Thursday, April 21, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour--Highlights

I did it! I survived the CSFF blog tour.

For three days, readers commented, critiqued, and discussed The Strange Man, and I think I anxiously bit my nails the entire time. I'm grateful to everyone who participated. They were all very kind and I learned a lot from their reactions to the book. Here's a few highlights for me.

The book is scary. More than one reader commented on how scared/unnerved/creeped-out/disturbed they were by the book, so I'd say mission accomplished :p Rebecca LuElla Miller even went so far to say in the comments section of this review:

"...this is definitely the spookiest the CSFF Blog Tour has ever featured. It's not for everyone, that's certain, but people who like roller coaster adrenaline rushes will probably like this one."

Spookiest ever! Not sure if that was intended as a compliment, but I certainly take it as one :)

Even my publisher--Realms Fiction--shared in the praise:

Dona Watson said, "I applaud Realms for taking on this project. It is an exciting time to be in Christian speculative fiction."

I'm exceptionally happy when people have cause to celebrate my publisher because of the book. Publishers take a financial risk with every book they contract, and I always understood Realms perhaps took a great risk putting out an unapologetic "horror" book about monsters and ghastly things in the Christian market that is dominated by prairie romance (not that there's anything wrong with Bonnet love). In a business-sense, it seemed like an unwise move, but they took a chance on me, and I'm forever grateful to them for that. I'm glad others are noticing Realms' innovation with their "supernatural suspense" line, as well.

It wasn't all sunshine and roses on the tour. The actual writing took a couple hits--a big one being my POV-hopping, which I've already admitted to in the commentary for the book. So, I wasn't surprised, nor offended. There was some "logic concerns" about how fast a spinning tornado of flesh-eating gremlins are, but thankfully these things didn't distract too much from the story for the readers. I'll take these lessons with me as I head into edit mode on Book Two: Enemies of the Cross.

What was most exciting, however, were the discussions. Finally people were noticing the subtler points of my story and I saw discussions ranging from bogeymen, to the reality of devils and their power, to the legitimacy of Dras' childhood conversion. Great conversations.

Noah Arsenault also conducted a brand new interview with me, for those interested.

The blog tour was a very positive and encouraging experience. I've learned a lot about my craft, about the expectations of readers, and about how my words come across to someone not living in my head. I feel like I've returned from a trip and I've got that "pleasantly exhausted" feeling like the tail end of a vacation. Now it's back to work on my writing.

In the meantime, I leave you with this vintage trailer from John Carpenter's 1980 classic The Fog in honor of The Fog Day! On April 21st, a mysterious fog enters the coastal town of Antonio Bay...and brings something with it. Grab your popcorn, turn off the lights, and enjoy :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Strange Man--Christian Sci-Fi/Fantasy Blog Tour!

Welcome to my 100th post! And what better way to celebrate four years of blogging about The Coming Evil Trilogy than to announce the book tour for The Strange Man over at Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour.

These guys don't fool around! For the next three days, my baby book will be put under the microscope. Who will love it? Who will hate it? Who will burn me in effigy? Find out by staying tuned to the blogs below. Join us for three days of review, analysis, discussion, and maybe an interview or two. You won't want to miss it!

And, in case I forget anyone in the coming days, special thanks to everyone at CSFF who signed up to read and review the book. Even if you don't like it, it still means something to me that you tried :p

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
CSFF Blog Tour
Amber French
Tori Greene
Katie Hart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Inae Kyo
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McDermott
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Gavin Patchett
Andrea Schultz
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler

Monday, April 11, 2011

Interview with Eric S. Brown: King of Bigfoot!

We've got a special guest with us today. Mr. Eric S. Brown, author of Bigfoot War and its follow-up due this month, Bigfoot War II: Dead in the Woods. I previously reviewed Mr. Brown's book, but wanted to sit down with the man himself and get his thoughts on his journey from zombie writer to Bigfoot mastermind.

Greg Mitchell: Thanks for being here, Eric! Let’s go back to the start. At what point did you decide you wanted to be a writer? What started you on that path and when did you finally embrace that life?

Eric S. Brown: I knew I wanted to write by the time I was in second grade. I grew up reading comics from The Legion of Superheroes to the Fantastic Four and the Micronauts. I never submitted anything until I was 26 years old though. It took my wife bashing me over the head to do it to get me started. My very first two tales were accepted and I just kept going from there. Around 2003, I declared that I was going to be a “zombie writer”. Now, in 2011, my writing really is a career and one I feel very blessed to have.

