It’s now officially less than two week before the Context SF Con, and I’ve just received my panel schedule, which I’m anxious to share with you all. I’ll be discussing some fascinating topics with some very talented and entertaining people, so there’s sure to be something worthwhile at each and every one.
When I’m not at a panel, I’ll probably be at the Indy Horror Writer’s table in the book vendor space, selling and signing, talking to fans, and hanging out with Sara Larson, Eric Garrison, A.D. Roland (the Haunting Blue cover artist—sssshhhh, don’t tell anyone) and more.
10:00 p.m. @ Arena District
Horror: Books and Movies
With Michael West, David L Day, and David Burkhead.
1:00 p.m. @ Short North
Point of View
With Gary Wedland and Linda Robertson.
6:00 p.m. @ Arena District
With Lucy A. Snyder, Linda Robertson, and Matthew Cook.
8:00 p.m. @ Short North
Ghosts: Are they real or just scary?
With Karin Shah, Mark Evans, and Joseph Martino.
Ask most non-Hoosiers (and many Hoosiers for that matter) what Indiana is most famous for and they’ll most likely rattle off the Indianapolis 500. After that, some might offer a blanket statement about awesome college basketball or football. And of course, everyone knows about the Peyton Manning-era Indianapolis Colts, while a few years earlier they might instead talk about the Reggie Miller Indiana Pacers. Somewhere before or after these answers, corn and cornfields come to mind, but that takes us literally off the beaten path.
Ask those same people the following question: “What annual event draws the biggest crowd and creates the most tourist revenue for the state of Indiana?” Easy, many would say: the Indy 500. What else could it be? But the Hoosier in tune with the hidden pulse of the city, who knows the true interests of so many quiet people beyond the media-blitzed sports obsessed Hoosier, can tell you it’s actually Gen-Con, a four day gaming convention, transplanted from Wisconsin since 2003, that allows the hidden, secret geek-pulse of fantasy, horror, science fiction, (and games devoted to same) fans to explode onto the city, usually in the form of extravagant, borderline-vulgar costumes, or herds of bodies wearing odd t-shirts with sayings and images confounding to the non-fan.
I think the biggest kick I get out of attending these conventions, (outside of catching up with old friends or meeting celebrities and other authors) is watching the faces and reactions of the non-fans, what we of the body call the “mundanes.” I love seeing a group of purple elf-girls approach the hostess of a steakhouse to sign their group up for a table, usually under the name Eleana DragonSpawn or something equally confounding for the hostess to call out. Or the dumbfounded look on the bellboy’s face as he carries the Klingon’s luggage down the hall to his hotel suite. The look that says, I lost my request to get the weekend off, and now I have to put up with this shit, freaks dressed in bizarre costumes, speaking their strange language, drinking and eating and yelling and starting fights all because of their pointless games.
And then, once the long weekend is over, the bellboy can return to the familiar routine of escorting the visiting football fans in their Cincinnati Bengal jerseys. The hostess can breathe a sigh of relief as the fans of the rival teams down a few beers, scream team statistics at each other, and occasionally fight. At least, she may think, without a trace of irony, it will be another year before she deals with the weird people again.
But the so-called weird people haven’t left. They’ve just returned to the underground. They’ve just changed costumes.
And that’s what James Ward Kirk exposes in this first of an annual anthology called Indiana Horror. Kirk puts his finger on the hidden pulse of Indy, the horror writer (and horror fan, for it’s not possible to write what you’re not fanatical about). James put the call out for all Indiana horror writers to stand up and be recognized, and in just a few months, his allotted space filled up with a huge gathering of the weird, the bizarre, the horrific, and the strangely literary. Amazing tales penned by established pros and promising up-and-comers: A.J. French, Eric Garrison, Christine Rains, Allen Griffen, Sara J. Larson, Spyder Collins, and James S. Dorr, to name just a few.
Are you shocked that our homey Midwestern state features so many talented authors with such an intense interest in macabre literature? Indiana Horror is committed to that growth—the growth of new talent, the growth of Dark Fiction in all its forms. Of course, the growth I speak of is gnarling and twisted, just as it should be.
But I’m not convinced we’re witnessing growth. Rather, I think Indiana Horror celebrates undergrowth. Not the blossoming of a new seed, but the exposure of a well-established, hidden pulse beneath racecars, basketball tournaments and football playoffs. A wicked throb beneath the cornfields, freeways, small towns and friendly facades of our great state—finally come to light, if only for a few hundred pages.
