Monday, April 30, 2012

Endnotes: Silya Shessaun

The following was originally published on the blog I kept at Now that the blog feature has been discontinued, I've re-edited these endnotes and moved them to this blog for posterity. These are the endnotes for my two contributions to the Star Wars mythology: a pair of databank entries written as part of the amazing and still-missed What's the Story feature.


Silya Shessaun was a Senator, originally appearing in Star Wars Chronicles: The Prequels and later in a deleted scene from Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Had the scene remained, you would have met her in the funeral scene for Anakin Skywalker's star-crossed counterpart Padmé Amidala. Her name is a tuckerization of Lisa Shaunessy, the Lucasfilm publicity assistant who cameoed as her in the film.

I was at my in-laws' house, eating supper with my wife, and had somehow convinced them all to play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit Saga Edition with me (oh yeah, I smoked them). I took a break from the festivites to check to see if the latest round of What's the Story winners had been selected. My wife was looking over my shoulder as I checked...and then I saw my name at the bottom of Silya's entry. I sat there for long moments, elated and relieved.

"Though she was extended an invitation to the Delegation of 2,000, she declined. She felt that undermining the Supreme Chancellor during such trying times was tantamount to a Separatist act." (taken from the original Silya Shessaun databank entry, 2006)

With those words, I became a Star Wars "author" and Silya Shessaun's life took a dramatic turn.

My contribution to this character is comparatively small. To the best of my knowledge, Hyperspace member Twi'LekEntertainer did the bulk of the work, laying the groundwork and creating the heart and soul of Silya while fellow members ShadowCultist, Master Starkeiller, and I (writing as "HedecGa") got to add moments in the senator's life that shaped her fate.

Nevertheless, discovering that I had a hand in creating this character was a defining moment for me.

For my part of the entry, I wanted to show a Senator who, in her heart was prime Rebel Alliance material and who, in fact, had many good friends who had already joined, yet she was unable to for very real, ethical reasons. Was she right in standing by the Republic during hard times? Could she have made a difference from within, or was rebellion utterly necessary? One of my favorite exchanges in Episode III is when Padmé is confiding in Anakin that she wonders if they're fighting on the wrong side of the Clone Wars, and Anakin tells her that she's "starting to sound like a Separatist". I thought that was a really intriguing paradox and wanted to explore that in my small portion of Silya's story. Silya was faced with a tough ethical question with no easy answer.

Also, it always struck me as a bit unfair to assume that all good, noble, just senators joined the Delegation and formed the Rebellion and all who sided with Palpatine were crooked, conniving evil senators. The focus of my original submission for Silya was that she was good and noble but sided with Palpatine. Not because she liked the guy, but because she felt the Delegation wasn't the right way to end the war. I'm very happy that that aspect was selected for the final entry.

"Winning" Silya is a moment that still gives me chills. I am very thankful to God and the WTS judges for allowing me to be a small part in her life. At the time, I was fully willing to kick back and rest on my laurels, and had all but given up on ever contributing to that galaxy far, far away again. But little did I know that, in a few short months, I would see my dreams further realized.

Stay tuned for Part 2...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Interview and Book Giveaway

Melanie over at Christian Bookshelf Reviews was kind enough to do an interview with me, as well as offering participants a chance to win a FREE copy of Enemies of the Cross. Head over to her site to enter!

In the meantime, I have been hard at work on editing Rift Jump, my newest book to be released by Splashdown Darkwater this summer! It's grueling work and I hope that you all enjoy meeting Michael and Sara and following them on their wild ride through the multiverse :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Completed "Dressler Cycle" Live at Avenir Eclectia!

A year ago, almost to the day, I announced that I would be writing a story arc over at the multi-author shared universe project Avenir Eclectia. I'm excited to say that the arc (that I've dubbed "The Dressler Cycle") is now complete and ready for your enjoyment. I've done you the huge favor of listing each installment below so you're only a click away from reading the story of bug hunter Dressler as he searches for a cure to heal his dying little girl.

Thanks to Grace for the opportunity to play in her universe. I imagine I'll write more AE someday, but it was important to me to finish Dressler's story and present it to you all.

Episode One: Bedtime Stories
Episode Two: Only the Strong
Episode Three: Dark (FLASHBACK)
Episode Four: Contact
Episode Five: Gettin' Crazy
Episode Six: Separation
Episode Seven: Making the Run
Episode Eight: On the Eve of the End
Episode Nine: The Last Fight (Part I)
Episode Ten: The Last Fight (Part II)
Epilogue: More Bedtime Stories

Want to know more? Take a peek behind-the-scenes of the creation of the Dressler Cycle over at the Inside Avenir Eclectia blog:

Inside "Bedtime Stories"

"Bugs! Giant Killer Bugs!"

