Apex Sale, Dark Futures, and Stories

As part of their two weeks of Apex special, Apex Books is having a Halloween One Day Sale on Harlan County Horrors – 40% off today only!  Perfect for Halloween readings or any time you want to be creeped out, Harlan County Horrors, a regional based horror anthology by Apex Magazine submissions editor Mari Adkins, is what you need. Especially at today’s one day sale (Oct 15) of 40% off. Drop by the Apex Publications Store and get yours today. http://www.apexbookcompany.com/harlan-county-horrors/

This features—FEATURES, I say—my story “Trouble Among the Yearlings.”

Dark Futures: Tales of Dystopian SF is now available.  Not only does this anthology now has its own blog site  (http://darkfutures.wordpress.com/?s=future) – though I suspect someone is ghostwriting the blogs for the anthology, but it is also available from a number of online retailers.

From the Publisher
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Barnes and Noble
Powells.com

This anthology features(!) my story “A Stone Cast into Stillness”.

Speaking of stories and interviews, The Perpetual Christian Newsletter reprints my story “Secret Gardens” and does an interview with me.  Check it out. What’s truly cool is that I was just listed as one of the 13 Astonishing Writers of Fantastika You Should Be Geeking Out Over in it, they reference my story “Secret Gardens.”

So have it!

All Things “Dark Faith”

As the promotional efforts for Dark Faith begin in earnest, Apex Book Company has been running a series of mini-interviews with some of the contributors called Dark Faith: DEVOTIONS. I’ve been loving the responses and want to collect the links to them here. And take a moment to appreciate how much my friends love and respect me…

[Here is the Dark Faith Blog]

DEVOTIONS

Alethea Kontis – “The God of Last Moments”

Mary Robinette Kowal – “Ring Road”

D.T. Friedman – “Paint Box, Puzzle Box”

Wrath James White – “He Who Would Not Bow”

Tom Piccirilli – “Scrawl”

Jennifer Pelland – “Ghosts of New York”

Nick Mamatas – “The Last Words of Dutch Schultz Jesus Christ”

Ekaterina Sedia – “You Dream”

Lucy A. Snyder – “Miz Ruthie Pays Her Respects”

Linda D. Addison – “The Story of Non-Belief”

Rain Graves – “Lilith”

Richard Dansky – “The Mad Eyes of the King Heron”

Lavie Tidhar – “To the Jerusalem Crater”

Geoffrey Girard – “First Communions”

Kelli Dunlap – “Good Enough”

John C. Hay – “A Loss for Words”

Matt Cardin – “Chimeras & Grotesqueries”

Richard Wright – “Sandboys”

Chesya Burke – “The Unremembered”

SAMPLE DARK FAITH

Catherynne M. Valente – The Days of Flaming Motorcycles

APEX MAGAZINE – DARK FAITH SPECIAL

SHORT STORY: “The Last Stand of the Ant Maker” by Paul Jessup

SHORT STORY: “City of Refuge” by Jerry Gordon

AUDIO FICTION: “City of Refuge” by Jerry Gordon (read by Maurice Broaddus)

DARK FAITH Roundtable: Gary A. Braunbeck, Jay Lake, Nick Mamatas, and Catherynne M. Valente

Related Posts

DARK FAITH: Introduction by Maurice Broaddus

Maurice Broaddus – The Big Idea

Flames Rising – Dark Faith Preview (including my introduction to Dark Faith)

Jew-ish.com – Have a Little (Dark) Faith

Alethea Kontis – God of Last Moments

Kelli Owen – “Dark first, Faith second”

Jason Sizemore – “The Ups and Downs of an Anthology”

Matt Cardin – Narrative Frames and perceptive reviewers

To Breathe Underwater – Through Faith Darkly

Nick Mamatas – Kazzie Contemplates Secret Wisdom and Wise Secrets…

Adventures in Reading – Ghosts of New York and Other News

B&N Community – Give Me Something to Believe In: Spiritual Quests and the Search for Truth in SF and Fantasy

INTERVIEWS

On my end, I have the unprecedented (in my career thus far) problem (and hopefully this will be a recurring “problem”) of promoting two projects at a time. Thus, the latest bouts of interviews (though King Maker was mentioned in Publishers Weekly all on its own):

Fantasy Magazine – Editing Dark Faith

Examiner.com – Maurice Broaddus has ‘Dark Faith’

Random Musings – Interview with Maurice Broaddus

Innsmouth Free Press – Interview: Maurice Broaddus

Horrow Web – Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon

Omnivoracious – Jeff Vandermeer – King Maker Maurice Broaddus on the Anthology “Dark Faith”

The Occult Detective – Soul Searching with Maurice Broaddus

SCN Book Review: Dark Faith anthology

Publishing Dark Faith: An Interview With Jason Sizemore

PODCASTS

The Dead Robot Society’s Podcast – Episode 132 – A Discussion of Dark Faith

The Funky Werepig:  Mo*Con V live!

