Late Reviews From Avalon: The Chaplain’s War

The Chaplain's War by [Torgersen, Brad R.]

I had the privilege of meeting Brad Torgersen for the first time at this year’s DragonCon. I had known him online for several years, and he was gracious enough to agree to blurb my book, All Things Huge and Hideous earlier this year. He was also very (needlessly) apologetic that the blurb had not worked out. (It was just a matter of bad timing; Brad had been deployed for a very long time, and my request came as he was finally getting to come home. A lesser man wouldn’t have even tried to help me out). But I appreciate Brad’s service even more than the blurb.

At the Baen Roadshow, Brad was also giving away copies of his debut novel, The Chaplain’s War, along with his soon-to-be-Dragon-Award-winning The Star-Wheeled Sky. Because I’m a rather obsessive person, I elected to take a copy of The Chaplain’s War, which Brad signed for me.

So on the flight home, The Chaplain’s War was my reading, and all I can say is, it wowed me. It reminded me of nothing so much as one of my early-adulthood favorites, Ender’s Game. Only it seemed to me to reach more deeply into a question that Orson Scott Card didn’t get to until the sequel Speaker For The Dead: How do you make peace?

The story itself is a bit reminiscent of Ender’s Game. It concerns humanity’s war with the mantis-cyborgs, a race much more technologically advanced, and controlling a much larger stellar empire. In fact, we learn early on that the mantes have already exterminated two other intelligent species, and there seems to be no reason that humanity would not become number three on their list. But that all changes when an alien Professor has a conversation with  Harrison Barlow, the Chaplain’s Assistant in a mantis POW camp. The mantes have no concept of God, and the Professor wishes to understand this strange idea that all three of the mantes’ victims have shared.

What follows is an intricate but action-packed story of humans and aliens working together and fighting against each other to survive. In fact, it occurs to me that this is Ender’s Game meets Enemy Mine. Interwoven through the story of Barlow’s capture by and eventually his diplomacy to the aliens is the story of how he became a soldier and a chaplain’s assistant in the first place.  It’s a story that masterfully blends questions of faith and honor together through a cast of beautifully real (and flawed) characters.

I can hardly wait to find time to get to The Star-Wheeled Sky and its eventual sequel. And I’m honored to count Brad Torgersen as a friend and supporter.

Ad Majorem Gloriam Dei

I hesitated to write this blog post. There were a number of reasons I didn’t want to write it. Part of me felt that it would be arrogant, or that it might come off as preachy. That I might be wrong. It involves some vulnerability, and it involves some risk. But in the end, it is true, and I felt called to do it. So here goes.

I don’t know any writer on the way up that hasn’t dealt with jealousy on some level. That hasn’t dealt with feelings of complete inadequacy, with the feeling that life was unfair. With the feeling that writers who broke out big did so unethically, or because of who they happened to know, or because of other people’s bad taste. I’m sure there are some of them: those who never really had to deal with rejection because their first novel was snapped up right away, and those genuinely good souls who are just virtuous enough to celebrate with others as much as they would for themselves. I wonder which of those two is rarer? I have no idea, but I dearly wish that I were one or the other of them.

We’re not supposed to talk about those feelings. And it’s GOOD that we’re not supposed to.  Those feelings may be inevitable, but they are made much, much worse when we speak from them or act upon them. We’re supposed to say success isn’t pie and that someone else’s success doesn’t mean your failure. Despite the fact that in some cases (such as competing for anthology slots) that’s exactly what it does mean. But it doesn’t matter. Ethically, morally, we should be glad for the success of others. Celebrate them. Lift them up.

I have failed at fighting these feelings a lot. I’ve struggled against them hard. I know I’ve done better than some and I know I’ve done worse than many. I won’t even speculate about “most” because honestly I have no damned idea how “most” people do. My failure is inexcusable. But it’s not unforgivable. Because that’s the nature of forgiveness: the inexcusable is what forgiveness is for.

