New Crossover Alliance Logo

Over the past few weeks I have been working hard at pulling together the pieces needed to turn a small online community I started a few years ago – The Crossover Alliance – into an actual publishing company. This task is a lot of work, but it’s also very rewarding to know we’ll be able to provide a home for authors of such a unique genre as edgy Christian speculative fiction.

One of the many things I’ve been working on is the Crossover logo. I’ve been somewhat satisfied with it over the last couple of years, but I figured it was time to clean it up and add a bit of a pop to make it stand out better.

Crossover Alliance Logo 2014         Crossover Alliance Logo 2015 (C Edit White)

You can see in the before (left) and after (right) pic that I added a subtle drop-shadow to the ‘CA’ to give it more life, I pulled the ‘CA’ away from the red circle so it is its own entity, and I trimmed the overhang of the ‘C’ so the ‘C’ and the ‘A’ are one synchronous image.

What do you think?

Christian Fiction’s Bad Rap

5975464279_4e78c71c6d_zLast Tuesday I posted about how some Christians stray away from any type of entertainment that doesn’t fulfill their idea of good Christian morals and ethics. Today I’m going to talk about my perspective of the state of Christian fiction in today’s society.

I’ve noticed a lack of exciting and/or realistic Christian fiction in today’s market and the impact it is having on the attitude of readers (both Christian and non-Christian) venturing out to give Christian fiction a chance. This is the main reason why I created the Crossover Alliance (soon to be a publishing company) and the genre, Edgy Christian Speculative Fiction, under which I contain my Black Earth series. It is Christian fiction, but it contains elements and themes – violence, sexual themes, unhappy endings, cursing, magic, other worlds, aliens, rape, etc – missing from much of today’s typical Christian fiction.

Now, to start off, I’m not saying that Christian fiction HAS to have any one of these things to be good fiction. I’m also not saying that I include these elements in my own fiction simply to appease a particular demographic. The problem is that I see many authors crafting Christian fiction that veers so far away from these elements that they end up on the other side of the pendulum with corny, generic, watered-down ‘religious’ fiction.

I know one of the main problems is that many Christians believe that Christianity and any one of the elements listed above clash in such a way that there is no way for fictional entertainment to contain the both of them without our reality imploding from the very act. If the f-bomb is dropped, it can’t possibly be considered Christian fiction, right? If a woman is raped, if a villain wipes out a church camp in a spread of gunfire, if a character refuses the path of redemption by the end of the book, it can’t possibly be appropriate for Christian audiences or be publicly revealed as having been written by a Christian author. Right? Right?! Please, say yes so that you feed my insecurity issues about writing outside of the Christian box religion built for me! Say it!!!

Sorry, I’ve had a lot of coffee with my sugar as of late, and I’m growing a bit passionate about this topic. Aside from Christian romance – which is a different animal altogether – I’ve noticed, at least for me, that most Christian fiction falls into four categories:

6723344637_1f2611e22c_zThe Ambush Novel – You have Christian fiction that is written for non-Christians specifically – a sermon in the guise of a ‘great’ and/or ‘epic’ fantasy, science fiction, or horror novel. When the reader gets deep into the story, they are hit with what is clearly a sermon preaching a clear message of repentance and the need to turn to Christ or there will be much burning in Hell. This leaves the reader dumping the agenda-driven book on the floor in disgust, wishing it wasn’t against their beliefs to burn books for being this way. People read FICTION books to be entertained, not preached to. Trying to poorly disguise a religious agenda in a story only to ambush the reader with it after they’ve invested much of their time in the characters and plot is silly and gives Christian fiction a bad reputation.

This isn’t to say that Christian fiction or mainstream fiction can’t have some sort of agenda, but it needs to be brought through the story naturally. Of course, in writing fiction, there’s always some sort of message we’re trying to get out to the world whether we are fully aware of it or not. Readers don’t need one that’s going to jab them in the eyes and pull the rug out from under them.

Christian Stories – I consider these books vanilla Christian novels. The Left Behind Series, Amish romance, The Shack. These are novels that don’t shy away from the Christian label. They might be great books, but you can tell they are written for the Christian market and aren’t necessarily natural reads for non-Christians.

Borderline Christian Stories – These are books written by authors such as Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee, and Stephen Lawhead. These are books that clearly or semi-subtly advertise themselves under the Christian fiction banner but have captivating stories that can appeal to Christians and even non-Christians.

