why choose self-publishing instead of traditional publishing?
A: Well, self-publishing just made the most sense for me. Before a big publishing house will even consider you, you must have an agent. Before most agents will consider you, you must have a fairly good following AND write in the genre that they specialize in. Then there is the issue of making sure that you are “inclusive” according to secular standards. That just doesn’t work for me. There is also the very real issue of royalties. Traditional publishing houses take an enormous cut, usually somewhere along the lines of 90/10 or if you’re lucky 80/20. The real kicker is, unless you’re already famous, you still have to do most of your own marketing. So, I could market my own book and maybe get 20% royalties, or I could self-publish, market my own book, and make 60% royalties. The decision was easy for me. Considering that a lot of traditionally published authors are beginning to branch out into self-publishing, usually under their own imprint, I thought there was some real potential there.
9.) What did you do to hype the release of Dream Warrior?
A: To hype the release of Dream Warrior I did three things. First, I drove my friends and family beyond crazy by talking about it non-stop. Second, I recruited an ARC team. An ARC team, or Advanced Reader Copy Team, is a group of people that get an early copy of the book for the purpose of leaving a review. This way, out of the gate, the book has some weight to it because there are reviews from people who have read it, and people like to see reviews! Finally, I used my social media to advertise and included paid advertisement during release week. Having a YouTube channel helped as well, because I was able to talk directly to my audience and give updates along the way leading up to release day.
10.) Congratulations on reaching #1 New Release in Teen and Young Adult Fantasy, snagging #31 in Christian Fantasy, and #72 in Teen and Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy. From those numbers, it is plain to see that there is a need for contemporary Christian fiction in today’s world. And maybe, just maybe, the modern world is searching for the truth even if they are unaware of the hunger’s source that drives the search.
What would you say if you could condense the core message of Dream Warrior into a scant few words?
A: There is a spiritual battle being fought for the souls of all mankind. There is only one hope of being victorious in this battle. That hope is Jesus, The Son of YHWH God, for without Him…all hope is lost.
That is how I would sum up the overall message. Of course, in the story, there are the ones who obey the voice of YHWH and answer the call to be His hands and feet….and sword, in the world, but that just makes for an interesting story.
11.) And the last question of the day is easy. What advice would you give to an aspiring author, determined writer, or other individual newly embarking on the adventure of putting the proverbial pen to paper?
A: Just start writing. If you wait until you’re “ready” you’ll never start. If you wait until you have it all figured out, you’ll never start. Just write. Get your first draft finished. You can’t publish what you don’t have. Don’t try to edit yourself as you write, just write. The editing comes after the first draft is complete. Unless you have connections in the literary world, I would highly recommend at least considering self-publishing. The process of writing hundreds of query letters and getting hundreds of rejections is very daunting for most people, and very discouraging. You may have THE PERFECT manuscript and get rejected 100s of times simply because the workload of the agent or publishing house is too high, and you don’t have enough influence to get pushed to the top of the stack. Carve your own path and create your own brand. But first, you have to write your book.