GM: I’ve heard it said you are the “King of Zombies”, and it’s true! I see your name everywhere, usually on a cover involving flesh-eating ghouls. Was this something you set out to do—writing a large number of stories in the zombie genre—or did this happen by accident?

ESB: No, I never said that. Dread Central and other places have called me that but the king of zombies is George Romero who created the genre as we know it today. In my early years as a writer, zombies were my one true love. 90% of work was zombie or zombie related. I was writing them before they were cool and mainstream like they are today. I worked very hard to try to make a name for myself in the subgenre and by the grace of God, I have a bit of luck at that.

GM: What is it that attracts you to the zombie genre?

ESB: I have always loved struggles against hopeless odds and the end of the world so zombies were just a good fit for me. They are both. A zombie story to me isn't a zombie tale unless the world is ending or gone. Plus zombies can work in any setting. Writing about them gives one a lot of freedom.

GM: You’ve also partnered with the late H.G. Wells to write The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies. I’ve yet to read one of these literary mashup novels, but I gotta admit this one sounds like fun. Was this something that you wanted to do? How did you pitch this concept to Simon & Schuster? How difficult was it to write something like this? What was that process like?

ESB: Actually I didn't pitch it at all. Coscom Entertainment came to me and asked me to do a “mash up”. I said yes and it became an “indie” hit. A year or so after its release, Simon and Schuster showed up on the phone asking for the reprint rights. It was insane how it happened and it has been a huge turning point in my career. As to writing it, no. I just read a lot of Wells and tried to learn his voice as best I could.

GM: Last year you released what you have called your most “personal” project: Bigfoot War. What a super-fun book. You’ve perfectly captured a B-movie on paper. How did Bigfoot War come about? What makes this so special to you?

ESB: Bigfoot War was an idea I had for a while. I was under contract to a company for a three book deal, all zombie stuff. I asked them if I could do it instead of all the books of the deal being zombie. They had faith in me and said yes. As to where it came from, I grew up loving horror and a big part of the non zombie aspect of that was Bigfoot B movies. I loved them but I always wanted more from them. Bigfoot War is not only my love song to those types of films but the movie I always wanted to see as a kid.

GM: I’d ask now, what is it that attracts you to Bigfoot? Any real life tales of the Sasquatch in your past?

ESB: Alas, no. I have no real life experience with Bigfoot or hunting him unless you count being in fifth grade and heading into the woods with a rifle and high hopes.

GM: Well, I would ask who would win in a no-holds barred slugfest between Bigfoot and a zombie, but, if the cover for your upcoming book Bigfoot War II: Dead in the Woods is any indication, I’ll be getting my answer soon enough! That is one insane cover! What can readers expect to find coming into the sequel?

ESB: Bigfoot War II: Dead in the Woods is the second book of the trilogy and brings my two favorite monsters together. You have everything that was cool about Bigfoot War with a zombie apocalypse thrown into the mix. There's also a huge David Drake element as the bulk of the military the reader gets to see is a unit of tanks stranded behind the containment lines of the initial outbreak. I hope it will be a fun read for those who enjoy a lot action.

GM: At what point did you decide to write a sequel? Was this always intended as a series, or did that come later?

ESB: Bigfoot War was originally intended to be a stand alone book but as soon as I was done with it I knew I wanted to do more. The other two books of the trilogy just kind of leaped into my head and I ran with them. I find it's often better to follow your heart as a writer than try to write for a market. If you're passionate about a project, it shows and the reader will feel that energy on the page.

GM: How far are you into the concluding chapter of the Bigfoot War Trilogy? Can you talk much about that? Or, what about beyond the trilogy? Might we have some more tales in the Bigfoot War universe to look forward to?

ESB: Bigfoot War II is slated for a late April release from Coscom Entertainment. I am working on book III amid a sea of other projects so I can't really give you a date on it yet. Coscom also has me editing an anthology entitled Bigfoot Among Us which should be out later this year. I'm also working on another project I can't talk about yet that is kind of the same nature as well exploring Bigfoot in short fiction. I have upcoming Bigfoot tales in several places including the Roadkill Cafe anthology from Knightwatch Press and Living Dead Press Presents magazine's second issue.

