Saturday, January 28, 2017

Part II of my Interviw with Mythic Orbits Creator Travis Perry

This is the 2nd revolution of my interview with Mythic Orbits creator Travis Perry. I hope readers are finding the conversation interesting. Last week we started out by discussing Travis's definition of Speculative Fiction from a Christian or faith perspective. Now we're going to dig deeper into certain presumptions placed upon those authors.

Mark:       Do you feel there are certain expectations in the Christian community when reading stories by authors who identify as Christian?  
Travis:   Yeah, I think there are expectations from self-identified Christian readers when reading self-identified Christian authors. The first of those would be that the stories be "clean," which means free of strong language, graphic sexuality, and graphic violence.

But the Creator himself at times used the Bible to express graphic violence and sexuality. This is not at all on every page, since most sexual references are very sparse in description (e.g. Adam knew Eve), as are most descriptions of violence (Joshua struck the city with the edge of the sword), but not all are. Song of Songs and some other references can be understood as quite graphically sexual in places and some wounds are also described in clear detail. (The Bible does even record a few curse words. But very, very few, far less than the descriptions of sex and violence.)

I'm not saying clean fiction is bad, mind you. But it is not an end in itself in my view. It is possible to honor God, as the Bible does, with language that would not be allowed around kids in a modern movie rating system. It is also on the other hand possible to create a story whose values are in no way good and moral/Christian which would read clean.

I think some Christian readers also expect to see overt and strong moralizing in stories by Christian authors. Which may or may not be appropriate to a particular story.

Some others expect evangelism in stories by Christian authors. Which should not be forced into every plot, but which can be appropriate at times.

But I think the number one expectation by Christian authors is that stories should be clean.

Look for the 3rd revolution of my interview with Travis soon.

Here's a link to Mythic Orbits. I hope everyone enjoys the stories as much as I did.  Thanks so much for supporting Indie authors!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Meet Travis Perry, the Visionary Behind Mythic Orbits

This is revolution #1 of 3 of my interview with Travis Perry, the visionary and editor behind the 2016 Mythic Orbits anthology.  AND (drum roll!) Mythic Orbits is now available in paperback! Click on the book link below.

Welcome, Travis! I guess the obvious first question is . . . When did you come up with the idea for the 2016 Mythic Orbits anthology? What prompted you?

Travis:   I think I was in part inspired by another anthology called "Realmscapes" which was for the Realm Makers conference in 2015 (a conference focused on Christian Speculative Fiction writers). Like a number of anthologies I have participated in of late, Realmscapes had a theme, in this case, the theme was escape. Every story submitted had to be about escape in one way or other.
I submitted a story that was not accepted for the anthology. It occurred to me that it would be nice to do an anthology without any common theme, letting authors submit their personal best stories, because it can be difficult to be inspired when somebody else hands you a theme. "Who wouldn't want to see a collection like that?" I thought. "An anthology of stories by Christian authors which were the best stories they happened to have available."

At the Realm Makers Conference in 2016 I asked around and in fact created a sign and hung it on myself, saying I was interested in the best stories people had available. I got a number of respondents in the anthology from doing that, including Kerry Nietz, Richard New, Kat Heckenbach, Lisa Godfrees, Cindy Emmet Smith, Linda Burklin, and Sherry Rossman. But obviously I eventually cast the net wider than simply contacting people I met at Realm Makers (only half of the 14 stories in Mythic Orbits 2016 come from Realm Makers alumni).

The interesting thing perhaps is my choice of Christian authors. For me, that was something I simply wanted to do. I am a self-identified Christian author and wanted to promote the works of other Speculative Fiction authors who self-identified as Christian. Primarily to demonstrate that we really are able to create some interesting stories.

Mark:  What is your definition of Speculative Fiction from a Christian or faith perspective?
Travis:   I know Christian authors who feel that being overtly Evangelical should never be done because it is either too pushy or winds up being terrible writing. Others of course feel a Christian MUST be overt. 

I tend to believe God is involved in the act of inspiration for those who are committed to him. By "committed to him" I mean I think it is possible for a Christian to shut out God from his or her thoughts and write something that in fact contradicts what God would want a person to do. So a Christian author or other creative type who is Christian should be careful to maintain a close relationship with God and examine each work individually to see if it matches up.

But other than what I just said, I think following inspiration where God lets it lead is what we are supposed to do. I assume that the God who put such variety in nature will inspire us as Christian authors in myriad ways. Some of us will be overt and very evangelical. Some will be more subtle. But there is room for both. And all varieties in between.

I should add that while I believe in following God-given inspiration in how overtly Christian stories should be, I think under most circumstances, Christian authors should be clear that they are Christian. Perhaps if you were facing possible severe persecution it would make sense to keep your faith secret- -say you were an Afghan living in Afghanistan, who was secretly a Christian. But otherwise I think Christians should be overt about their identity as believers.

Revolution #2 of my thought-provoking interview with Travis to come soon . . .

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Mythic Orbits 2016 Anthology, Fanning the Ember, and Mr. Trump

Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes dreams fall to the side when responsibilities and obligations backhand you across the jaw. There’s a curious thing about dreams, though. They’re hard to kill when even the smallest ember still burns.

