The Secret Identity of John Otte

John W Otte

I’m excited to introduce John Otte (rhymes with karate (I asked)) to you. I’ve read and enjoyed his novels Numb and Failstate (click for review), and I’m currently enjoying The Hive (review to come). For now, though, it’s time for us to get to know the author’s mild-mannered alter ego.

John, thanks for coming on the blog today! Tell us: when you’re not writing, what are you doing?

My secret identity is that of a Lutheran minister. More specifically, I’m a pastor in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, which is a pretty conservative denomination.PastorOtte

What do you find most interesting about being a Lutheran minister?

What I find really fun about my job is finding new ways to present ancient truths in a relevant way. For example, my denomination uses a pericopal system for Bible readings in worship. What that means is, there’s a set schedule for what gets read when. In most cases, that means that the same Biblical readings will show up every three years. Some even show up every year. That can be a bit of a challenge, because it means that you have to come up with new thoughts and new takes on the stories in a way that is meaningful and engaging. It can be a challenge, but I like that challenge a lot.


This year, our congregation’s theme is “Devoted” and we’re talking about the different parts of Christian living that we’re devoted to. So to kick off the entire theme, I dressed up as a rabid Minnesota Vikings fan.

What are some common misconceptions people have about ministers?

That I only work on Sundays. Seriously. I know that that’s an old joke about being a pastor, but I find a lot of people really do think that’s true. They can’t quite wrap their heads around the fact that it’s a 24/7 type of job. It takes a long time to put together sermons and Bible studies, to go visit people who are sick or shut-in, and that you’re on call pretty much all the time should your congregation need you.

Give us the skinny – what are some interesting facts about ministry that most people don’t know?

Well, in my case, I had to go to school for a long time to become a pastor. I not only had to earn a bachelor of the arts degree of some kind (in my case, it was in theatre), but I also then had to attend a seminary for three years of classwork and year-long internship my denomination calls a “vicarage.”

Also, it’s a requirement in my denomination that pastors study and learn both Biblical Greek and Hebrew so we can read the Bible in its original languages.

John Otte

Love the accidental antennae in this pic

Oh, and here’s another one! You know the traditional “pastor” outfit (black shirt with a white tab in the collar)? It’s symbolic of what the pastor’s job is. The black shirt represents the pastor’s sin, but the white tab or collar at his throat symbolizes that he speaks the Word of God.

How do you balance writing, ministry, and your private life?

Not very well, unfortunately. There are days when my day job pretty much precludes me doing any writing, simply because I’m too tired to get my mind to focus. I try to do at least a little writing every day, but that’s not always possible. It’s usually about finding a spare moment or two to get a few words down on the page.

Does being a Lutheran minister ever sneak into your writing?

FailstateAll the time, especially since I write Christian fiction primarily. There was one time, though, that really stands out. I was working with my editor on my debut novel, Failstate, and my editor wasn’t happy with one of the scenes toward the end of the book. The main character goes to church and, wouldn’t you know it, the pastor just happens to deliver a sermon that speaks directly to the problem that the character is facing! My editor rightfully labeled it a trope and a cliché and suggested that I change it.

Now I understood why he didn’t like that, but here’s the thing: I’ve seen this sort of thing happen in real life a lot. One of my parishioners will come out of worship and tell me, “Pastor, that sermon spoke directly to me” or “That’s exactly what I needed to hear” or even “Have you been reading my mind?” After talking about it, we left the scene in so long as I promised I wouldn’t do it again in later books.

What do your parishioners think of your books?

They’ve been mostly supportive. I actually had launch parties for my first two Failstate novels at my church, and many of my members bought copies of the books, which was funny, because the line to get the books was filled with grandmothers. Many of them would talk to me after reading it saying stuff like, “I never read books like that!”

Connect with John:

Twitter: @JohnWOtte

Don’t miss John’s latest book, The Hive, releasing on October 16th!