GM: There’s a small but growing movement on Facebook to see Bigfoot War turned into a movie—which I wholeheartedly support. Had you considered this being a movie at any point during the writing of it? I commented in my review that it read very much like a screenplay, and I think it lends itself to film very well. Was that always part of “the plan” (as much as these things can be planned), or is this a surprise to you, as well?

ESB: I wrote the book to be a movie. The Facebook page you mention though was created by a fan who really loved the book. I was very flattered by it and I certainly would love to see Bigfoot War adapted someday.

GM: I’m dying to hear some of your inspirations! You’re a self-labeled comic book geek (I can relate). What titles do you read? Or what about movies—what are some of your favorite fright flicks? Or, after writing about monsters all day, do you prefer a little romantic comedy to break things up? :p

ESB: The Legion of Superheroes and The Flash are my main two titles these days but I am a lifelong Marvel and DC fan. I could likely quote you the history of any character you named from either company. Books like the Doom Patrol and Weird War Tales are a huge source of inspiration for me but like I said, The Flash is my personal hero. My favorite bad guys are Captain Cold, Zoom, Dr. Doom and Baron Karza. As to horror films, I love just about anything zombie with Dawn of the Dead and its remake being my all time favorites in that genre. Some of my other favorite films include The Book of Eli, Ghostbusters, The Thing, and Dog Soldiers.

GM: So, what’s in store for Eric S. Brown? Are you setting out to earn the name “King of Bigfoot” too? What projects do you have lined up?

ESB: I would LOVE to become known more for Bigfoot than zombies. That would be amazing. At present I am working on Bigfoot War III, writing a lot of short fiction, and assembling two new collections of my work. My long term, fan boy dream though is to write for DC Comics. Long live the Legion!

GM: Thanks so much for taking the time to hang out and talk monsters, Eric. I wish you the best of success and can’t wait to read Bigfoot War II: Dead in the Woods.

Friday, April 8, 2011

New Writing Project: Avenir Eclectia

I'm happy to announce my new writing project:

Welcome to Avenir Eclectia!

As described on the website, Avenir Eclectia is "a multi-author microfiction project, based in a world with flavors of science fiction, fantasy and supernatural genres."

My first entry in this massive epic, "Bedtime Stories", went live today!

I'm a huge fan of "shared universes" and excited to be a part of the team at Avenir Eclectia. Each writer is bringing something new to the table, crafting a sort of "mythology within a mythology", with our own little corners of the universe touching upon the others. It's an interesting project--like a big author jam session, where we work to create this mammoth thing. Right now, you can subscribe to the blog and entries will be sent straight to your inbox upon posting. Each one is under a thousand words, which makes it a perfect snack break. Best of all, you never know what you're going to get. You might read of a bug hunter on a barren world. Or maybe a hi-tech wizard on the space station. With mine, you will journey underwater where folks say devils dwell. Sometimes sci-fi, sometimes fantasy, sometimes horror--but always entertaining.

Avenir Eclectia is the brainchild of Splashdown Books publisher Grace Bridges. As part of my announcement, I sat down with Grace to talk the origins of this unique endeavor.

Greg: Grace, so great to have you here and happy to be a part of Avenir Eclectia! Tell us about the project.

Grace: Avenir Eclectia is a genre-bending adventure in microfiction for readers and writers. Based in an established but ever-growing world, it has a space station, undersea cities, beetle hunters, ore mines, wizards, supernatural sea monsters, and more! Something for everyone in speculative fiction - whether your thing is sci-fi, fantasy or paranormal, you will find an aspect you like. The idea is to put together a mosaic style story with many very short pieces of writing - the sweet spot is around 200 words.

Greg: Fantastic! How did this project come about?

Grace: I was talking to Kristine Pratt of Written World Communications (a fellow indie publisher) and she told me about a non-fiction project she was considering where 100 authors would each write a one-page article on a common theme. I got to thinking the same could be done in fiction, and the rest is history.

Greg: It's funny, I actually attempted something a lot like this with a homeschool creative writing class I taught years ago. The idea was to have each student create a character, I created a scenario that brought them all together, and then we would sit back and watch how the stories unfolded. Well...that lasted for about one day, but it was a fun try. I hope for better things with Avenir Eclectia :p What's your hope for this project--where would you like it to lead?

Grace: I'd love for lots of authors and readers to be involved - to be able to provide regular installments for a very long time to come, and to grow to a great number of subscribers. Eventually, when we have enough material, we'll publish a print anthology from Splashdown Books. It's also been murmured that some people might like to take the characters and settings and write full-length novels based there.

