The Friday Muse – Astrid

The Friday Muse (Cropped)Today’s Friday Muse piece reveals a new location on the planet of Anaisha – perhaps a location we’ll see in the third book of my Expired Reality series? Who knows…

Astrid
Laughter once echoed through these hallways. A joyous raucous. The people used to dance here, under a blue sky filled with sunshine and a dark sky bleeding with moonlight. Elaborate parties were once thrown here, filled with stunning costumes, war-torn romances, and dazzling magic. Victories were toasted, glories were reveled in, and successes were shared. This was once a place of beauty and grandeur, a place envied by the outsiders. Here is where crops grew in excess of the population. Nobody here ever lacked. Food covered the surface of every table, and clothing covered all flesh.

castle-in-the-sky_MJbizmqOThis place lived in plenty…once. The Land of Plenty is what the outsiders called it. Me…I called it a mirage. I knew it wouldn’t last long. I watched as each took pleasure without giving thanks to the one they call the Invisible God, the one who blessed them with everything they possessed. None of what once was is anymore. The dark sky – filled with thunderclouds and constant rain – refuses to speak of the prior years. A heavy sadness fills the hallways, whispering regrets in the ears of those who are willing to listen.

I live here only because I have pity and sadness within my spirit for this place. It anchors me to these stone walls, refusing to let me pass through to the valley beyond. So much was possible in the days of Astrid’s glory. But the people became drunk on their own pride, drugged with their own arrogance. The temples which were set up for worship to the Invisible God were torn down first. Then the books – the tomes of the Invisible God’s edicts –  were burned in mountainous piles in the courtyard. Lastly, those who still spoke in secret whispers to the Invisible God were tortured and killed.

I was sent here to give the people one last chance to turn around, to turn back the clock and rebuild the temples, rewrite the tomes. They were given a second chance – and they spit in my face, cast me out into the Wasteland with nothing more than a sack full of fish bones.

And it was with that action that the Kingdom of Astrid fell.

Guest Post: David Alderman

David N. Alderman:

I did a guest post on Patrick Todoroff’s blog a few days ago, and in it I discuss edgy Christian speculative fiction, it’s place in the fiction marketplace, and our publishing company’s Kickstarter campaign.

Originally posted on Hot Space Station Justice:

Official BannerDave Alderman and the Crossover Alliance authors represent a shift in biblical-based spec-fiction, one that resonates with me. Seeing as the Crossover Alliance Kickstarter is in full gear, I figured it was appropriate for Mr. Alderman to do a guest post here at HSSJ

***

The Crossover Alliance and Kickstarter Campaign
A shift has been slowly occurring in the Christian fiction market. In years past, the definition of Christian fiction did not allow for content that extended beyond a PG rating, and anything considered ‘edgy’ or otherwise offensive was rejected by publishers. These publishers weren’t merely the gatekeepers barring entry to the possibilities of becoming a published author, but they were also the gatekeepers barring entry into genres that fell outside the norm of the traditional fare.
Then the self-publishing movement occurred, and Christian authors realized they didn’t have to follow the rules anymore. A genre known as edgy Christian…

View original 434 more words

For The Sake of the Call

20150329_103436Many of you know that I proclaim to be a writer. And to many of you, when that statement is made, you probably envision me sitting at a desk, building imaginary worlds and creating imaginary characters to fill those imaginary worlds. But to be honest, when I say that I am a writer, the statement means so much more than a simple proclamation of interest or career.

Many years ago, I was faced with the choice to either settle down in Arizona to pursue writing or to move to Seattle, Washington to pursue Bible college. Seattle seemed like the ‘right’ choice. I mistakenly thought all Christians were called to ministry within the church, and so how could wanting to pursue ministry along those lines be wrong? I mean, I had my tuition paid for, friends and family knew, accepted, and supported that I was leaving, and everything was set for me to go.

At the last minute, after realizing that God was actually giving me the choice of what path I wanted to journey down, I decided to stay in Arizona. That lone choice triggered an incredible adventure that has left me with no regrets. I went through what felt like a dozen 9-5 jobs, met and married my wife, Michal, and eventually pursued writing ‘full-time’.