REVIEWS

B&N Community – Give me Something to Believe In:  Spiritual Quests and the Search for Truth in SF and Fantasy

Shroud Magazine

Publisher’s Weekly

Suvudu – Looking at the Shadow Side of Belief with “Dark Faith”

SFSignal

Horror Web

Black Static

Innsmouth Free Press – Dark Faith

365 Short Stories – Dark Faith

Wings Lifting Wide – Review:  Dark Faith

Amazon.com Customer reviews

Book Rec- Dark Faith

SFRevu – Dark Faith

Black Gate – Short Fiction Review # 28: Dark Faith

Eyesore Times – PDS Friday:  New York, New Psalm

Postule Oozings – Dark Faith

Stem Shots – Apex Publications Brings the Goods

Dylan Fox – Review of Dark Faith

Horror Fiction Review

TJ McIntyre – July Book Reviews

Horror World

I Have An Opinion On Almost Everything

Critical Mick – Insert Clever Faith-Related Title Here

Choat Road

Booklist:  What questions would you ask Jesus if he returned on the eve of an apocalypse and granted every surviving human a personal audience? If a Zen Buddhist were consigned to Hell, would he suffer the torments of the damned or remain blissfully serene? These are some of the questions explored in this distinctive collection focusing on philosophical conundrums presented by religious faith. Thirty-one tales and poems from some of the horror genre’s most talented writers cover quite a spectrum of inquiry. Jennifer Pelland’s “Ghosts of New York” finds the World Trade Center jumpers on 9/11 endlessly reliving their terrifying plummets to earth. An autistic girl who becomes miraculously lucid in Chesya Burke’s “The Unremembered” spurns the priest who mistakes her miracle for a Christian one. A saintly boy found murdered in Ekatarina Sedia’s “You Dream” haunts a woman’s nightmares. While the overall quality is mixed, and the selections lean heavily on shock value rather than subtlety, there are enough provocative scenarios here to provide hours of faith-challenging entertainment. –Carl Hays

P.S.

Rounding out this “All Things Me” post, I’d like to point to two more items:

1) Zoe E. Whitten, hysterically funny writer and tweeter, was wrestling with my novella, Devil’s Marionette in this moving piece.

2) My story “Hootchie Cootchie Man” was listed as an Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s list of notable stories for the year.

A Couple New Stories Out…

My story “Hootchie Cootchie Man” is in the current issue of Black Static (#14). Look at this beauty:
It was reviewed on Suite101.com. The review reads in part:

The eponymous ‘Hootchie Cootchie Man’ by Maurice Broaddus is a car thief who steals to order – but the order is placed by those wishing to ditch their cars by leaving a couple of hundred dollars under the floor mat. Nathaniel gives a girl a lift and then keeps running into her over the next few hours, as ‘Like a desperately needed word on the tip of his tongue, Nathaniel was on the verge of realizing an important truth.’ There is something slightly reminiscent in tone of Broaddus’ spare prose of Michael Moorcock, in that Nathaniel is somewhat iconographic in the same way as Jerry Cornelius and the Eternal Champion. The pick of the issue.


And here is the Amazon review (and the Horror News Net) which reads in part:

“Closer Than They Appear” is far and away the best tale in the issue, a painful story of self-doubt, self-hatred and self-destruction that rocked my ass in three pages flat.

GO BUY THESE ISSUES!!!

*I know, I’ve just made Jason Sizemore weep in his coffee.

Checking in on My Arch-Enemy

Long time readers of my blog will remember that as part of the up and coming writer code, it’s important that you do one of two things: 1) randomly attack either Brian Keene or Nick Mamatas or 2) get an arch-enemy. Though I had temporarily resigned, it has been a while since I’ve checked in on my arch-enemy, Nick Kaufmann. So I’ve decided to check in and see what he’s up to (after all, you should always know where your enemies are and if they are being more successful than you. Remember, you’re only doing well if your friends and enemies are doing worse than you.)

Crap, his short story, “Mysteries of the Cure” from the Shivers V anthology, is getting decent buzz. I have been away for too long and neglecting my duties. As all young writers must know, there is a cabal of writers, the ‘circle jerk’ of in-crowd mid-list authors who are killing teh genre, who exists to keep them down. I have only recently received my ticket to the cool kids table, and I will be kicked out if Kaufmann isn’t successfully oppressed. I must learn more! Luckily he makes it easy to catch up on him with an interview over at FearZone.

His “State of the Genre” column for FearZone has become “Dead Air” for The Internet Review of Science Fiction. (And in his wise as a serpent way, he has not once mentioned me. NOT THAT I’VE BEEN READING IT!!!!) Double crap! Chizine sold out the limited edition of his new novella, Chasing the Dragon, which will be published in December. And now he has a mass market novel, Hunt at World’s End, out (it’s a new series of pulp adventures written by different authors under the pseudonym of “Gabriel Hunt”, but we know this one is Kaufmann).

HE’S DOING WELL?!?

*drops to knees and yells in best Shatner-esque voice*

NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!

