Violent and gritty, mysterious and frightening, Lucia spins out a consistent stream of tight prose. Constant tension and ever-building suspense, I could not put the book down.Reviews are what they are. I'm sure after I've been doing this a little longer, I'll probably get less excited over them, but again, like author Thomas Smith's review earlier this week, I really appreciate this review because it says a lot about the collection's readability, at least to me.
I've known Phil for awhile; and I know his tastes. He likes his fiction quick, terse, engrossing, and fast-paced. That I had enough substance in there to please someone like Thomas Smith, but also maintained a consistent enough pace to snag someone like Phil Tomasso makes me very pleased indeed.
Up next is the cover for Anthology 2: Inner Demons Out, the speculative collection produced by The Four Horsemen, the same folks who bring you AnthoCon every year. Last year's Anthology: Year One featured my story "Lament." This year, Anthology features an introduction to my fictional Billy the Kid with the short story "Down in the Dark." Stylistically it's very different from "Lament," heavily inspired by Robert E. Howard weird westerns, so I'm eager to see if folks like it.
On another note, if you're in the Wilkes, PA area tomorrow, come on over to the Barnes & Noble in the Arena Hub Plaza between 2 and 5 PM for the eighth (Ninth? Can't remember) annual Halloween Horror Book Signing. This year, the ante has been upped with guests Brian Keene and Mary Sangiovanni, because the CRM (Customer Relations Manager) at this Barnes & Noble has made a gutsy move: to stock Brian's Deadite titles, even without that notorious return policy.
This is a big thing - as detailed in Brian's blog post about the event - and should be supported, because it could be a sign to Barnes & Noble upper-ups that a new way of doing things could be beneficial for them and their customers. Anyway, the lineup offers Brian, Mary, myself and K.H. Koehler, Ron Breznay, Lorne Dixon, and John Koloski, and hopefully the signing will be big enough success to turn some corporate heads.
Finally, today: some thoughts on writing about...God. In fiction.
I'm working through the umpteen draft of my Billy the Kid weird western novel, Down in the Dark, and without offering too many spoilers, I've come up against a conflict I've encountered several times before; a conflict that prompted me not to write for the CBA (Christian Bookseller Association) about six years ago when I first started out, and that's this: God being an operative element in a work of fiction - either directly or indirectly - offers up quite a quandary.
Here's the thing: one of the most important elements (in my opinion) of fiction is suspense. Let's be honest - that's what keeps most of us reading. We want to know what happens next. And the more uncertainty there is, (in the right hands, anyway), the greater the suspense, the higher the tension, the more we're drawn to continue turning those pages.
And therein is the problem I encountered when writing my early drafts of novels aimed at the CBA. Because - especially back then - any depiction of God as a force in those novels had to ultimately win out. God is sovereign, He is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, and - in these kinds of novels, anyway - He was ultimately going to win. If you wanted to be published in the CBA, that is.
And I just couldn't do it. Even if, as an individual, I believe those things to be true, the whole power of engrossing fiction is that sense of uncertainty. With God so heavily "in the machine" in those novels...where's the uncertainty? That's why I read very little to almost NO CBA fiction, because they always end with God on top, evil on the bottom, and all the main characters (depending on the authors) ending up "saved" (pun totally intended).
Now, understand - I'm not slamming CBA fiction. It exists because there's a market for it, and those writers work every bit as hard as any other writer. But for ME, I simply have no interest in writing a story in which I already know the ending. Maybe there can exist some slight uncertainty in specific details of the characters' plights, but in the end - to get published in the CBA - their ultimate fates had to unfold in a certain way.
So this is why I chose to enter the secular market. However, my fiction comes from who I am, so it's inevitable that some of my stories are influenced by my faith, and this still leads me to that struggle: that the "God" featured in my fiction very likely doesn't mirror how I REALLY think of God, but if I'm engaged in the craft of spinning a yarn, my chief goal is to entertain and engross and prod readers further on with uncertainty and suspense...not teach a Sunday School lesson, or preach from a pulpit.
I'm there right now in Billy the Kid: Down in the Dark. Without revealing too much, the Ark of the Covenant features heavily in the story, and I find myself grappling with how I want to portray it. BIBLICALLY speaking, the Ark was directly connected to God, carried around His essence, ergo: was a part of God. In that sense, how can the Ark ever be corrupted or used for evil, and how could an evil force ever hope to use the Ark for its nefarious purposes?
Of course, evil could be deluded and wrong. AKA, those silly Nazis who got their faces burned off in Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, I'm weighing the idea of presenting the Ark as a gift to the Israelites - a resource imbued with cosmic power - that is neither good NOR evil. Because of this, it can be turned to nefarious purposes, because it's simply a cosmic weapon.
Here's the thing: my portrayal of the Ark and God (because the backdrop is a cosmic war between Good and Evil) in Billy the Kid doesn't necessarily correspond with my personal views of either those entities. However, personal spiritual/religious beliefs don't make for engaging, engrossing fiction. I want suspense. I want uncertainty. And for that to happen, God can't take as a big role on the stage in my fiction as He does in my life.
Does that make sense? I'm still grappling with it a little, because at the same time, I don't want to offend anyone. But to me, it seems clear: it's REALLY tough to write engaging, engrossing fiction spiced with uncertainty, but also feature an omnipotent God that's going to fix everything in the end.
I suppose I'll never find a good answer for this and that I'll always grapple with it, but I believe that's a good thing. Some of the best writing comes from conflict, a position of uncertainty, because so often we as writers discover things just as much as readers, and if I'm entertained and surprised by my own story, it's a safe bet readers will be, also.