In my younger years, I thought being an author was about sitting in a desk for hours a day, sketching out the drafts to many award-winning manuscripts. I would be written about in Poets and Writers magazine, I would hobnob with other well-known writers, and I would wear a custom-tailored blazer and stand in front of the freshman class of my old high school and talk about the success becoming a writer has given me.

Reality couldn’t have been further from my own delusions.

Writing for me isn’t just something I woke up one morning and decided to pursue. The very act of writing, the very act of creating, has been calling to me since before I was a teenager. It isn’t just a choice to craft grand stories. It’s the very thing – the very purpose – God birthed within me.

It’s my calling.

And what I didn’t realize years ago was that every calling – every dream that you pursue – will eventually require sacrifice. Personal, financial, relational…sacrifice. The sacrifice comes when you are faced with the choice to either continue pursuing your calling or to settle for something less, something easy, something comfortable.

The true sacrifice of my calling came when I sensed God’s voice ushering me out of the comfort of a 9-5 job and into the profession of writing full-time. I gave up the comfort and security of a weekly paycheck to pursue imaginary characters and far off worlds. There were times – many times – I felt foolish and guilty for doing such a thing. Over the course of a few years, sacrifice came calling time and time again when my wife and I faced financial difficulty after financial difficulty. Where were we going to get the money for groceries? The phone bill? Gas? Time and time again we faced these dilemmas, yet time and time again God came through for us.

Sacrifice came again, but in a different form, when we were faced with the decision to move to San Francisco to help start a church. The Bay Area is by far the most expensive area to live in within the United States, and we were already living pretty close to the poverty line in Arizona. Moving to the Bay Area meant moving away from nearly our entire family, including my dad who was having a litany of health issues. But we moved out of obedience to God. Little did we know that we weren’t moving for the church plant. We were moving into isolation and exile so God could do His perfect work in us as individuals and as a family unit.

WP_20140715_057It’s been two years since we moved here. Much has changed in me, my family, and in my writing. We’ve cut many unhealthy ties to friends and family. I’ve grown quite close to my grandfather who lives out here, and I’ve grown quite fond of California’s beautiful geography. My skills as a writer seem to have progressed, and now I’m getting ready to launch an online publishing company.

Months ago we sensed God calling us back to Arizona. My heart broke over the decision, and I fell into confusion many times regarding the act of moving back. I felt lost in a spiritual fog. I wanted badly to stay in California, but the constantly rising cost-of-living and the sheer amount of people here were driving us out. I didn’t want to leave, but then again I did. I didn’t know if God wanted us to leave, but then again I knew He did. I couldn’t get over my own doubts and insecurities.

Through my struggles, I contacted a friend to help me navigate the choppy waters. We talked, and the most important thing I garnered from our conversation was that I should go where God’s calling on my life could thrive the most.

What is God’s calling on my life? Writing? Yes. And now publishing? Yes, that too. These are the things I do not just for a ‘living’, but because I can’t not do them. I am compelled to do them. I am wired to do them. They are the things I was always meant to do. And in wanting them to succeed – in wanting myself to succeed – I have come to realize that I must move for various reasons:

Cost of Living –
The wages that come from being a published author and running an online publishing company do not scale to cost-of-living. That means if I make a dollar from either one of these, that dollar has the same worth whether I am in Arizona or California. However, a dozen eggs can cost $1.29 in Arizona, whereas a dozen eggs can cost $3.84 in the Bay Area. That dollar I just made will go significantly further in Arizona. That means I can pour more of that dollar back into my writing and the publishing company.

Time –
Everyone’s time is valuable, and even moreso if you have children. I’m able to work from home each day because my wife works full time and I care for our three-year-old. It takes a lot to juggle watching my son, keeping our home clean, writing, marketing, and building an online business from the ground up. This doesn’t take into account family and down time.

Living here in the Bay Area, my wife’s commute to work is sometimes ridiculous, eating away 2 – 3 hours most days. Some of that time is taken out of my own schedule because we share one vehicle. That is valuable time that could be spent on a million other things. In Arizona, her commute is a half hour, maybe forty minutes for the day.