Already it's a world that's pure fun for authors to play in. Wouldn't it be great if Avenir Eclectia was the first thing everyone wants to click on when they open up their blog reader or email! I want it to have that kind of magnetic attraction.

Greg: I can attest to it being "pure fun". I'm having a great time creating my little story and hope to take readers to some interesting places. I know things are still new, but how has reaction been to the project so far?

Grace: Great so far! There's a steady stream of new stories and curious punters. The awesome thing about this is that every contributing author is going to make a noise about this in their own circles, which multiplies the buzz again and again. I like the way the momentum is building even after only a short time!

Greg: Indeed!

I encourage everyone to stop by Avenir Eclectia and read "Bedtime Stories"! While you're there, look around--Grace has posted a lot of background information about the world to get you in the spirit, and be sure to read the other entries. As Grace said, this is a place for speculative fiction of all flavors to be celebrated. There's bound to be something there that you like. Who knows? You may be so moved as to start your own story! At Avenir Eclectia, there's always room for one more :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

"The Strange Man" Commentary (Part IV)

Here we are at the end! For those who have stuck with our commentary, thanks for tuning in. I realize many might not get much out of my reflective ramblings, but I like to get my thoughts out, nonetheless.

If you've yet to read the others parts, here are the links:

Part I
Part II
Part III

Page 233--The Strange Man reveals a bit more of his motivation here: He hates humanity. A lot of times when I've seen demons or classic villains in movies and books, they want to rule the world or be worshiped or whatever. But the Strange Man is not so conceited. He just hates people. They disgust him. I’m not the biggest fan of humanity myself, at times. All it takes is about ten minutes reading the comments section on any number of news articles on Yahoo and you see how much hate and bitterness and ego and ugliness is out there. In church, I’ve often heard a lot of blame being placed on the devil for the evil in the world, but I think a lot of it is just people. The Strange Man, like all devils, was an angel once. It was his job to look out for these “selfish, arrogant people”, watching them kill each other and shake an angry, defiant fist at God. He’s experienced their hate and has become corrupted by it. Now he’s the embodiment of man’s cruelty, turned back on them. Poetic justice?

Page 238--Dras talking with Hank over the CB is new to the Realms Edition. After having inserted more of Deputy Dane Adams into the story, and building up his relationship with Hank, I really felt Hank needed a moment to learn that his friend had died. Bring some closure to that arc.

Page 243--New scene. Again, trying to build up Jeff and Isabella as part of the main cast.

Page 249--The second “witnessing” attempt. This is another scene I agonized over. Worked and re-worked and re-worked for years. I originally wrote this scene coming out of a very evangelical culture in the Christian film industry. Every movie had a “money shot” where someone laid down the gospel--the “altar call” scene. The whole movie practically built upon that moment--unfortunately oftentimes at the expense of character, plot, good writing, etc. Someone shares the gospel, someone gets saved, and everything is wrapped up in a nice bow. Part of the thing I wanted to do back then with The Strange Man was show that “Hey. We can tell the gospel, but have all the other stuff too.” I wanted the message in there, sure, but also good characters and plots, excitement, etc, and to also turn the “gospel scene” on its ear--where it’s not a neat and tidy conclusion. It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered how vehemently some Christian writers are against this kind of scene period. They would say that this is a trademark of bad writing and that this is the reason “Christian Fiction” is not taken seriously by the literary world. But I felt that this was a vital scene to the characters. This is a big moment for Dras because he finally gets it now. Things like “God” aren’t just stale old dogma he’s been passed down in church--they are things that he’s experienced for himself and, now, he’s sharing that from his heart.

But there are ways of doing this kind of “gospel” scene and there are ways not to do it. I’ve struggled with how to do this scene correctly. In the past, no matter how many times I wrote this scene, it felt like I was hitting pause on the story, turning to the audience with a twinkle in my eye and saying, “Now, kids, let me tell you about Jesus.” Unfortunately, that’s how it reads in the Xulon edition. In the beginning I was so afraid of getting it “right”, of saying everything the Reader needed to know to understand the gospel--that’s the Bible teacher in me. Plus, as I said in the last part, the Bible is the foundation to my fictional mythology, too, so where's the line between "preaching" and just explaining the rules of my fictional world?

