Tag Archives: 42 Discovering Faith Through Fandom

Weekend Report: Michigan Statewide Youth Convention

Eric Anderson (left) and I representing Nerd Chapel at the Michigan Statewide Youth Convention.

My friend/co-author Eric Anderson, founder of Nerd Chapel, tabled at a convention last weekend, though it wasn’t a comic-con. No, it was the Michigan Statewide Youth Convention in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Eric got a table there to promote Nerd Chapel, part of which was selling our devotional, 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom. He asked to attend to help him out. I was only able to make it Saturday (the event ran from Friday to Sunday), but Saturday was when most of the action happened.

It took me a little longer than I expected to arrive (closer to two hours instead of 90 minutes), but that gave me extra time to listen to the audiobook of That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, which I’d been meaning to read for a while. I arrived at the Radisson Hotel in downtown, and after fighting with way too many one-way streets (and I thought downtown Fort Wayne had too many), I barely stepped out of my car before an older black woman came up to me begging me to give her money for gas so she could get back to Gary, Indiana, going on about loving Jesus and thanking Him like a southern Baptist. Against my better judgment, I gave her some money. She said she’d pay me back through the mail the following Monday, so I wrote my address on one of my bookmarks and gave it to her. Honestly, I feel like I got suckered. I’m going soft.

Anyway, I walked inside and connected with Eric. Since it was lunchtime, we explored the area looking for a place to eat. We had a short time because he was holding a session at 2pm about using your passions missionally. We tried Subway, but the line was too long. Then we walked a few blocks to a local McDonald’s.

I watched the table for a bit while Eric was downstairs for the session. He asked me to join him a little later because he wanted me to talk a bit about the work I’d done as a Christian in the publishing industry. I mostly stood to the side while Eric did most of the talking, which is a switch for us, usually. I spoke about meeting a young would-be writer at Gen-Con a few years ago at my table and talking with him for almost 45 minutes. Then a bit later he gave me the floor to talk about working in the publishing industry. Eric closed the session with a Q&A. First, he asked if anyone had any serious questions, of which there were few, and then he opened it up to “nerd” questions, of which there were many. A few students even specifically asked me questions about writing. I spent a half-hour talking with several students about comics, Star Wars, and anime afterward.

The rest of the afternoon was relatively quiet. I spoke with some of the people from the other ministries around us. Eric and I had dinner at the fancy bar and grill in the hotel (courtesy of the convention). When the main session was about to start at 7pm, lots of students and youth leaders came to us wanting to learn more about Nerd Chapel or buy books. They said they loved what we were doing and that they’d never heard of ministries like this. Eric and I were encouraged to hear that.

It was once again quiet during the main session. Eric ran lights during it, while I stayed outside the auditorium to watch the table and do some writing. Then for about 30 minutes afterward at 9pm, I was talking with people and selling books. I even met a teenage girl who was once part of a nerd ministry/club/Facebook group with us. She had pink hair to boot.

With that, I joined Eric downstairs in the game room where teens could play video games—include Nintendo 64(!)—and board games. I brought my copies of Star Wars: Epic Duels and Sentinels of the Multiverse. As you’d expect, Epic Duels was a big hit. I played with several teen boys who’d seen me earlier in the day at Eric’s session. We geeked out and had a great time. One of their mothers watched for a few minutes, knowing her son would probably want the game. He did. I told him, “Good luck. The game usually sells for a hundred dollars now.” He seemed determined, though.

I departed for home after that.

All in all, it was a good weekend. Eric and I sold many books and made ourselves known to more people.

Here’s Eric’s blog about the weekend.

This weekend I attend Hall of Heroes Comic-Con in Elkhart, Indiana, though not as a vendor.

My (Overdue) Alma-Con Report

I’m getting into a bad habit of not blogging in a timely fashion. Or on time. My friend/co-author Eric Anderson definitely kicked my butt on this one since he blogged about it two weeks ago! Hence why you’re getting this and another blog today.