Spiritual Environment –
Yes, we originally moved to the Bay Area to participate in a church plant. That fell through before the doors of the church officially opened. I realized that my calling wasn’t to start a church, but to keep writing. As many Christians know, the Bay Area – and San Francisco in particular – is a spiritual battleground. That fact alone makes it difficult to find a happy, healthy church to plug into. It’s not to say there aren’t any, they’re just few and far between. And the ones I have found are either ill-equipped to handle large families, or they are a forty-five minute commute.

This also isn’t to say that just because there isn’t a church to plug into is reason enough to leave the Bay Area. If that was the case, none of the churches in the Bay Area would exist. I’m coming at this from the viewpoint of someone who has the calling to write, not church plant, and in that regard I need to focus on writing in terms of career and my family in terms of a good church to throw roots down into.

Arizona on the other hand – at least for me, personally – has a wealth of healthy churches that are all family friendly and within miles of one another. This makes it much easier to plug in and get the family integrated in a healthy, loving community of believers.

These three reasons alone have pushed me to realize that Arizona is the place that would benefit me, my family, and the calling God has placed upon me the most. The talents and resources I am given should not be wasted, and so it’s time to move to a place where their value can be stretched further.

But this move – as with all things connected to my calling – will require sacrifice. I have to leave my grandfather, which is the biggest drawback. I have to leave this beautiful weather and beautiful geography and return to the desert and to the heat. And, I have to return to the place where there are many relationships I just don’t want to be around.

20150328_070603But thanks to my time out here, I’m stronger now. I’m more outspoken. I’m less shy, and more confident in myself as a person and in my skills. Our family unit is stronger. Our faith is stronger. In fact, when I stop and take inventory of my time out here, I realize that my time out here – in exile, in isolation – has prepared me for my return to Arizona.

It’s funny how God works things out…

The Friday Muse – Violet Dawn

The Friday Muse (Cropped)For those of you who have read my Black Earth novels, you’ll know Violet Dawn from some of the quotes at the beginning of the books, and some of the artwork found throughout the series. She’s an enigmatic character that I have yet to explore fully, but this little snippet gives me the chance to start the journey into her background.

Violet Dawn
Donald Respy, a male reporter for the Violent Underground newspaper, took a seat on the red leather couch, afraid to touch anything in her apartment. Violet Dawn was known to be a germaphobe, and she hadn’t set the rules for her place when he first arrived at her apartment to do his interview with her for the newspaper. Instead, upon answering the door, she left him in her foyer and went straight back to the canvas she was currently painting: a lonely daisy, the flower rising tall above the blades of grass surrounding it. Behind the daisy was a field of trampled flowers of many varieties and colors. Violet was in the midst of painting one of the crushed flowers, a violet.

How appropriate, Donald thought. “So, how did you come to be a painter?”

“Artist,” she corrected as she dipped her brush in some purple paint set to the side of her easel. “I am an artist.”

“But aren’t painters artists?”

“Not all painters are artists. You are only an artist if you bleed all over your work.”

Donald scribbled her quote on his notepad, unsure if he should ask a follow-up question. “So, how did you come to be an artist?”

Paint (Resized)“I took a risk one day. Remember that movie, The Matrix? Remember when Neo takes the red pill?”

“Yes.”

“That was a risk that Neo took to find the truth in everything. One day, I slit my wrist – figuratively – and bled my anger, my love, and all the emotions I felt in between upon the canvas. That’s the day I became an artist.”

Donald began scribbling down her quote, and stopped for a moment to study her figure. She wore blue jeans and a red blouse, and her figure was that of a perfect hourglass. Donald wasn’t sure how old she was – she never, ever gave her age in any of her interviews – but he could easily guess she was in her thirties. The white smock she wore over her blouse had a large black oak tree embroidered on it. Her sneakers were Sketchers.

“Your stare is burning a hole into my right butt cheek,” she said, dropping her paint brush on the edge of the easel before turning to him. Her bright red hair came out from behind her head in all directions, like a long cluster of fiber optic cable. Donald was certain his cheeks had turned the same shade.

She simply grinned and motioned to the painting.  “Done.”

He nodded. “Very nice.”

