Thursday, June 16, 2016

More Than Rivals by Ken Abraham -and- Q&A with Erik Guzman's The Seed-A True Myth

More Than Rivals, by Ken Abraham
By 1970, racial tension was at a breaking point in the southern town of Gallatin, Tennessee. Desegregation had emotions running high. The town was a powder keg ready to erupt. But it was also on the verge of something incredible.

Eddie Sherlin and Bill Ligon were boys growing up on opposite sides of the tracks who shared a passion for basketball. They knew the barriers that divided them--some physical landmarks and some hidden in the heart--but those barriers melted away when the boys were on the court. After years of playing wherever they could find a hoop, Eddie and Bill entered the rigors of their respective high school teams. And at the end of the 1970 season, all-white Gallatin High and all-black Union High faced each other in a once-in-a-lifetime championship game. What happened that night would challenge Eddie and Bill--and transform their town.

My Thoughts:
This story drew me into American history unlike any other sports story has before. In typical Mayberry fashion, the town of Gallatin, Tennessee is a small, quiet southern town divided by a single set of railway tracks. And an invisible barrier that segregated black from white. Until a single basketball game challenged it all.

I'm the first to admit that basketball is not my game. Don't like watching it much less having to read about it but I was immediately transfixed by the stories of two little boys who just wanted to play ball. Enough they momentarily forget it's the 1960's and one is black and the other is white.

Mr. Abraham delivers a refreshing story of how two boys growing up on the opposite of the tracks pursue their dreams on the court in spite of the political tension boiling as hot as the Tennessee sun on a summer's day threatens to erupt in their hometown.

After years of separation and segregation the pressure mounts as the all-white Gallatin High faces the all-black Union in the championship game bringing the two boys back together. I found myself ripping though the pages as fast as I could in anticipation of the big game and its outcome as if I, myself, was a resident of Gallatin. The stakes were just that high.

Eddie Sherlin and Bill Ligon offer a lesson in perseverance, courage, and hope that resonate even today. This is a fabulous story of two little boys who looked past color and remind us that we are all created equal in Christ and should love one another justly.

"Darkness must flee wherever the true light shines." 

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my hones review. You can purchase your copy of More Than Rivals here.

The Seed-A True Myth, by Erik Guzman

Young Madeline and Roark are desperately running from the shadow that destroyed their home and is threatening their lives. One day, they encounter Tatus, an older man who has sworn to avenge the death of his family at the hands of the shadow, and they form an alliance with him. Tatus promises that he can keep them safe from the shadow if they will help him build a fortress. So they build.
But as fortress-building consumes their lives, Madeline and Roark are increasingly filled with anger and fear, and an unseen evil threatens to ultimately destroy them. When they finally face the shadow, he presents them with an unthinkable offer that will reveal shocking secrets of the forgotten past, the unseen present, and the unimaginable future.
At some point, everyone will have a moment where they simply know something is missing in their lives. Attempts to fill, ignore or dull this void are never successful and only end up leaving them exhausted, confused and alone. These are themes explored by author Erik Guzman in his debut release, The Seed: A True Myth (New Growth Press/ May 16, 2016/ISBN: 978-1942572794/$17.99). This parable uses symbolism and vivid imagery to help readers think critically about the great lengths they go to in order to avoid the pain of living in a broken world, rather than accepting the peace and freedom the Gospel offers.

Q: The Seed: A True Myth is your first book. What drew you to the fantasy genre?

I had an uncle who committed suicide when I was young. After his death, some unusual books showed up on our family’s bookshelf. They had maps in them and drawings. There was a dragon. I just knew the books were my Uncle Jimmy’s, and I knew what he did, so I thought they had dangerous ideas in them. The books looked magical. So I only looked at the pictures and didn’t read them until I was older and needed to believe in magic again. When I did, I fell in love with Tolkien. That’s where it started with literature.

Growing up, loving fantasy and science fiction films filled my mind with worlds and creatures and heroes, so when I started writing that’s what came out. But more than that, the story I wanted to tell had to be fantasy. It had to have a mythic quality that felt like it could be rooted in our history. I wanted to tell a story with symbols — labyrinths, a dragon, shadow, light, a hunter, a young couple on the run, talking trees, ravens, etc. — but I wanted it all to feel real, to have the ring of truth. It had to be fantasy.