Anyway, Eric asked me to join him at Alma-Con, a small but growing anime/fandom convention held at Alma College in Alma, Michigan (seeing a pattern here?) 😛 He purchased a table to promote his nerd/geek outreach ministry, Nerd Chapel, but he was selling copies of our devotional book, 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom, so he wanted me present. He’d asked me to attend other cons with him, but I wasn’t able to make it, so this was exciting.

What follows will be similar to write Eric wrote about, but we did have some different experiences.

I arrived an hour or so after the con began. The vendors’ hall—at least the one we were in—was only open for a few more hours. Not much happened while I was there except we met a panelist (whose name escapes me) who saw the title of our book and said, “That sounds like something Vic would say.”

Quoting Korath from Guardians of the Galaxy, I said, “Who?”

He explained he was friends with Vic Mignogna, a popular anime voice actor (among other things). I was surprised to (re)learn that Vic was a Christian and went to panels to discuss faith in anime. This gentleman, Eric and I learned, was a practitioner of sect of Buddhism strangely similar to Christianity. He shared his story of how he came to this faith. He said he’d come back later to talk with us, but sadly, he never came. (If you’re reading this, please contact Eric and/or I!)

Eric (right) and I (left) as Martian Manhunter and Superman, respectively.
Eric (right) and I (left) as Martian Manhunter and Superman, respectively.

Saturday was the long day. Eric and I cosplayed. He was Martian Manhunter and I was Superman. I enjoyed wearing the costume because I’ve gotten into better shape since the last time I wore it, and given that it’s, well, spandex, I was glad for that. The most interesting stories that came from that day was meeting a young man who was a member of the “Church of Satan,” yet they didn’t worship Satan or even believe he existed, which was interesting. While Eric was gone, though, a belligerent cosplayer dressed as some blue-haired anime mad scientist (or something) came over and proceeded to insult me and denigrate Christianity while in character. I wasn’t sure what to think of it, so I just ran with it and smiled.

Two Alma College students were kind enough to give Eric and I their lunches from their meal plans, so we got some food from the college diner, Joe’s.

The Alma College students who kindly offered their lunches to us.
The Alma College students who kindly offered their lunches to us.

I, too, wandered around. It was then I learned one of my few gripes with the con: the buildings it was held in were too far apart. It was a Michigan winter, so obviously it was cold, and tights provide little protection against such weather. I did go check out the other artists and vendors, and as usual, I had to refrain from buying a bunch of stuff (including a book self-publishing comic books). I did purchase a replica of the fob watch used by David Tenant in two episodes of Doctor Who, though. It went great with my cosplay.

Speaking of which, once the vendor hall closed for the day, I changed into my 10th Doctor cosplay. Eric and I got dinner at Joe’s, where we met a fellow Whovian/cosplayer.

IMG_3482
The fob watch I bought for my 10th Doctor cosplay.
Me with a fellow Whovian cosplayer.
Me with a fellow Whovian cosplayer.

We then went to see MacSith, a play performed by a traveling theatre troupe from Chicago. It is Shakespeare’s MacBeth if it took place in the Star Wars universe. It. Was. FANTASTIC! It combined two of my favorite things—Shakespeare and Star Wars—in a seamless and wonderful fashion. Thankfully, I don’t have to describe it all to you since, unlike most theatre, they allowed (non-flash) photography and video to be taken. The costumes, the fight choreography, the little Star Wars flavoring to the original dialogue—it was amazing.