The Way of ShadowsSecular Fiction Written By Christians – These books hold Christian themes that are not plainly obvious. These themes are found threaded throughout a book full of edgy (sometimes Rated-R) content and themes. I applaud books with this quality because they have the ability to entertain Christians and non-Christians alike. Brent Weeks is a great ‘big-name’ example of an author who exemplifies this type of fiction. Read the Night Angel trilogy. Now. Do it! In fact, my good friend Paeter Frandsen did an audio interview with Brent Weeks where Brent speaks about his clear Christian faith. Check it out here.

The stigma that I see going around is that the term ‘Christian fiction’ just isn’t well-accepted in non-Christian circles. I know some of it is because some people are just genuinely not interested in religious fiction of any nature. But I also know that some of the reason Christian fiction is avoided is because it is stereotyped as being preachy, boring, corny or any other number of lame descriptions. And it’s a shame, because not all fiction with Christian themes falls into these descriptions. But the ones that do leave such a sour taste in the mouth of readers that it’s hard to rise above this generalized idea of what Christian fiction entails.

I guess some of it boils down to who you’re writing for. If you’re only writing for Christians who only read PG-rated fiction and you want to approach that demographic specifically, then by all means keep your fiction clean cut and relevant to Christians. The problem is, what is relevant to Christians as opposed to what is relevant to non-Christians? Don’t we all struggle with the same things in this life? The only difference is that Christians have accepted Christ’s redemption on the cross. But we all – Christian and non-Christian alike – struggle with the elements of evil in this world. Violence, death, suicide, drug addiction, alcoholism, abuse, jealousy. We are all sinners, so is it safe to assume that a Christian fiction story that contains the struggles of this world in a realistic light can be relevant to both non-Christians and Christians?6019355344_109eed98d0_zThis isn’t by any means an argument to conform to the world in order to appeal to it, but remember that as a Christian, we are ‘in’ the world. And to write fiction that mirrors the world we live in – with all of its vices – appeals to a larger audience of readers because it is believable and relatable fiction. And I think it’s a step that some of us Christian writers may be called to take. I assure you, not everyone is called to write fiction like this, but those of us who want to take a step outside the boundaries that the Christian market has set up should do so now. And remember, it’s not simply the act of wrapping a sermon in an f-bomb burrito, but it’s more along the lines of telling a great and entertaining story and threading themes of redemption, holiness, and forgiveness throughout.

So maybe I’ll propose a fifth category – edgy Christian speculative fiction. It does just what it says it does. It crosses the lines of secular and Christian fiction and brings about an exciting and Christ-centered genre that we definitely need more of.

Photo (253) courtesy of Jo Amelia Finlay Bever on Flickr
Photo (Crying Graffiti) courtesy of HollyEma on Flickr
Photo (3 People) courtesy of Wonderlane on Flickr

The Friday Muse – Ra’f, the Great Oak

The Friday Muse (Cropped)I’ve been working away at my current work-in-progress – Salt and Lyte - this week, and it seems to be coming along a lot smoother now that I’ve started sketching out character and environment profiles. Even though I had already written out a ton of character profiles and background on the world the story takes place in during NaNoWriMo, I still have numerous holes in the story and even more holes in the details of the story.

One of the big profiles that I recently wrote out is for Ra’f, the Great Oak, a centerpiece to the story and an essential plot element. If some of you recognize the name, Ra’f, it’s because the Codex of Ra’f is a tome that the main characters in my Expired Reality series have sought to find for some time. I won’t spoil things by exposing the connection between the Great Oak and the book, but I will give you all a bit of a background on the Oak:

Ra’f, the Great Oak

beautiful-lady-with-floral-background_GkLrv1IuAfter Veleriu (the planet my story takes place on) came into creation by the hand of the God of Lyte, the Void (a supernatural antagonist) moved across the planet, wrapping it in darkness. Before the planet succumbed to the terrible force of the Void, a mysterious woman – the Lady of the Forest (this is a placeholder title until I can create a name for her) – took a mystical acorn and planted it in a spot safe from the Void’s dark energy. She tended to the acorn. She watered it with the Brook of Haven’s fresh water supply, and she cast beautiful Lyte upon the seed until it eventually grew into an oak tree.

As the oak tree grew, the woman sang songs of worship to the God of Lyte for the wonderful miracle of nature that had grown before her very eyes. The Oak was unlike any other oak, in that it sang the same songs it heard the woman sing. The Oak also spoke wisdom to the Lady of the Forest, which she transcribed upon sheets of bark the tree shed for such a purpose. The Lady of the Forest gave the oak the name Ra’f, which means “Wise Teller”.