Um, on the personal pimpage front, my story “Uncle Boogeyman” is now live in the Dark Recesses Press PDF Issue #11 with some special art from their featured artist Dholl. (Note, I made the cover of yet another magazine, writing under my pseudonym “Plus So Much More”).

I was also interviewed for the Flashes in the Dark website and I forgot to plug the seven question interview I had with the Writing Raw website.

Interview with Coach Culbertson

I had a chance to catch up with the uber-busy Coach Culbertson of Relief: A Christian Literary Expression as well as, of special interest to me as a horror writer, Coach’s Midnight Diner.

What is Relief and how does it relate to the Midnight Diner?

Relief: A Christian Literary Expression (often just called Relief Journal) is currently a bi-annual literary journal that publishes literary fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. In our first reading submission period back in 2006, we received a lot of great genre submissions, but the editorial team thought that Relief should remain literary in scope. So instead, we decided to launch Coach’s Midnight Diner, a genre anthology made up of hardboiled genre works with a Christian slant. Both publications have an uncensored edge.

What do you see as your mission? How would you describe it?

We started Relief and the Diner after my wife and I both left the inner city where we taught high school. Kimberly wanted to be able to write about our experiences at the high school, but the question quickly became, “Where would it get published?” There were way too many amazing interactions with God for her stuff to be published in the secular markets, and way too much reality that shouldn’t be censored as it would diminish the power of God’s interactions with the students we took care of. So we ended up creating a venue for writing that falls in the gap between the Christian publishing markets and secular publishing markets.

Christian writing has long since been criticized as being too censored, too fluffy, lacking in artistic excellence, and way too preachy. We wanted to create an outlet where authors can have the freedom just write the damn story–to practice excellent craft, use authentic dialog (not – “gee whiz, Beav, what are we going to do with all this swell crack? Oh fiddlesticks, they just busted a cap in my rear end.” ) have characters talk about and have sex (and yes, Song of Solomon is not just symbolic–it really is about sex), wrestle with doubts and huge questions, interact with God, all in an authentic and real fashion.

Life is messy, rough, and difficult. It’s also wondrous, amazing, and sublime. Our writing should reflect reality, not sugarcoat it. No one lives in a “perfect” world, and neither should our words. We bridge the gap for writers who want to write real stories, poems, and creative nonfiction about real characters in real situations with a real God, without compromising the work’s integrity.

How hard is it living in the tension between ministry, art, and commerce?

Overall, the Relief and Diner projects have met with a very warm reception. So many authors and readers have said, “Oh wow, what a relief,” (pun intended, once they discover what we’re about. We find that overall Christians and non-Christians find a sense of understanding and acceptance when they read our books. They feel like they can breathe again.

We have yet to be condemned to hell or called the whore of Babylon, so I guess that’s good. Issues of Relief and the Diner have been known to show up in church libraries occasionally. Every once in a while we’ll get a standard “Oh, Christians shouldn’t write like the world,” or “All Christians should only write so the lost can get saved” argument, but not very often. We publish the kind of stuff that hits people where they really live, and that’s the artistic impact we’re out to make.

The commerce side is a little more difficult. Most people don’t know what a literary journal is, and many Christians think that a Christian horror story is an oxymoron. So we have a small, loyal audience at this point in time who appreciates what we’re doing, but I still have to reach into my own pocket every once in a while to pay the tab when sales are sucking. The economic downturn doesn’t help, but we’re making it through anyway.

We’re a 501c3 nonprofit, and part of the reason we can continue to exist is that the Relief and Diner communities pony up dollars to make these projects possible. Nobody’s making any money on this deal, our staff is completely volunteer, including me, which does make it a little easier to stretch the dollars way further than they might stretch in a different company.

Where do you see yourself in the genre/marketplace?

I see the Diner and Relief as a launching pad for authors (and editors and cover artists, etc.) who write brilliant unrelenting works who have very few (if any) outlets for it. We’re in the small press/micropress segment. But an interesting bit of trivia: we have editors from both big Christian publishing houses and big secular publishing houses on our customer and subscriber lists.

What sort of stories are you looking for?

I’ve actually hung up my spatula and retired from my position as Head Fry Cook of the Diner. Michelle Pendergrass now has the keys to the Diner as the new Editor-In-Chief (or Midnight Waitress, if you will), so that question might be better asked to her and the team for the 3rd Diner. But I can tell you that the team will be looking for stories of horror, crime, and the paranormal that do not suck. Michelle just posted up the specs for the next Diner up on http://www.themidnightdiner.com, so go take a look.

Who would you like to see submit to you? Beginning writers? Pro/name writers?

Ummm, I’d say Michelle and the Diner team will looking for (italics)good(italics) writers. Name recognition doesn’t mean much when it comes to what we publish. It’s nice when we get a well-known name on the menu, but as a company, writers who are starting out have just as much of a chance to get published as the “big names.” It’s about writing a great story.

Writers who think that every word they write are drops of God’s holy grace to the world, however, need not submit. We’re looking for authors who are easy to work with, and understand that “the relationship between editor and author is sacrosanct” (thanks to Relief author Anthony Connelly for that statement).