The Hive Official Cover

A pregnant cyborg and a teenage boy fight against intergalactic governments to protect the unborn in this novel from a Christy Award-nominated author.

Why is Zain pregnant? She belongs to the Hive, a collective of cyborgs who choose to live apart from the rest of human society. At times, the Hive rent out some of their females to produce tailor-made children for paying couples. But Zain is an engineer, not a breeder. When she finds herself separated from the Hive, she decides to find the person who she thinks ordered the baby. Surely they’ll help her find her way home.

Matthew “Scorn” Nelson has spent the better part of his teenage years cracking computer systems, causing mischief and havoc wherever he can. But the night of his greatest triumph turned into a painful memory, one he wants to erase. But that night was also his first step on a road to faith. When Zain arrives on his doorstep, Scorn is horrified. What’s he supposed to do with a pregnant teenage cyborg?

Unfortunately, he’ll have to answer that question on the run. Zain’s people want to reclaim her and terminate her pregnancy. And both the Ministrix and the Praesidium, two intergalactic governments in a constant state of cold war, want Zain’s baby for their own reasons. Will their enemies run them down? Or will Zain find a new Hive for both her and her child?



Time to dicuss #7 – Glass Girl

glass girl cover

This book touched me when I read it because I identified so much with the main character. The death of a loved one is hard, whether you are a child or an adult.

Glass Girl is another in the line of issue driven fiction (like Whisper If You Have To, It’s Complicated, and The Wishing Pearl). Around this time last year, I had a chance to talk to the author about her book (feel free to read the interview).

I’m curious. How many of you were like me and experienced one of the issues covered in this book – death of a loved one, survivor’s guilt, an emotionally unstable parent – either as a teen or as an adult? Or maybe you knew someone who did?

And what did you think of Henry? In Glass Girl, he seems almost too good to be true, but we find out a lot more about him in the sequel, Perfect Glass, which is just as good. If you liked this one, you will like the second one.

That, my friends, is the end of our summer book club. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these books and discussing them. Kat – thanks for sticking with me to the end. :) Your comments give me the encouragement I need to keep on blogging. <3

FINAL QUESTION: Which book was your favorite? (use poll below)


Realm Makers Backstory

I had the opportunity to attend THE BEST WRITERS CONFERENCE EVER at the beginning of August. Some of you have heard parts of these shenanigans, but no one has yet heard the ending (or seen the pictures).


Me with Donita K Paul, AKA The Dragon Lady and one of my favorite authors

FIASCO #1 – Costume conundrums

I attended Realm Makers for the first time last year and had a blast. My costume was weak, so this year I decided to go all out. I have a fondness for Toothless, the night fury from How To Train Your Dragon, because he’s a dragon that acts like a cat. :) And since Donita K Paul was attending the conference, I decided what would be more appropriate to wear than a dragon costume when the Dragon Lady herself was going to be there.

I found a women’s costume online that was reasonably priced. It was meant to be a short, sexy dress costume, but I figured I’d order the largest size they had and wear it as a jacket.

It came in and was good quality, made of some heavy felt-like material (not at all stretchy). THANK GOODNESS I tried it on two weeks prior to the conference because here it is in the picture


and here it is on my 9 year old daughter


So when they said it was an “ADULT” costume, they meant it was an ADULT costume. Yes, I know. Should have seen that one coming all day long. <sigh>

So I bought a black hoodie, a bunch of material, and spent 8 hours making my own, which turned out pretty cute if I do say so myself. Now Minion 2 and I will both be night furies for Halloween, Minion 1 wants to go as Astrid, and my husband just shakes his head in embarrassment that his wife is such a dork. (I told him that technically, the word is geek.)


And that it could have been worse. I could have gone as a minion.


FIASCO #2 – Identity Crisis

Then the afternoon before I leave for the conference, I’m shopping at Kohl’s to pick up a few last minute items. Because I don’t have my Kohl’s card with me, they look up the number and ask to see my driver’s license. I search through my purse and IT IS NOT THERE.