As the Oak grew, a lush forest grew around it. Soon, the Crimson Forest covered thousands of acres of land, pushing back the Void and scattering it to the edges of the planet where it took refuge within the Teel walls.

tree-made-of-lights_GyXaTCL_Many years after the Great Oak had grown hundreds of feet, people from elsewhere in the galaxy landed on the planet looking to colonize. The first expeditionary group found the Great Oak and were so astonished by the Oak’s singing and the wisdom which the Oak spoke that they began to worship it. The Lady of the Forest appeared and warned the group in doing so. She told them about the Great Oak, about the Void, and told them that it had been prophesied that they would arrive on Veleriu – as would others – and would establish the Kingdom of Lyte.

Eventually, the Kingdom of Lyte was built around the mighty tree.

Poopy-Faced Christian Prudes

111149945_1383a46520_bThis is actually a revised version of a post that I wrote a few years back when I was first trying to make a case for my own edgy Christian fiction series, Black Earth. I don’t feel the need to make a case for why I write what I write anymore, but I think some of these older posts are relevant, especially when we’re talking about Christian, edgy content, and the world we live in today.

First, I want to debunk an attitude that I’ve come across one too many times now: Christian’s vehemently judging non-Christians for participating in edgy entertainment – books, movies, music, video games, etc. What’s even more annoying is when Christians vehemently judge other Christians for the same thing.

I mean, c’mon, most of us have to admit that a good percentage – although not all – of the Christian population has the well-earned reputation of taking itself too seriously…

Harry Potter is evil.

Christian rap is Satan’s music.

Rated-R movies and Rated-M video games are causing us to kill one another.

These are attitudes I see in the Christian community ALL the time. Granted not all Christians feel this way, but some of those that do strive to wipe out any form of entertainment that doesn’t promote strictly Christian themes.

Harry PotterI am aware that even though some people believe Harry Potter is evil, it doesn’t make them wrong in regards to their opinion. It could be considered evil for them, personally. The issue I have is when Christians point the finger and make painfully obvious their disgust with those who DO enjoy Harry Potter. I used to be in that category, actually, many years ago. I thought Harry Potter was the anti-Christ in the guise of a children’s movie, but I have since matured in my views on that.

It goes without saying that there are definitely boundaries we need to put around ourselves and our children in regards to content in the arts. Some of us are genuinely more disturbed by certain themes than others. In this regard, we should probably keep ourselves from engaging in content that contains these themes. A rape victim may not feel comfortable watching a movie that portrays a girl being raped. Some are more squeamish to acts of violence in film and television. Some have an extreme distaste for crossover music. Some even struggle with sexual sins and probably don’t need to be watching anything that has a strong theme of sexual temptation.

217849066_f011b26437_zAside from these legitimate reasons to stay away from content one personally deems inappropriate, it seems some shy away from anything that contains merely the theme of evil because they are afraid it will rub off on them and turn them evil.

Some Christians too often neglect to look at a form of entertainment for what it has the potential to be: a platform for powerful stories, thought-provoking themes, and issues relative to our world today. Many neglect to use discernment when it comes to this and instead lazily write EVERYTHING off as evil, shunning any type of entertainment that contains cursing, sex, violence, or morally blurred lines. Personally, I find that these forms of entertainment simply reflect the world around us…

My neighbor curses, but I can’t shut him off.

A driver on the interstate cuts me off, I honk at him, and he follows me into my neighborhood hoping to start a violent feud.

While at work, my coworker hits on me and attempts to seduce me away from my wife.

This is real life.

I’m not saying that we should purposefully seek out a book or movie that is filled with cursing or sex simply for the sake of engaging our minds with cursing or sex. Once again, this is where discernment comes in. What I’m saying is that sometimes entertainment venues contain these things to reveal the truth in a story, to make them believable and draw us in. That’s really what parables were all about. Jesus told parables – mostly fictional tales – to get a sometimes complex spiritual truth across in a simple way that the majority could understand.

One of my favorite movies is The Dark Knight. The villain in the movie, the Joker, is clearly in opposition to Bruce Wayne, who wants to help make Gotham City a better place. Bruce has seen the seedy side of Gotham, especially with the murder of his parents. And even though Bruce is filthy rich, he realizes that money holds nothing to purpose, and so he finds his purpose in Batman, an icon meant to give the city hope. The Joker on the other hand has nothing to lose, and this makes him a great villain because he is willing to do anything – even self-destruct – to get his plans and purpose across. The Joker understands humanities dark side and even tries to turn humanity on itself by setting up for a prison transport and a passenger ferry to destroy each other. But humanity succeeds and, for the moment, evil takes a hit.