Thanks to those who followed along on Dressler's harrowing voyage, and to those about to make the trip for the first time :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Enemies of the Cross" Commentary (Part V)

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Happy Friday the 13th or, what I call, Jason Voorhees Day! (:p) Here we are--our final installment in the commentary for Enemies of the Cross. By now you should know to beware of spoilers but today's topic covers a HUGE spoiler, so I stress:


...still here?

You sure?

Okay. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Today we tackle a controversial topic. In The Coming Evil, it's already been established that faith (yes, specifically, the Christian faith--this is a "Christian Fiction" book) is the only weapon that will defeat the enemy. In The Strange Man, that was demonstrated by Dras quoting Scripture as a sort of ward, but, as with everything in Enemies, we crank that thought up a couple notches. We've got Isabella quoting verses and this light bursts forth from her--at one point, she literally breathes fire!

When my editor read those passages, he said, "Greg, you have to be careful, or else this is going to look like magic." A valid point I suppose, but my response went something along the lines of "Yeah. Pretty cool, huh?" Faith is not "magic"--but then again, isn't it kinda? Isn't real-life faith our connection to a supernatural being? Isn't it by faith that God can accomplish miracles through us, channeling His divine Earth-forming, dead-raising power to achieve His will? "Magic" is an ugly word because people connect it to the occult, but isn't faith a kind of "good magic"? Well, that's a point to debate for another day, and would probably just devolve into worrying over wording, but here's how I look at it. It's two-fold:

The "in-universe" explanation is this: The invisible is being made visible in Greensboro. Demons are appearing in physical form, either bound in leather or as hordes of tiny, hairless gremlins. Sin, itself, is making an appearance as a viscous black goo that consumes people. Doesn't it stand to reason that the things of God would also start manifesting in visible form? This is like the End Days for Greensboro--all the stops have been pulled out and it's a time of miracles and terror. So don't look at it as "magic" (if that offends you), look at it as the unseen being made seen. The veil separating the two worlds has been pushed aside.

The "real world" explanation is this: In spiritual warfare novels like this, we always heap gobs of cool special FX type stuff on the demonic--why can't the holy have just as cool, exciting, and dynamic visuals? If Christians confess that "our God is an awesome God", why can't we show that in the same type of creative ways we show the demonic? My longer answer to my editor went something like "Why does the devil get all the cool stuff? God should have cool special FX too."

I want this trilogy to be a summer blockbuster with lots of effects--but effects on both sides of the spiritual war, hence fire-breathing Christians.

The other heavenly aspect I added to the mythology with Enemies was angels. Yes, Christopher Perdu is an angel. "Perdu" actually means "out of sight"--meaning he was invisible the whole time. That's why you never see him eat, no one talks to him but Hank, and he has to scoot out of people's way when they march in his direction.

Unfortunately, Enemies is coming out after a show called Supernatural and their trenchcoat-clad angel Castiel. I fear folks will think I ripped it off, especially considering I've gushed about that show a time or two on this very blog. But, in fact, the idea for Christopher dates back--like most everything else in The Coming Evil--to 1998. I wrote a short film that I was hoping to shoot (yeah, that didn't happen) called "To Serve and Protect". It featured a quartet of plainclothes angels that operated like cops. They did wire tapping, had cell phones, wore trenchcoats, etc. Again, those were meant to be symbolic representations of what was going on in the heavenlies--in other words, our minds perceived a cell phone, as an analog to some angelic power we couldn't naturally comprehend. At the time, I really liked that script and liked the idea of these "working class" angels, shuffling around on Earth, fighting the battle, but in a quiet, super-spy kind of way.

When Enemies came around, I knew I wanted to bring angels into the mythology, so I created Christopher very much in the same mold as the "To Serve and Protect" angels. In fact, I'd go so far to say that they all know each other :)

My inspiration for Christopher beyond that goes back to my old favorite The Twilight Zone. In the episode "Nothing in the Dark", Robert Redford appears as a nice young man with an angelic secret.

I love Robert Redford. The Way We Were is a perfect movie and Sneakers is one of my favorites. He's got such an easy-going, suave, natural quality about him. So, not-very-subtly, that's why everyone comments that Christopher looks like Robert Redford :p

We'll be seeing even more of the heaven-side of the spiritual war going on in Greensboro in The Coming Evil, Book Three!