And so it is with me. A small ember still glows, keeping a dream alive despite all else. What am I to do with that tiny flickering ember? What does anyone with dreams do with it? What do athletes do, or artists, or entrepreneurs? What do parents do with it when all they want is to make a better life for their children? They press on. They fan the ember. They swallow fear and doubt to follow their heart. And so it is with me . . . my heart, my dream. My writing.

I’m honored to be part of the Mythic Orbits 2016 anthology, alongside some very talented storytellers. My fantasy story, The Bones Don’t Lie, is up first in the anthology, the first tale anyone sees. No pressure there!

Though written some time ago, the publishing of Bones comes at an interesting time in America. All stories speak to society and our times at some basic level. Bones talks about how one’s zealous beliefs can cloud and distort reality. It’s happened throughout history . . . the Lost Cause after the Civil War, the Final Solution, interpreting sacred scripture, immigration, the election of Donald Trump. How can groups of people look at the same events, the same words, the same symbols, the same man and come away with such polar-opposite opinions? Must we always be right and the other person wrong? Can there not be a meeting in the middle? Can there never be compromise? Must we all draw our ideological lines in the sand?

Will Mr. Trump be the destroyer of civilization or the restorer of some bygone utopia? Not my president? Guess what, honey. I didn’t vote for Mr. Trump either but he is about to become our president. I just pray we can take off our blinders and put away our zealous self-righteous glasses and come together for all our sakes.

Thank you for taking the time from your busy day to read this blog. I'd be honored if you read The Bones Don't Lie and the other fine stories in the Mythic Orbits 2016 Anthology. Here's the link to the ebook on Amazon. --Mark 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Steve meet . . . Stephen

Recently I finished two books in quick succession. The first, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft; the second, Steve Jobs, the biography written by Walter Isaacson. On the surface, the books may seem unrelated. I mean, how can you compare a book on fiction writing against a biography of one of the most polarizing business icons in the last 100 years? My answer – Easily!! The truth is, the books are very much related . . . in soul and essence, in philosophy, and in power. 

 First, let’s just take the principle characters. Stephen King is simply one of the most prolific writers ever. His tales of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy have sold over 350 million copies worldwide and have been adapted into numerous films. Steve Jobs only changed the world as we know it by revolutionizing six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. He is the driving force behind iconic products like the Mac. iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
In reading King’s book and Jobs’ biography, I found a common thread woven throughout the pages, an insight into their drive and motivation. I also saw how both men intuitively connected with everyday people—both in the books they wanted to read and in the electronic gadgets they craved. What follows is a few quotes from both men that I found strikingly similar.

Friday, March 25, 2016

the dichotomy of the human race

Gosh, I’ve been a way for a long time! I’ve spent the vast majority of my spare time since January 1 working on a pro bono database project for a local nonprofit. I really got in over my head with that one!  Now it’s time to switch from my techie geeky IT software engineer mode back to my techie geeky SciFi/Fantasy writer mode.

Hmm . . . is there a difference?

I’m going to make this post short, but the thoughts have stirred deep in my spirit for the last several days, ever since the nasty devastation that rocked the beautiful city of Brussels recently. While listening to some of my favorite music, I pondered the dichotomy of the human race, the polar extremes of human nature. Listen to the music. Maybe you’ll hear the same question that it whispered to me – How can a species capable of such beautiful stirring art also be capable of such hatred and wanton destruction?

I don't have an answer either.



Thursday, December 24, 2015

And on earth peace, good will toward men . . . hmmm

It’s late on December 24th and Christmas Eve 2015 is quickly drawing to a close. Carols have filled my house for the last couple of weeks, not the Rudolf, Santa Baby, and jolly old Saint Nick kind, but the ones that tell of the truer, deeper meaning of the holiday – Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Little Drummer Boy.

The music whispers peace and joy in the background, but my mind is focused in a far different direction.
O holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
I’m focused on frustrating circumstances that have plagued my life over the last several months. I’m not talking ISIS or the Middle East or Terrorists. I’m talking about home, my backyard. I’m talking family. I’m talking friends.
Said the night wind to the little lamb,
do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb
The music whispers to me, but my heart feels frustration and discouragement and, yes, more than just a touch of anger. It churns in my gut. It’s a bitter taste.
Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o'er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.
My music and calendar tell me it’s Christmastime. They speak to me of a holy time, a joyous time, and I suddenly feel my hypocrisy. Christmas calls to me to refocus my heart. It wants my heart. God wants my heart. My friends deserve my heart.
Little baby
Pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too
Pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give our king

And I’m left with nothing more than this timeless simple message . . .

Merry and blessed Christmas to one and all. --Mark

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Red Wedding -- Stark Imagery

Recently I plopped myself on the sofa and indulged in some Game of Thrones binge watching. (For me, “binge” consists of watching two consecutive episodes before getting too antsy.)  LONG before HBO adapted George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series for TV, I’ve been a HUGE fan since reading book 1: A Game of Thrones back in 2001.

As I watched, I started thinking about the infamous Red Wedding. (A Storm of Swords / HBO series: S3E9) and the impact the scene had on readers and viewers alike. If you’ve lived under a rock for the last few years and haven’t read or watched the series, STOP NOW if you don’t want spoilers!