Originally, this conversation with Dras turned into a whole sermon--pages and pages worth (though I trimmed it a bit for the Xulon Edish)--and, soon, it wasn’t genuine to Dras anymore. It sort of stayed in the “canned gospel” approach that failed Dras the last time. When I sat down to write the Realms Edition I KNEW this scene was the first on my list of things to rework. I felt extra-sure when my editor--a CBA editor--told me the scene was too preachy and unrealistic! So, I scrapped most of this scene. More than that, I scrapped my old way of looking at things. This scene wasn’t about saying the right things for the Reader. This is Dras and Rosalyn’s lives on the line here. I focused on my characters--on Dras. After everything he’d been through in this story, what did he need to say to Rosalyn? I wrote this scene from the heart--Dras’ heart--to Rosalyn. The scene is about ten times shorter than its original incarnation and, dare I say, ten times better. Does it still come off as preachy? Well, I guess that depends on the Reader. But I tried. Whattya gonna do? It is what it is.

Page 253--Rosalyn asks Dras, in essence, “If God’s so great, why is my dad dead?” I added this for the Realms Edition because it suddenly struck me that of course she’d ask this. And, of course, Dras doesn’t have an answer. In my own life, I think I’ve tried too hard to answer all the tough life questions for people, thinking that, if I do, these people will come to a faith in Christ. But it’s called “faith” because we don’t have all the answers. Some people aren’t okay with that. Rosalyn isn’t, but what can Dras possibly say in defense against her tragedy? It’s a messy question with no easy answer and I’m proud of myself for not trying to answer it here. I would have ten years ago. I would have spent ten pages trying to convince Rosalyn why God is still good, even when bad things happen. But, now I know better. Sometimes God has to defend Himself and I’ve got to trust Him to do that in His own time and His own way.

What I like about this scene, is that Rosalyn still rejects what Dras is saying, which, to me, drives home the message of this book. This is not a conversion scene! This isn't a book about Rosalyn “accepting Christ” in the end. Dras hopes that happens, of course--it’s her only salvation against the Strange Man. But the more important battle, to me, was Dras claiming his faith. A part of that meant sharing it, yes, but it’s the act of sharing it that was important, not the result. Some people think this book ends on a cliffhanger because we don’t know what happens to Rosalyn--and, sure, it is designed to leave you ready for Book Two--but I think Dras’ sacrifice here is a solid ending to his story in this book. He’s learned a lesson. He’s become a man, at long last. Will it make the difference for Rosalyn? Well, only time (and the sequels) will tell.

Page 260--Some readers have expressed confusion over Dras’ eventual fate. Is he dead? Is he alive? I thought it was pretty clear, myself.

Page 261--Thus begins the new ending for the Realms Edition. One of the first things my editor at Realms pointed out was that the Xulon Edition just stopped. No real ending. Of course I answered “But there’s two more parts to the trilogy!!”, but my editor said, very kindly and patiently, “Greg, you’re gonna tick people off if you don’t give them a satisfying conclusion in this book.” This was my attempt to remedy that. I gave Rosalyn and the Strange Man a kind of “final battle” here, but again had to be careful not to ruin things to come. I had to hold back and allow for a type of victory, but still keep the threat and the tragedy alive. It was difficult, but I really like this confrontation with Rosalyn and the Strange Man. Again, she’s not “accepting Christianity”, just choosing her love for Dras over the Strange Man’s lure.

Book Two picks up about fifteen minutes after The Strange Man ends.

Page 263--"The Hour" is capitalized on purpose. And what an ominous purpose it be. Ooooohhhh...

Page 263--Another new scene. Another hard one to write. This was a further move to “wrap up” Dras’ journey, by having him reflect on what he’s done, what he’s been through, and wondering what will happen next. I like ending this with him talking to his father. I find it fitting that, at the end, Dras was finally Jack Weldon’s son.

Page 265--Epilogue. This is from the Xulon Edition and serves as a setup for the direction the series will take in Book Two. Looks like the bad guy won this round. We can only hope things fair better for our heroes in Enemies of the Cross: The Coming Evil Trilogy, Book Two (tentatively scheduled for release Winter 2012 from Realms Fiction)!

