Mythic Orbits 2016

Visiting with us today is Travis Perry, who recently published an anthology containing only stories by Christian authors. Take it away Travis!

 

Mythic Orbits 2016 had a basic motivation as an anthology project: To collect and publish the very best short stories I was able to find by Christian authors, without any pre-defined theme.

Stories first had to be interesting or intriguing. Solid endings with a strong emotional payoff were essential, as they are in all good short stories. Some of those payoffs in the anthology are feel-good, emotionally warm moments. But not all are. A final story moment which challenges preconceived notions, or which is disturbing, or thought-provoking, I accepted as freely as the happier endings.

I love the short story format, by the way. A short story is not a substitute for a novel, only shorter. Not necessarily, anyway. Conflict drives the plot in novels, but short stories have a number of other possible roads to success. For example, they can surprise, shock, or amaze instead of bringing conflict to resolution. I often find short tales inherently more interesting than novels, if written well.

The commitment to good short stories in this anthology came without any specific doctrinal or content tests. Though it happens to be the case that the stories are basically clean. They contain no strong profanity (on a few occasions cuss words generally seen as mild are included). No sexuality is included beyond being attracted to someone and on one occasion, kissing. No violence is graphically described–though there is some violence in a number of the stories.

What really happened is my authors self-edited for content themselves. The only content edits I performed for “moral” purposes was downgrading one curse word to a milder version of the same thing and changing a religious reference into one which unambiguously talked about one God. All other content edits were for the purpose of making the stories make more sense, flow better, or have more powerful endings. (Though one author did ask me how to make his story more Christian, to which I had a specific suggestion–this was for the story “Escapee,” for which I recommended he create an alien chapel.)

I did not want to impose upon this anthology some kind of common theme like some other anthologies I’ve seen and participated in. That’s because I believe the best stories come from authors writing what they want to write about, not from me telling them what I think they should produce.

A question that comes to my mind as I write about the anthology I assembled is, “Why Christian authors? Why not just find a bunch of good stories and assemble that, regardless of whether the writers are believers or not?”

The use of Christian authors I found essential. I perceive the world of speculative fiction (by which I mainly but not exclusively mean science fiction, fantasy, and horror) as not especially Christian-friendly. So for me, the first order of business was to show the world that we Christians are not so bound by conventional thinking about stories that we cannot tell intriguing tales.

I also hoped that the Christian authors involved would themselves use Christian themes in their stories where they felt inspired to do so. I wasn’t disappointed in that. Some of the stories feature Christian characters reacting to worlds of speculative fiction, while some of the stories have themes that explore the tendency of religious leaders to misinterpret the faith, the role of science in human experience, the desire for eternal life, the pitfalls of avoiding pain, the nature of love, the role of empathy, and other, more subtle concepts.

Some of the stories, even if they have an underlying morality, show no direct influence of Christianity at all. You would not necessarily know from reading some of the tales that the author who produced it was a Christian. Which was fine by me–I saw my role in publishing this anthology was to highlight Christian authors, not stories with Christian themes. (As already mentioned, Christian themes showed in some of the other stories.)

So, now that I have commented on the reasons behind creating Mythic Orbits 2016, the next natural question to ask is, “What inspired me to comment about this story anthology in this blog post?” What am I hoping to achieve here?

First of all, I hope all readers of this blog will go out and buy a copy of Mythic Orbits 2016. The stories really are excellent, every last one, and well-worth your time. (Seriously–yes, I am plugging a work I published–but it actually IS awesome. Check it out for yourself: https://www.amazon.com/Mythic-Orbits-2016-SPECULATIVE-Christian-ebook/dp/B01NAIY432 )

But I have a secondary reason–and that is, I hope, God willing, to do this sort of collection next year. And for as many years after that as I can. I want to produce a Mythic Orbits 2017, 2018, and so on.

I will be looking for excellent short stories written by Christian authors in the future. Perhaps among the readers of this blog there’s somebody with an excellent tale already written, the exact sort of short story I’m keen to publish. I hope so.

Feel free to send an email to bearpublicationsanthologies@outlook.com if you have something now. If you don’t have anything yet, perhaps you can write something in the upcoming year and send it my way when its ready.

Eventually (God willing), I will be making specific announcements recruiting authors for Mythic Orbits 2017. Hope you can participate. ūüôā

Ashen City Cover Reveal

A new book is coming from Sara Baysinger. Here’s the cover art!

ashen-city-cover

 

Also from Sara Baysinger…

 

black-tiger-coverac-cover-reveal-banner

Want to know more? Check it out here!