“Oh, I wasn’t asking your opinion,” she said. “I’m just stating a fact. I’m done. Well, not completely done.” She picked up a piece of white paper and set it on the edge of the easel underneath the painting. “This will be the caption that goes with the picture.”

Donald set his notepad on the surface of the glass coffee table and stood to get a closer look at the canvas. “And the flowers were trampled under their feet,” he read. “All of them were. But the daisy rose above the others and stood tall, carving a way through the valley to the Mountain of God. Violet Dawn.”

She nodded. “I have to get the proper plating for the caption, but other than that, I’m done.”

“What does that caption mean?”

She shrugged. “How am I supposed to know?”

“Because you wrote it.”

“I did. Artists are simply conduits, Mr. Respy. Conduits to the emotions around us. Conduits to the darkness and light in this world. Conduits to the spiritual realm. Just because I painted this painting, and just because I wrote that quote, doesn’t mean I understand what any of it really means. It’s left open for interpretation. Open for examination.” She took a step toward him, leaning in near his face so close he thought – with a delighted expectancy – that she might kiss him. “The real meaning behind the painting is the meaning you apply to it. What does this painting mean to you?”

Daisy (Resized)He stepped back, giving himself room to examine her artwork more closely. “It’s a daisy that has lasted some chaotic event. Maybe some global disaster. Or maybe some kid came by and trampled all of the flowers and missed the daisy because his mother yelled for him to come home.”

Violet crossed her arms and nodded. “I can see that. What else?”

“Nothing more. I don’t know what the Mountain of God is supposed to refer to in your caption.”

“It could be anything that means something to you spiritually. Or it could be an actual mountain that God has appointed as His own.”

Donald picked up his notepad and pencil from the coffee table. “Ms. Dawn, where exactly do you get your inspiration from?”

“No more questions, Mr. Respy. You know all you need to know about me by viewing my work. Like I said before, I bleed all of myself into my work. Everything you want to know about me is on that canvas.”

The Friday Muse – Roaming V

The Friday Muse (Cropped)Sorry for the hiatus on The Friday Muse pieces, but I’ve been pretty busy with projects and the such. Today’s piece is something I sketched out about nine months ago. It’s connected to my Expired Reality series, but even I’m not sure if it’s before the series or after. Anyway, enjoy!

Roaming V
A purple silhouette in the shape of the female form. Flat, without any identifying details, much like a blank cardboard cutout. That was all the woman was to Dellaray, even though it was known that the woman was so much more than a mere cutout or silhouette. She was a hologram. She was an A.I. – Artificial Intelligence – although the ‘Artificial’ part wasn’t as true as it once was. Verspe was more than a computer program, more than a robot. She had gained an awareness. She had gained a spirit, although Dellaray knew not of how she had accomplished such a feat.

“Your blood pressure is rising,” Verspe stated in her usual monotone female voice. “As a result, your breathing has increased, and your perspiration levels have risen dramatically.”

Campfire (Resized)I move the thick stick into the makeshift campfire, stoking the flame in hopes of keeping the heat in our cave until morning. The downpour outside the mouth of our dwelling space threatens to flood us out if the water level reaches the cave entrance which is three feet above the ground level of the forest. The rainwater was at nearly two feet when I last checked a half hour ago.

I have never seen it rain so much before.

Verspe moves her glowing projection close to the fire. Her figure fades in and out depending on what angle I look at her from. The firelight is doing a good job of washing her out. I know she is a mere hologram, but sometimes she personifies a human being better than some friends I have.

“You are worried of the rainwater,” Verspe says.

I stoke the fire some more before setting my stick on the ground and pulling the front of my thick denim coat shut to seal out the cold wind that is sneaking its way into our space. “Yes.”

“At this rate, the rainwater will begin to flood the cave in approximately – ”

I wave my hand at her to shut her up. “Zip it, robot girl. Okay? I have enough on my mind right now, I don’t need your depressing statistics. Just…just let me rest for a bit.”

“You would rather die in your sleep?”

“It’s the best way to go,” I whisper as I stare into the fire. “You don’t have to worry about death though, do you? You’re some fucked up artificial intelligence that isn’t really even here.”

“I am here. I am just not embodied in a form that you approve of.”

“Tell me, robot girl, is there anything we can do about the rainwater? Is there higher shelter somewhere?”