Page 266--“To Be Continued...” Cheesy, right? Old-fashioned? It’s no secret that I love the Back to the Future Trilogy and this is my direct tribute (rip-off?) to the “To Be Continued...” first glimpsed at the end of the first BTTF movie on VHS. When I first saw that, I was like “What? To Be Continued? You mean, there’s more?! YES!” These days “TBC...” is sort of a groan-inducer, I imagine, but I was excited to include it. And, yes, you can be sure the other two installments will follow suit with BTTF, with a “To Be Concluded...” at the end of Book Two and an accomplished “The End” that wraps up the trilogy :p

Page 267--“Among the Dead”. This is commentary for another day, but I will say that I’m really happy to see this short story included in the publication. I view it as The Coming Evil Book Zero, really. It was a dream of mine to see the story of The Coming Evil expand past the trilogy into short stories, comics, sequels, prequels, sidequels, whatever I could get my hands on. The day I sat down to write Among the Dead I was feeling discouraged and so bogged down with the trilogy. I wanted to just cut loose and write a totally separate adventure with these characters just for fun. I cranked out this story in an afternoon and I had such a blast. I can’t even describe it to you. I think I even cried a little. It was so liberating. I didn’t think too hard about anything or what it “meant”. I just wrote something for the heck of it. This was such a powerful moment for me as it was my first inkling that these characters had more life in them that just a single trilogy. They felt real, with lives that extended beyond their battle with the Strange Man. Now, on the blog below the trailers to your right, there are a number of short stories for your reading pleasure (they’re free, yo!), chronicling Dras and Rosalyn’s life before the events of Book One, but Among the Dead will always be the first. It’ll always be special.

That concludes our commentary for The Strange Man. If you’ve managed to sit through my entire rambling, congratulations! You win a cookie! Seriously, you who have bought the book and enjoyed’s meant the world to me.

Thanks for listening, and be sure to keep it tuned here for more updates, short fiction, and interviews. See you back again for (possibly) another commentary when Enemies of the Cross, Book Two of The Coming Evil Trilogy, hits stores and the Strange Man’s war with the faithful of Greensboro really begins.

It only gets crazier from here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

"The Strange Man" Commentary (Part III)

Still with us? If you've yet to read Part 1 and Part II of my commentary of The Strange Man, check 'em out! We've only got one more after this and you'll have a complete set. Many deep theological issues in this installment! Read on, but be ye warned: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Page 145--Chapter Fourteen. Dras finally comes face to face with the Strange Man. This is another scene that I kinda have to squint at to get through sometimes. This is a very, very old scene. Maybe I’m just harder on my past self.

This also brings us to Dras' status as a "Christian". Dras said a prayer when he was at a summer church camp (like many “church kids” do), but I never intended to close the case there. Was he "saved" this whole time? Was he "backslidden" in his faith or did he never have a genuine conversion to begin with? The validity of Dras’ conversion experience at age nine is intentionally vague. I don't think that's really important. The important thing is that his experience with the Strange Man brings him before God in humility and honesty. Whatever his past, NOW he has had a major life-altering conversion--this experience leads him to a real, tangible faith in Christ.

Page 159--Chapter Fifteen. Brand new scene for Realms. I wanted to establish the “rules” of fighting demons with the power of God. In the Xulon Edition, Dras is visited by the Strange Man and then the next scene he’s preaching at Rosalyn. It’s like he makes this automatic leap to deduce that she “needs Jesus”. I wanted to slow it down a bit and show how he makes that conclusion. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to flirt with the idea of him as a traditional monster hunter, with crosses and garlic and wooden stakes. I love monster hunters and try to work them--or types of monster hunters--into The Coming Evil whenever I can, but Dras realizes that this situation calls for something deeper than that. He’s got a war to fight, yes, but a war of the heart rather than one of silver bullets and holy water.

This leads to a conundrum in this series. I make no qualms about talking about Christianity, Christ, the Bible, whatever. I can see it being labeled as "preachy", and while, yeah, I believe this stuff, I'm not trying to preach all the time. In my head, when I hear Dras say "Rosalyn, only Jesus can protect you from the Strange Man!", it's the equivalent of "Rosalyn, only a silver bullet will kill the werewolf!" Again, that's how I hear it. That's how I'm trying to approach it. This is a book about Christians--about using the Christian faith as a weapon to slay a monster. It's practical and directly related to the plot and to the "mythology" of my fictional world. Yes, of course, the monsters in The Strange Man are symbols of "monsters" in our own life, and, yes, of course, I think that those same Biblical principles and a faith in Christ can equip you to combat them. So, maybe I'm wanting to eat my cake and have it too. It's a balance I'm trying to perfect in my writing.

