Carv's Thinky Blog I'm an author with a focus on satirical sci-fi and agnostic commentary.


Some of My Best Friends Are Christians!

So far the feedback on Lightfall has been gratifyingly positive. There has been, however, a category of complaint I've heard more than once, so I probably need to address it here--especially since it's not so much a response to my book as a feeling about me. The comment is usually phrased something like this: "I can tell you hate Christians." An alternate version, which I heard yesterday, was, "I know you think all Christians are crazy." I can be a bit glib about that one, I think: It does strike me as odd that if you say Napoleon or Count Chocula speaks to you in your head, we call the men in the pretty white coats; but if you say God or Jesus talks to you, we let you off the hook. Still, I have to admit it's possible, so no, I don't think all Christians are crazy. Some, maybe. Some. After all, there are crazy people in America, plenty in fact, and some of them at least claim to be Christian. Mostly, though, I think Christians are as sane as I am. How sane is that, you ask? Ahem...

Let's get back to the original complaint, which claims I have a problem with Christians. As an author, I hoped my book, especially its final section, would make it clear what I think about religion. There's a sermon near the end of the book that speaks for me, and I believe readers who make it that far will agree it's sympathetic. Before that, however, some readers infer from my sardonic tone and satirical content that I intend some nefarious campaign against organized Christianity, and those readers might come to the false conclusion that I'm attacking them; so if you have a few minutes I'd like to respond to that impression at length.

I need to lay some groundwork. First of all, America is, if not a "Christian nation," then at least a nation mostly populated by Christians, and in a monolithically Christian nation, we tend to take certain ideas for granted. But I can't respond to any "anti-Christian" complaints, nor can I explain how I truly feel about Christianity, until I point out some flaws in these ubiquitous assumptions. The axioms in question are as follows:

1a.) The Bible is either completely true or completely untrue...

1b.) ...and of course it's completely true. After all, it says so right there in the Bible. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable..." (2 Timothy 3:16, KJV--the NIV says "God-breathed.")

2.) If you don't go to church, then you can't be a real Christian.

3.) Christianity was created by God; therefore, it needs no improvement. To criticize a church or its doctrine is to criticize God Himself.

4.) All Christians believe in the Christian God.

Okay, let me deal with these one at a time.

1.) We know for a fact that the Bible is NOT completely true, IF by truth we mean truth in the journalistic sense, a collection of literal facts. We know the human race is more than six thousand years old. We know there wasn't a global flood five thousand years ago. We know rabbits don't chew cuds (Leviticus 11:6), bats aren't birds (Deuteronomy 14:18), pi isn't equal to three (1 Kings 7:23), and the sky isn't a solid "firmament." We also know the Bible contains historical errors (King Herod didn't slaughter the firstborn of Israel), errors in prophecy (Nebuchadnezzar never destroyed Egypt--Ezekiel 30:10), and flat-out inconsistencies (both David and Elhanan killed Goliath--2 Sam. 21:19). But what many people don't understand about the Bible is it was never intended to be literally true. Rather, it was meant to have moral, mythological value, and much of that content is true. Arguing about the literal truth of the Bible is like arguing whether foxes really eat grapes as in Aesop's fable. (They do, by the way. Foxes are, like us, omnivores.)

Do I think the Bible is literally true? Obviously not. Do you, though? Really? Do you honestly believe every word of the Bible--even the words that don't agree with each other? And if not, does that affect your view of God or Jesus or Christianity at all? I submit to you that partial disbelief is in no way heretical or counterproductive. We all have certain quibbles with the Bible, whether we admit it to ourselves or out loud or to no one at all. The truth is, some Christian religions (and religionists) nowadays believe in evolution, mostly because it really happened. It did. Now, that doesn't mean God doesn't drive evolution, using it as His engine of creation. And it also doesn't take away the moral, mythological lessons of Genesis; namely, that we're all part of one huge human family, and we all suffer one way or another for the mistakes of our forebears.

2.) It's true that I don't go to church any more often than your average agnostic. I have a somewhat complex history with church--or, as we called it in my childhood home, "Kingdom Hall." Yes, I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. That's one reason I know the Bible so well (to be candid, I know it far better than most regular churchgoers do), and Witness doctrine certainly formed the basis for my system of ethics, most of which never changed after I left that faith for good. Yet consider this: Jesus was a regular attendee at synagogue. Does that make him a Christian, or a Jew? Are we defined solely by denomination? One of the reasons I so seldom attend church is that I already know what it's likely to say: God and Jesus are the good guys, Satan is the enemy, and it's better to be a good person than a bad person. So how many times do I need to attend the same class? But if you enjoy the fellowship and reassurance of church, then hey, more power to you. I have no problem with that. Whatever gets you through the week, Gentle Reader, and I mean that sincerely.

3.) Christianity as we understand it was absolutely NOT created by God; rather, it was created by Paul and other first-century church leaders, then recreated by the First Council of Nicaea, then again by any number of human beings. We all know this to be true, but we accept the divinity of the church (whichever church we subscribe to, anyway) because Paul's letters are part of the Bible, and the whole Bible is God-breathed, so Paul must be right about everything. I recently startled my girlfriend's mother by saying I agree with almost everything Jesus said, but I'm no fan of Paul. In fact, I don't think I like Paul very much as a person. It seems arrogant for the former Saul of Tarsus to have told a bunch of Jewish Christians how to behave after spending a fair portion of his life torturing and killing them. He didn't like women very much (1 Tim. 2:11-12); and depending on which translation and/or commentator you read, he probably wasn't fond of gay people, either.

(I interrupt myself for a moment to mention something interesting I found while researching that last sentence. You'll like this. Matthew 8, in the King James Version at least, relates the story of Jesus healing the "servant" of a Roman centurion. Yet the original Greek word was pais, an idiomatic term for "gay lover." In this context, in fact, pais seems to mean the centurion's catamite--a boy kept for sexual purposes. Apparently, Jesus had nothing to say about the soldier's homosexuality, perhaps even child abuse by twenty-first century standards. The Gospel of Luke, written shortly thereafter, softens the term to doulos, a generic word for "servant." See? I told you you'd find it interesting.)

I like most women. (A lot!) I like most gay people, too. I believe women were not created solely to be mothers plus assistants and sexual utilities for men. I believe homosexuality is as genetically predetermined as heterosexuality. Paul doesn't. Simply put, I don't accept Paul's authority on these matters, and I can't imagine why you would, either. I often joke about how much I'd love to see the congregations' letters back to Paul: "Dear Paul...Hey, wait a second. Paul who?! Aren't you that guy who just killed a bunch of us a few years ago? Yeah, butt out, creep. Sincerely, the Ephesians."

Partly because I dislike Paul, I dislike a lot of present-day ecclesiastical "morality." I don't think it is moral to exclude gays or women from visible roles in the church. I don't think it's moral to say a husband is the master of his wife. I don't think it's moral to claim your religion is right and every other religion is sending its believers straight to Hell. You don't know that. I don't know that. Matter of fact, I don't believe in Hell, or the Devil, or some invisible battle between angels and demons ever-raging in the atmosphere around us. If you do, again, more power to you, but it might not be such a great idea to insist we all believe in worldviews you can't possibly prove.

So having said all that, how can I claim, as I do on the last page of my book, to be an "agnostic Christian?" Think about what it meant to be a Christian back around, oh, say, 40 A.D. The church was still disorganized at best, so to be a Christian meant simply to agree with what Jesus said and to act in a way consistent with what Jesus taught. I admire Jesus of Nazareth. As I hope that climactic sermon in Lightfall makes clear, I believe Jesus was centuries ahead of his time--and maybe ours as well--when it comes to acceptance of other genders, professions, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, and sexual persuasions. His behavior toward the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) makes this clear. I aspire to be like Jesus in those respects.

4.) Agnostic? Yep, I sure am. I don't know if God truly exists, and neither you nor I can know the nature of His or Her or Its being or moral outlook beyond a shadow of a doubt. (If we could, in fact, your faith would be meaningless.) In some ways, it's fair to call me an atheist. This is true from a fundamentalist perspective, and I accept it as such. I do not believe in Yahweh, the Jewish war god, and that's the only God some Christians accept. Jesus believed in Yahweh, so we disagree there, but he also tried to soften Yahweh's public persona into something a bit more groovy and inclusive. I like that. Jesus claimed to be the only possible path to salvation (John 14:6). We disagree there as well, as would billions of Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists and Wiccans and animists and atheists and agnostics and apathetics, but I admit his path probably works. I believe a person can share, or at least aspire to share, Jesus's ideals without sharing his cosmology. If you disagree, I understand, but at least now maybe you understand where I'm coming from when I call myself a Christian. I don't hate Christians. In my own mind, at least, I kind of am one.