But, for now, this concludes our commentary for Enemies of the Cross. Some of you might be saying "What? That's it?" Alas, I could write a seemingly endless array of commentaries on all the themes and elements of Enemies. I think there's a lot to this book that's worth discovering--but part of the fun is discovering for yourself. I'd love to hear your thoughts about what you uncovered in this book: what themes or characters or ideas spoke to you?

Nevertheless, if you still have burning behind-the-scenes questions you need to know, feel free to visit our comment section and I will do my best to answer! Or perhaps you've yet to read the book, but now your interest in piqued. The book is available at your local bookstore as well as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, and Nook!

Thanks for reading our commentary. We'll reconvene when The Coming Evil, Book Three: Dark Hour takes over the world! In the meantime, I leave you with a fond Friday the 13th farewell. Here's the teaser trailer for Jason Takes Manhattan. A wonderfully terrible film, but this trailer was my very first exposure to that lovable hockey-mask wearing lug--and it scared the crap out of me!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Enemies of the Cross" Commentary (Part IV)

Part I
Part II
Part III


Welcome back to the penultimate installment of our Enemies of the Cross commentary!

Today we discuss the black goo.

After reading the previous installment of our commentary, you might be thinking that I just totally ripped off the X-Files by having a secret conspiracy covering up a mysterious outbreak of mutating black goo. Not so! That's actually an amazing coincidence.

The origins of the black goo predate The Coming Evil entirely and was inspired by a surprising source.

Back in the early '90s, I was big into Spider-Man comics. One character that really jumped out at me was the villain Venom. For those who haven't read a comic, Venom is actually an alien symbiotic goop-thing that bonds with some poor dolt and corrupts his mind. I remember reading a comic where Spider-Man is attached to this thing (actually, to be fair, I think it was Carnage--Venom's eviler twin or something, but it's the same idea). This sticky goop was whispering to Spidey to "Kill. Kill. KILL!"

Flash forward to that Sunday in church and the pastor's talking about "the flesh" that we struggle with, meaning our own evil desires. Our base impulses. We struggle against "The Old Man"--our old selfish ways of thinking before we come to Christ. The way he kept describing "The Flesh", it almost sounded like this separate, sentient entity. With Venom still fresh on my mind, I juxtaposed the two and considered being covered in this second skin--a flesh--that whispers in your ear to cut loose and do all the things you don't figure you're supposed to do as a "good little Christian".

Since I was but a wee tot, the werewolf has been my favorite monster. The Incredible Hulk was my favorite hero. Both deal with the duality of man--our evil impulses and that other Voice that urges us to do good.

I really liked my Venom-as-sin concept and years later even used it as an example in teaching Sunday School classes to our Youth Group :p When The Coming Evil finally came about, I realized I wanted to introduce more types of monsters into this series--but not just traditional monsters. I wanted whole new breeds of creatures that are unique to this series. Thus, we have what happened to Ray McCormick.

The goo is simply sin in its purest form, corrupting everything, telling us to do terrible things. It's something we all struggle with. Jeff's feelings in this book are so personal to me. I have a terrible temper that I keep bottled up inside and it comes out at strange times and I'm instantly ashamed. Like Jeff, I can relate to having a beast inside, wanting to be loosed. Perhaps that's why I've always identified with the Wolf-Man and the Hulk. I understand the duality of man all too well.

In the struggle, though, I think we find some incredible stories.

I've grown so fond of the "sin goo" concept, that it's become a factor in my larger mythology. We'll certainly deal with it some more in the concluding chapter of The Coming Evil Trilogy, but--much to my surprise--it's already crept up in one other story. I love the battle of good versus evil--and what greater battle is there than what wages in the heart of Man?

Tomorrow will be the last installment in our commentary, where we'll explore angels, fire-breathing Christians, and the power of God! In the meantime, how about checking out this great review for the book over at A Flame in the Dark!

Monday, April 9, 2012

"Enemies of the Cross" Commentary (Part III)

Part I
Part II


It was the summer of 1998, I believe. By request of my friends, I entered the theater to see a movie that would have a massive impact on me.


Of course I knew what X-Files was. Everyone in the '90s "knew" what X-Files was, but I'd only seen a handful of episodes. I understood the premise, but didn't know anything about Skinner or the Lone Gunmen (I have since been enlightened). I didn't want to watch the movie because I was for sure I'd be lost--but I went anyway. And I had a spectacular time.