Page 161--The First “Witnessing” Attempt. Here we go. Time to separate the men from the boys. When writing this, I always thought this was going to be the divisive scene (little did I know it would actually be the Lindsey scene that was so controversial). Up until this point, this book’s been pretty light on the “religion” angle--a fun little tale about a screw-up fanboy and a demon in town. But here we break out the “evangelical Jesus-talk” and, no doubt, have lost some members of the audience as a result. I have agonized over this scene for years, knowing the negative reaction it would have on a lot of people, but I hope those who would be offended by this scene would take a closer look. While, on the surface, this seems to be the perfunctory “witnessing” scene that many criticize to be the markings of badly written Christian fiction--or thinly veiled Author trying to preach at the Audience--I actually wrote this scene as the anti-preaching scene.

I come from a very evangelical upbringing, complete with Wednesday night visitations where teams are sent door-to-door and essentially gangbust unsuspecting homes with the gospel. I have always found those situations uncomfortable--as someone doing the knocking, and for those people on the other side of the door who are just trying to enjoy their evening after work and are in no mood to deal with religious types. Look, it’s just an uncomfortable situation all around and usually ends up a lot like this scene. We’ve got people on the defensive, hurt feelings, a bunch of awkward shuffling, and usually the “witness” in the situation knows little more about the Bible than what Dras has spouted off here. Regardless if the words are true, it becomes a well-rehearsed “church” speech about “turning from sin and asking Jesus into your heart”. This scene isn’t against being a witness and sharing your faith, it’s against this approach. I don’t think this “canned gospel” approach works. I think it can work, sure. But, we live in a skeptic, grumbling, and critical generation that demands more from religion than nice words about “a loving God”. Dras comes to Rosalyn, rambling catchphrases he’s heard from years in church, but they don’t mean anything to him. And, therefore, they’re not going to mean anything to Rosalyn. He’s offering easy answers to tough questions, with very little understanding of those answers or the questions. If he really wants to reach Rosalyn with his message, he’s going to have to try a lot harder. He’s going to have to get off his high horse, and get in the mud.

To me, The Strange Man is not about "saving Rosalyn's soul". To me, the journey is about "Dras growing up".

However, in case this scene was too uncomfortable for those easily turned away by anything remotely "preachy", I kept Dras in his underwear to defuse the situation a bit :p

Page 173--Chapter Sixteen. Originally this scene with Dras and his dad ended when his dad woke up and said “Welcome home, son.” It was Brett Burner--publisher at Lamp Post Publication--who read this and said, “What? Where’s the rest of the scene? You cut it right before it got to the good stuff!” I realized he had a point, so I extended it to include the porch scene and I’m so glad I did. Jack and Jeff seem to be the ones with common ground, so to give Dras--who has felt isolated from his father for most of his life--a chance to get some real one-on-one time was very fulfilling to write.

My own dad is a cancer survivor. Jack’s cancer and how Dras deals with it was written at a time when I thought my own dad was going to die. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that or what I was supposed to feel. Dras’ thoughts mirror a lot of my own at that time, particular the ones where he’s worried about who will bail him out if he gets in over his head.

Page 180--Jack says, “Sometimes to serve the Lord, you’ve got to raise a little Cain.” Originally that said “raise a little hell”, but I see where that might be a bit taboo in the Christian Fiction market :p That almost made it to print, but was switched at the very last minute.

Page 181--Chapter Seventeen. We get a nice Jeff and Isabella scene before Jeff turns on “full jerk mode” and berates his brother. Jeff’s a mess. He’s up and he’s down. He’s an intense guy, really moody, and has a hard time reconciling what he knows he should do with what he wants to do. I think of all the characters in the series, I’ve struggled with Jeff the most, which is strange because he’s a lot like me. I’ve often said that Dras is me on a good day, whereas Jeff is me on a bad one. I think I had such a difficult time writing Jeff because I held back, for fear that my own insecurities and faults would become evident in Jeff’s behavior. It was only when I stopped holding back that he really came into his own. Honesty really is the best policy, even in fiction. I decided to go full steam ahead and show Jeff in all his conflicted nature and secret doubts. Hopefully he’ll come around in the sequel and get his head together. There’s monsters coming, man!

