Saturday, December 13, 2014

Howlin' At The Moon: An Interview With Ben Wolf

Splickety editor and publisher Ben Wolf is a name familiar with many in the Spec-Fic industry, particularly among independents. His new book asks the question, "what if a vampire got saved." Always intrigued by vampires in Christian fiction, we asked Ben about his new novel, and whether he's planning on writing more horror in the future.

A Flame in the Dark: Well, let’s get right to it. Blood For Blood doesn’t pull any punches with its faith-based subject matter, and it’s a pretty interesting concept for a book. Can you tell us a little about it?


Ben Wolf: Thanks for having me, Randy. Blood For Blood is the story that explores the possibility of "what if a vampire got saved?" Raven, the main character, encounters Christian faith after having been a vampire for the past century. He chooses to turn what's left of his existence over to God, and God begins to sanctify him and transform him from being a vampire into being a human again.


Since vampires don't have souls, this sort of presents a theological problem. How can God save a soul that is already damned? Is he a God of his promises, a God who can do all things (Luke 1:37)? Blood For Blood explores those questions in a fun, tightly-paced action novel.


AFitD: I suppose there are a lot of interpretations to the vampire myth, i.e., what exactly makes a vampire a vampire. So rather than getting into the spiritual mechanics of just what Salvation looks like for the undead, tell us about yours. How much classical vampire mythology went into writing your character?


BW: I studying a lot of classic mythology and adapted what I could use for the novel. I think Raven and the other vampires in my story are about as close to being "true" vampires (the non-sparkly kind) as they could possibly be. They're traditional bloodsuckers, 10 times stronger than normal men, they can't tolerate sunlight, they can only be killed by a stake through the chest (or by sunlight), they hate garlic and Holy items (crosses, Bibles, other Christian relics) repel them, and the only way to end them once and for all is to cut their heads off and stuff their mouths with garlic--after you've staked them.


It's very difficult to bring something new to the vampire genre because so much has already been done to develop their fictional mythos. That's part of what inspired me to look back at their history so I could assess their traditional existence and give it new (unnatural) life in Blood For Blood. With that said, I did manage to conjure a new facet of vampire lore that I've never seen before (and I've encountered a LOT of vampire fiction and history), so I'm pretty proud of that as well. It's also a key feature of the story, especially with regard to the climax. I love it, and I think readers will too.


AFitD: This is your first novel, and an explicitly Christian vampire novel is quite the risk. So, first, an
obvious question: why vampires?


BW: Vampires have always intrigued me. I'm not old enough to have "grown up" with classic horror movies like Bela Lugosi's original Dracula, Lon Chaney, Jr.'s Wolfman flicks, and Boris Karloff in Frankenstein movies, but I watched them as a kid and loved them. So the love of these types of stories has basically always been there. (Bonus shout-out to the Creature from the Black Lagoon.)


As for Blood For Blood, I actually didn't come up with the concept. My friend and fellow writer Matt Sheehy was talking about how hilarious it would be if a vampire got saved. He was jawing about how maybe a Christian vampire could help out with a tent revival, and how he'd have to use a hammer and big wooden stakes to secure the tent to the ground. The juxtaposition of the vampire using tools traditionally used to kill his kind to secure a tent to advance the Kingdom of God struck me, and the entire plot for my novel (well, almost all of it) blossomed in my head. I asked Matt for permission and he gladly granted it.


AFitD: How has Blood For Blood been received so far? Indie publishing being what it is, have you been pretty happy with how the book has gone down with readers?


BW: Of the folks who have read it, the response has been amazingly positive. all five-star reviews so far (as of when I'm typing this response) with the exception of one 4-star review, and she only ranked it low because she didn't think it was long enough. The book is 86,000 words, so I'm not sure what she considers "long enough," but whatever. I'm always looking for more reviewers, and I'll gladly send digital versions of the book to qualified reviewers for free if they're willing to talk me up.


Our mutual friend Carla Hoch asked me if I had stirred up any controversy over the book yet. Sadly, no, I haven't. I'm open to ideas on how to do that, though.


AFitD: What’s next for you, novel-wise? With interests all over the speculative fiction map (like many SpecFic readers), are you going to stay with paranormal and horror for the next book or move on to something else?


BW: I've got four other books written and mostly well-polished, but two of them are in a YA fantasy series that I need to update and smooth out before I'm ready to do anything with them. Another is my first novel, which is a supernatural/cyberpunk mashup with sword fighting and other mayhem, and the last one is a historical western. Of all of them, the western is in the best shape, but it doesn't fit my speculative "brand" at all, so it's shelved for now.