How am I going to board a plane the next morning when I don’t have a driver’s license? My passport has been expired since 2000. I have no other photo ID.

I generally don’t freak out when it comes to crisis situations, but this time I am freaking out. It’s 3:30 pm. Do I need to run home and tear my house apart looking for my license? Do I need to run to the DMV to get a new one? I mean, really, how screwed am I?

I called the airline. Here’s the crazy thing: did you know that all it takes to fly is 2 forms of ID? Like a credit card and a social security card or birth certificate? Crazy, right?

I tore my house and car apart looking for my ID. I didn’t find it, but I did run across my driver’s license from before we moved two years ago. Wrong address, but the thing wasn’t expired. So I won’t tell you what I did, but let’s just say I never had to show anyone my SS card.

IMG_2077The last place I knew I had my ID was when I took Grace Bridges to Space Center Houston. I felt relatively confident that I must have left it in their gift store on accident. So I called them while I was on my way to the airport (August 6), but they said they didn’t have it. No joy.


When I got back from the conference, I had a letter dated July 30 from Space Center Houston saying that they had found my ID in the gift shop and would I please contact them to arrange for its return. Which I promptly did, but still haven’t received it. But hey, at least it’s found! One day, dear license, we will be reunited!!!

The moral of the story? I can’t really say, but I do know that finding out my license was missing BEFORE I got to the airport was a God thing. How often do people ask to see your ID? Generally, only when I get pulled over for a traffic violation or when I try to board a plane. I am grateful that God used the department store instead of either of the other two. Had I gotten to the airport without knowing it was gone, I would have missed my flight.

The conference was fantastic. The costumes at the banquet were phenomenal. It was so much fun to have so many people so dressed up all in one place. I learned a lot, connected with some writer friends I’d never met in person, reconnected with others, and had an all-around fantastic time. I can’t wait to go back next year.

AND, I got to hang out with several of my critique group. Two of our non-spec members even drove four hours out of their way to come see us.

I’ll leave with some parting pictures, but before I do…

TELL ME: If you went to Realm Makers, did you experience any fiascos? If you didn’t attend, have you ever had a costume malfunction or lost your license?


Time to discuss #6 – Mardan’s Mark


August is almost gone, and at least one of you (Kat) have wondered where I’ve been. I’ll cover that in a later post, but now for the important thing–discussing good books!

I’ve read Mardan’s Mark twice now. A pre-publication version and the real thing. I loved the story both times. For me, the best thing about it was the characters. There were so many – Aldan, Sam, Linus, Srilani, Rene, Maelan, and Jamson. I liked every one of them! I’ll have to admit that Sam is my favorite though. :)

Let’s talk characters – which one was your favorite? In terms of POV characters, did you have a preference for Aldan or Srilani?

(I liked them both equally).

The other thing that is interesting about this book is that while it is a fantasy, it has no magic in it. No strange creatures. The world building is there, but it’s more like a medieval story told in a different realm (and one that looks suspiciously like the coast of Texas and Louisiana – just sayin’). ;)

What did you think? Did you miss the fantastical elements – magic and creatures?

(The story was good enough without it, but let’s face it – a dragon or two would have been nice – LOL).

And if you’re like me, you’re anxiously awaiting #2 in this series to see what happens.

What did you think of the book?

glass girl coverAnd don’t forget – next week we’ll discuss the final book in the Turning Point YA series. Stay tuned!


Time to Discuss #5 – The Wishing Pearl

whising pearlI’m interested to hear your thoughts on this one.

For me, I liked the second half of the book better than the first. Olivia’s spiral of poor choices make sense for a girl who is trapped in a nightmare life. I can see where she would subconsciously think, “Why not use self-destruction as a means to escape? What does it matter anyway?”

And I can maybe understand the mother’s complete denial of the situation. She remarries a rich guy and she and her children are living the fairy tale but just like with fairies, sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. She knew something was going on, but didn’t choose to see it, much to the detriment of her daughter. But it was hard for me to like her, even at the end when she wakes up from the dream and realizes she’s been a complete putz.