I could even say the process of researching Lightfall has made me more sympathetic to doctrinal Christians, because I used to think most Christians were hypocrites. Okay, so I still think most Christians are hypocrites, but at least now I understand why. To follow every last rule in the Bible is logistically impossible! Even Jesus worked on the Sabbath (John 9:14-16). And just as important to consider is the fact that some Biblical rules don't make sense to modern people, so we tend to ignore them, all the while paying lip service to Biblical moral authority. Most of us, for example, don't really believe sex before marriage is wrong. If we did, over 90% of Americans wouldn't have premarital sex, especially the over 80% of Americans who identify as Christians. It's not just that all those people succumb to diabolical temptation; rather, they simply don't find it wrong in their hearts. Like me, they disagree with some parts of the Bible, so they live by situational ethics rather than absolute submission to the Bible or church doctrine. They live their lives. They have gay friends and relatives, they have rewarding sex lives of their own, and they ignore Old Testament rules about grooming, the Sabbath, proper diet and animal sacrifice. They might even believe in equal rights for women or evolution or the fallibility of humans who wrote the Bible--but they can't exactly stand up in church and say so, now, can they? So instead they put on one persona in the company of parishioners while living by another set of morals and ethics. Does that make those Christians hypocrites? Yes, but how could they be otherwise? What I found while talking to Christians in depth, even pastors, was they're doing the best they can to make everyone happy, and they're obliged to let consistency fall by the wayside.

I don't hate Christians. I really don't. Oh, I'm amused by some church teachings, and I do wish Christian fundamentalists would keep their noses out of high school science classes--it's like putting vegans in charge of KFC. But the Christians I know and love enjoy the peace of mind Christianity brings to their lives and families. They use the higher, often menacing authority of God to keep their kids on the right track. They like believing God prevents their consciousness from dying when their bodies give out. And they like sharing their Sunday mornings with dozens, even hundreds of instant friends. I understand all those likes. And as the last part of Lightfall makes clear, what I really think is someday soon we're all going to raise our hands as one and admit that, as Bishop Spong asserts, "Christianity Must Change or Die." Either church teachings will, for lack of a better word, evolve to keep up with current knowledge and sentiment, or they'll become so illogical and exclusionary as to be obsolete. I think some churches are close to that now; and I strongly believe many of my readers, even fiercely loyal Christians, would have to agree.

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My Media Onslaught Continues

You ask, I'll show up, read and sign. It's that simple. So here are some upcoming "This Is Our Apocalypse" events:

Tuesday, 1 December at 3:00 p.m., the Olympic College Bookstore in Bremerton. The refreshments and signature are free; the book (should you choose to buy one) isn't. This one's kinda fun 'cause I teach at the OC for my pittance of a livelihood. Writing, you say? No, I answer sheepishly, math. Undergraduate lit groupies welcome.

Saturday, 5 December at 3:00 p.m., Mud Bay Coffee Company, 1600 Cooper Road SW in Olympia. My girlfriend and I love Mud Bay Coffee Company--and she doesn't even like coffee! Caffeine groupies welcome. Basically, groupies welcome. I like groupies.

Saturday, 12 December at 1:00 p.m., Sage Book Store, 116 W. Railroad in Shelton. Not only will I be reading from and signing copies of Lightfall, but my sister, Monica, proprietress of Smoking Mo's Kitchen, will provide free Oklahoma snacks. I've deliberately remained ignorant as to what form those refreshments might take, as I enjoy a good surprise. Shelton Republicans welcome. (Olympia Republicans welcome, too; I know coffee bars and Orca Books give you folks a rash.)

What else? Sales are okay, not fantastic--though we are in a surprising number of bookstores already. That's our base. But as I've said before, this is when your help is not just appreciated but absolutely essential. Without positive word of mouth, Lightfall will go nowhere at Mach Five. Some of you are finishing the book right about now. If you enjoy it, please tell someone. Please. Post a positive review on Amazon or Facebook's Visual Bookshelf. Email friends. Comment about it on Twitter and other social networking sites. Do I sound desperate? Okay, then: I'm desperate. I really do need your help. You're important! Feels pretty good, now, doesn't it?