"Trust No One", conspiracies at the highest level of government, eyes everywhere watching you, even your closest ally could be against you--exciting! I loved the moody paranoia.

It was this atmosphere that would eventually seep its way into The Coming Evil mythology in the form of the Committee.

The Committee didn't appear in the earliest drafts of the story. They actually originated in a short-lived sequel concept I had that would have taken place after the entire trilogy. Originally, the Strange Man would have shoe-horned his way into Greensboro. For the sequel I had this idea that one of my surviving cast would move to another town and, lo, the Strange Man is there too.

Yeah, it wasn't very original. It was a fairly dreadful script. But the twist for that script was, what if the Church simply stepped aside and allowed the Strange Man to enter? I thought that was a powerful statement on how the Church concedes on so many battles and compromises so many convictions, that we--by our inaction--allow Evil to march in and take over. I trashed that script, but liked the idea of the Church essentially inviting the Strange Man. It struck me, "Why save this for later? Let's just use it in the trilogy!"

I don't think I was purposefully channeling the X-Files when I wrote them. But, that amazing day in 1998 when I had my mind blown by the movie (and what an incredible score and soundtrack!), crept into my writing. It wasn't until my wife looked at me and said, "You do know you just wrote the X-Files." that it became clear what I was doing. Oh. Well, okay. After that, I just embraced it.

One draft saw even more betrayal--I had briefly considered Jeff's own father, Jack, being a member of the Committee, but quickly ditched that. There is so much corruption in Greensboro, including within Jeff's own heart, that I wanted to keep someone as the beacon of light in town. I needed that person to be Jack.

When reading Book One, some people commented on things they saw as logic flaws. "How come the deputies nearly beat Dras to death over a suspicion? Isn't that overreacting a bit?" "How come the Rave Scene is still open, even though the sheriff declared a curfew?"

Well, the answer is simply: The Committee. It's my hope that people will re-read Book One in light of the Committee's involvement, paying special attention to the scenes with Leonard Fergus. The scene where he witnesses the gremlins passing down his street (and the particular words he says) were always designed to retroactively hold new meaning now that Readers know the truth of Fergus' alliances at that point.

I've come to understand that the entirety of The Coming Evil Trilogy is about youth. Book One was about being a young kid just beginning to mature (as evidenced by Dras). Enemies of the Cross is about adolescence. The loss of innocence. The beginning of rebellion against the status quo. When we're small children, we think that adults know everything and can always be trusted--when we become adults ourselves, starting with our teenage years most times, we begin to think no one has any idea what they're doing. We're all just struggling to carve out our path.

That's ultimately what the Committee represents: the mistakes of the previous generation and a charge to Youth to decide how they are going to do things differently...and seeing if they can stay to that path.

In our fourth installment we'll explore the origins of the mysterious black goo!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Enemies of the Cross" Commentary (Part II)

Read Part I


In our second installment, we meet Danny Carpenter--the new addition to our cast.

Ideally, I always saw Danny as played by Norman Reedus. In a lot of ways, Danny is a sort of Dras v2.0--which is subconsciously why Jeff wants to help him. He's a dreg of society, a fool, someone that everyone has counted out, and nobody would suspect he'd ever rise to a heroic occasion.

But Danny proves them all wrong.

I've known a lot of Dannys in my life. Drug addicts that have struggled with their demons and have bouts of tremendous faith and courage and decency. Sometimes they have stayed the path, other times they've fallen back into their addictions. I've known them to hit their wives, neglect their children, break their father's heart--but I've also seen them care for the innocent, stand up for the rejects, and fight for their beliefs. I've never known them to just be "bad people", but rather conflicted people. I think they can be capable of great things if given the chance, and that's what Danny represents.

He is not a good guy. He's a drug dealer, a wife beater, and general blight on the face of society. But Jeff befriends him and, through that friendship, Danny begins to want to change.

I took a little bit of flak for The Strange Man with Dras. Dras spent the earlier part of the book as a drunk (though I never envisioned him an alcoholic--just a young partyer) and layabout. Some saw his mid-book turnaround to devil smasher unconvincing. Some said "There's no way he'd turn into a good guy so fast." Well, to that I say "phooey". First off, Dras had a solid Christian upbringing. He strayed from that in his young adulthood, but he had that foundation to return to.

Danny had that upbringing to a lesser extent (being partly raised by his grandma), but I've seen his kind of change happen in real life. I've seen a hardcore drug dealer turn their life around in a single night. Yes, the shadows of their old life linger and they struggle with it for the rest of their lives, but they can change. They do change. It can happen.