Prepare yourself as James Kirk exposes the hidden pulse of talent that is Indiana Horror.
July 6, 2011
Indiana Horror Anthology went live on Amazon the weekend of August 14th. The anthology includes this introduction, plus new submissions by Eric Garrison and Sara Larson. Indiana Anthology was the brainchild of James W. Kirk. I’ve previewed most of it and it’s pretty awesome. Order your copy here.
Clutching a bright blue trade paperback book in her hands, the punkish teenage girl steps through the door of the Café Expresso in Broad Ripple and looks around.
Her gaze falls on the willowy young woman already seated and waving a dark green book back at her. Breaking into a grin, Fiona “Blue” Shaefer heads over to the table and shakes hands with Skye MacLeod before taking a seat across from her.
Blue: Hi there, Skye! [Blue points to the Blue Spirit paperback in her hands] Thanks for answering my email.
Skye: How could I refuse? I mean, I get to talk about myself, right? [laughs]
Waitress: What can I get you?
Blue: Medium Mocha, please, extra syrup.
Skye: [nods at her cup on the table] I’m good, thanks.
Blue: [to Skye] So, it’s been so long since I moved away, I wasn’t sure if you still remembered waiting on me all those times at the Starbucks. It’s been almost a year!
Skye: It’s good to see you again, without a counter between us this time. Wow, you’re not a kid anymore, are you?
Blue: N-no… [nods at copy of Haunting Blue in Skye’s hands] I guess you could say I’ve grown up a bit. I’ve been through a lot since the last time I was in ‘The Ripple’. I always think of you at Starbucks, it’s weird to see you here in the Café Expresso.
Skye: Well, I still go to the Broad Ripple Starbucks sometimes, but after they fired me up in Nora, I just kind of prefer independent coffee shops.
Blue: And the coffee you have there…is that…uh…just coffee?
Skye: [rolls her eyes] You know, I’m not always boozing it up, kiddo. Just unleaded coffee today for me! I, uh, kinda had to promise Annabelle I’d cut back. Being a Vampire Noble in the game is awesome, but it doesn’t, like, pay the bills, you know?
Blue: Yeah, I hear you there. So… [looks around the room] If I understood what you wrote, you have a little guardian fairy named Minnie you have to be tipsy to interact with. Is she around now? Or can you tell?
Skye: [shrugs] I see her more without alcohol these days, but she’s also more independent of me, too. I haven’t seen her today. She’s becoming much more her own person. It’s good for her, but kind of sad, since I’d gotten used to always having her around, watching out for me. So, I’m going through two separate types of withdrawal, sort of. Three, really… [sighs] But I have Annabelle and my gamer friends to help me get by.
Blue: Oh, yes, Annabelle. [fans herself with paperback] I read all about you two. Only boy I can attract is the small town computer nerd but you…you land a firefighter. Every girl’s dream. Well…sorta.
Skye: [smiles and sighs] Actually, I adore nerdy guys. Stuart was the biggest nerd. Annabelle… well, she’s a bit like you, kiddo; adorable but a lot tougher than she looks.
[Waitress deposits Blue’s coffee, looks back and forth between Blue and Skye, winks at Blue, and returns to the counter]
Blue: (turning pink) Well, uh, thank you, Skye. And I’m not a prude, but it is a little weird. For months, all you used to talk about was Stuart this and Stuart that. Then he goes off with another woman, so you turn around bring in your own other woman. I’d call that sweet revenge if I thought you did it on purpose.
Skye: Stuart really betrayed me, Blue. He was the love of my life, then he sold me out. Blamed me for the fire in our apartment. Meanwhile, Annabelle saved my life. She was there for me when I’d lost everything. And, well… we can’t help who we fall for, right?
Blue: Don’t I know it? I would never thought I’d fall for a guy who plays Dungeons and Dragons. Speaking of roleplaying, tell me more about the Live Action Roleplaying game you’re into. I never played myself. Never really wanted to, then when I moved to Perionne and of course Chip talked me into it. But that was paper and dice. The live action vampire roleplaying thing seems like a whole other level, with costumes and the improv in character thing. Do players really take staying “in character” as seriously as you say in your book?
Skye: Oh definitely! Some people hate to break character, like, ever. I have a lot of fun with it, it’s good to get to be someone else for a while. And, for most of us, our pretend lives are a lot more glamorous than our actual lives. It’s like living in a story, and some days, you just don’t want the fantasy to end. Which, I know is funny coming from a girl who sees fairies. [laughs]
Blue: So… speaking of Fairies, I guess Indy has its own gnome-like Scottish Fairy who calls himself the “Transit King”? What’s up with that?