Page 189--Having Isabella be the one to come out and give Dras the tip he needed to fight the demon was important to me. Isabella is such a wallflower in this book, I wanted to give her something to do. Something vital to the narrative. Isabella comes into her own in a big, big way in Book Two.

Page 194--Here we reveal what’s been hiding in the shadows, snickering through the whole book.’s cute. I’m well aware that we’re dealing with important “spiritual matters”, here, but The Strange Man was always meant to be a fun Saturday matinee monster movie depiction of the Christian walk. I think it's essential to mix fun with fear to provide that release for the tension you're hopefully feeling. It’s all about creating a thrill ride. Besides, when you’ve got a thousand of these things spilling out of the shadows like cockroaches, they’re not so cute anymore :p

Page 201--The chapter at Smokey’s is a Realms Edition addition. I wanted more Earl, more good ole boy talk. Introduce Clancy. The Xulon Edition was focused on Dras and Rosalyn. I saw this as my chance to make this feel more like a world with people you know.

This chapter begins, what I call, “Gremlin Night”. The Xulon Edition all but skims over this sequence and when I was told that in order for The Strange Man to be accepted by a major publishing house I’d have to raise the word count, I immediately knew that I needed to beef up Gremlin Night. It was challenging, as I'm a firm believer in escalation from book to book. By this point, I had finished Book Two and nearly finished a first draft of Book Three. I knew the action in those books progressed and got more and more dynamic. So, I had to make Gremlin Night exciting and “high octane”, but not so high octane that it was on the same level as the crazy action set pieces in Book Two. It was a delicate balance, trying to figure out how to make this big, but not too big. I’m very, very happy with the results. Man, what I wouldn't give to see this as a movie.

Page 207--Dave at the video store, oblivious to Gremlin Night, was a last minute addition. Again, I wanted to keep the tension running high, but also have some laughs. This is a monster movie (albeit in printed form)! It’s supposed to be fun!

Page 226--The Strange Man rocking Millie is just downright creepy. If I didn’t know how this story was going to play out, I’d be really uncomfortable right about now :p

Page 231--Dras’ fistfight with the Strange Man was actually kind of tricky to write. I wanted to show that Dras was a fighter now, in spirit if not in physical ability. I didn’t want him to bust out the Chuck Norris moves--this is still an out-of-shape couch potato. So, he had to be active and engaged in this fight, but still clumsy. Also, I wanted to ground his bravado in his fear for Rosalyn. Ultimately, The Strange Man is a love story, and this is Dras’ chance to defend the woman in his life. The scene’s also tricky because the Strange Man’s not really a brawler. I always pictured him as above that. He’d just kill you or have his gremlins do it, but I think, by this point, he’s toying with Dras and by lowering himself to a fist fight, he’s letting Dras think he’s got a real shot at defeating the demon.

Page 232--Here’s another case of “questionable theology” that some have commented on. I’ve got Dras with the upperhand until he shows a moment of doubt. In that moment, his “power” seems to vanish and the demon grows stronger. Now, some have said I’m walking a thin line here. Am I saying that our power over Satan is dependent upon our level of faith? Or do I believe that God’s power is sufficient to protect us, even in our moments of disbelief? I think that’s a really good question, and I don’t know if I have a cut-and-dry answer for that. I know that, in my own life, when I give in to my worries and my fears, those fears grow larger in my life. Are they really growing larger, or is it just my perception of them? Am I making those giants stronger when I fear them? Is Dras giving the Strange Man power over him by fearing him? Much like the question regarding Lindsey’s salvation, I leave that to the Reader to mull over on their own.

The practical reasoning for this scene goes back to simple story mechanics. I’m writing a story about a guy using faith as a weapon to fight a demon. Weaponizing faith is hard. It’s easy to make it all-powerful. Wave your hand, say a prayer, quote a Scripture and boom! Demon no more! But then there’s no drama in your story, either. Adding the “fear clause” in the faith-as-a-weapon concept provided an opportunity for Dras to lose the battle. Now there’s threat, now there’s drama. It’s not a simple case of saying a magic prayer to stop the monster--you’ve got to back it up with unwavering faith, which is a lot harder to do than to say...and even then, sometimes that’s not enough. It’s a war; there are no simple solutions, and the road to becoming a Jedi Master is long and painful.

Well, folks, we've only got one more section to go. Read on for Part IV where we reach our finale! In the meantime, after all this talk of theology, I'm exhausted. Time to pop in some episodes of The Lone Gunmen.