Plus, in both the cases of Dras and Danny, I think people discredit their experiences in the book. They are learning that flesh and blood demons are real and in their world and butchering innocent people. I don't care what kind of addictions they suffer from or what kind of attitude they have--most people are going to respond to that. They're going to want to fight that. Fear and righteous anger are strong motivators for change.

What I love most about Danny is that he spends most of the book living more honorably than Jeff--the pastor! Ultimately, that's what Danny is there to show. That we Christians can get so caught up in ourselves and our self-righteousness that we behave shamefully, while "heathens" like Danny Carpenter are actually responding in more Christ-like ways. I've been shamed in my own life by those whom I thought were "not as good" as I was. Also, there are plenty of stories in the Bible of pagans behaving more godly in a situation than some of God's own people. Each time that teaches a lesson and keeps us humble.

Danny inspires us to not count out those we deem as unworthy, but to search our own hearts to see how we have failed, ourselves. All need forgiveness. All need Christ.

In our next installment, we'll peel back the curtain and learn more about those shadowy figures working towards Greensboro's destruction: The Committee!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

"Enemies of the Cross" Commentary (Part I)

Well, folks, it's that time again. Book Two of The Coming Evil Trilogy--Enemies of the Cross--has been in stores for a couple months now! Do you have your copy yet? By now some of you have already read it and have, hopefully, been entertained and surprised by the direction the series has taken in its second installment.

Like we did for the last book, I'm going to walk you through the commentary for Enemies of the Cross. However, unlike last time, we're not taking a blow-by-blow account of what's going on in every chapter. Instead I'm going to be covering certain topics that are introduced in Enemies.

As always, MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW. Read at your own risk.

First up--the thing that I was sure was bound to excite, confuse, and disappoint people: Dras is alive!

And he's not in the book...

It was always my intention to have this "double fake out". Only a few readers seemed to doubt whether or not Dras actually died at the end of The Strange Man. I purposefully left it vague, but didn't want to leave you all hanging for long. So, in the prologue for Enemies, we quickly inform you that he lived. No doubt some readers are thinking "Yay! Dras is back! On with the story!" while others are thinking "Aw, man, he's alive? What a cop-out." So, I took the middle road--he's alive...and then we promptly remove him from the story, save for that prologue. In fact, he doesn't have a single line of dialogue.

So what gives?

I watch a lot of horror movie sequels. And, time and time again, I discover that the stars of the previous installments are nowhere to be seen in their sequels. Sometimes the hero or heroine has moved, sometimes they died off camera (or sometimes they die in the opening minutes). Some of the supporting cast might still be lingering around, but the hero has moved on to bigger and better things. Usually it can be tracked back to the stars of the originals wanting more money than the studio is willing or able to pay. So those characters are written out of the story and some minor character is given the spotlight instead. Usually when that happens, it's disappointing. But sometimes--just sometimes--it can work.

I like writing with complications. I like setting handicaps for myself to see how I can get out of it. In a novel, I know I don't have to worry about actors' salaries and could have had Dras be all over that book. But, since this was always intended to be a horror movie franchise, I decided to follow the horror movie tropes and put myself in a bind--how do I tell this story without my main character? Suddenly the task fell to the first book's supporting characters. Who are they? Can they carry a whole story? When I wrote the initial script-draft of Enemies over ten years ago, I had a blast writing it. I discovered so much about my "B-listers" as the supporting cast took on a life of its own. It was very rewarding to continue the mythology without Dras, just to see if I could. Did I succeed? Well, I think I did, but I guess ultimately that's up to the individual Reader's judgment :p

As the years (and the drafts) have gone by, I've seen that it's essential to tell Enemies without Dras. He was the glue holding this family together--a fact the characters didn't really understand until Dras was gone. Also, Dras chose to stay and fight the Strange Man in order to save Rosalyn--it's what cost him his freedom and nearly his life. To have Dras pop up in this book and carry on the story seemed to demean his journey in the first book. For The Strange Man to be an effective story, Dras had to die...if only for a time.

If you've read the Book 3 excerpt at the end of Enemies, you already know that Dras' story is not finished yet. There's more for him to do and it will be interesting to re-insert him into the story after the supporting cast has taken center stage and grown so much. What will their relationships look like?

More importantly, what will Dras do when he finds out what happened to Rosalyn?

Head over to Part II where we meet our newest addition to the trilogy!