For me, the book felt looooong. I just wanted Olivia to TELL SOMEBODY instead of descending into the self-destruction spiral. I’m one of those tell-it-like-it-is people, so I fundamentally can’t connect with characters who don’t.

I know it’s common for children who are abused to feel shame and fear and not to speak out. I feel sorry for them. And sometimes even when they do tell people, they aren’t believed. I get that. I worked in a crime lab for 11 years and a lot of child assault cases came through. It is devastating.

But it is hard to read about a character who keeps making poor decisions. That’s why I was glad when she finally reached the bottom and moved on to get help. I enjoyed the part at Diamond Estates, although it too felt long.

SO WHAT ABOUT YOU? Could you empathize with Olivia? Did you find the first half or second more captivating? Was this book difficult for you to read for any reason? What did you think about the mom?

And don’t forget – next week we’re discussing #6 – Mardan’s Mark!Mardan-Mark-Sml


Time to Discuss #4 – Failstate


What a clever story! Superheroes battling on reality TV in a Survivor like show? Yes please! (And why didn’t I think of that?)

What was your favorite part of the story? For me, it was the premise. I also got a kick out of the youth group leader, and props to the author for the way he wove in spiritual content.

Who was your favorite super hero? It’s hard not to like Failstate, because you have empathy for him as a reader and he really earns his big finish at the end. Give me smarts over power any day, but both are nice as well. ;)

*BUT* I really liked Luxe and her light powers. (What can I say? I program lights for our church. I’m a lighting fanatic).

What would you have done differently if it had been your story? Or something you would have liked to have seen that didn’t happen?

For me, I thought that Failstate’s face got wrecked because his power went out of control and created a blast that killed his dad and burned him. I was disappointed with the real reason his father died. Then that led me to wonder why his mother seemed to hate him so much.

My burning question – who gave him that stone that he wears around his neck?

Any plans to read the next two in the series?

There are two full length sequels (I have both). Looking forward to these, even if Legends is a zombie book (ugh – not a fan of zombie fiction).

Failstate Legends Failstate Nemesis

And two novellas (I have both). I’ll read these, but I prefer full-length stories to short extras. What about you?

Gauntlet goes to prom Kinetic on target

YOUR TURN: Answer the questions above, and tell me what you would select as a superpower. (I’d like to breathe underwater indefinitely. Anyone remember The Man from Atlantis?)

man from atlantis


Time to Discuss #3 – It’s Complicated

Before we start discussing It’s Complicated, I’d like to let you know about a couple of free offers that Laura has shared with us:

#1. Laura has a Bible-based discussion guide for the first four chapters of the book and she’s offering it to you for FREE! Wouldn’t it be great to read the book and discuss with your teen or youth group? Love this idea, and I plan to check it out!

To claim your free copy, please let us know in the comment section below.

#2 Another of Laura’s books is currently available for FREE! Skinny: She was starving to fit in… I love that this author tackles issue-driven teen fiction. Her writing is great and I have great hopes for this series. I already have the book. Snag it while it’s free by clicking on the cover.


Now, for the discussion:

its complicated

I LOVED this book. One thing that was great about it was the characters. Laura has developed a Pinterest board for each of the four girls and I love the little tidbits you can see about their personalities. What a great way to do character development and make sure that all your girls are different than one another. Here they are. Check them out, and let me know who you liked best and who was most like you:

Pinterest boards for It’s Complicated.

I liked that each character had their own issue. While they all pretty much involved guys and dating, each issue was separate. And for older teens, most issues do revolved around guys anyway. ;) And this issues were REAL issues. Not sanitized versions goody-goody versions, but things that emerging adults face. How many of their issues did you encounter? Feeling like the only girl without a boyfriend, pressure to have sex, date rape (hopefully not, but it happens), peer pressure for drugs/alcohol, having a nice guy like you but not feeling anything in return.