Some might see the midnight diner as somewhere between a 4theluv type market (paying writers in exposure) and a semi-pro (with 5 cents/word being the demarcation between pro and semi-pro). Could you explain the thought process behind your policy of paying a few writers vs. giving all an equal, if only token, payment?

It’s not so much a thought process as it is a matter of economics. Hell, I’d love to pay every author a hundred bucks or more for their work, but that’s not a feasible option with our current financial situation. The Horror Writers Association requires a paid publication of at least $70, so great authors like Kevin Lucia who are just starting out can get their foot in the door, so we can at least help a couple folks take another step in their careers per issue. I didn’t really plan that initially, I just wanted to get people to write Jesus Vs. Cthulhu stories, but it was a nice side effect.

How do you see yourself growing
in the market place and building your base audience? Where would you like to be 5 years from now?

5 years from now, I’d like to be sipping margaritas in Cancun on a beach for a living, but seeing that’s probably not going to be the case, I’d like to see the Diner be the go-to publication for new talent and fresh writing, an almost sure-fire ticket to furthering an author’s career.

But largely, the future of the Diner will be in the hands of the new team. I’ve built the sandbox, with the help of Vennessa Ng, Mike Duran, Melody Graves, Adrian Rivero (the cover artist for the 2nd Diner), Robert Garbacz, Matt Mikalatos, and of course Relief’s Editor-In-Chief (who also happens to be my lovely wife) Kimberly Culbertson, but now it’s time for other folks to play in it. The Diner’s in good hands with Michelle at the grill.

What story have you put out that you’re the most proud of?

Damn, that’s a good question. Just the fact that we’ve put out the Diner at all is a miracle, and the fact that the quality has been so high has been due to the fact that there’s Christian and non-Christian authors who have been willing to go to that place of tough symbolic reality with me. So I’m going to cop out and say all of them.

When can we expect the next volume?

Michelle and her new crew (which is also made of some of the old Kitchen Staff as well) plan on getting the next one out sometime next year, I think. Watch http://themidnightdiner.com and http://www.reliefjournal.com for news about it.

JA Konrath and Extreme Horror

Author JA Konrath is on a blog tour promoting his latest work, Afraid (a horror novel written under the pen name Jack Kilborn coming out next month, in paperback and audio). His widely popular blog, A Newbie’s Guide Publishing, just wasn’t big enough, so he’s going around invading other people’s turf. Today, he joins me for a visit as we chat about extreme horror:

M: In the tradition of “less filling”/”tastes great”, are you an atmospheric horror guy or an extreme horror guy?

J: I won the World Horror Con Gross Out Contest a few years ago, so I’m no stranger to extreme horror. But I also beleive that a reader’s imagination is more powerful than any detailed description of gore I could come up with.

So I sort of straddle the line. I like suspense, and atmosphere, and terrible things certainly happen in my books… AFRAID has a body count of over nine hundred. But I prefer a tense lead up to the horrible deed, and then keeping the gore to a minimum. In my writing.

When someone tells me I’m being too graphic, I ask them to tell me which scene they’re referring to. In every case, they use many more words to describe the scene than I did.

M: Folks keep tossing around different phrases that may be describing the same thing. What’s the difference between splatterpunk and extreme horror (or even gross out), and why is that sort of approach making a comeback?

J: If the goal is to cause fear, it’s straight horror. If the goal is to make you gag, then it’s extreme horror. Or extreme something. It’s possible to write a disgusting scene without blood or violence.

The written word is provocative. Always has been. If used properly, it can make people laugh, cry, think, get angry, or get ill.

As a species, we’re fascinated by disgusting things. As writers, it’s our jobs to make our readers feel something. Put the two together, and some writers are bound to go for the gross out.

M: How much do you think is due to the rise in “torture porn” movies like Saw?

J: That’s just a new name for something that has been around forever. Shakespeare, DeSade, Gran Guignol, freak shows. In the 60s we had the first splatter and mondo films, in the 70s grindhouse exploitation, in the 80s slasher flims. One of the first films was the electrocution of an elephant. Reality TV shows actual death. Go on YouTube and count the number of videos featuring skaters breaking their bones.

Pain, and death, are part of life. It fascinates us. Because art imitates life, we’re going to have movies like SAW.

M: Is it just me, or is this exactly the kind of horror that seems really easy to do, and many category horror writers attempt to emulate it to be hardcore, but is actually difficult to do well? In other words, extreme stuff is easy to screw up, isn’t it?
J: Grossing someone out is a particular talent, but it’s not very hard to do. Grossing them out while also making them care is really difficult. If the reader feels for your characters, they will fear anything bad happening to them.

In AFRAID, some people die horribly. I don’t do that to titillate the reader with graphic descriptions of gore. I do that to make the reader afraid that the same thing might happen to the characters they’ve grown to like.

