For many years, I stayed away from church because I didn’t feel like I fit in with the “church crowd.” I always believed in Jesus Christ, but I never studied the Bible. Well, that all changed one day back in early 2004, when I was forty-three years old. What prompted this change? All it took was a simple invitation over dinner from a customer and friend named Tom Douridas to come visit his church. We accepted the invitation, and soon visited Tom’s church near our home in northeast Georgia. There, we met a wonderful man named Pastor Jeff Rogers.
After only a few months, and for the first time in my life, I found myself comfortable enough with a church enough to join it. As I look back on it now, that day actually started my journey away from the world’s ways, and towards God’s ways. Yep, that’s all it took for me at that point—a friend inviting me to a church where there was absolutely no pressure at all–-only love and concern from the pastor and his staff. Soon thereafter, my wife Elissa and I rededicated our lives to the Lord and got baptized.
Fast forward two years later to 2006. Elissa and I were part of a wonderful small group at the home of our friends, Chris and Trina Saltz. That summer, we found ourselves studying the book “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. For me, personally, this book absolutely lit a fire in my heart. As I reflect back on it, “Heaven” helped me to better understand the Lord to the extent that it actually closed the last chapter of my being an “average” believer. From that point on, I haven’t been able to find enough time to study God’s Holy Word in the Bible. Everything had indeed changed for good.
Fast forward again; this time, three years later in June of 2009. While we were enjoying a family vacation in our favorite destination city—Seattle—an old, lurking idea of a short story began to evolve into a novel. Let me explain….
For about five years, tucked away in the back of my mind, I had been kicking around the idea of writing a short story centered on taking a walk through Pike Place Market (my favorite place on Earth) with God. You can picture this scenario—the Lord and I walking around that wonderful market, talking about all kinds of stuff that people typically want to ask God about. Who wouldn’t want to have a chat with the Creator of all things—right???
Looking back on the inception of that story, it most certainly originated during the first of our four Seattle vacations, starting in 2004. As the years went by, and as we made several trips to the Emerald City, the initial short story concept evolved into something different—a person like myself (a fictitious character named Wyatt) having a chat with Michael the arch-angel. I shifted toward using an angel instead of God, because unless someone can otherwise prove this to me with Scripture, I don’t think any of us can expect to see Jesus-Himself on Earth until He returns to defeat all evil. That isn’t to say that Jesus can’t come down to Earth to talk with someone. I just can’t see where He would. In other words, when Jesus ascended to Heaven—that was it, until He returns.
Anyway, after a couple of years pondering this scenario, it then occurred to me that since Michael is generally considered to be the angelic “general in charge of God’s army,” then perhaps he might be a little too busy to be a character in a fictional story centering on a leisurely chat in Pike Place Market. I also didn’t want to seem too presumptuous by using such a prominent named angel. That’s when it all came together in my mind—during that 2009 vacation to Seattle. During that fateful trip, the idea of a “blue collar” assistant to Michael evolved into reality.
And thus, Mick the angel was born, along with the idea of Flaming Sword Communications Group.
Both during and directly after that trip, everything in my mind quickly moved forward. It started with combining the ingredients, if you will, of the mystery of the flaming sword mentioned in Genesis 3:24, the surrogate for me (Wyatt Hunter), and the representative of God (Mick the angel). Everything else evolved from this basic foundation.
From the beginning, I wanted Mick to be unlike any of the ethereal angels mentioned in the Bible. No, to me, Mick needed to be an angel who could blend-in with whomever he visited on Earth. Angels are essentially messengers and emissaries from the Lord, and it appears to me that angels have different capacities in their service unto God. In Mick’s case, I took what I perceived as an angelic archetype from Genesis 18 and then added some fiction to him. I wondered, “What would an angel be like who was a seemingly regular kind of dude?”
So, in early July of 2009—exactly one month after all of these things finally crystallized in my mind—the Lord emphatically put it on my heart to change this idea of a short story into a full-blown novel. Essentially, this whole concept had evolved from being a cutesy idea into a unique book. Actually, I should rather say, books.