Skye: [laughs] I know, right? He’s actually pretty formidable, even if he seems to be a batty little old bum on the surface. He’s older than dirt and claims dominion over the bus system. I wonder if IndyGo knows about him? He’s mostly friendly, though I get the feeling you wouldn’t to tick him off!
Blue: Well, I didn’t see him on the bus on the way up, but then again, I try not to look very closely at the other passengers. It can get you in trouble. Speaking of colorful characters, tell me about this fella Leslie? The huge costume designer guy with the great vampire fashion sense—does he just make people look great for roleplaying vampires or can he work similar miracles for a prom or something?
Skye: [laughs] Oh yes, he’s larger than life! He wouldn’t turn you away, doll, not if I introduced you first. He specializes in costumes, nothing all that durable. But I guess a prom’s all about costumes, isn’t it? So… does this mean prom is close for you? So, I’m guessing you’re going with Chip?
Blue: No, I just meant any kind of party. [trails off] I don’t know, a big costume party would be great about now. Just dress up like someone else and…forget about everything for a few hours. Yeah, that would be nice.
Q: When you wrote the first Firebird books as secular novels, were you aware of the salvation message even then, or is this something you drew out in the rewrites? Did writing for a Christian Fiction house help bring out the message you wanted, or create problems you had to work around?
KT: The Bantam Books version was more of a “cultural conversion story,” but I feel the potential always was there. I had a great time thinking through Brennen’s heritage from a religious viewpoint, brainstorming possibilities and running them past my friends. The assistant pastor at my church was a particular help with Fusion Fire, which deals with the existence of evil within and without.
Q: What surprises can readers of the secular and previous Christian Fiction versions of the Firebird series expect in this new re-release?
KT: My favorite “surprise” is a set of maps, beautifully adapted from my hand-drawn originals by the gifted Jamie Upschulte. The new titles continue the family saga for two more generations, and our heroes are there. Just a glimpse in Wind and Shadow. More centrally in Daystar.
Q: Okay, here’s the question I’ve been dying to ask for years. Would you agree with my assessment that Crown of Fire seems to indicate your struggle as a believer wishing to serve God with your talent juxtaposed with the temptation of chasing bestselling fame as a “name” author on the wildly popular Star Wars books? Did this create a dichotomy in your career path? If so, how did you approach this then and how do you approach it now?
KT: It’s actually more complicated than that. Crown was originally supposed to be Books 3 and 5 of that expanded series I proposed to Bethany House. And the Star Wars books were all written by invitation, so honestly, it wasn’t possible to “chase fame” by writing more and more of them. By the time Crown was contracted to be published, I was far more emotionally invested in the Firebird series than in Star Wars, although I will always owe SW a deep professional debt. I even considered turning down the invitation to write Balance Point, because I was writing Crown when the offer came. My Bethany editor, Steve Laube, essentially said “are you nuts?”
Q: In the mid-2000s you went “off the grid” on a sabbatical for several years. Was Kathy on a “walkabout?”
KT: You might call it a walkabout, or maybe a pilgrimage. When my husband eventually lost his battle with alcohol abuse in 2004, I was too physically and emotionally exhausted to write. I took in a German exchange student for a year. I attended a C.S.Lewis conference at Oxford and taught at a writing conference in Pennsylvania. Then I went back to school.
Regent College in Vancouver, BC calls itself the unSeminary. It offers programs for Christians from all professions. Its focus on God as both Creator and Redeemer means that people who work in the arts—all the arts—are respected, challenged, and nurtured in community. It was a perfect fit, and I got used to working under a new kind of stress. Writing papers was comparatively easy for me (and I loved doing research in their fabulous library), but cramming for exams all those years out of undergrad … yikes! I studied Christian thought and culture, Biblical books, systematic theology, history, Hebrew, postmodernity, exegesis, etc., and sang in a gospel choir—and for my thesis project, I was required to create a full-length work in my chosen art form. I assumed God would nudge me in a new direction, possibly poetry. What took shape, starting just a few weeks after I arrived in Vancouver, was a novel about Firebird and Brennen’s sons. That book, Wind and Shadow, has a different tone from the original novels. Of course—I was in theology school when I wrote it!
Almost as soon as I came back home, I stumbled on an idea for a contemporary fantasy, which I am also writing. With The Annotated Firebird, Wind and Shadow, and Daystar under contract at Marcher Lord Press and Holy Ground well underway, I think the walkabout is officially over.