You'll also be important in the writing of my next novel. Some of you out there have what mainstream, vanilla folks would call unconventional social lives. Maybe you're in an open relationship. Maybe you and your partner are trying to reconcile minority orientations or other lifestyle permutations. Perhaps you identify as asexual, pansexual, polyamorous, or an "ethical slut." Well, guess what, my hot-panted friend, you just became a valuable source for my novel about a sexual theme park. Drop me a line and let me know how that lifestyle's working out for you. Of course, you may remain anonymous if you prefer; but I reserve the right to ask exceedingly personal questions, judgment-free. You will not be quoted directly, and you certainly won't be outed in my book or anywhere else. Thanks again.

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Non Omnis Moriar

This entry will be more of a status update than anything else, as I'm trying to give my friends and family a respite from the relentless shilling they've endured for the last few weeks. I did have my first reading/signing last Friday, the direct result of which is Lightfall was the number one selling book at Orca for the week. That's at least the second time a Fear Nought book has led the pack there, so it's great that Orca's hospitality has been rewarded. Thanks again to Jon Evetts, the entire Orca staff, and everyone who came out for our first End of the World event. Thanks also to folks who bought, not just Lightfall, but other titles as well. That keeps us on Orca's happy valentine list, which benefits authors and readers going forward.

So what was it like, right? That's the question of the week. How does it feel to know one's dreams are coming true? After 6:15 p.m. or so, when it became obvious the room would fill up and books would be signed and sold, it felt fantastic--I think. I'm actually looking forward to watching video of the event, because I remember it mostly as a jump-cut blur. Prior to that, I remember nausea, severe nausea. Five minutes before the event began, I was convinced I was about to spew a Technicolor yawn in the Orca Books parking lot. This would not have been a promising debut for an author.

Why was I so scared? Imagine you're a man pacing in the waiting room. (Apparently it's the 1950s, as you're not in the waiting room pretending you're part of the process.) Somewhere down the hall, something wonderful is happening in your life. At least, that's what you hope. Something horrible could be happening, too, just as easily. And while you're certainly ecstatic about your blessed arrival, you're also well aware your life is about to change in ways you can't see coming. Further, even if the first few months are good, something unspeakably awful might happen down the road. This moment of bliss may not be followed by lasting success. My book may very well die on the vine. I hate to be negative, but these are the facts. Few debut novels are hits, no matter what you may have heard about Twilight or Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. At this point, it's almost completely out of my hands, primarily in yours. So yeah, I'm scared. I really want to be a writer for a living, or at the very least I want to make enough to supplement my pitiful adjunct salary so I can marry my beautiful, brilliant girlfriend. I'll work my ass off to sell this book--and trust me, I'm not a born salesman, so it's tough--but my work on the project effectively ended nine months ago. It's tense here in the waiting room, my friends. I'll enjoy it in weird bursts for months and years to come.

There will be other signings, of course: Olympic College Bookstore at 3:00 p.m. December 1 in Bremerton, Mud Bay Coffee Company at 3:00 December 5 in Olympia, Sage Bookstore at 1:00 December 12 in Shelton, and a whirlwind tour of Oklahoma in March 2010. I'll be more relaxed at those, I think, though they won't all be as well attended as Orca Books. Maybe I'll meet you at one, though, so you'd better believe they're worth doing.

Next question: How tired was your signing hand? It wasn't bad. Ask me again if and when I sign hundreds at a throw! I'll try to keep you up-to-date as the business end of writing becomes a bigger and bigger part of my life. As I went through this process, I discovered the "how to write a novel" books tell us little to nothing about what's going to happen and how to be ready for it all. Maybe this can be my way of helping other writers step through the door.

The best thing about last week was the moment (I think it happened sometime Sunday) when I realized I now have a legacy in this world, no matter how small or bizarre it may be. As Neil Lynn Wise says, Non omnis moriar: "A part of me will never die." It's a quiet satisfaction...almost invisible. I haven't danced for joy. My mom believes I'm sulking through the biggest event of my life. But I have to say, this feeling--the realization that I'm leaving a gift to my planet, a book no one else could possibly write--is one I'll take with me till the day I die.

Now back to selling...and before long, the frantic, delirious, torturous, tortuous process of writing another book.

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Not With a Bang But a Whimper

Michael Stiefel, an associate of Martin Luther, confidently predicted the world would end with Christ's coming and judgment on 19 October 1533, at 8:00 sharp in the morning. I'm not sure if that was Zulu, German, or Palestinian time.