The JokerThe Dark Knight portrays the ultimate battle between good and evil, of a just man and an unjust villain, humanity versus humanity. There is no seemingly sure way of stopping the Joker without killing him. But Batman understands that killing isn’t always the answer. He knows if he kills the Joker, that he himself will become that which he battles: evil.

Anyone can pull any number of spiritual references from the movie, but I think Christians can gain a lot of insight by learning to breathe every once in a while and take in fine storytelling such as this. I understand that some may be sensitive to certain themes of violence, and the maniacal and truly insane persona of the Joker can be disturbing to many. But those situations aren’t what I’m addressing here. I’m addressing those who sneer at movies like this or at the Christians/non-Christians who choose to watch them.

I think we as Christians should learn not to be such prudes when it comes to some of this stuff. I’m not by any means suggesting we go out and live a sinful life through a constant stream of lewd or crude entertainment. But I think great stories, great characters, great moral conflicts, can be found in some great avenues of media that some of us have been avoiding like a communicable disease.

Photo (Sneer) courtesy of Scott on Flickr

Photo (Scared) courtesy of Capture Queen on Flickr

The Friday Muse – Salt Update

The Friday Muse (Cropped)Well, it’s been weeks since I last did The Friday Muse (holidays and all), so it feels good to be back in the saddle once again to talk about my writing. I do have an update for my current Work-in-Progress, Salt, so here we go:

For starters, I have decided to change the title of the book. From now on, I will refer to this particular project as Salt and Lyte.

I originally wanted to have this book published by this coming Spring, but with more of my focus falling on the start of my publishing company, The Crossover Alliance, I’ve pushed my personal deadlines out a bit. Salt and Lyte should be in all of your hands to read before the end of the year though, depending on the company’s publication schedule.

I’ve had to completely restructure my novel from the ground up. The main story still takes place in a medieval-type kingdom on another planet, however the origin story for my main antagonist (Legion) has changed drastically. Ironically enough, I ‘stumbled’ across the origins of my antagonist while I was writing out the background to a goddess – the Goddess of Sult – who the people in my book worship. I don’t want to give too much away (yet), but this ‘goddess’ has a strong tie to the main character, Salt.

I’ll try to post some bits and pieces from the story in the coming weeks. Right now I’m just trying to get the character backgrounds, world-building, and government structure settled before moving forward anymore in the story.

On a related note, I’ve been using Scrivener to hash out this book, and I am loving the program!

Anyone Else Miss MADtv?

I was never a big fan of Saturday Night Live. Instead, I used to spend my Saturday nights watching MADtv. I think one of the main reasons I didn’t care for SNL was because I found most of their sketches too political or overreaching. MADtv reminds me more of In Living Color (where Jim Carrey got his start), with funny sketches that aren’t always trying to convey a message or agenda.

Sadly, MADtv ended with their 14th season in 2009. Aside from MADtv’s character, Stuart (Stranger Danger), Dot was one of my favorites on the show.

The Crossover Alliance Publishing Company

publishing-contract_GyrzDPDd

“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~ Toni Morrison

In 2007, I did just that during National Novel Writing Month. Mixing Christian themes and real-world content, I crafted a short story that would later become the first novel in my Black Earth series. Knowing Christian publishers wouldn’t accept my work because of the ‘edgy’ content, and secular publishers wouldn’t accept my work because of the Christ-centered themes, I went the route of self-publishing.

I knew that in order to separate my work from the mounds of science fiction/fantasy/horror that I would have to create a unique genre title, and so edgy Christian speculative fiction was born. Between then and now, I came across other authors who were writing in the same ‘black sheep’ genre, and so I create The Crossover Alliance to give us all of us a place to connect and support one another.

Last year, we joined forces and published The Crossover Alliance Anthology – Volume 1, a collection of unique science fiction, fantasy, historical and horror stories falling within this unique genre. It was after that point it became clear there is a true audience for this type of fiction – and a decent gathering of authors who write in it.

Well, I’m happy to say that the next logical step has come. I’m proud to announce that in the coming months, I’ll be taking steps to build The Crossover Alliance into an actual publishing company. We’ll be taking advantage of the Print-On-Demand and digital publishing model while helping authors get their unique works into print and digital formats.

Everything that this entails will be announced in upcoming blog posts, but I can tell you that the first major step will be to launch a Kickstarter campaign next month to raise funds for our first year’s catalog of books.

Will you join me on this adventure? Do you know of anyone who has wanted to – or already has – written Christian fiction with real-world content? Let’s jump into the publishing waters together and watch this specialized genre of fiction explode!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers