INCONJUNCTION SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY CONVENTION 2014 IS THIS COMING WEEKEND!!!

Inconjunction Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention 2014 is being held on the east side of Indianapolis, this Fourth of July weekend! It’s an awesome local event celebrating all things within the speculative fiction realms. This year I’m attending as part of the Speculative Fiction Guild (SFG) and we’re hitting the con in a big way.

TGK OFFICIAL COVER ART

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll have a vendor’s booth with all of our titles, where I’ll be selling and autographing copies of my debut novel,  The God Killers. Convention pricing is $15.

Also at the SFG booth: RJ SullivanMatthew Barron and Eric Garrison. Directly next to us is SFG member Crystal Leflar, who’s running her OWN vendor booth as event marketer for Nightscape Press, so check out their array of titles along with her own books.

The WONDERFUL folks who throw Inconjunction (the Circle of Janus) has the SFG hopping in panels this year and we’re glad for it!

This will be my second appearance at Inconjunction, first time with a novel to sell/promote and I’M VERY EXCITED to attend!

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Here’s my panel itinerary:

Friday, July 4th
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8 pm–Grand Ballroom 7 and 8: Analyzing the History of the Comic Book Movie with: RJ Sullivan and Mike Suess.
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Saturday, July 5
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11 am–Indianapolis Ballroom D: SFG Writer’s Workshop: Point of View: Why it’s Better to Have One with: the SFG: RJ, Eric, Matt, and Crystal, plus Rosemary Laurey

1 pm–Room name coming: Discussion on genre television, title forthcoming: with RJ Sullivan.

3 pm–Indianapolis Ballroom D: Modern Fairy Tales with Eric Garrison, Crystal Leflar and Rosemary Laurey.

4 pm-Grand Ballroom 7-8: Making the Jump to a Series with RJ Sullivan and Mike Shepherd.

5pm-Grand Ballroom 7-8: Comic Book Movies: Live Action and Animation with RJ Sullivan and Mike Suess.

7 pm–Harrison Room: SFG Writer’s Roundtable: Making the most of local settings in genre fiction with The SFG:  RJ, Eric, Matt, and Crystal.

10 pm–Grand Ballroom 7-8: Candlelight Horror Reading with RJ Sullivan, Crystal Leflar and Jeff Seymour.
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Sunday, July 6
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11 am-Indianapolis Ballroom B: This Year’s Comic Book Movies with Mike Suess.
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While you’re there, check out James Barnes of Loconeal Books, local filmmaker Kate Chaplin of Karmic Courage Productions, and check out the show by Five Year Mission.

I HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!!!

 

 

 

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THE GOD KILLERS GETS A FIVE STAR REVIEW! PLEASE JOIN IN ON THE LIVE CHAT GOING ON NOW!!!

Author John F. Allen Interview and Amazon Gift Card Contest LIVE NOW!!!

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The God Killers by John F. Allen

CLICK HERE TO READ FULL REVIEW: http://bittenbybooks.com/the-god-killers-by-john-f-allen/

Book Stats:

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Seventh Star Press, LLC (July 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1937929167
  • ISBN-13: 978-1937929169

Buy a print copy of The God Killers from Amazon by clicking here.
Buy a Kindle copy of The God Killers from Amazon by clicking here.

Books in the God Killers Legacy series in the order they should be read:
The God Killers

 Review Overview
Overall Rating: *****

Summary : The mechanics of The God Killer just work really well. It excellently-paced, Ivory’s voice is strong and certain, and it sets up what I can easily see as being a much wider world with endless potential. The plot is fantastic, including some very effective twists that make this a really fun read. The God Killers is obviously the opening salvo to a promising series, yet it still manages to give resolution to the initial mystery.

CELEBRATING DIVERSITY WITHIN SPECULATIVE FICTION IS NOT DIVISIVE OR SEPARATIST

WHAT WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH

 

Last month, I ran a series of blog posts spotlighting Black Speculative Fiction Month. BSFM was designed to acknowledge and spread the word about black authors and artists within the speculative fiction genre.
In and of itself, speculative fiction is mostly represented by whites and thus doesn’t usually have protagonists of color. That said, the readers of speculative fiction are mostly unaware of black authors in the genre.