Many European luminaries including Isaac Newton were deeply concerned the world would end in 1666. It didn't, though the Plague and the Great Fire of London were certainly no picnic. Newton later recalculated the year of Christ's coming as 1715.

Mary Bateman claimed her miracle chicken laid eggs with fortunes on them, including an apocalyptic prophecy for 1809. She was later caught shoving inscribed eggs back into the back end of the chicken, whose sacrifice for this cause was no doubt considerable.

John Wesley believed the world would end in October 1836.

William Miller and his followers donned white robes and stood on a hillside to await the Rapture on 21 March 1844, then again on 22 October. The heckling crowd on that second occasion convinced the Millerites to give up, they actually rebranded themselves as the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

Charles Taze Russell insisted the world would end in 1874 and failing that, again, in October 1914. Coincidentally, this latter date marked the onset of World War I. More prosaically, it did not mark the End of the World, so the Russellites gave up, they actually became the Jehovah's Witnesses, who later said confidently the world would end in October 1975. Failing that, they predicted it would end by the end of the twentieth century. These days they're more vague.

David Davidson's exhaustive study of the Pyramids led him to conclude the End would come in 1953.

Walter Simmons' booklet The Day of the Lord said the Day of the Lord would be 10 September 1979.

John Gribbin, science editor of Nature magazine, told Newsweek a planetary alignment would spell disaster in 1982, the year of the so-called "Jupiter effect."

The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh predicted massive floods, earthquakes, and other cataclysms by the end of the century, including the destruction of Los Angeles, New York, Bombay and Tokyo.

David Koresh and his followers holed up in Waco to prepare for Armageddon in 1995. Two years prior to that, history records, the Branch Davidian compound--also called "Ranch Apocalypse"--was stormed by federal agents.

Louis Farrakhan believed the first Gulf War would be "the War of Armageddon...the final War." That year was 1991.

The Mission for the Coming Days, a Korean church, used numerology and ghostly photos to prove the End would come on 28 October 1992.

Pastor John Hinkle told TBN God promised him Armageddon would begin on 9 June 1994. Pastor Crouch agreed but thought Armageddon might be invisible to the human eye. Outside TBN, we call that CYA.

Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese cult, released nerve gas in Tokyo subways, partly as a result of its belief the world would end in 1997.

Terminator 2's Judgment Day was set for 29 August 1997, though that date has been moved forward in an increasingly muddled Terminator mythology.

A computer glitch would of course destroy modern civilization as clocks ticked over to 1 January 2000. I was working at Earthlink at the time and fielded numerous panicked calls about this prediction in the months leading up to "Y2K."

Jack Van Impe predicted "global chaos" in 2001, including a globally dominant Islamic church "controlled by demonic hosts." He later admitted he should have said it was the start of the Millennium, not the end. Oops.

Nancy Lieder claimed aliens from Zeta Reticuli informed her that Planet X aka “Nibiru” would pass close by the Earth on 27 May 2003, causing a polar reversal and massive devastation on, one presumes, both planets. Ms. Lieder, who also claimed Comet Hale-Bopp was a fraud perpetrated by the government to confuse hapless citizens, now believes the “Zetas” are preparing us for a Nibiruan flyby in 2010.

According to Ronald Weinland's 2008: God's Final Witness, "If it [the End] doesn't come to pass...starting in April, then I'm nothing but a false prophet." Fair enough. "By January 2009, we (the United States) will be down the tubes." Again, fair enough, but give the new president a fair chance already, will ya?

As noted eschatological scholar Roland Emmerich has observed--witness his staggering historical authenticity in 10,000 B.C.--the Mayan "Long Count" calendar will change eras on 21 December 2012. Experts are unsure exactly what this means, though most agree it will mark the return of the feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl. Funny, I don't remember seeing the Big Q in all those movie trailers.

Most of the legwork for this entry was done by the good folks at, for which I'm grateful as I'm way too busy today to chase it all down. But you can see where I'm going with this: Obviously, I'd never be foolish enough to set a date for the destruction of Sugar Roses. Unless it's today, Friday the 13th of November, 2009. Which it isn't.

Or is it?! Dun, dun, dunnnnnn...Lightfall hardcovers have arrived from the printer. I’m off to Oly to sign preorders, then read and sign fresh copies at Orca Books. See you there!