BLOG TOUR SIGN-UP: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdLHHDiuhc6cWA5qiU5wM-YVLBG6SwQdklQ3ElvhIAwpUo33Q/viewform?c=0&w=1

ASHEN CITY GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33792930-ashen-city 

BLACK TIGER GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31690889-black-tiger?from_search=true 

BLACK TIGER AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/black-tiger-Black-Tiger-1/dp/1537158023/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483548005&sr=8-1&keywords=black+tiger+baysinger 

WEBSITE: https://sarabaysinger.com 

2017 Goals: Writing Goals

I didn’t quite make my writing goals last year. I made some good progress in the right direction, but the mission was not accomplished. Several factors played into that (moving several states north, some challenging editing and critiquing assignments, job hunting, losing a good chunk of the work done with my smartpen, etc), but in the end, the goal was a bust.

I’m going to try again. My second goal for 2017 is to finish the draft of¬†A Suitable Arrangement.

The good news is, some of the smartpen OCR text can still be used. I was able to resurrect some of it and parts of that still work with the new plot outline a friend helped me put together when I discovered my original plot map had holes you could parallel park a semi in. So far, I’ve been able to bring across about 7500 words (typical novel is about 90,000 words). I know there are some other usable parts that will survive, too.

I’m also going to take part in “JaNoWriMo.” Every November, there’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is a sort of writing contest in which novelists try to put together 50,000 words toward a novel. (50,000 words is considered the smallest acceptable word count for some kinds of novels). A¬†pile of my writer pals all decided that’s a stupid time of year to do it because of holiday shenanigans. So, about 100 of us are doing JaNoWriMo (January Novel Writing Month). I’ll be working on¬†A Suitable Arrangement. To make the goal of 40,000 words (they also thought 50,000 was a little ambitious), I will need to write about 1300 words per day. Doable. Definitely doable.

No, the work I did in December and the text I bring across from the old OCR file won’t count. I’ll account for that so only new writing gets counted.

I currently have about 10,000 words on the project, so successfully completing JaNoWriMo will give me the first half of the novel.

After January, I plan to keep up a writing goal of 500 words per day until it’s finished. Some days I’ll manage more. Some days I’ll manage less … or none.

Once I have it written, the revising part comes next. I’ll spend some time polishing it up myself, using the self-editing checklist put together from comments I consistently get from different editors.

By the end of 2017, I plan to have a completed and revised draft of A Suitable Arrangement.

2017 Goals: Career Goals

For 2016, I set some goals for myself with various, mostly favorable results. I’m setting new goals for 2017 in the areas of career hunting, writing, crafting, and eating.

 

After the Grand Northward Move, I started looking for work in fields I’m interested in doing for a living: editing, writing, training, and/or improving performance. Although some of those are not apparent in my resume, I actually do have experience in all of the above.

By January 1, 2017, I had about 80 applications out in the world and I was signed up through a few agencies. Unfortunately, few companies actually hire people at the end of the year. Tax phenomena become less challenging if they wait until after the first of the year, and a lot of the hiring managers take time off for family, like a lot of folks do.

In the meantime, I’m doing some project work for my brother’s business by listing some sterling silver jewelry on eBay.

Presently, I do have some traction on a couple applications through an agency and one that’s a direct hire. As the new year kicks off and people get back from vacation, I’m hoping some of the others will gain some traction, too.

My first goal for 2017: Find a job, preferably in the field I spent so much time and effort studying for.

 

2016 Goals

In January 2016, I established 5 goals:

  1. Draft a novel.
  2. Apply for 50 jobs in my field (performance improvement/corporate training)… or land one.
  3. Start an LLC based on the things I can do (edit manuscripts, do crafty stuff, performance improvement projects).
  4. Make Christmas presents for everyone on my list.
  5. Research at least 5 different marketing strategies and try at least 3 I haven’t done before.

So… How’d I do?

Goal 1: Draft a novel.

Well… not that great. Moving north, job hunting, and a few particularly involved editing/critiquing projects put a damper on my writing time. I did get a good chunk of a draft started (the sequel to another work) … and then my smart pen died and the OCR work on the text I did manage to record was horrible. I ended up having to start over. Adding to that challenge, I realized the plot I had designed had some holes in it. A friend helped me plug those up again. I also worked with a critique partner on straightening out Bird’s Eye: The Novel Needing a Better Name. It’s back in the queue to be worked on.

I did, however, make progress. I have¬†A Suitable Arrangement,¬†the sequel to¬†Lines of Succession, plotted out to fix the problem parts, and I’ve started the draft. So, I didn’t accomplish the goal, but I did make ground on a couple projects and wrote some short stories.

Goal 2: Apply for 50 jobs in my field.

Pfff… I had that done by March 1. I didn’t land a job in the field, though. Between applying cross-country, teaching kids for 14 years, and not having a certificate you need 5 years of full-time work in the field to qualify for … I amassed a lovely collection of flush letters.

I decided to take a break after I applied for (and got a flush letter for) the 100th job.

I have not given up. Now that I’m up in the part of the world where I want to eventually find that job, I think I have better prospects. In December, I sent another 78 applications out and signed up with a couple agencies. We’ll see how this goes as the new year starts.

Goal 3: Start an LLC

I had that one done by the end of January.

When I moved to Iowa, I had to shut it down. Iowa doesn’t recognize Texas LLCs, and Texas says I have to live there to have an LLC (or have an agent of the company living there, and I do not since I am the LLC).

Will I start another one in Iowa? I doubt it, but we’ll see. The outgo for the company exceeded the income, which makes upkeep the downfall.

Goal 4: Make Christmas presents for everyone 

Yes, actually, I did manage it. They weren’t the quilts I had in mind, but I did make cloth origami ornaments¬†and angel ornaments for folks. The quilts are in the works, but to do a good job, I need more time. I didn’t want to slop together some flotsam and call it done.

Goal 5: Marketing strategies

Yep, I got this one, too.

I actually did 6: book trailer, Facebook events, DIY blog tour, DIY book signing at a craft fair, hired blog tour, and book signing at a book store (arranged by my publisher).

Kylie Jude at Frozen Creek Studios put together a book trailer for me to showcase Remnant in the Stars and The Loudest Actions. She did fine work.

I did 2 Facebook events for the two books that released in 2016: Like Herding the Wind and The Loudest Actions. I also took part in a 3rd event for an anthology I was in: Avatars of Web Surfer. The first one, for Like Herding the Wind, was almost immediately after release. A spike in sales was reported by my publisher. The second was a couple months after the release of The Loudest Actions to coincide with a hired blog tour. The third, for Avatars of Web Surfer, was a group effort but unfortunately, conflict with 2 other author events reduced our results. Ultimately, folks had fun, but they were costly to host (especially the first one for Like Herding the Wind ).

The DIY blog tour didn’t go so well. Didn’t cost me anything, but I couldn’t find enough people to play.

The book signing at the craft fair wasn’t too shabby. I sold 6 books and a couple bookmarks. Cost: $10 to set up.

Then¬†Like Herding the Wind’s publisher arranged 3 book signings for me at different Barnes and Nobles, one in Texas and two in Iowa after I moved. One of the Iowa ones fell through when the fellow in charge of organizing the event made a wee error. I handed out a lot of book marks and sold a bunch of books at the first one and only 1 book at the second, but again the cost of the swag associated exceeded the increase in sales.

For The¬†Loudest Actions,¬†¬†I hired Tomorrow Comes Media to arrange a book tour. Stephen Zimmer did a fabulous job of lining people up and guiding me through the adventure. When I get my next royalty statement from Under the Moon, I’ll be able to tell if the ROI is worthwhile. It, too, cost a good chunk of change.

So, in the final analysis, did I see a spike in sales sufficient to overcome the costs? No, I don’t think so, but I won’t know for sure until I sit down with all my royalty statements and compare this 2016 to 2015.

Overall

In the end, I would say 2016 was a pretty good year as far as goals go. I hit most of my goals and made good progress on the one I didn’t get to finish.

In January, I’ll outline my goals for 2017.

Christmas Traditions

There are lots of traditions associated with Christmas in this part of the world. There aren’t (m)any that show up in the Bible, so where’d they come from? (No, this isn’t turning into yet another post about whether Christians should celebrate Christmas. There are enough of those out there. Personally, Colossians 2:16.)

The Date

The last article went over the date controversy. December 25 was chosen by a Roman Emperor (Constantine) and ratified by a pope (Julius I) to draw emphasis away from pagan holidays at the same time.

Now, it’s meant to symbolize how Christ is the light of the world¬†(December 25 is about the time when days are noticeably longer than the longest night: December 21) and conquered the darkness of sin.

Decorated Evergreen Trees

These were the special tree of the Viking sun god Balder.