As for new projects, I am working on a solidly paranormal idea at the moment. It's an idea that just came to me, and it's awesome, so I know I have to write it. My agent, Julie Gwinn, is trying to sell my other works/ideas at the moment, though, so if one of those hits, then I'll obviously switch gears and work on that instead. Otherwise I'm editing novels and other writings for authors full-time and running Splickety as well.


AFitD: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work, Ben?
BW: If you want more information about me, visit www.benwolf.com. You can find my book on there, information about how to book me as a speaker, and details on what I charge for editing. I'm happily booked through March of 2015 right now, but I'm actively looking for new clients, so I'm happy to review your work and see what I can do for you. I'm not cheap, but I'm very, very good, and I have the references to show that.



If you love flash fiction (or have a short attention span or don't have a lot of time to read) check out Splickety at www.splicketypubgroup.com. We offer three flash fiction magazines available in print or digital format (including a speculative imprint). We've got some holiday deals coming out pretty soon as well, so if you want to get in on a subscription bundle a bit early that includes a digital copy of my book, email the words "Holiday Bundle" to subscribe@splicketypubgroup.com.


You can get all three magazines (digitally) plus my novel (also digitally) plus a variety of other goodies valued at $89 for only $19.95. It's a rare thing that we offer stuff like this, especially since the digital subscription to all three magazines is normally $24.95 on its own, so if you want a bunch of free stuff, now's the time.


Thanks for having me on, Randy.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dreamhouse Kings author Liparulo to Keynote Realm Makers '15

A statement released today by the Faith & Fantasy Alliance confirms author Robert Liparulo will keynote the 2015 Realm Makers conference, August 7-8 in St. Louis, MO. A former journalist, Liparulo is the bestselling author of the Dreamhouse Kings series for young adults, and thrillers like Comes a Horseman, Germ, Deadfall, Deadlock, and several others. 

Realm Makers, a conference for Christian authors who write in the speculative genres, is now in its third year. Realm Makers has been open to the thriller and suspense genres since its inception, with A Flame in the Dark in the mix from the beginning: AFitD staff moderated an introductory panel in the first event ("What Is Christian Horror?") and taught a class in the second. With the announcement of the 2015 keynote, this will also mark the second year in a row to see the event opened and closed by a writer of Christian paranormal thrillers (Demon author Tosca Lee keynoted the 2014 event). 

This year's class for horror writers will be taught by Mike Duran, who is well known to AFitD readers for his books The Resurrection, Winterland, and The Telling. Duran will present a lecture on "The Theology of Horror." 

Serious writers will find much to pique their collective interest, with three separate tracks of continuing classes including editing, world-building, and marketing. 

Read the complete statement at the Faith & Fantasy Alliance blog and find registration details at Realmmakers.com

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Undead Vinyl - Review of Grave Robber's Straight To Hell e.p.

As a horror punk band, Grave Robber often find themselves compared to The Misfits. It's an apt enough comparison on some levels, but Grave Robber's popularity isn't in their genre similarities; it's in their personal and unique style, flowing easily from metal to straight up, Ramones-style punk, even brushing alongside psychobilly here and there.

It's this easy mashup of styles that makes the new 4-song e.p., Straight To Hell, a quintessential Grave Robber record, and an absolute must for fans or anyone looking for an introduction to the band's sound.

The e.p. begins with the band's familiar whoa-whoas before kicking into full-on aggression, driven by Wretched's hardcore shouts into the mic and the chugging metal guitar riffs. "Straight To Hell" is easily the heaviest, most aggressive song in the GR catalog.

From there, we go to "Hunger Haunts," a straight-up Grave Robber tune with punkabilly overtones. The song was actually a commission from a Canadian Feed-The-Hungry campaign which uses Halloween haunted houses to raise funds and food for the homeless.

"Beast of Busco," song 3 on the e.p., is just a lot of fun. Lyrically, the song is a small town monster legend, in the vein of "Legend of Wooley Swamp." Musically, "Beast" is the Ramones-style punk rock early Grave Robber is best known for. If the e.p. has a party tune, this is the one.

Finally, we close the album with "Mummator." Though possibly the weakest on the album, it's still a good song. "Mummator" is a TV-theme style tune, bringing to mind some of those great 80s fantasy adventure cartoons. Except, you know, punk rock.

The e.p. is available on iTunes or on vinyl.

Bits & Pieces 11.09.14 - A Vampire and Self Indulgence

Ben Wolf of Splickety Publishing (Splickety Prime, Havok, Etc) has released a new vampire novel. The new book, Blood For Blood, dares to ask the question: what if a vampire got saved? The novel follows Calandra, an evangelist's daughter, who is amazed to watch as Raven, a century-old vampire, develops faith. Get more details or get the book in paperback or for your Kindle at Amazon.