M: Let’s face it, there are only so many ways to describe viscera to the point where it gets tedious. We ought to be about more than just splattering blood all over the place. Artistically, we near a precipice to do, for example, postmodern exploration of horror. How can writers better use extreme horror to explore the literary form?
J: We have a prurient fascination with violence and and gore and death, whether we want to admit it or not. Whenever there’s an accident, there are rubberneckers.

As authors, we should use violence for more than just prurient thrills. Done properly, violence can enrich a story, raise the stakes, add depth and dimension, and also enhance themes.

I’m pretty sure there will be people who won’t finish AFRAID because of the violence. But those who stick with it will find themes of love, forgiveness, redemption, and courage.

So it’s like a feelgood book, that will also scare the crap out of you.

M: Is there room for extreme horror in mainstream book selling, or do you see it always being the fringe of even the horror market?
J: It’s fringe, and it will stay fringe. We’re still too conservative a society, still too uptight and judgmental, still too interested in our own sense of right and wrong and what people should and shouldn’t be allowed to read, watch, believe, smoke, etc.

On the other hand, we do have a capitalist, open market economy. If there were a huge demand for gornogrpahy, someone would be selling it by the truckload.

M: Who are some of the folks you are reading these days? And who do you think are some folks doing extreme horror well?
J: Ed Lee and Wrath James White are experts at it, though Lee is more tongue in cheek and Wrath tends to be a little more serious, except in his short stories, which are hilarious. I recently shared pages in an anthology called LIKE A CHINESE TATTOO with Cullen Bunn, who has a really gross, and very funny, story in that collection.

Jack Ketchum has an heir in Jeff Strand. Strand is known for his funny gore stories (I even collaborated with him on one called SUCKERS), but his new novel PRESSURE is a real kick in the teeth. Like Ketchum, Stand makes you care about his characters before putting them through hell.

If you want to see who is currently pushing the limits of good taste, visit www.horror-mall.com, and you’ll find a wealth of vile prose to enjoy.

Ultimately, whatever your personal taste, we need to remember that stories are there to entertain. Different people are entertained by different things.

For some, it’s a CGI lion with Ben Stiller’s voice. For others, it’s a group of psychopaths who slaughter everyone in a sleepy Midwestern town.

If you prefer the latter, AFRAID goes on sale March 31.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Interview with Scott A. Shuford

I’m a big fan of comics even though the cost of collecting them has kept me from enjoying them as much as I would like. Still, I love to stay in touch with creators, fans, and all manner of interested parties. I recently had a chance to chat with Scott Shuford of the Christian Comics Art Society to pick his brain about the group.

What drew you to comics?


God really called me to support Christians involved in comics. It’s kind of a funny story. A few years ago, over time while I was seeking God about a few new places to serve, I felt a draw to two areas: comics and film/tv. I continued to pray about both areas, and started looking for opportunities to understand what He was doing in those areas. Over a period of time, one of the places I found for comics was the Christian Comic Arts Society, and one for film/tv was the Biola Media Conference. I met a lot of people and companies along the way. For the first year, I just attended to learn and understand about those organizations. In the second year, I volunteered to serve with my gifts in connecting people and ideas through marketing in various ways. Now I’m serving on the Advisory Boards for both organizations. It has been a huge blessing for me to see what God is doing and to be involved.
What titles do you (still) collect?


As shocking as this might be, I don’t collect. I’ve had several friends who collected various series, and I was a fan of a few series that I can’t even remember the names of now. I’m more interested in helping to connect creators and consumers, to see ministry happen through evangelistic comics, and to see culture influenced by story-driven comics and characters.


Are there any publishers folks should keep an eye on?


Christian comics is still in its infancy. The Christians involved in comics are where Christians involved in film/tv were about 10 years ago. There are a lot of creators looking to increase the quality of their work. Distribution is a major challenge. Two of the major Christian publishers, Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, are experimenting with comics distribution. This is a time of growth. I think that God wants to do something with comics. There are some great pioneers out there looking for ways to blaze a trail, people like Nate Butler, Brett Burner, Patrick Scott, Eric Jansen, Doug TenNapel, Buzz Dixon, Scott Wong, Mark Carpenter,
Robert Luedke, Ben Avery, Bud Rogers… That’s not an exhaustive list certainly.

With changes in technology, what impact to you foresee for the medium? What does it mean for the creators? And what impact do you see it having on distribution and the artist’s ability to get their name/work out there?


The internet and social networking systems have allowed any creator to connect to as large an audience as they can build. For the first time in history, a creator can reach out beyond his local area without leaving his house! This has been great as a new distribution channel, but difficult for many because it takes a tremendous amount of consistent effort to reach out and build a loyal following. It would be a lot easier for the creator to be able to sell 5,000 or 50,000 copies of something through retail stores including comic stores, Christian stores, or even mass market stores like Wal-Mart, but that’s not really an option for many at this point. There’s a shift happening with the move to online digital comics and to digital readers, just like the music shift that occurred to MP3 players and the iPod. It will be interesting to see how consumers adapt to and adopt these new technology options. Distribution cost drops considerably with these new options, so there can be a whole new audience ready for comics, or they may decide they don’t like the technology and prefer to hold their comics in their hands. Really, some of both will happen.
What is the CCAS?