Martin Luther re-purposed them to show the endless life of Christ.

Candles

Romans used candles during Saturnalia (a couple weeks before the current Christmas date) as a gift to the god Saturn.

Now… they represent the light of Christ in the world.

Holly

Druids used holly to represent the continuation of life throughout the winter, when all the deciduous trees go dormant.

Christians use holly to represent the thorns used in the crown at Christ’s crucifixion.

Gift-giving

Gifts were given to royalty, which is why the Wise Guys showed up with gifts. Gifts of (wax?) dolls were given to kids during Saturnalia.

Now we give gifts to remember the gifts given to the Christ by the Wise Guys.

Santa Claus

The fat guy in the red suit? That actually pre-dates the Coca Cola ad that most folks think is the origin. There are magazine covers before that ad that show the modern depiction of Santa Clause in the early 1900s. Further back from that, though, he’s based on St. Nicholas, who gave gifts to gals who had no dowry after their daddy spent the family fortune on goofy stuff.

Yule Log

If you wanted good luck, the Viking men of the house had to find an oak tree big enough to burn for 12 days, and it had to catch fire on the first try.

Now it’s a snack cake shaped like a log.

Mistletoe

In the Roman Empire, meeting under mistletoe was a time to trash old enmities and restore friendships.

Christ took away our enmity with God and restored our friendship with him. … And, unrelated, guys smooch girls they meet under mistletoe.

“Twas the Night Before Christmas…”

That’s a poem by Clement Moore from 1822.

Bells

Bells (and other noisy stuff) were used to scare away evil spirits.

These days, they proclaim good news: church is starting soon, Gospel, marriage, etc.

 

That’s a bunch of them anyway. There are more, I’m sure.

What traditions does your family observe for Christmas?

 

Jesus’ Birth Date

So, was Jesus born on December 25 in Year 0?

Well, no.

In our current year reckoning system (whether you use the traditional BC/AD scenario or the newer BCE/CE one), there was no Year 0. 1 BC(E) was followed promptly by AD (CE) 1.

What year was he actually born?

Boy is there debate about THAT. If you look at a variety of resources you get everything from 7 BC to AD 1. Folks base their reasoning on comments about Herod’s death and the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.

Most of the sources center around a 4-2 BC time frame.

How about the December 25 part?

Not likely, but there’s a lot of hubbub about this, too.

One of the arguments against a December birth date involve the shepherds tending their flocks at night in the open air. It can snow in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which are higher altitude locations. Shepherds were probably not hanging out in the open fields with snow likely. Other folks refute this by saying that it doesn’t get that¬†cold and these people were sturdier sorts than we are today, so they’d handle it. I don’t know about that. Even 40 degrees is mighty chilly.

Another suggestion¬†involves the feast days of Israel. Jesus’ death and resurrection line up with the spring feasts (Passover). The church’s birthday was Pentecost, the one really different holiday in the middle. What lines up with the fall feasts? Well … there are those who say that Jesus was born in conjunction with those. No chance of snow in the mountains to impede traffic headed for the census, and the One who will provide atonement shows up on/near Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).

A third point against the December 25 date is the way it was assigned. Roman Emperor Constantine picked December 25 and a few years later Pope Julius I nailed it down. Why? So it’d coincide with some non-Christian holidays as a sneaky way to get folks to convert to Christianity without losing all their fun and frivolity. In fact, many of the “Christian” traditions around the holiday (yule logs, decorated trees, spiced fruit/alcohol drinks, etc) were direct carry-overs from the non-Christian holidays celebrated right about then.

A different idea supports the December 25 date. This one involves signs in the stars and software (like Stellarium) that can backtrack where the stars were 2000ish years ago. One presentation I saw¬†some 2 decades ago¬†suggests that some interesting shenanigans occur in the sky right around the end of December about 4 BC. Stuff like the constellation Leo being directly opposite the sun relative to Earth and a natural phenomenon (supernova? It’s been a while, so I don’t remember) accounting for the Star in the East that led the wise guys. The Bible does mention signs in the sky as a way to mark major events.

So, what is Jesus’ birthday for real?

No solid ideas here. The Bible doesn’t give any absolute dates. It gives a couple relative reference points (15th year of Tiberius, the death of Herod, John the Baptist’s birth — combined with the timing of when his daddy would have served in the Temple and had his angelic visitor), but nothing to hang a stocking cap on. My personal opinion is that Jesus was probably born sometime around September-October-ish in the 6-2 BC time frame.

What do you think?