The Summer of Success

Facing a career crossroads at the moment—what step to take next and all that. I’m not all angsty over it, but I have been thinking a lot about Donna Summer lately, as a result.

Donna Summer? The Queen of Disco?

First of all, thinking about Donna Summer is not new for me. I’ve had a long time interest in her career and in the singer, herself. I’ve even been known to be a defender of Summer (she’s so much more than disco), because I think her talent was far overshadowed by her persona and by the Super Storm known as Disco that came in and tried, unsuccessfully, to obliterate the Rock and Roll shoreline.

Still, I’m more interested in Summer’s genre-hopping than in her music, per se. For instance, did you know she was nominated for 17 Grammy Awards in eight different categories (genres)? Further, did you know that she won five times in four different categories—twice in Inspirational? That’s right, Inspirational. The singer of 1975s disco moan-fest, “Love To Love You, Baby,” won two Grammy Awards for Best Inspirational song (1984 and 1985).

Conventional wisdom is to not genre hop in the publishing world. Start in romance (or speculative or historical or suspense) and stay in romance (or speculative or historical or suspense).

But, I must have a little Donna Summer in me because I don’t want to be constrained in that way. Before we get all crazy, let’s remember that no one is knocking down my door for my next book—or, for that matter, my first book.

But—again—we can look to the diva for guidance. Because “conventional wisdom” isn’t called “conventional-sort-of-good-advice,” you know?

Summer made her mark in one genre—disco. It was the red-hot genre of the time and she rode that horse for all it was worth. But when the horse started to get hobbled, she made the smart move of wrapping up that era with a Greatest Hits collection, changing record labels, and then came roaring back in 1980 with a rock-pop disc without even a whiff of disco, The Wanderer. And a song from that project earned her one of her Grammy nominations.

What are the lessons for a writer?

  1. Do your homework. Summer worked in Germany and Europe in various touring companies of shows like “Hair” and “Godspell” before connecting with Giorgio Moroder for her first album, Love To Love You Baby.
  2. Establish yourself as an excellent writer of (choose one: romance/historical/suspense/other) and then, like Summer, work your butt off to make your mark. She released seven disco albums from 1975 to 1979—that’s four years—three of them in a row were blockbuster double albums.
  3. Keep your nose to the ground and your face forward. If you pay attention to the market and publishing trends, you’ll know when it’s time to change genres. If you’re a big enough success, you’ll get your opportunity. When you do, show the same quality, perseverance, and dedication to craft that got you where you are.

That’s the way to build a Hall of Fame career (Summer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013) and do all the things you want to do.

Summer died May 17, 2012, at age 63. At her death (from cancer) she was working on two albums simultaneously—a collection of standards and a new dance music collection.

For the record, Summer’s Grammy wins were for:

  1. Best R&B Female Performance, 1979, for “Last Dance.”
  2. Best Rock Female Performance, 1980, for “Hot Stuff.”
  3. Best Inspirational Performance, 1984, for “He’s A Rebel.”
  4. Best Inspirational Performance, 1985, for “Forgive Me.”
  5. Best Dance Music Performance, 1998, for “Carry On.”

Additionally, she was nominated four times for Best Pop Vocal, twice for Best R&B Vocal, twice for best Rock Vocal, once for Album of the Year, once for Best Disco Vocal, once for Best Inspirational, and once for Best Dance Music.

Not a bad career.

Your turn: So, do you have a little Donna Summer in you?

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal ezine, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a Marketing Communications Writer for CHEFS Catalog and as a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. He has edited several nonfiction books, proofedited for Abingdon Press, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

The 12 Days of Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas is a series of novellas
releasing every two weeks as ebooks on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. An
Unexpected Glory, by our very own Marcia Lee Laycock releases October 31st.
Here is an interview with both Kathi and Marcia about this exciting series.
First of
all, Kathi, please introduce yourself
.
I’m Kathi Macias, wife, mother, grandmother,
great-grandmother, author, abolitionist, former Harley-Davidson rider known as
“Easy Writer,” and lover of chocolate anything.
How did
the idea of the 12 Days of Christmas series come to be?


I’d actually been playing with the idea for several
months when I mentioned it to Giovanni at Helping Hands. He jumped on it. We
started chatting, and pretty soon I decided it would be a lot more fun to have
11 other writers come onboard and help me write this collection/series (one
story each) than to try to do them all myself. I’m so glad I did because it’s
turned into a really fun project!
Have you
collaborated with other authors this way before?
Not exactly in the same way. I’ve been a part of
similar ones Murray Pura put together, and I once co-compiled a women’s
devotional with contributions from scores of women, but this one is the first
of a fictional series I’ve launched—though more are in the works!
What did
you enjoy about the process and what wasn’t so much fun?