The Christian Comic Arts Society
has existed for over 20 years through print publications, conventions, and local meetings. In the last 3 or so years, the Society has really seen a lot of growth, and with the recent debut of the CCAS Social Network at http://christiancomicart.ning.com, there are amazing things beginning to happen as God connects industry people and comics fans together. In just a short time, we’ve gather almost 500 comics pros, amateurs and fans together in one place, and we’re increasing our presence at the various Cons in 2009.

Is there a specific message/platform that the CCAS stands on?


Our goal is to provide opportunities for networking, mentoring and fellowship among Christian comic book enthusiasts and professionals. We are strongly committed to living out the Gospel through both evangelistic comics and through our personal lives as living examples of Christianity as we work in our professions. God calls us all to be different parts of one body. Some of those parts work professionally in the comics industry, some work in full or part time ministry, others are fans who spread the word through their passion for comics. The sum of all the parts is greater glory to God than the individual parts are alone.

How can it benefit creators?


Creators will find fellowship with other creators and fans: collaborators and constructive critics, information and inspiration, and encouragement in their comics passion to be
faithful to their calling(s) for what God has for them to do through their lives.

What is on the horizon for you? What can we be on the look out for from you?


We have a few irons in the fire as they say. I am very excited about the growth for CCAS. I’ll be traveling to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in February, the CIA Summit in March, Gospel Music Week in April, and then at the The Biola Media Conference on April 25th at CBS Studios. At FrontGate Media (www.frontgatemedia.com), we were recently featured in Adweek. As the largest pop-culture media group reaching the Christian audience, we recently expanded our promotions and advertising services to include Social Networking and Public Relations. In first quarter of 2009, we’re making our official announcement about Extra Mile Merch (www.extramilemerch.com), my latest venture in partnership with Scott Brinson, co-founder of Truth Soul Armor. We’ve already created truly fashion-forward merch lines for The Groovaloos who are featured on NBC’s Superstars of Dance, for the tween brand and movement iShine and its affiliated artists The Rubyz, Robert Pierre and Paige Armstrong, for B. Reith (Gotee) and for Matt Brouwer (Indie Extreme), and I’m looking forward to several new projects there as we coach brands and bands, church ministries and companies on how to create and execute a strategic merchandising line to generate revenue and for promotional purposes. For me, all these things are a fit with my calling to help connect companies with consumers in the overall Christian movement.

If you could pick one, what would your super power be?


That’s a tough question! A bunch of things came to mind, but the very first thing was that I would be invisible. I’d love to be able to watch all that is going on and influence it without anyone knowing or caring that I was there.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Ruby – An Interview

I had a chance to catch up to Ruby Gettinger of the reality show Ruby and ask her a few questions:

Me: I can’t imagine living my life on camera. What made you decide to do this show?

Ruby: I was changing channels one day and I came to Oprah and there were these women on there and they weren’t as big as me. They were suffering from obesity and they were crying about how they couldn’t go out in public, people make fun of them, they don’t go out to the malls … and they don’t know why they can’t beat this. And I understood what they were talking about, but I live my life and I don’t let people stop me. So something just triggered in me that I need to do a documentary and show, beginning to end, my whole body and everything I go through to find out the truth. What is it—mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically—what is the truth of obesity?

My friend, Brittany Daniels, knew I was doing this and got in touch with a producer that does reality shows and then Style Network heard about my story and got in contact with me. They had a vision, they had the passion, and when I saw how much they believed in it, I said let’s do it.

Me: What’s one thing you love about doing this show?

Ruby: What I love about this show is that it’s one of the first reality shows that lets you talk about my passion. My passion is God and people and I really wanted to be able to talk about God – and they’re letting me do that is amazing. They’re showing me teaching Sunday School. They’re showing me praying.

Me: Tell me a little bit about where you come from spiritually.

Ruby: I go to a non-denominational church, I teach Sunday School, and I love kids. One of the messages I want to teach kids is to not define yourself by the physical. All these young kids, teenages, especially girls, there’s so much more to them but society teaches them that it’s just about the physical. But, no, it won’t last. Unless you’re a good person inside, unless you love unconditionally … who you are is who you are on the inside.

Me: We know how society tends to see obese people, or how you might even see yourself, but how do you think God sees you?

Ruby: The reason I’m able to face when people are laughing at me or making fun of me when I go to a restaurant, when I go to a hospital—you hear the whispers, you hear the talking—is because I do see how God sees me. He created me. He sees me as a beautiful person. He doesn’t see me with all of my flaws. He sees how I can be and what I’m trying to do. And my faith kicks in, when God says “the impossible is possible. You can do this, Ruby.” He tells me in His word and He tells me in me. And the way He sees me is the way I want to see me.