One of the intentions of BSFM is to not only celebrate the achievements of black authors—which can be easily overlooked by the mainstream audience—but to also inform and educate the readers and potential reader of speculative fiction that diversity does exist and that various racial and cultural groups are being represented.

Many within the black community don’t read speculative fiction because they see it as either silly—too far removed from reality—or dominated by whites who often exclude any characters of color. So, most of the black community isn’t even aware that black speculative fiction authors exist. This is where BSFM comes into play.

The month long celebration informs those within the community and in the mainstream who don’t know, of the existence of black speculative fiction authors. This is an effort to not only inform readers of black authors, but to also bring new readers to the genre of speculative fiction as a whole.

I was confronted by an individual who felt that having BSFM was divisive and separatist. I attempted to explain that his interpretation of the celebration was not at all its intent. I tried to point out the goals I stated earlier, but unfortunately to no avail.

Sure, as you would expect most black speculative fiction writers have a predominately black cast of characters, whereas most white speculative fiction writers have a predominately white cast of characters. We write within our framework of experience and what comes natural and to me there’s nothing wrong with that. I have white characters, Asian characters, etc… in my work(s), as white authors have black characters within their work(s). But how I approach any character I create—regardless of race—is to make them human, first and foremost. I don’t get caught up in trying to make them conform to typical stereotypes in order to assert authenticity. To do this, creates a caricature of an ethnic group and does almost nothing to develop the character as an entity.

I have enjoyed books where the cast of characters were all white, but I never got particularly angry or disgruntled, nor did I urge those creators to include token blacks to make their work more balanced. I write stories with black protagonists and a predominately black cast, not in answer to my white counterparts, but because that’s what comes naturally to me. It’s not divisive or separatist to write what you know.

It wasn’t too long ago that the mainstream public refused to acknowledge, let alone publish or feature black speculative fiction authors. If we as a group wanted to be seen or heard, we had to do it for ourselves. Now, there is a slow movement to integrate black creators into the mainstream however, much more is yet to be done and  celebrations like BSFM only help to foster diversity within the world of genre fiction by spreading the word about those outside of the mainstream’s purview.

A lot of people I know within speculative fiction are coming together to explore our differences and learn something new about other people and to me that’s a good thing. It has always been my idea that when I’m reading speculative fiction, I’m looking for a bold new adventure. What could be more different than to step outside of the box you’re accustomed to and explore a more diverse take on genre fiction? I’m not sure how making people aware of diversity, exploring new cultural takes on genre fiction and authors writing within the scope of their experience is such a bad thing.

SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER?

FIVE THINGS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU BEGIN A CAREER AS A WRITER

typewriter_1_lgMany people who aren’t writers or who aspire to one day write the “NEXT BEST THING” have absolutely no idea what a writing life entails.  It is because of their skewed and/or misguided ideas on what being a writer is about that they often suffer from severe delusions of granduer. It is the intent of this particular post to dispell the erroneous notions many have about the writing life and what it means to be a writer.

I’ve had people actually ask me when I got my book deal, “So now that you’re published I suppose you’re going to quit your job and move to a big house in the hills?”

I was astonished at first…did they know something I didn’t? Don’t get me wrong, every writer wants to reap the rewards of their work, but extreme changes in lifestyle, affluence and riches are not in the cards for the vast majority of us. The fact is that only 1% or less of (fiction) writers are able to live off of the revenue generated from the sales of their writing endeavors. This is further compounded by the fact that an even smaller group of that meager 1% are well off, let alone wealthy.

Some folks think that all published writers own some measure of noteriety and I suppose that’s true to some extent. However, very rarely does it result in an easy, carefree lifestyle like the allusions created in the minds of those who don’t know any better. Even those wealthy writers like Stephen King, James Patterson, Danielle Steel or JK Rowling, didn’t get their rewards overnight. Sure, there are a miniscule number of virtually overnight success stories, but believe me when I say those are very far and few in between and it didn’t exactly happen overnight.

The following is a favorite quote of mine from best selling fantasy author RA Salvatore and it happens to be in my opinion the best advice for an aspiring writer to consider when contemplating a career as a writer.

There’s way too much pain in this business (writing) for anyone who doesn’t have to write. I always tell beginning writers, “If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.”

~ R.A. Salvatore

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Five questions to ask yourself before embarking on a career as a writer.

1) Do you like to write?