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Why You Matter

Yes, you, Gentle Reader. I'm looking right at you. You! See, probably more than you realize, Lightfall's success depends overwhelmingly on you. That's because Fear Nought, while awesome in so many exciting ways, suffers in one important area from the unavoidable sin of being new: Its books aren't listed in Ingram yet.

You've probably never heard of Ingram, and that's okay; prior to two weeks ago I never had, either. Ingram Book Group, as this Wikipedia entry explains, is a distributor of books to thousands of booksellers nationwide, including all the major chains: Borders, Barnes & Noble, Hastings. Even Amazon derives sixty percent of its books from Ingram. Problem is, if you're a publisher with fewer than ten books on the market, Ingram doesn't want to talk to you. So even if the upfront costs weren't prohibitive, Fear Nought would be unable to provide books to major retailers throughout the U.S. via the Ingram (or, for that matter, Baker & Taylor) database. Of course we're working on that situation from our end, but in the meantime, we're obliged to pursue some rather unusual distribution angles.

The bottom line is, we Fear Nought authors can shill our books till the cows come home, but good as they are, it won't matter a toot in a hurricane unless you love those books and, just as important, their authors. I've met both Anna Childs and Neil Lynn Wise, my predecessors on the Fear Nought "label," and they're both normal, friendly, unassuming people who just want to see their literary efforts achieve due success. In order for that to happen--and frankly, in order for Fear Nought to turn a worthwhile profit as a publisher--we need vigorous word of mouth campaigns. We can't run those. You can.

Over the next week or so, Lightfall will start arriving in your hot little hands. (Let's all take a pleasant moment to savor that. Ahhhhh!) If you've clicked on the "Buy Now" button at right and preordered a hardback, I'll be signing your first edition copy over the weekend so Fear Nought can send it on its way. If you've visited the Lightfall link at Smashwords to purchase the e-book edition, then guess what, you're already reading the book four days early, lucky dog. I suspect the Amazon link will go up by the end of next week, and the audiobook edition will follow shortly thereafter. And if you like the book, as I seriously, sincerely hope you will, then I need you to do me and my publisher a huge favor. This is serious now. I really need your help, Gentle Reader. You.

I need you to tell everyone who'll listen how much you loved reading Lightfall. This is no mere gimmick to make you feel important. You are important. Your testimonial matters dozens of times more than my promotional efforts. If you hate the book, and I suppose someone will--it's inevitable--then I hope it's not you, okay? But if it is, I'd be eternally grateful if you didn't share that with anybody else. Email me instead, and we might have an interesting conversation about it.

Let me tell you a story, a true story about a guy named William Paul Young--a former office manager and hotel night clerk from Alberta, Canada--who wrote a Christmas book for his kids. After friends and family responded positively, Mr. Young decided to self-publish his novel, which he called The Shack (lousy title, let's be honest). He was unable to attract either an agent or publisher for the book--I know how that feels--so he and two former pastor buddies created their own publishing label, Wind Blown Media, to format and publicize it. Apparently one of Young's partners maxed out a dozen credit cards to pay printing costs. A leap of faith? You bet.

That was 2007. Over the course of a year, word of mouth built and built until, in June of last year, The Shack hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list. It's been hovering near the top of that list now for a year and a half, earning a readership comparable to that of any name-brand author. Now, I've never read The Shack, and probably never will. Its brand of groovy neotheism isn't my cup of tea. But lots of you did, and I know why. Believe me, it wasn't Young's $300 promotional website, the only publicity effort he could afford.

I first heard of the book when two unrelated friends recommended it to me over the course of a single weekend. That's selling power. That's why The Shack has over seven million copies in print. That's the power you wield. And it's the reason why The Shack, which William P. Young sold out of his garage only two short years ago, now has a chance to affect and inspire people all over the world.

Word of mouth is the ultimate commercial. If you're a Dan Brown fan or, like so many of my friends, an unapologetic "Twihard," then you know what you can do for a book and its author. So before things get crazy (and believe me, they will), let me take one last quiet moment to ask you humbly and respectfully for your assistance in the delivery of a book that's more important to me than even I expected when I first started writing it. Spread the word. This is our baby now.

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Special Thanks, Part 2

I'm still pretty stoked about my very first author signing, November 13 at Orca Books in beautiful downtown Olympia. I noticed this afternoon that Orca's website refers to me as "Bremerton's Swift." I can live with that! More testimonials like that, please. I love it!