Last week, I got some news. It has the potential to be utterly life-changing news. And it also has the potential to be nothing more than a high-level rejection. It’s good — unbelievably good — that I’ve risen this high. But I still have potential to fall all the way back down to where I’ll have to start all over again.

And talking about this? It makes me afraid. It makes me afraid because of stupid reasons, like superstition. If I talk about this, it won’t happen. Because of self-centered reasons. There are people out there who will be glad to see me fail. Because of paranoid reasons. There are people out there who might figure out how to sabotage me. And honestly? For moral reasons: Karma or God knows that I haven’t supported others like I should have. I deserve to fail.

But here’s the thing: I do deserve to fail. That’s not the end of it, though: as much and as little as I deserve to succeed, I deserve to fail. Because whether I succeed in this or fail in this, it really isn’t about deserving it. No one in this business deserves a career, deserves an award, deserves a publication. They get those things, or not. One of the pieces of advice that I value most highly , I got from the writer S.M. Stirling at DragonCon 2018. He said, “Most authors have no idea how they got where they are, and the role chance played in getting there.” I believe he is correct on this.

But if there’s been something I’ve appreciated as I’ve hacked my way up the great mountain of publication, it’s been those willing to talk about their failures, and what it’s done to them. In a sense, this blog post is about joining them, in the hopes that I will be helpful to others, as they have been helpful to me. One of those who deserves special mention is Steven Barnes, because of some recent posts on failure and success. Something he posted, and which I wish I could find now, but I can’t, talked about a recent failure of his: for a brief moment, he believed some lies. That he wasn’t good enough. That people were yanking him around just for giggles. And then he had to consciously remember who he was, what he had done, and what was important. And do the next good thing in front of him as a father, a husband, and as a writer.

Now that is amazing, for two reasons: one, because it’s the testimony of a man who has not, even through the kind of success I would (not really!) kill for, lost sight of what is truly important. Secondly, despite that success, he admits that he has not become immune to failure and the bad feelings it brings. He can DEAL with them, but he isn’t IMMUNE to them.

Right now, I am doing everything I know how to for this opportunity to succeed. And right now, there’s just nothing I can do except 1) Wait and find other good things to do, and b) pray like crazy and ask others to do so for me. I’m praying for this like I’ve prayed for nothing else in my life except for my marriage and my children. I want it very, very badly.

Now, I know exactly what the right thing to say is. The right attitude to have. The right thing to say is very old: it’s in the oldest book of the Bible. It’s what Job said: “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

You know, it’s going to be devastating if I don’t get this. But so what? Job was devastated too. And he had far more reason to be.

But this is where I stake my faith. But not, and this must be clearly understood, upon whether I get good news or not. No, I stake my faith on the Lord, who promises that all things work out for good for those who love Him. But I’m still going to pray for what I want, and trust that eventually, that I will receive, that I will find, and that the door will be opened. This is where I pray and what I pray for. I know a lot of people would like to see me succeed. There may be some who would like to see me fail. Oh, well. If that’s what you find pleasure in, then I’m afraid I can tell you from personal experience that it’s a truly awful thing enjoy.

I suppose I’m a little afraid of what people’s reactions will be to say that I’m praying for this. Will they say, “If you get good news, will you say it’s because you prayed?” Hey, I don’t know how prayer “works.” I’ll be too busy being happy about it t even ask that question. Will people say, “Are you trying to butter God up?” No. At least I really hope not. God isn’t, in my experience, very butterable, although if you think that would work, I think you have a weird view of God. I’m also, I suppose, afraid that as much as I’m trying to do what’s right, I might still be wrong.

No, I’m staking my faith on just saying this. Because I can’t really lose: this victory is now won. This is the moment where I can say, before I know the outcome, that I trust (as best I can) God with it. If I get this, I will be overjoyed at the blessing, and God is glorified. It means I really enter the conversation that is literature, and on a whole new level, and I am blessed.