“There is, but it is unwise to pursue it.”

“Why is that? The wind is cold, but I can deal with it if the shelter isn’t far from here.”

“Sarppers.”

I shudder at the name. “You never told me there were Sarppers close by.”

“You never asked.”

“You shit-for-brains!” I stand to my feet and kick dirt into the fire. A few moments later, the source of my warmth is put out, but the glowing purple freak next to me is not. “Extinguish yourself or go dark or whatever the hell you do when you turn yourself off.”

“I cannot turn myself off. It is against my programming. The Anaishan Sentry Unified Sector does not allow a Roaming V to shut down. Ever. I must monitor your health and well-being until you are safely in the custody of the proper authorities.”

“Monitoring my health and well-being is much different than doing something to protect my health and well-being. If I had known Sarppers were nearby, I wouldn’t have picked this cave.”

“They are twenty yards to the west. It is very possible they know nothing of your presence here.”

“That’s reassuring.”

Forest (Resized)The rain stops. The wind stops. I draw near to the mouth of the cave and look out into the thick forest beyond. All I can make out is a massive turtle shell the size of a one-story house. The shell glows red, which tells me that my time is already up. I won’t have the opportunity to run, to hide, to flee.

“You have received your death sentence, Dellaray Realia,” Verspe says. I have a few moments to realize what has happened, that Verspe led me out here to execute me. Nobody will ever know that’s why I was led out here. I thought she was leading me to civilization so that I could be tried by a civil court. Instead, I realize I have been led into a trap meant to execute me in the vilest way without the Anaishan Sentry Unified Sector causing a public outcry.

Warmth fills my britches as I lose control of my bowels. It has begun. My nose suddenly bleeds, and my head feels like a stone is inflating within my tiny skull. Before everything blacks out, I hear the pulsing groan emanating from the turtle shell, a sound that I should have been prepared for. And then all at once, I collapse unto death.

My Kickstarter Campaign Is Now Live!

Kickstarter LogoAfter months of work, I’m proud to say my Kickstarter campaign is live! This campaign is to raise funds to cover the costs associated with publishing a full year’s fiction catalog through my new publishing company, The Crossover Alliance. Check out the Kickstarter page for more details and to see some of the awesome rewards you can snag by pledging to this cause –

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2054728317/the-crossover-alliance-first-year-fiction-catalog

And check out the official Kickstarter video –

Goodbye, California

20150328_074843 (Resized)It’s been two years since my family and I made a ridiculous leap of faith and moved to the Bay Area.

To be honest, it feels like ten.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t lost and confused when we first moved out here. Our initial reason for moving was to help start a church plant in the heart of San Francisco. For our family, that fell through months after we moved here. From that point on, it was an overly challenging and incredibly emotional ordeal to find our place out here and to figure out where this place fit in with God’s plan for our lives.

Two years later, and I find myself not really wanting to leave California. This has been a testing grounds of sorts. It’s been my desert of wandering. I’ve been put through trial after trial, each designed to knock a bit more of the rough edges off and polish this vessel. It hasn’t been easy. In fact, this two-year period has been the hardest of my entire life. I’ve had to learn how to control my emotions, how not to hesitate so much, how to speak up more, and most important of all, I’ve had to learn how to be myself.

See, when you’re young, you know who you are. You may not know it at that time, but later in life, you’ll realize that the real you was formed in your youth. Your likes, your dislikes, your passions – they all develop when you’re a snot-nosed kid in junior high and high school. It’s when we’re thrust into the ‘real world’ that things get ugly, and that ugliness, that harshness of the world, knocks you around a bit, bruises you, makes you bleed. By the time the world is done with you, you can’t remember who you are or what you’re doing.

Sometimes you need to recalibrate. And sometimes, that recalibration is the reason God sends you somewhere far from friends and family, and allows you to face the challenges that will change you for better or worse.

This time here in California was my recalibration.

I’m returning to Arizona at the end of the month. I will wave a bittersweet goodbye to the state nearest to my heart. I’ll shed some tears, no doubt. But I’ll be returning to Arizona so much more different than when I left. And that’s definitely a good thing.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 43 other followers