Randy Streu, Admin and Editor here at A Flame in the Dark also has a couple new projects available. 'Zine Killers is a short collection of short stories, linked together by their all having been previously published by publications which no longer exist. Featuring tales of housefly apocalypse, paranoia, monstrous aggression, and satirical science fiction, 'Zine Killers is available only for Kindle

The second project by Streu is an ongoing short fiction webseries called Crowded Earth. The series follows disparate groups of people as they cope with the new reality of a population nearly doubled in size over night. Cloning, cannibalism, and the very dark face of humanity under pressure -- follow the story from the beginning at www.crowded-earth.net

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Don't Be That House - A Christian's Guide To Halloween

What's a Christian to do with Halloween? I know what you're thinking: Oh, sure the horror blog is coming to defend ghosts and jack-o-lanterns! Well, no, I'm not. There's been a lot of research already done on the subject of origins and celebrations (much of it spurious, which, when it comes from Christians, drives me nuts), and I have no interest in rehashing it. Like meat sacrificed to idols, some will partake, and some will not. I'm not going to create a stumbling block by telling you to dress your kids up and go trick-or-treating.

However.

The thing about Halloween is that it brings out the neighborhood. Indeed, for some, it can be the only real time you get to meet your neighbors in a loose, fun environment, outside of school functions or town meetings. Many well-intentioned Christians will miss out on this chance by simply not participating. They'll close their blinds, turn off the porch light, and pretend nothing is happening outside. Or maybe they'll just leave the neighborhood for the evening. They'll be that house. The one with the somewhat friendly neighbors that never has any candy.

Or, worse, they'll hand out tracts detailing the evils of Halloween instead of candy. Maybe toss in some dental floss or a healthy snack like carrot sticks for good measure.

For the love of Jack Chick, please don't be that house.

The fact is, you don't have to dress up and act spooky to make good -- dare I say, even holy -- use of Halloween. The Devil's not going to flow through your finger tips if you hand out a Snickers bar. But some kids and parents might get the idea that the Christians who live in your house are pretty nice and personable people. Toss in a "God bless," if you like. Or maybe an invitation to your church. You don't have to be in-your-face about it. Just be good-natured.

In fact, be the house with the good candy. The full-sized candy. Be the house the kids remember with a smile.

Maybe you want to even go a step further. I have friends who set up coffee and hot chocolate urns in their garage to help warm the chilly bones of intrepid snack seekers and their parents.

I spoke briefly with a woman on Facebook whose family actually sets up the grill, providing free hotdogs and burgers for parents who skipped dinner to take their kids out before dark. They do it with a smile and a God bless you, and they turn those costumed strangers into friends.

Imagine that: Christians making friends -- on Halloween!

The point is this: whatever your feelings on the holiday -- whether you believe it's a bit of harmless fun, or a tool of the very Devil himself, or somewhere in between -- Halloween can be an opportunity to be that house: the house where those nice Christians live. The house of warmth and a friendly smile. The house with the good candy and the God Bless You. The house where we met our new church friends.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Grave Robber's New Gal Friend

Horrorpunk rockers Grave Robber will see you in the funny papers. Or at least, you'll see them. Dan (Crazy Good Comics) Conner is featuring the band in his My Gal, The Zombie for a new 16-page spread. Conner says he hopes to have the book in print in time to coincide with the band's tour in November.

A big fan of the band, Conner has also featured Grave Robber on the horrorpunk/psychobilly official MGTZ soundtrack.

My Gal, The Zombie follows the misadventures of Chelsea, a girl with a great life who is bitten by a radioactive zombie. She's still a mostly normal girl, except for her green skin her new monster friends.

MGTZ is a twist on characters from Conner's other popular series, Heaven Forbid. Read MGTZ from the beginning.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bits & Pieces 10.15.14 - Deadly CYNs, Hell, And the Apocalypse

Just Another Week At AFitD


Age of Apollyon author Mark Carver has released a new novel for e-readers, with a paperback edition coming soon. CYN is Carver's foray into science fiction, and follows an ex-soldier and her husband to the edge of space -- and of human decency. CYN is available now on Amazon.

Speaking of Digital Releases, the new E.P. from Grave Robber, Straight To Hell, is now available on iTunes. The release, which was crowd-funded, will also be available on limited-edition vinyl.

The Remaining, the end-times horror from Casey La Scala, is expanding into new theaters. You can hit the website up for the most recent locations and dates. The film has a 73% audience score at Rotten Tomatoes, but few critical reviews.