And if I don’t get it? Well then, though it will hurt like poison, then I have at least had this conversation. And that’s a different blessing. And I learned just a couple of days ago that more people are listening to it than I sometimes think possible. And along with John Milton, who is damned good company for a writer, I remember they also serve who only stand and wait. I may not be able to speak with much grace if that happens. I’ll be badly hurt. But I will have done this, ad majorem gloriam Dei. That’s what’s really important, and what’s right, even if I might forget it for a time. I pray that I will not, and that God gives me the grace be His witness in success and in failure.

I Lied. And Sold Something.

Having titled this post, I feel I really must hasten to add that I didn’t sell something BY lying. I don’t do that.

No, it’s just that I’m mortified to realize that my last blog post, over a month ago, said that I was “starting to be able to bring the blog back.”

I so was not able to do that. I really thought I was, but then the school year struck back and ate all my free time again. So I won’t make that promise again. I really do HOPE that I’ll be able to do this more regularly, but as the semester winds down, NaNoWriMo is heating up. I’m over halfway done with my 50k words, but Thanksgiving doesn’t promise to be much of a break, so this could be interesting.

Finally, in unrelated news, Cirsova has picked up one of my favorite short-shorts I’ve ever written, “Adeste, Fideles.” I hope you will all enjoy it.

New Snippets! And a New Blog Post! And New Links!

Hoo-boy, what a month it has been.

Folks, starting a school year with elementary-school age kids, AND a new job, AT a new school, when it’s the first time both your wife and you have ever worked full time?

It’s no joke.

I am incredibly blessed to have all these opportunities, but I do not deny that it has been frantic and hectic. Good, but not relaxing. And some things have suffered.

This blog is definitely one of them. But I’m starting to be able to bring it back.

Over the past week, I have been fixing and improving book links. My new books are available over on the right sidebar: $3.99 for ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS and $2.99 for THE GIRL WHO WASN’T THERE. In addition, if you want a taste of each, I have brand NEW SNIPPETS UP FOR EACH ONE in the SAMPLE SNIPPETS link above.

I hope to have new snippets up soon. Also, I have confirmation that I have sold a new short story: no shit it’s a CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN-ADVENTURE LOVECRAFTIAN NIGHTMARE. Never thought I’d sell it, but Stupendous Stories has picked it up!

Thanks for reading, friends.

DragonCon AAR: Legends and Dragons and Book Sales.

DragonCon was beyond awesome this year. Here are some of the highlights:

Thursday, I met with my publisher, Jason Rennie, and we helped to set up Bard’s Tower, a well-known bookselling staple of DragonCon (and others). Alexi was awesome, allowing Superversive Press to sell our books through the Tower.
I mean, okay, they were going to have featured signings, and I was going to have a chance to sell my book to passers-by, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

Friday, we opened. In between the aforementioned selling copies of my book, among others, I ducked out to sit on panels about Arthur and the Round Table, and Cordwainer Smith, one of my favorite Golden Age authors. Four people bought books, the first of them being the awesome Dave Butler, award-winning author of the Witchy War series. I picked up his first book in the series, WITCHY EYE, as a prize last DragonCon. This year, I managed to pick up the third from the Baen Roadshow, who was giving away books to all active-duty military, teachers, and librarians. Thanks, Baen Books!

Butler DragonCon

I also met Brad Torgersen for the first time. Brad was nice enough to agree to blurb ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS earlier this year, and is just a great guy to meet in person

Saturday was a big day at the Tower. It began with a new experience for me: it was the day I got to collaborate on the upcoming redesign of the cover for ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS. By the end of the day, I had sold 90% of my books, including a copy that I gave away to Jim Butcher (mostly so I could say I did).

All-Things-Huge-and-Hideous-Kindle

Then I was able to reconnect with my Clarion mentor Tim Powers, who introduced me to a fellow Writers of the Future place-winner, Carrie Callahan, who I now consider a friend. Late that night in the Speaker’s Speakeasy, we both enjoyed an hour’s conversation with Larry Niven, who is certainly one of the greatest influences on my own work. That was amazing.

