Obedience by Michael Potts Book Tour and Giveaway :)

by Michael Potts
Genre: Horror

It is a lazy summer day in the Appalachian foothills of Tennessee; much like the day before, and the day before that. Everything seems normal - at least on the surface; like an idyllic, pastoral painting; the sky dyed with pastels of blue and white, the ground carpeted with dark green fescue and bluegrass, a clapboard farmhouse resting on top of a hill, sugar maples, oaks and Eastern red cedars providing welcome shade from the heat of a Tennessee summer sun. You can almost see moving images of little children running barefoot through the grass; an era before tweeting and texting and the triumph of technology over all.

Alas, appearances lie.
Behind the clapboard farmhouse sits a red barn, all bright and new looking; fresh enough to lull a casual observer into believing it the benign keeper of hey for cattle and shelter for goats. A closer look reveals the color to be not barn red, but blood red.
Locals tend to close their eyes when passing by that barn. Something is just not right about it. Some say it is unnatural. Some say it's obscene and evil. But they don't say such things out loud, for the owner of the barn is Sheldon Sprigg, a well-respected man of the cloth, the preacher at Hare’s Corner Church of God Incarnate. Sheldon is the most upright man in these parts. He keeps the law religiously, and makes sure his wife and teenaged daughter do too. After all, to obey is better than sacrifice.
Still, there's just something that not right about that barn.

Sheldon stands beside the open window, waiting for God to speak again. A breeze tousles his hair. He folds his arms tightly and shivers. The breeze continues to blow, riffling through the pages of his open Bible. Sheldon gasps as the breeze dies down, and the pages stop turning. Lord, is this Your sign? This must be a sign! The Bible is opened to the first chapter of II Thessalonians in the New Testament. A sharp red glow highlights part of the page, and Sheldon reads out loud. And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” Sheldon stumbles to a chair, hyperventilating. He whispers to himself, “This has to be about Ginny. She won’t listen to me. She is running further from God every day. She constantly disobeys God and is disrespectful to me. I have to do something to save her soul from everlasting torment in hell. Lord, I beg you, show me how to save her.” A bright, white light from outside streams through the window, illuminating the room. Sheldon peeks out the window. The light seems to have its source in the barn. Sheldon laughs out loud, then stifles the laugh and whispers. “Yes! A sign! Lord! Oh Lord! Tell me how to save my Ginny!” Sheldon runs downstairs, out the back door and into the yard. He walks toward the barn but covers his eyes as the light grows brighter. He falls to the ground and speaks into the red clay earth that smells like a freshly plowed garden in the cool of the night. He begins to pray. Lord, I am dust compared to thee. Forgive me. Help me, Thy unworthy servant, to save Ginny, my only child. Thou knowest I have lost Daddy to eternal torment. Don’t let me lose Ginny.” Sheldon’s eyes remain closed, and he does not see the being coalesce in the light. It is humanoid in shape and blood-red in color like the barn. Its thick arms have wrinkled hands that end in sharp claws. The body is covered with scales that steam with smoke. If the beast were not humanoid someone might label it as a dragon. Curved, goat-like horns and small ears appear on each side of its hairless head. It has no teeth, but its lips are abnormally wide, the mouth perpetually open in a mocking smile. Smoke hides the being for a few seconds, and when the smoke clears a figure appears who looks like a stereotypical painting of Jesus Christ: long, dark hair, white, seamless robe, and sandals. A bright glow surrounds the body and a halo appears over its head. The light fades, and Sheldon raises his head. He immediately swoons, and the figure lifts him to his feet and smiles. Sheldon Sprigg,” the creature says, using exactly the same still, small voice Sheldon heard by his daddy’s grave. Sheldon’s head is slightly bowed, his eyes closed. He feels as nothing before Christ his God. He speaks in a voice that approaches a groan. “Oh Lord, I can’t gaze upon at your face. It’s too bright.” The being that looks like Jesus says, “I must adjust my appearance so that you are able to look at me without dying. I have seen your home and have compassion for you in your struggles. How I can help you with...Ginny?” Sheldon opens his eyes and extends his arms, as if pleading. “Thank you, Jesus. Ginny doesn’t want to obey you. My wife takes up for the girl. I know Thou hast seen all of this.” The false Jesus says, “You can call me ‘You’. No need to talk to me like Mary Tudor. As for Ginny, things are far worse with her than you realize.” He places his hands on Sheldon’s head. Sheldon’s eyes fill with tears, and he snuffles out the words, “What has she done now?” The creature’s voice grows deeper and louder, a trumpet sounding out the wrath of God. “Tonight,” he says, “when Ginny was supposed to be studying, she went to a bar with her evil friend, Susie.” Sheldon looks up at “Jesus” and holds his hands to his head, shaking his head as in denial. “Ginny? Drinking?” The phony Jesus’ voice remains deep, and more than a tinge of anger is present. “Do you doubt my word?” he asks. Sheldon pales, bows to the creature, and says, “No, Lord! I never doubt you. Forgive me if it seemed that way. What can I do to save Ginny’s soul?” The Creature replies, “You must punish her so severely she will remember never to disobey me - or you - again. If Elma gets in the way, you must be a man and stand up to her. As to how severely you punish Ginny, you can use your best judgment — unless things get worse. You have been far too lenient.” I have been too lenient, even these past six months, Sheldon thinks. Elma interferes due to her mushy heart. Her meddling will cause Ginny to lose her soul, and Elma will damn herself for failing to train Ginny in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I’ll end up losing both Ginny and Elma to Satan’s fold if I fail the task my Lord gave me. Forgive me for my past leniency, Lord,” Sheldon says. “I have failed thus far as a father. I won’t fail Ginny, nor will I fail You again. She will never forget what I have in store for her. Never. I promise, Lord.” Good,” the creature says. “You will see me again. Go inside, and don’t look back. Remember Lot’s wife.” Sheldon turns and walks toward his back door. He takes care not to look behind him. Lot’s wife looked back toward Sodom and Gomorrah and changed into a pillar of salt. Sheldon is so focused on not looking back that he fails to see the stumbling block right in front of him. He sprawls to the ground, rolling to his side with his face directly toward Jesus. He clamps his eyes shut, wildly praying for mercy that he might not be consumed in fire and brimstone. He gets up, lowers his head, turns around, and starts toward the house again. He leaps and yelps like a toy poodle when the reflection of his face in a puddle startles him. Jesus Christ!” Sheldon curses. He immediately bows his head and prays, “Forgive me, Lord. I did not mean to use Thy name — Your name — in vain.” Sheldon brushes straw and dirt off his back, shakes his head, opens the back door of the house, and steps inside.