I’m not a judgmental person. Is it because I’m overweight? It amazes me how much people judge one another. And everyone of us wants the same things. We want to be loved, we want to be needed. Yet we’re the first to be so cruel to one another. But my faith in God gets me through it all. Sometimes me and God have to have little talks. “God why in the world did You let my skin stretch out to the outer limits? I don’t understand and I’m not happy with You about this.” Even though it’s me doing it, so it’s my little joke with God. It’s better than hearing “you did this to yourself, little girl.”

Me: I believe that a lot of people’s sexiness is about what they believe about themselves and they sort o project it. In your show you have such a bright and warm personality that really shines through, so I was wondering how much you believe in your own sexiness?

Ruby: You’re in trouble! (laughs) I think what it is is that I’m really happy. I’m limited to do a lot of things because of my weight, but I’ve lived such a great life. But now I find out that there’s so many dreams that I’ve yet to have conquered. There are days when I don’t. It’s funny, I’ll say to my friends, Jeff and Georgie, and we’re getting dressed and Georgie’ll call and say “what are you wearing tonight?” And I’ll say “well, I guess I’m gonna wear a pair of jeans and a T. What do you think I’m gonna wear? I’ve got like four choices, these dresses that I call ‘tents’.” Then she’ll be like “oh, Ruby, I’m so sorry,” but I’m like “shut up.” (laughs) But there are nights when they’ll come over and I’ll say “I look hot, don’t i?” Or “do I look beautiful, hot, or you don’t want to look at me because I’m so hot?” and they’ll say “all of the above” because they know they’ll get killed if they don’t say all of the above. Like anybody, there are days when I say “I look really good tonight” and times when I just feel ugee. But I do feel good about myself.

Me: How do you see your spirituality helping you?

Ruby: I actually took that Scripture “the truth shall set you free” and I felt like … there are people in this market making billions of dollars on diet gimmicks and every diet product out there. But nobody’s changing. The world is getting bigger. The politicians are getting into it because their saying that by 2010, 75% of Americans are going to be obese. That’s pretty scary. There’s something going on and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to find out truth through all this and that someone watching the show something will trigger in them that “that’s what it is. That’s what the problem is.” I’m finding out more and more that it’s mental. Nobody dreams of being this big. They always say “why don’t you just lose the weight?” and I’m going “if it were that simple, I’d have already lost the weight.”

I knew that it was something bigger than me when I realized I was losing the love of my life and there’s nothing I can do about it.

There’s stuff I’m finding out for the first time, when I find out you find out. I’m like “oh my gosh, everyone’s gonna know this,” but I have to say “this is what you want. You’ve got to let other people know so you can help other people, too. This is not your journey, it’s everyone’s journey.”

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Interview with Lawrence C. Connolly

Fleeing from what should have been a perfect crime, four crooks in a black Mustang race into the Pennsylvania highlands. On the backseat, a briefcase full of cash. On their tail, a tattooed madman who wants them dead. The driver calls himself Axle. A local boy, he knows the landscape, the coal-hauling roads and steep trails that lead to the perfect hideout: the crater of an abandoned mine. But Axle fears the crater. Terrible things happened there. Things that he has spent years trying to forget. Enter Kwetis, the nightflyer, a specter from Axle’s ancestral past. Part memory, part nightmare, Kwetis has planned a heist of his own. And soon Axle, his partners in crime, and their pursuer will learn that their arrival at the mine was foretold long ago . . . and that each of them is a piece of a plan devised by the spirits of the Earth.

Available from Fantasist Enterprises, Veins is Lawrence C. Connolly’s debut novel. I had a chance to sit down with Larry at GenCon and run a few questions by him:

What is your spiritual background/journey?

I’m from western Pennsylvania, where forests fold into valley and rise along mountain crags. Enter those forests, start walking, and sooner or later you’ll come to a place where the earth opens into an unnatural valley of sumac, hemlock, and weedy grass. These are the wounds that never heal, the deep man-made scars left behind after the veins of the earth have been carted away for heat and industry. My spiritual journey begins in such places.

I’m not an environmentalist. That term doesn’t go deep enough. It doesn’t begin to reach the level of spiritual connection that I feel to this part of the world. My spiritual journey is one of discovering how I connect to this place, why I feel at home here, and why I sometimes sense the pain of cleared forests and leveled mountains.

What do you see as the power of myth?

Some truths can’t stand the weight of fact. They can only be grasped through metaphor, allegory, parable. The great prophets knew this. They were storytellers, after all. They understood the transcendent power of a well-told tale.

What is the mythology behind your novel?

The protagonist in Veins is a young man who calls himself Axle. He’s the hub, the center of something he does not understand. His great grandmother tries guiding him with half remembered stories from her childhood, fables about the land. One night she leads him to the brink of a machine-scarred valley, and there he begins to understand … but the understanding frightens him. He dismisses her teachings as lies. And for a while, until the threat of death forces him back to that same valley nine years later, he believes he was right to dismiss them.

Mythology is like that. We hear the stories as children, learn to doubt them as we approach adulthood, and ultimately return to them when we develop the wisdom to see the truth within their fiction.