Sadly, I couldn’t say the same for the next event Eric and I attended. It was billed as a “masquerade ball.” Since we’ve had ballroom dance training, we were interested in going to this unlike the rave that was held the night before. The con program even said there was a dress code, and the organizers reserved the right to turn people away if they didn’t abide by it (hence my 10th Doctor cosplay). But when we arrived, this “ball” was essentially a rave with fancier clothes and no glow sticks. Seriously. The attendees broke off into a few cliques like this was a school cafeteria and gyrate to the music…sometimes. The liveliest they got was during a line dance I didn’t know. I asked the DJs to play “Tank!” by the Seatbelts, which is the theme song to Cowboy Bebop, since the Pokemon theme song was played earlier—and almost nobody got excited! “Haven’t they seen this show?” I wondered. The kicker, though, was every girl Eric and I asked to dance either didn’t know how or flat-out turned us down. The best I could get was doing a line dance when “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show played, and even then people didn’t seem that excited and even fewer knew the line dance, so I wasn’t able to learn it. Eric and I left after an hour.

Seriously, Alma-Con. If you say it’s a “masquerade ball,” make it a masquerade ball! You have a swing dance group on campus: try appealing to them a bit better to run this event.

::steps down from soapbox::

The next day was gonna feature our big event: the Nerd Chapel worship service…

…and nobody came. L

So Eric and I shared communion and I recorded his sermon (which, come to think of it, I need to send to him to post online…).

I left soon afterward so I could return in time to go to work that evening.

All in all, not a bad weekend.

Alma-Con and My New Writing Regimen

He kinda looks like me…if I was skinnier than a bean pole. 😛
Just a quick blog today since I’m busier than a workaholic. At least that’s how it feels. But that’s a story for another time.

First, I want to announce that I plan, schedule permitting, to attend Alma-Con in Alma, Michigan, February 5-7. My friend/co-author Eric Anderson will be running a table for his ministry Nerd Chapel in the vendor’s hall, where he will also be selling our devotional, 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom. I’ll be there helping him with his table and a worship service he plans to have that Sunday. Feel free to come see us.

Now on to the main thrust of this blog.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I need to manage my writing time better, especially when I keep getting projects thrown at me and/or I bite off more than I can chew. So, in light of this, I wanted to share with you what I think should be a reasonable amount of material you can expect from me. It may take me a bit of time to get used to this new schedule, so don’t expect me to get into the rhythm immediately. I also reserve the right to change my output at any time.

Regardless, here it is:

-one (maybe two) articles a week for Examiner.
-at least two articles a month for GigaGeek Magazine.
-one (maybe two) blogs a week on my website.
-one “But I Digress…” video a month (with intermittent “Digression” videos as they come to me).

These are the things I want to do with regularity. I’m seeking other freelance opportunities while also writing books, among other things.

Did I mention I’m crazy?

My Full Tri-Con 2015 Report

How many times can I apologize for missing “blog days” before you, dear readers, dump me like a bad boyfriend? It’s been a few weeks since I posted a video detailing some of my experiences at Tri-Con 2015 in Evansville, Indiana, and I promised a full blog on it, which only now am I writing.

I’ll say it, anyway: Sorry for the delay.

“And now for something completely different.”

Day One
Tri-Con got off to a rough start. I thought the vendor hall opened at noon, but it was gonna take me five hours to drive there. It didn’t help that I worked late the night before at my day job. So, I bought two bottles of 5-Hour Energy to get me through the day. I took one just before leaving and one more just before I arrived. Complicating matters, since both the CD player and tape player in Silver Sable (my car) weren’t working, I created a makeshift stereo system using my iPhone and a portable speaker. This disallowed me from using my phone’s GPS because of the battery drain, so I had to print out directions. It made things a bit more annoying.

My table.
My table.

After a harrowingly long drive, I arrived at the Holiday Inn where the con was being held. I was surprised to learn that the vendor hall opened at 2pm, and thanks to slipping from eastern time to central time (barely), I ended up being early instead of late. (I think. My brain was buzzing more than a beehive at the time). I set up shop and introduced myself to my neighbors, which included chiptunes artist Professor ShyGuy and anime crafts company Sweets Haven. I was glad we all got along since the vendor hall was cramped. The aisles were narrow and the vendors were practically sitting back-to-back.