Finally, Sunday I managed to sell out. My last book went to an awesome lady who cosplays Dark Helmet, and thought the book was a riot. She actually came back and said that she’d found it hilarious and even brought a veterinarian friend with her. I also got to see Brad Torgersen win his Dragon Award for A STAR-WHEELED SKY. And Brad was later kind enough to spread the word about THE GIRL WHO WASN’T THERE! So DragonCon ends with a Dragon Award Winner recommending my books!

The Girl Who Wasn't There - KDP Cover

All in all, it was a wonderful con, and God has truly blessed me in giving me this chance to meet and work with such fine people.

Surprise! SCI-FI NOVEL RELEASE!!

It is with great pleasure that I announce the publication of my first science fiction novel, The Girl Who Wasn’t Thereby Digital Fiction Corp.

The Girl Who Wasn't There - KDP Cover

Besides having an awesome cover, it’s my salute to the spirit of Robert Heinlein’s juvies, and the first book I can unreservedly recommend for kids. AND it’s on sale for just $0.99 on Kindle through Labor Day! Just in time for DragonCon! If you’re there, drop by Bard’s Tower! Paperback soon to follow!

Dragon Con Schedule!

Greetings, loyal readers! A week from now, I’ll be in Atlanta! Please stop by and say hello at my panel:

Title: Bringing More Seats To The Round Table: Diversity In Medieval Stories
Description: Arthurian legend was great for slaying dragons and creating Damsels In Distress. But we want the damsel picks up a sword and save everyone else. Join our panel of authors as they discuss the White Knight trope, fix Arthur’s round table and share their favorite non-traditional medieval era tales.
Time: Fri 01:00 pm Location: Augusta – Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Milton J Davis, E.K. Johnston, Tony A Ballard-Smoot, Esther Friesner, G. Scott Huggins)

Unfortunately, I have just learned that my second panel, ALL THE SUBS, is scheduled to begin 25 minutes before my flight leaves on Monday, and I will NOT be able to attend unless it is rescheduled.

Title: All the Subs
Description: Fantasy is filled with all kinds of stories, but sometimes a trend pops up that turns into a sub-genre. Supervise? Gamelit? LitRPG? Cozy? Noir? There are so many, & a few that don’t really fit in any…yet.
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: Embassy EF – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: L. Jagi Lamplighter, James A. Hunter, Aaron Crash, G. Scott Huggins, Cat Rambo, K. M. Herkes)

Finally, I will be at Bard’s Tower in the Dealer Room, helping to sell many fine books including, of course, ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS. Please stop by and say hi!

All-Things-Huge-and-Hideous-Kindle

ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS BONUS GIVEAWAY WINNER!

So, two weeks ago I announced that there would be a drawing amongst people who shared the news of the ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS release within 24 hours online for a FREE Kindle copy of the eBook. And now that I am back from vacation I am able to announce that the winner is…

ANDREW WOODS! You’ve won a free copy! Get in touch with me on social media, that I may reward you!

All-Things-Huge-and-Hideous-Kindle

New Stories and His Missing Materials: The Logoccentric Returns!

Hi, everyone! Well, it was a good vacation, but now I’m back! It’s the start of a bright new school year full of many good things! I got some great news in and around my vacation, so let’s get cracking!

First, if you’d like some real content, I’d like to direct you to my latest article published with SciPhi Journal (which is gaining readers by leaps and bounds) called “His Missing Materials” in which I take Philip Pullman to task for pretty much slandering the Christian faith.

As far as upcoming sales, I can’t name any right now, but it looks like I’ll have at east one if not two new announcements to make in the near future.

Finally, I’d like to share this awesome possible cover art for my next book, forthcoming as soon as I can get a small amount of edits back to the publisher:

Girl Who Wasn't

Blog On Hiatus

Hello, loyal readers. Time for a little bit of news.

I have been kicking out this blog on a more-or-less 3x weekly schedule for the summer. Due to the impending start of school and a family vacation, I am going dark on this blog until at least August 12. And I think I’m going to have to cut back to 2 blogs a week. Enjoy the rest of the summer, fam. And please spread the word about ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS, now out in paperback.