Q: How does it feel to find your newsgroup of fans still active with discussion and anticipation, patiently waiting for your return into the spotlight?
KT: That group has become a circle of friends, no longer focused on my books but on each other. I love that! I hope they still get a kick out of the new books.
Q: With social media, ebooks, the internet, etc., how have these innovations changed how you will go about promoting your upcoming releases versus the methods of the early 90s?
KT: The changes in my promotion calendar have more to do with my new publisher than anything else. Marcher Lord sells online only, so there probably won’t be any book signings. The focus will be on email, interviews, and conferences—starting with the February 2011 “Writing for the Soul” conference in Denver. It’s put on annually by the Christian Writers Guild. I’m scheduled to teach a two-day intermediate workshop on Point of View as well as a clinic on writing dialogue.
Q: Through the years I have known many openly Christian authors of secular fiction, who struggle with guilt and even receive judgment from other believers for their content. Many writers (I subscribe to this viewpoint) feel that holding a magnifying glass on the sinful nature of mankind struggling in our fallen world is a valid use of their gifts and not a contradiction to their beliefs. Do you have a response?
KT: At Regent College, I was exposed to some authors who’ve written thoughtfully about many aspects of being a Christian author, poet, musician, filmmaker, potter, etc. Let me point your readers toward Dorothy L. Sayers, Madeleine L’Engle, Nicholas Woltersdorff, Kathleen Norris, Jeremy Begbie, Alan Jacobs, and Maxine Hancock. Essentially, I agree with you: the real questions aren’t about superficial censorship but the sacramentality of creation, our honest humility in art and art criticism, and being choosy about which hill we really want to die on.
Q: Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview, Kathy! God Bless and I look forward to reading the next chapter in the adventures of Lady Firebird and the writing career of Kathy Tyers.
Q: Kathy, thank you for agreeing to this interview. And also, thank you for answering my fan letter all those years ago with such a gracious response. Who knew we’d end up here decades later? Did you receive many fan letters back then?
KT: Right … who knew? There was a steady trickle of those letters, and they were mostly about the Firebirdbooks or Star Wars. It was a pleasant surprise to hear from you about Shivering World.
Q: How did the Lady Firebird Yahoogroups list come about?
KT: A fellow who goes by the online name TZ Maverick asked for permission and invited me to participate. That was a new experience! I still think of the folks on the group as friends, though I don’t check in as often as I used to.
Q: How did this daily exposure to fandom discussion and dialog differ from the pre-internet fan response? How did it affect your writing if at all?
KT: It was a world of encouragement when I needed it. I was living a real-life horror story, and someday I’ll tell that tale. But fandom discussions were quick, fun, and personal. They were also distracting, when I needed to be writing.
Q: As a midlist Bantam author, you received an invitation to contribute original fiction to the Star Wars novel and anthology titles—what would be for many SF authors a “dream gig.” How did that come about and what was your reaction at the time?
KT: Truce was a dream gig. I’d been a Star Wars fan since the first film’s release. Bantam Books originally acquired a license from Lucasfilm for Timothy Zahn’s first set of three Star Wars novels. Their phenomenal success proved there still was plenty of interest in Star Wars—so Bantam acquired a license for an additional book series. At that time, I’d published the first two Firebird novels with Bantam Spectra, another space opera called Crystal Witness and Shivering World. That meant I was “known” at Bantam—and my editor Janna Silverstein was a fellow Star Wars fan. One February day, she called to ask if I would like to be a Star Wars writer. I can still hear the grin in her voice, and it took me quite a while to wipe the grin off my face.
Q: When interacting with fans, do they fall into different camps—that is, Star Wars readers and Lady Firebird readers? Secular fiction readers and Christian fiction readers? Do you find your readers exclusive to one interest over the other or are they overall “well read” on all things Kathy Tyers?
KT: Every reader has favorites. Some of them overlap. What I have in common with all my readers is our enthusiasm for imaginative fiction. But I enjoy meeting them as people even more than discussing books.
Q: Explain the history of the Firebird books at Bantam, Bethany House…..and beyond!
KT: I started writing Firebird in the summer of 1983. It was acquired by Bantam in August 1986 and published in June 1987. Fusion Fireappeared in November 1988. My Bantam editor then asked for a stand-alone novel, so I set the series aside.