I did manage a few sales that day. Here are photos of my first buyers (I regret I lost my note with their names. Sorry!):

DSCN9321 DSCN9323

As usual, I explored the convention and checked out the evening events. I quickly learned that this was a party con. I think I saw more drunk people during the three days of this small convention (400-500 in attendance, at most) than I did all four days of Gen-Con, which had 60,000 in attendance. One of the events I checked out briefly was a what I thought would be a concert, but it was more of a rave. Raves aren’t my thing, but I did take a few photos and videos of the dancers.

I left to check into my hotel room—courtesy of a friend of a friend—and ran into a woman I’d met in the dealer hall. She wanted to talk with me about some stuff. We ended up chatting for at least two hours about reconciling faith with fandom because she had concerns about her teenage son. She and her pre-teen daughter were the only Christians in her family, which made things even harder. I think that conversation was the most important one I had the entire weekend and was one of the biggest reasons God wanted me there. It was a miracle I was still awake since my energy drink had worn off.

I checked into the hotel room and met my roommates. They were a bit rough around the edges, but despite starting as strangers, we got along and became friends.

Day Two
I slept in a bit since the dealer hall didn’t open until 11pm, I think. I took that opportunity to get a photo-op with Michele Specht and Chuck Huber who, among other things, are cast members from the fan-created series Star Trek Continues. Both were enthusiastic about their work, especially Michele. My gosh! And people think I’m crazy on caffeine. She’s a whirlwind!

Me with Chuck Huber and Michele Specht (who accidentally cosplayed Kim Possible).
Me with Chuck Huber and Michele Specht (who accidentally cosplayed Kim Possible).

I regretted not wearing my 10th Doctor costume on Saturday like I normally do since I missed some great photo-ops.

Maids Café waitress.
Maids Café waitress.

As for the vendor hall, it was shockingly slow. The most interesting thing that happened was one of the waitresses from the Maids Café came by and asked vendors for orders, so I got homemade Butterfingers. They were delicious! I made sure to tip her.

A attended the Star Trek Continues screening/panel, though I missed the screening. It was still great seeing Michele and Chuck interact with fans, though.

Loki winning at Cards Against Humanity.
Loki winning at Cards Against Humanity.

The next event was another 21 and up party, so I skipped out on it. The alternative was an open play for Cards Against Humanity. I decided to watch before trying it, and I quickly learned it wasn’t the game for me (though I did make some great jokes while watching). I especially didn’t want to play when I saw Loki (a cosplayer) winning almost every round. He is Loki, after all.

Day Three
The last day of the con was one of the slowest, as you would imagine. I did wear my Doctor cosplay, but that was because I attended a “steampunk prayer service.” Only six or so people were there, but I still enjoyed it. It was presided over by an Anglican minister, so I got a taste of how that denomination conducted their services. It was educational. I gave the minister one of my business cards, and he came by later and bought a copy of 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom.

My favorite photo of the weekend. You might be cool, but you'll never be the Doctor riding a speeder bike while sonic-ing his enemies cool. :P
My favorite photo of the weekend. You might be cool, but you’ll never be the Doctor riding a speeder bike while sonic-ing his enemies cool. 😛

When not in the dealer hall, I wandered around for some photo-ops. At 3pm, the vendor hall closed an hour before the con did, which was kinda weird. After packing up and saying goodbye to all my friends, new and old, I began the five-hour drive home.

The 42 Challenge
If you’ve followed my social media, you’ll know that my 42 co-author Eric Anderson, founder of Nerd Chapel, was attending Grand-Con in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that weekend and challenged me to see who could sell more copies of our devotional book. The loser would buy the winner a board game expansion. I was probably a bit overconfident. Eric beat me 20-6. It helped he went to a larger con, but that’s not an excuse. I will make good on my promise and buy him a game.

I hope you enjoyed this report. You can watch my video on the con here.

Godspeed, readers!

I Can Do Everything! (or, “Man, I Need to Hire a Secretary!”)