Q: You say the shadow in your book is real. What is it, or what does it represent?

The shadow is all the pain behind you. It’s all the bad things that happened or the good things that didn’t happen. It’s the fear that the pain will return, and it’s the emptiness within that drives us to exhaustion, addiction, consumption — you name it.

For me, the shadow grew into a black hole that held everything I cared about in its gravitational pull and threatened to pull my life apart. It drove me nuts and then drove me into counseling. Then it drove me to write this book.

Q: Explain the concept of a fractal and your fascination with them.

A fractal is a simple, self-similar, repeating pattern. They appear everywhere in nature. In fact, nature is all self- similar repeating patterns. A tree is a great example. The branches are simply smaller versions of the trunk that split off and get smaller and smaller until twigs form smaller versions of the branches. These smallest branches bear leaves and seeds that become new trees with trunks that split into more branches and bear more seeds. Look at a fractal and you see eternity.

Everything from galaxies to clouds, mountains, plants, animals and even our nervous and circulatory systems all consist of fractal patterns. What’s so fascinating is that all this complexity comes from such simple, self-similar repetition. And now that we have computers that can handle the computation, we can reproduce these

amazing patterns using simple mathematical formulas that are referred to as the seed of the fractal. The visualizations of these simple equations are literally infinitely beautiful.

Q: Why do you view The Seed as a type of fractal?

All through the book there are self-similar, repeating patterns. One example, hopefully without giving too much away, is the labyrinth with a tower in the middle. The labyrinth itself is a self-similar, repeating pattern, but one character, Madeline, ends up trapped in the center of it. Later we find out there was another labyrinth in Madeline’s past with a towering tree in the center instead of a literal tower. This tree contained evil and when Madeline . . . well, I probably shouldn’t say anything more. Trust me, there are self-similar, repeating patterns throughout the book.

Beyond the patterns in the storytelling, the book is literally the seed of a fractal. It’s the seed of what I call the Love Fractal. There is an idea in this book that is dangerous in a delightfully, disruptive good way. My hope is that by consuming The Seed, you’ll see the self-similar, repeating pattern of Love forming within you and your life — maybe even see this pattern filling the whole world. This pattern is what it means when we hear we are made in the image of God: a self-similar, repeating pattern of joyous being, selfless giving and grateful receiving . . . a divine fractal . . . the Love Fractal.

Q: Why do you think most readers will be able to identify with the struggles of the characters in The Seed?

By telling my story, I’ve told your story. That’s because our story is really Love’s story. And Love’s story is universal because it really is true.

Again, I have written a true myth, and I honestly don’t believe I wrote this story alone. I believe God will use the imagery, characters and events in The Seed to speak to you, to plant a seed within you that will blossom with freedom and joy.

Q: Just what is a “true myth”?

Well, the word “myth” is derived from the Greek word “mythos,” and that word simply means “story.” So by titling my book The Seed: A True Myth, I’m telling you it’s a true story. But it’s not true in the sense that the characters in my book inhabited the world at some point in history. However it is true that the characters in my book inhabit me. They represent parts of me, and their experiences are very real. The labyrinth they constructed to protect themselves from the shadow and kill it is built around my heart. There really is a shadow that haunts me . . . and everyone who reads my book.

Also Tolkien famously used the idea of a “true myth” to lead C.S. Lewis to accept the Christian faith. The Christian story is similar to pagan myths. Joseph Campbell pointed this out too, as seen in the hero’s journey or monomyth. However what Tolkien argued was that in the case of Christianity, the story we see everywhere in cultures across time actually happened historically in the person and work of Jesus. Therefore, Christianity is the one true myth . . . the one true story. And my book tells that same story.

Q: What is the overarching message you’re trying to communicate to readers in The Seed: A True Myth?

The Love Fractal will grow, filling the world with joyous being, selfless giving and grateful receiving, and you can experience it by embracing helplessness and trusting Love . . . because Love never fails. 

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. You can check out my review on Goodreads. And you can purchase your copy of The Seed-A True Myth here.

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