Michael Potts grew up near Smyrna, Tennessee and is currently Professor of Philosophy at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. His undergraduate degree (in Biblical languages) is from David Lipscomb University. He also holds the Master of Theology from Harding University Graduate School of Religion, the Master of Arts (in Religion) from Vanderbilt University, and the Ph.D. in philosophy from The University of Georgia. Michael has twenty articles in scholarly journals, nine book chapters, six encyclopedia articles, six book reviews, and he co-edited the book, "Beyond Brain Death: The Case Against Brain Based Criteria for Human Death," which was published in 2000 by Kluwer Academic Publishers. He also has over fifty scholarly presentations, including one presented at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at The Vatican in 2005. Michael is a 2007 graduate of The Writers Loft at Middle Tennessee State University and a 2007 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. His poetry has been published in Journal of the American Medical Association, Iodine Poetry Journal, Poems & Plays, and other literary journals. His poetry chapbook, "From Field to Thicket," won the 2006 Mary Belle Campbell Poetry Book Award of the North Carolina Writers Network. His creative nonfiction essay, "Haunted," won the Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Award, also sponsored by the North Carolina Writers Network. Besides reading and writing, he enjoys vegetable gardening, canning, and ghost investigations. He and his wife, Karen, live with their three cats, Frodo, Rosie, and Pippin, in Linden, North Carolina.

A Christian Writer Who Does not Write “Christian Fiction”

Writing should never be preachy. The story, both plot and characterization, are key—the principle, “Show, don’t tell,” is one every writer should follow. The reason so much Evangelical Christian fiction is not well-written is that much of it is preachy and didactic, precisely the opposite of good writing. No reader wants to be lectured! There are exceptions—Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, and Billy Coffey, for example, are fine writers who tell good stories without the preachiness—and I wish other Evangelical Christian writers would do the same.

There are also writers who were devout Christians who did not write what is today labeled “Christian fiction.” J. R. R. Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic, and his religion shines through in his great work, The Lord of the Rings, but indirectly and not in a preachy way. The world of his novel is pre-Christian, but there are echoes of Christian thought in it—Frodo as the suffering hero, Sam, faithful to his Master, Aragorn, the king, as healer, Galadriel, who is similar in some respects to Mary the mother of Jesus. Dean Koontz can be preachy at times, but his plots are often so suspenseful that one does not notice the traditional Catholic world-view that clearly comes through. William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, is explicitly Catholic horror—however, if one reads the novel, one finds that it is not didactic at all. I doubt, however, that the average Evangelical Protestant would recognize it as “Christian fiction.”

My works reflect a Christian world view, but they are not “Christian fiction.” I am a devout, traditional Christian, a member of a theologically conservative church, the Anglican Catholic Church. My novels, however, are too edgy, have too many “cuss” words, have explicit sexual scenes—all of which would turn off some Evangelicals, perhaps most. Yet if I write a character honestly, the character’s speech will reflect who that character is. If I am writing about a smart-mouthed teen originally from Brooklyn (like the character “Susie” in my horror novel, Obedience), she is going to use foul language. When my character, Jeffrey Conley (in another horror novel I wrote, Unpardonable Sin), is angry with God, he curses God with about every curse word there is, including calling God a “mo… f…er.” That goes way too far for most Evangelical Christians to accept. I refuse to be dishonest to my characters in the name of some Puritan standard.

I also try to avoid preachiness and tell a good story. If you read my novels to the end, you will find that they clearly reflect a Christian world view, but my hope is that you find it revealed through the story, rather than through some preachy character’s direct speech. To be didactic is to betray the art of writing, and that I cannot in good conscience do.

A member of a non-Christian religion or an agnostic or atheist can read my books and enjoy them. If they see the Christian world view shining through, great; if not, that’s fine—but I hope all people of all persuasions will conclude they have read good and gripping stories.

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