Being an indie author sometimes makes me wish I was Shiva. 😛

As I’ve stated before, I’ve been negligent on blogging for the last month. It wasn’t just this blog that suffered, though. Most, if not all, of my other projects were put on hiatus so I could finish editing my two latest books, 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom and Ninjas and Talking Trees, in time for Gen-Con 2015 next week. But it was only one of the many things I had to do.

One of the perils of being a self-published author (as I think I mentioned in an early episode of “But I Digress…”) is you have to do everything, or at least almost everything, yourself. Your work doesn’t stop with writing the book and making recommended changes. You have to become an entire publishing house. You write, you edit, you hire cover artists (assuming you don’t create the cover yourself), you do layout, you promote the book, etc., etc. Unless you’re an excellent project manager, this can be tiring, especially when you also work a day job and have a social life. In the last month, I’ve found myself thinking many times, I just want to write! I understand now why some authors forego self-publishing, despite its advantages, in favor of traditional publishing: they have much less to worry about. Their attention isn’t nearly as divided, so they can focus more on their craft.

Strange (or selfish) as it may sound, one of the reasons I want to get married is because I’d like to have a wife who could help me with some of this. Yes, I admit it: I’d like her to be my secretary. Here’s the thing: she wouldn’t be my subservient, but my partner. We’d work on things together as equals.

Regardless, I already practice this to some extent. I hired friends/professional editors to look over these books so it wasn’t just me. Fresh eyes can see things I don’t. The artist who created the cover for 42, Ruth Pike, also did the back cover and some promotional materials. My friend Nick Hayden then did the layout. Anthony Gangemi drew the artwork for Ninjas and Talking Trees, which required a bit of faith on my part because it was the most expensive cover I’ve commissioned. I was thinking back on a self-publishing seminar where the instructor insisted authors should invest money in our careers. But I had to add the text and do the layout myself because Nick was unavailable. Then I had to wait for CreateSpace to process everything. (Thankfully, their shipping department is awesome, and my orders arrived four or five days early).

Let this be a warning to you: if you want to be an indie author, expect to put in extra work.

It’s worth it, though. 😉

P.S. Please leave reviews for my books on Amazon and Goodreads!

NEW BOOK: ’42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom’

Remember when I said I’d write two blogs in one week to make up for not writing? Yeah, that didn’t happen. In the words of the 10th Doctor, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

But I have a good reason for my unintended hiatus: I’ve been working on two new books! The first of which is now available on Amazon!

Presenting…

Artwork by Ruth Pike.
Artwork by Ruth Pike.

This little book is a devotional for geeks and nerds. It uses the stories, hobbies, and other interests nerds and geeks love to illustrate theological Truth.

Here’s the back cover copy:

Don’t Panic!

Despite what many churchgoers say, God doesn’t think Dungeons & Dragons is “Satan’s game” or that cosplay is childish. In fact, God has imprinted Himself into nerd culture. Yes, all your favorite stories and games point to the LORD Himself. You may doubt, but you know your nerdy hobbies are more than just escapism. They resound with you for a reason. Perhaps you’re not sure why, but they do. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, there are profound truths to be mined from those tales.

Join us on a 42-day journey of discovery. Why 42? A famous “Guide” would have you believe that’s “the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.” The trouble is you have to know “the Question.” Maybe that question for you is, “How many days will it take me to learn the Truth?” Or maybe you already know the true “Answer” but want to deepen your faith. Either way, this book is for you! We promise it’ll be fun and challenging. You may never look at your favorite stories, characters, and/or hobbies the same again.

Don’t forget your towel!

It was co-authored by myself and my friend Eric Anderson, the founder of Nerd Chapel. We each took turns writing the 500-800 word devotions for each day. We both bring our unique voices and styles to the book. We mine Truth from things like Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, G.I.Joe, and even a strange scientific discovery about water crystals!

As I said, the book is available on Amazon for $7.99. Get your copy today!