I like the idea of people seeing the same images yet they are interpreted through their different
spiritual perspectives. What is your spiritual take on your novel?

I intend to play with this premise of multiple interpretations throughout the next two books in the Veins series.

In Veins, the first book, Axle’s great grandmother tries explaining the mysteries of the land by telling young Axle the stories she learned as a child. She believes that her stories are authentic American Indian tales, but her memory is foggy, and the things she knows are actually amalgams of second-hand myth and false memory. She passes these versions of her stories onto Axle, who in turn comes to his own understanding of them.

Eventually, Axle realizes that it doesn’t matter what he chooses to believe. He can rationalize and reinterpret the old stories all he wants, but reinterpretation doesn’t change his growing realization that the earth is alive … and it has plans for him.

You use Native American culture as a backdrop and use the spirits of the Earth. How do they work in the context of your novel?

The reference to Native American culture in the novel is an attempt to acknowledge that there are forces in the land that transcend contemporary culture.

Axle is a rural American kid with dreams of fast cars and open roads. As a child he longs to hit the highway and race off for parts unknown, but as his story progresses he realizes that his own front yard rests in the shadow of the biggest unknown of all.

The book’s allusions to indigenous cultures serve, I hope, as a reminder that our personal beliefs may be short-sighted, that we must look beyond ourselves for the big answers.

Your story hints and wrestles with the idea of something beyond this world. How does this idea work itself out in your writing and in your characters?

We live our lives in a moment of geologic time, and yet we consider ourselves masters of the earth. In Veins, Axle comes to realize the folly of such a conceit. The realization changes him. Indeed, it may very well kill him if he isn’t careful. I dare say no more. This element of the book is best discovered in the reading.

What are you working on? What can we look for next from you?

I’m also a musician. For the past few months I’ve been working on a collection of trance, rock, and ambient compositions designed to enhance the reading of Veins. Fantasist Enterprises plans to release the CD this Fall, but a nice preview is available at the novel’s promotional website: www.VeinsTheNovel.com. Beyond that, Fantasist is talking about bringing out a two-volume set of all of my previously published stories, nearly three decades of fiction bound up in two illustrated editions. Then there’s Vipers, the second novel in the Veins series, which is due to come out sometime next year.

And there are lots and lots of new stories and novelettes in the pipeline, things due out from Cemetery Dance, PS Publishing (where I’m doing music-inspired stories for anthologies based on the songs of Bruce Springsteen and Nick Cave), Ash-Tree Press, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Dark Hart Press, and others.

A lot of the new stuff is set in western Pennsylvania. The more I write, the more convinced I am that I’m getting close to something … a revelation of place … an uncovering of deep truths hidden right underfoot. That truth is out there somewhere, just beyond the point where the ground opens and the forest falls away. When I find it, I’ll let you know.

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Gen Con 2008 V: Gamer’s Delight – A Wrap Up

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:16

From what I was told, that Matthew verse was Gary E. Gygax’s favorite Scripture and goes a long way to illuminating how Gary chose to live his life. Gary, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons and founder of Gen Con, passed away earlier this year. His death sent reverberations throughout the gaming world and at Gen Con we were reminded of not only his legacy, but also of how many lives he touched. As D&D; sees its 4th edition this year, the equivalent of seeing a new pope, his loss was felt by the entire gaming community and community is what Gen Con is all about.

Gen Con is kind of like taking the typical high school hierarchy and inverting it. Suddenly the A/V squad, band members, and chess club as shoving jocks into lockers (literally, as Colts fans anxious to tour the newly opened Lukas Stadium had to give way to a parade of stormtroopers).

We all want a place where we can be included, where we can be who we are and not only accepted, but understood. For many folks, conventions like Gen Con are family reunions, where the blood of the family is found in their united passion for all things related to gaming.
The gaming community/culture encompasses writers, artists (like Steve and Becky Gilberts), gamers, collectors, role-players, filkers, and a whole host of like-minded individuals. The overwhelming spectacle of costumes, exhibits, games and activities takes four days to experience. Or at least do as much as possible. By Sunday, the body breaks down and almost everyone has “gamer’s cough”, that rasp from talking, laughing, partying, and gaming too much (while sleeping too little).

Of course there’s a hierarchy of nerds. Where would we be as a society and culture if we weren’t able to compartmentalize folks or better yet, rank them. Of course I consider myself in the upper echelon of nerdom (he who makes the list is automatically at the top). I’m good for a little Dungeons and Dragons, maybe a few games of Magic: the Gathering. I like my share of sci-fi shows. Star Trek (Deep Space Nine was the best. This isn’t even a discussion.) Babylon 5. Farscape. Dr. Who (Tom Baker and Christopher Eccleston – this isn’t even a discussion). So I’ll leave you with a few last Gen Con thoughts:

-Lucien Soulban was robbed at the ENnies!
-Seriously, spandex wasn’t made for everyone.
-Black nerds unite! (Cause we represented at Gen Con)
(And I may have one more follow up piece to the Gen Con Experience. I had to earn my free press pass.)