I know that this seems like a given, but surprisingly there are a number of people who don’t like to write and still aspire to do so. These folks may have an idea that they think is great (and it might just be), but have absolutely NO PASSION for the craft. While I’m not one to discourage anyone from their dreams and/or goals, I think that folks who answer no or even “not really” to this question, should think long and hard about perhaps finding something more fulfilling and rewarding to do with their lives.

2) Can you quit writing?

This question is very much tied to the Salvatore quote and is a very legitimate question to ask yourself before pursuing a writing career. If you can go days, weeks, months, years without writing or at least thinking about it, then perhaps you should find a more attention grabbing and fulfilling vocation. But if you can’t (and you answered yes to question #1), then by all means I encourage you to proceed.

3) Do you want to write because you want an easy, carefree lifestyle with wealth and adoration aplenty?

If you answer “yes” to this question, PLEASE don’t continue to pursue a career as a writer…YOU WILL BE VERY DISAPPOINTED! Again I will acknowledge those rare overnight success stories, but the odds of becoming one of those fortunate few are very slim to none. Even if that sort of success eventually finds you, that shouldn’t be what drives your writing. This is a prime example of those delusions of grandeur I mentioned earlier.

4) Are you a storyteller?

For a fiction writer, this is essential. If you aren’t a storyteller then regardless of what your answers to the above questions are, it is my opinon that you might want to find something else to do with your life. The very essence of fiction writing is to convey a story and if you don’t have stories to tell, then what’s the point? Many people enter into writing (or at least attempt to do so) and have not one story to tell. They’re under the impression that stringing a few sentences into paragraphs and putting together some dialogue constitutes a story. Well, the sobering truth is that it takes a lot more than that to make a story, let alone a good one. Stories generally start with an idea, but an idea alone does not a story make!

5) Can you write only when inspired or in the mood?

Some may argue that it’s still possible to be a writer who writes only when inspired to do so and I’d have to respectfully disagree. I can assure you that if I only wrote when inspired, I’d never finish a damned thing! Being a writer (especially a novelist) is about writing whether you’re inspired or in the mood, because deadlines are deadlines and the story WILL NOT write itself.  The following quote from successful, best selling author Neil Gaiman, I think says it all.

“If you only write when you’re inspired you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count today and those words aren’t going to wait for you whether you’re inspired or not.
You …have to write when you’re not inspired. And you have to write the scenes that don’t inspire you. And the weird thing is that six months later, a year later, you’ll look back at them and you can’t remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you just wrote because they had to be written next.

The process of writing can be magical. Mostly it’s a process of putting one word after another.” ~ Neil Gaiman in conversation with Chris Hardwick. (via terribleminds)

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In closing, I want it to be clear that in writing this post I am not attempting to dash the dreams and goals of new and aspiring writers. My intent is to merely dispell the very problematic and misguided ideals that some pepole pursuing a career as a writer might have. I’m the first to be very encouraging to new and aspiring writers, but please consider the questions I’ve posed and answer them truthfully before you devote yourself to the writing life.

WRITE ON!

© 2013 John F. Allen

URBAN FANTASY HAS ROOTS

THE GOD KILLERS FACEBOOK COVER ARTWhile I’m not a big fan of romance novels, I don’t mind them nearly as much when the characters are gritty and preternatural creatures are involved, downplaying the sappiness associated with most novels where the word romance is used. Paranormal romance novels are the next big thing and filling the bookstore shelves in record numbers. Spurred on further by young adult novels such as Twilight, this newly developed niche genre has been spreading like wildfire.

When I first heard the term urban fantasy used to describe a sub-genre of fantasy, I wasn’t exactly sure what the term meant. Most times the word urban brings to mind things associated with black people. I know that the word actually means, ‘relating to or belonging to a city’ however, urban radio, urban news, urban plight, the urban center are merely PC ways of referring to things associated with blacks.

The first novel I read—remotely fitting into this genre—was Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton, featuring vampire hunter Anita Blake. The novel was originally billed as a horror/mystery novel, which is as accurate of a description as any. The novel contained all of the elements of a mystery and read like a Robert B. Parker mystery novel which is a BIG compliment coming from me. However, the paranormal elements were present as well. Vampires, werewolves and zombies, oh my!