So far I haven’t found anything that wasn’t
fun, though the marketing aspect is always a bit stressful and time-consuming
for me. Everything else has been a blast. The only downside was that the slots
filled up so quickly I had to start turning people away.
Do you
have plans to do it again?

Absolutely! When I found myself turning people
away, I decided instead to add them to the list for future projects (two per
year at this point—a Christmas series and a Mother’s Day series). We are
currently filled all the way through 2015!
We’ll be
watching for them. Where can readers go to find the stories in The 12 Days of
Christmas series?

The first story (mine, titled “Rules of
Engagement”) will launch the series on September 1st. It will be available on
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Each new story will launch two weeks
apart.
Thanks,
Kathi.
Now let’s
hear from Marcia. To begin, Marcia, please tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a pastor’s wife, mother of three beautiful
grown daughters and two great sons-in-law. I’m also the caregiver of two
loveable golden retrievers. <grin> I’ve had the privilege of living a
short distance from the Arctic Circle, in Dawson City Yukon and two degrees off
the equator in Papua New Guinea. I began writing at a young age and now have
two novels and three devotional books in print, one of which, Abundant Rain, is
a collection of some of the devotionals for writers I’ve done for Novel Rocket.
I also love doing a lot of speaking for women’s groups. My heart is to see
women encouraged and brought closer to Christ.

How did
you become involved in this series of Christmas stories?

A friend who had been contacted by Kathi emailed me
to see if I’d be interested. I jumped on it right away because I had a
Christmas story that I’d really like to get out into the marketplace. But God
had a different plan. Another idea popped into my head and once I got going on
it I realized this was the one to put into this project. It became An
Unexpected Glory.

Is this
the first time you have contributed to a series like this?

Yes, although I have contributed to several
anthologies in the past, the most recent of which is the Hot
Apple Cider books
, two collections of thirty-some Canadian Christian authors.
I also recently contributed to The
Story
for Scripture Union Canada – a series of devotionals designed to be
read on an iphone or ipad that take the reader through the Bible in one year.
Working on The 12 Days project has been great because I’ve been in touch with
the other writers. We’ve been reading and giving feedback on one another’s
stories. It’s been a lot of fun and I’m excited that they are releasing as
ebooks, which makes them accessible to so many.
Do you
have other projects under way?

I’m always working on something. The third expanded
edition of my devotional book, Spur of the Moment will release soon on Amazon
so that’s been exciting. Right now I’m putting together the first three
chapters of a mystery novel for an agent in the US. Hoping that evolves into a fiction
series.
Thank you
ladies for being with us on Novel Rocket. We wish you great success with this
Christmas series.

Kathi
Marcias’ 12 Days of Christmas
novellas can be ordered from Amazon, Barnes
and Noble and other online distributors. An
Unexpected Glory
releases October 31st with a Thirsty Thursday party on the Helping Hands Press facebook
page.

Getting Interrupted While Reading a Great Novel

Do you get annoyed when you’re immersed in a captivating novel and someone breaks the moment?

I do. Not as much as I did years ago. Darci used to dread the times I’d find a can’t-put-down-novel because I’d hit the pause button on life till the book was finished.

These days not so much. (Yes, I’m actually maturing in my old age.)

But I still cracked up when I saw this video, because a part of me still knows how the guy feels. Maybe it’s the same for you.

Does life go on hold when you find a novel you love? What’s the last novel that did that for you?

James L. Rubart is the best-selling and Christy
award winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, THE CHAIR, SOUL’S GATE, and
MEMORY’S DOOR. He’s also a professional speaker and owner of Barefoot Marketing
which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free
time he dirt bikes, hikes, golfs, takes photos, and occasionally does sleight
of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and two sons
in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a
madman. More at http://jameslrubart.com/
and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesLRubart

Classic vs. Contemporary “Christian Horror”

I was recently interviewed for Radio National’s Encounter program on the intersection of horror & religion. (You can download a podcast of the one hour program on “Sacred Hour” HERE.) I was the lone representative for “Christian horror.” Among other topics, I broached the difference between “classic” and “contemporary” versions of the genre.

Admittedly, the term “Christian horror” is seldom used by execs and readers of Christian fiction. Nevertheless, there’s so much overlap between a biblical worldview and horror tropes that the connection between “Christian” storytelling and the horror genre seems inescapable.