My current employer, Olympic College in Bremerton, will host a signing the afternoon of December 1 in its bookstore, which, happily, adjoins its Student Center.

Pre-ordering continues at Fear Nought. Remember, each pre-ordered copy of Lightfall will be a signed copy, and shipping is free. Wait: That can't be right. You mean to tell me a signed, first-edition hardcover is only $21.95, and shipping is free?! Surely that must be a misprint....No, I'm being told it is not. Unbelievable.

I'll be in Oklahoma from March 19 to 28, 2010, a trip which will include a signing at the Ada branch of Hastings Books at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 20. That event is a dream come true for me, as I worked at Hastings one summer back in college, imagining the day I might appear there as a real artist. There could also be a special event at my undergraduate alma mater, East Central University in Ada, which will shelve a signed copy of Lightfall in its library's Special Collections. I'll keep you in the loop as I find out more.

So that's me getting and enjoying my props. It's annoying, I know. But guess what? I have a few to give back. As most novels do, Lightfall includes a page of acknowledgments. Some of you are on it, though some of you don't know you are yet. Rest assured I'll send free copies to a handful of you for assistance above and beyond the call of friendship. But it's not a good idea to stuff the end of a book with references only a few people will get, so I'm afraid I was unable to thank many people who really do deserve some recognition. Consider this entry a first attempt at atoning for my unavoidable offense; I'm sure others will follow.

The first person I want to thank is Mr. Rick Qualls, a teacher at Hydesville Elementary (K-8) in Hydesville, CA. Mr. Qualls decided early on that I must be some sort of writer, so he assigned me individual homework toward that end. I wrote and illustrated a book for children called Dreams over the two years he taught me, the seventh and eighth grade. (It was such a tiny school we actually stayed in the same small room two years in a row.) It wasn't as good as Fear Nought author Anna Childs', I admit, but I remember it had its moments. Mr. Qualls always talked to me like a young adult, and I will never forget him or thank him sufficiently. He worked my ass off, but no harder than he worked himself--and that despite a serious struggle with epilepsy. He made a huge impression on my life, and he's probably the biggest single reason why I decided to become an educator.

I wish I could thank every writer I've ever enjoyed, a full list of which would crash this site and probably all of UUNET as well. Ray Bradbury's S Is for Space started the ball rolling thirty-five years ago. I lived for classic sci-fi as a kid: Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and a host of subsequent SF Trinitarians including Larry Niven, David Brin, Frederick Pohl, Frank Herbert, Neal Stephenson, Robert J. Sawyer--geez, the list goes on and on. Fantasy authors filled my shelves as well, beginning with the master, J. R. R. Tolkien, and spilling over into Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, Alan Dean Foster, and Neil Gaiman. I still read fantasy and SF, but my tastes as an adult have shifted largely to authors who slide in and out of genre fiction like chameleons: Michael Crichton, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, Junot Diaz. My favorite book of all time is still The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by the sorely-missed Douglas Adams, and Sarah Vowell is the literary voice of my generation. (Sorry, Coupland and Eggers.)

I've thanked George Lucas and Carl Sagan before--in my graduate thesis, for one--but if you add David Letterman to this paragraph, you've probably named the three biggest non-familial reasons I talk the way I talk, think the way I think, and live the way I live. A mob of comedians are also partly responsible, so blame Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Sam Kinison, Patton Oswalt, Louis CK, and many others. Comedy is as important as literary fiction to my writing, I find, because it keeps my mind on its toes.

Some will wonder why my father wasn't thanked in Lightfall. Well, it is, after all, a book I dedicated to my mother, but this isn't a case of "Hi, Mom!" in the end zone--I'm actually saving Dad for my guy-friendlier second book.

Shawn Martin, Kevin Worden, Charles Mann, Heather Hammond, Cathlena West, Alan Marshall, Greg Stevens, Cassie Alexander, Eric Moore, Scott Evans, Mark Walling, Bill Zellner, Leslie Martin, Linza Cook, Heather Craig, Tim Goebel, my siblings (Richard, Monica and Andrew), and so many friends over so many years--all of you have affected my thinking, and really, isn't a book just a sloppy conglomeration of everything an author's been thinking?

Finally, thank you, thank you, thank you again to the singular city of Olympia, Washington, for hugging me in and revealing my authorial spirit at last.