I thought it was interesting for four girls that decided to go to a Christian college that they hadn’t thought about Bible study before that. But then, who am I kidding? I’m curious – did you go to a Christian college? Or were you a Christian at college? If so, were you involved in a church?

For me, I was a Christian who went to a secular college. I didn’t get plugged into a church right away. In hindsight, that was a big mistake. It didn’t take long for me to fall out of the habit of going to church.

I’m really interested to see what happens in the rest of the series. For non-fantasy, non-science fiction books, these really held my interest!

NOW YOU: Whatcha got? Any questions/comments about this one?

Summer Book Club #3- It’s Complicated

its complicated

I didn’t realize it when I started reading the book, but I was actually at a launch part for Playlist Fiction and saw the author read a part of this book. It was a chilling scene involving Claire and it stuck in my memory. I was delighted to find that I was reading the rest of the book!

I don’t want to give too much away because it’s not yet time to discuss, but I’ve already finished this one. I loved it. So I think you’re in for a treat!

If you’re new here, it’s not too late to purchase the set and join in on the fun!!! I’m always around and happy to talk about books whenever you finish them. :D



Time to Discuss: Whisper If You Have To

Turning-Point-Box-Set-SmallReady to discuss #2 in our 7 set Turning Point YA series?

1. What was your overall impression of the book?

Overall – I liked the book, although it went on a bit long for me. Once Alison’s mom ended up in the hospital and everything started falling into place for Alison, I was ready for the book to wrap up. But for a romance, it was pretty good. ;)

2. What did you think about the characters?

Although I really liked Chad’s character, I didn’t necessarily feel like he was true to a teen guy. He seemed too sensitive and intuitive. Too perfect. Maybe guys really are like that when they find the right girl, but in my experience, the physical wars with the emotional. There was no physical turmoil between these two. It was like an ideal relationship on the page, not a real one. (Which is ok. We all need a goal to live up to.)

And the spiritual maturity of Brooke, Chad, and Kyle surprised me too. I would love to think the majority of church-going teens are like these 3, but I’m not sure. People of any age can be spiritually mature, but these 3 seemed to really have it together.

3. And was it just me?

It took me a long time to be convinced that Chad was a young man of color. There were hints, but I was on the fence about it until quite a ways into the book.

4. What did you think about the POV shifts – the way the story flipped quickly from Alison to Chad?

As for me, I enjoyed it. I thought it did a lot to move the story along and was a nice balance between both characters.

5. What is your feeling on secrets?

Generally, secrets or lies as a plot device don’t work for me. I’m a pretty forthright person, so I get frustrated thinking, “Just tell the truth already!”

Do you think it was reasonable for Alison to hide the fact her brother had committed suicide? And I can see where Chad wouldn’t want people to know his mom was in prison, but news like that tends to travel. Do you think it was reasonable that no one at his school knew about it?



Summer Book Club #2 – Whisper if You Have To


From Goodreads:

Secrets. Alison Prescott has collected a boatload of them in her short lifetime. Moving to a new school in a new town was supposed to fix everything; however, when she meets a new set of friends, keeping those secrets might just ruin everything.

Chad Dourozette has the world by the tail as his crazy T-shirts proclaim every day, but Chad has deeply held secrets of his own. When Chad meets Alison whose life looks absolutely perfect from the outside, will he have the courage to try to win her heart, or will the secrets they both carry keep them apart forever?

I’ll be up front and confess I’m not much of a romance reader. Generally, if the only purpose for a story is to introduce boy and girl and see how they get their happily ever after, it’s not enough of a plot for me. 

However, I’m over half-way through the book already, and it’s doing a good job of captivating me. Part of that is that the POV shifts from Alison to Chad as quick as volleys in tennis. It’s an interest writing device and it works to keep the story moving.

One thing that confused me at first were the characters. I had trouble distinguishing Chad from his friend Kyle. 

Trucking through to see how the story ends. Looking forward to discussing it with you on or around July 1.