Believe me, I sure wasn’t expecting anything like the writing of books to enter my life. Why do I say that? Although my background has always been geared towards writing, taking on a project like a novel had never even remotely occurred to me. Interestingly, my career goal back in high school was to end up writing for a newspaper—a concept completely different than writing a novel. So, when the prompting for my first book came to fruition around Independence Day in 2009, I thought, “A novel—you’ve GOT to be kidding me, Lord!”
As I reflect back on it, the only thing I’ll give myself credit for during this whole process is that I was obedient. Like I said, I really didn’t have any desire to get into something brand-new like this writing challenge. Life had too many responsibilities as it was.
I’ll never forget writing those first few paragraphs for “A Walk Through The Market.” It was so weird to stare at that nearly blank Word document, wondering what to do next. All I was armed with was a printed Excel sheet of Scriptures (which I had been keeping for inspiration) and a composition book with a few scratched notes. When I started “Market,” I had no idea what to do, what the entire story would be about, and how it would end. All I knew was that I was supposed to start writing it.
So I did.
At the time, I had just started a new job in May of that year and I had to travel most every week. Reflecting back, I’m amazed at how I finished writing “Market” in only seven weeks. How did I do it? Basically I wrote early in the morning, late at night, and almost all weekends. Taking my laptop computer on the road with me also provided a way to work in my hotel room at night. Those seven weeks went by sooo fast!
Sometimes, I still ask myself, “How did this whole thing happen?” As complete novice to novel writing and deep biblical studies, how in the world did I write a complete manuscript of nearly 80,000 words in less than two months—all while working around a brand-new, full-time travelling job?
God helped me. That’s how. Actually, that was the only way it could have happened.
The first printed version of “A Walk Through The Market” came out in January, 2010. It was only a little over six months from the first word to the published book—a seemingly whirlwind tour, indeed. I was one of the early authors with CrossBooks, which was a new division of LifeWay (launched in April of 2009). It has since closed down.
So what happened after my publishing my first book? Thud! Like so many people who feel the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we unfortunately add our own desires to what God wants from us. To me, this seems to be the largest of all human struggles—our own will versus God’s will. I thought, “There has to be a big purpose for this, right?” However, we don’t always know what that specific purpose is—at least not right away. Since that time, I’ve learned we should always follow God’s will for our lives, without expectation. This is the Lord’s world, not ours.
Anyway, as I was selling a few copies of “Market” in 2010, I also finished the second manuscript, “A Walk Through The Mall,” in April. You see, when I started the publishing process for “Market” the previous October of 2009, I immediately began writing the sequel, “Mall.” Basically, in only nine months, what started out as a short story had actually evolved into the first two novels of a series which has absolutely no inhibiting barriers for future stories. It was totally amazing!
Still though, something didn’t feel quite right, so I didn’t actually publish “Mall,” even though I had already purchased the publishing package. At that point, because I wasn’t sure when to publish “Mall,” I turned my focus back to working on improvements for the first book, “Market.”
Two months later in June of 2010, another completely unexpected series of events began to unfold. One scorching summer day, I found myself at the CrossBooks Publishing booth of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando. There, I met a wonderful brother named Mike Pfeil. Mike and I quickly connected and became friends. His theological background is very strong, with an emphasis on eschatology—not a strong area of knowledge for me at the time. When I met Mike, I was actually getting ready to release an updated version of my first book, “Market.” I needed to do this because I had found so many “rookie errors” in the first version during the previous two months.
As our friendship evolved, Mike and I began to work together on “Market” before its new release. Mike had just published his first book on the rapture. He was also in the process of retiring from the business world. We then decided to work together on my novels to see how it would go. The goal was for Mike to help me with the strengthening of the theological concepts and to serve as a theological mentor and editor, of sorts. Our later goal was to collaborate on an end-times novel series.
Later that year in November of 2010, and after many times reviewing and editing “Market” back and forth, the second edition of “A Walk Through The Market” was published. Essentially, Mike helped tweak many of the theological concepts while I worked on my sentence structure and descriptions. The manuscript’s word count increased by about twelve percent and the new version ended up becoming a much stronger book due to all of the fine-tuning it went through.