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My First Author Signing!

There are people who believe the world will end in 2012...

...Why wait?

You're all very happily invited to my first author signing, Friday, November 13 at 6:00 p.m., Orca Books in Olympia. Tell a friend! Let's overrun the place! The End of the World is underway!

View and sign the Fear Nought Evite here!

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The End Has Finally Begun!

It thrills me to announce that you may now pre-order your very own copy of Lightfall by clicking here. The book is only $21.95 in first-printing hardcover, and you will not be charged for delivery on pre-orders. (You will, however, be charged today, rather than at time of delivery. That's because Fear Nought processes its pre-orders via PayPal, and we do apologize for the inconvenience.)

This is a momentous day for me, my family, and all my friends. That means you. It is also the beginning of the End for poor li'l Sugar Roses, Oklahoma. Hey, do me an enormous favor, okay? Wallop Fear Nought with pre-orders. Knock their socks off. Order multiple copies for Christmas. This will accomplish several things: First, it will ensure that Fear Nought buys my book on sex--oh, you know you want to read that. Second, it will make me a huge literary star, at which time you are cordially invited to ride my coattails. And third, it will show you have outstanding taste in friends, as I most certainly do.

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Sugar Roses

Welcome to Sugar Roses, Oklahoma, population eighteen thousand, give or take, depending on whether Southern Oklahoma State University is in session. And here's a handy street map, courtesy of the Sugar Roses Chamber of Commerce and the good people at Scooter’s Stop-n-Git, corner of Anderson and Main--where you’re not just a customer, you’re family! Why not drive in today, for a dee-licious chicken fried hot link sandwich, or one of Bubba's famous catfish pies? Tell 'em Carv sent ya, and get a fifty-four-ounce Guzzler Buddy full of Coke or Dr Pepper for only thirty-nine cents while supplies last!

P.S.: By the way, Fear Nought just entered the e-book market, which is good news for all of us. Check out Neil Lynn Wise's very entertaining fantasy epic The Lost Warrior, available here.

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Dramatis Personae

Okay, so I have a confession to make: There is no Zack Heath. Or rather, there are hundreds of Zack Heaths out there--I even know one in California--but the "Zack Heath" introduced below bears no relation to any of them. He's a resident of "Sugar Roses, Oklahoma," the focal point of my novel, Lightfall. About a year before I wrote Lightfall, I read a great book called The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis, in which a supernatural mystery is told from the shifting perspectives of seemingly dozens of characters, including children, small animals, and lichen. One of my goals for Lightfall was to emulate Ms. Davis's soaring point of view. Consequently, you'll meet a broad sample of Sugar Roses; but as I can't say I wield Ms. Davis's effortless genius, a few readers got lost in the crowd. The publishers and I decided to add a quick character intro, which I'm reproducing for you below. Consider this a free sneak peek at the first page of the book!


Sugar Roses, Oklahoma, population eighteen thousand: a sleepy, conservative college town known—though not widely—for its Christian infotainment company, Saving Grace, and a misguided police prosecution. Nothing much ever happened here worth knowing about…until now. Sugar Roses is about to become a flashpoint for the prophesied End of the World.

Meet the eyewitnesses:

Shay Veracruz—a frustrated customer service rep at Saving Grace, widowed mother to four-year-old Lacey.

Zack Heath—a theatre professor at Southern Oklahoma State University; currently sleeping with Shay…and a number of his students.

Buddy Sims—a mentally retarded adult paperboy who converses with his own personal Jesus.

Amanda Quinlan—an angst-ridden nineteen-year-old blogger, who shelves books at the Sugar Roses library while fretting she may be pregnant.

Scott Glass—local boy made good, a Hollywood screenwriter come home to write about the Sugar Roses police department.

Phillip Mars—gay book department manager at Bayeux Books, Music and Video.

And Danny Murcheson—a redneck, domestic beer enthusiast, and avenger-in-training who takes orders from a bloodthirsty Voice in his head.

“This is our Apocalypse,” Amanda writes. “Tell me you can’t feel it coming. Does anyone hear me calling for help?” Together this cross section of America’s Bible Belt will face a series of unprecedented catastrophes. Are these events truly supernatural? Do they presage the foretold Apocalypse? And who will be moral and strong enough to survive? Only one thing is certain as we begin Earth’s final story:

The endgame has already begun.

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