I never gave up hope of finishing it, even though I had no idea how it would end. I simply felt committed to the characters and their story. I met Steve Laube, then at Bethany House Publishers, at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in the spring of 1998, and we hoped to make it a five-book series. Within Bethany House, it was cut to three books (Crown of Fireis based on the outlines to books 3 and 5; book 4 simply went away). Those three were published in late 1999, early 2000, and later in 2000. Bethany House reprinted an omnibus three-in-one version in 2004.
In the following years, I met Jeff Gerke at a different writers’ conference. He worked as an editor and author, and we talked science fiction. We corresponded irregularly then, but he consistently mentioned—or hinted—that he would like to be professionally affiliated. The hints and encouragement got thicker after he founded Marcher Lord Press as an independent, internet-based publishing house for fantasy and science fiction. So in 2010, having finished writing a new Firebird-universe novel (more about that below) and having started a final book in the series, I emailed him a proposal: the whole Firebird series, with no exceptions (except for that unwritten “book 4,” since the events I proposed aren’t possible now). He accepted—immediately! – with his own stipulation: he wanted the republished trilogy to include some features that aren’t available elsewhere. He suggested I read the Annotated Chronicles of the “Dragonlance” series as an example. I did, and then The Annotated Firebird took shape.
It was wonderful to reminisce my way back through Firebird, Fusion Fire, and Crown of Fire. I dug out the notebook of charts, maps, family trees, linguistic brainstorming and other notes I accumulated when writing the series, and I looked for things that might make interesting annotations. Since I also work as a writing teacher, other annotations are writing-method oriented … so readers who aren’t interested in the niceties of point-of-view etc. are welcome to skip those! MLP has scheduled The Annotated Firebird for April 2011 release, to be followed by Wind and Shadow in October 2011 and Daystar some time in 2012.
Introduction to R.J. Sullivan Blog interview: Kathy Tyers
I’m breaking format from my “Team R.J.” series to present an exclusive interview with author Kathy Tyers. Kathy is arguably best known as the bestselling author of several mid-1990s Star Wars-related projects, including her novels The Truce at Bakura and Balance Point. Fans of her original fiction are quick to express much love for her Firebird books. The first two titles were released in the late 1980s as Firebird and Fusion Fireby Bantam Books. She released several other original novels in that same time frame, including my personal favorite, Shivering World, in 1991 (more on that).
Tyers partnered with Christian Fiction publisher Bethany House in the early 2000s to produce a rewrite of the first two Firebird books and the new volume Crown of Fire, creating the Firebird Trilogy. (plus a rewrite of Shivering World.) Crown of Fire, for those who followed Kathy’s work closely, read like a thinly veiled confessional as the heroine struggles between embracing fame and glory or answering the call to use her “powers” to serve a greater good.
Now, following a multi-year sabbatical, Kathy is poised to reintroduce herself to both her anxious fan base and to new generation of readers in an industry that’s changed greatly since her previous career “peak”.
I see I haven’t talked about myself in three paragraphs, so to remedy that, here’s my personal story about Kathy. *grin* I discovered Kathy Tyers’ work through a bittersweet circumstance. Her Bantam novel Shivering World was included in my “swag bag” of free goodies at a science fiction convention—typically the efforts of a publisher burning off inventory of an underperforming title and an act that generally does not set a reader’s expectations high. That said, Shivering World completely blew me away with its engaging main character, hard science conundrum and masterful, suspenseful plotting.
Though a lifelong science fiction book reader, I did something after reading Shivering World I’d never done before or since—I composed a gushing fan letter to the author (back then, that meant taking pen to paper and using the snail mail method of delivery). What followed after was a friendly on-and-off correspondence for next several years. Fast-forward to the late 1990s, when the internet and Yahoo-Fan-Groups were developing, and I stumbled upon the Lady Firebird Newsgroup. I plugged in and interacted with Kathy and many of her most enthusiastic fans as she prepared to re-release the Firebird novels. Interaction within the fan group led to many *ahem* passionate discussions, fun friendships, and of course, the “inside scoop” on all things Kathy.
On this forum, I also “met” my mentor, friend, and peer editor Dr. Debra Holland (read our blog interview here), a friendship that has as lasted over a decade.
Then, Kathy suddenly took an extended sabbatical from writing, and for the last few years, and the Lady Firebird group has run on autopilot. But now it appears our patience has paid off as Kathy has plans to launch several exciting new project in 2011 and return in a big way! But I’ll let her tell you.
(The Kathy Tyers Interview parts one and two post Wednesday and Friday)