Starting in January of 2011—right after the holidays—Mike and I turned our attention to “Mall,” which as I said, had not yet been published. Throughout the year, we tediously attended to every detail of the book. I wrote and rewrote, and Mike edited, directed, and augmented. In retrospect, I realize that I wrote the original manuscript for “Mall” far too quickly. As a result, it was a little sloppy. Anyway, in October of 2011, “A Walk Through The Mall” was finally published. Things were all fixed now, right? Nope, not yet.
After the holidays, in early January of 2012, Mike and I realized that we were being pulled in different directions. His end-times ministry was calling him back, so we ceased moving towards a partnership on the novels. However, we still talk and consult on many things and are the dearest of friends. Mike’s influence on my work cannot be overstated. I consider him to be my theological mentor, brother, and friend. We both hope to revisit the end-times series in the future, God willing. This was actually our original calling when we first met.
So … seven months later in July of 2012, I released freshened-up versions of both “Market” and Mall.” The long and short of it is this—the current versions of both books took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get them to where there are today. I’ve often heard that success, in whatever form, isn’t a destination—it’s a journey. To get there, we must all develop a strong sense of perseverance (see James 1:3). Yes, perseverance isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination.
So where am I going from here? To tell you the truth, I’m not quite sure. Since 2012, I have published five other books, with at least four others in the works. God keeps feeding me and I keep pushing ahead.
It’s amazing that the idea for a basic little short story evolved into an unbelievable franchise of stories. You see, these books aren’t just about an angel and a dude like me. No, they’re much more than that. The protagonist in the stories is an angel (Mick) who has been around for all of human history. As the stories demonstrate thus far, Mick has been working with the men of Wyatt’s family for a very long time now. This actually provides a huge amount of storytelling possibilities—past, present, and future.
The other special thing about the stories I write is that when characters die and go to Heaven, I haven’t lost the ability to write them into the plot. God has put it on my heart to encourage others in the area of Heaven, so I do my very best to do so. In case you haven’t read any of my books yet, you can expect to see people on Earth as well as in Heaven. That’s where the influence from Randy Alcorn’s book “Heaven” has helped to shape my novels. I believe there is a great hunger among people to know what’s next—or at least what’s possibly next—for those who love Jesus Christ. In my novels, scenes in Heaven are prevalent. I believe they provide the all-important hope we all need.
To wrap things up, let me summarize my own story by saying that the “big picture” premise for my novels is that throughout history, God has sent Mick to work with and guide Wyatt and his ancestors. During the process, we see spiritual warfare being waged throughout the ages between the dark forces of evil (Satan and his demons) versus God and his holy angels. In other words, good versus evil. Whether you believe in God or not, everyone can understand this basic concept in life.
I have one more thing to share….
First, my books are designed with one basic premise—Scripture first, story second. Studying Scripture is the one thing that can liberate us from the perils of world because it’s God’s revelation to mankind. Truthfully, the only real goal with my books is to give the reader an entertaining enticement to dig further into their Bible. There is nothing that can feed your soul like the Bible.
Anyway, I think it’s important to emphatically say this before I close: I’m not a prophet and I’m not an apostle. I also possess no special, esoteric knowledge from the Holy Spirit. I’m merely a regular guy who wants to encourage others through what the Lord has asked me to write–-particularly those who have been turned-off by religion. I feel very strongly that you don’t have to be “religious” to experience God and you certainly don’t have to dress or act a certain way. It’s all about loving Jesus Christ.
So, if reading a novel with lots of Scripture isn’t your thing, then that’s okay. I’ve been told this isn’t a common approach in publishing. In this case, my books are probably not for you. On the other hand, if you’re open to hearing the Christian message, then you’ll probably like my books. In fact, you just may love them.
If you don’t know much about the Bible but are open to hearing about it, my stories are an interesting way to hear about God’s Holy Word without it sounding too much like a sermon. So go ahead, and grab yourself a copy or copies.
Either way, if you do enjoy a good story, then I hope you’ll stay tuned to see what God has in store. Every time I sit in front of the keyboard, I can’t wait to see where He directs me next.
The book that started it all
A Walk through the Market
What would you say if someone claiming to be an angel sent on an assignment showed up one morning, sporting a ponytail and a Krispy Kreme T-shirt and calling you “dude”?