Another urban fantasy author named Jim Butcher popped up with a novel titled Storm Front, which introduced us to Chicago wizard Harry Dresden. The most common links between Hamilton and Butcher’s novels was:

a) both were set in major US cities, and

b) they both featured paranormal creatures.

I would also like to bring to light another commonality of the two novels—which is true about most novels in the genre,—in that the main characters were white. I have no problem with either author having predominately white characters because the authors are white and you often write what you know. However, shortly after I discovered these authors, I was introduced to another author named L.A. Banks. I was pleasantly surprised that a black author was writing in this genre and the novel featured a black main character. I found other black authors in the genre, yet those I did find such as Seressia Glass and Maurice Broaddus—were far and few between.

Another problem for blacks writing in this genre is the whitewashing of their book covers. Far too often you see books with black protagonists who aren’t featured on the book covers. Why is this? It’s almost like in the sixties when blacks weren’t allowed to be on the covers of their albums because the white mainstream wouldn’t buy them. I’m happy to say that Banks, Broaddus and Glass feature their black characters prominently on the covers of their books, which is as it should be.

The sad truth is there just aren’t that many black authors writing in this genre. As a writer whose work fits within the urban fantasy genre, I intend to add my voice to the fold with my debut urban fantasy novel, The God Killers due out this summer and published by Seventh Star Press. Over the years, I’ve spoken to countless people who are hankering for more works from black authors. Which lead me to believe that we should be working towards bringing black urban fantasy writers to the forefront of people’s minds and the bookstore shelves. I know there’s a market for black urban fantasy novels and that urban fantasy has small black roots which we must nourish and help to grow.

© 2012 John F. Allen

THERE’S NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN

Sun_woodcutWhen I was a child, my grandmother told me one day, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” At first I didn’t understand what she meant. Later, as I got a little older I refused to believe her, and was determined to prove her wrong. Finally, when I began focusing on my career as a writer, I accepted her nugget of knowledge as fact, and learned to embrace it for the truth it is. However, if the above observation is true, then what makes any story different from the next?

The answer…

LIFE EXPERIENCE, IMAGINATION, VOICE AND STYLE.

As most fiction writers will agree, we are products of our environment and individual life experiences and therefore, it stands to reason that many of the seeds for our story plots originate from said life experiences. This can be from what we’ve dealt with on a personal level, what we’ve heard from others, or seen around us including—but, certainly not limited to—what we’ve watched on television, read in books or learned in school. These personal life experiences give our stories a unique flavor which cannot be exactly cloned due to the intricate variables in our individual lives.

I believe that there is a collective consciousness which extends to us all, as we tap into our imaginations and creativeness. We must also accept the fact that the possibilities for formulating scenarios involving larger than life creatures, myths, epic heroes and monsters is finite, just as our voices and styles are infinite. As writers, we sometimes find in the course of plotting a story that we read stories from someone else who came up with very similar ideas for their already published work(s). It is because of this, I continue to work against the truth stated in the title of this post, in order to produce unique stories. I feel in doing this, I can delve deeper into the recesses of my imagination, creativity and life experiences to produce my very own individual story. It is here that we begin to use our imagination to find a variation of the themes we draw from our life experiences and formulate creatively new and exciting takes on tried and true scenarios and themes. It is then that we brand our stories with distinctive twists and turns and imbue it with our own individual spirits and personalities.

As a writer, I’m constantly thinking up new story ideas and using my voice and style to tell the stories. All writers have their own unique voice and style, which separates them from other writers. When it comes to certain elements of storytelling, there are no new ideas. Often, writers of genre fiction ultimately come across elements in another author’s work that closely resembles their own. While this is a common phenomenon, it doesn’t mean that we can’t separate ourselves from other storytellers using similar scenarios and/or themes; it merely means we must work all the more harder at imparting our own essence into our work in order to make it exclusive to us.

Just as there are finite possibilities in regards to scenarios and themes, there is again something to be said for voice and style. I’ve read books that had such similar plots that if you broke it down to the bare essentials it could be the same book. However, what separated the books was the differences in how the authors delivered the story, developed the characters, and the language used to breathe life into the personalities of the characters. How we tell a story, and how much of ourselves we put into our works, is what sets us apart from other writers with similar ideas and themes.