In The Grotesque in Art & Literature, Theological Reflections, “theology” and the “grotesque” are
seen as intrinsically connected. The two pivots of biblical history that involve
horror and the grotesque are:

  • The Fall of Humanity (and all its ensuing fruits)
  • The Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Christ (i.e., the redemption of Fallen Humanity)

As I stated in the above interview, perhaps the greatest of all “horror,” biblically speaking, is that humanity has turned its back on God. Those created in God’s image have become unmoored to their Maker, the most hideous of all realities. In so doing, we have become monsters. In fact, it could be argued that an even greater “horror” superseded and spurred these: the Fall of Lucifer. Because of these three overarching biblical themes, not
only is the grotesque and horrific regularly invoked in Scripture, some
of the greatest Christian artists and writers employ grotesquery and
horror in their work
.

So when did “classic Christian horror” start? It’s hard to say. Some trace it back to the Renaissance:

In the visual arts, Renaissance painters such as Hieronymus Bosch demonstrated the vivid connection between religious faith and the horrific imagination.
The Bible and the Catholic Church were the driving inspiration behind
Bosch’s art, yet many of his more surreal works, such as the right-hand
panel of the triptych The Garden of Delights,
offer nothing less than an all-out horror show. His paintings are a
veritable ‘Where’s Wally?’ of horrific images. Men have arrows rammed
into their anuses and fish-headed monsters devour people whole, only to
defecate their remains into a pit filled with other people’s vomit. This is horror at its most extreme – and it is informed by religious ideals.

On the fiction circuit, Dante’s Inferno (completed in 1314) and Milton’s Paradise Lost (originally published in 1667) could, I think, rightly be considered Christian Horror. I’ve even suggested elsewhere that Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), in some ways, fits under the “Christian horror” mold. Even more contemporary is Charles Williams. Williams was a member of the Inklings
(along with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien) and wrote novels with
overtly religious and horrific themes. Two of his novels which are most
commonly associated with the Christian horror genre are:

  • Descent into Hell (1937) — Generally thought to be Williams’s best novel, Descent
    deals with various forms of selfishness, and how the cycle of sin
    brings about the necessity for redemptive acts. In it, an academic
    becomes so far removed from the world that he fetishizes a woman to the
    extent that his perversion takes the form of a succubus. Characters
    include a doppelgänger and the ghost of a suicidal Victorian labourer.
    It is illustrative of Williams’s belief in the replacement of sin and
    substitutional love.
  • All Hallows’ Eve (1945) — Opens
    with a discussion between the ghosts of two dead women wandering about
    London. Ultimately explores the meaning of human suffering and empathy
    by dissolving the barrier between the living and the dead through both
    black magic and divine love.


The above descriptions were cribbed from Wikipedia.

So was Williams the last of the great classic Christian horror writers? I ask this for several reasons, mainly because the contemporary Christian fiction market seems so detached from its historical (and perhaps, biblical) roots.

“Contemporary
Christian horror”  emerged within a new, growing, industry. In many
ways, I think this industry is still finding its sea legs. However, our
industry’s early  conventions, which include lack of a biblical apologetic and Fundamentalist leanings, have tainted our view of the
genre, more specifically, the horror genre.

Still, one of Christian fiction’s biggest selling, most influential novels, could rightly be considered, horror. As far as I can tell, the first significant step back into the classic Christian horror tradition was Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, which continues to be one of the best-selling Christian novels of all-time.
Which leads me to several questions:

  • When did we turn this corner from “classic horror” to “contemporary Christian horror,” and what did that turn involve?
  • What
    is the primary differences between “classic Christian horror” (like
    Dante or Charles Williams), and “contemporary Christian horror”?
  • Is it safe to say that Frank Peretti is the “father of contemporary Christian horror”?
  • Is it also safe to say that This Present Darkness was the first real contemporary horror novel?

Of
course, since Peretti, the canon of Christian horror has expanded.
Tosca Lee’s “Demon: A Memoir.” Melanie Well’s “When the Day of Evil
Comes.” Ted Dekker’s Boneman’s Daughter. Robert Liparulo’s “Comes a
Horseman.” Tom Pawlick’s “Vanish.” These are just a few on a fairly
extensive list.

It is troublesome, at least to me, that our industry continues to shun the “Christian horror” label. Especially
when we have so rich a history of, not to mention biblical precedence for,
producing horror lit. So when did we turn the corner? And will we ever
turn to embrace the label? 
 

* * *

Mike Duran is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin’ Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike’s novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea. You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.