Always remember the old Vulcan axiom from the Star Trek series, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (IDIC), the philosophy which celebrates the vast array of possibilities and variables in the known universe. And while there are finite themes when stripped down to their essential cores, when we take into consideration the life experiences, imagination, voice and style of the storyteller, the possibilities are indeed infinite and quite fascinating.

 

© 2013 John F. Allen

THE REWARDS OF WRITING

GOLD STARWhen I first started seriously pursuing my writing goals some three years ago, my life changed in ways that at the time I could have never imagined. Over the years, relationships formed with some very amazing people, who I never would have had the honor of knowing otherwise. My writing skills have improved and I’m more confident in my voice. In general, my friends and family have supported my journey as a writer, for which I am immensely grateful. However, pursuing a career as a writer has not been without its detractors and malcontents.

From early on, what I’d read about being a writer and the pitfalls which came from it was discouraging to say the least. Many of the articles stated that writing was a solitary endeavor which caused introversion, apathy, madness, depression and eventually led to death. Many famous examples of this gave it a modicum of truth, that was unless you became published and garnered a healthy following, then you just ended up dying of a heart attack due to lack of exercise and/or poor diet. I also read that there was little to no money or reward in writing. A more highly compensated career path such as law or medicine was encouraged.

Unfortunately, there is merit to what I read and there are undeniable truths in much of it. I think that writing can lead to the above maladies—which can prove fatal—but, I know that those very same afflictions can arise from a multitude of other professions, some of which practically guarantee far more compensation and personal accolades. It’s also true that because writers are usually sedentary, most of us aren’t the most fit or health conscious people in the world. As far as making truckloads of money from writing, less than 1% makes more than four figures a year. Even ER doctors and small time dentists can do better monetarily. However, one thing—from the above mentioned pitfalls of writing—that I feel has absolutely no merit or truth, is that there is little to no reward from writing.

I have found that writing is rewarding on so many different levels that it is in itself invaluable. I cannot begin to tell you how many times that writing a blog post or a journal entry has saved the last remnant of my threadbare sanity. As an outlet for an emotional meltdown, the latest family crisis, or dealing with all of the voices of your characters in your head, I’ve found writing to be very therapeutic. Writing is also something which is a huge part of who I am as a person, which is rewarding in its own right. Having a high paying career and being unhappy would only go so far. Money can buy you a lot of things, however it can’t buy you fulfillment.

Writing can also serve as an obvious means of expressing one’s thoughts and ideas, in such a way as to inform, entertain, make a statement or create change. Yet, telling stories can also be a very selfish effort as well. I’ve found that my motivation for writing isn’t always altruistic.

If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

~Toni Morrison

I have come to live by the above quote from Morrison, as it sums up the previous statement perfectly.

In all of the other examples of rewards one can gain from writing, I feel that this final one is most important. Not solely because it can serve to prevent the previously mentioned pitfalls of writing from becoming fatal, or because it can inspire and empower us to reach our fullest potential, not only as writer’s, but also as humans. I feel that this final example is most important because it has the power of giving us hope. Hope of learning from our past, hope of coping with our present and hope of brighter futures, just beyond the horizon. I’m talking about family.

I have been blessed to have entered into a very eclectic, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic family of writers dedicated to the craft and each other. I feel that the personal relationships that I have and continue to develop with fellow writers are crucial to my ability to persevere in the darkest of times we writers face. My college professor, Jim Powell once told me that without the human condition/connection, our writing would be without meaning, no matter the genre. That not only applies to the content of our work but how we live as a community. I believe in the truth of his statement and what it means for the millions of writers out there grinding out their work every day just as I do.

I have experienced the awesome comradery which being a part of a community of writers provides. How we share, how we laugh, how we cry, and I know that we are a very special group of people. I have had the honor of meeting and befriending a great group of writers who have helped to guide me, inspire me, and support me as a writer and as a person. I can only hope to repay their kindness with kindness of my own and an extended hand to others I meet along my journey. We as writers, have an obligation to continue moving the art of writing forward by remaining vigilant in our efforts to strengthen our collective community. We must take every opportunity to extend a hand to our brethren, helping them along on their journey as best we can. Although it’s impossible for us to know each and every one of our brothers and sisters on a personable level, I believe we are of a shared consciousness and linked by our call to write. We must always remember that when we reward each other, we reward ourselves, and the rewards are invaluable.

REMEMBER TBIYTC!!!